'Grey's Anatomy' Season 17 Premiere Reveals Shocking Return

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Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched the two-hour season 17 premiere of Grey's AnatomyWatch the emotional promo for next week's episode and find out how the big premiere surprise came to be.

Grey's Anatomy promised a "shocking, jaw-dropping ending" to Thursday's season 17 premiere, and they were not kidding. The final seconds of the two-hour coronavirus-driven episode produced a shocking return of a beloved character. Yes, your eyes weren't fooling you. That was Patrick Dempsey, back as McDreamy! 

After Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) was found unconscious by McWidow (Richard Flood) as she lay in the middle of the Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital parking lot following grueling COVID shifts, we were transported into a dream sequence where she stood on a sunny California-esque beach. Meredith, dressed in angelic white, suddenly noticed a figure from afar waving at her. 

When it dawns on her who the figure is, she says the three words that sums up that moment perfectly, "Oh my god."

Grey's Anatomy
ABC

It's Derek Shepherd, her late husband and soulmate, who died tragically in season 11 after doctors at an inferior hospital failed to save his life. This changes everything.

And no, this isn't the last you'll see of McDreamy. Dempsey returns in next Thursday's episode of Grey's, which was directed by Kevin McKidd. 

"The most important task we had this season was to honor the reality of this global pandemic and the impact it’s having -- particularly on healthcare workers. Along with that we had to come up with creative ways to allow our show to still be fun and romantic and provide some escapism. Enter Patrick Dempsey," showrunner Krista Vernoff said in a statement to ET. "The beach motif -- which will continue beyond the premiere -- provided a way for us to live outside the pandemic even for a little while here and there. And Derek’s return provided pure joy for us, for Meredith, and for the fans."

"Season 17 has been a Herculean effort by our cast, our crew, our writers, and our partners at Disney and ABC -- and we are proud of it," Vernoff added. "But our effort is nothing compared to the work of our Frontline healthcare workers to whom this season is dedicated. We hope our show inspires you to wear your masks to protect them and each other. As Derek Shepherd would say, 'It’s a beautiful day to save lives.'" 

With Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital more than month into the pandemic, Meredith, Bailey and the rest of the doctors were at their wit's end as they battled the virus on the front lines in an effort to heal the sick and keep COVID-19 under control. But that, of course, was easier said than done, as Meredith broke down after her fourth COVID patient died in a single day. 

But the hospital managed to successfully transition to a COVID reality, thanks mainly to the guidance and advisement of Bailey. The death of a young teenager, who heeded COVID guidelines and chose to party with his friends, put into stark focus just how serious the pandemic is and how one seemingly small decision could affect dozens of lives. 

Other notable revelations from the premiere: 

Jackson and Jo hooked up?! Yeah, color us shocked too. Some time after Alex peaced out to a farm in Kansas to reunite with Izzie Stevens and their kids, Jo felt a stab of loneliness. Naturally, her solution to cure her ills: sex! With Jackson! In classic Jo fashion, she broaches the idea awkwardly to Jackson, asking her friend for a "sex favor." "I'm truly asking for a favor, a sexy favor, and you can say no if you say used or objectified or whatever. But... you're a human male that I kinda trust," she pitches to a very confused yet amused Jackson. After a few beats, you know, for dramatic effect, he agrees. What a good sex friend! 

But their one night of no-attachment sex turns into anything but. Jo decides to go pants-less (what's the point, right?) and knocks back some hard liquor (you go, girl!) for their rendezvous, and the second she kisses Jackson -- who sets the mood by having a bottle of red wine at the ready, a charcuterie board and smooth jazz by Kenny G -- the tears start flowing. Jo cry-kissing Jackson is definitely not what they both pictured this night of "friend sex" to go. Clearly, things get even more awkward between them because at several moments, Jo and Jackson have tense exchanges.

"We are... friends," Jackson says, pausing before the word "friends," when Jo apologizes for being angry at him and asks if they can remain friends. Something tells us there may be some sparks left between the pair because it'd sure be a classic Grey's move.

DeLuca is in therapy. In last season's makeshift finale, Meredith and others at Grey Sloan didn't put much stock in what DeLuca was saying when he fought for his patient. Turns out, he was 100 percent correct about everything. Her name was actually Erin Banks, who went to DeLuca -- no longer a resident -- some time later, and she was afraid to report that she was a victim. But even knowing he was absolutely in the right -- even though everyone else, including Meredith -- didn't believe him, DeLuca still had to deal with his bipolar disorder head-on. And after an intervention with Carina, Webber, Meredith and a therapist, he agrees to go into therapy. Months later, he's doing significantly better -- and he and Meredith may be just fine.

Owen ends things with Teddy (finally). It took way too long for Owen to get here, but after the entire hospital heard Teddy and Koracick having sex via an accidental butt dial, that was the last straw. Teddy and Owen have a tense conversation about what the heck is wrong with their relationship. When Owen confronts Teddy about whether there's something she's hiding, Teddy doesn't take that time to come clean about her affair. Because even though Owen had no reason to stay with her following the affair, he was giving her an out -- a move she just didn't take. So, when he played the audio recording of her and Koracick having secret sex, their years and years of friendship and romance were over. Like that. "So much for us," Owen says as he severs ties, but Teddy -- still desperate to keep her relationship going -- does everything she can to fight for her man. To no avail.

Webber is the new Chief of Chiefs. Apparently there are consequences to having your sexual escapades broadcast hospital-wide. In a swift move, Catherine demotes Koracick as Chief of Chiefs after the huge mishap with the PPE -- thousands of booties delivered instead of facemasks, oops. Koracick is back as neuro attending, while Webber takes over the position as the new Chief of Chiefs in a move by Catherine to thaw the iciness between them. 

Levi and Nico are back on. Are they hookup buddies now? Oh boy... 

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.

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