12:05pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
'Grey's Anatomy's' Ellen Pompeo: Are Meredith and Cristina on the Outs? (Exclusive Video)
Can Meredith Grey have it all on Grey's Anatomy?
During this week's "I Bet It Stung" episode of the ABC medical drama, Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) returns to work full-time after giving birth to Derek's cute McBaby, Baby Boy Bailey -- but not everyone at the hospital believes she can handle everything she has on her plate.
"She is really being challenged by people's ability to believe that she can do both," Pompeo told THR during a recent visit to the show's Hollywood set. "She's really taken aback by the lack of support she is getting, so it's really making her step up her game -- or leave the game."
During the hour, she'll clash with Cristina (Sandra Oh) after Zola takes her attention away from a major liver surgery and comes in unprepared, with her best friend handing off the surgery to Bailey (Chandra Wilson).
"They're putting her on the mommy track," Pompeo says. "Meredith doesn't think she's being supported by anybody in this episode, so she's getting angry. This is the beginning of their break-up, where Cristina doesn't believe that Meredith can be the same type of surgeon because she has kids.
"Meredith feels betrayed, like Cristina is not supporting her. She's just judging her and saying, 'You can't be a great surgeon because you want to be a great mom,' and that's it -- she's just writing her off because she thinks her focus is elsewhere," Pompeo adds. "I'm not sure where the writers are going, but I'm hoping they show she's either going to have to step up her game and prove them wrong or go the other way and not be a surgeon and leave the hospital, too."
Asked if she, the mother of two, is being pushed away because of Cristina's jealousy and lingering feelings for Owen and his burgeoning relationship with Emma, Pompeo sees that as a natural explanation.
"I think the writers want to focus on the separation of Meredith and Cristina right now," she says as the series prepares to see Oh exit following the end of season 10. "I would like to see Meredith fight back and accuse Cristina of that. But I'm not sure. The easiest thing for them to do right now is to separate them because they have to separate Cristina from a few people, and I think this seems like the easiest path for them."
As for Derek (Patrick Dempsey), his return to work will go much easier than his wife's. "He's just continuing on with his career, and Meredith doesn't feel like he's carrying his weight," Pompeo notes.
Dempsey, meanwhile, warns that something ultimately "has to give."
"Either they sacrifice surgery or they sacrifice time with their kids," Dempsey tells THR. "That causes conflict in their relationship. They're fine, but because of the situation that they're now in, they find the conflict trying to balance both their careers and what they need to do on that front and what they need to do at home with their kids. It's a reflection of what modern women have to deal with. They're trying to have it all, and I think it's very difficult. Derek is really in a place where he wants to see Meredith succeed, so he's willing to step back and do less and stay home and raise the kids and give her the time she needs."
Check out an exclusive preview from the episode, above, and hit the comments with your thoughts. Do you think Mer can have it all? Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC.