For the firefighters and doctors of Station 19and Grey's Anatomy, DeLuca's death put into sharp focus the priorities in their lives and, if there ever was a silver lining to a tragedy, served as the impetus for action and change. And while Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) remained in a coma and on a ventilator, though she's steadily improving, we're transported to her safe place where she sees Derek (Patrick Dempsey) again, this time he's on the shore fishing.
But before we get to MerDer's latest reunion, on Station 19 it's DeLuca's older sister, Carina (Stefania Spampinato), who understandably took DeLuca's death the hardest.
Unable to come to terms with her brother's death, her raw grief was palpable right from the start as she struggled to make sense of everything. It took encouragement and support from Maya (Danielle Savre) before she got the strength to finally call her father to inform him of DeLuca's death. Shockingly, he already knew -- two days ago, in fact -- and didn't bother to call her.
That realization was enough to bring Carina to feel the desperate need to let out all the suppressed pressure she's kept inside, literally and figuratively, since DeLuca's death. After spending all of Station 19 unable to scream her pain away, she finally let it all out when Maya turned on the sirens on one of the fire trucks parked in Firehouse 19 and joined Carina in feeling her sadness, loss and grief through their primal screams.
When the action transitioned to Grey's Anatomy, the Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital docs were still in shock, trying to remember DeLuca as best they could. When Bailey (Chandra Wilson) revealed she went ahead and ordered autopsy results to find out if something went wrong when DeLuca went under the knife, Webber (James Pickens Jr.) took issue with her decision to investigate further. Haven't they all suffered enough? It comes to a head when it's confirmed.
"This place can't stand another loss," Cormac (Richard Flood) pleaded with an unconscious Meredith, when it was time for he and Teddy (Kim Raver) to be slowly weened off the meds to see if Meredith could slowly come back to consciousness. That's when we're brought back to the hazy dreamscape with Meredith and Derek.
"You look just like Ellis right now, the way you're looking at your feet. So serious. She gets that worrying little brow," Derek quipped, unclear whether he's referencing her late mother or their daughter he never knew about.
"This is torture. You're right here and I can't... it's torture!" Meredith said from a distance.
"It's a torture of your own devising. You're always good at that," Derek observed. And when Meredith replied asking what he meant by that, he affirmed his stance, "Torturing yourself!"
"I don't do that as much anymore!" she said, before taking a beat and telling him about Ellis. "You never get to meet Ellis. We didn't even know. I wish you got to know her..."
But it's apparent from Derek's following comments that he's been watching over them all along, even after his death.
"She looks just like you. She breaks the rule just like you. And she's quick to anger, and quick to laugh, and she's smart, pensive and stubborn just like you," he marveled. "Hates pink and purple, loves brown and green, and gets enraged at the thought of anybody wanting to cut down a tree." Like mother, like daughter.
When Meredith pleads for Derek to "come closer," he reveals it's up to her to make that happen. It is her beach after all.
"I can't do it for you. It's your beach," he said, before praising their adopted daughter, Zola. "Zola'a amazing, isn't she? She's just so brilliant. She writers letter in her journal, did you know that?" After that heart-rending revelation, Meredith squeezed her eyes shut to make him come closer. But Derek knew better. That was never going to work.
"Relax," and so she did. And suddenly, Derek appeared several feet closer.
Though Teddy and Cormac's initial try to get Meredith off the ventilator failed, Meredith was reaching a moment of no return. Would she have the strength to fight her way back to life? Or would she stay on the beach and be reunited with Derek?
"You look perfect," Derek said when Cormac's conversations began to seep into her subconscious. The choice was hers: Would she fight? "That's up to you. If you're asking me...you should hear him out," Derek nudged her.
"I don't know that I can. It's so warm here. The water is so cool. I feel so relaxed and there's no pain," Meredith said to Cormac on the beach as Derek waited on the other side of the beach. "It's OK. I'll be right here..." as Meredith walked away. But was she ready to leave limbo and return to the living? Not quite...
The Grey Sloan doctors set up an intimate memorial to pay respects to DeLuca in lieu of a funeral, with video messages from all his friends and colleagues at Grey Sloan gathered outside the hospital -- safely, of course -- to remember him via video messages. Filmed tributes from Jackson to Jo and Amelia to Link all played during the evening memorial, but it was one very special message at the very end that brought the waterworks.
As if we needed more reason to cry, DeLuca's application video to Grey Sloan brought his five-year experience at the hospital full circle, as he raved about getting the potential opportunity to work with Grey Sloan legends like Webber, Bailey and of course, Meredith Grey, and giving love to his sister, Carina, who was a wreck at the makeshift service.
"The reason I wanted to become a surgeon was I've always had this insatiable desire to help people. I get that from my mom, who I lost too soon. I know she had this really giving heart. She always pushed me to do as much good as possible so I guess I'm doing this for her. Now I'm warning you I can be relentless and stubborn, but I promise if I match with you... I will give the very best of me." Mission accomplished.
"For me, it's been very exciting, but it's also been very, very emotional. I started on Grey's literally right out of school as an assistant. I can tell you what I was doing in my life during certain moments of Grey's Anatomy. So being able to bring back these characters, it's been emotional for me, even outside of the show," Marinis said. "Watching the scenes with George with my husband, he was like, 'Oh my god, he was your favorite.' I'm like, 'He is my favorite. It's not was.' It's also been taking me back through the memories of being on the show, and the people who worked on the show, and crew members, and cast members, and writers, and producers who have come and gone. It's been a huge, emotional journey for me, at least."
"it was really nice to see [Patrick] come back. Having never gotten to work or write for T.R. [Knight], it was really, really special for me to see him come back on the show because it was just great. And I can tell you, anytime when writers got to see the footage, writers were crying as much as fans are," Reaser said.
Added Marinis: "Listening to George talk, it just takes me back because you're like, 'Oh my gosh, remember when life was just simpler and you weren't making sure we were completely in PPE before we went out?' It gives me this huge sense of nostalgia and feeling of, I don't know why I'm using this word, but it makes me homesick."