GREY'S ANATOMY - ABC's
GREY’S ANATOMY – ABC’s "Grey’s Anatomy" stars Ellen Pompeo as Meredith Grey. (ABC/Mike Rosenthal)

After an unusual year both on screen and off, Grey’s Anatomy fans are surely eager to return to the world they know and love at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital. The 17th and most recent season of the long-running medical drama was written to incorporate the COVID-19 pandemic—both as “the medical story of our lifetimes,” and as a practical way to incorporate PPE into most scenes, keeping the actors and crew safer on set—and saw protagonist Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) spending many episodes in a COVID-induced coma. By the end of the season, while Meredith had recovered and returned home, several other characters had departed for good, and plenty more had gone through significant life changes, leaving us anxious to see what’s next for Meredith and her colleagues. Here’s everything we know so far about Season 18 of Grey’s Anatomy.

Related: Grey’s Anatomy‘s Ellen Pompeo: ‘I Hated Medical Shows’

When is Grey’s Anatomy returning for Season 18?

While the Season 17 premiere of Grey’s Anatomy got pushed back to November 2020 due to COVID-related delays, Season 18 will be sticking to a more typical schedule. The Season 18 premiere of Grey’s Anatomy will air on Thursday, September 30, at 9 pm ET/PT.

What time will Grey’s Anatomy be on?

Season 18 of Grey’s Anatomy will air on Thursdays at 9 pm ET/PT on ABC.

Which Grey’s Anatomy cast members are returning for Season 18?

Every series regular who made it through Season 17 is expected to return for Season 18. That list includes original cast members Pompeo, Chandra Wilson (Dr. Miranda Bailey), and James Pickens, Jr. (Dr. Richard Webber), all three of whom navigated their way through successful contract negotiations that led to the renewal for Season 18. Prior to Season 17, Kim Raver (Dr. Teddy Altman), Camilla Luddington (Dr. Jo Wilson), and Kevin McKidd (Dr. Owen Hunt) signed multi-year contracts which would likewise keep them aboard through Season 18.

And while their returns have not been officially confirmed yet, we also expect to see Kelly McCreary (Dr. Maggie Pierce), Caterina Scorsone (Dr. Amelia Shepherd), Jake Borelli (Dr. Levi Schmitt), Chris Carmack (Dr. Atticus Lincoln), Richard Flood (Dr. Cormac Hayes), and Anthony Hill (Dr. Winston Ndugo) to return as series regulars, with Debbie Allen (Dr. Catherine Fox), Jason George (Dr. Ben Warren), Alex Landi (Dr. Nico Kim), Jaicy Elliot (Dr. Taryn Helm), and Stefania Spampinato (Dr. Carina DeLuca) likely to continue to appear as recurring guest stars.

Who isn’t returning to Grey’s Anatomy for Season 18?

While none of our favorite Grey Sloan Memorial docs succumbed to COVID during Season 17, that doesn’t mean everyone is sticking around. The first main cast member to leave the show was Giacomo Gianniotti, who played Dr. Andrew DeLuca. DeLuca was killed mid-season when he took it upon himself to expose a child trafficking ring, and was stabbed in the process.

Next to depart was Jesse Williams, who first joined the cast of Grey’s Anatomy back in Season 6 as Dr. Jackson Avery. The only other remaining member of Meredith’s resident class, Jackson made the decision to depart Seattle for Boston, where he will run his family‘s multi-billion dollar foundation in an effort to create a more equitable medical world for marginalized communities. Going along with Jackson on his new quest is Jackson’s ex-wife and the mother of his daughter, former main character Dr. April Kepner (Sarah Drew), who was written off the series at the end of Season 14. April revealed in Jackson’s penultimate episode that she and her husband were separated, freeing her up to head to Boston with Jackson and hinting that the two may still wind up together someday.

In more Season-17-surprising-exit news, Dr. Tom Koracick (Greg Germann) dropped the bombshell at the end of Jackson’s final episode that he wanted to go with him. After his own bout with COVID-19, Tom was searching for purpose in his life and thought that Jackson’s mission sounded like something he wanted to be part of. But don’t worry; Koracick is still expected to return as a guest star periodically, likely at least partly due to the fact that Jo Wilson sold him all of her shares in the hospital in the Season 17 finale.

Will any former cast members return to Grey’s Anatomy in Season 18?

Other than Koracick’s likely reappearance at some point, we’re not expecting a repeat of Season 17’s parade of former cast members. Thanks to Meredith’s prolonged period of unconsciousness due to COVID-19, numerous deceased characters were able to make an appearance in her dreams, including Meredith’s husband, Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey), her sister, Lexie (Chyler Leigh), Derek’s best friend, Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), and Meredith’s friend, George (T.R. Knight). However, with Meredith now awake and Season 18 hopefully less COVID-centric, we don’t anticipate this trend to continue—although we can always hope.

Related: OMG! Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey React to the Return of McDreamy

Will Season 18 of Grey’s Anatomy address COVID-19?

The coronavirus pandemic was front and center in Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy, with the hospital staff consistently wrapped in PPE and numerous characters testing positive for the virus at various points throughout the season. This was partly due to COVID-19’s significance as a medical storyline, and partly as a matter of practicality, with all that PPE keeping the actors and crew safe while filming.

