'Grey's Anatomy' Season 15 Episode 21: Twisted Sisters (RECAP)

Dan Clarendon
Spoiler Alert ABC/Mitch Haaseth

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 15, Episode 21 of Grey's Anatomy, "Good Shepherd."]

Reunited… and it feels so bad! Three of the four Shepherd sisters, including one we fans have never met, convened in Grey’s Anatomy Season 15 Episode 21 — a.k.a. April 11’s “Good Shepherd” — and no one was really putting the “fun” in “dysfunction” this time around.

But let’s rewind to the start: Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) and Link (Chris Carmack) are hooking up again, but this time, it’s in a New York City hotel room. They’re in the Big Apple for a complicated surgery, and on the morning of, Link insists that they have pizza for breakfast. (It’s New York pizza, so that’s allowed, people.) As they chow down, Link explains that he patronized the same exact pizzeria when he visited NYC as a 10-year-old with the kind of osteosarcoma that made him eligible for a “wish” of his to be granted. (Backstory alert!)

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They arrive at the hospital — which is a Catherine Fox Medical Center, of course —  and immediately run into Amelia and Derek’s sister, Nancy (Embeth Davidtz), making her first appearance on the show since Season 3 (!). Nancy, having been invited to Amelia and Owen’s wedding but still unaware of their divorce, assumes Link is Owen, and Amelia sheepishly decides to go with it.

Nancy invites the two of them to dinner, and Amelia eventually, grudgingly accepts — if only to avoid months of family drama and gossip. And besides, she reasons, maybe she can make her sisters jealous. To that end, she persuades Link to be her date, telling him, “I’ll make it worthwhile in very creative ways that you will enjoy.” (Innuendo alert!)

(ABC/Mitch Haaseth)

Back to the medicine: Amelia and Link’s patient is Jonah, an 18-year-old with a progressive case of scoliosis for which he’s had 15 surgeries in 12 years, some of which were in response to the metal rods poking through his skin. (Ouch!) Jonah wants to go to college and follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Brady, who is endlessly devoted to him. Amelia and Link operate on him to install nylon tethers which will stabilize his spine.

After the surgery, they head to Nancy’s opulent house in the ‘burbs. En route via taxi, Amelia jinxes herself by telling Link she’s relieved it’s just Nancy and not the fourth Shepherd sister, Kathleen. So of course Kathleen (Amy Acker) is there, wine bottle in hand. “I guess I’ll put the wine away,” she says when she sees Amelia.

(ABC/Mitch Haaseth)

After Kathleen asks “Army vet Owen” for Baghdad recommendations for her diplomat husband — and after Link keeps up the charade by citing some 9th-grade World Civ knowledge — he and Amelia lock themselves in a bathroom to talk strategy. Amelia tells him she was the “black sheep” of the Shepherd family. Get it? Get it?! “We are not subtle people,” she quips.

Later, Link is helping Kathleen set the table, but while she’s laying out utensils, she’s shading Amelia left and right, congratulating Owen-slash-Link on not being “abandoned at the altar” and musing that Amelia was “more addicted to the drama than the drugs.” Amelia pops in with a lie about a complication in Jonah’s surgery, hoping to make good an escape from the dinner, but Link covertly signals for her to stay. He wants her to prove Kathleen wrong, i.e. to prove that she no longer runs when things get tough.

(ABC/Mitch Haaseth)

And boy, do they get tough. After Link says that Amelia is researching non-addicting forms of pain management, the sisters snark that that sounds right up Amelia’s alley. Then, Carolyn a.k.a. Mama Shepherd (Tyne Daly) crashes the party, making her first Grey’s appearance since Season 5. (Meanwhile, we’re trying not to be reminded that Tyne Daly is the sister of Tim Daly, Caterina Scorsone’s costar from Private Practice, the first Grey’s Anatomy spinoff.)

