Grey's Anatomy: George O'Malley Returns in Meredith Grey's Dream as She Battles COVID-19

During last week's episode, Meredith continued to go in and out of consciousness and found herself returning to the same beach dream sequence where she reunited with her late husband Derek Shepherd

The surprises keep on coming for Grey's Anatomy fans!

During Thursday's episode of the ABC medical drama, T.R. Knight (who portrayed intern George O'Malley for the first five seasons before he died after sacrificing himself to save a woman from being hit by a bus) made a shocking return while appearing in a dream sequence with Ellen Pompeo's character Meredith Grey as she continued to battle the novel coronavirus.

In the vivid dream, a confused Grey approached O'Malley with a few questions of her own.

"Why do you look older?," she asked.

"The sand isn't real," he responded. "The ocean isn't real. The body isn't real. Maybe it's more peaceful for you to imagine me older."

Grey's Anatomy

"Do I choose?" Grey questioned. "Do I get to decide if ago back?"

"I don't know," he said. "I didn't. I would've stayed if I could've. It's different for everyone though."

Knight's character was the first of the five original interns to leave the show in 2009.

T.R. Knight as George O'Malley. ABC

"I was devastated when you died," Grey told O'Malley in her dream.

"You were all cracking up at my funeral," he responded. "It made me happy."

"I was devastated and then I was okay," she said. "Even with Derek, eventually you go on. The kids would go on."

"They would, but I think maybe with them it's different," he said. "My mom didn't go on. Some grief is heavier than other grief. Sometimes it moves through you and sometimes it just gets stuck. It carried my mom. My mom carries it... I want her to know I'm still me even though she can't touch me, she can't see me. I'm still me."

As Grey continued to fight the virus, Richard Webber and the rest of Grey Sloan doctors were conflicted on whether or not to sign her up for a clinical trial in hopes of a cure. After weighing the pros and cons, Webber opted to go forward with the trial after witnessing a shaking Grey hallucinate and call out George's name.


Panning back to Grey's dream, O'Malley asked, "Do you still dance it out?"

"Not so much anymore, not since Cristina (Sandra Oh) left," she said.

"That's what I miss about being alive," he said. "Dancing until you drop, laughing until you cry, the food, the textures, the crunch of cereal. The feel of clean sheets."

As Grey listened to O'Malley, she heard another voice speaking to her.

"There's one more space and I have to decide," said Webber, as he appeared next to Grey in her dream. "It could be the best or worst decision of my life. Doctors, family friends, they're worried about you. I try to be strong for them, but I'll admit, I'm struggling to see you there like this and not knowing what to do."

"You have choices," said O'Malley. "If you stay here, it might break him."

"I know, George," said Grey from her hospital bed, seemingly coming out of her hallucination.

"You went all-in for everybody," Grey told O'Malley. "Your friends, your family, the woman at the bus stop. You think that didn't somehow affect me. you changed my life, George."

Grey's Anatomy
Chandra Wilson, T.R. Knight, Ellen Pompeo, James Pickens Jr. ABC
Grey's Anatomy

The camera then pans to O'Malley, Grey, Webber and Miranda Bailey — the original cast members — sitting on a log on the beach in Meredith's dream.

"Find your people and keep them close because when you're at your lowest, those people get you through," Grey said.

Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey on Grey's Anatomy. Richard Cartwright/ABC via Getty

Despite Knight's departure, the actor and Pompeo, 51, have remained close friends throughout the years. In March, the duo caught up and gave fans a glimpse of their friendship.

“Old friends are the BEST friends @t.r.knight,” she wrote on Instagram alongside the photo. “But like we aren’t old … we’ve just known each other for a very long time yes yes that’s it…”

Knight headed to Broadway after his time on Grey’s Anatomy, and is now starring in HBO Max's miniseries, The Flight Attendant.

During the previous episode, Meredith continued to go in and out of consciousness and found herself returning to the same beach dream sequence where she reunited with her late husband Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), who died in an April 2015 episode.

“Wonderful and completely surprising things are absolutely possible,” executive producers Andy Reaser and Meg Marinis told PEOPLE last month of cast returns.

Following the end of the show's season 17 premiere, showrunner Krista Vernoff spoke out about how the Grey's Anatomy team went to great lengths to keep Dempsey's surprise return under wraps.

grey's anatomy
Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo. Krista Vernoff/abc

"I have to say that it was an epic feat, the keeping of this secret," Vernoff recently told Deadline. "I didn’t send cuts to the studio and network that included that last scene. I didn’t have writers’ assistants in the writers’ room for the last couple of months. There were writers who didn’t know we were doing this on that staff. Most of the actors didn’t know we were doing this. The crew didn’t know we were doing this when they showed up on the day."

Vernoff explained that she even wrote the scene as Meredith envisioning a reunion with her mother Ellis Grey (played by Kate Burton) instead of Derek so no one in early stages of production would know.

"I put the name 'Ellis Grey' in the script that we read at the table, and I had Meredith say 'Mom' at the table, so we got there on the day and no one had been told what was happening," said Vernoff. "... I was like a crazy person with this secret. And Ellen and I were texting at all hours of the night, like: 'Who knows,' 'I think this person!' "

Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.

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