Grey's boss Shonda Rhimes has recently been interviewed about what's coming up in the first few episodes of Grey's Anatomy in season 9, revealing some big changes for Cristina Yang and the show structure as a whole. We've posted the most relevant parts in the excerpts below, so spoiler warning ahead:
You left the doctors in the woods without rescue! Will there be a time jump next season or are you picking up right where you left off?
Shonda Rhimes: We're doing something really interesting that we've never really done before. As you know, I try to reinvent every season. When we start the season, we're two to three months in the future and we're well settled into the year for these doctors. We're watching them do what they're going to do. They're located where they're going to be located, things are happening. You see the aftermath of what happened. You're left with some questions as to how this happened and "Why is this the way it is?" and "Why is that the way it is?" Then, in the second episode of the season, we start back in the woods. We go from there and you see what happens. Then ensuing episodes, you're back to regular time and we're back on our timeline.
What can you talk about in regards to the structure of this season? At the end of last season, the doctors planned to take jobs elsewhere, so are we seeing a show that's just set at Seattle Grace or are we seeing a show that is set at many hospitals?
Rhimes: We're seeing a show set at Seattle Grace and someplace else. What's interesting to me is that I didn't want us to feel like you're coming back and magically everyone is back home. You understand why some people stayed and why some people left. There are some very clear reasons what happened. It's very challenging playing an entirely separate story line in another location.
Can you tell us where this location is?
Rhimes: I don't want to say where the location is because that would be too spoilery. It's a hospital. When we come back at the beginning of the season, some of our doctors are in different locations, more than one of them, and some of our doctors are preparing to leave for different locations.
What can you tell us about Cristina's journey next season? Are she and Owen (Kevin McKidd) really over or are there attempts to reconcile?
Rhimes: I've dubbed this the season of romance purposefully. I feel like one of the things we're going to be seeing this season is Cristina and Owen finding their way back to each other. It's not going to be easy and it's not going to be quick, but I think it's going to be really beautiful. I'm happy because I love them, so I'm excited.
Click here to read more about where Cristina Yang ends up.
Shonda Rhimes: “When we start the season, we are ahead enough in time where we see the outcome of lots of things. And in the second episode of the season, there’s rewind — we go backwards — to where they’re still in the forest,” she shares. “So you see what happened and in the next episode, you see how we get there. That was a really great experiment for us, and we think it turned out really really well.” This approach, she says, allowed them to tackle the crash aftermath in a way that felt different from what fans saw after the equally traumatizing hospital shooting a few seasons ago.
The third episode will resume the timeline seen in the premiere.
The Hollywood Reporter
The Hollywood Reporter: How are you approaching this season? In the past, you've known what the finale was and worked backward but last season because of all the uncertainty, it was split in two.
Shonda Rhimes: We know what the finale is and we're working backward from that. It's the usual way we work and we had a lot of fun last season but because we were unsure of a lot of things we were left with building a lot of things and it doesn't matter because we have a finale that's totally separate from what else is happening.
Could we see a time jump in the premiere?
Not a big one. We're doing something really interesting this year. Our first episode takes place two to three months after we left the finale, so you see the aftermath and where everyone ends up. The second episode jumps back and we're back in the woods, we start the episode back in the woods. To me, it's a very different way of telling the story and you have some questions about why people are the way they are and in the second episode you find out why things are the way they are.
Will you continue to play with that format throughout the season?
We're not. We don't have big plans to play with it back and forth. Even though we had a plane crash, this isn't Lost (laughs). We wanted to find a way to clearly and interestingly tell the story of who our character and why they are who they are.
Considering the way with the finale ended with Alex (Justin Chambers) and Jackson (Jesse Williams) both being accepted to other programs -- and Cristina, if she survives, could we see some of the season take place in other hospitals?
Yes, we could absolutely see some of the season take place somewhere else; that was always in the cards for us -- the idea that somebody would be somewhere else and we would see things play out that way. When we start the season, there are some doctors who are not at Seattle Grace and we will come to understand what that means as time goes on.
Might that be something that continues on for the length of the series?
I don't know that it's going to be the length of the series; we're going to do it for as long as it feels interesting to us for as long as we have story to tell in the way that we need to tell it. At the end of every season, I always say let's leave it on the table for next season and part of the reason for next season is what happens if a doctor is someplace else and what that means for our story and how that works.
What shape will Meredith, Cristina and Derek be in mentally and emotionally when the season picks up?
It's surprising. [...] Meredith and Cristina are coping in ways that are both expected and unexpected for those characters.
It sounds like all three will survive the crash.
I can confirm to you that Meredith, Cristina and Derek survive.
What kind of Seattle Grace will the docs be returning to, clearly it will be a bit depleted with a few people moving on.
It's going to be a very interesting place. We've been calling this season the season of romance and talking about playing up the romance of surgery and the romance between characters and the romance of friendships and really mining that as much as we can so it's not going to be a dark season.
Full interviews at the source.