Spoiler alert: This post contains Grey's Anatomy spoilers — you've been warned!
Tonight, on the latest episode of Grey's Anatomy, Meredith Grey's deceased sister, Lexie Grey, shows up in Meredith's COVID fever beach dream. But Lexie isn't the only one who makes an appearance. Mark Sloan also arrived, surprising viewers (who thought Lexie was tonight's only COVID dream guest). Lexie and Mark died together between Season 8 and 9, and that's why the hospital (Grey Sloan) ended up getting named after them.
If you don't remember how they died, here's a quick refresher.
How did Mark Sloan and Lexie Grey die?
In the Season 8 finale, everyone is involved in a plane crash. Almost immediately, we learn that Lexie has been crushed by a piece of debris, and while Mark tries to save her, Lexie ultimately succumbs to her fatal injuries. While Mark seems totally fine, we later learn that he has severe chest wounds from the crash, and he ends up hospitalized and in a coma for a month. The team at Seattle Grace Mercy West takes him off his ventilator and he dies in the Season 9 premiere.
It turns out, there was more to Mark's departure than super tragic storytelling. The actor who played Mark, Eric Dane, left Grey's Anatomy because he landed a new role on The Last Ship. It also seems like Eric didn't really like the direction the show was going in. “Grey’s Anatomy is a world — it’s not about any one individual actor and the storylines were sort of... you know, heading in different directions," he told Entertainment Weekly.
He added, "It was an opportunity for me to go and I was interested in something different, [...] I loved doing Grey’s Anatomy. I would have done it until the final episode, but this was something I couldn’t pass up." The feeling sounded mutual between Eric and the Grey's show writers. In a since-deleted blog post, Shonda Rhimes wrote that the writers didn't want to explore the trauma Eric would have to deal with after losing Lexie.
“That doesn’t sound like what I want for my beloved Mark Sloan. So, I fought it and I debated it and tossed and turned about it but in the end, I had to do what was right for the integrity of the character ... So Mark dies. And he and Lexie get to be together in a way. Their love remains true," Shonda wrote, per HuffPo.
Tonight's episode was extra bittersweet, as it is confirmed that Mark and Lexie end up together. Kind of. After Lexie makes a remark about how there aren't any rules on the beach, Mark told Meredith that she's too early to join them. "I don't know how to get back," Meredith says. “I keep seeing Derek, and he won’t help me get back or come close enough to touch.” Mark replied, “It’s not up to him, it’s up to you.”
“So you two are together?” Meredith asks Mark. “On your beach it looks like we are,” Mark says.
Watch new episodes of Grey's Anatomy every Thursday at 9 p.m. on ABC.