Every now and then I see (or hear) a performance that completely blows me away. Sometimes it’s a scene in a movie (like Vera Farmiga’s final scene in The Boy with the Striped Pajamas). Sometimes it’s a dance performance. Sometimes it’s a vocalist. It doesn’t happen often, and when it does, it stays with me, haunting me, creeping to the front of my brain when I’m trying to focus on something else. It brings tears to my eyes, not because it’s sad, but because it’s so damn beautiful.
Sara Ramirez of Grey’s Anatomy gave such a performance on Episode 18 of Season 7 (entitled “Song Beneath the Song”). I was never a huge Grey’s fan, but I had watched a few episodes here and there over the years, and had seen this one when it first aired, back in 2010. For nine years, this performance stayed fresh in my mind.
I recently took the Shonda Rhimes MasterClass on writing, and was drawn back to Grey’s Anatomy as she referred to the specifics of it and her other shows during the classes. When I finished the course, I started watching Grey’s Anatomy from the beginning. And when I got to this episode, this one scene still grabbed my heart and shook me. Hard.
This one episode is done as a musical, which is unusual for Grey’s, but works perfectly here. In the episode, Callie (short for Calliope, which literally means “beautiful-voiced”, and, in Greek mythology, Calliope was a muse who presided over poetry and song) is in a serious car accident. Pregnant at the time, her baby has to be delivered prematurely while Callie is unconscious. In this scene, we see Callie in a coma as Arizona talks to her about her baby, desperate for her to regain consciousness. Throughout the episode, Callie is having an out of body experience, seeing herself on the operating table, and seeing the doctors trying to save her and her baby. In this scene she sees herself lying unconscious, walks through the hospital to see her baby for the first time as the baby’s father sits by their infant’s side, and then circles back to her hospital bed where she grabs her own legs and forces her unconscious self to wake up. It’s dramatic. It’s beautifully done. And her voice is so powerful, so emotional, so heart-wrenching. Her acting here is absolutely flawless. The expressions on her face, the emotion in her eyes, the vocal performance – it’s one of the most enthralling scenes I’ve ever seen on television.
Even if you aren’t into Grey’s Anatomy, I dare you to watch this three-minute scene and not be moved.