It’s been a long time since Meredith Grey was an underdog on Grey’s Anatomy. In fact, given her legacy in medicine and star status from the start, it’s possible she’s never really been an underdog at all. But as she and the rest of the cast of the medical drama start Season 19, she is facing an uphill battle to rehabilitate Grey Sloan’s residency program.
Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) will be juggling a lot as the season kicks off. Chief of Surgery Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) quit in the Season 18 finale, handing the reins to Meredith. The now-chief will need to kickstart the residency program once again, while also deciding if she wants to stay in Seattle at all. And based on a recent sneak peek at what’s to come from the newest residents, it will be a far cry from the caliber of recruits Bailey and Meredith have come to expect.
Grey Sloan is rebuilding its residency program from scratch
Grey Sloan’s residency program was axed after the so-called “Webber method” (named for then-residency director Richard Webber, played by James Pickens Jr.) resulted in surgical resident Levi Schmitt (Jake Borelli) killing a patient in the operating room. After a lengthy review of that case — in which Schmitt should have had an attending surgeon in the room — plus interviews with other residents and doctors, the medical review board decided to remove the hospital’s accreditation. Webber’s future at the hospital, and that of the residents like Schmitt, is still up in the air.
In a sneak peek video for Season 19, fans learn that a new cohort of residents does indeed arrive at Grey Sloan to complete their internships. However, they’re a long way from the residents that Bailey envisioned would ever come to the hospital.
The residents are a far cry from the ‘best and brightest’ Bailey wanted in Season 18
In Season 18 Episode 7, Bailey attends a recruitment fair at a convention for college-aged medical students. Things don’t go smoothly. Meredith, who Bailey hoped would inspire the students to want to continue their education at Grey Sloan, is stuck in Minnesota and can’t attend.
At the time of this episode, Grey Sloan is a top 10 ranked residency program, and Bailey expects that their sterling reputation paired with a bevy of acclaimed doctors will make it easy for her to interest students in signing up to intern in her program. However, she is overshadowed by the swag offered from all the other booths, including free deep dish pizza, personalized tote bags, and a laptop raffle.
By the end of the day, Bailey is overwrought. “For years I spent all of my energy recruiting the best. Then I trained them, I watched their every move, I taught them everything I know, and then they take all that knowledge and go off to make groundbreaking, world-changing contributions to medicine,” Bailey vents to Meredith when she finally makes it back from Minnesota. “Meanwhile, I’m still spending the whole day standing on a sidewalk next to a folding table trying to convince a bunch of medical students who look like teenagers that I am worth their time.”
Clearly, Bailey expects nothing more than excellence from her residents. But in Grey’s Anatomy Season 19, we see the residents the hospital does manage to attract have a lot to prove — and are all in need of second chances in one way or another.
Meredith is more involved with the residents than in previous seasons
In the opening scene of the sneak peek, Meredith is giving a tour to the incoming residents on her own. (Whether Webber and Bailey are involved at all with residents is still unknown.) “Congratulations. You did it. You’re here. You will save lives with this equipment…and, you will end them,” she tells the five newest recruits.
It would seem Mer isn’t going to be pulling punches with the hospital’s new interns. She will be trying to polish the “diamonds in the rough” that she’s working with. “This season the hospital is going through a bit of a rebirth,” Alexis Floyd, who plays resident Simone Griffith, said in the preview. “A second chance: That’s a big theme this season for both the interns as well as many of the characters you know and love already.”
The five residents all have messy backstories before they set foot in Grey Sloan. There are allusions to romantic pasts with attendings, chips on shoulders, and in general the bumbling ignorance we’ve come to expect from brand-new doctors on the show. They’re certainly not the cream of the crop Bailey has had in the past. But they’re what she (or rather, Meredith) has got. Now, it’s time to see what they can do with them.
Grey’s Anatomy Season 19 premieres on ABC Thursday, October 6 at 9 p.m. EST.