So are they firing Isaiah Washington or what? No doubt, the final scene of the season finale of "Grey's Anatomy" left many viewers wondering if the tears Cristina was crying after being ditched at the altar were of heartbreak or relief, but some of us were more curious if her anguished "He's gone" referred to Burke, her former fiance, or the man who plays him.
Washington, of course, was the center of a scandal earlier this year after he referred to cast member T.R. Knight, not once but twice, by a homophobic epithet. Since then, rumors have flown over whether he would be allowed to remain on a show that prides itself on love and tolerance and diversity.
Thursday night's season finale certainly left that, and a few other things, pretty much hanging. Or not hanging, as the case may be.
In a way, the finale returned the blockbuster drama to its starting point. Burke and Cristina are definitely not married, and Cristina, mercifully, is again her obsessively ambitious and most admirable self. After weeks of consideration, the chief may have offered his position to Derek, but in the end he remained the chief. Meredith and Derek are back at square one with him being gleaming and open -- "You are the love of my life," he tells her -- and her being skittish and closed -- "I have to go," is her reply. Karev again is too late in realizing that if you like a girl, you should treat her nice and tell her so (first it was Izzie, then Addison, now former Jane Doe patient Ava/Rebecca).
The only person truly up in the air is George, who apparently flunked his intern exam and now must choose not only between Callie and Izzie but also between quitting medicine and repeating his intern year. (In the most tantalizing development, another "Grey" girl -- Meredith's step-sister -- shows up at the tail end as one of the new interns.)
As a season closer it was rather unsatisfying, like having the "Lost" guys peering down another hatch. If you were looking for a church vestibule showdown between Callie and Izzie, you were sorely disappointed.
But then wedding episodes are always so hard to pull off on TV -- too much acting within acting, and wedding dresses just don't film well for some reason. As a wedding episode, Thursday's "Grey's" was fairly illuminating, reminding us (and any aspiring TV writers in the audience) that marriage, in dramatic terms anyway, is simply a dead-end proposition. Everyone from Jane Austen to Candace Bushnell knows this, which is why so many novels, plays and movies end up in tulle and lace, emphasis on "end."
In TV drama terms, two people swearing devotion shuts down many more options than it creates -- the actual inner workings of the institution are far too subtle and nuanced (read: boring) to hold up as a prime-time plot line alongside the frisky doings of singletons; writers really can't go anywhere with marriage but kids and adultery. Witness the Callie-George-Izzie triangle. And that marriage was what? Six days old?
So you either have to base the show on the union, like "Mad About You" or "thirtysomething," or keep the whole nuptial thing to a minimum. Divorced spouses are OK; actually, divorced spouses are great, because they have all kinds of potential -- objectionable partners, irritating demands, baby-sitting options. But happily married? Yawn.
So Cristina should consider herself well out of it. She will not be forced to disappear like her eyebrows (how great is Sandra Oh for allowing herself to be seen by millions sans eyebrows?) into married bliss and "being a Burke." The avid viewer heaved a sigh of relief because, even if Washington has entered anger management/homophobia recovery, Burke is still an arrogant jerk.
And Cristina isn't.