'Grey's Anatomy' : Meredith Grey Stays in Seattle — But So Many Others Leave in the 400th Episode

Ellen Pompeo has portrayed Dr. Meredith Grey since 2005 and now serves as a producer on Grey's Anatomy and an executive producer on its firehouse-set spin-off Station 19

grey's anatomy
grey's anatomy. Photo: ABC

This post contains spoilers from Thursday's season 18 finale of Grey's Anatomy.

Despite weeks of teasing, Meredith Grey appears to be staying at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital — and Ellen Pompeo will remain on Grey's Anatomy.

But don't throw away those "bon voyage" banners just yet. The season 18 finale of the ABC hit medical drama — which was also its 400th episode — saw quite a few characters head in different directions.

Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) quit after what turned out to be a pretty terrible day that included a disastrous blood shortage, the hospital losing its general surgeon residency program and learning that Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) illegally gave pills to veterans as a form of assisted suicide.

"I have to protect my health and my sanity first, so I quit," Bailey told Meredith and a visiting Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams). "I'm done. No notice. Pru and I have cookies to make. You heard me right: cookies."

GREY’S ANATOMY - “Stronger Than Hate” – A dinner party is thrown at the sister house in Nick’s honor. Meanwhile, Grey Sloan Memorial receives a victim of a brutal hate crime on a new episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” THURSDAY, MAY 19 (9:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Liliane Lathan) KEVIN MCKIDD, KIM RAVER
Liliane Lathan/ABC

Word getting out about Hunt meant he, his wife Teddy Altman (Kim Raver) and their two kids had to flee. They were last seen on an airplane as a foursome in first class.

But that's not all: After learning that her cancerous tumor was responding to treatment, Katherine Avery (Debbie Allen) and Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.) walked off into the pouring rain with huge smiles on their faces. Apparently, they were headed on a sabbatical "to see the Great Pyramids," according to Jackson.

Oh, and with the review board shutting down the hospital's residency program, quite a few residents were also orphaned — including Levi Schmitt (Jake Borelli), Taryn Helm (Jaicy Elliot) and Mabel Tsang (Sylvia Kwan).

There might've been one other departure, but we'll get to that in a moment. For now, however, we should note that Pompeo, Pickens and Wilson were all mentioned as returning in creator Shonda Rhimes' statement when the show was renewed in January.

GREY’S ANATOMY - “Stronger Than Hate” – A dinner party is thrown at the sister house in Nick’s honor. Meanwhile, Grey Sloan Memorial receives a victim of a brutal hate crime on a new episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” THURSDAY, MAY 19 (9:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Liliane Lathan) DEBBIE ALLEN, JAMES PICKENS JR.
Liliane Lathan/ABC

So who's staying?

After a less-than-stellar date with Todd (Skyler Astin), Jo Wilson (Camilla Luddington) kicked him to the curb. But her friendship with Atticus "Link" Lincoln (Chris Carmack) proved it would endure even through unrequited feelings.

Amelia Shepherd (Caterina Scorsone) admitted she was struggling with her breakup with Kai (E.R. Fightmaster) from last week's episode, but when they showed up saying they couldn't sleep, a romantic reunion kiss was in order!

Speaking of kissing... the return of Williams as Jackson and Sarah Drew as April Kepner meant the return of Japril! After sparks flew once again during Williams' final episode last year, this week's episode proved that the longtime couple's cliffhanger is hanging on — and back together.

Richard Cartwright/ABC via Getty Images

Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary) and husband Winston Ndugu (Anthony Hill) have been struggling since his brother (Rome Flynn) rolled into town and conned them out of some big bucks — to the degree that Maggie even began questioning their marriage.

"I just feel like I don't know you. And that you don't really get me. Winston, I love you. I think maybe, maybe we got married too quickly," Maggie said near the beginning of the episode.

But after witnessing a tragic love story between two patients, Winston was ready to fight for Maggie.

"I never said I love you to anyone before you," he said near the end of the episode. "I didn't say I love you lightly, and I didn't propose to you lightly... I don't think we got married too early. I just think we need to keep learning each other. We have to protect this love, Maggie, because love like this doesn't come along all the time. It doesn't always stay."

As for Nick Marsh (Scott Speedman), Meredith's new boyfriend... that status remains unclear.

GREY’S ANATOMY - “Stronger Than Hate” – A dinner party is thrown at the sister house in Nick’s honor. Meanwhile, Grey Sloan Memorial receives a victim of a brutal hate crime on a new episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” THURSDAY, MAY 19 (9:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Liliane Lathan) SCOTT SPEEDMAN
Liliane Lathan/ABC

Nick, who lives in Minnesota, was staying for an extended time in Seattle to be with Meredith as she stuck around at Grey Sloan to help try to save its accreditation. After exchanging I love you's last week, the hot new couple struggled when Meredith insisted on a surgery that went awry, resulting in the killing of a patient, as well as the hospital's accreditation.

Despite that, Jackson offers Meredith the position of Interim Chief of Surgery. (Did we mention Mer is the new chief?! "You broke it, you bought it," Bailey told her as she handed over the keys to the office.)

Nick walks into her new office and Meredith immediately tells him to go back to Minnesota. But he's not going to back away so easily.

"You've spent your entire adult life in one place and that makes it hard to leave," he says. "We all have unpacked issues, we all have trauma, and from what I understand, you've had more than your fair share. I'm saying it's hard to leave. … And what we did today, that made it harder."

Nick is probably right. After all, Meredith spoke to Richard a few weeks ago about the whole city feeling haunted.

"Everywhere you look, there's a memory," Richard had said. "A memory of people who aren't here anymore."

A few minutes after Nick finally listened to Meredith and left — but after a beautiful montage of so many of those memories, Meredith ran back into the hallway and shouted "Nick, Nick!" It seemed to be met with silence.

No word yet if Speedman will be returning next season or not.

GREY’S ANATOMY - “I’ll Cover You” – A former patient of Link’s, Simon, is in the ER with his pregnant wife; and Bailey receives an offer from Nick on a new episode of “Grey’s Anatomy,” THURSDAY, MAY 12 (9:00-10:01 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (ABC/Liliane Lathan) ELLEN POMPEO
Liliane Lathan/ABC

As for the now-debunked rumor of Pompeo's departure from the show, the actress, 52, discussed the possibility of her character's namesake series continuing without her earlier this week.

"Trying to reinvent the show and continually trying to reinvent the show is the challenge at this point, and listen, the show speaks to a lot of people, and the young people love the show," she told Entertainment Tonight on Tuesday.

She continued, "It's inspired so many generations of healthcare workers. So, I think for the young people, it's a really good piece of content and we're going to try to keep it going for the young people — not necessarily with me, but keep it going beyond me."

The speculation started midway through season 18 when Meredith was offered a job in Minnesota — more than 1,500 miles away from Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, where she was "raised" as a doctor, according to Dr. Bailey.

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

It seemed like Pompeo — who told PEOPLE during the show's 400th episode party on May 6: "I've had three children and I got married and I've turned into a completely different person doing the show" — was ready to move on too.

"I'm not saying I'll never act again, I very well may, but I'm not super excited about continuing my acting career," she said on the Ladies First with Laura Brown podcast last December.

She continued, "The acting, even though I haven't done a million different roles, I feel like I've done it. ... I have no desire to go sit in trailers at 11 o'clock at night and wait to shoot scenes and have ADs knock on my door and tell me when I can eat lunch. You know, it's for the young at heart. It's for the youth!"

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Mike Rosenthal/ABC

Pompeo was nominated for a Golden Globe during her first year portraying Meredith Grey on Grey's Anatomy, which premiered in March 2005. Since then, she has become one of only three cast members (with Wilson and Pickens) to stay with the series through its entire run.

In recent years, she has expanded her role in the Shondaland universe created by Grey's creator Shonda Rhimes, serving as a producer on Grey's since 2017 and as an executive producer on the firehouse-set spin-off Station 19. Both shows were renewed (for a 19th and sixth series, respectively) in January.

"I was able to find my stride and my power," she told PEOPLE about her journey over 400 episodes with Grey's. "There's something really satisfying about knowing where I started and what my head space was and where I was emotionally when I started and where I am now and everything I've learned and everything who's taught me what I've learned."

She added, "I've learned a lot from everybody that I've worked with. I think that's the most meaningful part about being on this show for 18 seasons is I have learned a lot and I'm really grateful for every part of it. The good, the bad, the ugly, the fantastic. Every moment, as I now know with three children, is a teaching moment. I've been lucky to really be present and learn all the lessons."

Grey's Anatomy will return to ABC in the fall.

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