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Dr. Derek ‘McDreamy’ Shepherd, who Patrick Dempsey played for more than 10 seasons, is back for at least part of Season 17
of ABC’s ‘Grey’s Anatomy.’

USA TODAY

Paging Dr. O’Malley.

That’s right: “McDreamy” officially isn’t the only dead character “Grey’s Anatomy” revived for Season 17. George O’Malley (T.R. Knight), who died during Season 5 after getting hit by a bus, appeared in one of Meredith’s (Ellen Pompeo) COVID-19-induced, purgatory-like visions in Thursday’s episode.

Meredith sees him at the same beach she’s been envisioning Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) during her COVID-19 illness. George tells her that she has great kids, and “I would have stayed if I could have.” The pair were roommates, one-time lovers and surgical residents together – but of course, their friendship was what audiences loved.

T.R. Knight returned as George during this week’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” (Photo: ABC, ABC)

George died after getting hit by a bus during the Season 5 finale before he was about to join the Army. He stepped in front of the bus to save someone else’s life. Meredith was the first to figure out the victim brought into the hospital was actually George; he wrote “007” on her hand with his finger, a nickname he earned after botching his first appendectomy, to identify himself. 

George and Meredith talk throughout the episode, about everything from how Meredith and his fellow interns couldn’t stop laughing at his funeral (which made him happy) to grief in general. Meanwhile, apart from her hallucinations, Meredith’s mentor Richard (James Pickens, Jr.) has to decide whether to put her into a clinical trial to help save her life.

“If you stay here, it might break him,” George tells Meredith. Richard decides to put her in the trial after hearing her mutter George’s name.

George’s selflessness stuck with Meredith. “You changed my life, George. I didn’t say it then, but it’s true,” she says. This seemed to be a callback to Meredith’s closing voiceover in the Season 5 finale – a chilling one for longtime fans: “Did you say it? ‘I love you. I don’t ever wanna live without you. You changed my life.’ Did you say it?”

Pompeo teased the beginning of the new season during a panel earlier this year with three keywords: “Girl, hold on.” “We are bringing it this season,” she added. “Just hold on, it’s coming.”

Dempsey, who played “McDreamy”  for more than 10 seasons, surprised viewers with an appearance at the end of the Season 17 premiere on Nov. 12. 

“Grey’s Anatomy” featured a special reunion shot at the end of Thursday night’s episode. (Photo: ABC, ABC)

Meredith had collapsed in the parking lot. It was unclear why, exactly, but all signs pointed to her having COVID-19 given that Grey-Sloan Memorial had become a COVID-19 center, and she was caring for infected patients. She returned to the beach daydream – which may not be a daydream after all – only to hear Derek calling her name. Derek appeared the next week in another episode.

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A deeper look at Derek’s return: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ premiere shocker: (SPOILER) returns for the first time in years

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