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Grey's Anatomy is a Medical Drama. Beginning its life in 2005 as a Midseason Replacement, Grey's quickly became known for being sort of, well, quirky, especially given its genre: in addition to McNicknaming and using the world "seriously" as much as we use the word "Egregious", the show focused primarily on the romantic and sex lives of its characters rather than on the medical cases. In recent years, the show and its characters have matured a bit; the wackiness and sexcapades have been largely toned down, resulting in a more serious character study.

The show follows the lives, both personal and professional, of a group of surgeons at Seattle Grace-Mercy West Hospital[1]. Each episode is narrated by the eponymous Meredith Grey, introduced as a world-weary intern struggling to deal with her mother's Alzheimer's syndrome. Though initially focused on five interns and their immediate superiors, the show has introduced numerous characters since its onset, resulting in a large ensemble cast.

Grey's Anatomy's main cast currently consists of:

  • Dr. Meredith Grey: the "dark and twisty" eponymous character and narrator. Has all sorts of family trouble: can't stand her father Thatcher; plays the "Well Done, Daughter" Gal to her mother, Ellis, who was a world-famous surgeon before she turned to Alzheimer's; and didn't even know she had a half-sister until they met at a bar. A resident, married to Derek Shepherd.
  • Dr. Cristina Yang: Meredith's best friend since day one, [[Cristina is a brilliant surgeon and the best resident in her year, something she knows and has no problem reminding people of; she has essentially driven several attendings from the hospital with her ego. She is specializing in cardio and is married to Owen.
  • Dr. Alex Karev: A Troubled but Cute resident with a terrible childhood, womanizing habit and an even worse love life, including a relationship with a woman with false identities and a tumultuous marriage to Izzie. Specializing in pediatrics, to the surprise of everyone including himself.
  • Dr. Miranda Bailey: the kind-but-hard-assed maternal figure, Bailey is outspoken and abrasive, though it's not hard to get to the heart of gold underneath. An attending of general surgery and a divorcee with a young son named Tuck.
  • Dr. Richard Webber: Da Chief of Surgery. Kind, hardworking and level-headed, but not without his own baggage: after a lengthy affair with Meredith's mother and years of alcoholism, he has just recently sobered up and made peace with his wife, Adele... who, as luck would have it, also has Alzheimer's. In recent events, he has stepped down as chief (he took the fall when Meredith tampered with a clinical Alzheimer's trial on Adele's behalf), but everyone still calls him "Sir" and treats him as their boss, and Meredith looks up to him as the father she never had.
  • Dr. Derek Shepherd: aka Dr. McDreamy, an attending neurosurgeon, one of the best in the world, and Meredith's husband (after years of Will They or Won't They?). As her philosophical Foil, Derek is occasionally grim but ultimately optimistic, with a strict view of right and wrong, hoping to make a difference in the lives of others through surgery. Fomerly married to Addison; Meredith was initially his mistress (although she didn't know he was married at the time).
  • Dr. Calliope Torres: an attending orthopedic surgeon. Caring and easy-going, Callie is often the moral center of the group. Introduced as a love interest for George; after their brief marriage, Callie moved on to women, and is now married to Arizona. While on a break with Arizona, she slept with her best friend Mark, leading to an unexpected pregnancy; the three have now banded together to raise daughter Sofia.
  • Dr. Mark Sloan: aka Dr. McSteamy. An attending plastic surgeon and Derek's hilariously self-centered best friend. They are True Companions, despite Mark's trouble with the whole "Bros Before Hoes" concept; he has messed around with Derek's sister Amelia, dated his sister-in-law Lexie despite warnings to do no such and cheated with Addison. Mark was introduced as a Casanova and a selfish Jerkass. His playboy ways were tamed by Lexie, and he is now a doting father to his daughter with Callie.]
  • Dr. Arizona Robbins: An attending pediatric surgeon, Arizona is endlessly chipper and optimistic. A lesbian, she is married to Callie and, despite initial reservations regarding both having kids and being friends with Mark, raising daughter Sofia with biological parents Mark and Callie.
  • Dr. Owen Hunt: an attending trauma surgeon and former Army surgeon, Owen suffered from serious PTSD upon his arrival at Seattle Grace, but has managed to recover over time. He is outwardly stoic, but possesses a strong emotional and moral core. Married to Cristina. Recently promoted to Chief of Surgery.
  • Dr. Jackson Avery: A resident who came to the hospital when it merged with nearby Mercy West. Charming Jackson is the grandson of a famous surgeon, and often worries that the connection will prevent him from achieving success on his own merit. Dated Lexie until he realized she still had feelings for Mark; is still hung up on her himself.
  • Dr. April Kepner: Another of the four Mercy West interns, April is neurotic and devoted to rules. She's a bit of an Ingenue as well: sweet, naive, an avowed Christian, prone to tears and, surprisingly for this hospital, dedicated to remaining a virgin. Something of a Butt Monkey: despite being recently promoted to chief resident, everyone makes fun of her anyhow, and she often doesn't contribute much to an episode's plot(s). (The other two interns were written out in the Season 6 finale.)

Loads and Loads of Characters? Wait 'til you see the list of characters who used to be on the show, but have been written out. In order of dismissal:

  • Dr. Preston Burke: the hospital's former head of cardio, he took Cristina under his wing, and eventually into his bed. But then he left her at the altar and sent his mother to collect his things (as Burke's actor had been summarily fired for homophobic slurs against gay castmate T. R. Knight).
  • Dr. Addison Shepherd, née Montgomery: Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd's wife at the start of the series, she specializes in OB/GYN and neonatal surgery. She is introduced at the end of the first season, eventually dragging in Mark Sloan (above) as well, and is Alex's first mentor. She still appears sporadically on Grey's Anatomy, but most of the time she (and actress Kate Walsh) is busy leading her own Spin-Off, Private Practice.
  • Dr. Erica Hahn: Introduced early in the show as The Rival to Preston Burke, she became an Ascended Extra following his departure. Hahn was a workaholic perfectionist, partially due to the glass ceiling. While Brooke Smith and Sandra Oh suggested that Cristina and Erica become lovers, having acted together in this capacity in a previous production, it was ultimately with Callie Torres that Hahn became involved. Hahn was written out rather unexpectedly in Season 5, despite positive press from gay advocacy groups for the show's well-written lesbian romance. Creator Shonda Rhimes tried to handle it gracefully, but Smith remain convinced that Executive Meddling forced her hand.
  • Dr. George O'Malley: one of the five interns who began their careers at the beginning of the show; of them, only Meredith, Cristina and Alex remain. George was basically a nice guy, but got a lot of flak for almost accidentally killing his first patient, leading to the derogatory nickname "007." After a short-lived marriage to Callie, he pined away for Lexie before running across someone who was about to be hit by a bus. He got her out of the way, but the same couldn't be said for himself.
  • Dr. Izzie Stevens: the last of the five new interns, Izzie was a rather divisive character amongst the fandom, as she had a lot of markings of a Mary Sue: she modeled on the side to finance her studies, she fell in love with a hot patient played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, she arranged an "accident" that got him bumped up the transplant list and should have gotten her fired once it was discovered. Critics liked it: Izzie's actress, Katherine Heigl, won the show one of its two Acting Emmys. However, between getting married, starting a family and moving on to films, Heigl had other priorities. Rhimes obligingly wrote her out, though Heigl has since expressed interest in returning as a guest star to wrap up the character's Story Arc.
  • Dr. Lexie Grey: Meredith's sweet-natured but capable half-sister via their father Thatcher, who often plays the snarky sidekick to the older residents (she's a year behind and several years younger). While she and Meredith started out with a tense relationship--suddenly discovering you have a sister via a Disappeared Dad will do that to you--they are now on good terms. Emotional and impulsive, Lexie falls in love easily, but can't seem to get over Mark. Nicknamed "Lexipedia", thanks to her photographic memory, and is Derek's resident in neuro. Died of plane-crash in the Season Eight finale.
  • Dr. Teddy Altman: Owen's friend from his military days, Teddy is a calm, rational cardio surgeon, with a tumultous relationship with her student, Cristina. She is well-liked by most of the characters, and often plays The Confidant, though she doesn't always enjoy it. After years of pining over Owen, she has finally moved on to Henry, a patient who she impulsively married because he needed insurance. Unfortunately he died in a set of messy circumstances, and she blamed Owen, leading to a lot of sniping and her eventual firing.

Trope Namers for Grey's Anatomy Emergency Medical Response (duh).

Should not be confused with Gray's Anatomy, the famous textbook on human anatomy the title is based on.


Grey's Anatomy provides examples of:

  • Adult Fear: The entirety of the episode "The Girl With No Name."
  • All Lesbians Want Kids: See below, under Mandatory Motherhood.
  • Alternate Reality Episode: the eighth-season episode "If/Then," which revolves around an Ellis Grey who is alive and lucid. The ripple effects are fairly significant (Alex has proposed to Meredith; Callie and Owen are married; the Shepherds are still together; Cristina has no friends) but Because Destiny Says So other things come back to bite them (Alex is still an inveterate womanizer; Mark and Addison are still carrying on; Meredith still can't please her mother; she and Derek are attracted to each other; she and Cristina become Fire-Forged Friends whilst struggling to save a patient), turning the whole thing from "For Want of a Nail" into "In Spite of a Nail" instead. Incidentally, the episode's theme is "Because Destiny Says So."
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: From Mark to Lexie, when she's dying.
  • Author Avatar: Izzie Stevens is what Katherine Heigl considers a better, more moral version of herself.
    • And basically all of the female characters are versions of or parts of Shonda Rhimes' personality, according to her.
  • Author Catchphrase: The pilot episode, referring to making conversation solely because of presumed social conventions as "do[ing] [relevant determiner phrase] thing", by both Meredith to Derek at the beginning ("We don't have to do the thing..."), and by Cristina to Meredith at the end ("Do we have to do that thing..."). Strange because this was not a common turn-of-phrase (at least not before the episode aired), and Cristina came from another state and just met Meredith during the episode, after Meredith had used the phrase with Derek. Probably the intention was to form Book Ends, though more common phrasing used both times would have worked fine, and sounded much more natural. Also referring to important people in life as "my person"- the main characters do this frequently, then patients and their families also use it without having heard the main characters say it.
  • Bait and Switch Gunshot: In the Season 6 finale, Gary Clark, the shooter, is talking with Lexie about his intention of killing her. * bang* She falls. Suddenly, she looks up, to find he's been shot by SWAT.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Avery to April. They're really close friends, and Avery showed more than once that he cares about her, though they don't seem to be attracted to eachother. This can only lead to the only normal reaction from Avery once he learned that Alex acted like a total Jerkass towards April, who was ready to give him her virginity : many violent and repeated punches in the face. Also Alex himself to pretty much every kid patient he treats. And his own little brother.
  • Big No: Meredith gets one in the Season 6 Finale, when it seems as though Derek has died.
  • Big "Shut Up!": In the very first episode of Season 5, Cristina snaps at Meredith after coming to her one too many times with relationship woes:

 Cristina: "So please, please, please, as you weigh your options here, just, you know, consider the possibility... of shutting the hell up!"

  • Break the Cutie: Lexie tends to lead the pack on this, though she's far from the only one. Recently Lampshaded by Meredith, who worries about her emotional strength.
    • April is the latest victim of this. In spades.
  • Butch Lesbian: Arguably Erica, even though the writers said that it would be a little too obvious and stereotypical to make the tough, confident woman (who turned down Sloan) a lesbian...and then made her one. And then fired her. Saved only by Brooke Smith's excellent acting (see the "you are glasses" speech).
    • To be fair, the writers didn't fire her. The network did.
  • The Casanova: Dr. Sloan, to the point where the nurses start a society in protest.
  • Cassandra Truth: One elderly patient complained of pressure in her chest for years, but everyone thought it was just in her head. Turns out her previous surgeon (Dr. Burke) left a towel inside of her.
  • Character Filibuster: In earlier seasons, this happens once or twice. Per episode. In later seasons, however, this is generally limited to Meredith's voiceover narrations, which play over a series of scenes beginning or finishing each character's episode storyline.
  • The Chew Toy: April and George.
  • Closet Key: Callie and Erica were this for each other.
  • Code Emergency: "It's the End of the World" & "(As We Know It)" features "Code Black": Armed bomb on premesis (this one is actually a rocket in a patient's abdomen).
  • Code Silver: The Season Six finale.
  • Contractual Immortality: Mostly played straight, but notably Averted Trope once. Isaiah Washington (Dr. Burke) was fired from the set for making homophobic comments towards T.R. Knight (George O'Malley), who is gay in real life. This was worked into the script: Burke leaves Cristina at the altar and doesn't even have the guts to come back to get his own things, sending his mother in his stead.
    • Played completely straight at the end of Season 5, which ended with two characters (George and Izzie) on the brink of death. During the summer hiatus, it became common knowledge that one of those actors (George's) has not had their contract renewed... and sure enough, when Season 6 started, that character had died.
    • Also recently applied at the end of season 8. In the penultimate episode there's a plane crash with six of the doctors and previews for the finale promised that one would die. Since the actors for Meredith, Derek, Christina, and Mark were all confirmed to have contract renewals prior, that meant only Lexie or Arizona could fit this. It turned out to be the former.
  • Convenient Miscarriage: Cristina was all set to get an abortion but ended up having a miscarriage before her appointment.
    • According to show creater Shonda Rhimes this was Executive Meddling, she wanted to have her go through with the abortion but the network was worried it would alienate viewers. For the record, Rhimes is on the board of Planned Parenthood.
    • Arguably happened to Meredith as well
  • Deus Angst Machina: Meredith has an emotionally abusive mother with Alzheimer's, a Disappeared Dad, and her boyfriend turns out to be married… in Season One. By Season Six, her mother has died, her stepmother died, and her father blamed her for it. Along the way, she went through hell to get her man, however, and did actually succeed. They are now happily married, except for the fact that she just miscarried their child.
  • Double Standard Abuse (Female on Male): In the episode "Brave New World", a man is in the hospital with a nasty gash on his head because his wife threw the TV remote at him. As he gets stitched up, she mocks him and tells him that she'll divorce him as soon as he gets well. The doctor working on him doesn't even think to notify the police, and the scene is pretty much played for laughs.
  • Drill Sergeant Nasty: Not literally, but Dr. Burke's "pick on one guy" intern training method is based on a technique employed by actual DIs. Yes, this makes George Private Pyle.
  • Dropped a Bridge on Him: George being dragged by a bus would qualify. In all fairness, he was saving Lindsey from The OC.
    • one-upped at the end of Season 8, which dropped a plane on poor Lexie.
  • Dysfunction Junction: Really. Every character who had a happy (or simply unmentioned) childhood seems to have had it counterbalanced in their adult life... and every character who did not? It managed to get worse.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the pilot the five interns are four as Alex barely appears (there is a nurse who has more lines), the hospital is laid out differently (understandable for a pilot), the interns corridor where they hide is close to the action and has vending machines, no patients are admitted (later in the series we always meet patients at the door), the Grey House is a different house, Webber doesn't seem to know Meredith (in retrospect this is really odd), no one says "Mc" anything (Cristina invents that meme in episode 2), Meredith's narration is actually a conversation with her mother and in the second episode the pediatrics department is seen and they have light purple scrubs (two seasons later they have the same color as the surgery interns). The credits sequence is also cut in mid-season two.
  • Embarrassing Full Name: Calliope Iphigenia Torres.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: In Season 1, George's freezing up during his first surgery earns him the nickname 007 (because he has a "license to kill").
  • Fan Service: The infamous scene of Sloan only barely wearing a towel. As well as his first apperance when he was shown briefly shirtless.
    • Avery takes off his shirt at least once every other episode
  • First Episode Spoiler: The big twist of the Season 1 finale, that Derek is married, is old hat to pop culture, particularly now that his wife Addison has her own Spin-Off (Private Practice). Other big twists (such as the deaths in the Season 5 and 6 finales), are also spoiled, though to a lesser extent.
  • Five-Man Band: with initials spelling M-A-G-I-C!
  • Florence Nightingale Effect: Izzie falls for heart patient Denny Duquette. Unfortunately, nothing good came of this.
  • Forgotten Fallen Friend: after the first few episodes of the sixth season, George is barely ever mentioned again.
  • Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Averted by Cristina, who gets an abortion in the season eight premiere
  • Grey and Gray Morality: Meredith's Morality is most definitely Grey. She tampers with the Alzheimer's Trial to help Da Chief's wife which puts her in a very bad spot with her husband who accuses her of not knowing the difference between Right and Wrong.
    • In the season seven finale, she gives an excellent speech on how she firmly believes the world is this way.
  • Happily Married: After a hell of a lot of seasons before reaching that point, Derek and Meredith finally qualify (though their marriage contract relies on a post-it...).
    • They got legally married towards the end of season seven.
    • Owen and Cristina, two extremely damaged people, seem to take that road, thanks to some Character Development of the latter in season 7.
    • As of early season eight Meredith and Derek are still married, but very unhappily, though things seem to be improving by the season's midpoint.
    • Callie and Arizona are also happily married (though they don't appear to be legally married, as Washington State doesn't currently recognize same sex marriages).
  • Has Two Mommies: Sofia, who is being raised by biological parents Mark and Callie as well as Callie's wife Arizona. Should Mark ever get married, she'll have three.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: One Season Two episode involves a Patient of the Week whose pain medication is porn (with the flimsy justification of it resulting in the brain/body releasing endorphins). The girls watch a bit of one, and one of them remarks, "There's no way that can be comfortable," as they all tilt their heads to watch. Meredith's response ("Trust me, it's not") causes some surprised stares.
  • Hello Boys: An episode that aired after a Super Bowl started with female cast members showering. Turns out, George is dreaming. It ended the same way, only Izzie and Cristina were cleaning the remains of the Bomb Squad guy off Meredith, with George watching.
  • Heroic BSOD: Recovering from this is Owen's major character arc. Derek in Season 5 after accidentally killing a pregnant woman. Such a strong BSOD that he passes it on to Callie and Owen. Then Derek (again) and Cristina in Season 7.
    • Alex, who was unable to take elevators after the season 6 finale events until Richard persuades him to do so. Granted, he almost bled to death inside of one. Plus, let's not forget that he freaked out way back in the first seasons of the show while he was trapped in a elevator with O'Malley and a patient who he was unable to operate. If you take that history into account, it's no wonder Alex doesn't want to climb into one anymore.
    • Actually, he failed his boards in season one, and was forbidden by the chief to perform any medical procedures for a week or so until they organized a make-up test. That's why O'Malley got rid of his 007 status. Karev was sore 'cause he was no longer considered a lean, mean, surgical machine for a while, but he was hardly traumatized by it.
  • Heterosexual Life Partners: Meredith and Cristina.
  • Hide Your Pregnancy: The reasoning behind Meredith's liver transplant storyline in Season Six–it was a procedure that would require a lot of bedrest for the character and to get Ellen Pompeo off her feet in real life (Shonda Rhimes has stated she was very pregnant whilst those episodes were being filmed).
    • Also Chyler Leigh (Lexie)'s overeating during Season 5. It was a bit of an in-joke with the cast.
    • Jessica Capshaw's pregnancy is hidden in season seven. There was one scene where they failed in the premiere, but they're mostly filming her from the chest up and hiding her behind clipboards. They then sent her character to Africa.
    • Sarah Drew's pregnancy was also hidden in season eight, since her character is a virgin. Jessica Capshaw's third pregnancy is being hidden in season eight, too.
  • Hospital Hottie: Lampshaded by Erica Hahn in Season 4:

