ABC has been using the phrase “Farewell to Cristina” to promote the final episodes of the 10th season of “Grey’s Anatomy.” To any “Grey’s Anatomy” fan, those are the worst words in the English language. That is because they mark the beginning of the exit of Dr. Cristina Yang, played by the glorious Sandra Oh, who is leaving the world of Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital (which true fans still call Seattle Grace) at the end of this season.
Cristina Yang was first introduced to audience members as one of the five original interns hired to begin their surgical residency at Seattle Grace working under Dr. Miranda Bailey. She is the best friend, or “person” (which all fans know is the true label for best friendship), to the titular character, Meredith Grey. She is an Asian-American Jew who graduated top of her class at Stanford Medical School and then went on to be the best, most badass cardiothoracic surgeon in Seattle. She is a wildly smart, dedicated, loyal doctor who does not take bullshit from anyone, including her superiors. She also refuses to work out or eat healthily, and she and Meredith “screw boys like whores on tequila.” Basically, she is the best human being in the whole world.
Cristina Yang’s brilliance is indebted to two spectacular women: show creator Shonda Rhimes and the utterly dazzling actress who brings her to life, Sandra Oh. Oh won the Golden Globe for her work on “Grey’s Anatomy” in 2006. She is easily one of the best actors currently working in television, film, or theater. She is truly a gift. As an ode to her breathtaking performance throughout the past ten years on the show, let’s take a look at some of Cristina’s most iconic moments.
Season 3: “Drowning on Dry Land”
There is a major ferry accident, and all the doctors are called to the scene. Meredith falls into the freezing cold water and remains there for hours until Derek fishes her out. They get her back to the hospital, but she is dying. Cristina leaves in the middle of her shift, which she would never do, and walks dazedly through the 99-cent store in her scrubs, aimlessly putting miscellaneous items into her shopping cart. Then, she goes to the bar across the street and sits with the bartender, unpacking her random items. When the bartender suggests that she goes back to the hospital, she quips, “I’m coping! So shut up and look at all my crap.” It is the perfect Cristina moment: hilarious and yet so deep.
Season 3: “Didn’t We Almost Have It All?”
Every time I hear Ingrid Michaelson’s “Keep Breathing” I think of the Season 3 finale because it underscores the final minutes of the episode, including arguably one of the most memorable “Grey’s Anatomy” moments ever: Meredith cutting Cristina out of her wedding dress after Burke leaves her at the altar. She stands in their apartment in the wedding dress, looks around, and begins to hyperventilate. She says, “He’s gone. I’m free. Damnit. Damnit. Damnit! Damnit! Take this off! Take it off!” Meredith takes scissors, cuts her out of the dress, and then holds her as she sobs standing in her slip. It is gut-wrenching.
Season 6: “Death and All His Friends”
The season finale of the sixth season of “Grey’s Anatomy” is the most intense episode of the series. Cristina is operating on the heart of Dr. Derek Shepard, Meredith’s husband. As if that wasn’t enough, she is being held at gunpoint because there is a shooter in the hospital whose mission was to kill Derek. In order to save Cristina, Meredith tells the shooter to shoot her. Instead, the shooter shoots at Owen, the love of Cristina’s life. However, Cristina refuses to give up on Derek, even with the love of her life lying there bleeding, for Meredith’s sake and continues to operate with tears streaming down her face. It is one of the most powerful, intense, emotional displays of friendship, showing why the ultimate “Grey’s Anatomy” couple will always be the “Twisted Sisters:” Meredith and Cristina.
Season 7: “Shock to the System”
After taking a break from surgery to recover from the emotional trauma of the shooting, Cristina comes back to the hospital and gets back in the OR for the first time. As the other doctors are working, one of them clumsily knocks into a tray and it falls loudly, scaring everyone. They look around and can’t find Cristina, because she is lying on her side on the floor, shaking in shock. Meredith runs into the OR and lies on the ground beside her trying to comfort her. As they talk, one single tear flows from Cristina’s left eye, across the bridge of her nose, over her right eyelid and down to the floor. That visual is so striking because Cristina is the most confident surgeon. To see her so shaken is startling.
Season 10: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
In the most recent episode, Cristina is asked to speak about her innovative research at a hospital in Zürich, only to discover that it was Dr. Burke that wanted her there. After seven years of no contact, he wanted her to come to his hospital to see what she could have; he wants her to take over for him. When Cristina gets off the plane, Meredith is there to pick her up. Cristina approaches, and Meredith just stares at her and states, “You’re leaving.” And with that, every single “Grey’s Anatomy” fan began to scream or cry.
With only two episodes left, we “Grey’s Anatomy” fans are stuck with the task of preparing ourselves emotionally for the departure of Cristina Yang. She is one of the most driven, intelligent, and fiercely loving women on television, and it has been an honor to know her and love her for the past 10 years. She is a legend. The show will not be the same without her.