The return of Dr. Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd in the Grey's Anatomy Season 17 premiere could be just the first surprise comeback of the season. Ellen Pompeo, who's Dr. Meredith Grey was diagnosed with the coronavirus in this week's episode, teased more surprises for fans on Twitter after the episode aired. The show's producers have also teased more surprising returns.
In this week's episode, it was revealed that McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) was only back for a dream sequence. "You love me. God knows I love you. I’ll be right here when you’re ready," he told Meredith as she fell into the sand. Meredith's battle with the coronavirus will not be easy, as the teaser for the Dec. 3 episode showed Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) revealing that Meredith was "not improving" and doctors "can't wake her up."
After the episode aired, Pompeo playfully interacted with fans. One person asked her if she could give any kind of hint about who Meredith would see next in her dreams. "Ummmmmm no," Pompeo replied, notes Us Weekly. "That [ABC] promo department are messing with y’all in a major way no?" The actress later added, "If you really think about it... there’s a lot of people it could be." Another person told her that it would not make sense for Meredith's father Thatcher Grey (Jeff Perry) to come back. "In dreams, nothing makes sense," Pompeo wrote.
Executive producers Andy Reaser and Meg Marinis told PEOPLE more "wonderful and completely surprising things are absolutely possible" when asked about more cameos. As the longest-running primetime medical drama in television history, there are dozens of characters fans can speculate about returning. Ellis Grey (Kate Burton), George O'Malley (T.R. Knight), Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), and Mark Sloan (Eric Dane) have all died when the actors left the show.
Dempsey is expected to appear in at least three episodes during the season. In an interview with Deadline, showrunner Krista Vernoff said Dempsey's return was Pompeo's idea. The two both live in Malibu and Pompeo knew Vernoff wanted to do a beach dream sequence. "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?" Pompeo said. "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." Viewers will have to tune in to new episodes of Grey's Anatomy on ABC Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET to see if more surprises are in store.