These ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 17 Spoilers Explain Why Derek Is Back

Grey's Anatomy
Photo: ABC.

Paging Dr. Grey! The Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital is back at work, and here’s what we know about Grey’s Anatomy season 17’s spoilers, premiere date and cast. But before we dive into the new season of Grey’s Anatomy, let’s look back on the series that changed the medical drama game.

Created by Shonda Rhimes, Grey’s Anatomy premiered on ABC in March 2005. The main cast consisted of Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey), Sandra Oh (Cristina Yang), Katherine Heigl (Izzie Stevens), Justin Chambers (Alex Karev), T.R. Knight (George O’Malley), Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey), James Pickens Jr. (Richard Webber) and Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey.) Over time, many of the original cast members left (or had their characters killed off) and new characters were introduced. Though Grey’s Anatomy isn’t as successful as it was in its heyday (the series was nominated for several Emmys after its first season), the medical drama is still one of ABC’s highest-rated shows, with more than 5 million viewers each week.

There’s a reason Grey’s Anatomy has been on for 17 seasons. Speaking of season 17, read ahead for what we know about Grey’s Anatomy‘s upcoming season. As always, expect drama, heartbreak and lots and lots of tears. The Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital doctors are back, and they’re here to cure your quarantine boredom.

Our mission at STYLECASTER is to bring style to the people, and we only feature products we think you’ll love as much as we do. Please note that if you purchase something by clicking on a link within this story, we may receive a small commission of the sale.

When is the Grey’s Anatomy season 17 premiere date?

Grey’s Anatomy season 17 premiered with a two-hour episode on Thursday, November 7, at 9 p.m. ET/PIT on ABC. The episode aired after the season 4 premiere of Station 19, Grey’s Anatomy‘s firefighter spinoff, at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The premieres of Grey’s Anatomy and Station 19 were a crossover event.

“Our fall schedule is now complete with a dynamic lineup of new and returning drama series,” said Karey Burke, President of ABC Entertainment in September. “From fan-favorite shows like Grey’s Anatomy and The Good Doctor to David E. Kelley’s thrilling new drama Big Sky, our strength is in our storytelling, and we could not be more energized to bring these compelling series to our viewers.”

Pompeo and Richard Flood (Dr. Cormac Hayes) also confirmed in an Instagram post in September 2020 that the series was back to production.

“First time back in my scrubs… since we shut down filming 7000 healthcare workers have died from Covid. I dedicate my season 17 to all who have fallen and to everyone of you who by the grace of God is still standing… this season is for you with humility and a bit of humor to get us through and endless amounts of gratitude. I hope we do you proud 🙏🏼❤️ @greysabc #seasonseventeen @richardfloodofficial,” she captioned a post of her and Flood in face masks. Recurring cast member Debbie Allen also commented, “We’re Baaaaaccckkk 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼.”

TV Line reported at the time that Grey’s Anatomy started production on season 17 the week of September 7. The show held its first virtual table read for the season on September 3.

Who’s in the Grey’s Anatomy season 17 cast?

Most of the main cast members from season 16 returned for season 17
, with the exception of Chamber. Chambers, who’s played Dr. Alex Karev since Grey’s Anatomy‘s first season, announced in January 2020 that he wouldn’t be returning for season 17. “There’s no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that’s defined so much of my life for the past 15 years,” he said in a statement at the time. “For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time.”

To replace Chambers’ character, Grey’s Anatomy promoted two recurring cast members to series regulars: Richard Flood (Dr. Cormac Hayes) and Anthonuy (Dr. Winston Ndugu), according to The Hollywood Reporter.

See the full cast for Grey’s Anatomy season 17 below.

Ellen Pompeo as Dr. Meredith Grey

Chandra Wilson as Dr. Miranda Bailey

James Pickens Jr. as Dr. Richard Webber

Kevin McKidd as Dr. Owen Hunt

Jesse Williams as Dr. Jackson Avery

Caterina Scorsone as Dr. Amelia Shepherd

Camilla Luddington as Dr. Jo Karev

Kelly McCreary as Dr. Maggie Pierce

Giacomo Gianniotti as Dr. Andrew DeLuca

Kim Raver as Dr. Teddy Altman

Greg Germann as Dr. Tom Koracick

Jake Borelli as Dr. Levi Schmitt

Chris Carmack as Dr. Atticus “Link” Lincoln

Richard Flood as Dr. Cormac Hayes

Anthony Hill as Dr. Winston Ndugu

Grey’s Anatomy season 17 spoilers

Read ahead for the spoilers and storylines we know about Grey’s Anatomy season 17 so far.

Season 17 Could Be Meredith Grey’s Last

In an interview with Variety in October 2020, Pompeo hinted that season 17 could be her last as Dr. Meredith Grey given that it’s her last contracted season. “I mean, this is the last year of my contract right now,” she said at the time. “I don’t know that this is the last year? But it could very well could be…There’s your sound bite! There’s your clickbait! ABC’s on the phone!”

However, there’s still hope that she’ll sign on for another contract. “I don’t take the decision lightly,” she said. “I’m very grateful for it.” “I’m just weighing out creatively what can we do.”

COVID-19 Will Be a Storyline

Showrunner Krista Vernoff confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter in July that COVID-19 will be a storyline on season 17, though she notes that the season won’t be all “death and despair.”

“There’s joy and fun to be had in people who are quarantining away from the hospital. Many of [these doctors] aren’t going home to their families; they’re getting Airbnbs and living together,” Vernoff said. “There’s a lot of story to tell that is sort of COVID-related but not about death and despair.”

There Won’t Be as Many Surgeries

Keep the scalpel. Vernoff also confirmed that there won’t be as many surgeries on the upcoming season because many real-life surgeries are on hold due to the pandemic. “Our show is a surgical show,” she said. “And there are a lot of surgeries that are simply not happening.” What’s more, there are medical stories to be found in the fact that

Vernoff also teased that the series will show a different side to the pandemic, especially in its early days when hospitals weren’t as full. “Death has increased in this country particularly because people were in the early months [of an illness] and are still afraid to go to the doctor, afraid to go to the hospital,” she said.

The Love Triangle Between Meredith, DeLuca and Cormac Will Continue

Vernoff confirmed in an interview with TV Line in April 2020 that the love triangle between Meredith, her previous love interest DeLuca and her new love interest Cormac will continue in season 17.

“I’m at the point with that story where I don’t know who I am rooting for,” she said. “I don’t know if I think that DeLuca is rising to a level of dark and twisty and life experience that makes him somehow a [suitably] mature partner for Meredith. Or if all that Hayes has been through in his life already makes him her equal. I am delighted to have such a conundrum.”

She continued, “I thought that both Giacomo and Richard rose so beautifully to the occasion of the storytelling,” she enthuses. “You write a script and you think it’s one thing and then you see it shot and put it together and it becomes something entirely different… I honestly don’t know how it will end.”

Winston & Maggie’s Relationship Will Continue

The Hollywood Reporter reported in July 2020 that part of the reason Hill’s role as Dr. Winston Ndugu was promoted for season 17 was because of his blooming relationship with Maggie Pearce (Kelly McCreary), so fans should expect that relationship to continue in the next season.

Jo Is Done With Alex

Don’t expect Jo’s (Camilla Luddington) season 17 storyline to be about Alex. Vernoff confirmed to TV Line in April 2020 that Jo will—finally—have a happier storyline for season 17 after dark storylines, such as her mental breakdown in season 15 following the reveal that she was the product of a sexual assault.

“I didn’t want to put anyone through it,” Vernoff said. “[Camilla] had so beautifully gone through many months of very dark storytelling, and I didn’t want any of us to watch Jo go into a hole again.”

She continued, “Jo had imagined every possible worst-case scenario. And even though one of them came true, just having the information allowed her to move on. It felt like she had done a lot of grieving for the relationship in the weeks prior to receiving that letter.”

Derek Will Be in At Least 3 Episodes

Patrick Dempsey surprised fans in the premiere of Grey’s Anatomy when he reprised his role as Derek Shepherd. As fans know, Dempsey left the series in season 11 after Derek died in a car accident. In an interview with The Los Angeles Times, showrunner Krista Vernoff confirmed that Derek will appear in at least three episodes.

“We will see more of [Derek] this season,” she said. “This was not just a cameo. He will appear three more times.”

There Could Be More Surprise Cameos

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight after the premiere of Grey’s Anatomy season 17, McKidd hinted that there could be more surprise cameos after Derek.

“I can’t tell you that!” McKidd said when asked how long Derek will appear on the show. “I value my job too much. All I can say is you have not seen the last of him. That’s what I will say and whatever does come, it’s going to be… What you saw last week that everybody freaked out about is just a tiny, it’s the tip of the iceberg of what’s to come. You’ll have to watch.”

New Entertainment Newsletter