'Grey's Anatomy': Seattle Plane Crash Will Bring Back Old PTSD and Impact Everyone

Grey's Anatomy S11E20 Still - H 2015
ABC/Mitchell Haaseth

Grey's Anatomy S11E20 Still - H 2015

It's been three years since the game-changing plane crash on ABC's Grey's Anatomy and those memories are poised to come flooding back to the Grey Sloan Memorial docs on Thursday.

During the episode, a small plane will crash in a Seattle prenatal yoga class and see the expecting mothers brought in for treatment with Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) and Alex (Justin Chambers) taking on the brunt of the cases. It will trigger PTSD and panic attacks for Meredith, whose sister, Lexie (Chyler Leigh) was killed in the crash, and Arizona, who lost her leg in the fatal accident.

"Story-wise, it makes sense for all the characters to be affected by this plane crash," Capshaw told The Hollywood Reporter during a recent set visit. "This is the first time plane crash victims have come into their hospital since they were actually the ones who were in a plane crash, so it's that moment where you’re reminding yourself that it’s happening to other people and it’s not happening to you. You have a very specific part to play in this — which is being the doctor and not the victim — and you need to keep your eyes on that. That’s what I feel like the PTSD is doing: It’s making Arizona really grumpy."

For Arizona, the crash comes as she's spent the back half of season 11 focused on finding her own happiness by focusing on her career after her split with Callie. Their relationship, perhaps more than any other, took a major hit following her leg amputation and affair that came after the fatal crash.

"She’s in a good place," Capshaw said. "The pivotal line to button up her storyline with Dr. Herman (Geena Davis) was when she says, 'You’re always kind of left to the point.' Which in a lot of ways, Arizona has been stuck to the left to the point. Instead of being happy that she was alive, she’s been focused on what she lost in the plane crash. That got her really stuck in a lot of different places. When Dr. Herman said that, she took that in. It’s not that you should mourn being blind or having lost a leg; the point is that you’re alive. So what are you going to do with that?"

For Owen (Kevin McKidd), meanwhile, the plane crash will trigger his guilt and likely impact his budding romance with Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) — who may not understand his involvement in the crash that also claimed Mark Sloan's (Eric Dane) life. Also poised to learn more about her new sibling is Maggie (Kelly McCreary), who is likely completely in the dark about the trauma Meredith — and Derek — have been through.

"He’s had a bad day that day," McKidd tells THR of the hour that comes immediately after Amelia warned Meredith to back off of her love life. "Owen and Amelia are in a bad place and he is trying to fight for her, and in the middle of that this plane crash happens and it really does trigger and upset Owen. He becomes shut off from everybody and he’s very professional, but very cold and distant. Nobody — especially Amelia — can figure out where he’s at."

As diehard Grey's fans recall, Owen was the one responsible for putting everyone on the ultimately doomed flight that also left Meredith, Derek (Patrick Dempsey) and Cristina (Sandra Oh) injured.

"By the end of it, he spills the beans to express all the terrible feelings of guilt that he had," McKidd says. "Whenever an event like this happens in the hospital it triggers all that. He feels like the leader of a platoon that let all his men down. It’s a very emotional day for Owen. It’s quite a dark episode for Owen and he doesn’t deal with it well. It sheds light for Owen where he thinks he and Amelia are and that conversation doesn’t end well."

For Grey Sloan newbies Maggie, and to some extent, Amelia, the crash will also shed additional light on the people they care about.

"Amelia doesn't know a bunch about the plane crash and Owen's involvement," Scorsone says. "Their relationship is on hold and they want to be there for each other, but they're holding back. Eventually Amelia gets pretty frustrated trying to understand. She put him on hold because she's scared, but he ends up reacting in a way more than Amelia expected. There was their whole friendship that they were forging and she expects that to be there, but that's a lot to ask of a person [in a situation like theirs]."

Adds McCreary, who recently also learned that her mother had Alzheimer's: "My hope is that learning [about the crash and Alzheimer's] is going to help her understand her sister a little bit more and that it will bring them closer together."

Grey's Anatomy airs on Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC. What are you looking forward to seeing?

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com

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