[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Grey’s Anatomy, Season 17, Episode 9, “In My Life”]
Get ready for a deep dive into the subconscious of one Dr. Teddy Altman (Kim Raver).
In the March 25 Grey’s Anatomy episode — Season 17, Episode 9, “In My Life” — Teddy is near-catatonic. She’s in Owen’s (Kevin McKidd) bed and unresponsive, having suffered trauma after trauma: The recent loss of DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti); her affair with Koracick (Greg Germann); her fights with Owen; and the death of BFF-turned-girlfriend Allison (Sherri Saum).
As the episode starts, Owen is watching over Teddy as the shell-shocked doc flashes back to painful moments in her life: Allison dying on 9/11, Owen dumping her for Cristina (Sandra Oh), and her and Owen fighting in Germany when they reunited years later. Teddy even dreams about herself walking through a creepy, abandoned Grey Sloan Memorial, where she only sees two people: the COVID-stricken Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), who’s still in her hospital bed but at least sitting up and talking, and the dead DeLuca, who’s carting a body bag around the hospital on a gurney. Teddy unzips the body bag to find herself inside.
Then Teddy imagines herself operating on Meredith, with her colleagues watching like a Greek chorus from the OR gallery above. Allison’s shadowy figure appears in the scrub room, but when Teddy runs after her, Allison disappears.
Back in reality, Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) arrives at Owen’s place with an IV drip bag, hoping at least to get Teddy hydrated, but she can’t rouse Teddy, either. Owen tells Amelia he’s thinking about having Teddy committed. The last time he saw someone in this shape, he says, it was soldiers who didn’t “come back.”
In another dream, Teddy pictures herself getting into Koracick’s car on the night of her wedding to Owen, with Meredith standing nearby, judging her. Koracick drives Teddy to Las Vegas, with a DeLuca in the backseat, also judging her. Teddy sifts through the contents of her purse and sees a grenade inside. She closes her purse.
Teddy and Koracick check into a hotel. Koracick offers to get room service, but for reasons unknown, Teddy hands him the bomb, and it explodes in his hands. (Cut to commercials!)
Next, Teddy dreams up an alternative history of her and Owen’s fight in Germany: She imagines herself inviting him back in again after kicking him out. In this alt-version of events, she tells Owen about her relationship with Allison — and about Allison’s death — and he’s completely supportive.
Then Teddy imagines her wedding to Owen, the one that never happened, but they can’t get through the vows because of all the congratulatory texts Owen is getting from his exes: Amelia, Cristina, and even ex-fiancée Beth.
In the next dream, Teddy is having dinner with Owen, and he can’t stop talking about Amelia. In fact, he even thinks she is Amelia. “I love Teddy,” Owen declares. “But she’s no you, Amelia.”
Back in real life, Amelia tells Owen that he should give Teddy some slack because she just lost DeLuca. But he’s not feeling sympathetic. They all lost DeLuca, he says, and furthermore, “All she’s ever done is lie to me.”)
Teddy then has a vision of herself and DeLuca standing in an empty operating room. He asks her about Allison, and she flashes back to a time when Allison helped her through the shock of losing her parents in short succession. That was the same day Teddy kissed Alison for the first time.
Talking to DeLuca, Teddy recalls the morning of 9/11, when Allison offered to make pancakes and Teddy rushed off to work instead. Teddy is guilt-stricken, suspecting Allison might have survived that day if they had just stayed home together for breakfast. Then, suddenly, Teddy is imagining that alternate history.
Back in real life again, Amelia tells Owen he needs to forgive Teddy for her secrets, saying that Teddy “probably had PTSD from losing the love of her life in a horrific tragedy.” She also says Teddy was probably ashamed of her PTSD and its effect, the same way Owen is ashamed of the time his PTSD made him strangle Cristina. “Sometimes, traumatized people lie,” Amelia tells Owen.
In her dreams — yes, there are a lot of them — Teddy imagines herself and Allison sitting on a park bench on the morning of 9/11. A shadow of a plane passes over their faces and Teddy notices, but all she wants is to stay present in this (fleetingly) happy moment. But Allison is distracted by the sound of people screaming and the smell of smoke. She starts coughing and collapses, and Teddy performs CPR, but can’t revive her. Suddenly, they’re in the Grey Sloan OR, and Meredith is telling Teddy to call time of death on Allison.
Then, Teddy is back in the dystopian version of Grey Sloan, where it’s snowing inside. Meredith silently leads her through the empty halls and out into the ambulance bay, where dozens of body bags are lined up in rows of gurneys. Mer psychoanalyzes Teddy, saying Teddy runs from pain but also from joy, which is why she and Owen haven’t gotten their relationship together. But pain and joy are “a package deal,” Mer says.
Having dispensed those observations, Meredith starts walking away. “Please don’t die,” Teddy blurts out.
Mer, not breaking her stride, replies, “I’ll do my best.”
And with that exchange, Teddy wakes up in her bed, having returned to the real world.
It’s nighttime now, and Amelia is leaving. After Owen sees Amelia off, he hears baby Alison crying in the nursery. But Teddy is already in the room, comforting the newborn. “I’m here,” she says, definitively — to baby Allison, to Owen, and probably to herself, too.
And next week, another surprise guest star joins Meredith on the beach, as the preview reveals. We won’t spoil that person’s identity here, in case you don’t want the spoiler, but be sure to tune in!
Grey’s Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC