Thursday’s episode picked up four days after Meredith was found unconscious in the parking lot at Grey Sloan Memorial during the season 17 premiere. After she insisted she was feeling well enough to leave the hospital and quarantine at a hotel, Meredith passed out again and was briefly reunited with Derek (Patrick Dempsey) on the beach in her dreams.
Back in her dreams, Meredith returned to the beach, but learned she can’t get any closer to Derek.
“Derek! Why can’t I get anywhere?” Meredith yelled from down the beach. “I don’t understand.”
“You’re worried about the kids,” replied Derek, who shared daughters Zola and Ellis and son Bailey with Meredith. “That sand isn’t real, Meredith.”
Before the end of the episode, Meredith decided Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) will be her power of attorney. She also reunited with Derek in her dreams again — and this time, she tried to run toward him.
“The sand isn’t real, Meredith,” Derek yelled again before she took off and face-planted into the sand.
After she screamed, “I hate you,” he replied, “You love me. God knows I love you. I’ll be right here when you’re ready.”
Dempsey left Grey’s Anatomy during season 11 in 2015. The actor and and Pompeo detailed how his return came to be during an interview with Deadline after the season 17 premiere, revealing that she reached out after showrunner Krista Vernoff pitched the dream sequence.
“Patrick and I have this chemistry, where I think, even from when we first met, for some reason it just felt like we’ve known each other for a hundred years, and it’s just the same feeling,” Pompeo said. “It’s like riding a bike, we just have a chemistry and a dynamic that’s always served us well, and I think we have a genuine affection for each other.”
During an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, Dempsey added that the response to his return has been “overwhelming.”
He said, “There are so many souls that we have lost right now so the idea of having angels around us is very comforting, at least to me,” he told Ellen DeGeneres on Wednesday, November 18. “We managed to keep it a secret, which was pretty phenomenal. And the impact, the response, has been incredibly overwhelming and very moving.”
Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET.