‘Grey’s Anatomy’ returns with a fresh start

By Lynn Elber

Could there be trouble in paradise for Dr. McDreamy and Meredith?

LOS ANGELES — First came the achingly romantic hilltop reunion between Dr. McDreamy and Meredith that ended last season’s “Grey’s Anatomy.” Is heartbreak next?

“We ended last season with the end of the fairy tale,” said series creator Shonda Rhimes. “I always thought this season was about what happens after the ‘happily ever after,’ for all our characters.”

“For some, it’s about jumping off into something new. It feels like a very fresh start for everybody,” Rhimes said. The ABC show’s two-hour season debut is 9 p.m. tonight.

An on-air promotion has provided a clue about one potential challenge facing Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek “McDreamy” Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). It includes a brief scene in which Derek is confronted by nurse Rose (Lauren Stamile).

“I wish there were a good way to say this: I’m carrying your child,” Rose tells Derek, whose stunned look might match that worn by “Grey’s” fans.

When last seen, McDreamy was embracing Meredith amid a sea of candles after therapy allowed her to see the light about their relationship.

Rose’s revelation — if it’s to be taken at face value — strikes an ominous note for the couple known in shorthand as Mer-Der.

Adding to the mystery: In an ABC podcast in May, Rhimes said Rose isn’t pregnant, and was later quoted as saying she wouldn’t deceive “Grey’s” loyalists. If that’s the case, Rose — or the network’s promotional department — is quite the manipulator.

Rhimes, who’s highly protective of plot twists, won’t tip her hand about how the story plays out. But she’s openly upbeat about season five.

“We’ve settled in from all the attention paid and all the hoopla. We feel like we’re back to where we were in seasons one and two, in the sense that the writers feel a little bit fearless,” Rhimes said. “We know our characters so well at this point that now is the time to take chances.”

The Hollywood writers strike that shut down most TV production for months had an unexpected benefit, Rhimes said.

“It was the first time in four-and-a-half years I wasn’t working nonstop. It was a chance to sleep and clear my brain. ... I know what happens next for these characters in a way I hadn’t known before.”

For Drs. Grey and Shepherd, that means a bold step toward commitment. But as Rhimes signals, it’s unlikely their path together will be smooth.

The new season brings guest stars Bernadette Peters and Kathy Baker and a new medical man at Seattle Grace: Kevin McKidd, playing a military doctor who Rhimes said “makes an impression” on Dr. Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh).

There’s also a familiar face, Katherine Heigl, despite speculation that the series star might want to shrug off her scrubs.

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