If you don’t get the reference in the title, let me clarify: Dan Vasser was the time-traveling character that Kevin McKidd – whom we know and love as Owen Hunt on Grey’s Anatomy – played in Journeyman. And if it weren’t for the writers’ strike that caused his show to get canceled, we would have never had Kevin McKidd as Owen Hunt. In fact, Cristina’s love interest would have been played by Joshua Jackson of The Mighty Ducks and Dawson’s Creek fame. Just a little fun tidbit about Owen Hunt and Kevin McKidd to get things started since we did not see him in this episode. (And thus, the reason why I don’t have the usual episode collage at the top.)
So, what is there to discuss when we’re missing half of our couple? Well, our couple, that’s what. How? Just read on and see…
Other than the parallels drawn between Cristina and Owen’s relationship to Cristina’s former relationship with Burke, the other major relationship that our couple has been compared to is Ellis Grey and Richard Webber. And in this episode, we got a real glimpse into their relationship back in the day (an era that included some questionable hairstyles).
Cristina Yang is not Ellis Grey. Though she aspires to obtain a similar career (two Harper Avery Awards is nothing to scoff at), Cristina is very different than the Ellis Grey of the past. The version we’re more familiar with, as played by Kate Burton, was significantly more likeable in the end (in other words, the lucid version). And I think that came from the fact that the older Ellis Grey learned to regret the decisions she made in parenting and her personal life. She told Cristina that she could have tried harder to balance both her career and her family. But the version we saw in this episode, as played by Sarah Paulson (whom I adore), was, quite frankly, a bit of a bitch. And given the time that she was living in and the major obstacles she was facing, I don’t blame her. Anything less and Ellis Grey may not have become the brilliant surgeon that she became. Still, it doesn’t really excuse the way she treated the people that loved and cared about her – namely Meredith.
I’m all about the kids, having worked with children and adolescents since I was old enough to take care of them. So, seeing Ellis Grey disregard her own child like that was tough to watch. Especially a little girl who is so obviously in want of her mother (and so freaking adorable). At least Richard has the decency to look back and feel bad for little Meredith. Ellis doesn’t even do that much. She’s all gung-ho about the surgery that she doesn’t even have the slightest bit of hesitation in leaving her child. And when she physically removes Meredith from her leg as though her daughter is a nuisance, it only made me feel worse for little Meredith. No wonder Meredith grew up with all these major issues.
But back to Cristina. Like Ellis, she’s very focused on her career and surgeries. But – and it’s a huge “but” – she’s not as cold as people label her to be. The Cristina we’ve been seeing has been more sensitive and caring. Look at the way she handled the situations with Izzie and Owen. As Sandra Oh said, we got to see the softer side of Cristina. And she has been doing what Ellis Grey didn’t – balancing both love and career.
In the Zoanne Clack’s writer’s blog for this episode, she mentions that Shonda wanted it to be shown that the main reason that Richard and Ellis were drawn together was because they were both outcasts. They were in the same boat – being an African American and female, respectively, in a predominately Caucasian male profession. Who else would better understand where they were coming from? Thatcher and Adele weren’t in the medical field. They couldn’t understand the struggle and the pressure that both of them faced in the workplace. It’s no wonder that these two forged a bond together.
As for Cristina and Owen, they also understand each other in ways that others can’t. And in their own way, they’re both “outcasts.” Neither of them fit within the typical Grey’s Anatomy mold when it comes to behavior and relationships. While the other characters have complicated romantic entanglements with anyone and everyone else on the show, Cristina and Owen have remained solely with each other – even with Teddy’s arrival. They both keep their private lives private (i.e. avoid being the hospital gossip) and “mate for life.”
Take Owen, for example. In the past few episodes, he has twice deviated from the typical pattern of behavior that the Grey’s Anatomy characters have been known to take. First, he didn’t cheat when he had the chance. He could have easily cheated on Cristina with Teddy – or broken up with Cristina to be with Teddy – but he didn’t. Why? Because he’s “in love with Cristina” – it is as simple as that. Second, he didn’t go off in a huff when Cristina “gave him up” to Teddy. He stuck by her and told her that he wasn’t going to let her throw him aside. That was a huge surprise – even knowing that Owen’s an honorable man, it was still a shocker. I don’t think we’ve ever seen any of the other male characters show such maturity when their egos had been bruised like that. Look at Mark – he’s refusing to talk to Lexie because she slept with Alex even though he slept with Addison (multiple times). I’m not saying that either of their behavior should be excused, but he isn’t even willing to work on it. And don’t get me started on early Meredith and Derek. There is a reason they broke up and made up six times. Just saying.
And as for Cristina, she’s been unlike the others since the beginning – what with her committed relationship with Burke and her unwavering loyalty to her friends. Cristina and Owen are very much alike in these core traits, and I think that’s why they’re so great together. Of course, they’ve got their healthy share of differences (thus, the various arguments and disagreements these two have gotten into), but these differences ultimately make them into a stronger couple because they both have things to teach the other. As we’ve seen, both Cristina and Owen have done some learning and growing since the moment they got together. And for the better, in my honest opinion.
So, why do Cristina and Owen work when Ellis and Richard didn’t? Well, to start off, Cristina is healthy for Owen. She was the one that forced Owen to really take a look at his situation and realize that he needed to get help. And since going to therapy for his PTSD, he’s become the “better man” that he promised he’d be. So now, he’s healthy for Cristina, too, by being the supportive and solid boyfriend she’s always needed. Cristina can count on him – and that’s a new feeling for Cristina, this ability to count on a man. Meanwhile, we found out in this episode that Ellis was the one that got Richard started on his drinking. Not only that, but she kept pushing him to leave Adele and continue their affair. Not exactly the type of encouragement one would consider “healthy.” I’m not saying that their relationship didn’t have any merits – after all, the Chief credited Ellis for helping make him into a better doctor – but on a personal level, the relationship with rather detrimental. It eroded away at their respective marriages and Ellis’ role as a mother.
At the end of Richard’s lecture, he recites the Physician’s Oath. It reflects the principle that Owen constantly upholds: respecting one’s patients. If you notice, Cristina knows this oath by heart. As Richard says the words, Cristina is mouthing along with him. You can see how the words reverberate within her and how seriously she takes this vow to heal others. Though she doesn’t always have the best bedside manner, Cristina is an amazing doctor. And even when it seems like she’s only about the surgeries, she honestly wants what is best for her patients. We saw this in “An Honest Mistake” when she brought to attention the mistake that Dr. Campbell (Faye Dunaway) made while operating on Mr. Terzian. She tells Owen, “That patient deserves to know who his doctor is, no matter whose feelings it happens to hurt.” Cristina is usually very respectful to authority figures and prestigious surgeons, so it is rather significant that she would behave so rudely towards or think so little of Dr. Campbell because of her mishandling of Mr. Terzian’s surgery.
Anyways, I think it’s safe to say that Cristina and Owen will not share the same fate as Ellis and Richard. For one thing, they’re not married to other people, and they are truly in love with each other. Cristina is succeeding in what Ellis Grey couldn’t – being both a brilliant surgeon and a loving partner. And I’m sure that if she and Owen had kids, she wouldn’t neglect them in the manner that Ellis did to Meredith. Sure, Cristina is a tad ill-at-ease with the little ones (remember Mr. Bear?); but as with everything else that comes her way, Cristina could excel at motherhood if she put her mind to it. Now, let’s take a step back and relish in the thought of Cristina and Owen tackling parenthood… That would definitely be a sight to see. (And here’s hoping we get to see that sometime down the road. If not, there’s always our imagination… and the world of fanfiction.)