Ellen Pompeo in a scene from "Grey's Anatomy."

Ellen Pompeo in a scene from "Grey's Anatomy." Credit: ABC

THE SHOW "Grey's Anatomy"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday at 9 on ABC/7

REASON TO WATCH Eighth-season finale

CATCHING UP/WHAT IT'S ABOUT Blue skies . . . nothing but blue skies. Oral exams complete, the residents basically just have to worry about what grand and highly lucrative offer to accept. Yang (Sandra Oh)? She's chosen the Mayo Clinic over Stanford. Karev (Justin Chambers) got a fellowship to Johns Hopkins. Derek (Patrick Dempsey) and Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) could be headed to Boston, where McDreamy has an offer from Harvard to open a clinic that will help him find a cure for Alzheimer's. But first, some of them must travel to Idaho to perform a surgery. The jet they're on crashes and then . . .

MY SAY Shonda Rhimes, creator of "Grey's Anatomy," is TV's queen of improbable plot contrivances. Everything may be going along nicely in the lives of our beloved docs when -- zzzzap! -- a giant hole opens up in the middle of Seattle or a lion or madman gets loose or a car careens out of control on a remote highway. It's her endearingly old-fashioned way of giving fans whiplash -- in case all 9 million get too comfortable -- and quite possibly her means of keeping her actors on a tight leash, too.

These reliable, season-ending, perils-of-Pauline cliffhangers -- like tonight's -- tend to remind the cast that they're not indispensable, either.

Someone will die tonight, but who? Rhimes wrote this finale months ago, before Pompeo, Dempsey, Oh, Chambers, James Pickens Jr. ("Chief") and Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey) recently signed two-year extensions. But that doesn't mean any are safe -- ever hear of someone dying, then miraculously coming back to life the following season? Fans have been having a field day with their own guesses: How about poor April (Sarah Drew), who failed her orals and got fired from Grace? Insult to injury?

The problem with silly, overhyped cliffhangers is they scrub away the memory of excellent work that has come before.

BOTTOM LINE "Grey's" has had a good season and has an intensely loyal fan base to prove it. Of course, we'll watch tonight. Rhimes has made certain of that.


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