So Many ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Fans Missed a Hidden Callback in George O’Malley's Return Last Night

Hannah Jeon
·4 min read

From Good Housekeeping

  • In another surprising twist in season 17, Grey's Anatomy saw a second beloved character return in last night's episode, titled "You'll Never Walk Alone."

  • Fans had a blast from the past as George O'Malley (T.R. Knight) reunited with Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo).

  • A few eagle-eyed fans noticed a clever callback in the season 17 episode, pointing out that Meredith telling George "You changed my life" was a direct reference to Meredith's voice-over during George's death scene in the season 5 finale.

Leave it to Grey's Anatomy to deliver yet another shocking character return — and some major hidden throwbacks along the way!

Not long after McDreamy's surprise re-appearance — which kicked off season 17 of the hit medical show with a bang — Grey's Anatomy brought back another fan-favorite character in last night's episode, titled "You'll Never Walk Alone." In the same COVID-induced dream sequence she reunited with Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) found herself face-to-face with none other than ... George O'Malley?!

That's right: After two long weeks of theorizing who would be the next cast member to return to the show, fans were treated to a major blast from the past as T.R. Knight made a shocking re-appearance as the late George O'Malley (a.k.a. "007"), a whopping 11 years after his departure from the show in 2009.

As long-time fans may remember, George O'Malley was Meredith's close friend — and one of the show's original characters — before tragically dying in a bus accident in season 5. It was, of course, one of the most heartbreaking (and shocking) moments in Grey's history — and, as several eagle-eyed fans discovered, there was actually a major callback to the very same scene in last night's episode.

If you remember from last night's scenes on the beach, Meredith was able to have a heartwarming conversation with George — and one of the things she tells him is the positive impact he had on her life. "You changed my life, George," she says. "I didn’t say it then, but it’s true."

Cue the tears from every single person watching — but what many viewers did not realize was that Meredith's dialogue was a direct reference to what she says in George's death scene in the season 5 finale. If you don't recall that far back, the final heart-wrenching moments of this episode see both George's and Izzie's (Katherine Heigl) lives hang in the balance as both characters flatline — George in his surgery after his bus accident, and Izzie after her surgery for her cancer.

While Izzie then has her iconic vision of entering an elevator and coming face-to-face with George in his army uniform, Meredith says in a voice-over: "Did you say it? 'I love you. I don't ever wanna live without you. You changed my life.' Did you say it? Make a plan. Set a goal. Work toward it. But every now and then look around. Drink it in. 'Cause this is it. It might all be gone tomorrow."

A few dedicated fans, of course, were quick to catch this hidden callback in last night's episode, pointing out that Meredith finally being able to tell George "You changed my life" was a direct reference to her iconic quote in the season 5 finale scene. Needless to say, many viewers had very emotional reactions over discovering this significant parallel, taking to social media to talk about the clever hidden detail — and noting how it was a perfect full-circle moment to George's death.

"Oh my God I didn’t realize this and now I’m sobbing," one fan wrote on Reddit. "This felt like the perfect closure for George’s character and this just confirms it."

We're definitely sobbing, too — and it's safe to say that we are not prepared for what other surprises Grey's Anatomy has for us next!

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