It wasn’t perfect. There’s so many things that could have been done differently, could have been done better, that could have made the episode just that much better. But as imperfect as this episode, it was just as perfect.
These are the words Dr. Arizona Robbins speaks during this very special Grey’s Anatomy Music Event. Songs punctuate the story as one of Seattle Grace’s own fights for her life as her friends do whatever it takes to save her and her unborn baby.
The driver’s side airbag has been deployed. Arizona looks to be okay after a horrifying car crash. Callie, however, has been launched through the windshield. Only her feet remain inside the car. The rest of her cut and bloodied body rests atop the hood of the car.
Every Seattle Grace surgeon awaits the incoming ambulance. Mark wants in on the trauma. That’s not gonna happen. The Chief convinces him to stand down while everyone else works to save his best friend’s life. There’s a fetal heartbeat, but Callie is crashing. There are bleeders everywhere inside her body. The team tries to get them under control as Derek works to repair the severe brain injuries.
Callie stabilizes, but things still look grim. Lexie is told to keep an eye on Mark. Alex hangs with Arizona. They may have to deliver the baby sooner rather than later. This is a little more than Lucy Fields can handle. The Chief calls in his best option—Dr. Addison Montgomery.
Owen is the calm amidst a storm of anxious surgeons. Emotions are very high. Everyone needs to take a breath. Callie has a hole in her heart. The massive head trauma she suffered could cause permanent brain damage. Mark and Arizona verbally attack each other while trying to decide what’s best for the woman they both love. Venomous things are said. Nothing is resolved.
We flashback to just prior to the accident. This is Callie’s dream. She wonders if this is what love feels like as Arizona pleads with her to put on her seatbelt. We segue into the musical portion of the dream sequence. All of our favorite Seattle Grace Mercy West couples sing, dance and do all sorts of lovey-dovey things to each other. It’s interesting to note that Lexie is with Mark, not Jackson, during this particular number.
Cristina wants to perform a dicey procedure she learned from Burke. Teddy thinks it’s too risky. Owen backs her call. It’s all hands on deck when Callie starts bleeding out. She’s rushed into the OR where things go south fast. It’s obvious to everyone but Teddy that the only way to save the patient is to let Cristina do her thing. Dr. Altman steps back. Dr. Yang steps up.
Derek works the brain while Cristina works the heart. Callie is crashing again. Addison has to get the baby out now. The extremely premature little girl isn’t breathing. All attempts to save her seem to be failing. Mark knows there’s one person in the room who can help. He gives a slight, confident nod to Arizona. She’s ready. Moments later, the baby miraculously takes her first breath. A few feet away, her mother’s heart is getting stronger with each beat.
Only time will tell how Callie will recover from her significant injuries. As for her friends, they’ll also try to bounce back from all that’s happened. Jackson doesn’t want to wait for Lexie if she’s still in love with Mark. She takes him by the hand, asking if they could just go home. Derek promises Meredith that somehow, someway, they WILL have a baby. And Teddy tells Cristina that she can no longer be her teacher.
Mark apologizes to Arizona for his outburst. Many hurtful things were said in the heat of the moment. Callie’s still not out of the woods. Arizona waits by her side, hoping the woman she loves will come back to her. Callie does just that. She opens her eyes, struggling to speak. Arizona finally understands what she’s trying to say. The answer is yes. Yes, she’ll marry her.
Cast, “Snow Patrol’s – Chasing Cars”
Our doctor’s race with Callie’s gurney through the ER. Everyone works on Callie. Bailey searches for the rapid infuser. She watches the chaos for a second. Bailey grabs Callie’s hand. Callie loses consciousness…
Cast, “Kate Havnevik’s – Grace”
Callie is on her bed as Addison, Alex, Mark, and Arizona run through the corridor to the OR. Mark and Arizona are left behind. Everyone scrubs in. Lexie, April, and orderlies transfer Callie onto the table.
