How Long Is McDreamy Back? Patrick Dempsey’s ‘Grey’s’ Return: What We Know


    Grey’s Anatomy fans have been dreaming of seeing McDreamy again since 2015 — and so has Meredith Grey. Ellen Pompeo’s character was reunited with her late husband Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) during the season 17 premiere of the ABC drama.

    Fans tuning into the Thursday, November 12, episode of Grey’s Anatomy were shocked when Meredith was found passed out in the parking lot after working nonstop amid the coronavirus pandemic. While she was unconscious at Grey Sloan Memorial, Meredith had drifted off to a beach with Derek.

    “I miss you!” Meredith yelled from across the beach.

    Derek, walking toward her, replied, “I know!”

    “There have been studies about how intense our dream life has been. In the pandemic, people are having really intense dreams because of the lockdown,” showrunner Krista Vernoff told Deadline about the dream sequence. “We’re not getting enough stimulation, and so, it’s happening in our dreams. So, it started as that. It started as, how do we give people some escape. I had this imagining of a beach motif throughout the season, and I called Ellen, and I said, what if we bring back, I don’t know, some dead character that you could dream of on the beach, that would be so fun for the fans. And she said, ‘Let’s get Patrick.’ Even in my most excitable dream life, that thought hadn’t occurred to me as an option, and there it was.”

    Dempsey left Grey’s Anatomy after 11 seasons in 2015. His character, a neurosurgeon, died in part because doctors failed to do a CT scan after he was in a car accident. It was the first episode creator Shonda Rhimes had written since the season 8 finale. When Rhimes left ABC for Netflix in 2017, she enlisted Vernoff to take over as showrunner for season 14 and beyond.

    “Patrick and Ellen and I were all there at the beginning of this; I wasn’t there for the pilot, but I was there for the first seven seasons, and that was 17 years ago,” Vernoff said. “That was, like, a lifetime ago; my kids weren’t alive. It was so wild to walk out on that beach, and just be together again as these different people that we are now. But I can’t overstate how joyful and healing an experience this was.”

    Rhimes celebrated Dempsey’s return via Twitter, writing, “Thought I would check in on twitter to see if you enjoyed the dreamy gift @KristaVernoff & @EllenPompeo gave to brighten up your 2020 … #GreysAnatomy.”

    So, how many times will fans see Dempsey on season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy? And are any other deceased characters (McSteamy, Lexie, George, Ellis, etc.) still haunting Meredith’s dreams? Scroll through to find out:

    The Vibe on Set

    “The timing for Patrick’s return had finally come. He was extremely professional, friendly, funny, and his chemistry with Ellen was still there,” a source told Us. “The crew enjoyed the time with Patrick, and there was a lot of catching up. [The show is] a big family and Patrick may have left it for a bit, but as families do, they come back together. It was extremely heartfelt and organic to watch it all.”




    Pompeo made the call to Dempsey to bring him back.


    “Patrick and I both have homes in Malibu, and we went for a hike one day. I had known that Krista wanted to do a beach thing, and I was at the beach,” she recalled to Deadline. “And the idea just struck me so I just said to him, would you ever consider coming and being a part of the storytelling this season? I know that Patrick has his foundation in Maine where he helps cancer patients and cancer survivors, and that’s a huge effort of his, and I know that it’s important to him, also, to give people hope, and give people joy, and we wanted to bring something to this moment.”


    Dempsey, who noted that he hadn’t spoken to his former costar in a while, didn’t hesitate after hearing how Grey’s was giving back to frontline responders.


    “It felt great,” the Old School actress added. “Patrick and I have this chemistry, where I think, even from when we first met, for some reason it just felt like we’ve known each other for a hundred years, and it’s just the same feeling. It’s like riding a bike, we just have a chemistry and a dynamic that’s always served us well, and I think we have a genuine affection for each other.”


    Krista Vernoff/ABC


    “We shot at a private beach. We had a lot of security. It was a miracle,” Vernoff told the Los Angeles Times. “At one point, there was a fishing boat out on the water, and the line producer, James Williams, came running to me and he goes: ‘I think that’s paparazzi. I think it’s a paparazzi boat.’ We were like, ‘What do we do? The sun is reflecting off something! Oh, it’s a fishing pole.’ It was pretty amazing. We just really, really wanted the fans to have this moment of total shock.”




    “There’s just so much darkness, and we knew that coming together would be a little ray of light,” Pompeo told Deadline. “And so, I think we had the same idea, at the core, to want to help people and bring a smile to people’s faces. So, he loved the idea, and we were just so excited, and we had a ball filming it. … It was very healing to come back, and know that we’re doing something good, putting out a positive story, a healing story, going to make people smile, and I think, for me, I’m really grateful for the opportunity to be able to be at this place in the show where we can do this.”



    Cast Reactions

    Vernoff revealed that she had Meredith’s mother’s name, Ellis, who died during season 3, in the script as a placeholder to keep Derek’s return a secret.


    “There were writers who didn’t know we were doing this on that staff. Most of the actors didn’t know we were doing this. The crew didn’t know we were doing this when they showed up on the day,” Vernoff said.


    Several stars took to Twitter during the episode.


    “I TOLD YOUUUUUUUUU #greysanatomy.  *this season is WILDDDDD,” Camilla Luddington (Jo Wilson) tweeted. “Goodnight #GreysAnatomy  fans welcome to season 17… watch every ep live this season.”


    Giacomo Gianniotti (DeLuca) tweeted, “Going to bed. Oof. What an emotional rollercoaster. You all have NO IDEA, what it takes and how many people it takes to make this show. For everyone who touched tonights art. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. #GreysAnatomy that is some #qualitytvdrama.”


    Kelly McCreary (Maggie) tweeted, “So … anything interesting happen on tv last night?”


    The Future

    “We will see more of [Derek] this season. This was not just a cameo. He will appear three more times,” Vernoff told the Los Angeles Times.


    She also teased more deceased characters coming back, telling the Times, “I mean, wouldn’t it be exciting if we did?”


    During her Deadline interview, the writer added, “You have to tune in and see who comes to the beach. It’ll be a joyful discovery.”


    Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET.



    Meredith Can’t Get to Derek

    During the November 19 episode, fans learned Meredith can’t touch Derek on the beach as she battles coronavirus in real life.


    After she face-planted into the sand as she tried to run toward him, Meredith yelled, “I hate you.”


    Derek, who noted she was “worried” about their kids, replied, “You love me. God knows I love you. I’ll be right here when you’re ready.”


    ABC (2)

    More Surprises

    The promo for the December 2 episode of Grey’s teased another visitor from Meredith’s past. “If you really think about it … there’s a lot of people it could be,” Pompeo tweeted about the teaser. In another tweet, she added, “In dreams, nothing makes sense.”



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