In Defense of the 'Worst' Episodes of 'Grey's Anatomy'

Dan Clarendon
Opinion Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Getty Images

Patrick Dempsey as Derek Shepherd in "How to Save a Life"

Listen, not every Grey’s Anatomy episode is gonna be a “Losing My Religion” or a “Didn’t We Almost Have It All?” or a “The Sound of Silence.”

The writers on the record-breaking medical drama can’t hit a home run each time at bat. But we would still contend that Grey’s at its worst is still better than a lot of other TV shows at their best.

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So in that spirit, we’re defending for the episodes with the worst IMDb user ratings below. (And no, the much-maligned musical episode didn’t make the cut.)

“These Arms of Mine” (6.8)

Grey’s Anatomy’s IMDb user ratings dipped into the 6’s for the first time with this Season 7 episode, in which a documentary crew chronicles the hospital’s recovery efforts in the wake of the mass shooting. Maybe Mandy Moore fans were upset that her character survives the shooting only to die in this episode, but we thought that was a good twist in an innovative installment.

Much of Season 10

The user ratings stayed above 7.0 until Season 10… but then wallowed in the 6’s for nine of that season’s first 10 episodes. What’s up with that, fans? You didn’t care for the fission between Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Cristina (Sandra Oh)? You weren’t engaged by Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey)’s brain mapping collab? Not even the sight of Derek juggling at the circus-themed hospital fundraiser did entertain you? Perhaps Calzona shippers tanked these scores, since the two wives had split by this point.

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“How to Save a Life” (4.8)

If the mere mention of this Season 11 episode gets your blood boiling, you probably contributed to its dismal rating, the ABC show’s worst-ever IMDb score by a landslide. Yes, this is the episode that killed McDreamy, but what would you have had Shonda Rhimes do? Patrick Dempsey was clearly peacing out, so she could either kill Derek or turn him into an absentee father and husband for four-plus more seasons. And then what would have become of the McDream?

“You Can Look (But You’d Better Not Touch)” (6.8)

Orange Is the New Grey? This Season 13 installment sent Bailey (Chandra Wilson), Arizona (Jessica Capshaw), and Jo (Camilla Luddington) off to a maximum security women’s prison to treat a pregnant 16-year-old whose acardiac twin was overwhelming her heart. Yeah, that trio was the only three of the Grey Sloan surgeons we saw in that episode, but it still made for a compelling bottle episode. Besides, don’t the other series regulars deserve a week off from time to time?

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“Jukebox Hero” (6.8)

The very next episode got the very same IMDb score, as did the one after that. We’re assuming y’all are upset that Grey’s brought back former cast member Tessa Ferrer for a pointless Season 13 arc. No? Then maybe y’all are thinking that Eliza (Marika Dominczyk) doesn’t hold a candle to Callie when it comes to Arizona’s OTP…  and you’d have a solid argument. But otherwise, there’s nothing wrong with this episode.

“None of Your Business” (6.8)

Excuse us, but it is our business why you dislike this episode so much. You’re not even glad Arizona and Eliza are on the outs in this installment? That DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) called off the assault case against Alex? That Jo stood her ground amid Alex’s shenanigans? Those are all good things, in our book, so maybe you don’t appreciate April (Sarah Drew) usurping Mer as Chief of General Surgery.

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“Back Where You Belong” (6.9)

After a gleaming 8.5 score on “It Only Gets Much Worse,” IMDb users downvoted the next three-episode run in Season 13, starting with this installment in which Alex returns to work and assists on a mother-to-son kidney donation. But the irony, at least in the Alanis Morissette sense, is that the mother’s remaining kidney dies, so the surgeons have to put her other kidney back in her body. That’s drama, people!

“Civil War” (6.1)

It’s attendings vs. residents, and who doesn’t like these office politics? The residents are infatuated with Eliza for her educational approach, but the attendings are still loyal to Richard (James Pickens Jr.) — particularly Mer, who even gets a suspension for her fealty to the old Chief. Sure, this episode may not have the verve of classic Grey’s Anatomy, but we were still engrossed.

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“Who Is He (And What Is He to You)?” (6.1)

The “who is he” is Dr. Robert Avery (Eric Roberts) and the “what is he to you” is estranged father to Jackson (Jesse Williams), as we discover on Jackson and April’s road trip to Montana. Maybe fans were disappointed that father and son didn’t have a happy ending, but frankly, that is a more realistic outcome than them having some sappy reunion over diner coffee. Plus, the road trip gave April and Jackson the change to have some passionate ex-sex, so we were into it.

Grey's Anatomy, Thursdays, 8/7c, ABC