Who thought it was okay to have another airplane episode?
The episode opens with a man (played by Aaron Abrams. The character is never named, so I will refer to him as the actor’s name) trying to shove an oversized bag into the overhead compartment. The flight attendant takes the bag and says she is going to gate check it. We hear a child crying in the background, and see the man’s annoyance. The camera pans over and we see Meredith trying to relax. She smiles at the mother next to her who is trying to calm her child. As a mother of three, she is very familiar with this territory. Aaron dings for the flight attendant and asks if he can change seats. He has a deadline, and the family is distracting. Meredith turns around and tells him to use the complimentary earbuds. A minute later, we learn that the mother is named Marisela and that she, her husband, and son are going on their first family trip. On cue, her husband walks up the aisle to check on their fussy boy. He had booked the trip last minute, and this flight is completely full, so they couldn’t find three seats together. Meredith offers to give up her seat so that he can join his family.
Meredith heads back to her new seat, which is only two seats away from Riggs. They’re surprised to see each other — both are going to the National Conference on Operative Advances. Since they will be in the same place for three days, Riggs suggest that they spend time together, but Meredith shoots this down. Meredith comments that she never travels without children, and she had really been looking forward to traveling alone. She asks Riggs to let her have her alone time. Riggs tries to argue that this is a sign from the universe that they are supposed to be together. The woman between them, Ingrid, asks what their dealio is, and Riggs gives her an incredibly vague and boring summary. When the de-seatbelt light blinks, Meredith decides to get away and stretch her legs. Riggs misinterprets her actions and follows her to the restroom. He decides that they need to talk about things, but Meredith still doesn’t think they should be together, with everything Maggie is going through. A bit of turbulence bumps the two closer together, and Meredith decides that what happens in cramped airplane restroom stays in cramped airplane restroom and kisses Riggs.
When she leaves the restroom, a man moves toward it for his turn, and Meredith tells him that it’s still occupied. He’s friendly and introduces himself as Max. He and his fiancé have been fighting the entire flight, so he says that he’s glad someone is having fun. Aaron approaches the bathroom too and asks Meredith if she is going to yell at him again. He says that flying is very stressful for him, and Meredith knows he has pulmonary hypertension, but that isn’t a reason to scold mothers and their children. She turns her attention back to Max, who points out his handsome fiancé. Riggs comes out of the restroom and Max says that her guy is also handsome.
The seatbelt lights are back on as a storm rages outside. Meredith returns to her seat to see that Ingrid switched seats with Riggs while they were gone. They find out that they both are kind of uneasy fliers, and both say “plane crash” at the same time. Riggs asks about hers. Mer sums it up by saying “We crashed and got lost. People died. It wasn’t great.” She asks about his, and if anyone died or lost a limb. (“You know that’s how Arizona lost her leg.”) His was a crop duster when he was a teenager. He and a friend had flied it for four minutes before crashing into a shed. Another bout of turbulence and a couple of people not wearing seatbelts slam into the ceiling.
Meredith sees flashbacks from the plane crash that killed her sister. When she snaps back to reality, she sees Max injured on the floor. She unbuckles her seatbelt, but Riggs advises that she stay seated for now. From her seat, she tells Max’s fiancé, Jay, to check for a pulse. He says “I don’t know how,” which seems completely unbelievable to me. I don’t know about you guys, but I learned about checking wrists and necks for pulses in elementary school. She instructs him on how to do it, and then whispers to Riggs that there are two more people down. An older man who is farther back, and the flight attendant, Candice, at the front. The man gets back into his seat, and Meredith shouts up the aisle to check on Candice, who appears to have hurt her wrist. Jay reports that he feels a pulse and Max starts regaining consciousness.
Riggs checks out Candice’s wrist and says he needs to brace it. She gets up to unlock the medical kit. He wants her to stay where she is, but she isn’t allowed to give anyone the code. Meanwhile, Meredith checks on Max, asking him to follow her finger with his eyes. Over the loudspeaker, Candice tells everyone to stay seated, and to hit their call buttons if they need medical attention. Many people hit their buttons. Meredith stays by Max and asks him to sit up. She blots his head with a napkin, and we see a lot of blood. A man walks up and shines a flashlight for Meredith, saying he’s a doctor, too. He hands the flashlight to Meredith and he goes to check on people who said they need help. Riggs goes through the medical kit and finds band-aids and a defibrillator, but no splint. He pulls out gauze and resets her wrist.
Riggs takes the medical kit to the other doctor, Harrison Peters, who is looking at the head of the little boy from either, Diego. He had been hit by overhead luggage. Harrison would like to stitch up a small gash, but they don’t have the resources. When he introduces himself to Riggs, we learn that he is a pediatric dentist. Aaaaaand cue the surgeon superiority. Harrison had went through medical residency and assures Riggs that he is qualified to help.
Meredith asks Jay if he knows Max’s medical history. He says that he takes pills and has his pill box with them. Riggs finds it, and the two look at the pills inside. They are blood thinners, which definitely won’t help in the situation of trying to stop his brain from bleeding out. Meredith asks Candice if she can speak to the captain, but no passengers are allowed inside of the cockpit, and the captain is a little busy flying the plane. Candice informs Meredith that the captain has no intention of landing the plane anytime soon. The weather is too dangerous right now. Even as Candice argues that landing right now would be risking the lives of every single person on this plane, Meredith feels superior and more knowledgeable and thinks she knows what’s best. Don’t be arrogant, Mer. Let the pilot do her job.
As Meredith gets Max back into his seat, Jay apologizes to Max for their fight earlier, saying he takes it all back. Meredith has to check on other patients, but tells the couple to call her if anything changes.
Riggs is talking to Candice when Ingrid comes back, angry that he left her all alone. She shows that she’s bleeding. It’s just a scratch on her arm. She’s overly stressed at the thought of this storm causing the plane to crash. Candice tells her that you get used to it, but Ingrid insists that she will never fly again. Riggs tells her that that fear will go away over time.
Meredith tells Diego that he might need stitches when they land, and tells him that when her daughter had to have stitches, the doctor gave her a lollipop for every stitch.
Aaron asks Meredith if she found out any information on when the plane will land. Since he made a bad impression earlier in the flight, Meredith is curt with him. He says that she doesn’t understand the amount of stress he is feeling, and she hands him a paper bag. He asks her to get him a drink, apparently forgetting that Meredith does not work for this airline. She simply walks away.
Meredith thanks Harrison for helping out, and he says that it’s fun to work on adults for a change. As Meredith heads back to her seat, Harrison asks her if she needs company or anything. She says that he can go check on Max.
Aaron asks Riggs if he has any antacids, but he doesn’t. Then he asks Riggs to touch his head and see if he’s hot. Riggs just walks away. He finds Meredith hiding and sits down by her. He comments on how chummy she and the dentist seem to be, and she says the same about him and the flight attendant. When Riggs says that her name is Candice, Meredith asks as if that is some sign that he likes her, but Meredith had shouted “Candice!” earlier in the episode, after Candice broke her wrist. Riggs asks Meredith about her plane crash again. She says that it was very cold. She tells him that they were called the Seattle Grace Five, and that six of them had went up, but only five of them came back. Apparently Mark counted as a survivor, even though he ultimately died from it. Only three are alive today, and only two are still working at this hospital. She drops the bomb that her sister, Lexie, was the one who died out there. He didn’t even know she had another sister. Meredith refers to Lexie as her ‘kid sister,’ as if they had grown up together. Not that their sisterhood isn’t valid, but Meredith had nothing to do with Lexie until well into residency. I just feel like if you are going to open up to someone, you should tell them all of the facts. Meredith says that sometimes she thinks she is cursed because so many of her loved ones have died. Learning about Lexie finally makes Riggs understand why Meredith is protective of Maggie. He still tells her that it’s impractical to put someone else’s happiness above her own. No matter how much Meredith has tried to stay away from Riggs, she always slips up. He tells her to face the fact that she wants this relationship, and Meredith snaps that she is married. Ingrid interrupts before things get too awkward.
Meredith runs out to Max, who is now vomiting. The doctors check on him, and he starts having a seizure. They move him out of his seat and onto the floor. Meredith summons the captain again, and this time she finally gets the chance to talk face-to-face, but the pilot says the same thing she had Candice say earlier — it’s too dangerous to land the plane, but they will as soon as it’s possible. Meredith says that that isn’t good enough.
Riggs and Meredith agree that Max doesn’t have time to wait for the plane to land. If he were a patient at the hospital, they would have rushed him to the OR already. Riggs says that in the field, they’d be looking for a way to puncture his skull to relieve the pressure. (Like when Izzie had to use a drill on a guy who was trapped under a car, back in the day.) Riggs points out that they are on a moving plane, and that this is dangerous, but what other options do they have? They ask Candice if there are any tools, but all of the maintenance tools are inaccessible in the storage below. Harrison wanders back, and Meredith asks him if he has any drills, since he’s a dentist. He jokes that there are some in his carry-on, but all he really has is nail clippers on his keychain. Meredith finds a syringe, which is going to have to be good enough. They talk to Jay in private, who wants to wait until they land, but the doctors urge that there isn’t time. The pressure is building in Max’s head, and he might not wake up. Jay agrees to let them do whatever they need to do in order to save him.
They clear out a section of seats in first class for the medical emergency and situate Max. Instead of scrubbing in (because obviously they don’t have that luxury), Meredith uses hand sanitizer. She is going to use the needle through a crack in his skull to decompress the hematoma. If she goes in too deep, there could be serious issues. Riggs continuously expresses his concern, as they are in an uncontrolled environment. With how many times Meredith will have to stick the syringe in Max’s head to remove all of the excess blood from his brain, it’s likely that a mistake will be made. Turbulence strikes again, right before Meredith inserts the needle. Transferring his bomb experience over to turbulence, he advises Meredith on the best time to insert it. “There’s usually a lull after a bomb hits before the next one explodes. That’s your window. Just wait for that boom and then go.” After the boom, Meredith inserts the needle and syringes out blood. The plane shakes again right before round two. She waits for the boom and then goes again. After the fifth time, Meredith realizes what we all are thinking — it’s probably not good to keep sticking a needle in the brain. She decides to undo the syringe while keeping the needle in place. Reattaching the syringe after emptying it is not easy, and there’s possibly fifty more times to go.
A woman named Janis calls from coach and Riggs races back. Aaron is collapsing, unable to breathe. The muscles around his lungs are constricting and essentially causing him to suffocate from the inside. He needs O2 and erectile dysfunction pills. The latter on the list should open up his vessels. Yay for multiple uses. Never travel without your Viagra, kids. Janis runs up with a bottle in her hand. A little while later, he busts out the defibrillator and his CPR training.
Since Riggs ran off to help someone else, Ingrid takes his place at Meredith’s side. The blood kind of freaks her out, and her hands shake as she tries to reattach the syringe, but eventually she does manage to attach it. The captain makes an announcement that they will be landing the plane.
Meredith calls Riggs back to help with Max. He’s busy, but Meredith says that if he stays with his patient, they may lose both of these people. When he doesn’t budge, Meredith brainstorms and asks Harrison for his nail clippers. She plans on clipping the needle and placing a straw over it. Harrison pours hand sanitizer on them to sterilize, and Meredith moves forward with her plan. Once the straw is in place, she removes the needle, and the blood just spurts out. Right before landing in Sioux Falls, Riggs restarts Aaron’s heart.
Once on the ground and out of the plane, Meredith reminds Jay of all of the medical information so that he can tell the new doctors who will work on and monitor Max, even though she wrote it all down and taped it to his chest. Candice thanks Riggs for fixing her wrist and asks if she should call him for a follow up. He tells her that that wouldn’t be necessary, as any doctor would be able to help her. Candice is clearly interested in Riggs, and Riggs can tell, but he’s only interested in Meredith. He walks away and joins Mer. Deciding that she’s learned enough, Meredith decides that she is going to skip the conference. Riggs says that there must be a nice hotel here somewhere, and that as they are stuck here, they’re going to have to sleep. Meredith retorts, “but not together.” He doesn’t understand how Meredith can still be so scared, but Meredith says that prioritizing her sister is not the same as fear. He wasn’t talking about Maggie, though. He thinks that Meredith is afraid to let Derek go. She says she doesn’t want to talk about this, and Riggs agrees — he just wants to move forward with her and live, since they are both still alive. After many, many, many flashbacks of classic Merederek, she agrees, but says that the hotel better be nice.
I still am not sure if I ship it, but I guess there’s no stopping Meredith and Riggs now. Although, according to the preview for this week, we’re apparently in for some drama, as we see Maggie find out about the two while watching the news. Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8/7c on ABC.