‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 19 Episode 5: Mer Makes a Move (RECAP)

Grey's Anatomy Season 19 Episode 5 Meredith Ellen Pompeo
Spoiler Alert
Raymond Liu/ABC

Grey's Anatomy

When I Get to the Border

Season 19 • Episode 5

rating: 3.5 stars

[Warning: The below contains major spoilers for the Grey’s Anatomy Season 19, Episode 5, “When I Get to the Border.”]

Now we know why Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) is leaving Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital on Grey’s Anatomy. Whether it’ll be a temporary or permanent departure, though, remains to be seen!

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. At the start of Season 19, Episode 5 — November 3’s “When I Get to the Border” — Meredith and Zola (Aniela Gumbs) are touring Brookline STEAM Academy in Boston. It’s one of a few different schools they’re checking out as they try to find a more supportive environment for a student as gifted as Zola is.

And while Zola spends a school day with her possible new classmates, Mer checks in with an old friend who lives there in Beantown: Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams). And she tells him that she thinks she’s having a mental breakdown.

Grey's Anatomy Season 19 Episode 5 Jackson

Raymond Liu/ABC

Jackson, of course, is still heading the Catherine Fox Foundation. And when he hears from Meredith that Zola is experiencing severe anxiety and is especially worried about Mer getting Alzheimer’s, Jackson has a simple solution: “What if you tried to cure Alzheimer’s?” he asks Mer.

Easy, right? Well, no, but Jackson thinks Mer trying to cure the disease that killed her mother would get the kind of funding that leads to medical breakthroughs. He wants Mer to work on the project from Boston.

Mer doesn’t want to put Zola through even more upheaval, but Jackson continues the hard sell, telling her that he was running on “cruise control” in his life until he reconnected with his father and realized he didn’t want to live with failed potential like Robert Avery did. He thinks Zola’s current crisis and Mer’s career trajectory are dovetailing. “Maybe it’s all these pieces of your life coming together,” he says. “I kinda think you’re having a breakthrough, not a breakdown.”

Grey's Anatomy Season 19 Episode 5 Zola Meredith

Liliane Lathan/ABC

And when Mer returns to the Brookline school, she finds Zola bonding with other girls over a physics demonstration. Zola tries playing it cool about the school, but it’s just a front. She just doesn’t want her mom giving up her job. And once Mer tells Zola to let her worry about her career, Zola confesses that she loves it in Boston. So Mer sends Jackson a text: “I’m in.”

The B-plot of the episode follows Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and Addison (Kate Walsh) as they drive from Grey Sloan to Pullman, WA, to volunteer at the Eastern Washington Family Planning Center, a clinic run by Bailey’s college roommate, Cynthia. The clinic desperately needs more staff, since women have been flocking there from Idaho, where abortion is illegal. Bailey and Addison, however, can barely get to the front door of the clinic on account of all the anti-abortion protestors mobbing the entrance.

Grey's Anatomy Season 19 Episode 5 Bailey Addison Cynthia

Liliane Lathan/ABC

Bailey and Addison treat some patients at the clinic, but then Cynthia gets an emergency call from nearby Moscow, ID, where a 39-year-old woman named Susan is needs medical attention that she can’t legally access. Susan has an ectopic pregnancy, with the fetus attached to her C-section scar.

So Bailey and Addison, calling themselves the “medical Thelma and Louise,” drive across state lines to retrieve Susan. But Susan starts bleeding on the way back — just as Bailey, in the driver’s seat, encounters a traffic jam. Addison clambers to the back seat and does what she can to stop Susan’s bleeding, but Susan flatlines, and not even Addison’s roadside CPR can save her.

Addison is infuriated that anti-abortion laws cost Susan her life. “How are we supposed to treat patients when we are hamstrung by laws that are written by people who are so far away from this?” she asks, pointing to the puddle of blood that marks where Susan died.

Later, Bailey tells Addison she once had an incomplete miscarriage and needed a dilation and curettage (D&C), which she says is the same thing as an abortion. Now she wants to train Grey Sloan docs in the procedure.

And when they get back to Seattle, Addison tells Bailey she wants to travel to where women need her, and Bailey has an idea. Bailey shows Addison the Physician Response Team truck, the mobile operating room that her husband, Ben, was using before the city mothballed the project. And Addison, seeing this gleaming “operating room on wheels,” is all smiles.

Grey's Anatomy Season 19 Episode 5 Addison

Liliane Lathan/ABC

Back in Boston, we see two more familiar faces, as Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen) meets with Tom Koracick (Greg Germann) on what she tells Jackson is a secret project. But the secret is that Catherine’s tumor is growing, and she’s not telling anyone but Tom, her doctor. Tom pleads with Catherine to tell Jackson and Richard about the development. “Your son thinks you’re still in remission,” he says.

But Catherine has been pursuing alternative therapies, and she wants to spend whatever time she has left — even if it’s only a “few good years” — actually living. “I am lying to protect my privacy and my peace,” she says.

Grey's Anatomy Season 19 Episode 5 Koracick Catherine

Liliane Lathan/ABC

There is some Grey Sloan action in this episode, but not the kind of “action” that members of the new intern class think is happening. Adams (Niko Terho) has been helping Amelia (Caterina Scorsone), his hush-hush aunt, with childcare while Meredith is out. But all the other interns just think he’s chipping in because he and Amelia are sleeping together.

Kwan (Harry Shum Jr.) tells Amelia that he knows about her and Adams’ secret, and she’s relieved to hear that the rest of the interns know now. Of course, Amelia and Kwan talking about two different things, which Amelia starts to understand once Kwan asks for more surgeries and makes a big point of telling her he’s good with his hands.

Adams intervenes and pulls Amelia into an empty patient room, and that’s where he lets on that the other interns think they’re having sex. Amelia, stunned, starts putting the pieces together. “Kwan was just trading me sexual favors in return for surgeries!” she exclaims.

Amelia tells Adams to clear up the misunderstanding, but Adams blames her for making it exceedingly hard for him to pretend like he and Amelia aren’t related. He says that he has always lived with people thinking he has an unfair advantage because he’s a Shepherd. “I thought I’d see what happens when I’m not one,” he adds.

But Amelia is unmoved. She is horrified that the other interns think she’s giving an edge to an intern boy-toy. This is her professional reputation at stake, after all. “You have three days,” Amelia tells Adams. “And then if you haven’t told them, I will.”

Maybe it’s better Mer is shrugging off the Grey Sloan interim chief position — now that another HR issue is headed to her inbox!

Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC