'Grey's Anatomy' Recap: What Happened to Derek Shepherd?

Dr. Derek Shepherd saved lives, but could someone save his?

Photo: Bob D'Amico/ABC

Let’s go back to a happier time, a time before Grey’s Anatomy aired on Thursday night.

You with us? Okay.

Back to the Beginning
Thursday’s episode – written by creator Shonda Rhimes and titled “How to Save a Life” (named after a song by The Fray that became popular when it was used in the second season of the ABC drama) – begins mundanely enough.

Derek (Patrick Dempsey) is on his way to the airport so he can fly to Washington, D.C., and quit his position at the National Institutes of Health and return to working in Seattle, where he can stay close to Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and his two children.

Sigh, isn’t he the dreamiest family man?

Derek is running a little late to the airport, but he isn’t worried. He knows a shortcut. Unfortunately, the shortcut takes him through a valley with no cell signal.

That’s never a good sign…

Hearts Start Racing
After a car goes whizzing past him, Derek watches in horror as the speedster slams into an SUV. Being the dreamy doctor he is, Derek rushes to the aid of the SUV driver and her daughter Winnie.

“I think I’m dead,” Winnie tells Derek, but he assures her that her pulse tells him otherwise.

Next, Derek turns his attention to the speed demon and his passenger. The passenger seems startled yet fine, but speedy appears to have suffered a massive head injury, and Winnie’s mom is still stuck in the SUV.

“I hate you,” Winnie’s mom tells Derek after he pulls her out of the vehicle and pops her hip back in.

She doesn’t mean it.

The speedster’s car explodes, but all four patients are accounted for and things seem they might be okay – until Alanna (the speedster’s date, played by Suburgatory‘s Lisa Shay) doubles over in pain because of an abdominal injury and believes she is going to die.

But don’t worry, Alanna. Derek’s got it handled.

“I don’t let people die,” he tells her.


Crisis Averted?
Derek sees his patients safely off to the hospital and heads back to his car. His cell phone rings and he reaches over to answer it.

(Don’t do it, Derek. It can wait!)

And just like that, he’s plowed into by an 18-wheeler.

That’s okay, though. He can just be taken to Grey Sloan Memorial and his loving colleagues can fix him right up … right?


Instead, he is taken to a hospital without a trauma center. Derek knows he needs to get a head CT but he’s unfortunately lost the ability to speak. Winnie finds the ailing doc on a gurney and breaks down in tears.

We know the feeling, Winnie.

She assures Derek that he won’t die because he has a pulse.

But we’re beginning to think that may not be the case. And Derek agrees with us.

“I’m going to die because these people aren’t properly trained,” he says in voice-over.

And – we can barely even say it – he’s right.

This Can’t Be Happening
The surgeons do their best in the operating room, but they realize too late that they should have focused on his brain injury. The police bring Meredith to the hospital, where she is greeted by the neurosurgeon who was called in to work on Derek.

“Dr. Grey, I can’t tell you how … I’m so sorry for your loss,” the neurosurgeon tells her. “It was an honor …”

Oooh, he shouldn’t have said that.

Meredith shoots the neurosurgeon a look.

“The call to not get a head CT was a bad call,” she tells the doctors before resigning to the fact that she is not at a first-class facility. “You did the best you could.”

After the requisite hours pass, one of the other doctors brings Meredith the papers to sign off on what happens to Derek now that he’s, as Meredith puts it, “dead but not really dead.”

Rather than “hope for fairy tales and magic,” Meredith says she will pull the plug.

“I’m so sorry. I know that that’s useless to you right now, but I am,” one of the other doctors tells Meredith. “It was my job to save him and I failed and now he is going to die because I was not a good enough doctor to keep him alive.”

It seems like these doctors are opening themselves up to a bit of a lawsuit, doesn’t it?

“Yeah, you’re right. You did fail. You weren’t good enough,” Meredith tells the crying doc. “So learn from this. Better yourself and you will be better the next time.”

Meredith then throws up, composes herself and heads into Derek’s room.

Cue a cover of Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars” – and the tears.

Bring On the Tissues
Just before the nurse is about to pull the plug, Meredith tells her to wait.

Yes! Wait! Wait a really long time! Like, forever!

“Derek,” Meredith says with one lone tear falling down her cheek.

We definitely have a lot more than one on ours.

“Derek, it’s okay,” she continues.

No. It’s not!

“You go.”


“We’ll be fine.”

No we won’t!

“Are you ready?” asks the nurse.

“No. But go ahead,” Meredith replies.

And with that, Derek is gone.

We’ll repeat that since it probably still hasn’t sunk in.

Derek. Is. Gone.

And Grey’s will never be the same.

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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