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Original 'Grey's Anatomy' star returns to the show in tear-jerking episode

Spoiler alert!
/ Source: TODAY

"Grey’s Anatomy" brought back another popular original character on Thursday night.

George O’Malley, played by T.R. Knight, appeared in Meredith Grey’s dreams on the same beach where she was visited by the love of her life, Derek Shepherd, in an episode that aired on Nov. 12, 2020.

Meredith, played by Ellen Pompeo, is battling COVID-19 and going in and out of consciousness. She keeps revisiting the same beach dream and encountering characters from years past.

In the dream sequence, Meredith is standing on a remote beach when she sees George leaning against the railing of a lifeguard stand.

George O'Malley, played by T.R. Knight, returned in an episode of "Grey's Anatomy" that aired on Dec. 3, 2020.ABC

They’re both surprised to see each other, and then the show cuts to commercial.

George was one of the first original cast members to leave the show in 2009. He died in the show’s season 5 finale saving a woman from being hit by a bus.

“I was devastated when you died,” Meredith tells George in the third beach scene on Thursday. “I was devastated and then I was OK. And even with Derek, eventually you go on. And the kids would go on.”

George agreed but said his mother hadn’t been able to move past his death.

“Some grief is heavier than other grief,” he said. “Sometimes it just moves through you and sometimes it just gets stuck.”

He added that sometimes he tries to “shake it out of her."

“What? Like, you haunt her?!” Meredith asked.

“Well, if you want to call it that,” he replied, laughing.

When Meredith was originally diagnosed with COVID-19, showrunner Krista Vernoff told the Hollywood Reporter that having the lead character deal with the virus presented a chance for viewers to see just how arduous it is for medical professionals to treat patients who have the coronavirus.

“We saw an opportunity to dramatize and illuminate their plight through the incredibly well-loved and well-known character of Meredith Grey,” she said at the time. “Doctors and nurses are fighting for us and falling for us.

“The least we can do is wear a mask, socially distance and stay home whenever possible. Meredith has a real fight ahead of her. And ... she has that beach. Darkness and light. It’s a powerful season. Stay tuned.”

The cast of "Grey's Anatomy" laughs in a beach scene that aired on Dec. 3, 2020.courtesy ABC

In a powerful moment on the Dec. 3 episode, Meredith gets a moment to tell George what he meant to her, explaining that he was a good person and that impacted her.

"Because you went all in for everybody, for your friends, for your family, a woman at the bus stop. You think that didn't somehow affect me?" she said. "You changed my life, George. I didn't say it then, but it's true."

The final scene of the episode shows Miranda Bailey, played by Chandra Wilson, Richard Webber, played by James Pickens Jr., Meredith and George together on the beach.

"So find your people. Keep them close," Meredith says in a voiceover. "Because when you're at your lowest, those people get you through."

In a Q&A with Deadline posted Thursday night after the episode, Knight and Vernoff explained that the final scene was meant to bring a little closure to fans.

"(My husband and I) were talking about that idea of closure and he was saying that sometimes closure’s shutting a door, and sometimes it’s revisiting a familiar room, and finding what brought you joy. And it just hit me," Knight said.

"Grey's Anatomy" airs Thursdays (9 p.m. ET) on ABC.