Cast, “Anna Nalick’s – Breathe (2AM)”
Everyone is trying to help Callie. Der gets ready to operate. Arizona is in the gallery alone. Lexie goes to find Mark. Lexie sings as she moves out of the OR. Mer assists Der on Callie. Lexie enters the lobby and looks around. Chief tells anyone not needed to exit the OR. Alex exits. Lexie looks for Mark. Owen decids to take Callie to the ICU…
Cast, “KT Tunstalls – Universe & You (Acoustic)”
Arizona sits with Callie and prays.
Cast, “Gomez’s – How We Operate”
Everyone debates Callie’s case. Mer, Cristina, and Alex watch the proceedings. Owen tells everyone they need to make a plan.
Cast, “The Fray’s – How To Save A Life”
Everyone works on Callie. Mark and Arizona watch. Mark sings. Cristina and Derek continue to work on Callie. Arizona sings. Cristina continues. Callie watches herself. Chief has his hands in Callie’s chest. Mark, Arizona, and Callie watch. Mark bursts into the OT. Lucy and neo-natal team work on the baby…
Cast, “Get Set Go’s – Wait”
Bailey enters Callie’s room. We can still hear Mark and Arizona fighting, but muffled. April and Bailey hook Callie up to the IABP machine. Lexie sits on the bench trying to wake herself up. Jackson enters. He tells Lexie they have a plan for Callie. Cristina holds reference books and stares at Callie’s films. Mer is in the bed…
Cast, “Brandi Carlile’s – The Story”
Callie still unconscious. Arizona enters and updates her on the baby. Callie moves across the catwalk. Callie looks at her baby. Mark is there. Lexie and Jackson change to go home. Jackson questions Lexie’s loyalty to him…
Cast, “Jesus Jackson’s – Running on Sunshine”
In the car moments before accident. Callie tells Arizona the events that will happen. Arizona gets more panicked and Callie becomes calmer. Bailey is charting, Eli begins to sing to her. Cristina and Owen undressing. Owen sings to her. Henry sings to Teddy who is trying to do a work up on him. Alex sings to Lucy. Bailey sings to Eli. Teddy sings to Henry…
HOW AND WHY WE DID THIS:
So, on about the third day of filming the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy (way back before it was even called Grey’s Anatomy, back when it was called The Untitled Shonda Rhimes Pilot), I turned to exec producer Betsy Beers and said, “I can’t wait to do a musical episode of this show.” See, I have this wild obsession with musicals and an unhealthy love of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical and also, I’m a geek. Which is why I said it.
“I can’t wait to do a musical episode of this show,” I said.
And Betsy, who is wise and funny and wry, just nodded. “Okay,” she said. And we went back to watching Patrick Dempsey pretend to do brain surgery.
One hundred forty-four episodes and seven and a half years later, we began filming the Grey’s Anatomy Music Event.
Explaining what the heck took us so long is too complicated to go into here. There are a lot of reasons – I was busy telling other awesome stories at Seattle Grace, I got a second show (what up, Private Practice peeps!), I was raising my tiny human, my musical talent involves oboe-playing and nothing else, the network thought it was the dumbest idea they’d ever heard of and refused to do it.
And, oh yeah, one other thing: I had no idea how we would do it.
So I forgot about my musical episode dreams.
Then a thing happened in Season Four of the show. The Writers Guild of America went on strike. Which meant that, instead of writing my TV show inside my studio office, I carried a picket sign up and down the street in front of my studio office. It also meant that I got worried. About the crews who work hard on TV shows and movies. I got worried about how they would pay their bills. And so a bunch of us at Private Practice and Grey’s Anatomy got together and decided to throw a benefit concert to raise money for the crews.
I stood backstage at this concert and I listened to members of both of my casts sing (Audra McDonald, folks, she has four Tony Awards and the chick can BLOW — buy a ticket and hear the woman sing sometime). Sara Ramirez closed the benefit. And when she opened her mouth, she brought the house down. I know people say that – brought the house down. It’s a thing people say. But Sara Ramirez (who has a Tony of her own) BROUGHT THE HOUSE DOWN. She’s a superhero. Singing is her super power.
Now, most of us have a super power. Dempsey has that twinkle in his eye. Also, he can juggle. And babies, all babies, every baby in the world, ALL BABIES love him. It’s amazing how much babies love him. They just stop crying when he’s around and stare at him and smile. It’s awe-inspiring. The man commands the hearts and souls of babies. He’s a baby-mesmerizer. If I ever have another baby, I am going to bring her to work and hand her to Patrick and walk away for hours at a time. She will be the happiest baby in the world. I’m telling you, every baby in the world seems to get that he’s McDreamy. Super. Freaking. Power.
But I digress. Anyway, most of us have super powers. But not a lot of us have super powers that involve opening our mouths and having God come out. I’m not a big God person but that’s really the only way to describe what happens when Sara sings. God, or whatever you want to call the magic of the universe, comes out.
You know who else has that super power? Chyler Leigh. And she didn’t even know she had it. Also Kevin McKidd. Who knew he had it but is all Scottish and humble and didn’t reveal it. Also Justin Chambers. Who is just so cool that it makes sense that he has it. Also Chandra Wilson. Who has it but gets nervous when she has to sing. Also-
You see my point. Our bench is deep.
(It is also deep on Private Practice, scary deep, shockingly, brilliantly deep, but I’m talking about Grey’s here so I’ll save that for when I meet you and you ask me about it.)
Anyway, it was Season Four and we hadn’t met Kevin McKidd yet and I still hadn’t come up with an idea for a musical episode and I still only play the oboe and the network was still saying no. But it made me think about it again. It made all the writers sit around and say, “We wish we could do a musical episode of Grey’s Anatomy.”
Two more seasons went by and…nothing.
Then at the very beginning of Season 7, I said to the writers that Callie should get pregnant with Mark Sloan’s baby and that it should be complicated and horrible and really upset Arizona. And suddenly, I knew what the musical episode should be about.
So I started begging people. I begged the studio people. I begged the network people. I took these people to dinner and begged. I jumped out at these people in bathrooms and begged. And they all smiled politely but what they were clearly really thinking was, “This woman is an idiot.”
So I did the only thing I could think of. I got Tony Phelan (one of our writers, as you know, but also a great big musical theatre geek like me only he has real musical theatre talent) to help me. I also got Chandra and Sara and Kevin to help me. And then I dragged all of the studio and network executives in to work on a Saturday. Sandra Oh showed up to be our cheerleader. There was an amazing band. And in front of the studio and network execs (who are all very nice and very smart but clearly thought I might be a Grade A Idiot), we threw a great big concert. I pitched my idea and Chandra and Kevin and Sara sang. And God came out of their mouths. And the studio and the network stopped thinking I was an idiot and they said yes.
Seven and a half years. One hundred and forty-four episodes.
We started rehearsals a full four months before we filmed – unheard of for our show. We usually prep a show for eight days. Sara Ramirez was the one who gave me the idea that we should sing the songs our show had made famous. Tony Phelan was the one who directed the episode. The entire writing staff helped me make the script make sense. Bossy McBossy Rob Corn never once complained about how overbudget we were. The crew went all in, leaping off this crazy cliff of music with us. And every single member of the cast got excited and came together like the family they are to do this right.
Even Pompeo. Who is funny and kind and who has never once hesitated to do any of the crazy things I write for Meredith to do but who was also a little worried I might have turned into an idiot. She came up to me after the table read for the episode and said, “This is amazing. I want to sing more!”
And when I walked on stage and watched the episode being filmed, I felt like it was worth every minute of begging to get it done. I hope you think so too.
“I can’t wait to do a musical episode of this show,” I said way back then. And Betsy nodded.
And now we have done it.
On Monday (yes, just this past Monday) I stood on the mixing stage, watching the final playback of the musical episode on a giant movie screen (and boy, how I wish you could see it with surround sound on a movie screen), and then I went to Betsy and I said, “I can’t wait to do another musical episode of this show. I want to see Ellen Pompeo sing Rilo Kiley.” And Betsy nodded.
So now I have another dream to dream. I kind of like to think that dreaming is my super power. That or oboe playing. But nobody likes it when I play the oboe so, you know, I’m gonna go with dreaming.
Thank you so much for watching. I mean it. My gratitude is large and my appreciation is limitless.