‘Grey’s Anatomy’: The Docs Join the George Floyd Protests (RECAP)

James Pickens Jr., Grey's Anatomy
Spoiler Alert
ABC/Christopher Willard

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Grey’s Anatomy Season 17, Episode 12, “Sign O’ the Times.”]

As Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 progresses through the tumultuous year of 2020, we can tell we’re up to the month of May in Episode 12, April 15’s “Sign O’ the Times.”

The episode starts where Station 19 left off, with Seattle’s first responders finding out that a white police officer killed a Black man by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, a clear reference to the killing of George Floyd.

Richard (James Pickens Jr.) tells the Grey Sloan Memorial staff to take whatever time they need to rest or protest. He and Cormac (Richard Flood) both join protests against police brutality, where Cormac is attacked by a “counter-protestor” with a billy club who threatened Cormac’s teenaged kids. Jackson (Jesse Williams) stitches Cormac up, and Cormac and his teens plan to continue protesting the next day.

At the hospital, injured protesters start arriving by ambulance, including Nell (special guest star Phylicia Rashad), a woman impaled by a tear gas canister. Guy, a young man, was struck by a rubber bullet and suffered a cardiac event. Guy goes into a “V-fib storm” because of a myocardial contusion, so Maggie (Kelly McCreary) rushes him into surgery. She performs a radio-frequency ablation on Guy, though, and he survives.

Grey's Anatomy Phylicia Rashad

Nell ultimately pulls through, too, and she tells Cormac, Jackson, and Richard about her battle scars from past protests. She tore an ACL at Ferguson, for example, and got frostbite at Standing Rock. In fact, she’s been protesting ever since her mother took her to the March on Washington in 1963. She even remembers hearing Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech. “It felt like possibility,” she tells the doc. “Possibility like that is rare, and it’s worth a few scars.”

Another patient of the week — one far less sympathetic — is a man named Chad who collapsed while jogging. Bailey (Chandra Wilson) administers a COVID-19 test, which comes back positive, but Chad refuses to believe that the “coro-no-virus” is real. He even thinks the hospital gets kickbacks from every patient treated. Bailey tries her best to convince Chad that he’s in real danger: He has a blood clot in his leg because of the virus. But Chad ignores her advice and discharges himself, only to collapse in the ambulance bay and die.

As for the patient of the season, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) is still spending much of her days asleep as she continues her COVID-19 battle. Schmitt (Jake Borelli) takes her into the hyperbaric chamber so that her recovery can accelerate. The new intern Chee (Robert I. Mesa) brings in another patient to share the chamber, and he asks Schmitt about Mer, since he never got to see her in action. Schmitt tells Chee that Mer is the most influential teacher he’s ever had.

And he’s right about that. When Chee’s patient suffers a ruptured wound in the chamber, with his intestines literally coming out of his body, Schmitt swings into action. And with Mer’s voice in his head guiding him along, Schmitt saves the guy’s life.

Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 12 Chee

Raymond Liu/ABC

Meanwhile, Winston has been shopping for houses in Boston, and on his way back to Seattle, he gets pulled over. Maggie, who’s on the phone with him at the time, tells him to keep her on the line and to turn on his phone camera, but one of the cops tells him to turn off the phone.

After an agonizing wait, Maggie finally hears from Winston: He says cops had him take off his mask, take a DUI test, and unpack his entire car. Turns out, they saw that his bike rack was blocking his license plate. “And then they saw me. It’s one of those things, I guess,” he says. He slumps against the side of his car, and tells Maggie he’s “not good.”

Winston finally makes it back to Mer’s house, though, where Maggie runs to him and hugs him. He tells her that throughout the entire ordeal, he just had a simple mantra in mind: “Do whatever it takes to get back to Maggie. Survive and get back home.”

At the end of the episode, Jackson goes to talk to Catherine (Debbie Allen) — and not to ask about his and Ortiz’s idea for a COVID-19 treatment site for low-income patients. Instead, he asks his mom why they don’t have scars like Nell does, why Catherine has always said that going to work was heroic enough. But Catherine says she has decades’ worth of scars, and it’s through her battles that the hospital is filled with high-ranking Black doctors.

Catherine says they have to face one battle at a time, but that’s not good enough for Jackson: He wants to do more research into the Black maternal mortality rate, for example, and he wants to set up a database for cases of doctors’ racial biases.

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In the episode’s closing minutes, Jackson announces that he’s going to walk home, but gets into his car instead and programs a destination into his GPS. We don’t see what it is, but we hear the Siri-like assistant saying that the destination is an 11-hour drive away.

And next week? ABC’s promo shows Mer is still asleep, much to Teddy’s (Kim Raver) befuddlement. Which means that Mer takes at least one more trip to her dream beach, giving fans another Derek (Patrick Dempsey) cameo. (So we haven’t seen the last of the dream beach, after all!) See you there!

Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC