If there was ever any doubt that Dr. Miranda Bailey is a boss, this episode eliminated it. Bailey has been taking care of other people for years now — but what happens when her intense need to work hard and work often backfires, turning her into the patient and threatening her life? That’s what “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” was all about.
We start with Bailey and Ben driving Tuck to school. Once Tuck leaves, it’s clear that things are frosty between the two. Ben tries to lighten the mood by talking about his firefighter agenda, but Bailey seems to be in another state entirely. After Bailey makes Ben drop her off at a DIFFERENT Seattle hospital (because she can’t go to the one where everyone knows her, obviously), she confirms the reason for her visit: She’s having a heart attack.
Of course Bailey diagnosed herself, which wouldn’t be a problem at Grey-Sloan, where no one would question her, but here, it’s a different story. The head cardiologist, not believing that she’s actually in danger, won’t run the tests she’s asking for. This leads Bailey to assert her own knowledge as only she can. (You do not want to be on the receiving end of a Bailey lecture.) The cardiologist even sends in a psychologist to try to convince her she’s making everything up, leaning into her mental health history as an excuse.
We also get a Miranda Bailey backstory in a way we haven’t in this entire series so far, which is almost even more interesting than the heart attack plot. Bailey’s mother was extremely protective of her daughter, and always worried about Bailey going off and hurting herself. We later learn from her dad that it’s because, before Bailey was born, her mom had another daughter who lived just two months. It’s no surprise that this affected Bailey’s mother; however, it also affected Bailey, who eventually ended up with OCD from her upbringing.
In the present, fed up with everyone who won’t listen to her, Bailey finally calls Maggie — with strict instructions not to tell anyone what she’s doing. But by the time Maggie arrives, Webber has already beaten her there. The lesson here: Don’t try to be coy and hide secrets from Webber. He’s been there too many times to be fooled!
Even though Bailey is the one suffering a heart attack, she finds time to save a woman who starts to code while the doctors are too busy with their own egos and arguing to notice. Maggie LETS LOOSE on the cardiologist, laying into him for not believing Bailey, and then Webber tries to convince Bailey that she needs to call Ben and get transferred to her own hospital.
Of course, that’s the last thing she wants to do. Since Bailey won’t leave, Maggie tries to force the doctor to give Bailey the best care he can, but he STILL refuses (largely because he doesn’t really know what he’s doing, and clearly, no one reads résumés at this hospital) until Webber steps in. As Bailey lies on the operating table, she has flashbacks about Ben, George, Tuck’s birth, and the hospital shooting — all high-stress moments during her life that have made an impact on her.
Bailey finally makes the decision to alert Ben while she’s on the operating table, so he comes running (literally) from his firefighter training. In the waiting room, he bonds with Webber over Bailey’s stubbornness but also her smarts and strength. When she gets out of surgery, Ben tells her he’s quitting the firefighter program — but Bailey won’t have it. She tells him to follow his heart, because life is too short to not do things that make us happy. Ain’t that the truth.
It’s been awhile since we’ve had a “bottle episode” that focused on one character or one place without any other story lines, but I’m glad that the show decided to give us this spotlight on Bailey. It highlighted what an important character she is, and how important the issues in this hour were. Good on you, Grey’s.
(photos via ABC)