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‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Judgement of Sole Custody

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ went to court and it was Robbins vs. Torres for sole custody of Sofia.

Much like I recap Japril: The Movie I’m breaking away from my traditional trend of highlighting the best or worst or just over emotional parts of a Grey’s episode because episode 22 was none of that and all of that.

This season of Grey’s has had some real missteps in the drama like this year’s big two hour episode featuring the consequences of Ben’s (Jason George) tough choice. And then there have been other episodes where the writing choices really resonated. The gun control episode could have gone either way but instead the show took a side and committed to that. And tonight, Grey’s did it again. And the side it did take was extremely important.

Callie (Sara Ramirez) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) have had a difficult back half of season 12. Things have gone from okay to worse to the worst. And then it all came to a head. Last week Arizona and Callie spent the episode working up the courage to get people on their side as character witnesses in the custody battle. Callie had a great team established with Owen (Kevin McKidd), Bailey (Chandra Wilson) and the one and only Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo).

Arizona, for her part, was going to ask Jackson (Jesse Williams) and April (Sarah Drew) but the latter had a meltdown when there was a potential risk to the health of the baby and treated Arizona terribly. So badly that she made the bold choice to get a full report complete with an MRI under general anesthesia and then immediately fired April as her patient so their friendship wouldn’t be ruined. Which left Team Robbins with Webber (James Pickens, Jr.), who has served as her personal cheerleader, and Deluca (Giacomo Gianniotti), who rents a room in Arizona’s house.

Based on Callie’s behavior alone I was on board with Arizona from the get go. The previous episodes was frustrating because she made Arizona seem like the unreasonable one who didn’t want to talk but Callie was really too busy making decisions for everyone to notice. It was presumptive and disrespectful. Arizona only got lawyers involved as a last resort, when she felt backed into a corner. And I don’t blame her. Callie wasn’t giving her much of a choice. Worse, Callie was making a really selfish decision based on her needs and no one else’s. Not even Sofia’s (Eva Ariel Binder).

The episode started with both women speaking through their lawyers who kept putting each other on hold in order to attempt to hash out a deal. Nothing was working and in the end Callie’s lawyer told Arizona’s that she would see her in court.

I’m used to blood and guts on TV. Probably more than I’m willing to admit. Definitely because I’ve managed to convince myself it’s fake, although there are some scenes from my favorite shows that I have never scene beyond splayed fingers across my eyes, which are generally jammed shut until the music changes enough to know it’s safe. Grey’s is no stranger to it’s own brand of gore, whatever the limitations for that is on basic cable in a prime time slot. But tonight, was about as open and gore-y as it gets, metaphorically speaking.

We’ve seen Callie dragged in court before when she was sued back in season 10 (episode 9). And it wasn’t easy to watch. We saw her entire career come into question. And we saw the repercussions of the plane crash continue to have an affect on everyone. And Callie made a choice in that episode. And she was lucky. She got to keep practicing medicine. And I support that decision. It wasn’t her fault, she did what the patient asked and the research findings were just delivered at a very difficult time and therefore never truly recieved. The blame didn’t lay on her, not fully anyway. And it was nice to see all of her colleagues supporting her.

The custody battle was different. The reality is that Callie doesn’t need to go. Penny even gave her an out when she recieved the grant. But Callie wants to follow her heart and she’s been hurt enough that she’s entitled to that. What she’s not entitled to is robbing Arizona and their daughter of the life they’ve belt.

I am very protective of Arizona. I don’t know why (okay I know why, she has an issue that no one can really see or understand with her leg and the physical and mental limitations are very similar to those of the innumerable invisible diseases that people, including myself, suffer from that it makes her incredibly relatable and it makes me especially protective of her and her feelings). But I have to admit that I was worried in what direction this episode would go. Whatever happened would be permanent.

Callie had a lot more going for her including being Sofia’s birth mother. But then something interesting happened. The monologue featured throughout the episode was the bible story of King Solomon’s Judgement. And it’s an important story not just for the episode but in general. It speaks to what it means to be a mother. And what it means to make the difficult choices but the ones that are the best for your children.

Jessica Capshaw as Dr. Arizona Robbins in Grey’s Anatomy Photo: ABC

And this episode did that. He called Arizona out on everything from her decision making as a doctor and as a person. At the end, she tells Callie that she never would have let the courts speak about her that way. And it was hard to watch her have to defend everything.

But there was an anomaly in the charts. It was Sofia. In the beginning we see her being dropped off at Mer’s and she’s eager to play with Zola. Callie hugs her to the point that Sofia asks her to stop because it’s too tight and then too long. It seemed like a sweet moment. And it made it harder to watch this little girl tell Arizona the very next day that she hated her.

Except that scene was so important that I actually haven’t stopped talking about it. Because the bond between Arizona and Sofia is so different from Callie and Sofia. She knew something was wrong when she was with Arizona. And it’s not surprise. Robbins has always worn her heart on her sleeve. She’s a baby doctor! And she’s good at what she does!

So good, that she walks out of the court room to help her patient – returning teen pregnancy, Jenny (Morgan Lily) and her mom, Tara (Rebecca McFarland). But not before giving an impassioned speech on the stand that no matter what happens she has a healthy happy daughter and she is that daughters mother. She made that choice. And she walked out. All the while knowing she was probably giving up everything but that April wouldn’t have texted it truly wasn’t an emergency.

We don’t know what swayed the judge’s decision. For all the crap the court gave her for choosing her work over her daughter multiple times, it seemed like that moment, where Arizona left it all on the line to help someone truly in need was the moment that it made the most sense to award her sole custody. Like the story, the true mother is willing to give up the child if it means it will remain whole.

I cried for Callie. I did. I called the episode broken at that point when she stood in Mer’s house asking how this had happened. And then I cried more when Sofia turned to Arizona and asked if they could go home. Because that little girl didn’t hate her mother. She loved. She loves her so much she knows the hard choices her mom makes everyday. And she can’t always appreciate them but she knows them deep down.

And that’s the big question. What was Callie sacrificing? What was Callie willing to give up? These are important questions but not even remotely the most important part of the episode.

The message this episode sent went above and beyond and I really need to commend Shonda Rhimes. From the moment this plot line started to permeate I had a sick feeling about it. Not just because Arizona and Callie are much better when they get along, but because it just seemed like the deck was stacked in Callie’s favor.

But this episode took a question about motherhood. Real, true motherhood (no coincidence that it’s a few days before Mother’s Day) and answered it. And the answer wasn’t that biological mother’s rule. That DNA means the be all end all of custody. No it acknowledged that adoption is just as valid and just as real. And that’s an important concept. We’ve seen Meredith and Derek make the decision to adopt but Zola’s biological parents are completely out of the picture. They can tell her that story when she’s ready but Sofia has a mom and she had a dad but she also has another mom. And there seemed to be some assumption, even by Callie’s standards that Arizona was somehow extra in that parenting triangle. A sub-in for sorts.

There’s is a really negative rhetoric about adoptive parents and birth parents on TV. ABC’s Once Upon A Time, back when I used to to watch in the early days was notorious for dehumanizing Regina beyond just her eventual characterization as “The Evil Step-Mother.” She was completely invalidated as Henry’s mother when Emma came along and it was a terrible portrayal of adoption, like somehow that relationship is less true because it lacks the biology.

And there’s an argument that that assumption is beyond inaccurate. That the decision to adopt is arduous and long and expensive and those babies are (hopefully) so loved and so appreciated. Sofia makes Arizona a mom in just the same way she made Callie a mom. In the same way Callie spoke about Sofia saving her life after the car accident (at which point I started having musical episode flashbacks and those tears on the stand lost all their meaning because I too was in pain like Callie during that episode but more because Kevin McKidd singing Chasing Cars was blaring in my head and I wanted to cry too!).

In the end it’s not surprise that theses specific writing choices were made. Shonda has spoken openly and often about her two adopted children (her third was through a Gestational Surrogate). But it’s an important narrative. Especially with the frequency that adoption does occur.

Stray Observations

  • Both Mark and Derek were brought up tonight and I was glad. I’m not sure the latter really needed to be. I don’t know if we really needed reminding that Mer is a single mother but Mark definitely deserved a mention. It was interesting seeing Callie wrestle with what he would have thought but she was also resolute in whatever the courts decided. I’m not sure it ever crossed her mind that they wouldn’t choose her.
  • This episode was directed was Kevin McKidd!
  • April and Jackson hashing out custody stuff was sweet but how likely is that to last? What happens when one of them wants to move?
  • Steph (Jerrika Hinton) is having a really tough time with her decision to break it off with Kyle (Wilmer Valderrama)
On a scale from 1 to 10 how would you rate your pain?

This episode earns a solid six on the pain scale. I went in unsure but kind of hoping it would go the way it did. I was more than pleased by the outcome but it is hard to see Callie hurting. I don’t think she expected it to be this hard. I don’t think she gave what Arizona might feel in reverse a single thought.

Two episodes left in the season. There’s plenty of time to hurt everyone tons more! It’ll be interesting if Callie really commits to going to New York now!

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8/7c on ABC. Be sure to tune in!

What did you think? Did the courts make the right decision? Were you Team Callie or Team Arizona? Does it matter? Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments!