[Warning: This story contains spoilers from Thursday’s “The Me Nobody Knows” episode of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.]
Talk about a rough first day on the job.
During Thursday’s Grey’s Anatomy, Penny (Samantha Sloyan) arrived at Grey Sloan Memorial and was immediately put to work with the one person she least wants to see. As is the case with all transfer residents, Penny — who we learn was at the top of her class — is assigned to work with the chief of surgery: Meredith. That sets up a first day from hell as Meredith effectively hazes the woman whose inability to fight for her patients may have been responsible for Derek’s (Patrick Dempsey) death.
See more ‘Grey’s Anatomy’s’ Famous Departures
Penny ultimately turns to Callie (Sara Ramirez) for a shoulder to lean on and insists that her girlfriend — whom she hasn’t spoken with since the dinner from hell — stay out of it. That, however, doesn’t last long as Callie overhears Meredith venting to Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) about Penny. Callie winds up finally picking sides and supports Penny, urging Meredith to teach, not bully. While admirable, Penny gets upset that Callie spoke up for her and the latter confesses she should have supported her new girlfriend from the start. As they kiss and make up, Meredith texts Penny that she wants the transfer resident to be on her service for the remainder of the week.
Here, Sloyan talks with THR about surviving Mer’s hazing, romancing Callie and if Grey Sloan could ever be a permanent home for Penny.
Penny has survived Meredith’s hazing. What will their relationship look like going forward?
I don’t know if it’s safe to say that Penny has survived. She made it through her first day. I think she still has a long way to go to being the better, stronger doctor Meredith spoke of that night at Dillard.
Penny insisted that she didn’t want Callie to back her — it’s a very admirable “let me fight my own battles” mentality. How much of Meredith’s hazing do you think was designed to break Penny from not fighting for her patients (which really is what cost Derek his life)?
I think that standing up for what she believes is right is a huge part of what Meredith is trying to teach Penny. She can’t be afraid to speak up. Penny has to believe in herself if she is ever going to expect Meredith to.
Amelia is still anti-Penny. How might Penny work to prove herself and win Amelia over?
I don’t know if Penny will ever be able to win Amelia over. There is so much pain and loss there. I think that the best thing Penny can do is not give up. Become the kind of doctor she wishes she was that night Derek came in.
Do you think Penny could ever fit permanently into Grey Sloan? Is there a way in which Meredith and Amelia could accept her as a friend?
Penny wants to learn and Grey Sloan is the best place to do that. Friendship is a lot to ask. Let’s see if they are even able to work together first.
How will Penny’s arc force Meredith and Amelia to evolve?
Everyone grieves in their own way. Meredith and Amelia are not in the same emotional place and that can be hard when two people are sharing the same loss. I think having Penny there is forcing them to deal with feelings they may otherwise keep below the surface.
Callie seems to have chosen a side, and it’s Penny over Meredith. That’s a pretty huge decision to make for a character we’ve just met. How much more will viewers get to know about Penny and why Callie has fallen so hard for her?
I think Penny and Callie are both willing to take a risk and see where they go. But it is a risk. So much is still unknown between them. The relationship was still very new when all this happened, but I think Penny really saw a future with her. I think Penny is very grateful to still have Callie in her life.
How might Penny’s arrival force Arizona to move on with her romantic life? What’s their dynamic like after the dinner party?
Arizona was so welcoming to Penny at the party, not to mention hilarious. Penny’s past took her by surprise like it did everyone else. I’m not sure where she stands with Penny now.
You’re coming into Grey’s after being involved in the death of a fan favorite. What kind of pressure do you feel to win over fans? What kind of responses have you gotten from fans?
I was honored to be part of such an important episode in Grey’s history last year, and I am thrilled Penny is part of the story again. I have some dear friends, I am thinking specifically of a mother and daughter I have known my whole life who were furious with me after Derek’s death. I don’t know if Penny will be able to win anyone over, my friends included, but I think it’s wonderful that people feel so strongly about the characters and about Penny. Part of the joy of good storytelling is that you care deeply about the characters.
Grey’s isn’t your first trip to Shondaland — you also played Jeannine Locke on Scandal (and did one episode of Private Practice). It’s pretty rare to be on both shows on the same night. Talk a little about what that experience was like.
Grey’s Anatomy‘s Chandra Wilson directed the Scandal episode “Get Out of Jail, Free” where we most recently saw Jeannine. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually get to work together but it’s still a fun fact. I loved playing Jeannine and working with everyone over on Scandal. I was hired in season one as a co-star on then Gov. Grant’s (Tony Goldwyn) election campaign. By season two, Jeannine was working in the White House. At the end of season two I got word that they might be changing my role a bit. The next thing I knew, Jeannine is accused of sleeping with the president! Shonda Rhimes creates sets filled with wonderful, warm, talented people. I have always felt welcomed on her shows by the cast, the crew, everyone. I truly mean that. I feel so incredibly lucky to have been a part of her “land” and to be given the opportunities she has given me.
What did you think of Penny’s first day? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.