 Erica: "Do you hire on looks alone, or is actual skill a factor?"

  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Every episode shares its title with a song.
  • Idiot Ball: Oh, not that often, but sometimes on this show...
    • How about Meredith thinking that the chief being a drinking alcoholic while operating on patients isn't "a big deal" and that it shouldn't cost him his job?
    • It's understandable that George, in a moment of grief, might propose to Callie. It's a bit less understandable why she would think that a couple of days after the death of his father would be a great time for a Vegas wedding.
  • Improbable Age: The actors playing Meredith, Alex, George and Cristina were all somewhat older than the average intern in the first season (by nearly a decade in Ellen Pompeo's case). Not impossible by any means but a little improbable. Averted by Izzie - Katherine Heigl actually was twenty-six when the show started.
    • Cristina has a PHD as well as an MD so she would be older than the average intern since she has four to six (depending on a MA and what program she did) more years of school.
  • Inelegant Blubbering: Izzie on occasion, especially during her "What about me?" speech to Denny.
  • In-Series Nickname: Quite a few, actually.
    • Derek is "Dr. McDreamy".
    • For a few seasons, Miranda was called "The Nazi", which officially ended after she operated on an actual white supremacist.
    • George acquired the nickname "007" in Season 1 after nearly killing his first patient.
    • Mark Sloan was briefly called "McSteamy" when he was first introduced.
    • Lexie is called "Little Grey" by some characters, and "Lexiepedia"[2] by Cristina.
    • Meredith and [3] Sadie called each other "Death"(Meredith) and "Die"(Sadie).
    • Owen calls Cristina and Meredith "the twisted sisters".
  • Insufferable Genius: Cristina. Just... Cristina. Dr. Burke as well, to some extent.
  • The Intern: A whole bunch of them. Only temporary, though, and then they promote.
  • It Never Gets Any Easier: Although, in part, it can be excused by the fact that the people who tend to die are the people the protagonists cared about in the first place.
    • After McDreamy broke down, he was shown a pile of those whom he killed and those whom he had saved. The ratio was 10:1, dead to alive.
  • It's Personal: Occasionally (yet still more often than believable), the patient of the day will be related to one of the cast. Drama ensues.
    • So far, we've had Meredith's mother (more than once), father, and stepmother. The latter two are also Lexie's parents, so they get bonus points on that one. We've also had George's father, Izzie's daughter, and Alex's brother. Plus Meredith's friend Sadie Harris, and Meredith's mother's scrub nurse. Oh, and Dr. Webber's niece, and Addison's brother. And Dr. Webber's wife, Adele, Bailey's son and husband, Meredith and Lexie's youngest sister, and Izzie's love interest, Denny Duquette. This is all even without counting the times the characters themselves needed to be operated on. So far, we've had Meredith (more than once), Cristina, George, Izzie, Alex, Dr. Webber, Derek, Dr. Burke, and Owen Hunt.
    • And in season 8, even though George is dead his mom drops in.
  • Ivy League for Everyone: Only for Meredith (of those that have been mentioned).
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Alex. Later seasons show how much he cares for kids. He's still an ass though to most grown-ups.
  • Killed Off for Real: Well, between critical injuries, terminal diseases, ferry-crashing, bombs, serial-killers and a freaking plane crash, some characters are bound to die:
    • A butload of patients don't survive. Beware: Infant Immortality is averted.
    • Meredith's mother.
    • Denny, Izzie's boyfriend.
    • George, who was run over by a bus.
    • Both Reed Adamson and Charles Percy die in the span of two episodes, both victims to a serial-killer who wanted to execute Derek. Reed was shot right between the eyes.
    • Henry, Teddy's husband, who dies while being operated by Christina, who's kept in the dark during the entire surgery.
    • Lexie, dies at the end of season 8.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Hilariously done by Ava/Rebecca in Season 3. Bed-bound, her only entertainment is eavesdropping on the nurses gossip. "It's like watching a soap!"
    • In Season Six, Alex points out that Meredith simply thinks she's married, but (to the best of our knowledge) isn't actually or legally wed.
    • The fact that everyone has inappropriate relationships is lampshaded in a season seven episode.
    • The Musical Episode lampshaded the high casualty rate. They actually called the hospital "Seattle Grace Mercy Death". (Lampshaded again in the Season 8 finale, somewhat less whimsically.)
  • Laser-Guided Karma: In the first episode of Season 5, Cristina loses it over Meredith constantly coming to her with relationship issues, and tells her off. Immediately after, she slips and falls. Oh, and is then struck by a falling icicle.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Addison... good lord, Addison... To clarify: She gets pregnant while she's cheating on her husband. She ends up aborting the baby. She then decides to have a child of her own, and finds out it is now virtually impossible. Meanwhile, after having a miscarriage, Meredith is unable to conceive when Callie learns she's pregnant.
  • Let's Wait a While: Erica and Callie agree to wait before having sex because they are unsure they're ready to have sex with another women. However, in the next episode, in what is assumed to be another date, they have sex.
  • Limited Social Circle: For a major hospital, the important cases-- and the twisty relationships-- all seem to occur in the same corner of the surgery department. Occasionally lampshaded, such as with Derek's "junior varsity" shadow, who we only meet once and who's name none of the main characters can remember.
    • This could be expanded to the hospital itself which seems to only have a surgery department, to the point where the chief of surgery is the head of the entire hospital. Each department only seems to have one attending. This is most notable in the case of orthopedics. Callie is the only ortho surgeon we've met, despite her being a resident at the start of the show. A mere three years out of residency she is now effectively running the department.
  • Looking for Love In All the Wrong Places: Alex and Meredith both used to do this; Alex at the beginning (through the middle) of the series, and Meredith after losing Derek to Addison.
  • Love Dodecahedron: George loves Meredith, who loves Derek, who can't decide whether he loves Meredith or Addison, who also is still in love with Derek, but at one point was in love with McSteamy, who hit on Erica, who made out with Callie, who was love with George, who had an affair with Izzie? Let's just say that the gurneys in this hospital are rarely free to actually hold patients.
    • The Izzie-Alex-Denny and Meredith-Finn-Derek love triangles and Addison/Alex relationship add further complications.
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: In Season 2 Episode 24, "Break On Through", Izzie mentions to a pregnant teenager she's treating that she feels she can empathize with her, as she also got pregnant as a teenager. That child later shows up as a young leukemia patient, who needed a bone marrow transplant. Izzie donates anonymously and leaves the girl with her adoptive family. Meredith also gets a "Luke, I Am Your Stepmother" moment.
  • Luke, You Are My Father: In Season 6, it turns out Dr. Sloan has an 18-year-old daughter... named Sloan. Slightly subverted in that they knew about the pregnancy, but ended the relationship and he assumed there was an abortion.
  • Mama Bear: Dr Bailey shows shades of this towards her five interns specifically when Cristina needed surgery to remove a the fetus and a fallopian tube due to an extrauterine pregnancy and when George got hit by a bus and died.
  • Mandatory Motherhood: A major point of contention between Callie and Arizona is that the former wants children and the latter doesn't. In fact, they eventually break up over it, providing an example of the trope All Lesbians Want Kids. However, in the Season Six Finale, all of the carnage makes Arizona rethink her position and decide that not having kids wasn't worth not being with Callie.
    • The irritating thing about this is that the trope is still played straight, as Callie came to the same decision, and tells Arizona that not having kids isn't worth losing her, but Arizona overrides her and agrees that they should have children, and that suddenly she can't live without Callie and their ten kids.
    • Otherwise, this trope is Inverted Trope with the main cast, as the writers seem to be determined to keep the main female characters child-free. At one point, Cristina is asked by Callie if she wants children, and responds with an incredulous "Do you know me? No!" Also, earlier in the series, she had an ectopic pregnancy and lost both the baby and a fallopian tube; and even before that, she was planning on getting an abortion. Addison and Meredith as well; Addison is notable for how strictly she adheres to the Law of Inverse Fertility, having aborted Mark Sloan's baby and later finding out it is virtually impossible for her to get pregnant again (once she wants to be, of course). Meredith, on the other hand, found out she was pregnant in Part One of the Season Six Finale, and had a miscarriage in Part Two.
  • Married to the Job: Adele leaves Richard because of this (though the whole "Ellis Grey affair" really didn't help).
    • Bailey's husband Tucker divorced her because she's spending too much time at the hospital, you know, saving lives.
  • Medical Drama, of course.
  • Musical Episode: With a similar explanation to Scrubs, in that it's from the point of view of a patient, Callie. What, you thought they were going to waste Sara Ramirez's Tony-winning vocal chops?.
  • The Nicknamer: Meredith has a habit of nicknaming the men she finds attractive.
  • No Bisexuals: "You can't 'kind of' be a lesbian!" (Fixed subsequently, when Callie is acknowledged to be bisexual.)
  • Old New Borrowed and Blue: In the Season 5 Finale, when Meredith and Derek decide to get married, Cristina gives her an old grocery list, a new post-it, and her favorite blue pen (which also counts as borrowed, since she wants it back).
  • Only Sane Man: Dr Bailey is the only member of the cast who never seems to forget that she's a doctor, not an eighth grader. The Chief also often seems like he's visiting from a normal universe.
  • Patient of the Week: It's a Medical Drama. Did you expect anything different?
  • Perma Stubble: Dr. McDreamy's typical look of choice. George even stops shaving to get Meredith's attention. Denny as well, though he has an excuse. Lampshaded by Derek in a Season 3 episode:

 Meredith: It's now become physically impossible for me to kiss your face.

Derek: I'm Too. Tired. To shave!!

 Meredith: Alex, she's not some book you can just flip through!

Lexie: Actually, I kind of am.

  • Platonic Life Partners: Callie and Sloan act like this, despite the fact that they've had sex on several occasions.
  • Plot Time: In reality, mergers are extremely tedious and time-consuming. Even two small organizations (like hospitals) should take weeks or months, as their respective owners will need to do their due diligence, review each other's financial statements, negotiate terms, consult lawyers, etc etc. In the world of Grey's Anatomy, a merger can be decided on after one meeting with the board, and announced only days later. Though in all fairness they took a large chunk of the fifth season speculating about it.
    • Seasons 1 through 3 supposedly cover a one year span, with Season 3 covering prom time to med school graduation time, a whopping 3 months. The beginning of Season 4 to the beginning of Season 6 equates another 10 months, though Season 6 may actually be a year, given that a number of episodes elapse weeks in time (including one that features Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's all rolled in one).
      • It does however make you wonder how Bailey managed to mentor the interns for quite a while, then get pregnant, give birth, take maternity leave, return and mentor the interns for quite a while... in a span of ten months.
  • Posthumous Character: Denny Duquette, starting in season 3.
  • Precision F-Strike: When the new security system implemented after the shooting malfunctions and traps Dr. Avery and a patient in a hallway, Teddy, who has spent a good season and a half being whiny about men, finally takes a level in badass and remembers that she was in the army, for Chrissake, and yells at the security guard to "open the FUCKING door." It's bleeped, though, because it's a special episode told in documentary form as cameras follow the doctors around.
    • Mark, in the same episode, says that since Derek was shot he finally understands what it feels like to be the families of their patients. "It feels like shit."
  • Put on a Bus: Done very often. Burke and Izzie would be the most notorious examples.
  • Revolving Door Casting: Hello Burke, Addison, Hahn, Doctor Dixon... Goodbye Burke, Addison, Hahn, Doctor Dixon...
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Gary Clark's reason for shooting up the hospital in the Season Six Finale is to "be a man" for his wife, Alison, who had been a patient at the hospital and ended up being taken off of life support..
  • Rousing Speech: Happens annoyingly often. Special mention goes to Meredith's speech to Kate Carlson in "No Good At Saying Sorry".
  • Rule of Drama: Often an example of this being done well, such as the Season 6 finale. Just as often an example of this being done badly, such as the Season 5 finale.
  • Sassy Black Woman: Give it up for Miranda Bailey, everybody! Ironically, this appears to be the root of her nickname, "the Nazi." Goebbels and Eichmann were always giving each other the 'Z' snap, girl!
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Katherine Heigl, apparently. And Shonda Rhimes herself.
  • Soap Opera Disease: Annoyingly common, given that this is supposedly a show about real medicine. Most obvious with Izzie's cancer.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": It's Cristina, not Christina.
  • Spin-Off: Private Practice follows Addison Montgomery, after she leaves Seattle Grace for a new life.
  • Status Quo Is God: Played straight in that no matter what, Dr. Webber always seems to end up being chief of staff, and Alex will inevitably undo his Character Development. Subverted in that Meredith and Derek have actually stayed married with less drama (compared to how the on-again, off-again relationship stage was).
  • Stock Trailer Music: Whatever the sad and contemplative (e.g. The Fray's "How to Save a Life") popular song is at the time, chances are the trailer for the new episode/season will feature it.
  • Story Arc: The writing tends to follow this style, and usually, each character is involved in more than one per season.
  • Sympathetic Adulterer: In earlier seasons, Derek cheats on Addison freely due to considering his marriage over and seemingly not caring to end it officially. That said, he caught her in bed with his best friend.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Congratulations, Richard Webber, on managing to squeeze your very own Moment of Awesome into the very end of the Season Six Finale.
  • Talking Your Way Out: In the Season Six Finale, Dr. Shepherd attempts this with Gary Clark, the hospital shooter. And fails. It works for April Kepner, though. It also worked for Callie on behalf of herself, Arizona, and a child with a ruptured appendix.
  • Televisually-Transmitted Disease: Used relentlessly by this show. For specific examples, see the trope's page.
  • The Three Certainties in Life: The title character once remarked, "In life only one thing is certain, besides death and taxes... No matter how hard we try, no matter how good our intentions, we are going to make mistakes."
  • Token Minority: Averted Trope; blind casting was used for most all of the characters, as there were no racial specifics in the pilot episode. The only change that was made was that Cristina's character was given a Korean last name.
  • Too Many Babies: Several season 2 episodes are centered around a mom who chose to keep all 5 of her babies, even though the doctors had recommended she have 1 or 2 of the fetuses terminated.
  • Troubled but Cute: Alex falls under this umbrella.
  • True Companions: Not very apparent at first view but it's definitely there. Especially when everyone cooperates to let Callie see her daughter
  • Unequal Pairing: Quite a few. An Attending dating an Intern or Resident is treated as a serious issue in Season One, but in later seasons it is par for the course.
  • The Unfair Sex: Both played straight and averted.
  • Verbal Tic: "She has my McDreamy, she has my McDog, she has my McLife." Will you McShut Up Already?
    • I gotta go choke back some McVomit.
    • Seriously? Seriously! SERIOUSLY!?
    • You're my person.
  • We Hardly Knew Ye: Charles Percy and Reed Adamson, Mercy Westers introduced in "Invasion" (6x05) and killed in the Season 6 Finale.
    • From Season 2: Dylan Young, that bomb squad guy who was introduced in one episode, then blown up (literally) in the next episode. He did come back later for a couple episodes...as a ghost.
  • Wham! Episode: The Season Six Finale. Seriously. Looking it over, there were only two characters that were never in direct mortal danger: Teddy Altman and Mark Sloan.
    • The Season 8 finale: Lexie's death and Owen firing Teddy.
      • It's worse than that. Additionally, we have Arizona, Mark, the plane pilot Bobby, Derek, Meredith and Cristina stranded in the middle of somewhere-between-Seattle-and-Idaho, with no help coming, no food, no fire, and all of them injured, most of them to the point of hampering their ability to administer medical care. The latter three characters have Contractual Immortality, but it is seriously not unrealistic for the others to die (or have died) of their injuries come September.
  • Why Waste a Wedding?: Meredith and Derek seemed finally ready to tie the knot, but opted out so the cancerous and dying Izzy could marry Alex before she became too weak to walk down the aisle.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Gary Clark.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Owen.
  • Yuri Genre: Arizona and Callie, and before that, Erica and Callie.

Notes

  1. formerly just Seattle Grace; the hospital changed its name following a merger with nearby hospital Mercy West in season 6
  2. due to her Photographic Memory
  3. Melissa George's short-lived character
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