‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Dream Beach Appearances Ranked, From Derek to Cormac

Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Premiere Derek Shepherd
ABC

Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) came back to the world of the living on Grey’s Anatomy, regaining consciousness (again) amid her COVID-19 battle. And it seems like she’s finally out of the woods, suggesting we’ve seen the last of her afterlife-adjacent dream beach, where she talked with dead doctors and whichever living surgeons sat at her bedside. (TV Insider’s Matt Roush quipped that the beach is Mer’s “J. Crew Malibu limbo.”)

The dream beach motif exasperated some Grey’s fans, Roush included, and raised many logistical questions. (We get that a Cristina cameo would have been a stretch given Sandra Oh’s schedule, but are we to believe Mer’s BFF never even visited her in the hospital?) But the sun-drenched scenes also gave longtime viewers one more chance to see some of their favorite surgeons from seasons past.

And now that we’ve likely left that scenic shore behind, we’re ranking all of Season 17’s beach scenes, starting with the best.

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Derek (Episodes 2, 3, 8)

The first beach surprise is still the best. Grey’s Anatomy fans had long since given up hope of ever seeing Patrick Dempsey on the show again—without CGI trickery, that is—so it was a real water-cooler moment when Meredith’s late husband, Derek Shepherd, joined her on the beach. We’ve gotten precious few MerDer scenes since then, but it’s been touching to see the two of them talk about their kids (and funny to see Derek laugh at Meredith’s faceplant in the sand).

Lexie (Episode 10)

Lexie Grey’s (Chyler Leigh) appearance made us realize just how much we missed Mer’s half-sister on the show. She reminded Meredith that she’s allowed to enjoy her life during a pandemic and that she doesn’t need to waste time missing her or the late Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), since they’re always with her. Also, both Leigh and the Grey’s producers get major props for making this cameo happen: Leigh filmed her scenes against a green screen in Vancouver, but the casual viewer would never know that Leigh wasn’t there with Ellen Pompeo and Dane.

George (Episode 4)

Meredith never got to say goodbye to pal George O’Malley (T.R. Knight) when he died in Season 5, so his reappearance on the beach gave her closure and gave them an opportunity to reminisce about their friendship. George also helped Mer realize that she put her life on the line treating COVID-19 patients in the same way that he selflessly jumped in front of a bus to save a stranger, showing just how much George inspired Meredith during his all-too-short life.

DeLuca (Episode 7)

Of all the Grey’s Anatomy casualties over the years, few got a send-off quite as beautiful as Andrew DeLuca’s (Giacomo Gianniotti). As the doc fought for his life after being stabbed, he thanked Meredith for being a personal and professional inspiration. And as he succumbed to his injuries on the operating room table, DeLuca ran into the open arms of his late mother on the beach and figuratively walked with her into the sunset… but not before giving a tearful Meredith one last wave goodbye.

Bailey (Episode 4, 5)

As Chief of Surgery Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) confides to an unconscious Meredith about her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, Mer pictures both herself and Bailey on the beach, the two medics bonding over their proximity to a heartbreaking illness. Bailey’s time on the beach is short, yes, but Wilson makes memorable moments out of every emotion-packed scene she’s in.

Mark (Episode 10)

Mark’s (Dane) reappearance on the show—a closely guarded secret that even the ABC promos didn’t spoil—didn’t feel quite as significant as Lexie’s, but it was still touching to see Mark and Lexie reunited and to hear Mark say he watches over Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez), Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw), and his daughter. But he also complicated Grey’s Anatomy’s version of the afterlife, implying that he and Lexie are together only on Meredith’s beach. Aren’t they supposed to be “meant to be”?

Richard (Episode 4)

Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) didn’t interact with Mer on the beach; he just sat next to her as, back at the hospital, he fretted over the decision to put her in a risky medical trial. Still, Richard’s beach scene did give us a chance to see four original Grey’s characters—him, George, Bailey, and Meredith—reunited.

Cormac (Episode 8)

Cormac Hayes (Richard Flood) sat at Meredith’s bedside, giving her updates on her kids and begging her to fight for her life so that she can see them again. Mer’s imagination brings him to her beach, but Derek is there, too, telling Mer to “hear [Cormac] out” and vowing not to go anywhere. But this is where the dream beach logic, such that it is, gets fuzzy. Does Derek not consider himself Meredith’s one true love? When Mer joins the afterlife full-time, will she just split her time between Derek, DeLuca, Cormac, and her other love interests? And why didn’t Mer see Derek again in the beach scenes since? (Was he too busy fishing to pay her any mind?)

Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC