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Welcome to Seattle Grace-Mercy West.

"To be a good surgeon you have to think like a surgeon. Emotions are messy."
Meredith Grey
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Grey's Anatomy is a Medical Drama. Beginning its life in 2005 as a Mid Season Replacement, Grey's quickly became known for being sort of, well, quirky, especially given its genre: in addition to McNicknaming and using the word "seriously" more than we use the word "egregious", the show focused primarily on the romantic and sex lives of its characters rather than on the medical cases. Case in point: the first scene of the pilot episode is Narrator Meredith Grey waking up after a one-night-stand with a hot guy named Derek and rushing off to her first day as an intern at Seattle Grace Hospital... only to discover that said one-night-stand, Dr. Shepherd, works there too.

The show follows the lives, both personal and professional, of a group of surgeons at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital (formerly Seattle Grace, and then Seattle Grace-Mercy West following a merger in Season 6). Most episodes are narrated by Meredith, a world-weary intern struggling to deal with her mother's Alzheimer's syndrome. Though initially focused on Meredith, the other four interns and their immediate superiors, the show has introduced numerous characters since its onset, resulting in a large ensemble cast. Additionally, the show has matured somewhat in later years; the wackiness and sexcapades have been largely toned down, resulting in a more serious character study. Some found this deplorable, but the show continues to pull high ratings.

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Former Trope Namer for Urgent Medical Alert, Grey's Anatomy Emergency Medical Response. Should not be confused with Gray's Anatomy, the famous textbook on human anatomy the title is based on.

It forms part of an Expanded Universe, with sister show Private Practice forming part of the universe, canonically, with the mini-series Grey's Anatomy: B-Team contributing to further focus on interns during the mid-season break, and another spin-off about the Seattle Fire Department, Station 19, beginning in 2018. Possibly part of canon, though not referenced in the show, is the videogame (Grey's Anatomy: The Video Game) featuring its own integrated episodic story arc.

Spoilers unmarked up to Season 14


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This series provides examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: As with any show with this many characters that's run for this long, it's bound to happen. Notably:
    • The Dead Baby Bike Race is an annual bike-messenger race infamous for the number of injures it produces. After Season 1 it is never mentioned again.
    • The resident's surgical contest in "Where The Wild Things Are" is revealed be a tradition so long-running that Richard Webber competed as a resident some thirty-something years ago, with the prize of a sparkle pager that allows the holder to steal other resident's surgeries. And then after Season 4 the sparkle pager is forgotten and the contest is never run again.
    • Arizona's prosthetic leg. After being a major focus of Season 9, it is almost never brought up afterwards. Justified in that she probably got used to it, you can't see it most of the time and they probably got tired of filming with it.
    • Bailey has a mental breakdown in season 10 due to her OCD. After a few episodes, she takes one pill, and her OCD is rarely an issue. Probably justified as it was a result of her being a MRSA carrier and over-compensating in an attempt to avoid another outbreak.
  • Abnormal Ammo: "Devastator" exploding bullets show up in "Sympathy For The Parents". Cristina manages to detonate one in situ by accident, further injuring the patient and spraying the surgeons with blood.
    • Exploding pistol rounds do exist in real life. However, they are a incredibly rare, highly expensive fad on the American civilian market. Owen and Teddy wouldn't have encountered them overseas.
  • Absentee Actor: No actor has appeared in every single episode.
    • Meredith appears in every single episode until Season 13, where she misses two episodes (though she does the voice-over in one of them). She misses a third episode the next season.
  • AB Negative:
    • O Negative, being the universal donor, is used frequently and in a major disaster the ER may well request the blood bank give them extra. Given the time, they will type and cross-match it so they can use the appropriate blood type and save on precious O Neg
    • During the hospital hack, Meredith is in surgery and her patient needs blood, but the blood bank is unavailable. So she asks around in her operating room for someone O Neg or B Neg, noting that she can't due to being AB Positive. Levi Schmit turns out to be O Neg and serves as donor, earning him the far-more-affectionate nickname of "Bloodbank".
    • A patient in Season 15 has a reaction to a transfusion and, on a second test, turns out to be AB with RH-null. Realistically, only Maggie, who is head of Cardio, is even aware that such a thing exists. There is an entire multi-episode subplot about finding him a blood donor so they can operate.
      Alex: So far, we've found four potential donors.
      Scott Carter: In...Washington?
      Maggie: In the world.
    • On a trivia note, Meredith's father Thatcher is also AB Negative, Cristina is AB Positive, and Callie is A Positive
  • Abusive Parents:
    • One episode has a girl who has very bad injuries, and the doctors strongly suspected it is her parents who have been hurting her. It is later revealed she feels no pain and has been allowing other kids to beat her up as she believed it was a superpower.
    • Meredith's mother was verbally/emotionally abusive and took her away from her father.
    • Alex's father, until Alex fought back as a teenager and his father never came back home. Alex's mother was schizophrenic (which his brother also develops), and unable to care for her children.
  • Adult Fear:
    • The entirety of the episode "The Girl With No Name." Aside from the main Patient of the Week, Bailey panics for a few minutes when she thinks her son is missing.
    • After he's declared brain-dead, Meredith has to wait for signs of brain activity for hours before allowing the hospital to remove Derek's life support. Your spouse dying suddenly and traumatically, leaving you to raise two small children on your own, has to be at least in the Top Ten of worst things that could happen in a relationship. It gets worse the next episode,:when she finds out she's pregnant again.
  • A God Am I:
    • Particularly skilled surgeons may be referred to as such. Thus, Derek is "Neuro God", Burke is "Cardio God", and so on.
    • Part of Gary's motivation for the hospital shooting is the belief that surgeons should not get to play God and decide who lives or dies.
    • Played for laughs in "Piece of My Heart" as Mark declares himself God after growing a skin graft for a baby's operation.
      Mark: And God admired his amazing skin flap...and He saw that it was good.
  • Age-Gap Romance:
    • Intern Meredith Grey begins dating attending Dr. Shepherd, and eventually marries him. Their age gap is no more than 10 years, but it still causes amusement with Shepherd's friends, who call her "the 12 year old".
    • One of Dr. Shepherd's friends, Dr. Sloan, starts dating Lexie Grey, Meredith's little sister. There's a twelve year age gap between them, but they joke that they have to call her "the fetus".
    • In later seasons, Andrew DeLuca starts dating Meredith. It’s not explicitly stated what their age gap is, but it appears to be similar to Derek and Meredith’s, just with Meredith as the older one this time.
  • Alcohol-Induced Idiocy:
    • In "Thanks for the Memories", George's brothers drink while hunting, resulting in one of them shooting their father in the but.
    • In "Holidaze", Cristina tells a woman in need of a heart that she just has to make it to New Year's, at which point drunk drivers will solve her issue.
      Cristina: You just need to hang until until New Year's Eve. There's a lot of drunk drivers, a lot of brain death. It's an organ-palooza.
  • All Lesbians Want Kids: Zigzagged and then Played Straight with Callie and Arizona. Initially, Arizona doesn't want to have children, but changes her mind after the shooting, deciding that not wanting children is not worth being separated from Callie. Callie comes to the same opinion, and tells Arizona that not having kids isn't worth losing her, but Arizona overrides her and tells her she can't live without her and their ten kids. Arizona loves Sofia and wants another child, but prioritizes her and Callie's careers over that want, which is one of the main factors that leads to their divorce.
  • Almighty Janitor: Do not mess with the nurses.
    • In Season 2, Cristina rudely dismisses a nurse, telling her "If we need a bed pan changed, we'll let you know". Cristina promptly gets stuck with every case of diarrhea, rectal exam, and infected wounds for the rest of the episode.
    • When Miranda catches Ben Warren flirting with a nurse in "Shiny Happy People", he explains that the woman is unpleasant but does the schedule, so he makes nice.
    • On a lighter note, Izzie tells Charles in "Invasion" of another upside to staying on their good side.
      Izzie: It is literally always someone's birthday, so if you're nice to the nurses, you get cake.
    • Mark Sloan all but names the trope in Season 7 when Lexie attempts Summon Bigger Fish to get her way with a patient.
      Mark: I don't know what is going on here, but I know better to mess with you on your turf.
  • Alternate Reality Episode: the eighth-season episode "If/Then", which revolves around an Ellis Grey who is alive and lucid. The ripple effects are fairly significant (Alex has proposed to Meredith; Callie and Owen are married; the Shepherds are still together; Cristina has no friends) but Because Destiny Says So other things come back to bite them (Alex is still an inveterate womanizer; Mark and Addison are still carrying on; Meredith still can't please her mother; she and Derek are attracted to each other; she and Cristina become Fire-Forged Friends whilst struggling to save a patient, Callie and Arizona are drawn to each other), turning the whole thing from "For Want of a Nail" into "In Spite of a Nail" instead. Incidentally, the episode's theme is "Because Destiny Says So." Has a lot of moments of Fridge Brilliance.
  • Always on Duty: The main cast seem to be the only doctors in the place, and it it unclear who exactly is reliving them when they go home.
    • Season 7's "Slow Night, So Long" revolves around most of the cast being put on night shift, despite it being repeatedly established that their shifts are over 24 hours long.
  • Amusing Injuries: A lot. Some earlier episodes had a parasite enter through a patient's penis, Addison getting a rash from using poison ivy in place of toilet paper, a patient suffering from priapism, and Mark having a fractured penis all Played for Laughs. Usually the attendings have to warn the interns/residents to be professional and not laugh when around certain patients. One episode had Bailey describe getting an infection from having sex on the beach while Callie laughs.
  • An Odd Place to Sleep: In the second episode of season 10, Derek goes out for milk and comes back over an hour later because he fell asleep in the parking lot. Later, Meredith falls asleep on the floor while talking on the phone.
    • After a 27-hour surgery, Meredith falls asleep leaning against a wall.
  • And I Must Scream: In the season 11 episode "How to Save a Life", Derek is conscious but unable to talk to the doctors after his car accident. Most of his narration from that point on are instructions that, had he been able to verbalise, would most likely have saved his life. The worst part is that he's aware that it's too late when the neurosurgeon finally arrives.
    "It's too late. You're too late."
  • And Starring: Patrick Dempsey (as Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd). Isaiah Washington also had this credit. And sometimes guest stars as well: William Daniels always had it during his appearances in the 9th season.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: Happens all the time. But in particular we gotta give it up to the Grey sisters as both Meredith (to Derek) and Lexie (to Mark) have their love speeches ignored by their respective soulmates.
  • Anyone Can Die: Between critical injuries, terminal diseases, ferry crashes, bombs, mass murderers, and a freaking plane crash, it seems about the only person safe is Meredith (who has dodged death eight times). Beware, Infant Immortality is averted. Just as far as regular characters go, we've had George hit by a bus, Lexie crushed under a plane, Mark also succumbing to his injuries from the plane crash, and Derek hit by a truck resulting in him becoming braindead.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Reasons that Meredith thinks that Derek wouldn't want babies with her; family history of Alzheimer's, history of suicidal tendences, and split ends.
  • Artistic License – Awards: The role of the Harper Avery Award. In the real world, there are many different types of awards for various aspects of service in medicine and research. In the world of the show, as soon as the Harper Avery Award is introduced, it as treated as the only award that has any meaning, and practically the only prize that anyone is ever competing for. Potential to win it is used to evaluate the worth of all kinds of diverse projects, and surgeons in different specialties argue over it as if it is the main benchmark of both their respective careers. Even very prestigious awards in the real world aren't that all or nothing, and specialties matter.
    • And while we're at it, Cristina's experience with being nominated. She receives a phone call that she is a finalist, flies to Boston for the ceremony, and loses out to someone else, only to find out through back channels later that she actually secured the votes to win but was excluded due to her connections to the Harper Avery Foundation. In the real world, the terms of an award like that would have transparently prevented her from ever being nominated due to her close connections with the foundation giving it and the appearance of favoritism. Cristina would have known from reading the rules that she was never eligible, and would not have advanced as far as the finalist stage still under the impression that she might win. As mentioned above, though, in the real world being ineligible for one award wouldn't be seen as the massive career hit it is in a show where seemingly only one important award exists.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety: In-universe.
    • The entire bomb arc happened because the a reenactor stood in front of a bazooka when it didn't fire, at which point it did fire, sending the round into him. In reality, you keep your weapon pointed downrange for a minute or two in case of a hangfire, and never ever EVER stand in front of it.
    • A woman unloads the magazine before shoving the gun up her vagina, but fails to empty the chamber and is implied to not even know the pistol has a chamber.
      April: That right there is the clip, it's empty. We are in the clear...guess you forgot about one in the chamber.
      Woman: The what?
  • Artistic License - Law:
    • Buying a hospital is not done quickly.
    • In Season 10, Episode 9, Dr. Torres is sued by a patient alleging medical malpractice that resulted in the amputation of both of his legs. Twice during the episode, characters speak as though they are in a criminal trial, rather than a civil suit. First the patient's lawyer, concluding his case, announces to the judge "The Prosecution rests", rather than "the Plaintiff rests". Then at the end, the jury foreman announces "Not Guilty", rather than "We find in favor of the Defendant."
  • Artistic License – Medicine: Happens a lot, which is to be expected. It is a drama show first and foremost, after all. Still, examples galore:
    • Alex has a patient with c-diff in one episode, a young woman. They give her a fecal transplant to restore the bacterial culture in her stomach, which is a wholly unnecessary procedure. C-diff is very common in hospitals, it happens a lot with patients on iv antibiotics, and the treatment is to simply wait it out. Other measures might be taken if a patient is very sick or elderly, but not when you're a young, healthy person.
    • In the penis fish episode the entire cast react to the patient's swollen testicles as if it were something unique. Hydrocele of the testicles is not uncommon, nobody in urology would have batted an eye at it (and one might wonder why the first action wasn't to call a urologist - which is a surgical specialty, too). They also treat the possibility of the patient getting septic as it being likely that he might die. Septic shock is a very serious condition, but a urosepsis is typically not. Some patients don't even get a fever, and in almost all cases it can be treated with fluids, oxygen and antibiotics. It shouldn't be treated lightly, but it's not practically a death sentence.
    • Interns don't participate in the OR on a regular basis, and when they do, they observe. They certainly don't get to do as much as Meredith and her friends. Interns focus mainly on learning the floor work.
    • Ortho, neuro, and OB are separate sub-specialitles. General surgery residents don't rotate on those services routinely, or specialize in those fields.
    • Doctors don't work on just the one patient per shift.
    • In the episode where Meredith has appendicitis she is given a dose of Morphine and becomes stoned. Morphine, especially in the dose she was given, does not have that effect.
    • CPR and defibrillation is depicted as reviving patients back to the shape they were in before coding. In reality CPR is a violent procedure that is likely to break ribs. People who are elderly and/or have multiple underlying illnesses are unlikely to survive it. Among those who do, cerebral function can be severely compromised. One episode of the show has an old lady who goes into cardiac arrest over and over and over, each time easily revived with CPR and defibrillation, never with any negative effects. The likelihood of that happening in real life is... slim.
      • It's also common on the show for the doctors to defibrillate the patients several times in succession, without performing CPR in-between. You need to perform CPR between each defibrillation, or it doesn't work.
    • A surgeon can't randomly decide to pick up shifts in OB and deliver babies for a few weeks. That is an entirely different specialty, and it makes as much sense as an OB resident randomly deciding to operate for a while.
      • On a related note, nurses can be specialized as well, and those that are tend to not just head off to another specialty willy-nilly. Nurse Rose, for instance, has spent time specializing as an OR nurse and her switching to peds from one day to the next makes about as much sense as if Meredith had decided to switch to dermatology.
    • Medical trials are always double blind, meaning that the people running the trial don't know which patients receive the medication and which patients receive the placebo. This is to prevent things like what happens at the end of season seven with the alzheimer's trial. First and foremost though, it is to ensure that the medical staff treat all patients the same way and that their bias isn't subconsciously affecting patient care.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • In his first episode, Owen Hunt tells Derek "I don't take orders from civilians". Yes Owen, you do. First of all, Hunt doesn't have privileges at Seattle Grace, so he shouldn't be doing anything medical - this comes up several times in later seasons as Chief Webber grants privileges to visiting doctors during a crisis. Second, Hunt's military rank means nothing outside the military. And finally, Derek is talking about a neuro issue. As head of Neuro, Derek trumps everyone.
    • Somehow George is shipping out to Iraq within days of enlisting. He still needs to graduate both Basic Training and Officer Candidate School, which would require him to spend months in training.
    • Megan Hunt wears the rank of and is referred to as a First Lieutenant. As a doctor, she would be a Captain or higher.
  • Ass Shove: Naturally, given the medical setting.
    • In "Beat Your Heart Out", a man gets something stuck up there after he and his wife tried to spice up their sex life.
    • In 14x06, woman sticks a pistol up her vagina to smuggle it to her imprisoned boyfriend but forgets to empty the chamber, leading to Arizona's immortal line
      "Did you...put a gun...in your vagina?"
      • Webber and Carina DeLuca, watching the extraction from the gallery, swap stories of object extractions in a Seen It All-off
    • After a patient comes in with an object up here in the Season 15 premiere:
      Carina: Are we talking bets on what this is?
  • Ascended Extra: Amelia has a couple appearances in seasons 7 and 8, then becomes a series regular in season 11, following the cancellation of Private Practice.
  • Asleep for Days: After the shooting, Lexie is unable to sleep and ends up having a breakdown. Medicated in Psych, she sleeps for a bit over two days.
  • Asshole Victim: Absolutely nobody pretends to feel sorry for the rapist whose penis was bitten off in an early episode, to the point of mocking his situation right in front of him.
  • Author Catchphrase: The pilot episode, referring to making conversation solely because of presumed social conventions as "do[ing] [relevant determiner phrase] thing", by both Meredith to Derek at the beginning ("We don't have to do the thing..."), and by Cristina to Meredith at the end ("Do we have to do that thing..."). Strange because this was not a common turn-of-phrase (at least not before the episode aired), and Cristina came from another state and just met Meredith during the episode, after Meredith had used the phrase with Derek. Probably the intention was to form Book-Ends, though more common phrasing used both times would have worked fine, and sounded much more natural. Also referring to important people in life as "my person"- the main characters do this frequently, then patients and their families also use it without having heard the main characters say it.
  • Auto Erotica:
    • In the Season 11 premiere, a young couple are having sex in their van when the vehicle is speared by a falling gurney.
    • The Season 13 finale kicks off with a young couple (actually rapist and would-be victim) being brought in after their car went off a cliff during sex. This prompts an in-universe discussion as to the merits of car sex, with most doctors thinking cars are too small to actually have fun in.
    • During Season 15's windstorm, Nico and Levi have sex in the back of an ambulance. Justified in that they took shelter in it after Nico was blown off his feet and injured trying to cross the ambulance bay.
  • Back for the Dead: Adele Webber.
  • Back for the Finale: Though not a finale, the trope seemed to be enforced by season 14 with lots of beloved characters making appearances or calling in (Teddy Altman, Ellis Grey, Sofia R-S-T (and images of Mark Sloan), Matthew Taylor, Cristina Yang, Nurse Olivia, Nicole Herman, Callie Torres).
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: In the Season 6 finale, Gary Clark, the shooter, is talking with Lexie about his intention of killing her. *bang* She falls. Suddenly, she looks up, to find he's been shot by SWAT.
  • Bald Women:
    • Izzie winds up hairless due to her chemotherapy.
    • In "I Must Have Lost It on the Wind", Monica is informed that due to her head wound she'll need to be partially shaved to treat it. She takes the opportunity to go completly bald in solidarity with her bald-due-to-cancer boyfriend.
  • Batman Gambit: Bailey plays one on Arizona in Season 9. She's trying to break Arizona out of her funk and get her to come back to work, prosthetic leg be damned. It works.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill:
    • Richard and Callie check out a Pegasus-run hospital to see how it is. They manage to walk around unchallenged by...holding a cup of coffee and walking like they belong. It probably helped that they really are doctors.
      "You always look like you belong when you're carrying a coffee."
    • Accidentally pulled by Wendy in "All I Could Do Was Cry". Covered in blood after the car accident that killed her fiance, she was given clean scrubs to wear. As a result, she was mistaken for a staff member and wandered around the hospital unchallenged for a day. The fact she had a Clipboard of Authority - her form for claiming his personal effects - helped.
    • Riggs and Meredith pull one in Season 14 to get Megan Hunt's child into the country by pretending he has a rare disease and needs treatment.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Do not hurt Jo when Alex is around. Jason gave Jo a black eye and only avoided a beating by virtue of Jo beating Alex to the punch. Alex walked in on what looked to him like DeLuca raping Jo and beats the absolute crap out of him
    • Richard Webber is one of the most level-headed individuals on the show. Then he hears about a bar offering shots for Alcoholics Anonymous chips and goes to town on the bar with a baseball bat.
  • Big Disaster Plot: Most seasons have an episode (or three) that revolves around the doctors dealing with the carnage of some horrible disaster or another, typically towards the end of the season. These tend to be wham episodes, because nothing amps up the drama like a disaster. Some notable examples include:
    • Season 2x05: A big storm hits Seattle Grace Hospital and a power-outage traps George and Alex in an elevator with a patient. George then does open-heart surgery in the elevator as Burke advises from the partially-open door.
    • Season 2x06: A train crash with multiple ensuing casualties.
    • Season 2x16 & 17: A man arrives at the hospital with a bomb lodged in his chest.
    • Season 3x15 & 17: A barge crashes into a ferry boat with many casualties, and Meredith Grey drowns (it's okay, she gets better).
    • Season 4x09 & 10: An ambulance collision in the ER bay leaves multiple paramedics in critical condition fighting for their lives and others trapped in the wreckage.
    • Season 6x14: The roof collapses on a popular restaurant on Valentine's Day and the doctors must treat dozens of injured patients.
    • Season 6x23 & 24: The husband of a deceased patient enters the hospital heavily armed and goes on a shooting rampage.
    • Season 7x18: Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins get into a car crash en route to a romantic weekend getaway, moments after Arizona proposes, that leaves Callie suffering from severe injuries and their unborn child in danger.
    • Season 7x22: Cruelly subverted as the hospital is alerted to a major plane crash, which turns out to kill all but one of the people aboard.
    • Season 8x23 & 24: Meredith, Cristina, Derek, Mark, Lexie, and Arizona board a flight to Boise, ID to take part in a surgery on conjoined twins. Their tiny plane crashes in the woods, critically injuring several passengers.
    • Season 9x23 & 24 and 10x01 & 2: A major storm threatens the newly renamed Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. Meredith goes into labor as the hospital loses power for the second time in nine seasons, and a packed school bus flips over right outside of the hospital. Then a mudslide sends a second wave of casualties into the hospital as Heather and Richard are electrocuted.
    • Season 10x24: An explosion at a shopping mall sparks fears of a terrorist attack and both Cristina (leaving for Switzerland) and Leah (fired) show up one last time to pitch in.
    • Season 11x20: A small plane crashes, causing multiple casualties and also traumatic flashbacks for the doctors who were in the plane crash in season 8.
    • Season 11x23 & 24: A tunnel collapse floods the ER and sends a team of doctors into the field to save a man trapped in a car.
    • Season 12x08: A wildfire fills the ER with burned firefighters
    • Season 13x23 & 24: Stephanie is taken hostage by a rapist attempting to escape the hospital and sets him on fire. The resulting explosion reduces the guy to a crisp and starts a large fire that inflicts career-ending burns on Stephanie as she fights her way through the flames to save herself and a little girl.
    • Season 14x08 & 09: A hack takes the entire computer system down, sending the hospital back to pen-and-paper records.
    • Season 15x07 & 08: A major windstorm hits Seattle, flooding the hospital with impalements. Oh, and the hospital loses power for the third time, resulting in the show's second elevator surgery.
    • Season 15x14: A bad batch of drugs floods the ER with overdoses and overflows into the clinic. For the first time in fifteen seasons, there's an actual line of ambulances stacked up waiting their turn to unload.
  • Big "NO!": Meredith gets one in the Season 6 Finale, when it seems as though Derek has died.
  • Big "SHUT UP!":
    • In the very first episode of Season 5, Cristina snaps at Meredith after coming to her one too many times with relationship woes:
      Cristina: "So please, please, please, as you weigh your options here, just, you know, consider the possibility... of shutting the hell up!"
    • After the plane crash, Cristina yells at Arizona (who has been screaming in agony for several minutes) to shut up.
  • The Big Board: A large whiteboard lists the day's scheduled surgeries, showing time, patient, procedure, surgeon, and assistants. There is a bit of superstition attached, a quiet board is considered a bad omen
    • Also serves as an Oh, Crap! alert- if someone starts erasing the entire board, a major incident has gone down and the schedule is being cleared for traumas
  • Bilingual Bonus: In the second episode, there is some unsubtitled Chinese.
    • In a later episode when Callie comes out to her father and he tries to make her leave Seattle and move back home with him she starts ranting in English but as she gets increasingly furious she swaps between English and Spanish, sometimes mid sentence.
    • Andrew and Carina DeLuca sometimes have unsubtitled conversations in Italian, their native tongue. Most notably, they argued in Italian after Andrew found his sister with Arizona on the couch in Carina's first episode.
  • Bi the Way: A number of characters are bi from the get-go, or discover their bisexuality during the series, most notably Callie.
  • Blue Orange Contrast: In season six episode "Invasion" the newly arrived Mercy West doctors wear bright orange scrubs in contrast to the various shades of blue used for Seattle Grace's scrubs and furnishings.
  • Bottle Episode:
    • "Guess Who's Coming To Dinner" takes place almost entirely at Meredith's house as she throws a dinner party. Callie's date turns out to be Penny, which completely kills the mood when Meredith announces that Penny is responsible for Derek's death.
    • Season 13's "The Room Where It Happens" focuses entirely on Meredith, Owen, Stephanie and Richard in one surgery, with some flashbacks/fantasy sequences.
    • In the same season, we also have "You Can Look (But You'd Better Not Touch)" which focuses only on Arizona, Bailey, and Jo performing a procedure on a pregnant teenage convict at a state prison, with Meredith (who doesn't appear physically in the episode) providing narration at the beginning and end of the episode. Unusually for this trope, the episode takes place on a completly new set.
    • "In The Air Tonight" sees Meredith and Riggs on a flight that encounters heavy turbulence, forcing them to improvise treatment with their limited supplies.
  • Born During a Storm:
    • Meredith and Derek's son Bailey, born after Meredith goes into labor during a strong storm in "Perfect Storm". The storm makes the already dramatic birth very dramatic by juxtaposing it with a bus crash and the power going out. The birth is further complicated with an emergency C-section and splenectomy. Fortunately, both Meredith and Bailey make it.
    • Dialed Up to Eleven in the Season 12 finale, as April goes into labor at Meredith's house and Ben is forced to preform a C-section without anesthesia when the delivery goes wrong.
  • Break Her Heart to Save Her: Owen fires Teddy, who is planning to stay at Seattle Grace rather than taking a better job, because he's having a hard time and she wants to help him through it.
  • Brick Joke: A truly epic one. In season 1, episode 9, Alex gives nurse Olivia syphillis. 303 episodes later (Season 14, episode 21 to be exact), Olivia shows up with her son, who is a patient and asks if Alex is still doing it or "has he moved on to gonorrhea?"
  • Big Labyrinthine Building: The hospital. New people get lost constantly.
    • In the very first episode, Meredtih gets lost transporting her patient, Katie Bryce. Becomes a Brick Joke several hundred episodes later when Katie returns to the hospital, and still remembers how Meredith got lost.
    • In "I Saw What I Saw", one of the Mercy Westers notes he lost a patient this way.
      Jackson: This place is a freakin' maze. I've gotten lost like eleven times, no joke.
      Charles: I lost a patient.
      Jackson: That's bad, dude. How did he die?
      Charles: No, I lost her. Parked her in a hallway, went to get her labs, couldn't find the hallway.
    • Cristina inadvertently helps the hospital shooter by giving him directions, unaware what he was up to and accustomed to people getting lost.
    • Penny's reason for not applying for a research grant at another facility?
      "I just got to Grey Sloan. I can barely find the bathroom."
    • As the latest batch of interns bond in the tunnels in "Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story", Dahlia notes she couldn't find the bathroom.
      Dahlia: The other day, I almost peed in a supply closet.
      Vic: Like, just for fun?
      Dahlia: I couldn't find the bathroom.
  • The Bus Came Back: Leah Murphy is fired near the end of season 10, but returns in season 13.
  • Busman's Holiday:
    • Meredith and Riggs take a flight and end up treating the passengers when heavy turbulence injures them.
    • Jo gets distracted on her and Alex's honeymoon inventing a new way of fighting cancer.
    • Alex's librarian mother comes to visit and promptly organizes the hospital library.
  • Career-Ending Injury:
    • All surgeons dread hand/arm injuries, as they can easily spell the end of their career. Burke required surgery and extensive rehab after being shot, and Derek was benched for several episodes after the plane crash and ultimately required a donated tendon to regain full use of his hand.
    • In "Blink", Callie arranges one for a football player who wants to quit without disappointing his fans, in the form of a much-needed knee replacement.
    • Nicole Herrman's operation saves her life but takes her sight, forcing her to retire. However, she does later work with Arizona in an advisory and teaching role.
    • While Stephanie's burns are not inherently career-ending, she has spent so much of her life in hospitals that she opts to quit and see the world.
  • Cartwright Curse: Alex has really bad luck with relationships. Izzie got cancer, had ghost sex, and got fired. Rebecca Pope was amnesiac, went nuts, and got committed to psych. He had a brief fling with Lexie, which ended after he dumped her while she was in Psych briefly. His relationship with Jo has actually lasted, though Jo ended up committing herself to Psych and needing therapy after learning of her origins. He lampshades it in "Head over High Heels":
    "It's happening again...They're happy for a while, then they break, then they leave me."
  • Cassandra Truth: One elderly patient complained of pressure in her chest for years, but everyone thought it was just in her head. Turns out her previous surgeon (Dr. Burke) left a towel inside of her.
  • Casual Kink / Comic Sutra:
    • Discussed in "Stairway to Heaven" as the interns speculate on how Mark broke his penis, then Sadie takes the blame for Lexie.
      Intern Steve: I hear it was a physical therapist from the rehab floor who does this fancy yoga thing where she, like, turns herself into a pretzel.
      Sadie: It was me, okay? I do this twist-and-shout thing that blows most guy's minds and I guess I twisted a little too far and almost took the whole thing off, okay?
    • The doctors start discussing this in "Beat Your Heart Out" after a couple try Number 9 on a magazine's "Twenty Techniques to Reignite Your Nights" and something got stuck. Noodle Incidents abound.
      Izzie: They tried number nine? Who does nine?
      Sadie: Personally I'm a fan of five, seven, eight, pretty much twelve through twenty.
      Meredith: I would try fifteen.
      Izzie and Alex: Don't try fifteen.
      Izzie: I would try sixteen. I've never done that before.
      Alex: You would?
      Izzie and Alex abruptly leave
      Lexie: Don't do sixteen too fast. It could...you get hurt...badly
      Cristina: Do you know who likes a good twelve? taps Ellis Grey's diary
  • Catchphrase: Derek is fond of stating "It's a beautiful (day/night) to save lives", sometimes amending it with "Let's have some fun."
    • This is sufficiently iconic in-universe that Callie orders him to say it as he does his first post-crash surgery, and in "My Next Life", Meredith flashes back to him saying it in the pilot episode.
    • Lampshaded in "How To Save A Life" as Derek is helping some crash victims.
      Derek: It's a beautiful day to save lives.
      Winnie: What does that mean?
      Derek: It's just a thing that I say.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • In season 8 Henry asks Teddy where she got her inspiration to be a surgeon, sarcastically suggesting that the Lady of the Lake appeared before her with a gilded scalpel. Sara Ramirez, who plays one of Teddy's best friends Callie, originated and won a Tony for the role of the Lady of the Lake in the very show he's referencingnote .
    • When Callie first starts to date women, Addison asks her the immortal line "Do you speak the Vagina Monologues now?" Yes, yes she does, as Ramirez was a performer of the monologues in the original show.
  • Cerebus Call Back: The Dermatology department shows up as a single-episode gag, a calm and quiet place where everyone is happy and friendly in contrast to the chaos of surgery and the ER. Then it returns as Izzie is trying to diagnose herself.
  • Character Filibuster: In earlier seasons, this happens once or twice. Per episode. In later seasons, however, this is generally limited to Meredith's voiceover narrations, which play over a series of scenes beginning or finishing each character's episode storyline.
  • Child Of Rape: Jo learns that she was the result of this in season 15.
  • Closet Key: Callie and Erica were this for each other. Much later, Arizona is this for Leah.
  • Code Emergency:
    • Code Blue, signalling a patient having a heart attack, gets called multiple times a season.
    • Code Black, signalling a bomb on the premises, is called in "It's the End of the World" & "(As We Know It)" after a patient is brought in with a live bazooka round in his chest.
    • Code Silver, an active shooter, occurs in the Season 6 finale.
    • Code Pink, a missing child, is called in "There's A Fine, Fine Line". Trapped by the lockdown, Ben preforms a crash C-section that kills both mother and child, prompting a "Rashomon"-Style investigation.
  • Coincidental Broadcast: Averted. The only disaster the characters learn of via television is the train crash. Even then, they were at the bar and are paged moments later as the hospital calls in all hands.
    • Played straight in the mall explosion in the Season 10 finale, though given how recent it was the alerting system may not have even known.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: A character's job, seniority, and sometimes workplace is indicated by the color of their scrubs.
    • At Grey Sloan Memorial:
      • Surgical interns and residents wear light blue, as do scrub nurses.
      • Surgical attendings and fellows wear navy blue.
      • ER residents wear brown.
      • OB/GYN has pink.
      • Nurses wear green.
      • Psych is beige.
    • Mercy West Medical Center wears orange or grey.
    • Seattle Presbyterian Hospital has red.
    • In the Alternate Reality of "If/Then", Seattle Grace's colors are grey, light for residents and dark for attendings.
    • At the Mayo Clinic, doctors wear dark green and nurses purple.
    • During conjoined twin surgeries, the patients are given a color and their team is marked with said color to keep everyone straight on who is operating on who.
  • Commuting on a Bus: Izzie in season 6. She appeared sporadically during the first half of the season, before being fired from Seattle Grace. She came back for episode 12, to attempt to reconcile with Alex, though he rejected her, causing her to leave Seattle for good.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: The staff are unbothered by the extremes of what can happen to the human body in a fairly short time.
    • Lampshaded by Meredith in Season 12. In counseling after a patient attacked her, her therapist notes her blase attitude.
      Therapist: You were attacked, in your own hospital, and you consider that the small stuff?
      Meredith: Have you read my file? note 
  • Confess in Confidence:
    • In "Can't Fight Biology", a woman admits to April and Lexie that she deliberately tried to run down her husband, then notes that they can't tell anyone...or not.
      Mrs. Davis: People must tell you secrets all the time because of the doctor-patient confidentiality laws, right?
      Lexie: That only applies to medicine.
      Mrs. Davis: No, no, you are required to keep my secrets.
      April: No ma'am. That's lawyers.
    • Discussed in "You Haven't Done Nothin'" after Leah drafts Ben to pretend to be a priest, and the man admits he knew the building was unstable.
      Ben: He confessed to me. What do I do? Do I go to the cops?
      Lech: I think there's some kind of confidence with priests, right? He told you, in confidence, as a man of God.
      Ben: I am not a priest.
      Leah: What about doctor/patient confidentiality?
      Stephanie: That doesn't apply.
      Ben: Does that apply? H-How does that apply?
  • Continuity Nod: All over the place. Characters who have left and past events are often referenced by the current characters.
    • In season 11, when April's baby is doomed to die quickly following childbirth, Amelia acts very coldly and is seen on edge at several occasions. Those who saw Private Practice will remember that Amelia went through a very similar and painful experience, which is given a nod at the end of the episode:
    Amelia: My baby lived for 43 minutes.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Dr. Webber has a relationship with Meredith's mother, who later suffers from early-onset Alzheimer's Dementia and lives in a nursing home. A few years after said woman dies, his wife also gets Alzheimer's at a young age. She later ends up in a nursing home and dies as a patient at Seattle Grace.
  • Conveniently an Orphan: Part of what convinces Megan (who can't feel pain) that she is a superhero-her parents are dead.
    Megan: Superheroes are all kids with dead parents, like me.
  • Convenient Coma: Season 3 has "Really Old Guy", whose room is used by the interns for a quiet lunchbreak.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Cristina was all set to get an abortion but ended up having a miscarriage before her appointment, according to show creator Shonda Rhimes, this was a result of Executive Meddling. For the record, Rhimes is on the board of Planned Parenthood. In season eight, Cristina does go through with getting an abortion.
  • CPR: Clean, Pretty, Reliable:
    • Played ludicrous straight in "I Feel The Earth Move" as the doctors talk an eleven year old girl through doing CPR on her mother, which she then keeps up long enough for a rescue helicopter to arrive. Apparently she could sustain CPR indefinitely., despite the show being pretty good about depicting it as exhausting.
    • The technique's exhausting effects are well seen in "Cold As Ice" as the entire cast takes turns preforming CPR when April is hypothermic, with those relived visibly exhausted. Additionally, a dummy with a cast of Sarah Drew's face was used to prevent injury.
  • Creepy Souvenir: Richard Webber is eventually revealed to have an entire closet full of various objects he's extracted from patients. Noodle Incidents abound.
    Jackson: Christmas lights? Come on. Where would you-
    Richard: You don't want to know.
    Jackson: How did you-
    Richard: Very, very carefully.
  • Custom Uniform:
    • Surgeons ranked Attending or higher have custom scrub caps for surgery.
    • Attending OB/GYNs often wear normal clothes in lieu of scrubs.
    • Arizona, who is in pediatrics, has a cartoon monkey and teddy bear on her lab coat.
  • Dads Can't Cook: Gender-swapped. Meredith apparently hasn't cooked (or at least baked) in her entire life until Season 15, and botches the attempt so hard Teddy takes over out of pity.
    Meredith: Did you know there's a difference between cocoa powder and hot-chocolate mix?
    Teddy: Not a baker?
    Meredith: I just learned you had to pre-heat the oven.
  • Darker and Edgier: Some episodes are much darker than normal, generally due to an especially bleak case or the death/serious injury of a cast member. Such episode are usually marked with the colors of title card reversed, with white writing on a black background rather than the usual black-on-white.
    • Season 15's "Silent All These Years" is the only episode to get a "Viewer Discretion Is Advised" warning at the beginning. Given the incredibly heavy nature of the episode, which devotes its entire runtime to exploring the effects of rape, it certainly earns it.
  • Dark Horse Victory: The race for chief resident between Cristina, Jackson, Meredith, Alex. Owen, as her husband, is hesitant to even consider choosing Cristina and it looks like either Meredith or Alex. Alex screws up both their chances, though Owen hinted that he was strongly considering Alex. April, who no one takes seriously, is the one who wins and she is initially very bad at it.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms:
    • In "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer", Cristina offers Meredith some advice:
      "If you're that lonely there are excellent vibrators. I can give you a catalog."
    • As Callie and Maggie needle Meredith about not returning a hot doctor's phone calls in "Odd Man Out", Callie makes a crack about Meredith being "stuck on vibrate".
    • Carina DeLuca does an entire study on female sexuality in Season 14, watching brain patterns as participants masturbate in an MRI. Amelia decides to contribute and inadvertently discovers she has a brain tumor.
    • In "Personal Jesus" April deals with a man who tried cutting off his hand to stop masturbating because the Bible said to. She gets into some Quote-to-Quote Combat with the man as to how literal the Bible is. Carina ultimately weighs in with the medical benefits of masturbation.
      April: When God created the world, he also created metaphors.
    • Meredith notes in "Games People Play" that she has a "really excellent back massager".
  • Dating Do-Si-Do: The combinations of the characters dating one another are infinite: Meredith/Derek (obviously), Cristina/Preston, Cristina/Owen, Alex/Izzie, Alex/Jo, George/Izzie, Meredith/George...
  • Deadpan Snarker: Cristina more than anyone else, but many characters are this at point or another.
  • Decontamination Chamber: A temporary version is established outside the ER in the Season 10 finale due to the massive unknown contaminant spread by the explosion.
  • Designated Girl Fight: Averted in "The Heart of the Matter". Callie confronts Izzy over George's adultery and says she'll see her at lunch. The interns decide this means a fight, and by lunchtime the entire hospital has placed bets and Izzy has asked Alex to be her second. Callie arrives at the appointed time, Izzy prepares to fight, stands up,..and Callie says she just wanted to talk.
    Intern: Callie forfeits!
  • Death by Childbirth: Happens on multiple occasions, most notably with Karin Taylor - the wife of April's ex-fiancee Matthew - who dies following complications from childbirth.
  • A Death in the Limelight: It looks like Callie is going to get one in season 7, but she lives.
  • Death Notification: A tragically necessary part of the doctor's jobs is informing families of their loved one's death.
    • "Old Time Rock And Roll"'s B-plot is teaching the interns how do do these. Meredith, having recently lost Derek, makes an emotional speech telling the interns how important doing this well is.
      Meredith: When you walk into a room to tell someone that their loved one has died, it's more than just a list of bullet points you've memorized. Yours is the face they will remember for the rest of their life. They were fine before they met you. They picked up their children from school, they made dinner, and they got a call. The police showed up at their door and brought them here with those children to this room so that you can give them the worst news of their entire life. You are changing this person's life forever. You are responsible for this moment. For the instant that person goes from wife to widow is you.
  • Deus Angst Machina: Meredith has an emotionally abusive mother with Alzheimer's, a Disappeared Dad, and her boyfriend turns out to be married...in Season One. By Season Six, her mother has died, her stepmother died, and her father blamed her for it. Along the way, she went through hell to get her man, however, and did actually succeed. and Derek and Meredith get married and have children until Derek is involved in a car accident and is killed.
  • Disappeared Dad: Father-child relationships are explored on the show from different personal reactions from similar situations.
    • Many characters are missing fathers, such as Meredith and Jackson's being absent from their lives for nearly 30 years, and Jo being abandoned as a baby which caused her to really fight for her goals. In the If/Then episode where Meredith was raised by a lucid Ellis and a Richard who left Adele, she is a much lighter person. When Jackson meets his father he is sorely disappointed that he's just a normal guy who went on living his life without a thought of Jackson, which makes him first a bit more negative and then reminds him to be a better father himself.
    • Callie's father briefly disowns her after she comes out, which is a very trying time for her because of their extremely close relationship.
    • There is also the In Universe "dead dads club". So far it includes (main characters): Cristina, George (and the O'Malleys), Alex, Derek, Amelia (and the rest of the Shepherds), Sloan and Sofia, and Zola, Bailey, and Ellis.
      Cristina: There's a club. The Dead Dads Club. And you can't be in it until you're in it. You can try to understand, you can sympathize. But until you feel that loss... My dad died when I was nine. George, I'm really sorry you had to join the club.
  • Death Seeker: Meredith, supposedly. Her therapist thinks that sticking her hand in the bomb guy's chest was Meredith trying to die. Aside from that, her drowning during the ferry incident is treated as being somehow her fault because she "gave up". Apparently being unable to tread water indefinitely in cold water makes you suicidal.
  • Did the Earth Move for You, Too?: Invoked in "I Feel The Earth Move" by a woman who was having sex at the time.
  • Doom Magnet: Seattle, from the looks of it. The number of mega-disasters requiring "all hands on deck" in the surgical departments baffles belief. The characters are aware of this
    • In Season 8, Lousie O'Malley goes to Seattle Presbyterian for surgery because the O'Malley family do not have a good record at Seattle Grace.
      "The boys insisted I do my surgery somewhere else after what happened here with Harold and George."
    • Cristina also blatantly points it out herself as they try to determine their next move after the plane crash:
      Cristina: You know, if there's one thing that I've learned with all the ... the bombs and the guns to my head and ... and the buses running down my friends is that I am not interested in dying.
    • As Derek and Meredith discuss updating their wills and designating a guardian for Zola in "She's Killing Me", Mer points this out.
      Derek: Well, it's a disaster plan. Most disasters don't happen.
      Meredith: They do, to us!
      Derek: (considers) That's true. We have survived an unusual number of very bad things.
    • As Stephanie notes, Arizona has dodged death so many times, she's considered immortal.
    • Meredith, the last of the Seattle Grace 5 still on the show, lampshades it when discussing the plane crash:
      Meredith: Anyway, it's weird, sometimes I feel like I'm cursed. A lot of people die around me, sometimes I feel like I'm just waiting for my turn.
  • Double Standard / The Unfair Sex: Subverted. Jo tells Alex that she fake cries to make people feel bad for her and get what she wants. When Alex tells her it's not fair since guys can't get away with doing it, she tells him they can, and it actually works better for them since people are more freaked out when seeing a man cry. They then proceed to use this tactic to con their way into getting a hotel room and it works.
  • Double Standard: Abuse, Female on Male:
    • In "Brave New World", a man is in the hospital with a nasty gash on his head because his wife threw the TV remote at him. As he gets stitched up, she mocks him and tells him that she'll divorce him as soon as he gets well. The doctor working on him doesn't even think to notify the police, and the scene is pretty much played for laughs.
    • Lampshaded and deconstructed late in Season 9 when boyfriend and girlfriend Jo and Jason, AKA Chest Pecwell) get into a fight. Alex points out to the guy that, regardless of whether the girl hit first, the fact that the guy hit too is going to follow him forever. Via this blackmail he manages to dissuade the guy from pressing charges... Which Derek immediately calls him on. (To Alex's credit, he also calls the girl on her actions the next chance he gets, though he may not have done so had Derek not chewed him out.)
  • Do Wrong, Right:
    • When Izzie and Cristina steal a patient from Psych, Meredith's primary issue is that they didn't bother to get his chart at the same time.
    • If a surgeon punches anyone, expect a critique of their punch.
      Derek punches Mark.
      Webber: You put your weight into it?
      Maggie punches a homophobic parent.
      Callie: Grey has a point, next time leave the thumb outside the fist when you clench.
    • About the only issue anyone has with sex at work is whether or not you do it in a room with a locking door.
      Richard and Miranda hear sex noises from a room.
      Miranda: In the skills lab? This door doesn't even lock.
      Alex catches Nico and Levi having sex in an ambulance.
      Alex: What happened today cannot happen...on-call rooms, storage closets, that weird little radiology room on 4. Those rooms have locks.
  • Dr. Jerk:
    • Alex tends to be this unless he's working on a kid, in which case he is amazing.
    • Dr. Stark, which despite being a pediatric surgeon is a colossal Jerkass who just doesn't give a shit.
    • Meredith acts like this in season 9, as she's going through a rough patch in the aftermath of the plane crash and having her best friend separated from her.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him:
    • George being dragged by a bus would qualify. In all fairness, he was saving Lindsey from The O.C..
    • The end of Season 8 dropped a plane on poor Lexie.
  • Due to the Dead:
    • The interns sit shiva (or at least an attempt at it) for Denny after his death.
    • The main cast have a impromptu wake for "Really Old Guy" (Charlie) in "Let the Truth Sting", standing by his old bed and saying a few words
    • In "Haunt You Every Day", Meredith washes her mother's ashes down the OR scrub sink. Chief Webber walks in on her, notes she really shouldn't be doing that in a sterile area, then joins her in rinsing the ashes down.
    • George is buried in the first episode of Season 6, on one of Seattle's rare days with sunshine.
    • Played for laughs in "Judgment Day". Maggie and Arizona, high off weed cookies, mourn the "death" of the virtual dissection table person after Maggie loses its liver. They even drape the screen in a sheet! April and Miranda, equally high, mourn Harper Avery's reputation after learning of his sexual harassment by holding their noses and imitating bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace".
  • Dwindling Party:
    • In the Season 8 finale, a team of six doctors leaves on a plane that crashes, killing Lexie. The survivors, dubbed the "Seattle Grace Five", have dwindled over the years. Mark died later of his injuries, and Derek was killed in an car crash. With Cristina's departure in Season 10 and Arizona in Season 14, Meredith is the only one of the group still on the show.
      There were six of us that went up and only five of us came back. And now there are only three of us alive.
    • In a looser sense, every batch of interns loses members over the years to fatalities, firings, and departing for other hospitals. With Alex's departure in mid- Season 16, Meredith is the last of the original five interns. Lexie's entire class was killed, fired, or forgotten, and Jo and Deluca are last man standing in their respective classes. Even the latest class has lost half its number.
  • Dying Alone:
    • Alex makes a point of sitting vigil at a patient's side after fatally mismedicating the man.
    • Miranda promises Charles that she and Mary will be with him as he dies in "Death and All His Friends'''
      Miranda: Mary and I will be with you the whole time. You are not alone, you hear me?
  • Dysfunction Junction: Really. Every character who had a happy (or simply unmentioned) childhood seems to have had it counterbalanced in their adult life ... and every character who did not? It managed to get worse.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the pilot the five interns are four as Alex barely appears (there is a nurse who has more lines), the hospital is laid out differently (understandable for a pilot), the interns corridor where they hide is close to the action and has vending machines, no patients are admitted (later in the series we always meet patients at the door), the Grey House is a different house, Webber doesn't seem to know Meredith (in the very next episode he claims he helped change her diapers), no one says "Mc" anything (Cristina invents that meme in episode 2), Meredith's narration is actually a conversation with her mother, and in the second episode the pediatrics department is seen and they have purple scrubs (two seasons later they have the same color as the surgery interns). There is a lot more music in the first season, often set to a montage of the interns doing various tasks.
    • The credits sequence was cut in mid-season two. The teaser now ends with the title card, and the credits themselves run as subtitles under the second act.
  • Easy Amnesia: Averted. "Ava", real name Rebecca Pope, has memory loss following the ferry crash. When combined with her facial reconstruction, the resulting total loss of identity results in severe psychological repercussions. Her husband eventually leaves her, sending her into a downward spiral that lands her in a psychiatric facility after a suicide attempt.
  • The Eeyore: One episode of season 9 has a patient who is depressed about her situation, a gymnast who would never get full movement in her lower body, and makes everyone she talks to sad and cynical.
  • Embarrassing First Name: One of Dr. Herman's prenatal patients in "Don't Let's Start" is named Waldo.
    "This is Waldo Pfeffier, gestational age 23 weeks. In addition to an incredibly unfortunate first name..."
  • Embarrassing Full Name: Calliope Iphigenia Torres.
    • Adding insult to injury, after she marries George O'Malley, Alex jokes that her married name would be Callie O'Malley (thankfully she remains Torres).
  • Embarrassing Nickname:
    • In Season 1, George's freezing up during his first surgery earns him the nickname 007 (because he has a "license to kill"). This name turns out to be a Chekhov's Gun later on.
    • In Season 9, Bailey's new nickname becomes BCB - Booty Call Bailey.
  • Everyone Can See It: Addison's eventual realization to the Love Triangle she's stuck in with Meredith and Derek.
    "The only people who don't know that Derek loves Meredith are Derek and Meredith."
  • Everybody Has Lots of Sex: While Derek and Meredith is the couple who has the most implied sex scenes of the series, others don't fall far behind. Most of all, pretty much everyone slept with each other at one point or another, something which is lampshaded by Callie during season 11:
    Callie: Oh God. We're all related through sex. We all have sexual relations. That is horribly weird.
  • Evil Redhead:
    • This is how Meredith perceives Addison the first time her character is introduced. Interestingly enough, after Addison gives up on Derek, leaves for LA, and comes back to Seattle to do a surgery she now is a brunette.
    • The serial killer whom Derek, Cristina, Owen, and Meredith treat in season 5. He tells Meredith that he sliced a woman's neck open one day because he had been fantasizing about it for a while... and then he decided he enjoyed it so much that he would slice open 4 other women's necks.
    • In season 7 episode "Disarm" the college shooter is a redhead.
  • Expy:
    • The "Bethany Whisper" lingerie company Izzie modeled for is probably standing in for Victoria's Secret.
    • The "Judy Dolls" seen in "Enough is Enough" are pretty clearly standing in for Barbie.
    • Justine Campbell in "Heart-Shaped Box" is a stand-in for Diana Gabaldon, given her series of books about a time-traveling woman torn between two men.
    • In the Season 14 premiere, Miranda and Ben watch the construction workers and compare them to surgical specialties.
  • Extremely Short Timespan:
    • The "It's The End of The World/ ...As We Know It" two-parter in Season 2 take place over only a few hours, in which time a patient comes in with a bomb in his abdomen, Bailey gives birth, and her husband is injured in a car accident.
    • The three-episode ferry boat arc in Season 3 takes place over less than a day.
    • The hospital shooting plays out over two episodes and only a few hours.
    • Season Seven's "Golden Hour" takes place in real time, covering one hour.
  • Face Death with Dignity: A number of patients have accepted their terminal diagnosis and die peacefully.
    • Honorable mention goes to Bonnie from Season 2's "Into You Like A Train". Impaled on a pole with another passenger, she is informed that she will die when pulled from the pole. Bonnie, to her credit, quietly accepts her fate, merely asking if it will hurt.
    • Charles, bleeding out from a chest wound, tries his best but is fully aware he may fail.
      Charles: You tell her [Reed] I was brave, even if I turn coward and start crying and asking for my mom in a minute, you tell her I died brave, okay?
    • Fatally burned in a wildfire in "Things We Lost In The Fire", firefighter Casey is perfectly aware of his impending death and accepts it without complaint.
  • Family of Choice: Amelia, Meredith, and Maggie regard each other as sisters. Only Meredith and Maggie are actually related by blood as half-sisters, while Amelia is Mer's sister-in-law. They're close enough some of the cast don't even realize they aren't related.
  • Fake Guest Star: frequently. The show often treats its guest stars like starring characters (or promotes them).
  • Fanservice:
    • The infamous scene of Sloan only barely wearing a towel.
    • Izzie's "Bethany Whisper" lingerie campaign, for which she modeled to pay for med school.
    • Derek, rather notably, gets this due to his famously perfect hair.
    • Avery takes off his shirt at least once every other episode. Stephanie once told him to "never put your shirt on again"
    • Most of the characters (male and female) get pre/post-sexytime scenes in minimal clothing
  • Famed In-Story: Several characters.
    • Bailey is perhaps the first example, as the new intern's fearsome "Nazi" teacher.
    • George's open-heart surgery in the elevator was sufficiently amazing that Jackson is impressed to learn who did it six seasons later.
      Jackson: George was the heart-in-the-elevator guy? I heard about that. Sounded badass.
    • April's refusal to lose Owen's trauma certification becomes legend.
    • The plane crash survivors become known as the Seattle Grace Five after surviving four days in the wilderness after a major crash.
      Meredith: You know, they call us the Seattle Grace Five. There were six of us that went up and only five of us came back. And now there are only three of us alive.
    • Arizona, to the point of Shrouded in Myth, acquires a reputation for being unkillable.
      Stephanie: You are kind of a legend with the interns and residents. You're one of the Seattle Grace Five.
      Arizona: I survived a plane crash, big deal
      Stephanie: And a car crash. And a shooting. You might be immortal. You mastered one of the most exclusive specialties basically overnight, and then you took Herman's job and her eyesight....You have screwed dozens of interns, and you got them all fired. You speak really fast, like superhuman fast. You have a weird name...They say you have two legs, and you are only pretending that one is amputated. For the parking space.note 
  • A Father to His Men:
    • Miranda Bailey is this to her interns.
    • Owen Hunt when Chief of Surgery.
    • Casey, a fire chief seen in "Thing We Lost In The Fire", is more concerned with his men that his own mortal wounds and tells Bailey to take care of his men first.
  • Feel No Pain:
    • In "Sometimes A Fantasy", Megan Clover turns out to have chronic insensitivity to pain. As a result, she has little idea just how badly she is damaging her body, often by allowing other kids to beat her up to prove she really doesn't feel it.
    • A reoccurring danger with trauma patients. The adrenaline high from an accident can completly mask pain, causing the patient to suddenly crash as adrenaline leaves their system.
    • In "Where the Wild Things Are", a woman gets practically scalped by a bear and doesn't even notice until Meredith realizes she's bleeding and asks to have a look.
      Meredith: Adrenaline is a pretty powerful drug.
    • Servery burned in "Ring of Fire, Stephanie manages to ignore her injuries until her patient is safe, at which point she collapses in agony as the adrenaline wears off.
  • Fiction 500: Harper Avery. While it's never exactly clear how much money is his and how much is the foundation's, his foundation owns 77 hospitals and 43 clinics, while Harper himself manages to have enough money to hush up forty three sexual harassment cases and still have enough that when he dies, a huge sum goes to his foundation and Jackson inherits $250 million
    Jackson: That's not a gift. It's an economy.
  • First-Episode Spoiler: The big twist of the Season 1 finale, that Derek is married, is old hat to pop culture, particularly now that his wife Addison has her own Spin-Off (Private Practice). Other big twists (such as the deaths in the Season 5 and 6 finales), are also spoiled, though to a lesser extent.
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: And it never ends well.
    • Izzie falls for heart patient Denny Duquette. This actually ended fairly well, in the sense she used her inheritance to found the Denny Duquette Memorial Clinic.
    • Alex falls in love with "Ava"/Rebeca Pope after the ferry crash.
    • Teddy fell for Henry, whom she initially married just to help him get medical treatment.
    • Stephanie dates a patient in season 12.
  • Foreshadowing: In the first episode of season 5, Meredith has nightmares about Derek dying in a car accident. They come true near the end of season 11.
    • In the same episode, Meredith asks Zola if she knows what happens when surgeons are late. "People die". The neurosurgeon that could have saved Derek's life was over an hour late and by then he was already brain-dead.
    • In the season 11 episode where Derek is AWOL and the plane crashed in Seattle, Meredith is understandably distressed. As she's distracted, Bailey makes a deal with her that she can call Derek and be scared as much as she wants at 5 o'clock. This means that the tension leading up to 5pm is building throughout the episode with others asking what happens at 5. 5 o'clock is the time that Mark was taken off life support and died after the plane crash in season 9, foreshadowing that when it comes to 5, Derek will die. At 5, as Meredith picks up her phone, police officers arrive at her door. Derek is brain dead.
    • The first thing we learn about Arizona beyond her being a human rainbow is that she doesn't trust planes and as a kid had nightmares about being in a plane crash. Come season 8...
  • Forgot the Disability:
    • In the later seasons, Arizona is usually seen limping or otherwise drawing attention to her being an amputee for a short period of time — beyond this, the rest of the time she is just as effective running to crashing patients or dodging her co-workers as everyone else despite only having one leg. As much as one can get really good with artificial limbs, they do not jog up floating staircases with ease.
    • A lot of the surgeons have had major operations that should limit them somewhat, but they're totally forgotten. Callie's open heart surgery should definitely restrict her hours, at least.
    • Bailey's OCD is forgotten after a few episodes and not mentioned again.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: Averted.
    • George is mentioned several times after his death, and his mother is warmly received in Season 8. Mer, Alex, and Callie raise a toast to him in Season 11, and "Baby George" is one of the injured in the 300th episode.
    • Mark and Lexie get the hospital named after them, and Meredith proudly tells Riggs about "my kid sister Lexie" during "In The Air Tonight".
    • Derek is mentioned multiple times after his death, and Meredith still considers herself married to him late in Season 13.
  • Friend Versus Lover: Cristina is the friend, Derek is the love interest, and Meredith is caught in-between. It's said, however, that between Cristina and Derek, Meredith would choose Cristina, if she had to pick.
  • Friends with Benefits: Callie and Mark, for quite some time.
  • "Friends" Rent Control: Averted.
    • Meredith's house is a large three-bedroom, justified as being her mother's house before Ellis got Alzheimer's and went to the nursing home. As the only rent-free housing available, it has housed most of the cast at some point.
    • Burke has a quite nice apartment that Cristina later takes over, but then he make $2 million a year.
    • Lexie and George briefly get a place together, but it's roach-infested and not very nice. Lexie only manages to spruce the place up by stealing linens from the hospital.
  • Friendly Rivalry: Meredith and Addison in the early seasons. Despite both being in love with the same man they are surprisingly decent towards each other. At one point Addison even comes to Meredith's defense when she is having trouble with an angry patient, much to Meredith's surprise.
  • From Bad to Worse:
    • In "...As We Know It", the operating room the bomb patient is in turns out to be on top of the main oxygen line, forcing a Nitro Express down the hall to another OR.
    • In the incredibly dark "Dark Was The Night"/ "Suddenly" two-parter, an ambulance run ends in disaster as the rig breaks down on a blind corner. Then gets hit by another vehicle, ultimately killing half the occupants despite a heroic effort from the doctors. And to top it all off, Teddy's husband dies and she isn't informed until later, destroying her friendship with Owen.
    • Intern Ross in season 9 working under Meredith accidentally orders the wrong test, as a result they don't find out her liver is failing until it is too late. The patient needed a liver transplant, but Ross ends up accidentally destroying the liver so they have to get a second one. When they get to the second liver, they see that it has a mass on it. Subverted at the end, when a biopsy reveals that the second liver was actually fine and the patient survives.
  • Gilded Cage: Megan Hunt notes that, as a trauma surgeon, she was an incredibly valuable prisoner and relatively well-treated. An escape attempt still would have gotten her killed though.
  • Go Mad from the Isolation:
    • In "Owner of A Lonely Heart", Cristina treats a convict who swallowed razor blades to get out of solitary. She's so scared of going back that, when told that she'll be released back to prison in a few days, the woman swallows a lightbulb. After the resulting damage is fixed, Cristina announces the woman will be kept for observation ten days...on second thought, make it two weeks.
    • In "The Becoming", a patient is stuck in isolation due to a suppressed immune system. She isn't doing well isolated from her family, and when the transplant is cancelled, her husband and kids are allowed in with her in full scrubs.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: In earlier seasons, Derek cheats on Addison freely due to considering his marriage over (he caught her in bed with his best friend) and seemingly not caring to end it officially. Addison feels the same way, and defends his infidelity when it is mentioned to her. Though he did tell her he never wanted to see her again and moved to a different state so it was pretty official. He also did later cheat with Meredith while was trying to make it work with Addison.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted
    • Addison got pregnant with Mark and had an abortion before moving to Seattle. Addison is introduced as somewhat of a villain, but by the point this information is revealed, she is a sympathetic character.
    • Cristina gets an abortion in the season eight premiere.
    • Jo mentions getting an abortion because she was unwilling to have a baby while with Paul.
  • Grand Romantic Gesture:
    • Meredith's house of candles for Derek in the season 4 finale.
    • Meredith urges Riggs to pull one to prove he really does love Megan Hunt So he does...by flying to Iraq to bring back her adopted son.
  • Grey and Gray Morality:
    • Meredith's Morality is most definitely Grey. She tampers with the Alzheimer's Trial to help Webber's wife, which puts her in a very bad spot with her husband who accuses her of not knowing the difference between Right and Wrong.
    • In the season seven finale, she gives an excellent speech on how she firmly believes the world is this way.
  • Groin Attack:
    • In the second episode, the Patient of the Week is a rape victim who, while in surgery, is discovered to have bitten off her rapist's penis. Meredith has to carry the evidence around in a cooler until the authorities take custody of it)
    • Lexie infamously breaks Mark Sloan's penis.
    • In "Crazy Love", a man's wife cuts off his penis as revenge for his cheating. Then when he chooses his wife, the girlfriend cuts off the recently-repaired penis.
  • Hanging Up on the Grim Reaper: When Denny returns in Izzie's hallucinations after dying, it first seems completely crazy, but maybe that she's still traumatized from his death and seeing him, especially when he says that he's "here for her"... but Izzie slowly realizes that maybe something is medically wrong, brought to a head when Denny changes his intonation slightly when repeating his new catchphrase that he's "here for her", like Death coming to collect her. Turns out she has stage IV brain cancer, but she ultimately pulls through by getting really mad at Denny and demanding he leave (metaphorically telling Death to do one, used realistically so that her brain activity is down enough to get treated) — he was banking on her missing him enough to not fight.
  • Happily Adopted:
    • Maggie Pierce. Although she searches for her birth parents, her home life was happy and in season 13 we see how close and loving she is with her adoptive mother.
    • Zola Grey Shepherd is happily adopted by Derek and Meredith.
  • Has a Type: Many of the characters seem to have no issue getting it on with basically anyone, but some show large trends:
    • Callie: Erica aside, Callie seems to date happy, perky, cute, optimistic honorable people who like to use her full name (George, Arizona, Penny)
    • Arizona herself goes for mildly ethnic women (Callie, Eliza, Carina) and, excluding Carina, this is narrowed further to add on 'who are orthopedic surgeons and entice her with ethnic food'
    • Jo seems to go for violent guys (Paul, abs guy, Alex)
    • Leah likes paeds surgeons.
  • Has Two Mommies: Sofia, who was initially raised by biological parents Mark and Callie and Callie's wife Arizona.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: One Season Two episode involves a Patient of the Week whose pain medication is porn (with the flimsy justification of it resulting in the brain/body releasing endorphins). The girls watch a bit of one, and one of them remarks, "There's no way that can be comfortable," as they all tilt their heads to watch. Meredith's response ("Trust me, it's not") causes some surprised stares.
  • Heroic BSoD:
    • Recovering from this is Owen's major character arc.
    • Derek in Season 5 after accidentally killing a pregnant woman. Such a strong BSOD that he passes it on to Callie and Owen.
    • Cristina in season 7 after the shooting, large enough to last half the season, and she temporarily quits.
    • Alex, who was unable to take elevators after the season 6 finale events until Richard persuades him to do so. Granted, he almost bled to death inside of one.
    • Cristina again after the plane crash. Dehydrated, stressed out, and suffering severe sleep deprivation after remaining awake for four days, she is catatonic for days.
    • Stephanie and Dr. Minnick suffer one in season 13, when they lose a young boy in a seemingly simple surgery, Minnick's first child death.
    • Maggie in Season 16 after her cousin died on Maggie's OR table, which led her to quit her job.
  • Heroic Sacrifice:
    • A man comes into the ER after saving a woman by pushing her out of the path of an oncoming bus. His face is disfigured, so it takes a while for the doctors to find out the victim is George.
    • Attempted by Meredith during the hospital shooting as she offers to die if Gary will allow Derek to live, noting that she is sister, daughter, and wife to those responsible for his wife's death.
      Meredith: If you want to hurt them the way that you hurt, shoot me. I'm your eye for an eye.
    • In "Transplant Wasteland", terminally ill patient Bradley has his ventilator turned off and arranges to donate all his organs after death.
    • Stephanie at the end of season 13 where she burns a rapist to death and walks through fire to save a young girl. She survives, but is badly burned and opts to quit so she can travel the world once she recovers.
  • Hide Your Lesbians: Was solidly averted from season 5 through 12, when every time a queer main character (all female, note) left the show (none by dying!) they were replaced by another queer character
    • Erica replaced by Arizona, Leah replaced by Penny replaced by Leah, Callie replaced by Eliza replaced by Carina. However, after Commuting on a Bus for a few episodes Leah disappears again in season 13 without replacement, and Arizona is set to leave after season 14.
    • Season 15 ended up doubling down by introducing not only a gay male surgeon (adding yet another sexual self-discovery arc) but a transgender man surgeon as well.
  • Hollywood Healing: Averted in numerous cases (e.g. Meredith's attack in season 12, Callie's car crash in season 7, the plane crash in season 8), though played straight in others (a woman suddenly reviving after being declared dead for almost 30 minutes without any apparent damage, though it has something do with Lazarus syndrome, an actual condition in real life).
    • When Meredith nearly drowns they put her heart and lungs on bypass. This requires opening the chest to gain access to said organs. Not only does she never get a scar from this, but she is back at work within a week or so. The sternum takes about three to four months to heal, the first few weeks being quite painful, and during the healing process you are not allowed to do heavy lifting or twisting motions, so basic things like vacuuming the house is not okay to do. Returning to work as a surgeon within a week is simply not possible.
    • Derek at least gets a scar from his procedure, though his sternum also heals in the space of a week somehow.
    • Megan Hunt's abdominal transplant isn't quite done healing when she returns in Season 15, many months later.
  • Honorary Uncle:
    • George is this to Miranda's son Tuck. Helps that George helped with the delivery.
    • Alex is uncle to Meredith's kids.
    • Cristina offers to be Zola's "cool aunt".
    • Given the amount of True Companions and Family of Choice going on, pretty much everyone is honorary aunt/uncle to someone.
  • Hospital Hottie: Lampshaded by Erica Hahn in Season 4:
    Erica: "Do you hire on looks alone, or is actual skill a factor?"
  • Hot Skitty-on-Wailord Action: In "When It Hurts So Bad", a small Asian woman hooks up with a much taller man and dislocates both hips. During her CT scan, Ben and Stephanie ponder the mysteries of similar incidents.
    Ben: I met a puppy once that was half German Shepard, half Teacup Chihuahua. And all I could think was...how did you happen?
    Stephanie: I once watched this monster truck crush this two-seater convertible at an intersection, and the truck barely had a scratch on it, but the convertible was totaled.
  • Hunting "Accident": Referenced in "All I Could Do Was Cry" after a woman is accidentally shot by her husband after a duck hunt and she questions just how accident it was.
    "Brenda, if I'd wanted to shoot you I'd have done it in the woods."
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • When the main gang become residents in season 5, they complain about the various antics of their new interns, including love triangles and messing up patients... oblivious to how they were just as bad, if not worse, when they first started.
    • In "I Saw Her Standing There", Meredith shoos off the interns, telling them "this isn't a sideshow"...and then invites Jackson and Alex to "Step right up!"
  • Hypocrisy Nod: In the season 14 premiere, Alex and April complain to the Chief on the horrible bungling of their interns and they're not ready for surgery. The Chief fires off how Alex got into the program on a paper that proved to be wrong and April failed her boards and was fired twice and they have no right to judge anyone. As soon as they leave, Richard complains to Bailey on how the interns are a mess.
  • I Am Spartacus: The interns, when asked who cut Denny's LVAD wire, all take credit for it...except Alex, who wasn't even in the hospital at the time in question.
  • I Call It "Vera": Jo has "Bubby", a Bunson Burner she used for cooking when she lived out of her car.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode shares its title with a song, including what seems like an odd-one-out in season 14's “1-800-799-7233” - a title suggested by Giacomo Giannioti (Andrew DeLuca) that is a song by The Uppity Blues Women and is the US hotline for domestic violence.
  • Idiot Ball: Oh, not that often, but sometimes on this show...
    • It's understandable that George, in a moment of grief, might propose to Callie. It's a bit less understandable why she would think that a couple of days after the death of his father would be a great time for a Vegas wedding.
    • The pharmacy's only security is a combination lock set to "1211". Which would be fine as a default password, but leaving it that way.... Oh, and the pharmacist doesn't even bother to take the obvious precaution of not showing people her enter the number.
    • Bailey injecting deactivated HIV into a patient after his parents withdraw consent for the experimental procedure. When she tells them the truth, she is actually surprised that they are pissed off.
    • Dr. Burke leaving a towel inside a patient for five years.
  • If I Were a Rich Man:
    • After winning their lawsuit in Season 9, Meredith, Derek, and Cristina discuss what to do with their money, idly suggesting they buy a football field and the teams to play on them.
    • After Jackson inherits a quarter-billion dollars, a slightly intoxicated Maggie offers a sugestion on what to do with it:
      Maggie: You could buy an island. Or you could buy two islands and make them fight each other.
  • Ill Girl: Izzie in Season 5 after developing cancer. She's not above playing the cancer card to get her way, which her friends take in good humor.
  • I Know You Know I Know: Meredith is pregnant, only she doesn't want to tell anyone yet (not even Cristina) because she thinks she'll jinx it if she gets too optimistic. Though Cristina already knows this. And Meredith knows Cristina knows. And Cristina knows that Meredith knows that she knows.
  • Imperiled in Pregnancy: A recurring element of the show's medical drama, though often the mothers die, though the babies survive. However, there have been numerous cases where both die, including one incident that led to Ben almost getting fired. An example would be Meredith, who falls down a staircase while heavily pregnant and later went into DIC after giving birth to her son Bailey; luckily, she survived. Another example would be Callie and Arizona in a car crash in season 7, while the former is only about six months pregnant; as in the case of Meredith, she and the baby (Sofia) survive, though spends weeks in the hospital recovering. It's acknowledged in season 14 when Arizona and Carina begin a study into maternal mortality and drop some anvils on how the US has an improbably high rate, especially when compared with the rest of the developed world.
  • Important Haircut:
    • In Season 7, Cristina cuts Callie's hair after her breakup with Arizona.
    • In Season 10, Arizona gets her hair cut after Callie leaves her.
    • In the Season 11 premiere, a girl with a head injury takes the excuse to completly shave her head in solidarity with her boyfriend who is bald due to cancer treatment.
  • Improbable Age: The actors playing Meredith, Alex, George and Cristina were all somewhat older than the average intern in the first season (by nearly a decade in Ellen Pompeo's case). Not impossible by any means but a little improbable. Averted by Izzie - Katherine Heigl actually was twenty-six when the show started.
    • Cristina has a PhD as well as an MD so she would be older than the average intern since she has four to six (depending on a MA and what program she did) more years of school.
    • It's also outright stated that Meredith didn't necessarily take her education all that seriously until her mother was diagnosed, so it's easy to think that she took longer than the standard four years to finish her undergrad or that she didn't go straight from undergrad to med school... or even straight from high school to college, for that matter.
      • It's noted in the pilot script that Meredith is 32, which means she started med school around 28, which would support this idea.
    • And, of course, the show uses a mild version of Webcomic Time, so any actors who were an appropriate age when hired will eventually outgrow their characters.
  • Improbably Female Cast: Of all the new surgical interns, only one is a male. Enforced by The Powers That Be, since the show is about "smart women competing with each other." George was originally meant to be the only male intern in season 1; Alex was later added due to Executive Meddling.
    • In seasons 9-10, Shane is The One Guy.
    • Bailey said that as an intern, she was the only female in her class. However, a flashback to her intern year in "The Time Warp" shows that she was in a totally gender-even class. It's also a key point of the season 4 fight over Chief Resident that Bailey, Callie, and Sadie Heron were all in the same intern class.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Izzie on occasion, especially during her "What about me?" speech to Denny. Cristina gets a few moments too.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink:
    • Teddy, Arizona, Callie, and Miranda open some brandy in the attending's lounge after treating HPV wart guy in "Superfreak".
      Callie: You sneak in and take a swig every time you see a spider?
      Miranda: Every time I see a spider crawl out of a human limb, yes!
    • As the Season 9 interns mourn Heather's death, Alex gives Jo a bottle of something for them to share.
    • After Catherine's cancer biopsy, she takes Meredith and Tom to the bar.
  • Infant Immortality: Sadly averted and subverted on numerous occasions.
  • Informed Judaism: Cristina, who is Jewish via her stepfather. It rarely comes up unless she's trying to score Token Minority points.
    Owen: Schindler's List? You're comparing this merger to the Holocaust?
    Cristina: I'm Jewish. I'm allowed.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Maggie Pierce manages two absolute whoppers in Season 11.
    • First she goes on a rant about people shouldn't be caretakers for those with Alzheimer's if they can't handle it...in front of Richard Webber.
    • Then she starts complaining about the horrible experience of her flight sitting on the ramp for four hours and then being cancelled...on the same day a plane crash gives Mer and Arizona traumatic flashbacks. Alex and April set her straight.
  • In-Series Nickname: Quite a few, actually.
    • Derek is "Dr. McDreamy".
    • For a few seasons, Miranda was called "The Nazi", which officially ended after she operated on an actual white supremacist.
    • George acquired the nickname "007" in Season 1 after nearly killing his first patient.
    • Mark Sloan was briefly called "McSteamy" when he was first introduced.
    • Lexie is called "Little Grey" by some characters. Her Photographic Memory earns her the name "Lexiepedia", and Alex has referred to her as "Encyclopedia Brown"
    • Meredith and Melissa George's short-lived character Sadie called each other "Death" (Meredith) and "Die" (Sadie).
    • Owen calls Cristina and Meredith "the twisted sisters".
    • The Season 9 interns call Meredith "Medusa" and, for a little while, called Bailey "BCB" ("Booty-Call Bailey").
    • Amelia gets called Amy by her brother, and only her brother. She also gets tagged as "Shepherdess" to distinguish her from her brother.
    • Callie is short for Calliope, which she was exclusively called by Arizona and her dad. And then Penny, which annoyed Arizona for a few seconds.
    • Arizona has some themed nicknames from old friend Nick — he calls her by the name of all the cities and towns in Arizona.
    • As of Season 11, new interns are "chicks and ducks"
      Arizona: Left to their own devices, they would drown.
    • Levi Schmitt became "Glasses" after his fell off his face into a patient's abdomen. After serving as a blood donor(he is O-), he picks up the far more affectionate nickname of "Bloodbank".
  • Instant Sedation: Averted. Meds take time to work.
    • When Owen is accidentally given an IV anesthetic, he notes it will take 30 seconds to kick in.
  • Insufferable Genius: Cristina. Just... Cristina. Dr. Burke as well, to some extent.
    • When Cristina becomes a teaching resident in season 5, she refuses to let her interns do any work on patients, convinced none of them are smart enough to keep up with her.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures: In the second episode, Izzie asks Cristina to translate for a woman who only speaks Chinese. It works as well as you'd expect—especially since Cristina grew up in Beverly Hills.
    "The only Chinese I know is from a Mr. Chow's menu. Besides, I'm Korean."
  • Interservice Rivalry: Downplayed, but the various specialties do occasionally throw shade at each other.
    • Orthopedics is sometimes referred to as "carpentry", possibly because both involve heavy use of power saws and drills
    • Plastics is supposedly taking it easy doing tummy-tucks and boob jobs. Never mind how they take point on burn victims.
    • OB/GYN is the "Vagina Squad", and are sometimes said to do nothing but catch.
  • The Intern: The main characters start as this before promoting. New doctors are interns for their first year. Pretty much no one respects them, they get most of the scut work, and they work long shifts.
  • Introduction by Hookup: The day before Meredith starts her new job as a surgical intern she has a one night stand. The next day she finds out her partner, Derek, works as an attending at the same hospital.
    • Very narrowly avoided by Lexie, who also encounters Derek at Joe's the night before she starts work. Fortunately, they didn't go home together.
  • Irony:
    • The Season Six Finale has two significant examples.
      • Dramatic/Tragic: During the spree killing, type 2 Dogged Nice Guy Charles Percy, who is dying of a gunshot wound]], asks Dr. Bailey to find Reed after everything is over and tell her about how he'd loved her all this time. Unknown to both him and Bailey, Reed was in fact the first person to die when the shooting started.
      • Situational: The shooter, Gary Clark, brought along a flask filled with vodka, just in case he needed some "liquid courage"; leaving some ammunition behind instead. As he explains:
      Gary Clark: "The funny part is, I didn't need a drink until now. Right now. And the only reason I need a drink is because… I've only got one bullet left. (laughs) I left bullets at home because I thought I'd need a drink, and I only reason I need a drink because I don't have enough bullets!"
    • Pointed out by several characters regarding their profession. Derek is the best neurosurgeon, who died of a brain bleed; Amelia is also the best neurosurgeon, whose son was born without a brain, as well as being an addict, working in a place full of drugs; Arizona was a pediatric surgeon who didn't want kids, and she was married to an orthopedic surgeon but was miles from civilization when she injured her leg, resulting in infection and amputation, and is a fetal surgeon whose fetus never had a heartbeat; Addison is an OB/GYN who is infertile; George joined the army and got killed as a result of this but in Seattle when going to say bye to his mom before being deployed; Owen is a trauma surgeon with horrible PTSD.
  • It's Always Sunny at Funerals: George's funeral is in full sunshine, despite the show being set in Seattle, land of the perpetual rain.
  • It Never Gets Any Easier: Although, in part, it can be excused by the fact that the people who tend to die are the people the protagonists cared about in the first place.
    • After McDreamy broke down, he was shown a pile of those whom he killed and those whom he had saved. The ratio was 10:1, dead to alive.
      • In fairness, McDreamy is known for taking on cases that everybody else says are hopeless. If anything, he should probably be proud of himself for not giving up on them.
  • It's All About Me: justified. April's trying to have a wedding day, but Arizona and Meredith and Cristina all drag their Conflict Balls in instead of being bridesmaids. She tells them to get their priorities in order, and to everyone's credit, they do.
  • It's Personal / One of Our Own: Occasionally (yet still more often than believable), the patient of the day will be related to one of the cast. Drama ensues.
    • So far, we've had pretty much the entire Grey clan at some point. Plus George's father; Izzie's daughter; Alex's brother; Meredith's friend, Sadie Harris; Meredith's mother's scrub nurse; Addison's brother; Bailey's son and husband; Zola (later Shepherd); Teddy's husband, Henry; Mark's daughter; Alex's estranged father; Maggie's Mom; Owen's sister; April's Ex-fiancee...
    • This is all even without counting the times the characters themselves needed to be operated on. Meredith holds the current record, with April not far behind. Nearly everyone else has been a patient at some point
    • Outright stated in "Disarm", as Chief Webber rallies the troops as they await the victims of a school shooting:
      What we went through six months ago, they are going through right now, which makes them our brothers and sisters, which makes then fellow travelers, which makes them our own.
    • Realistically, doctors are not allowed to work on family members. If your loved one needs surgery, you take a few days off and be with them. The one exception was Maggie treating Meredith after the later was attacked:
      Alex: Everybody in this damn room is her family.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Meredith went to Dartmouth, Mark and Addison went to Columbia, Lexie and Amelia went to Harvard, and Jo went to Princeton (and graduated first in her class.) Other notable alma maters include Stanford (Cristina) and Bowdoin (Derek,) both of which are very selective schools.
    • Slightly justified in that the surgical program at the hospital is stated to be very good/competitive so it makes sense that many of them are from high-ranking schools.
  • Jerkass Ball: Meredith in the season 9 premiere. Somewhat justified considering her sister just died, her husband has a hand injury that might compromise his career, and her best friend is halfway across the country and they are unable to visit each other. However, this gives her a Bailey-esque reputation with her interns.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Alex has the absurd capacity to tell the truth in the most offensive way possible.
    • Mark Sloan refuses to enter the OR in "Wishin' and Hopin'", pointing out that he is the only attending who hasn't been exposed to the neurotoxin and as such he must remain outside.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Alex. Later seasons show how much he cares for kids. He's still an ass though to most grown-ups.
  • Just Plane Wrong: The plane crash at the end of Season 8 was apparently due to engine failure. While bad, this would not cause the jet to fall out of the sky, especially since it has two engines. Short of the plane falling apart at altitude (which would have killed everyone), the pilot would have had plenty of time to call Mayday and figure out how best to fly on one engine. Also, the emergency beacon is far tougher and would have survived, not to mention that the plane loosing altitude and disappearing from radar would have been noticed.
  • Kill 'Em All: A character is lucky to leave the show without dying or almost dying. Every season finale is basically cast-murder roulette. If a character hasn't died yet, they almost have (seriously).
  • Lampshade Hanging:
    • In Season Six, Alex points out that Meredith simply thinks she's married, but isn't actually or legally wed.
    • The fact that everyone has inappropriate relationships is lampshaded in a season seven episode.
    • The Musical Episode lampshaded the high casualty rate. They actually called the hospital "Seattle Grace Mercy Death". (Lampshaded again in the Season 8 finale, somewhat less whimsically.)
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In season 1 episode 4 Cristina effectively steals a patient's chart so she can get in on an interesting whipple surgery, then a guy comes in having survived falling down stairs and shooting himself repeatedly in the head with a nail gun but she's told she's on the whipple. Then it turns out that the patient is really in for palliative care and was never likely to under go the surgery as her condition was terminal.
    • In the first episode of Season 5, Cristina loses it over Meredith constantly coming to her with relationship issues, and tells her off. Immediately after, she slips and falls. Oh, and is then struck by a falling icicle.
  • Last Wish Marriage: In Season 15, a bride is badly injured just before her wedding. After waking up from a month-long coma, her health declines and the doctors hold a impromptu wedding so the couple can get married before she dies.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: This happens a lot. Addison gets pregnant while she's cheating on her husband. She ends up getting an abortion. She then decides to have a child of her own, and finds out getting pregnant is practically impossible. This carries over into Private Practice. Meanwhile, after having a miscarriage, Meredith is unable to conceive when Callie and Cristina (for the second time) learn they're pregnant. Happens again a few seasons later when April has an unplanned pregnancy while Callie finds out she can't carry another child.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Bed-bound, Rebecca Pope's only entertainment is eavesdropping on the nurses gossip.
    Rebecca: "It's like watching a soap!"
  • Left Hanging:
    • Unusual for Grey's, the Season 8 Finale, one of the periodic "disaster" episodes, leaves many loose ends over for the next season; the incident wasn't even resolved, and the first two episodes of Season 9 were dedicated to showing the aftermath.
    • It happened again with the Season 9 finale, which ends with Webber severely injured and left for dead. This time at least Season 10 picked up immediately where it had stopped.
  • Lets Wait Awhile: Erica and Callie agree to wait before having sex because they are unsure they're ready to have sex with another woman. However, in the next episode, in what is assumed to be another date, they have sex.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again: Cristina and Teddy promise to never tell anyone they don't know how to do an appendectomy.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Arizona's specialty, with Alex joining her eventually. They're pretty much guaranteed to die, either in the hospital or they leave to die at home.
  • Life-or-Limb Decision: After the plane crash, Callie has to make the choice for a dead-but-revivable Arizona because Amputation Stops Spread of the infection that's killing her.
  • Like Brother and Sister: Alex and Jo, who claim their friendship is like this and deny they have feelings for each other. Jo seems disgusted by the idea...and then they hook up.
  • Limited Social Circle: For a major hospital, the important cases—and the twisty relationships— all seem to occur in the same corner of the surgery department. Occasionally lampshaded, such as with Derek's "junior varsity" shadow, who we only meet once and whose name none of the main characters can remember.
    • This could be expanded to the hospital itself which seems to only have a surgery department, to the point where the chief of surgery is the head of the entire hospital. Each department only seems to have one attending. This is most notable in the case of orthopedics. Callie is the only ortho surgeon we've met, despite her being a resident at the start of the show. A mere three years out of residency she is now effectively running the department. Another one was mentioned, though he seems to have retired.
    • At one point, Meredith has a one-night stand mostly because the man didn't work at the hospital.
    • When Izzie takes Alex to meet her chemo friends, he is genuinely confused at the idea she has friends he hasn't already met.
    • Tinder is a minor hit among the female surgeons in later seasons as they attempt to meet someone they don't already work with.
  • Liquid Courage: Gary Clark brings his flask with him during his shooting rampage. He later notes the irony of how he brought the flask in case he needed a drink, but didn't need the drink until he was down to One Bullet Left...because he left a mag behind to bring the flask.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: Started with "only" nine characters in the credits, topped out at sixteen, and is frequently supplemented by Fake Guest Stars. Some Season 9 episodes have had credits that span the length of the entire second act.
  • Long Runner: Sixteen seasons and still going strong, though six of the original nine stars (Isaiah Washington, T.R. Knight, Katherine Heigl, Sandra Oh, Patrick Dempsey, and Justin Chambers) have left the show. And it has been renewed for season seventeen.
    • In-universe, an author being treated for an aneurysm is noted to have been writing her series for a decade and counting.
      I had a dream while I was under, figured out how to stretch the series out two or three more books.
  • Long-Runner Cast Turnover: See above. Although those five have left, over a dozen actors whose characters were introduced later have become series regulars, at least temporarily.
  • Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Alex and Meredith both used to do this; Alex at the beginning (through the middle) of the series, and Meredith after losing Derek to Addison.
  • Love Dodecahedron: George loves Meredith, who loves Derek, who can't decide whether he loves Meredith or Addison, who also is still in love with Derek, but at one point was in love with McSteamy, who hit on Erica, who made out with Callie, who was love with George, who had an affair with Izzie? Let's just say that the gurneys in this hospital are rarely free to actually hold patients. The Izzie-Alex-Denny and Meredith-Finn-Derek love triangles and Addison/Alex relationship add further complications.
  • Love Triangle:
    • Meredith-Derek-Addison is the classic.
    • Meredith-Finn-Derek was a thing briefly.
    • Izzie-Alex-Denny was brief and tragic.
    • Stephanie-Jackson-April-Mathew, as Steph loves Jackson who loves April who loves him but also loves Mathew. April was supposed to marry Mathew but runs away with Jackson on their wedding day, but Japril ultimately divorce and April eventually gets back with Mathew.
    • Megan Hunt's return results in the very brief Meredith-Nathan-Megan, which lasts until Meredith convinces the others she really is over Nathan and ships Megan-Nathan.
    • Teddy's return kicks off a really weird Owen-Teddy-Amelia-Tom. Owen and Tom both love Teddy, who loves both men but is pregnant with Owen's baby and mostly hangs out with Tom. Amelia, Owen's ex-wife, is trying to help Betty get clean while Owen fosters (and later adopts) Betty's son Leo.
    • Meredith is at the center of Meredith-Andrew-Link that ends with her choosing Andrew.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: Season 9's "Love Turns You Upside Down" focuses on the interns. They're contrasted with major characters who started the show as interns but are now attending surgeons.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The bomb squad officers in "...As We Know It" cease to exist when the bazooka rounds detonates, showering Meredith in gore. Shonda Rhimes later regretted writing "Dylan explodes" in the script and sending it off without thinking. Cue a disturbing debate with real bomb techs and special-effects guys as to how exactly how exploded poor Dylan would be.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: In Season 2 Episode 24, "Break On Through", Izzie mentions to a pregnant teenager she's treating that she feels she can empathize with her, as she also got pregnant as a teenager. That child later shows up as a young leukemia patient, who needed a bone marrow transplant. Izzie donates anonymously and leaves the girl with her adoptive family. Meredith also gets a "Luke, I Am Your Stepmother" moment.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: In Season 6, it turns out Dr. Sloan has an 18-year-old daughter...named Sloan. Slightly subverted in that they knew about the pregnancy, but ended the relationship and he assumed there was an abortion.
    • In season 10, Maggie shows up and reveals that she is Richard Webber's daughter.
  • Made of Explodium: Ambulances are considered to be this, as they are packing large amounts of pure oxygen.
    • In "Dark Was The Night", Meredith and Alex are told to leave a disabled rig because of this. They do not, and fortunately the ambulance does not explode when hit at the end of the episode.
    • In "All I Want Is You", an improperly secured oxygen tank causes an ambulance to explode and catch fire, shutting down the ambulance bay and closing the hospital to incoming cases.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: And how. Each of the attendings we see seems to be a one-person department. And the surgeons seem to be pretty much the only doctors in the hospital. If a main character gets paged and doesn't show, there's never anybody else to do the job.
    • Callie is the entire othodpedics department, despite starting the show as a resident and lacking an orthopedics attending to teach her.
    • Until Own becomes Head of Trauma, the ER seems to lack any actual specialists outside the brown-scrubed residents.
    • The entire oncology department pops into existence when Izzie gets cancer, then vanishes afterward until Maggie's mom needs treatment. Justified as the main characters deal with surgical tumors, while Oncology treats cancer pharmacologically .
    • In addition, much of what the characters do outside the OR is actually what nurses do in real life (meanwhile the nurses on the show do little more than hand over instruments and spread STDs). The surgeons also tend to do all the internal medicine associated with their specialties.
    • X-rays tend to be done by actual techs, or at least developed by them. CT and MRI machines may or may not have an actual dedicated operator, it varies between episodes.
  • Making Love in All the Wrong Places: All the time.
    • The on call rooms are extremely popular. By Season 4 doctors are scheduling dates in them.
    • After two teens doing it in a car are found out after a gurney is blown off the helipad onto them, Jo comments on their multitude of better options.
      "Why a car? You're in a building full of beds and supply closets"
    • Nico and Levi have sex in an ambulance. Slightly justified by the fact that they were sheltering in it during a windstorm that knocked Nico down as he attempted to cross the ambulance bay.
    • You can have sex pretty much anywhere you want without objection as long as the door locks.
  • Mama Bear: Dr. Bailey shows shades of this towards her five interns, specifically when Cristina needed surgery to remove the fetus and fallopian tube due to an extrauterine pregnancy and when George got hit by a bus and died.
    • An actual literal mama bear is responsible for the Patients of the Week in "Where the Wild Things Are" after one of them messed with her cubs. Inevitably lampshaded by Webber and Bailey
      Webber: Mama bear wasn't messing around.
      Bailey: Mama bears never mess around.
  • Mandatory Motherhood:
    • Cristina outright refuses to have children. She's been pregnant twice, the first miscarried and she aborted the second.
    • zigzagged with Callie and Arizona; the former wants children and the latter doesn't. They eventually break up over it. However, in the Season Six Finale, all the carnage makes Arizona rethink her position and decide that not having kids wasn't worth not being with Callie. Callie comes to the same opinion, and tells Arizona that not having kids isn't worth losing her, but Arizona overrides her and tells her she can't live without her and their ten kids.
    • Meredith was initially reluctant to have kids, partially out of a fear of them inheriting Alzheimer's. She and Derek adopt Zola and she gives birth to two more children
  • Married to the Job:
    • Adele leaves Richard because of this (though the whole "Ellis Grey affair" really didn't help).
    • Bailey's husband Tucker divorced her because she's spending too much time at the hospital, you know, saving lives. She fears this will happen when she marries Ben, though he assures her it won't as he is also busy with work, quitting his job as an anesthesiologist to study medicine and eventually become a surgeon.
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": When Owen and April see the news of the mall explosion. They instantly start yelling orders to prepare for the incoming mass casualty event.
  • Mauve Shirt: Falling in love with patients usually isn't a good idea.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane:
    • "Some Kind of Miracle" had this. Meredith, while nearly drowning, hallucinates an afterlife populated by some notable dead characters, including her dog, the bomb squad guy, and Denny Duquette. Or Was It a Hallucination? Denny at one point tells her that occasionally he and Izzie will happen to be in the same place at the same time, and feel one another's presence, and toward the end of the episode we see this actually happen in the real world.
    • Izzie's cancer subplot also had this. It sheds new light on Izzie's hallucinations of Denny in Season 5, which were ruled symptomatic of the cancer spreading to her brain. Nothing is confirmed either way, and it's really up to viewer personal preference whether or not the afterlife/ghosts exist in this show's universe or not.
    • When April is hypothermic late in Season 14, Meredith makes a point of asking about this. April didn't see anything.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • The songs used for the episodes surrounding Derek's death are "How To Save A Life", "Chasing Cars" and "Grace". These are all songs that were performed in the musical episode, which was centered around Callie almost dying in exactly the same way.
    • The song "Into The Fire" plays in the pilot as Derek operates on Katie Bryce. Two hundred fifty-five episodes later, Katie returns in "My Next Life" and the song plays as Katie is wheeled into surgery.
  • Medical Drama: of course.
  • Mercy Kill:
    • The climber in "Testing 1-2-3" claim this is why their buddy has an ice axe in his head. However, it's their third version of what happened on the mountain, and Derek tells them they can explain it to the cops.
    • Derek and Meredith's clinical trial is treated as this by some participants, who figure a quick death while under anesthesia is better than slowly dying of brain cancer.
    • In Season 6's "Suicide Is Painless", a terminal cancer patient opts for physician assisted suicide.
    • Meredith asks Derek and Cristina to give her a lethal does of morphine should she develop Alzheimer's. Derek isn't willing to discuss it, while Cristina is disturbingly on board with the whole idea.
      Cristina: You had me at "lethal injection".
    • In "Girlfriend In A Coma", the titular girlfriend asks to be taken off life support, as she will die soon anyways and wants to avoid a painful drawn-out death.
  • Misery Poker:
    • In couple's therapy, Owen and Cristina argue over whose PTSD was worse.
      Cristina: Mine wasn't as bad as his.
      Owen: You lay on the floor of the OR
      Cristina: You choked me.
      Owen: You quit being a doctor.
    • At Bailey's wedding, Alex and Jo compare notes about their terrible childhoods, having bounced around foster homes for years.
    • As Meredith and Riggs admit to having been in place crashes in "In The Air Tonight", Riggs refuses to play this.
      Meredith: Did anyone die or loose a limb? You know that's how Arizona lost her leg.
      Riggs: Okay, I'm definitely not telling you about mine. It can't compare
  • Missing Mom: There are almost as many absent mothers as missing fathers. As Meredith notes to Lexie in Season 8:
    You had a mother. Jackson and I had surgeons who procreated.
  • Moment Killer: Pagers quite reliably go off as people are trying to get intimate.
  • Mood Whiplash: Quite a bit as a seemingly fun scene will go dark in an instant.
    • In Season 10, Stephanie is showing off her cheer moves in the locker room...and then Heather's mother arrives to collect her dead daughter's things.
    • In the season 14 premiere, Amelia decides to take part in an experiment where she masturbates while an MRI tracks her brain patterns. She comes out grinning about the fun time to check the MRI and sees a massive tumor on her brain.
  • Mr. Seahorse:
    • In "Something To Talk About", Izzie and Cristina steal an apparently pregnant man from Psych. It turns out that he just has a massive teratoma.
    • Referenced in "Map of You" as Jo, struggling to diagnose Dr. Webber's arm pains, goes to find an ultrasound machine.
      Richard: I hope you're not thinking I'm pregnant!
    • Jo jokes about this in "Blood and Water" after learning that Alex's mother is knitting them baby hats.
      Jo: We're in the baby hat place? Are you pregnant and you didn't tell me?
  • Must Have Caffeine: The entire cast consumes vast amounts of caffeinated beverages to keep up with their long hours. Mostly coffee, though Izze seems to prefer tea. Jackson Avery is the first to drink an energy drink.
    • After she gets pregnant, Callie is bullied into quitting by Arizona and Mark. It lasts about half an episode before Owen orders April to find some coffee for her.
      Kepner, go get Torres a cup of coffee. Run!
    • Leaving for New York, Arizona bemoans Callie's decision to move to the "land of crap coffee"
    • In Season 15, a crossover with Station 19 revolves around Seattle's fire chief being injured during a fire at that most Seattle of locations, a coffee factory.
    • The newly arrived Dr. Hayes comments on the quality of the hospital's coffee in "A Hard Pill To Swallow"
      Hayes: Very good coffee for a hospital. Or anywhere really.
      Meredith: Seattle is kinda known for its coffee.
  • Musical Episode: With a similar explanation to Scrubs, in that it's from the point of view of a patient, Callie. What, you thought they were going to waste Sara Ramirez's Tony-winning vocal chops?.
    • 12 months after this episode aired, Shonda Rhimes put together a benefit concert in Los Angeles, where many of the show's stars performed covers of songs live, many of them having been featured in said musical episode. The concert proved that there were a lot of people in this show's cast who can sing, not just Ramirez.
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • Derek and Shane's ping-pong match, intended as therapy for Dereek's hand, attracts a huge crowd.
    • In "Thriller" Derek and Ben fix Zola's butterfly costume wearing surgical magnifying glasses and borrowed surgical thread.
  • Must Not Die a Virgin: In the Season 4 final, boyfriend-and-girlfriend brain-tumor patients, facing a risky experimental treatment, enlist Meredith and Derek to stand guard against their parents. They had planned to delay Their First Time until they were cancer-free, but now that they are going under the knife for an experimental procedure that (so far) has a 100% mortality rate, they move up the time-table. She becomes the first patient to survive the procedure. He doesn't.
  • Mundane Utility:
    • Fruits from the cafeteria are used as a cheap means of practicing surgical stitches.
    • "Banana bag" IVs with extra vitamins are sometimes used to treat hangovers and regular versions to help surgeons work through their flu.
      • Bites Owen in the butt in "Help, I'm Alive" He accidentally he gets injected with a paralytic when the anesthesiologist confuses his IV for the patient's.
    • Played with in "And Dream of Sheep". Jackson uses fish skin to treat a burn patient, and then Dr. Webber uses the meat to stage a fish fry on the roof.
    • Doctor Bailey's entry into the surgical innovation contest is a hydro-colonoscopy device. After Meredith calls it the "Tailblazer", Miranda realizes her device's other uses and licenses production rights to a sex-toy manufacturer.
  • My Own Private "I Do": Derek and Meredith, although they are not "legally" married until quite a lot later.
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits!: Meredith and Derek tell Mark to stay away from Lexie. It doesn't work.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: The doctors have nicknamed the hospital "Seattle Grace Mercy Death" because of their awareness of one's inexplicably likely chances of dying or being seconds from death if you work there. Thankfully it doesn't extend to the patients, who actually have a pretty good survival rate because the (remaining) doctors are really good at saving lives. After the plane crash, Cristina curses it, and Alex refrains from asking a girl out with this excuse, completely seriously.
    Alex: "She works here at Seattle Grace Mercy Death. So I'm sure she's pretty much going to go crazy, or get cancer, or be shot by a gunman, or hit by a truck."
  • Never Found the Body: Megan, Owen's sister, is found in Iraq after being missing for 10 years
  • The Nicknamer:
    • Meredith has a habit of nicknaming the men she finds attractive.
    • Cristina starts naming her interns after the names of The Seven Dwarfs or names that are close enough. The interns themselves do this, such as calling Meredith "Medusa" and Bailey BCB (Booty Call Bailey).
    • Callie has nicknames for Sofia's babysitters like "Curly Hair", "Art Student", and "Unibrow".
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Absolutely everyone, it's pretty much a job requirement. To be fair, you don't become a surgeon unless you're okay with slicing people open.
    • Cristina is easily the biggest offender, all but actually praying for people to be horribly mangled.
      Cristina: Three ambulances are coming in full of bloody, broken car crash victims, all who need to be cut open. So I'm cheery, I'm cheery, I am so cheery!
    • The entire cast looks forward to horribly mangled people arriving at the ER, and Meredith ditches the Harper Avery awards when she hears there is a big trauma coming in.
      Interns run by
      Meredith: Hey, slow down!
      Levi: Big trauma incoming!
      Meredith: Ooh, trauma in the pit! follows the interns
    • Meredith lampshades this in her voiceover for "Superfreak", noting how surgeons grew up as frog-dissecting freaks and then grew up to discover other people with the "same inexplicable urge to take human beings apart."
    • Bailey gets excited about a major windstorm and proclaims that it will be "fun".
    • Callie is in orthopedics and genuinely enjoys her job, which involves heavy use of power tools and brute-forcing joints back into position.
    • You really do not want a neurosurgeon to get excited. Derek specializes in nightmarish "inoperable" tumors and Amelia isn't much better. Her introduction to the show was her bringing Derek a brain tumor to operate on. Her reaction to what turns out to be her brain tumor?
    Amelia: Wow, that is a beautiful tumor! Whose brain is that?
  • No Antagonist: There is no Big Bad, no The Man Behind the Man; it is all very much slice-of-life. There are jerkasses, but no characters come close enough to be Villainy Free Villains yet.
  • No Bisexuals: Refreshingly averted with Callie Torres, who is explicitly identified as bisexual rather than lesbian, despite being married to a woman. However, Erica Hahn plays it straight, identifying as lesbian despite Callie being her first female partner (after a very long string of men), and even going so far as to claim that "you can't be kind of a lesbian". As Callie drunkenly notes in "Bend and Break":
    Callie:: It's a thing, it's real. I mean, it's called LGBTQ for a reason. There is a "B" in there and it doesn't mean "badass"...okay it kinda does, but it also means "bi"
    • Possibly subverted with Leah Murphy too, though it seems more like she has a pathological pattern of falling for people who are bound to reject her, and doesn't really care if they're men or women.
  • No Longer with Us:
    • Variant. In Season Six, one of the Mercy West doctors notes that he "lost a patient". When a colleague sympathizes, he clarifies - he physically misplaced the patient.
    Jackson: That's bad, dude. How did he die?
    Charles: No, I lost her. Parked her in a hallway, went to get her labs, couldn't find the hallway.
  • Not So Above It All:
    • Richard Webber, for all his maturity, can be almost as petty as the rest of the cast if he wants. In "Start Me Up", he admits that he enjoys having first year med students because it reminds him how he started.
      "Also, it's funny when they fall down."
    • He also catches Alex pulling pranks in "Idle Hands" and chew him out....for lacking imagination.
    • Miranda Bailey, for all her exasperation with the intern's antics, still isn't above participating in a pool betting on a massively obese patient's weight. And she wins!
      Lexie: That hypocrite!
  • Not So Different:
    • Alex and his new intern Jo who he calls "princess" because he thinks she's rich and spoiled. It turns it that, like him, she spent most of her childhood in various foster homes and had to work hard to get where she is.
    • Cristina also realizes that Dr. Thomas and her are a lot alike, both having survived fatal plane crashes.
  • No Sympathy: Owen and Callie have zero sympathy for the idiot in "P.Y.T." who tried to slingshot over his house for internet fame and dislocated both hips.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Played with. Arizona has had to remind people to stop paging her for deliveries. Labor and Delivery is for OBs, Arizona is fetal and pediatric medicine.
  • Official Couple Ordeal Syndrome: Pretty much ever since Callie came out, she has been together with Arizona, despite all the slings and arrows that fate lobbed at them. They even lampshade how weird it is that they are the resident go-to couple for romantic advice. But it sure was a hell of a lot of slings and arrows! No longer applies as of season 11, when Callie realizes that she is no longer happy with Arizona.
  • One Steve Limit: Obviously patients will have the same name, but only broken a few times with the main cast:
    • Alex Karev and Lexie Grey is a minor example (both technically Alexes)
    • Used for plot purposes when the Mercy-Westers first arrive at Seattle Grace during the ER mix-up, as both Alex Karev and April Kepner have the same initials on the chart so nobody knows who a patient belongs to.
    • A twofer with Derek and Meredith's son Derek Bailey Shepherd, helpfully lampshaded by Cristina.
      Cristina: Two Baileys? You don't think it's going to be confusing?
      Meredith: No. Because if I say "Bailey peed on me", I think it's safe to assume I'm talking about my son.
    • In season 14, Andrew DeLuca is revealed to have a sister (Arizona's romantic interest) called Carina — also the name of Eliza's (Arizona's ex) twin sister.
    • For the medical families they have ways of differentiating: Dr. Shepherd (Derek) and "the other" Dr. Shepherd (Amelia), as well as Dr. Ellis Grey, Dr. Grey (Meredith), and Little Grey (Lexie).
    • Jo Wilson and Joe the Bartender, though Joe disappeared a season and a half before Jo showed up.
    • Andrew DeLuca and Andy Herrera, both actually called "Andrea" (pronounced the fancy Italian way), even though one is an Italian male and the other an Hispanic female.
    • A line in "Out of Nowhere" informs us that there are two nurses named Taylor.
      Jo: Boy Taylor or Girl Taylor?
    • In Season 15 there are now two Doctor Karevs and thus two Mrs. Karevs. Leads to a mixup when Alex's mother comes to visit him and an intern just reffers to to her as "Mrs Karev".
  • Only Mostly Dead: Invokes this far too often for a Medical Drama. First with Meredith who drowns, then with Izzie who codes in the season 5 finale, then with Derek who gets shot in the chest,
    • Zig-zagged with Mark, though, who fades in and out while stranded in a forest for days, only to die once he's taken off life support.
      Cristina (describing time in the forest): Mark kept dying...it was so annoying
    • Also a woman in season 13 who is declared dead and then wakes up when her family come to see her, a phenomenon called Lazarus Syndrome.
    • April gets this in Season 14 due to hypothermia, and rejects the idea she was ever actually dead because only Jesus can do that and she didn't meet Him.
  • Old, New, Borrowed and Blue: In the Season 5 Finale, when Meredith and Derek decide to get married, Cristina gives her an old grocery list, a new post-it, and her favorite blue pen (which also counts as borrowed, since she wants it back).
  • One Drink Will Kill the Baby:
    • Mercilessly lampooned in "Disarm" when Cristina, back from her post-shooting PTSD funk, reunites with Meredith and suggests they get a drink.
      Meredith: Not a real drink actually, because I'm trying to get pregnant and supposedly alcohol will make my baby have three heads and sixteen toes.
      Cristina: Umm, wanna get some crack cocaine?
    • Meredith's actual pregnancy two seasons later is revealed after Callie keeps insisting that she have some champagne at a celebratory dinner.
  • Only Sane Man: Dr. Bailey is the only member of the cast who never seems to forget that she's a doctor, not an eighth grader. The Chief also often seems like he's visiting from a normal universe.
  • Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: Used for a quick gag in "I See Her Standing There" by a patient with an extremely swollen scrotum.
    "No, these aren't basketballs in my pockets and yes, I am very happy to see you.
  • Open Secret: Absolutely everything. There are no secrets at Grey Sloan. Later seasons finally remember that HIPPA is a thing. The surgeons still break it, just now they lampshade that it's illegal.
  • Organ Dodge: In "Thriller", a patient is discovered to have situs inversus, in which the position of all organs is reversed. This greatly complicates surgery as the surgeons are working backwards from usual. This being the Halloween episode, he is referred to as a "zombie" due to surviving gunshots to the left side of the chest
  • Overdrawn at the Blood Bank: Used realistically several times
    • In the "Crash Into Me" two-parter, a patient ruptures his carotid artery, squirting large amounts of blood everywhere. While waiting for an operating room to become available, they're pumping blood in as fast as it's going out, and poor Lexie ends up wearing most of it.
    • When Dr. Reed Adamson is killed during the hospital shooting, she bleeds massively from her head wound. After April literally stumbles across her friend's body, she gets covered in blood and starts gibbering to Derek about how she didn't realize humans even had that much blood
    • In "Out of Nowhere", an ECMO (blood oxygenator) machine has a hose come loose on a helicopter, drenching Jackson and Maggie in blood. They arrive at the next hospital looking like they "stepped off the set of Carrie", and Maggie notes they very definitely traumatized the man's daughter.
      Maggie: Is it bad that I'm the same amount happy that he's alive as I am that we can shower now?
      Jackson: Is it bad that I'm happier about the shower?
  • Parental Sexuality Squick:
    • Meredith has Cristina read her mother's diaries from the time Ellis Grey had an affair with Chief Webber to avoid this.
    • In "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)", Thatcher Grey turns up with his new girlfriend:
      Dani: There was a...pain incident, uh, last week, Thursday. to Lexie Actually, you might not want to hear this part.
      Lexie: I'm a doctor.
      Dani: All right. Well, we were being intimate and I was on top...
      Lexie: leaves rapidly
    • Jackson is fine with his mother and Richard hooking up. But he really really would appreciate it if Richard would make sure he sends dirty texts to the right Avery....
  • Pass the Popcorn: Characters have been known to break out actual popcorn when watching something particularly interesting.
  • The Password Is Always "Swordfish": In "If Only You Were Lonely", Cristina attempts to access April's hospital account (to see if Owen is cheating on her) by using the names of her pets as the password. However, she completly fails to be even remotely subtle about it.
    Cristina: What is your mother's maiden name?
    April: Are you hacking me?
  • Patient of the Week: with the added responsibility of frequently delivering anvilicious aesops that apply to the main characters and their Problems Of The Week. Season 10's "I Bet It Stung" has:
    • A girl who is an expy of the eponymous character in My Sister's Keeper tried to say No and have her own life, teaching one of the doctors to make a clean break(up).
    • A character managed to get hornet stings on a sensitive area, requiring a catheter. His wife knows about his odd habit, but feels that "500 other wonderful things" outweigh one (Head-Tiltingly Kinky) flaw. This gave another doctor the dialogue she needed to deal with her boyfriend's mother, who before The Teaser had caught them in a delicate situation.
    • Oh, and the third patient might be someone's father, though that doctor's Parental Abandonment issues are getting in the way of any real communication.
  • Perma-Stubble: Dr. Mark Sloan's typical look of choice. George even stops shaving to get Meredith's attention. Denny as well, though he has an excuse. Lampshaded by Derek in a Season 3 episode:
    Meredith: It's now become physically impossible for me to kiss your face.
  • Phoney Call:
    • When Paul returns to the hospital to confront Jo, Meredith pages security to their location. As she admits to Jo afterwards, the phones are down due to the hack but Paul doesn't know that.
    • As Meredith and Alex bet on how fast she can get out of a date in "Momma Knows Best", Alex informs her that faking a page is cheating.
  • Photographic Memory: Lexie, who picks up the nickname "Lexiepedia" as a result. She makes the most of it too, being an off-screen Bookworm who has read seemly every medical text and journal in existence. She manages to diagnose two incredibly rare conditions as a result, plus several other diagnoses based of a brief glance at a patient's chart.
    I remembered an article from the British Journal of ENT. It was issue number 47, page 19, from 1964
  • Planning for the Future Before the End: Mark Sloan. At the time he knows he is going to die, but everyone else wants to believe that he has woken up from his coma for good.
  • Plot Time: In reality, mergers are extremely tedious and time-consuming. Even two small organizations (like hospitals) should take weeks or months, as their respective owners will need to do their due diligence, review each other's financial statements, negotiate terms, consult lawyers, etc etc. In the world of Grey's Anatomy, a merger can be decided on after one meeting with the board, and announced only days later. Though in all fairness they took a large chunk of the fifth season speculating about it.
    • Seasons 1 through 3 supposedly cover a one year span, with Season 3 covering prom time to med school graduation time, a whopping 3 months.
    • The beginning of Season 4 to the beginning of Season 6 equates another 10 months, though Season 6 may actually be a year, given that a number of episodes elapse weeks in time (including one that features Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's all rolled in one).
    • In an episode in season four, Alex ends up on a week's probation after allowing Rebecca Pope into the OR gallery, yet he is back after his probation the next episode, which is repeatedly said to take place the day following the previous ep.
    • Season 9 has veered practically into Timey-Wimey Ball territory here. In the premiere, someone dies and gets an epitaph closing card: "Mark Sloan, 1968-2012." The same episode has videotaped flashbacks to other moments in the deceased's life, including a wedding marked "2009"—though the episode that depicted this wedding aired in May 2011. In the second episode (itself a Whole Episode Flashback), Meredith claims to Cristina that they first met (in Season 1) five years ago. Then in the 7th episode Meredith discovers she's three weeks pregnant; she gives birth in the finale. This means the entire season is a minimum of about 10 months long, covering more Plot time than it does Real Life time!
    • Season 11's "She's Leaving Home: Part 1/Part 2" covers an entire year as Meredith flees Seattle after Derek's death. This is how the show has pretty much ended up set in 2017 airing in 2017, by having some seasons show a period of 3 months and others 3 years.
  • Police are Useless:
    • The police response to the hospital shooting is to guard the exits and wait for a six-man SWAT team to clear the entire hospital while shutting down the elevators. Worse, one officer does manage to shoot Gary, but fails to follow up on it and allows the man to escape. Ultimately, the police response gets at least one more person (Dr. Hunt) shot and dooms Percy to bleed out in a hallway. It should be noted that ever since the 1999 Columbine massacre, standard procedure has been for police to enter the building without waiting for SWAT and confront the gunman as soon as possible.
    • During the hack in Season 14, the FBI seems more interested in figuring out who did it than actually fixing the issue. Dr. Parker manages to undo the hack in a few minutes.
    • Averted in cases where the hospital is not directly involved, such as Officer Thompson in "Sympathy For The Parents", who takes on three armed robbers by herself and wins.
  • The Pollyanna: Several, who have been through Break the Cutie and are trying to cope with the horrors of medicine.
    • Sydney Heron is so incredibly cheerful it annoys the other doctors, to the point Izzie would rather sort through a kid's poop for Monopoly pieces than be around her. Sydney's cheerfulness is forced, as a coping mechanism after a misdiagnosis killed a patient.
    • Arizona is also very cheerful, though not to Dr. Heron's extremes. Like Sydney, it is a coping mechanism - Arizona works Pediatrics and has seen way too many children die.
      Alex:We just took a liver and an intestine from a little kid-a dead little kid-and you don't even care. You're talking about rainbows and relationships and crap What the hell is wrong with you?
      Arizona: You don't think that I know they just pulled the plug on a kid? You don't think I get that? You don't think I know about the tiny, tiny coffin they are going to stick him in? I know about the tiny coffins. I see them all the time, in my sleep. So if you don't mind, I'm going to keep talking rainbows and relationships and crap.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: A two-part episode near the end of Season 3 served as the launch for Private Practice, a vehicle for (then) Grey's regular Kate Walsh as Addison Montgomery.
  • Posthumous Character: Denny Duquette, starting in season 3.
  • Precision F-Strike: When the new security system implemented after the shooting malfunctions and traps Dr. Avery and a patient in a hallway, Teddy, who has spent a good season and a half being whiny about men, finally takes a level in badass and remembers that she was in the army, for Chrissake, and yells at the security guard to "open the FUCKING door." It's bleeped, though, because it's a special episode told in documentary form as cameras follow the doctors around.
    • Mark, in the same episode, says that since Derek was shot he finally understands what it feels like to be the families of their patients. "It feels like shit."
  • Preserve Your Gays: The show thrives on killing its main characters but not one of the 6 or so queer main characters has died. Though it can be seen to tease the Bury Your Gays trope deeply: of the two main lesbian characters, one (Erica) left the show and disappeared almost as soon as she came out, the other (Arizona) has almost died on no less than 4 occasions. Then again Erica was swiftly Put on a Bus before the show runners became serial killers, and Arizona has managed to outlive most of the straight white characters despite facing death enough times she's rumored to be immortal.
    Steph: (to Arizona) You might be immortal.
  • Product Placement: Not frequent, but every so often the show will have the hospital acquire some cutting-edge medical technology and then show the doctors squeeing over it. The DaVinci surgical robot and the Lodox body scanner are two prominent examples.
    • Surprisingly for a show set in Seattle, Starbucks is never mentioned.
  • Promoted to Opening Titles: Something like twenty actors have managed to score this trope for themselves. note 
  • Promoted to Parent: Derek was this to his four sisters, as well as Alex to his two siblings.
    • Done in horrific fashion in "Suddenly", as on her eighteenth birthday Lily Anderson watches her grandmother and mother die, orders her father be removed from life support, and informs her younger siblings of the deaths.
  • Pun-Based Title: From the medical book Gray's Anatomy.
  • Put on a Bus: Many of the show's main characters have left due to various circumstances.note 
  • Rage Against the Heavens:
    • In "Wish You Were Here", patient Margret has taken to yelling at the sky to deal with her frequently breaking bones.
      Margret: This is my sixth break in a year. So I stare at the heavens and without any belief in a higher power but a desperate need to blame someone, I yell "Come freaking on." Ow.
    • In "Disarm", Bailey straight up orders God to let a critical patient live, the apologizes.
      You bastard, you better send this boy back, right now! Sorry about the bastard thing.
  • "Rashomon"-Style:
    • Season 6's "I Saw What I Saw", an after-the-fact investigation into how a patient managed to be overlooked to death. An interesting version in that the stories are almost completely consistent, just fragmented, and by the end one full narrative is pieced together.
    • Season 12 has "There's A Fine, Fine Line" as Bailey investigates the circumstances behind Ben's crash C-section during a lockdown that ultimately kills both mother and child.
  • Readings Are Off the Scale: Variant, in "Gut Feeling" a blood-alcohol reading is so high, Levi claims he wasn't aware such a reading was even possible.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • When first introduced, Callie is living in the hospital basement to save on rent and be closer to the action. Upon discovering this, Richard informs her that this is illegal and orders her to move out.
    • April claims her first time was on a beach, which everyone immediately points out is a bad idea because (among other things) sand will get where it shouldn't. Two seasons later, Miranda has sex on the beach on her honeymoon and gets an infection from the sand.
    • So the characters who won the lawsuit in season 9 are all set buy the hospital, only they don't have enough money. The investor they hoped to get last minute rejected their proposal on the grounds that none of them have any kind of experience running a hospital. When they get Richard, who has many years of experience as the chief, to help them out, the investor still rejects them because he just isn't that interested.
    • Happens again in Season 10. Attendings sleeping with interns has become so common (four of the five interns introduced in Season 9 have seduced or been seduced by their bosses) that nobody batted an eye about it... until HR instituted a strict no-fraternization policy, something they should've done in the pilot episode. (If it weren't for the fact that, if they did, we wouldn't have a show.)
    • Ben tries to to surgery on the Pysch floor and can't find a scalpel. The Psych attending reminds him that they are are on the Psychiatric Ward - of course there aren't any knives.
    • Alex walks into the apartment he shares with Jo and finds her nearly naked with DeLuca lying on top of her and reaches the wrong but understandable conclusion. He proceeds to beat the crap out of DeLuca so badly that he has to be hospitalized. Rather than let it go, DeLuca files a police report and Alex is arrested and charged with felony assault; he also is suspended from his job and has to work in the clinic.
    • Izzie convinces a cancer patient to go for a long-shot surgery because her own long-shot cancer surgery saved her life. As predicted, the patient's extensive tumor is inoperable and he dies on the table, robbing him and his wife of the remaining months they had together.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Pretty frequently, resulting in Revolving Door Casting.
    • In a more direct version of this trope, Episode 9x19 is a Very Special Episode involving a mother, played by Sarah Chalke, who is convinced her child has Kawasaki's Disease but can't get any doctors to listen. This is based on Chalke's own panicked experiences with getting a diagnosis for her son Charlie, and she essentially plays herself.
  • Really Gets Around: Alex and Mark.
    • Meredith when Derek breaks up with her, which makes him jealous and tells her that she and Alex should get together, since he also likes to get around a lot.
    • Arizona when she was a resident, and briefly after her separation from Callie.
  • Red Baron: Bailey used to be called The Nazi.
  • Red Herring: "There's a Fine, Fine Line" features a Code Pink (i.e. a missing child) which seems as though it will be the main source of drama for the episode. It turns out the child is quickly found, but Ben performed an emergency C-section while the hospital was on lockdown, and both the mother and baby end up dead.
  • Relationship Upgrade:
    • In Season 11, Alex discovers he is now Meredith's "person" due to Cristina's departure.
    • Jo promotes Ben to chief confidant in Season 14 after Steph's departure.
      Ben: I'm Stephanie.
  • Restricted Rescue Operation: Jackson is held at gunpoint during the hospital shooting and told not to save Derek Shepherd. He seems to play by the shooter's rules at first, letting Derek flatline and even telling the others to hold their hands up. Once the shooter leaves, however, he reveals he had only disconnected the machine and gets right back to work.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The hospital getting hit by a ransomware cyber attack comes shortly after the NHS was in 2017. But, that was the entire UK, not one hospital.
  • Roadside Surgery:
    • George preforms open-heart surgery in an elevator after a power outage left it stuck between floors
    • Izzie performing brain surgery on a guy with a carpentry drill when he is trapped between cars on a sinking ferry.
    • Callie and Arizona trying to treat a little girl on the Peads floor during the hospital shooting.
    • A couple trapped down a sinkhole in the Season 8 premiere has Callie instructing the husband over radio how to perform an amputation. Owen eventually goes down to finish.
    • After the plane crash, Meredith has to operate on a dying Mark and Arizona alone in the woods — Derek has broken his hand and Cristina dislocated her arm.
    • In "I Feel The Earth Move", the doctors talk an eleven year old girl through doing a thoracostomy (As in, carefully stabbing her mother in the side to relive pressure) in her house because it would take an ambulance too long to arrive.
    • Derek having to actually operate at the roadside when the cars crash in front of him on his way to DC.
    • Ben operating on a patient in the psych ward in "All Eyze On Me" with a clipboard as a scalpel. He gets surgery eyes a lot.
    • In season 12, there's an episode all about this. After a Code Pink is called and the hospital put on lockdown, the residents all get stranded with patients. Ben performs an unnecessary emergency caesarean in the hallway, while Steph laments that she almost got to do a thoracotomy in the ER — asking how often people get to operate outside of an OR, with Webber telling her it's not as fun when you have to do it.
      Webber: For the record, it sounds fun until you do it.
    • Then at the end of the season, Ben does a C-section on Meredith's kitchen table on April after she goes into labor and the baby is born breach.
    • Meredith and Riggs do surgery on a plane in "In The Air Tonight" after turbulence injures several passengers.
    • Stephanie stitches up a young girl when she is impaled after an explosion in season 13.
    • Owen gets to do elevator surgery himself in Season 15 during the third power outage. This time they can't even open the doors, so he improvises with what he has.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Gary Clark's reason for shooting up the hospital in the Season Six Finale is to "be a man" for his wife, Alison, who had been a patient at the hospital and ended up being taken off of life support.
  • Romantic Fake–Real Turn: Teddy fell for Henry, whom she initially married just to help him get medical treatment.
  • Romantic False Lead: Finn ("McVet") for Meredith, Addison and Rose for Derek, Julia for Mark (even if he only confirms this on his deathbed).
  • Rousing Speech: Happens annoyingly often.
  • Rule of Drama: Often an example of this being done well, such as the Season 6 finale. Just as often an example of this being done badly, such as the Season 5 finale.
  • Running Gag:
    • Derek's thing for ferryboats. He even has a ferryboat-print scrub cap that Mer takes as her own following his death.
    • Mystery VIP patients are always assumed to be Bono.
  • Sacrificed Basic Skill for Awesome Training: In "Take The Lead", Cristina realizes she's been so focused on cardio she's forgotten how to do an appendectomy - and so has her mentor Dr. Altman. Keep in mind, this is a surgery so basic Lexie made a credible attempt at doing one on the sly during the intern cabal days. A nurse has to tell them how to do it.
  • Safe Driving Aesop: It's not treated like a big life lesson, but it's hard not to take the message when there's a Musical Episode dedicated to it: Callie and Arizona are driving to go on vacation. Arizona is driving, proposes to Callie and waits for a response — when she turns back to the road they're only a second from impact with a truck.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Give it up for Miranda Bailey, everybody! Ironically, this appears to be the root of her nickname, "the Nazi."
    • After having to operate on a genuine white supremacist, she asks not to be called this anymore.
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!: Derek eventually settles this way when the operators of the crashed plane offer to settle.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: How Harper Avery covered up his sexual harassment. Lampshaded by Catherine:
    Jackson: How could this ever be kept secret at all?
    Catherine: Money, honey. Good God don't be naive. A fortune was paid to silence those woman.
  • Seattle: The show's setting, complete with ferry boats, the usual massive coffee consumption, and a near-endless amount of rain.
    Sloan: Does it ever stop raining in his hellhole?
    Alex: Not really
  • Seen It All: The surgeons would like to think they are, except people keep coming up with new and interesting way of getting hurt. The viewing gallery is a good barometer for weird, the more people in there, the weirder it is.
    • In Season 14, Webber and Carina DeLuca, watching a pistol being extracted from a woman's vagina, compare Ass Shoves they've treated in what amounts to a Seen It All-off.
  • Self-Harm:
    • In "Let The Angels Commit", Meredith treats a woman who burned her hand to avoid taking the bar exam. She gets committed to Psych on a 72-hour hold.
    • Rebeca Pope is committed as well after she cuts her wrists in the Season 4 finale.
    • Cristina suspects Lexie is a cutter in Season 5, though it turns out she was just part of the intern cabal that was practicing on themselves.
  • Sentimental Music Cue: The show makes heavy use of emotional music to underscore the personal drama.
    • Interestingly, an unusually large percentage of the songs on the soundtrack are sentimental and slow covers of songs that are originally more upbeat, or at least faster/rockier/dancier. Sometimes trying to recognize the song can distract from the drama of the scene.
  • Sex Sells: An episode that aired after a Super Bowl started with female cast members showering. Turns out, George is dreaming. It ended the same way, only Izzie and Cristina were cleaning the remains of the Bomb Squad guy off Meredith, with George watching.
  • Share the Male Pain
    • In the second episode, the victim of a Near-Rape Experience is in surgery when what tuns out to be part of the attacker's penis is found in her stomach. (There is a reason it was Near and not Actual). All males present when Meredith announces the object's identity are visibly disgusted.
    • In "Desire", a candiru (penis fish) is extracted from a man's bladder. Even the woman are horrified at that one.
    • A female version in "Put Me In Coach", after Lexie beans Mark's girlfriend in the chest with a softball.
      Callie: Right in the boob! cringes
    • When a patient comes in with an extremely swollen scrotum, the men take a second to register what is going on and then:
      Jackson:...okay
      Alex: That is not okay
      April: Oh great, Karev is here. Here to make us all laugh with funny jokes about my hands on a man's parts.
      Alex: This isn't funny, that poor guy.
  • Shell-Shock Silence: Used in "The Sound of Silence" to drive home the severity of Meredith's injuries. Her hearing is damaged in the attack and, as the episode is shot from her perspective, a full ten minutes of runtime play out in the whine of tinnitus.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Owen Hunt, who returned from Iraq with a severe case of PTSD. Derek helps him get treatment after Owen has an episode and starts strangling Cristina one night.
  • Ship Sinking: "Do You Know?" does this quite effectively for Cristina/Owen. Cristina imagines two alternate futures for herself and Owen, both of which end with at least one of them dissatisfied and bitter. In the first, they remarry and Cristina gives Owen the children he wanted, and the resulting strain on her life ends with her passing an important case to Shane, for which he eventually wins a Harper Avery. At various points, including the birth of her first child, she expresses to Meredith how getting back together with Owen was a huge mistake. In the second, they continue their no-strings-attached sexual relationship, resulting in a Masochism Tango in which they repeatedly break up and reunite, and while Cristina is successful and wins multiple Harper Averys, Owen's desire for children and a family ultimately drives him to alcoholism and gets him fired. By the end, it's almost impossible to argue that they should be together.
  • Shout-Out:
    • If Meredith is one to Henry Gray, Arizona might be one to Stanley Robbins.
    • In "Invasion", Meredith compares the new Mercy West doctors to the chestbursters from Alien, which Lexie immediately lampshades.
      Meredith: Hey. We are not some stupid hosts. They can't invade us. They can't attach themselves to our faces and then while we're eating spaghetti, explode out of our chests and skitter across the floor. This is our ship. This is our ship.
      Lexie: Excuse me. Are you quoting a Sigourney Weaver movie?
    • Season 6's "Suicide Is Painless" is a pretty obvious reference to M*A*S*H, both from the title (the series's famous theme tune) and the flashbacks to Owen's time in Iraq.
    • Bailey apparently times her pre-op scrubing by singing Aretha Franklin's "Think" to herself.
    • After Jo admits to being a street kid, Leah asks is she knows how to pickpocket. Jo immediately denies this:
      Jo: I wasn't Oliver Twist.
    • Stuck in an elevator, Andrew compares it to the TARDIS.
    • Covered in blood, Jackson notes that he and Maggie looks like they "stepped off the set of Carrie".
  • Shower Scene: The "It's The End of The World"/As We Know It" two-parter begins and ends with one. First George dreams of Meredith, Izzie, and Cristina showering together, then it ends with Izze and Cristina taking a gore-splattered, shell-shocked Meredith into the shower to wash off the remains of the bomb squad officer.
  • Sleep Deprivation: A chronic issue, as 48-hour shifts and marathon surgeries leave everyone exhausted.
    • Cristina manages to fall asleep in the middle of sex.
    • In Season 2's "Damage Case'', an intern from Mercy West falls asleep at the wheel after a 40-hour-plus shift and hits another car, killing a woman. The Seattle Grace interns later note the times they've fallen asleep at bad times.
    • When Meredith, Alex, Izzie, and Cristina become residents, one of their rules for their new interns is "sleep whenever you can, and if I'm sleeping, don't wake me unless a patient is actually dying"
    • After the hospital shooting, Lexie suffers from this to the point of a mental breakdown that lands her in the Psych ward. A full fifty hours of sleep cures her.
    • As Dr. Webber delivers his welcome speech to the interns in "Time Stops", Ben comments that they actually look well-rested.
    • Stephanie collapses 13 hours into Nicole Herman's surgery, and during Meredith's record-setting 27-hour surgery, an intern passes out 18 hours in. Meredith herself falls asleep the instant she stops moving afterwards.
      Dahlia: How do you think it'll be before I'm ready to do a 24-hour surgery?
      Link: I'm not sure that's a healthy life goal Qadri.
  • Soft Glass: Painfully averted multiple times.
    • In "17 Seconds", a Jerkass boss managed to escape a shooting by diving through a window and winds up with glass in him.
    • Again in "From a Whisper to a Scream", a woman is tossed through a window by a car and has massive amounts of glass in her for Alex to pick out.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Annoyingly common, given that this is supposedly a show about real medicine. Most obvious with Izzie's cancer.
  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome: A subdued example in Zola, Meredith & Derek's adopted daughter. While the series is pretty vague about the passage of time and she's skipping months instead of years, it's still happening.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Meredith gets pregnant right after Derek told her he wanted another baby, and Derek dies in a car accident the following day.
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Dr. Koracick listens to The Beach Boys' "Fun Fun Fun" while operating on Amelia's brain tumor
  • Spell My Name with an "S": It's Cristina, not Christina.
  • Significant Wardrobe Shift: Meredith retires Derek's ferryboat scrub cap at the end of Season 14, an indication that she is finally moving past his death
  • Spin-Off:
    • Private Practice follows Addison Montgomery, after she leaves Seattle Grace for a new life.
    • Station 19 follows Ben Warren as he becomes a firefighter at the titular station.
  • Split Screen: Season 9's "Beautiful Doom" uses this extensively to contrast Meredith in Seattle with Cristina in Minnesota.
  • Status Quo Is God: Played straight in that no matter what, Dr. Webber always seems to end up being chief of staff, and Alex will inevitably undo his Character Development. Subverted at first, but then played straight, in that Meredith and Derek actually stayed married with less drama (compared to how the on-again, off-again relationship stage was)... until season 10/11, when they were basically back to intern year but married with kids.
    • Though Webber isn't the chief of staff anymore, he keeps trying to retire but doesn't stick to it.
    • At the end of season 8, Meredith, Derek, Cristina, Alex, Jackson, and April are all preparing to leave Seattle Grace. As of the beginning of season 9, only Teddy and Cristina have actually left, and after five episodes in Minnesota, Cristina is back. Somewhat justified considering the repercussions of the plane crash.
    • No matter how many times April gets fired, it doesn't stick. Until season 14, after Sarah Drew got fired from the show.
  • Stray Shots Strike Nothing: Averted, when the gungina goes off, the bullet grazes April's arm and lodges in a patient's leg.
  • Stock Trailer Music: Whatever the sad and contemplative (e.g. The Fray's "How to Save a Life") popular song is at the time, chances are the trailer for the new episode/season will feature it.
  • Story Arc: The writing tends to follow this style, and usually, each character is involved in more than one per season.
  • Stress Vomit: Episode 1: Meredith almost kills a patient through inaction. After a stressful moment that patient is saved and Meredith endures the scorn of her attending physician and her resident. She rushes out of the hospital into the pouring rain to empty her guts tastefully into the bushes.
  • Sue Donym: Calliope ... Plantain. Also a Line-of-Sight Name: she starts to say "Callie" but realizes that she shouldn't give her actual name to the Pegasus people, so finishes her full first name (which is only used by her wife) and then spots a plant, starts saying "Plant", realizes that's a dumb name so extends it to Plantain. Webber is not impressed.
  • Survivor Guilt:
    • Alex, after the Season-8-finale plane crash — especially since one of the most-injured parties (Arizona) was there to replace him after she finds out he's seriously considering leaving to work elsewhere, and pissed off, she takes him off the case and boards the plane in his place. It's made worse when Arizona tells Alex that she wishes it was him who was on the plane when it crashed, because in her own words, she "kept thinking about her wife and baby, and how he had no one."
    • Owen, after he put his sister on a helicopter and it crashed and she died but didn't actually, and after he put his wife and friends on a plane and it crashed and two died, one lost a leg, one lost motor control, one suffered massive PTSD and none of them wanted to get on a plane again. Oh, Owen.
    • Ross, after he has Heather look for Webber rather than do so himself. Heather dies of her injuries after being shocked and Ross starts having a breakdown over it.
  • Supreme Chef:
    • Izzie was notably the only one of the original interns who could cook, and would bake up a storm at any excuse. After Denny's death she baked so many muffins she gave several baskets worth to Joe's Bar.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: After the actor who played Ben, Bailey's Love Interest, moved to Rhimes' short-lived show Off The Map, Eli became her love interest. Both relationships had a similar dynamic. Then Ben came back after the series was cancelled and Eli was never seen again.
  • Swiss Cheese Security: The pharmacy has no one on duty, no security cameras, and is secured only by a combination lock set to "1211".
  • Talking the Monster to Death: During the hospital shooting, Dr. Webber talks the gunman into killing himself. Not only did Webber have to evade the police lockdown to get in, having started outside the hospital, he was also one of the shooter's actual targets.
  • Talking Your Way Out: In the Season Six Finale, Dr. Shepherd attempts this with Gary Clark, the hospital shooter. And fails. It works for April Kepner, though. It also worked for Callie on behalf of herself, Arizona, and a child with a ruptured appendix.
  • Tap on the Head: Averted. Head injuries are always taken seriously and CT scans will be taken of any possible head injury. The issue of fixing other injuries versus getting a CT first is a common issue of contention between neuro and other surgeons.
    • DeLuca is put on bed rest for the entire day after slipping on a severed ear and hitting his head in "Games People Play". He is noted to have a fairly severe concussion.
  • Teen Pregnancy:
    • Mark's daughter Sloan Riley was the product of a teen pregnancy and is 18 years old and pregnant when she reunites with her father. She ultimately decides to place the baby for adoption after he's born.
    • A Bottle Episode in season 13 shows Bailey, Jo and Arizona treating a violent pregnant inmate at a maximum security prison. She is 16 years old.
  • Techno Babble: Medical jargon tends to fly thick and fast as doctors discus the various -ectomies, -ostomies, and the like. Occasionally lampshaded when patients jokingly accuse the doctor of making stuff up.
    Alex is briefing a transplant patient on the drugs she'll be taking
    Alex: You'll start with prednisolone and mycophenolate. Then follow that with FK-506. You'll also be on trimethoprin-sulfa.
    Jaylen: Now you're just making up words.
    ——
    Meredith: We do a procedure called a Roux-en-Y hepaticcojejunostomy.
    Flor: Did you just make that up?
  • Televisually Transmitted Disease: Used relentlessly by this show. For specific examples, see the trope's page.
  • That Came Out Wrong:
    • Season 9 has the hospital hire someone to help them save money to keep it running, this person brings in a guy to teach the surgeons a standard way of doing a specific procedure. When Dr. Webber still wants to do it his way, saying it would be good for the patients, the guy says the patients don't matter. He tries to Verbal Backspace, but the reason he was there in the first place was not to help the patients.
    • At a New Year's Party, Maggie suggests they leave early:
      Jackson: The ball hasn't even dropped yet.
      Maggie: The ball can drop in our bed.
      Jackson: Hmm?
      Maggie: I did not mean that to sound so graphic.
  • Their First Time: played both ways in Season 4.
    • Izzie and George, finally free to sleep with each other without commitments (like his wife) looming over their heads, find that the chemistry has disappeared, and no matter how hard they try, it isn't any good.
    • In the two-part finale, boyfriend-and-girlfriend brain-tumor patients, facing a risky experimental treatment, enlist Meredith and Derek to stand guard against their parents while they play "Must Not Die a Virgin" totally straight.
    • Discussed in "Superfreak" as the cast talk about their first times, which leads to the revelation that April is still a virgin.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Aggressive bone cancers are sometimes treated by removing the entire bone, blasting it with radiation until everything is dead, then reinserting the bone.
  • Tempting Fate: In "What A Difference A Day Makes", Callie comments repeatedly on how quiet the ER is, despite Alex and George telling her she's going to jinx it.
    George: You never say it's a slow day. You just jinxed us.
    Alex: When that phone starts ringing with traumas, you're gona wish you didn't say that.
    Callie: The phone's not going to ring, it's a slow day. (Phone immediately rings) Go for Seattle Grace emergency.
    Callie: Crap crap. INCOMING!!!
  • There Are No Therapists: Averted. Being trained professionals, the protagonists call for psych. consults fairly often, and also attend themselves. Meredith in particular is in and out of the offices of various shrinks, and while they are often Played for Laughs initially, they always end up being right and helpful.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Following Derek's death, Meredith begins wearing his ferryboat scrub cap in his memory, using it for two seasons before retiring it late in Season 14.
  • The Three Certainties in Life: The title character once remarked, "In life only one thing is certain, besides death and taxes... No matter how hard we try, no matter how good our intentions, we are going to make mistakes."
  • This Is Not a Drill: Said verbatim by Chief Webber after he interrupts a triage class to announce a crisis has occurred and the interns will be deploying. Cristina then questions the reality of the situation.
    Webber: I need to send a team into the field immediately.
    Cristina: Is this a part of the exercise?
    Webber: This is not an exercise or a drill, Yang.
  • This Is Unforgivable!: After finding out Meredith messed with the Alzheimer's trial, Derek tells her that he will never forgive her and that he can't raise a child with someone who doesn't know right from wrong. He, of course, forgives her a few episodes later.
  • Time Skip: one after each Wham Episode (Season 6 finale, Season 8 finale). Typically followed up by at least one Flash Back-centered episode covering How We Got Here.
    • A nested Time Skip occurs in Season 9, with the first episode setting up a Character Death and the second resolving (IE setting up) both that and the Season 8 Cliffhanger.
    • Happens again in Season 10 for the mid-season premiere. This time of only three weeks.
    • "She's Leaving Home" in season 11 features multiple skips and spans nearly an entire year.
  • Title-Only Opening: In later seasons, there's The Teaser, a title card, and then credits that run under the second act. Sometimes the entirety of the second act.
  • Together in Death: With Mark and Lexie She dies in the season 8 finale as he's telling her that he loves her. As he's slipping into a coma (he doesn't actually die until after he wakes up the next season), he says "Lexie is waiting for me ... I'll be okay." What makes this moment especially tragic is that they never got to get back together.
  • Token Minority: Averted; blind casting was used for most all of the characters, as there were no racial specifics in the pilot episode. The only change that was made was that Cristina's character was given a Korean last name.
  • Too Dumb to Live:
    • In "What I Am", a patient on oxygen decides to have a cigarette. George has just enough time to scream for him to stop before the man is on fire.
    • Five seasons later in "Can't Fight This Feeling", another smoker lights up while covered in gasoline. The resultant explosion rocks the ER.
  • Too Many Babies: Several season 2 episodes are centered around a mom who chose to keep all 5 of her babies, even though the doctors had recommended she have 1 or 2 of the fetuses terminated.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Pretty much everyone turns out way more amazing than they were when they started.
    • Honorable mention goes to April. Returning from a year in Jordan with the military, she has changed so much Miranda dubs her "Kepner the reboot".
  • Training from Hell:
    • Intern year tends to function as a realistic version of this, as new doctors, after eight years of college, are thrown into the real world on 48-hour shifts at the bottom of the food chain where no one respects them. Richard's welcome speech sums it up:
      "The seven years you spend here as a surgical resident will be the best and worst of your life. You will be pushed to the breaking point. Look around you. Say hello to your competition. Eight of you will switch to an easier specialty. Five of you will crack under the pressure. Two of you will be asked to leave."
    • Owen's trauma certifications tend to be this, an Unwinnable Training Simulation as he has the residents attempt to save dummies in an hours-long exercise. Oh, and you may well be doing this in a torrential downpour, because Seattle
  • Transgender
    • A Season 3 episode had a trans woman who transitioned despite the hormones feeding her breast cancer.
    • Ben Waren's brother turns out to be a transgender woman. Ben doesn't take it very well, partially because she never told him.
    • Dr. Casey Parker, introduced in Season 14, is transgender.
  • Traumatic C-Section: In season 12, episode 18 Ben Warren performs a C-Section in a hallway without proper surgical equipment due to the hospital being locked down. This results in the death of both mother and child as well as major repercussions for Ben
    • April and Jackson's daughter Harriet is born this way. The baby is breech with no pulse and a storm means an ambulance cannot get there in time, so Ben carries out a C-section on the kitchen table, without anaesthetic.
  • Troubled, but Cute: Alex falls under this umbrella, as well as Jo Wilson.
  • True Companions: The interns, despite competing and arguing, develop a nigh-fanatical loyalty to each other thanks to the shared long hours.
  • Uncle Pennybags:
    • In the early seasons Meredith is kind of like this. She inherited a big house and lets her friends live with her, and possibly doesn't even charge rent (though she does at least require that they do household chores and the like).
    • Jackson is incredibly rich, and at one point casually hands over his AmEx card to secure a $25,000 slot on a private jet for an urgently need medical device.
  • Unequal Pairing: Quite a few. An Attending dating an Intern or Resident is treated as a serious issue in Season One, but in later seasons it is par for the course.
  • Unknown Relative:
    • Meredith started the show as an only child, discovering over many seasons that she has at least three half-siblings that her parents didn't even hide from her (Molly and Lexie from her dad, Maggie from her mom). She visited her dad a few times before meeting his daughters, apparently just never bumping into them or seeing photos, and was there for Maggie's birth but (being all of five), confused the birth with her mother's suicide attempt. So that Maggie could dramatically reveal it when she gets hired as Cristina's replacement and give Meredith the realization that Maggie's father is Richard Webber, which neither of them know. It's surprising that Ellis didn't reveal all due to Alzheimer's
    • On that note, her father Thatcher didn't know about Maggie until Meredith told him the day he died.
    • Arizona picks up a girl at Joe's and takes her home, and it looks like it could be a successful one night stand for her to get over Eliza and finally uncomplicate her love life... until her long-time roommate and good friend, Andrew, comes home and scurries past — but the girl notices him and calls his name. She reveals that he is her little brother, something you would imagine Andrew would have probably mentioned to Arizona (since they have lived together for a few years and he testified for her at her daughter's custody hearing), or if not to have at least had a photo around that Arizona would have recognized.
  • Verbal Tic: "She has my McDreamy, she has my McDog, she has my McLife."
    • "McDreamy was doing the McNasty with McHottie. That McBastard!" This one, at least, was a deliberate parody on the part of George.
    • Seriously? Seriously! SERIOUSLY!?
    • You're my person.
  • Very Special Episode: One of the Trope Codifiers for this Undead Horse Trope.
  • Wake-Up Fighting: Owen Hunt, thanks to his PTSD.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye:
    • From Season 2: Dylan Young, that bomb squad guy who was introduced in one episode, then blown up (literally) in the next episode. He did come back later for a couple episodes ... as a ghost.
    • A couple characters (Reed and Charles) are introduced early in Season Six and then killed off in the Wham Episode finale. Charles later comes back in flashbacks and alternate future episodes.
    • A number of new interns are introduced in the Season 9 premiere. One of them (Heather) croaks exactly a year later.
  • Wham Episode:
    • The Season Two Finale, a three-part episode that begins with multiple gunshot injuries arriving at the hospital after a disgruntled employee attacks his place of work. The first of three parts end with Izzie cutting the LVAD wire in an attempt to get her ill boyfriend at the top of the transplant list. "[Heart surgeon] Burke will be here soon," she promises... just as the gunman shoots Burke down. And that's just the first Drama Bomb.
    • The Season Five Finale, in which George gets hit by a bus and comes in as a John Doe and Izzie codes from her stage four brain cancer...George dies, just as they find out who he is.
    • The Season Six Finale. Looking it over, there exactly one character that were never in direct mortal danger: Teddy Altman.
    • The Season 8 finale: Lexie's death, Owen firing Teddy, and—oh yeah—the plane crash, with five main characters stranded in the middle of somewhere-between-Seattle-and-Idaho, all of them injured.
    • The Season 9 premiere. Meredith and Cristina are cut off from each other, save FaceTime, because neither of them can stand to take plane trips anymore. Derek's injuries have resulted in his left hand going numb, which may do nothing less than end his career as a surgeon. Arizona coded and her broken leg had to be amputated—by Alex, because Callie is operating on Derek's hand. Mark has reached the end of his living will and is taken off life support. And Meredith has transformed from Grumpy Bear into full-on Broken Bird.
    • A season ten episode, "Sorry Seems To Be Hardest Word" flashes back to late season nine and reveals Callie and Arizona decided to have another baby, but Arizona miscarried her pregnancy.
    • "How to Save a Life" in season 11, in which Derek is killed.
    • In general, if it's a season finale, expect it to be a Wham Episode
  • Wham Line:
    • The Season 5 finale: Meredith is busy talking to John Doe, whose face is disfigured after being dragged by a bus. He takes her hand and "writes" a message on her palm:
    Meredith: O...O...seven? Double-0 seven? (gasps) Oh God.
    • And in the next scene, she reveals the full Wham to the rest of their close friends:
    Meredith: It's George! John Doe is George!
    • Shortly after this moment, Callie gets her own, painfully sentimental one to the hospital staff (who were in denial). She goes to check that it really is George, recounting his cute birthmark, and then she comes back out of the room in front of them looking completely devastated as she says Yes.
    • The season 14 premiere has Amelia looking at an MRI of her own brain. Arizona and Carina's expressions cement the scene.
    Amelia: Wow, that is a beautiful tumor! Whose brain is that?
  • We Have to Get the Bullet Out: Averted. Alex is shot in the Season Six finale and the bullet is left inside. A month or so later, it works its way to the surface and he opts to leave it in. Dr. Bailey later insists on removing it, as it reminds her of the shooting.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Joe, who runs the bar across from the hospital where everyone hangs out after shift, vanishes with no explanation mid-Season 7.
    • The Season 8 finale involves a plane crash, and the plane's pilot is a character. It takes several episodes of Season 9 before he's even mentioned again. As it turns out, he broke his back in the crash and is paralyzed. This information comes to light when one of the lawyers representing Seattle Grace Mercy West suggests suing a number of people and organizations, including the pilot, for the plane crash.
    • Dr. Stark. When Arizona is rehired, it's with the express understanding that she will report to him, and then we have only a few episodes of them coming into conflict before he disappears and she's right back to running the department with never a word about him. To be fair, his contract was only a year and she was gone for at least a few months, and he's a decent enough guy underneath to stand back and let her charm the department into working hard when none of the staff really like him. He's also a bit heartbroken over April, too, so might have left because of that.
    • Dr. Russell, who has had three scenes since Cristina came back and has told her that she will run the cardiothoracic surgery department in all but name. She certainly does!
  • What If?: Season 8's "If/Then".
  • What the Hell, Hero?:
    • Cristina gives one to Bailey for calling her out of a major surgery to tend to a white supremacist patient just because she's Asian and for the purpose of making the supremacist uncomfortable. She points out that denying her an educational experience just to prove a point about ethnicity is its own form of discrimination.
    • Alex gets one after telling the chief that Meredith was tampering with the Alzheimer's trial, which gets her (temporarily) fired. What she did was illegal and ruined her husband's credibility, though he's seen as being more in the wrong because she was trying to help a friend and he told on her out of spite and to ruin her chances of becoming Chief Resident.
    • Owen gets one from Meredith after he cheats on Cristina.
    • Richard gets one from a staff member from the nursing home calls him out when he stops visiting his wife.
    • Alex gives one to Meredith and Cristina in Season 9: the plane crash lawsuit, followed by their resignations, are threatening to drag the hospital under.
    • A very distraught and heartbroken Amelia to Meredith in season 11, for very good reasons: Meredith pulled the plug on Derek and didn't tell Amelia, preventing her from saying goodbye to her brother. Understandably, Amelia feels resentful towards Meredith for doing so.
  • Whole Episode Flashback: "The Time Warp", which has Richard, Bailey, and Callie talk about cases that changed their lives. Richard talks about how he and Ellis treated an AIDS patient during the 80s (when it was still called GRIDnote  ), while Callie talks about her and Alex doing a surgery on a patient who suffered from polio, and Bailey talked about her early days of being a shy intern and dealing with a neglectful resident and learning to stand up for herself and her patients.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: Meredith and Derek seemed finally ready to tie the knot, but opted out so the cancerous and dying Izzy could marry Alex before she became too weak to walk down the aisle.
    • April and Matthew get married in the season 14 finale after Jo and Alex's wedding goes horribly.
  • You Are Not Alone: Owen does this for a homeless veteran, Melissa, who was living out of her car. Melissa is embarrassed, and says she just "fixed computers in the Green Zone." Owen explains that there are services for veterans, and she can volunteer herself later.
    Owen: "You served. And you deserve all the help and gratitude that's offered to you."
  • You Are Number 6: In Season 4, Cristina numbers her interns because she doesn't care enough to learn their names.
    • An unnamed intern is #1, Dr. Mostow #2, Lexie #3, Dr. Mandvi #4, and Dr. Spalding becomes #4.2 after Dr. Mandvi is reassigned to George.
  • Your Cheating Heart: A recurring motif.
    • Addison cheated on Derek with Mark, which is the reason why he left her. He cheated on her with Meredith when they got back together.
    • George's girlfriend Olivia had been cheating on him with Alex, and he finds this out when he's diagnosed with syphilis. George later cheats on his then-wife Callie with Izzie.
    • Dr. Webber and Meredith's mother Ellis, who were both married to other people at the time.
    • Owen. Cristina suspects he is cheating on her with a nurse played by Summer Glau, but he assures her that it isn't the case. Double subverted, when it's revealed he did cheat on her (dumbass) with someone who is not played by Summer Glau (double dumbass!).
    • In season 8 Dr. Webber finds his wife Adele is with another man at her nursing home. Justified since her dementia has advanced to the point where she barely remembers her husband anymore. Richard decides to let her go and starts dating Catherine Avery, though he and Adele remain married. He feels guilty about not seeing his wife after her death.
    • Arizona cheats on Callie in the season 9 finale.
  • You, Get Me Coffee: Initially, Marl Sloan's primary use for interns is handing them some cash and sending them off for coffee. Izzie is notably the first to stand up to him.


 
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Meredith's Rant

Meredith is on the verge of losing her license in a hearing. One of the doctors on the board is Paul Costello, the man who made no effort to save Derek's life. When he asks Alex a question about Meredith's kids, she finally snaps and tells him off for his negligence.

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