Carolyn immediately knows Link is not Owen because she has actually met the real Owen. The jig is up, and now Nancy and Kathleen are even more vicious, saying that Amelia is a narcissist and that she must have a personality disorder. After all, they say, Amelia can’t even blame the faux husband charade on the drugs or on her brain tumor. Plus, Nancy and Kathleen reveal that they placed bets on when Amelia would get divorced. Mean, mean, mean!

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Amelia tries defending herself, saying, “I am sober, I am responsible, and I am a neurosurgeon at the top of my field.” Then Link tries defending her, telling the Shepherds that Amelia is “the kind [of surgeon ] you fly across the country when you need the best,” and adding, for good measure, that “she’s beautiful and funny and kind and strong.” Whatever headway he gains, however, he loses when he blabs about Amelia being a foster mother to Leo and Betty, which just gives her family more reason to think she’s impulsive and reckless.

Just then, however, Amelia and Link get word of an actual complication in Jonah’s case, so they hurry back to the hospital. (At least our brief visit to Chez Nancy gave us glimpses of a framed photo of Derek, Meredith, and Zola and a pic of a young Amelia-slash-young Caterina.)

(ABC/Mitch Haaseth)

At the hospital, the docs realize that the tethers aren’t working, and worse, now Jonah’s lungs are compressed. Amelia proposes a risky surgery called a vertebral column resection, which would involve her replacing Jonah’s problematic vertebrae with a titanium cage. Jonah, for one, is all for it if it means an end to his suffering, but Brady is concerned. “This isn’t the part where I die,” Jonah tells his brother. “This is the part where I’m brave and it pays off.”

Link is also concerned, worried that Amelia is only doing the surgery because she has something to prove “to people who clearly have no understanding at all.” But Amelia dismisses his concerns. “Jonah deserves a life that is more than a cycle of surgery after surgery,” she says. “It’s what he wants, and I know I can do it.”

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After a nail-biting surgery — in which the docs fret for a moment that they’ve paralyzed the teen — Jonah wakes up and smiles. Amelia pulled it off, and Link tells her the same thing Brady told Jonah: “You were brave, and it paid off.” Amelia later finds Brady in the hospital lobby, and he’s feeling rudderless now that he’s no longer his brother’s keeper, but Amelia assures him that it’s all going to be okay. She tells him to let Jonah have a chance to get out from his shadow.

Carolyn finds Amelia at the hospital and they go for a walk in Central Park. Amelia asks her mom if she thinks Amelia sabotages relationships and doesn’t know to be loved. Carolyn doesn’t know how to respond, which is response enough for Amelia. But then Carolyn shares a story about watching a young Amelia fail and fail and fail again while trying to learn how to ride a bike. But Amelia was never daunted by her failures, Carolyn says.

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“That’s what made you, what makes you, out of all your kids, the most like your father,” she explains. “After he died, it was hard to be around anything that reminded me of him, and Derek said he’d watch out for you, and he did his best, but he wasn’t your mother. You deserved a mother. But he offered, and I let him, and it is my biggest regret.”

Amelia tells her mom about Betty and about how being the mother figure to a teen addict was the hardest thing she’s ever done. Then she says, “I’m pretty sure she was a tenth the trouble I was.”

But Carolyn has loving words of wisdom: “If you don’t think you’re worthy of love, if you don’t think your love is valuable, you’re wrong, and that’s on me. When you most needed help trying to make sense of life or loss or love, I wasn’t there. So put that on me and move forward.” We love Tyne Daly.

Amelia finds Link on their private plane — lifestyles of the rich and medically-inclined, apparently — and she brings him apology doughnuts to make up for all the times she has minimized their relationship as, for example, nothing more than that blue light pain relief technology currently being tested at Grey Sloan. “You deserve a lot better than the things I said to you,” she says. “You more than a blue light, though you are very, very good at blue-lighting.”

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When she gets back, she reunites with her real sisters — Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Maggie (Kelly McCreary) — and Mer is delighted and horrified to know Amelia faced Derek’s other sisters.

And next week? Jo (Camilla Luddington) finally returning to the hospital — and, by all appearances, doing so well before she’s ready. See you then, Grey’s fans!

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