Grey’s Anatomy: Patrick Dempsey Returns as Derek Shepherd in Season 17 Premiere



[Warning: The following contains spoilers for the Season 17 premiere of Grey’s Anatomy. Read at your own risk!]

Grey’s Anatomy returned on Thursday evening with a two-hour blockbuster premiere that showcased how medical professionals are combatting the COVID-19 pandemic head-on and, as promised, ended with a jaw-dropping ending. Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) returned at the very end of the Season 17 premiere in what appears to be a dream, after not being seen on the show since the character’s death in Season 11. 

Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) collapsed at the end of the premiere episode and found herself staring out at the beach, only to hear Derek calling her name from a ways down on the sand. The preview for next week’s episode confirmed that while Meredith may be hallucinating, we were not imagining McDreamy on our screens. As the Grey Sloan team investigates what made Meredith collapse, it appears that she and Derek will be communing in her mental limbo.

“The most important task we had this season was to honor the reality of this global pandemic and the impact it’s having — particularly on healthcare workers. Along with that, we had to come up with creative ways to allow our show to still be fun and romantic and provide some escapism. Enter Patrick Dempsey,” Grey’s boss Krista Vernoff said in a statement to TV Guide. “The beach motif — which will continue beyond the premiere — provided a way for us to live outside the pandemic, even for a little while here and there. And Derek’s return provided pure joy for us, for Meredith, and for the fans. Season 17 has been a Herculean effort by our cast, our crew, our writers, and our partners at Disney and ABC — and we are proud of it. But our effort is nothing compared to the work of our frontline healthcare workers to whom this season is dedicated. We hope our show inspires you to wear your masks to protect them and each other. As Derek Shepherd would say, ‘It’s a beautiful day to save lives.'”

Elsewhere in the premiere, flashbacks caught us up on how Grey Sloan was dealing with the pandemic in April 2020, as well as what’s changed since we last saw the doctors. There were some burning questions answered in some storylines, major developments in others, and of course the episode-ending shocker. Here’s everything you need to know about what happened before that cliffhanger put us on the edge of our seats. 

Owen and Teddy
They really made people wait until the second hour of the premiere to find out about the fallout after Teddy’s (Kim Raver) humiliating sex voicemail. In the flashbacks, Owen (Kevin McKidd) pretended not to know about Teddy and Tom (Greg Germann) until the perfect moment arrived for him to play the voicemail back to Teddy. It was savage but satisfying, and Teddy spent most of the episode shunned by rest of the hospital staff. Teddy tried her best to appeal to Owen at the end of the episode, but it doesn’t look like he’s in a mindset to forgive her anytime soon.

Meredith and DeLuca 
The last we saw of Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti), DeLuca had miraculously figured out what was causing problems with Richard (James Pickens Jr.) and then admitted he had his own mental health issues to confront. The Season 17 premiere confirmed what Station 19 said in Season 3, DeLuca has Bipolar II disorder. In the current timeline, DeLuca is seeing a therapist and sleeping regularly, but it took another intervention and an emotional break for DeLuca to get the help he desperately needed. At the end of the premiere, it was still unclear where he and Meredith stand romantically. Obviously, he’ll be by her side trying to figure out what’s wrong with her following the collapse.

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Jo and Jackson
Never in a million years did we expect to put these two together, but Season 17 is apparently trying to make Jo (Camilla Luddington) and Jackson (Jesse Williams) a thing. Jo, in a desperate attempt to get over Alex (Justin Chambers), hit up Jackson for some no-strings attached sex, or as she put it, to be the “bridge” between the husband that abandoned her and a woman ready to move on with her life. Jackson actually said yes (because obviously), but Jo ended up drunkenly sobbing into his mouth rather than them getting down to the Kenny G playlist Jackson had curated for the occasion. After some awkward morning-after tension, the two decided to forget the whole thing and agreed to be friends. Is this who Pompeo was referring to when she teased that she has a new favorite couple this season? Yeah, we don’t think think the book has closed on this one yet, but it’s going to be a minute before we know how we feel about it. 

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Richard and Catherine
Richard is officially cobalt-free after his disastrous hip replacement and showed up just in time to help Grey Sloan figure out a much needed cleaning hack for their personal protective equipment (PPE). However, he and Catherine (Debbie Allen) spent most of the premiere at odds, with Richard still angry that Catherine didn’t stand up for him when he was fired from Grey Sloan at the end of Season 15. This fight has been going on for a long time. However, some chiding by the right people led to a reconciliation, and Catherine demoted Tom in order to make Richard the Chief of Chiefs at Grey Sloan.

Amelia and Link
The pair are taking care of the Grey-Shepherd brood, including a newborn, while they are on parental leave. They had some 10 p.m. broadcast-standards-level sex to celebrate Link’s (Chris Carmack) birthday. Oh, and the baby’s name is Scout Derek Shepherd Lincoln.

Grey’s Anatomy continues Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.



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