'Grey's Anatomy' Season 17 Two-Hour Premiere Recap: [SPOILER] Is Back!

Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Premiere Meredith Grey
Premiere
ABC

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Grey’s Anatomy Season 17, Episode 1, “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” and Episode 2, “The Center Won’t Hold.”]

Hold on to your face masks, Grey’s Anatomy fans, because the two-hour Season 17 premiere brings back a long-dead fan-favorite: Derek Shepherd. And yes, Patrick Dempsey makes his first appearance on the show since 2015.

Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Premiere Derek Shepherd

ABC

We’ll get to that later, but first we have a lot of COVID-19 drama to cover. As the premiere starts, Grey Sloan Memorial is overwhelmed and understaffed, the staff low on supplies, and the PPE shipment Koracick (Greg Germann) orders turns out to be all booties and no masks.

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Picking up where the Station 19 premiere left off, the Grey Sloan docs treat the teens who were out for a joyride and got caught up in a car explosion and a brushfire. (It’s a long story.)

Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Cormac (Richard Flood) are able to save the teen impaled by the tree branch; but Owen (Kevin McKidd), Jackson (Jesse Williams), and Teddy (Kim Raver) can’t save the one covered in deep-tissue burns. The respective dads of the two teens — whose fistfight got Bailey injured earlier in the two-parter — end up in a tearful, mournful hug.

Richard (James Pickens Jr.) shows up to work, having completely recovered from his case of cobalt poisoning. And even though he doesn’t read Bailey’s (Chandra Wilson) tome of COVID-19 protocols, he redeems himself by co-opting a sanitizing robot — which Bailey is using to disinfect hospital rooms — to disinfect the PPE that the staff has had to reuse. “Every relationship I’ve ever had has failed, except this one, with this place,” he tells Bailey.

(Later in this two-hour premiere, Bailey delivers a rallying cry for all frontline workers: “We’re losing people, we’re losing money, but we’ll keep showing up until we win. End of report.”)

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In one of the show’s more surprising twists, Jo (Camilla Luddington) flashes back to making out with Jackson. Flashing back even farther, we see that she propositioned him at work. (“I need a sex favor. A sexual favor. I need a bridge over the river of the husband who abandoned me.”) He agrees and invites her over to his penthouse, where she makes fun of his cheese board and the Kenny G music playing on the stereo. (“Do you only have soft pillow sex?”) She starts crying while kissing him, though, and, afterward, things between them are seriously awkward at work.

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Jackson is apparently a hot commodity this week, though, because he’s also having booty calls with Vic (Barrett Doss) from Station 19. Vic makes the mistake of disrobing at Jackson’s front door before realizing he has baby Harriet with him. She backs away, saying, “I’m not a stepmom, I’m just a person who shows up at penthouses with puffy coats and nothing else on.”

Speaking of love life developments, Maggie (Kelly McCreary) is still dating Winston (Anthony Hill), and he ends a FaceTime by letting those three little words slip. (OK, just two words: “Love you.”) Instead of freaking out, though, Maggie only falls harder for him. Later in the premiere, Winston even has a tent set up for her outside her house so she can sleep soundly and stay quarantined from Mer’s kids.

In another flashback, we see that that Cindy, the young patient Andrew (Giacomo Gianniotti) thought was a child trafficking victim, comes back to the hospital. She tells him that she got sicker and her captor, Opal, left her at the side of the interstate. Her name is actually Erin, and she was lured out to Seattle from Scottsdale, Arizona, two years ago by someone posing to be a fashion photographer. At the hospital, Erin reunites with her real family, but Bailey kicks herself for not seeing the red flags.

After that happy ending, though, some of Andrew’s closest friends and family —Carina, Meredith, Richard, and Bailey — stage an intervention for him, hoping he’ll seek help with his manic episodes. “All we’re asking you to do is to fight as hard for yourself as you do for everyone else,” Mer tells him. He agrees, but by the time Richard shows up to work post-cobalt, Bailey says that Andrew is no longer a resident, and Carina says he’s experiencing the depression that comes after the mania.

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Back in real time, Andrew shows up at the hospital just in time to see Mer have a supply room meltdown over all the COVID-19 patients who are dying alone. He apologizes for not answering his phone, saying that he’s been sleeping to ward off the mania, per doctor’s orders.

As for Season 16’s cliffhanger, Owen doesn’t explain the real reason he called off his wedding to Teddy, and doesn’t immediately tell her that he found out about her affair with Koracick. Finally, though, she corners him, saying she knows something is wrong between them. He gives her one more chance to get anything off her chest, and when she says she has nothing to talk about, he plays the voicemail on his phone from when she butt-dialed him during a hook-up with Koracick. “So much for love,” he says. “So much for friendship. So much for trust. So much for us.”

Jo later confronts Teddy about her infidelity, and Teddy says that Jo can’t judge her any more than she already judges herself. “You never made a mistake?” she asks Jo. “You never hurt someone you love? You never tried to sabotage your own happiness because easy and happy are so unfamiliar to you? They’re so foreign that you can’t even live with it? I love Owen, and I broke it, and that feeling is unbearable.”

And after Jo asks Teddy if she has said all of that to Owen, Teddy says that she tried. “Try harder,” Jo replies.

At the end of the hour, Teddy does try, but she doesn’t say what she said to Jo, so Owen has little reason to believe she’s truly remorseful. He drives home in a huff.

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Jo isn’t the only one offering tough love. After Richard tells Jackson that he can’t blame his cobalt poisoning for the emotional affair he had with Gemma, Jackson tells him to see past Catherine’s (Debbie Allen) pride and to really see her affection for him. “When she loves, it’s super hard,” Jackson says. “And all of that love, it’s worth the rest of it.”

Proving that stepchildren save the day, Maggie does the same with Catherine, barging into the hospital boardroom to tell Catherine to kiss and make up with Richard. “He is someone who can help you through this nightmare and bring you some joy, which is something we all need right now,” Maggie says.

(By the way, Catherine had just demoted Koracick from “chief of chiefs” to neuro attending and, when he threatens to quit, she tells him that the whole hospital knows about that NSFW voicemail. “This is a new world,” she adds. “If I were you, I’d take the win.”)

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Finally, Catherine and Richard come to their senses. She apologizes — genuinely! — and he asks for a COVID-19 test, saying, “I just want to make sure it’s safe to do all the things I want to do with you.”

It gets even steamier: Nico (Alex Landi) finds Schmitt (Jake Borelli) in a supply room and gives him some “stress relief.” Schmitt says he doesn’t want to take off his mask, and Nico replies that it’s not his mask that he wants to take off…before dropping down out of frame.

And in other news, Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) and Link (Chris Carmack) finally land on a name for their baby — Scout Derek Shepherd Lincoln — which is the perfect segue into the most jaw-dropping twist in recent Grey’s history.

At the very end of the two-hour premiere, Cormac finds Mer passed out in the hospital parking lot, either suffering sheer exhaustion or something much more dire. While unconscious, Mer dreams that she’s on a beach…and she sees Derek waving to her from farther down the shore. At first, it looks like the Grey’s team got a body double or relied on CGI magic again, but when we get a closeup, it’s definitely Dempsey, returning to the show for the first time in five-and-a-half seasons. And if the preview is any indication, we’ll be seeing more from him next week!

Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC