[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the “Fear (of the Unknown)” episode — the season 10 finale — of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy.]
After 10 seasons and more than 200 episodes, Grey’s Anatomy bid farewell to one of its original stars — Sandra Oh — during Thursday’s season finale, which was both stressful and emotional.
The episode divided its time between Cristina preparing to say her goodbyes and leave for Zurich (where she’ll take over Burke’s facility), and a
terrorist attack gas main explosion at the Seattle Mall of the Woods — where the hospital staff, for a moment, feared the life of the incomparable Cristina Yang. (Who knew not going to the mall would be such a relief?!)
Cristina returns to the hospital — rather than heading off for Zurich — to help tend to the victims. While Cristina is in surgery, Owen misses his opportunity to say farewell to her, but Cris does get her goodbye moment with Alex — “you’re very, very good,” she finally admits — and attempts to persuade him not to become Dr. Junior Butthole. (We agree!) She also defends Shane after Alex questions her decision to have the young surgeon close.
As Cristina prepares for her heart surgery, Meredith explains that there wasn’t a terrorist attack and helps push a wary Cristina out the door. “None of it feels finished. Owen and I, we split over something that hasn’t even happened and we never even split up,” Cris tells Meredith in a nod to her steadfast decision to not have children. “And you and I are not finished. George is dead; Izzie is gone. It’s supposed to be you and me and Alex, and now nothing is finished. I don’t feel finished.”
Meredith winds up being the strong one and explains to her “person” that she doesn’t feel finished “because this isn’t the end for you … There is no finish line, you just have to go.” Mer then helps Cris rush out of the hospital — and through her goodbyes. On the way out, Cris offers a simple yet heartfelt goodbye and a hug to Derek. The song choice of A-ha’s cover of “Take on Me” is truly inspired.
Shane, realizing that his teacher is leaving, asks Cristina to take him to Switzerland with her. “I want to be in charge of my education, and I choose you. She immediately says yes and Shane, respectfully, quits on the spot. It’s a fitting conclusion for young Shane and a decision that Cristina would have likely made too.
Before walking out the door for the final time, Cristina stands in the gallery and waves her farewell to Owen — who now is the one stuck surgery. As the camera holds on each of them, they both tear up before Owen returns to surgery. And by the next time he looks up, she’s gone.
Just as Meredith is putting Cristina in a cab for the airport, her donor heart arrives, and Meredith forces her to let go. “What do you need, an ‘I love you’ or something? I love you. Call me when you get there.” And that appears to be it for the BFFs. Only it isn’t. Cristina makes a surprise return — to dance it out! “That’s how we finish,” Cristina fittingly says in a nod to their early days.
“We’ll call each other twice a month. Take care of Owen. Take care of Alex … mock him … don’t get on any little tiny planes that can crash or stick your hand in a body cavity that has a bomb in it or get in the way of a gunman … don’t be a hero,” Cristina says in yet another nod to their past. “You’re my person and I need you alive. You make me brave.” Mer then puts on their song: Tegan and Sara’s “Where Does the Good Go,” from season one, and Mer and Cris dance it out as only they can.
In the last scene of the episode, Cristina has (finally) arrived in Zurich, with an office filled with photos of her Grey Sloan family before Shane comes to get her for a surgery. As she closes the door behind her, the front of the door reads: Dr. Cristina Yang, director of cardiothoracic surgery. And just like that, after 10 seasons, Cristina Yang’s dream is realized.
As for Meredith, it turns out that Cristina’s parting words — “He’s very dreamy, but he is not the sun — you are,” she says — helps Meredith stand up to Derek and fight to stay in Seattle. It leads to a big fight and one of the major cliffhangers of the season as their future together — at least physically — remains in question.
Other highlights from the season finale:
–Cristina’s replacement, Margaret Pierce (played by Kelly McCreary) at the hospital has daddy issues: Namely, she’s likely the love child of Webber and Ellis Grey — and Meredith’s sister! — after she tells the Chief that she was adopted and her late her mother’s name is on the hospital. It’s a twist that would make Olivia Pope proud.
— Amid the chaos at the hospital, Jackson tells his mother that he and April (Sarah Drew) are expecting, and Catherine helps talk her daughter-in-law out of her fear of motherhood.
–Webber tells Bailey that she’s a surgeon — not a lab rat — after her research study is nixed. Instead, he’s recommending she take over Cristina’s seat on the board in a move that he calls a total “no-brainer.” Only it isn’t so easy after Cris leaves her shares of the hospital to Alex, setting up a clash between Alex and Bailey in season 11.
–Callie and Arizona decide to use a surrogate to expand their family.
So that’s it for season 10. What did you think of Cristina’s exit? Hit the comments below and check out our exclusive interview with Sandra Oh here.