‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Episode 17: Cancer Again Rears Its Ugly Head (RECAP)

Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 17 Bailey
Lilane Lathan/ABC

It’s a good thing the Medical Accreditation Council didn’t come to review Grey Sloan during the events of this episode of Grey’s Anatomy — Season 18, Episode 17, May 12’s “I’ll Cover You” — because then the hospital would definitely have lost its residency program! That’s how chaotic this one day at Grey Sloan was.

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Grey’s Anatomy Season 18, Episode 17, “I’ll Cover You’”]

As the episode starts, Bailey (Chandra Wilson) is getting back from her mini-vacation to find the OR board a mess of postponed and cancelled surgeries. She can’t even leave for two days without the hospital devolving into chaos! “Saving this program is a ‘we’ problem, not a ‘me’ problem, so we need to fix this,” she tells Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) and Maggie (Kelly McCreary).

Meanwhile, it’s Nick’s first day as an interim surgeon at the hospital, and Richard (James Pickens Jr.) is too busy looking for snacks to give Nick the time of day. Why? Because Richard drank one of Catherine’s smoothies, not realizing it was a cannabis smoothie. And it’s Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) who realizes, with horror, that Richard is stoned. He’s in no shape to work, so Mer babysits him and gives all of her cases to Nick.

Despite his high, though, Richard does have moments of incredible insight. He intuits, for example, that Mer is leaving Seattle because everywhere she looks, she’s haunted by memories. Richard said he was the same way after Ellis died. Meredith is surprised — she’s certain he means Adele, but he really does mean Ellis.

Later, Richard meets with Amelia, who assures him that the cannabis mistake doesn’t mean he has to hand in his 10-year sobriety chip. Richard tells Amelia he knows how to fix the residency program. He jabbers on for a while, comparing residents to trees that can become “whole individuals that grow and blossom with empathy and knowledge.” (Amelia responds, “Are you still high?”)

Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 17 Richard Amelia

Lilane Lathan/ABC

Nick takes on Meredith’s cases, but he’s not catching Bailey on a good day, and he rubs her the wrong way for calling her “hostile” when she doesn’t greet him as warmly as he expects. Then, as he and Levi (Jake Borelli) operate on a patient, he tells Bailey to shut up — “respectfully” — so he can guide Levi through the latter’s first-surgery-back jitters. (Levi is worried about killing another patient, but Nick tells him that that was yesterday’s story and that he can write a new story today. Levi heeds those words of wisdom, and the rest of the surgery goes well.)

Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 17 Nick Bailey Levi

Lilane Lathan/ABC

Later, Mer confronts Bailey about acting icy to the both of them and asks Bailey what she wants. Bailey says she doesn’t know what she wants; she just knows she doesn’t want to be a failure as the hospital’s first female chief of surgery. But she knows the cards were stacked against her, since she had the pandemic to get through during her tenure as chief. Mer pledges that they’ll figure it out, and Bailey says that she’s grateful to Mer and Nick both.

“Marsh seems like a wonderful teacher,” Bailey admits.

“He is,” Mer says with a devilish smile. (Yep, she’s talking about sex, and Bailey realizes with a harumph.)

Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 17 Bailey Nick

Lilane Lathan/ABC

As for Owen (Kevin McKidd) and Teddy (Kim Raver), we see them in family therapy, talking about Leo’s gender explorations. Teddy thinks she’s already seeing Leo’s “persistent, consistent, and insistent” signs that he’s trans, but the therapist isn’t so sure. The therapist says Leo can just be gender-creative for now and doesn’t need to change his pronouns or clothes.

Later that day, though, Amelia infers that Teddy is feeling impatient, and Teddy confesses that she just wants to take the lead and help Leo through his journey. But Amelia also urges patience, citing her experience with Kai. “Things and people don’t need to be constantly defined to be loved unconditionally,” Amelia says. (And at the end of the episode, Teddy tells Leo that he can spend as much time as he needs deciding on an ice-cream flavor, and yes, we can all assume that’s a metaphor.)

As for patients of the week, the first is Simon, a synovial sarcoma patient from Link’s (Chris Carmack) past. Kristen, Simon’s pregnant wife, found him unable to breathe that morning, so she brought him in. Jo (Camilla Luddington), who’s back on the general-surgery beat for a moment, wonders if Simon’s symptoms are chemo-related. But a scan reveals that Simon has a mass on his ileum that’s almost obstructing the small bowel. She recommends resecting the tumor, but midway through that operation, she realizes doing so is too risky, so she focuses more on making Simon comfortable during his final weeks alive.

When Jo tells Kristen about Simon’s prognosis, Kristen begs for them to deliver their baby early so that Simon can meet the little one. Jo, speaking as an OB/GYN, says that doing so would be too risky, but Link goes above Jo’s head and tells Kristen that he’ll ask Carina about it.

Jo then pulls Link aside and asks why he’s defying her, and Link says he realized that Jo’s a user. She used him for sex, he says, and then kicked him out and then expected him to watch over her daughter while she goes out with Todd. Link’s outburst forces Jo to admit that she fell in love with Link and only pushed him away to protect their friendship.

Speaking of contentious medical cases, the other patient of the week is Margot, who doesn’t want her doctors, Maggie and Winston (Anthony Hill), to tell her wife about her abdominal aortic aneurysm. Turns out, the wife wanted Margot to get checked out weeks ago, and Margot lied and said that she did. Now she doesn’t want to admit that she was dishonest. Winston chastises Margot for the duplicity, as Maggie tries to defuse the situation. And then Margot starts coding — her aneurysm having burst, apparently — and right before she loses consciousness, she tells the docs to call her wife.

As they’re operating on Margot, Maggie and Winston argue about his behavior, and their argument gets so heated that Maggie kicks him out of the OR.

Maggie is about to repair the aneurysm, and after the operation, she talks to Winston, saying it’s like she doesn’t know who she married. He says that his brother, Wendell, is getting to him. He confides that when he was 16, he inadvertently served as getaway driver when Wendell stole goods from a mall. Winston got probation for that incident, but Wendell talked his way out of any punishment. And now the cycle keeps repeating, with Wendell’s lies getting Winston in trouble. But he asks for a night alone so that he can talk to Wendell “loudly and alone.”

“We will be OK, because I love you, and I will make sure of it,” Wendell tells his wife.

When Maggie asks Amelia if she can crash with her and Amelia asks if everything is OK, however, Maggie says, “Not really.”

But the real gut-punch of the episode comes at the very end, when Richard asks Catherine (Debbie Allen) why she would ever bring cannabis into their household, knowing that he’s a recovering addict. “It’s for my pain,” she says, looking sheepish. “My cancer has progressed, baby.”

Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC