‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 17 Episode 14: A Fan Favorite Is Leaving the Show (RECAP)
If you didn’t get the sense that a certain Grey’s Anatomy character just set an exit strategy in May 6’s episode—Season 17, Episode 14, a.k.a. “Look Up Child”—then allow us to be the bearer of bad news. This longtime fan fave is leaving the show in two weeks. (On the bright side, though, at least the character in question seems to be headed to a romantic reunion!)
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Grey’s Anatomy Season 17, Episode 14, “Look Up Child”]
“Look Up Child” is a Jackson-centric episode, and sure enough, Jesse Williams is the one leaving Grey’s. His plastic surgeon character is pulling a Callie and moving across the country for an exciting new job.
Before he leaves, though, he has to check in with two towering figures from his past: ex-wife April Kepner (Sarah Drew), with former Grey’s star Sarah Drew making her highly publicized return to the show, and estranged father Robert Avery, with Eric Roberts making a surprise reappearance on the ABC drama. (Jackson’s conversations with April and Robert are artfully intercut in this episode, but we’ll recap the episode chronologically, for clarity’s sake!)
So now we know where Jackson was going when he left Seattle for a long road trip: back to Robert’s restaurant in Montana. When Jackson darkens the door of the joint, he finds Robert preparing meals for people in need. Jackson tells him about his frustrations with the Fox Foundation and asks him why his mother, Catherine (Debbie Allen), said that he reminds her of Robert.
Turns out, Robert shared many of those same frustrations when the foundation was still called the Avery Foundation and named after his now-disgraced father. Basically, both father and son realized there’s too much bureaucracy at the foundation to get any real, substantive work done.
But Jackson and Robert aren’t all chummy now. Jackson finally works up the courage to ask Robert why he left him and mom Catherine all those years ago—and to say that he blames Robert for his own tendency to run from relationships when the going gets tough. And in the heat of the moment, Jackson cuts himself on the meat slicer… because what would a Grey’s Anatomy episode be without a medical emergency?
Once Robert helps Jackson get patched up, father and son spend a few days together in Montana. And finally, Robert confides that he was convinced Jackson was better off without him because he “absorbed the story” that he, Robert, was the screw-up of the family—a narrative his own father had him believe—and he didn’t want to pass that on to Jackson. “Not one day has passed that I haven’t regretted leaving you,” Robert tells his son. “And I know that an apology will never make up for that.”
Robert observes that, unlike him, Jackson is the cut-and-run type. In fact, Robert says, Jackson is 10 times the man Robert is, even on Jackson’s worst day. “You’re scared of doing the wrong thing,” he adds. “I was scared of doing the right thing.”
Jackson leaves and heads back to Seattle, where his first stop is Catherine’s house. He doesn’t go in, though. He just stands on the stoop, in the stormy weather, telling Catherine that he can’t stay at Grey Sloan and that he’s taking over the foundation to put every penny to health equity: women’s health, trans health, racial equity, the works. And then he leaves, saying he has to talk to April.
Later, Richard (James Pickens Jr.) comforts Catherine as she cries. But she’s not sad, she tells Richard. “I never in my life felt pride just like this,” she says.
And at long last—especially for Japril fans—Jackson visits April. She’s harried, telling Jackson that their daughter, Harriet, has a fever. Also, her house is a total mess, and she says she and Matthew, her fiancé-turned-ex-turned-husband, both work long hours.
Jackson tends to Harriet, but then the power cuts out just as April is taking a much-needed shower. (Damn storm!) By candlelight, Jackson breaks the news to April: He wants to run the Fox Foundation to create more equity in healthcare. “I could look my daughter in the face and know that I’ve done everything I possibly can to give her a better world,” he says.
Running the foundation, however, means moving to Boston, which is where the organization is headquartered. He asks April to move to Boston, knowing that Matthew will follow her wherever she goes. “If you had a chance to make it all make sense, to become what you want to be, wouldn’t you try really, really hard to make it work?” Jackson says. April replies: “I would. I did.”
April doesn’t want to uproot her whole life, however—she likes her job, and furthermore, she’s not convinced Jackson is the administrator type. “You’re not that guy,” she says. “I don’t think you ever will be.”
But morning breaks, she’s singing a different tune, so to speak. “You are that guy, Jackson,” she tells her ex-husband. “I was an ass for saying otherwise. … You deserve this.”
They laugh about their comically bad timing, with April saying, “We just never figured out how to want to the same thing at the same time.”
Jackson offers to help break the news to Matthew, but April finally admits that she and Matthew had split and that he had moved to Philadelphia to help his ailing sister. Turns out, Matthew was just burying all the pain and resentment he was holding on to from when April (literally) ran from the altar and left him for Jackson. “He was still so angry and so hurt,” April tells Jackson. “He tried so hard not to hate me.”
Then, Jackson heads out, saying he was going to put in notice at Grey Sloan. But he doesn’t take his leave before giving April a big hug. Um, let us know if we’re way off-base here, but doesn’t it seem inevitable that Jackson and April will rekindle their relationship in Boston, just as Callie and Arizona presumably did in NYC?
In any case, ABC’s promo at the end of the episode says that next week’s Grey’s installment is a “throwback” special, packed with memorable moments from the show’s early scenes and that we’ll get a proper Jackson farewell in a new episode two weeks from now.
And in the meantime, Williams is starting his goodbyes. “I will forever be grateful for the boundless opportunities provided me by Shonda, the network, studio, fellow castmates, our incredible crew, Krista, Ellen, and Debbie,” the departing Grey’s star said in a statement to Deadline. “As an actor, director and person, I have been obscenely lucky to learn so much from so many and I thank our beautiful fans, who breathe so much energy and appreciation into our shared worlds. The experience and endurance born of creating nearly 300 hours of leading global television is a gift I’ll carry always. I am immensely proud of our work, our impact, and to be moving forward with so many tools, opportunities, allies, and dear friends.”
Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC