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Grey’s Anatomy Round Table: Was Nick’s Return the Highlight of an Underwhelming Season Premiere?

Welcome back, Scott Speedman!

It was quite the shock on Grey’s Anatomy Season 18 Episode 1 when Mer ran into her former patient in Minnesota. The hour also saw Towen’s wedding, the return of Megan, and the dissolution of Amelink.

Join Paul Dailly, Meaghan Frey, Jasmin Pettie, and Joshua Johnson as they discuss the hour.

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What would you grade the season premiere? After a COVID-19 heavy and dark season, what are your thoughts about the shift in tone?

Jasmin: I’d give this one a B-. I appreciated the shift in tone to a lighter one and that they chose to have this season exist in a post-COVID alternative universe, so we can see the actors’ faces again without the PPE and get back to escapism as we continue to battle COVID in the real world.

However, the premiere didn’t pack the punch I was expecting. The premieres are usually super shocking and action-packed, and this one wasn’t.

I saw the priest getting hit by one of the cyclists coming a few minutes before it happened based on the promo and the context of the scene, and there wasn’t a big shocking event like usual.

The pace of the premiere also felt off to me. My friend, who I watched with, described it as the pacing you usually associate with a nice stroll through a moonlit garden. Fine for episode two or three or a connecting episode but not the premiere.

Honoring Ellis - tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 1

Meaghan: A! I’d like to thank the TV gods for making the writers realize that we couldn’t suffer through another COVID season. I honestly don’t think I could have made it through one more episode of that.

I haven’t been this excited for Grey’s Anatomy in a long time. Something about the tone of this episode felt like old Grey’s Anatomy, and I was here for it!

I do agree that this wasn’t a shocking or action-packed premiere like we have come to expect from Grey’s, but after the depressing last season, I was completely fine with that. I clearly didn’t realize just how bad I needed a character-focused episode like this.

Paul: I’d give it a B-. It was decent, but many of the characters I like are not getting anything of note to work with. The shift in tone was welcome because last season was rough. I appreciate the show for tackling the pandemic, but it was too much to have a whole season devoted to it.

Parkinson Study  - Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 1

Joshua: I’d give it a C+. This was probably my least favorite season opener of all 18 seasons.

I don’t know how I expected this season to go after last season (which I loved, but do admit that a full season of COVID and questioning whether or not Meredith would die was incredibly heavy), but this opener didn’t really offer anything exciting or new the way (most) other season openers have.

What is your first impression of David Hamilton? Should Meredith consider his offer?

Jasmin: I love Peter Gallagher as an actor! He’s great. His recent roles in Grace and Frankie and Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist were fantastic.

I was super excited when I heard he was coming to Grey’s. I like Dr. Hamilton so far, and I’m interested to see how his relationship with Ellis and Meredith having dreams about her mother following her battle with COVID will play into the story this season.

Meredith's Big Opportunity  - Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 1

While it would be interesting to see Meredith work in Minnesota temporarily, I don’t want her there permanently. Seattle is as much a character in the show as any of the main characters we’ve come to love, and something would be missing for me if she moved.

To be honest, it doesn’t make much sense to me for Meredith to move to Minnesota permanently when she only knows a few people there. Who would watch her kids? If she’s going to move, it makes more sense for her to move to Kansas, where Alex is, or Switzerland, where Cristina is.

Her kids have already lost their father and many other caregivers, and Meredith has stuck it out in Seattle for so long after everything that’s happened that her moving to Minnesota for me would be bonkers.

Meaghan: Peter Gallagher can do no wrong in my book. The man could do a dramatic reading of the phone book, and as long as he brought his charm and eyebrows, I’d watch. I’ve been hooked since his days as Sandy Cohen and have loved everything I’ve seen him in since.

Pro Bono Day  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 18

I’m all on board the Minnesota train, mostly for one of the reasons Jasmin opposed it. Meredith has been through so much in Seattle, and between all of that and surviving COVID, I think she could use a fresh start.

Based on the preview, it looks like she is trying to take Amelia with her, so she will at least have her as a support system. Given that it looks like Amelink is done, for the time being, I can definitely see Amelia fleeing. I would be devastated for Link to have less access to Scout, though.

I’m wondering if the writers are trying to test the waters and see if Grey Sloan can hold its own without Meredith — while Meredith is still in the show — in order to see if they really need to end Grey’s when Ellen leaves.

Paul: Peter Gallagher will always be Sandy Cohen to me, but I could get on board with this character. He’s introducing us to a very different storyline for the series, and if he helps Meredith make more strides in the medical community, who am I to complain?

Mitch with Zoey - Zoey's Extraordinary Playlist Season 1 Episode 8

This type of storyline is a decent way to challenge Ellen Pompeo and keep the viewers guessing what’s going to happen, so I expect Meredith to consider the offer.

Joshua: First, I LOVE PETER GALLAGHER. I never watched The OC (please don’t hate me), so for me, he’ll always be the Jonathan from Center Stage.

When he showed up on the screen, I actually took a second to think, “How has Peter Gallagher not been on this show yet?” That said, this is the one plot that I don’t have an opinion on yet, that I’m just waiting to feel out.

I truly can’t imagine Meredith leaving Grey Sloan for Minnesota, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens, especially with her bringing in Amelia in the next episode.

Are you surprised by the return of Nick Marsh (and Scott Speedman’s addition as a series regular)? What do you hope to see from this storyline?

Jasmin: Yeah, and I’m super pissed about it. I didn’t know he was added as a series regular, and I’m super unhappy about it.

Don’t get me wrong; I loved Nick Marsh as a character and Scott Speedman’s portrayal of him when he first showed up in Season 14. I was all ready for him to be Meredith’s next great love, and I was on board.

But then he disappeared and was never heard from again, and it was reported that Speedman wanted to take a break from TV for a while. I mourned the loss of what could have been and moved on.

Nick Returns  - Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 1

I sat through the out-of-character nonsense that was the DeLuca storyline in the belief that eventually that storyline would end and Meredith would get a real proper love interest that made sense and would be her post-Derek endgame.

So, I was really excited when they introduced Hayes, and I have really come to love his character and his budding relationship with Meredith. I feel like I’ve been waiting forever to finally see them date, and I am super pissed off that we didn’t get to see it.

I would have loved this storyline with Nick if they had introduced it at any previous point in time, but now after they’ve spent so much time setting up Meredith and Hayes, it’s just infuriating.

Meaghan: I was shocked and thought I was imagining things when she first saw Nick at the restaurant. I actually was yelling at my TV like a crazy person while my mom looked at me like I had five heads.

New Romance for Mer  - Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 1

I absolutely LOVED the chemistry between Mer and Nick when they first introduced him, and I never really could forget about him. Out of all of Mer’s potential love interests since Derek, they have the most chemistry — at least in my eyes.

As much as I’ve loved the potential of Mer and Hayes, they’ve never let it play out, and the slow burn just became a little too slow.

As I said in my previous answer, I think the writers might be looking at a future past Ellen’s exit from the show, so if they are setting up for a Nick and Mer endgame, I’m fine with that.

Paul: I had no intention of watching the premiere. I wanted to see the reaction first to see if the show was still as depressing, but Scott Speedman can do no wrong in my book.

Stranger at a Bar  - Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 1

It was a bit of a stretch to bring Nick back in this manner, but there was untapped potential with his guest-starring role on Season 14. He and Meredith had a lot in common and a connection that burned bright … after a single episode.

Joshua: Sadly, I was spoiled for this literally about ten minutes before I sat down to watch the show. I don’t think I would have been surprised per se, but would’ve had a moment of “Oh right, him.”

That said, I’m glad he’s back. I thought Nick and Mer had really great chemistry in their episode in Season 14.

And while I understand Jasmin’s point of him being introduced and then never seeing him again, I saw him more as a moment that made Meredith realize she was ready to go out and date again. I think he’ll end up back at Grey Sloan–the hospital is hurting for surgeons, and I can see them hiring him as a general surgeon.

Mer and Hayes dated off-screen. Are you disappointed that they didn’t explore this relationship further after teasing it so much? Is it also a surprise that Megan and Riggs broke up, too?

Jasmin: Yes, extremely. I feel immense rage. I’m so angry.

The first date and all of the firsts that come with a new relationship are the most exciting parts of a romantic storyline for me, and I love seeing all of that on screen.

They hyped this up so much and even had the two of them talk about ‘firsts’ and dating after death, so for their first date to happen off-screen, along with Austin’s panic attacks and bad reaction to his Dad starting to date again, is just such a rip-off.

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I have stuck with this show through thick and thin and for them to reward that loyalty by having the most interesting parts of that storyline happen off-screen while showing a bunch of stuff on screen with other characters that they could have just told us about? Such a huge rip-off.

I was so excited for this season, and now I’m just angry. I’m hoping that they are building to a big mid-season finale where Meredith returns to Seattle, and by that time, Bailey will have helped Hayes out with Austin.

Then maybe the two of them will finally get together on screen. I’m starting to feel like every time I get invested in one of Meredith’s new love interests, they pull the rug out from under me, and I’m getting really fed up.

I’m not too surprised that Megan and Riggs broke up off-screen only because Virgin River, which I love, just got picked up for two more seasons, and I imagine Martin Henderson is busy filming, and it looks like Megan is going to be around for a while. They had to explain it somehow.

I loved Meredith and Riggs together, and I hated how they ended that storyline, so I’m not sad about them breaking up off-screen.

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Meaghan: I am disappointed we never got to see Mer and Hayes actually date, but it’s the fact that we never did that makes me feel even more convinced that they are setting up a Nick and Mer endgame.

I can’t think of any reason they would have skipped over it unless they just wanted to make it clear to the audience that they tried, and it didn’t work.

Even though I’m bummed about it, I think my excitement over Nick softened the blow. Also, as I said, they took too long to pull the trigger on Mer and Hayes. At this point, I’ve lost some of the excitement that I had that first day that Cristina gifted him to Mer.

Last season it seemed like they might go the Hayes and Jo route, and I’m not ruling that out as a possibility. Hey, maybe if Megan sticks around, they can give it a shot.

Hayes and Jo Scrub In - Tall

I’m kind of indifferent about Riggs and Megan breaking up. I wasn’t ever fully invested in them, so while it’s sad they didn’t get the happy ending we had thought they did, I’m not going to lose sleep over it.

I’ve always been a big fan of Megan, so if she and Riggs had to break up — because of Martin’s commitment to Virgin River — in order to make that happen, then so be it.

Paul: I may be in the minority, but I really dislike Cormac. He was introduced as this character to throw Mer’s relationship with DeLuca into question. He felt more like a plot device than anything else, so I’d find it difficult to care about a relationship between Cormac and Meredith.

As for Megan and Riggs, that was a surprise. One thing I do like about Grey’s Anatomy is that it highlights flaws in relationships other shows do not, so we’ll probably learn what happened in more depth.

Hayes Deep In Thought  - Grey's Anatomy Season 17 Episode 11

Joshua: Like Paul, I really didn’t like the idea of Hayes and Meredith as a couple. I liked the connection they had through being widowers but never saw romantic chemistry between them.

At the same time, I am mad that they dated offscreen because they gave us so much build-up between the two of them being a thing and then just…brushed it aside.

It violates the rule of show don’t tell, for sure; but mostly, why would you invest SO MUCH TIME teasing the idea of a relationship between the two of them just to have them date with miserable success offscreen?

It’s terrible story-telling, in my opinion, and a surprising disappointment from Krista Vernoff (even if she does have a history of wiping a slate clean so she can move the show in a different direction).

Amelia and Link appear to be at an impasse. What are your thoughts on their differing stances about marriage, and how do you think it’ll affect them going forward?

Jasmin: When did marriage become so important to Link? In the span of a few months, he went from being totally fine with not getting married and checking in with Amelia every few weeks on how she felt to convincing himself that Amelia wanted him to propose, so he did so at her sister’s wedding and used her dead brother’s children to do it.

Amelia’s right; the whole thing was super messed up and manipulative, and she should’ve said no.

Link decided marriage was important to him and that fostering Luna would be totally fine without ever talking to Amelia.

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Yes, Amelia should have shared her thoughts with him too, but he also should have paid attention. Now their otherwise healthy relationship is over because she doesn’t want to participate in an archaic ritual that involves signing a contract and exchanging vows? That’s just stupid.

I hope they find a way to work it out and get back together because I really like them as a couple.

Meaghan: This was the only thing I hated about the premiere. Amelia and Link were the strongest couple on Grey’s Anatomy, and by a huge margin. Link letting this be the one thing they can’t get past seems so out of character for him.

Like Jasmin said, when the hell did he get so dead set on marriage? I could see if that was something he had talked about being super important to him from day one, but this wasn’t a thing until the very end of last season. It just feels crazy.

Crestfallen

Watching Amelia’s reaction to their patient talking about how awful marriage is had me cracking up. I really let myself think for a second that she would be what convinces Link it’s not worth it, and he would let it go.

I hope the two of them can get past it because I love them together, but I think it’s going to take some time apart for them to figure out what they want.

Paul: I’m not a fan of this storyline. At all. They were so perfect together, possibly one of the best couples in series history, and there appears to be a message in there somewhere about knowing each other’s stance on marriage in advance.

Then again, Link didn’t care about marriage before. I suspect he feels like it’s the natural next step for them, but maybe this will be about him realizing that being together doesn’t always have to culminate in marriage. People live happily ever after without getting married.

Amelink Impasse -tall - Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 1

We know Amelia has had issues with commitment in the past, and maybe the show will delve deeper into that.

Joshua: I don’t…get this. I don’t get what’s going on. Link has always been about respecting Amelia’s boundaries, about sharing his own boundaries, and working toward a mutual compromise (or at least a mutual understanding they can move forward from).

And I feel like Amelia has done A LOT of work with Link to feel comfortable sharing her thoughts and feelings, so this plot feels contrived to me.

It feels like all Amelia has to say is “I’m enjoying what we have right now, and I love you, and I appreciate the commitment we have, and this is where I want to stay right now,” only in Grey’s-speak.

Amelink Baby - Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 21

It always frustrates me when I can think of the one thing a character needs to say to solve conflict.

That said, my single favorite moment of the episode was at the end when Link asked Amelia to marry him again, and she said “No.” The way Caterina Scorsone delivered that one word was absolutely lovely, and I actually watched that one moment a couple of times.

Scorsone consistently does amazing work with the material she’s given, so if I at least get good acting out of this plot, I’ll be marginally happy.

What’s your first impression of the new plastic surgeon?

Jasmin: I like her! I thought for sure after that photo of the other guy made the rounds on social media that he was going to be the new head of plastics, but then he said that he doesn’t do “free” and I knew he was out.

I’m excited for there to be another female surgeon of color on the show as the gender and racial balance on the show has been more white and male as of late. I think Grey’s is at its best when you have a roughly equal number of women and men and as many different races being represented as possible.

I think it makes the storylines more interesting and authentic and personally gives me more characters that I can identify with. This new doctor seems driven, determined, and could have a potentially interesting dynamic with Richard and Bailey.

Chief, Always - Grey's Anatomy Season 14 Episode 20

That said, I’m a bit confused as to where they are going with Jo’s storyline as I thought for sure the new Head of Plastics would be a guy and her new love interest.

But Bailey did say they still needed to hire a new general surgeon and a new neurosurgeon, so maybe one of them will be for her?

Meaghan: I’m going to withhold my judgment on her for a few more weeks. She is a bit abrasive, and with Grey’s, you never know if that is a trait that will stick around or if they will eventually soften. We’ve had it go both ways before.

I’m really hoping they don’t just throw her in and give her no storyline or development, though. This cast is already huge, and some people have been around for years and still haven’t gotten proper development (looking at you, Nico and Helm).

Plastics Queen  - Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 1

Paul: Yeah, she seems like a dynamic character who will call out the other characters if they cross her. That’s a good quality!

Joshua: Like Meaghan, I’m going to withhold my judgment until we get to know her more. I like the idea of her, and I like the way she was teaching Schmidt during their procedure.

Something I hadn’t thought of, that I think is a good plot, is that the current group of surgical residents are a year behind on their training because of the pandemic.

While I don’t understand why it’s Richard’s job to bring them back up to speed (again, like Meaghan says further down, isn’t this Meredith’s job now?), I always appreciate the new ways they try to teach the residents (Minnick notwithstanding).

Hiring New Doctors - Grey's Anatomy

So: judgment withheld on the new plastics attending, but I appreciate the plot point created.

Also, speaking of residents, when is Jaicy Elliott going to be added as a series regular? I want more of Schmidt with his peers; this show has always been about the friendships we form to get through our lives.

Is there anything about the hour you’d love to react to or mention?

Jasmin: While I liked this episode, I can’t really say there was anything I loved which is disappointing. I really liked the lighter tone, and I’m intrigued by the new doctors.

Jo’s parenting hair dye mishap was funny, Levi’s outfit cracked me up, and I liked that Bailey agreed to help Hayes out, but that’s about it.

Fried and Dyed - Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 1

The thing I was most excited about coming into this season was Meredith finally being back on her feet and seeing the romantic storyline between her and Hayes finally come to fruition.

I don’t understand how the same person who wrote the Season 16 masterpiece Snowblind with that amazing snow scene wrote the premiere.

I really hope they’re not going to do a love triangle with Meredith, Hayes, and Nick because that would be so stupid. She’s a forty-something award-winning surgeon who’s a widowed single mother of three. Love triangles made sense when she was a young intern, but at this point, it’s just dumb.

I also didn’t feel the chemistry this time around between Meredith and Nick like I did the first time. It felt forced and flat. I’ve never been a Teddy and Owen fan, so that didn’t do anything for me.

Towen Wedding Part 1 - Grey's Anatomy Season 18 Episode 1

Ilike Maggie and Winston together, but I didn’t find their storyline particularly engaging. I’m glad that Amelia stayed true to herself, but I hate that Link has decided marriage is the only way forward and that they’re still fighting.

Meaghan: I loved Richard finding his passion for shaping the residents again! Richard has always been fantastic in that role, and I was kind of disappointed when they gave it to Mer last season — but I’m also confused about that.

Did I miss something? Did Mer not take the position last season? Did I make that up in my head?

I will say that I did start to tune out at times during the season, so maybe I just assumed she did and missed her turning it down? Somebody, please tell me if I’m going crazy or not.

Nick Marsh

Paul: The episode was decent as a palette cleanser, but the show needs to find a way to keep things fresh without repeating the same storylines.

Joshua: Honestly, no. It felt like such a mish-mash of an episode; a filler episode, not a season opener. The one thing I absolutely loved was that moment I mentioned earlier with Caterina Scorsone; otherwise, this episode was largely forgettable for me.

What was your favorite moment from the hour? What storylines are you excited about in this upcoming season?

Jasmin: I don’t think I had one. If I had to pick, I’d say when Jo opened the door and Levi was in that ridiculous outfit. That made me laugh.

Honestly, I’m not really excited about any upcoming storyline this season which makes me really sad. I’m usually the super positive, hopeful, “this episode was great, and here’s why I loved it” person on this panel, but this episode just stomped all over my dreams.

Nick Mars

All I can hope for now is that they pull a twist and everything I was hoping for happens in the mid-season finale; otherwise, I don’t think I’m going to like this season very much.

Meaghan: I was just thinking that, Jasmin! I feel like we switched roles this season on the round table.

There was so much I genuinely loved about this episode, but if I’ve got to pick a favorite, it’s going to be Nick and Mer at the hotel bar. The chemistry between the two of them during that scene was out of control. I was about to have to hop into a cold shower.

Kudos to Mer for restraining herself and not sleeping with him. I wouldn’t have had that much self-control.

Mer Tattles - Tall  - Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 14

I’m most excited to watch the Minnesota storyline play out. I love Peter Gallagher, I love Nick and Mer, and I love when Mer is working on medical breakthroughs reminding us why she is regarded as such a great doctor. It all feels fresh and new after so many years with the same characters at the same hospital. I can’t wait to see where it goes!

Paul: Meredith in Minnesota was the best for me. I’m excited to see where they go with this, but I did laugh out loud when Bailey realized why Maggie had the injury and swiftly changed the subject. As a whole, I’m not very excited about many of the storylines. I need a few more episodes to see where things go.

Joshua: I honestly am excited to see what happens with Meredith and Nick; they had such wonderful chemistry in Season 14, and yet again in this episode.

I could feel her wanting to invite him inside–and him wanting to come inside–and I look forward to seeing how all of that unfolds.

The storyline I’m most excited for is what brings Addison back, especially with Jo switching specialties. Between Addison, Jo, and Carina, I feel like they’re setting us up for another spinoff that revolves around obstetrics.

Do you agree with us? Disagree? Sound off below. 

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays on ABC.

Jasmine Blu is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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