While a lot has changed since Season 17 wrapped, with vaccines widely available and many states loosening their mask requirements (or dropping them altogether), the COVID-19 pandemic is still not over, especially for healthcare workers. So while we don’t expect to see the pandemic take center stage in Season 18 the way it did in Season 17, we assume that Grey’s will still acknowledge it in some way. That said, nothing official has been said yet about the plots for Season 18, so the series could always surprise us.

What happened at the end of Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy?

What happened to Meredith Grey in Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy?

Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy will probably go down in the books as the COVID-19 season, but that wasn’t the only storyline; many characters ended the season in very different places than where they began. Last we saw Meredith, she was still struggling with the COVID-19 aftereffects of weakness and fatigue, which threatened her ability to perform her duties as a surgeon. Realizing that long-haul COVID may have permanently impacted Meredith’s professional capabilities, but not wanting to lose her vast skill set, Miranda Bailey got the inspired idea to make Meredith the new residency director, putting her in charge of teaching and molding the surgeons of the future. Meredith also finally managed to grab a drink with Cormac Hayes—albeit in the attendings lounge—hinting at a possible future romance.

What happened to Jo Wilson in Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy?

After being dumped via letter and served divorce papers through the mail, Jo spends much of Season 17 trying to rediscover joy in her life, and realizes surgery isn’t where she’s going to find it. She winds up switching specialties to Obstetrics, where she falls head over heels for an orphaned baby in the NICU named Luna. Jo’s attempts to adopt Luna hit numerous barriers throughout the latter half of the season, but in the finale, she was finally granted full custody of the infant. To help pay for the adoption, Jo sold her shares in the hospital to Koracick, and used some of the excess funds to purchase Jackson’s former apartment for herself and Luna.

What happened to Amelia Shepherd and Atticus Lincoln in Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy?

As for Amelia and Link, they spent most of the season caring for both their newborn son and Meredith’s children while she was in the hospital. While they seemed to have settled happily into their new family dynamic, once Meredith returned home and the couple could focus on each other and their son, it became quickly apparent that they may be on different pages. At the end of the season, as Link planned a proposal and talked excitedly about their future, Amelia found herself pulling back, unsure of what she wanted. In the finale, Amelia turned down Link’s proposal, leading to him apparently moving out and crashing at Jo’s new apartment.

What happened to Teddy Altman and Owen Hunt in Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy?

While Link’s proposal didn’t turn out the way he’d hoped, the same can’t be said for Owen Hunt’s. After spending the beginning of the season furious with his former fiancé, Teddy, for cheating on him with Koracick (including on what was supposed to be their wedding day)—and for lying to him for decades about the nature of her relationship with her deceased “best friend,” for whom Teddy and Owen named their daughter—the two gradually started warming back up to one another in the back half of Season 17. In the season finale, Owen re-proposed to Teddy, and she accepted, setting up the possibility of another Grey’s Anatomy wedding in Season 18.

What happened to Maggie Pierce and Winston Ndugu in Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy?

After beginning the season in a long-distance relationship, Winston ultimately decided to travel to Seattle in order to be closer to Maggie during the pandemic, working temporarily at Grey Sloan. That temporary arrangement turned permanent when Winston proposed and accepted a permanent position as an attending at the hospital. Maggie and Winston initially opted to forgo a long engagement and jump right to the wedding, but their parents talked them out of a rushed event and encouraged them to wait until they could have a proper celebration with all of their family and friends in attendance. The season ended with their idyllic beach wedding.

Which Grey’s Anatomy couples are still together going into Season 18?

Season 17 was quite the romantic shakeup for Grey’s Anatomy‘s couples. While Owen and Teddy started the season barely even speaking, thanks to Teddy’s wedding-day cheating, they ended the season engaged again, and will presumably be wedding planning when we next see them in Season 18. Also back together after a more-off-than-on season are Levi and Nico, after Nico finally realized he was ready to open up and be vulnerable with Levi.

Also still going strong, of course, are Miranda Bailey and her husband Ben, who spent some of Season 17 quarantining separately for the safety of their children, but are now happily cohabitating yet again. Maggie and Winston are obviously still together, having just tied the knot in the Season 17 finale, and Richard Webber and Catherine Fox are also still happily married. And in a crossover with Station 19, Carina DeLuca got married to fire captain Maya Bishop (Danielle Savre) to avoid being deported to Italy, allowing her to remain in Seattle.

Which Grey’s Anatomy couples broke up in Season 17?

The three main cast member exits in Season 17 also gave a definitive end to several ambiguously defined relationships. Andrew DeLuca’s death eliminated the fuzzy love triangle between him, Meredith, and Cormac Hayes, leaving Hayes unrivaled now in his pursuit of Meredith’s affections. Jackson’s departure put an end to his friends-with-benefits arrangement with Jo, although the two remained good friends. And Tom Koracick’s decision to follow Jackson to Boston removed him as a complication in Teddy and Owen’s romance.

However, the only major Grey’s Anatomy couple seemingly calling it quits by the end of Season 17 was Amelia and Link, after she turned down his proposal. However, since they still have a child together, they’ll still need to be in one another’s lives, so we won’t rule out an eventual reconciliation.

What will Grey’s Anatomy Season 18 be about?

Season 17 opened a number of storytelling possibilities for Season 18. Obviously, COVID-19 will almost certainly still factor in, especially as healthcare providers around the country grapple with the recent delta variant. We expect to see COVID-19 discussed both as an ongoing medical challenge the doctors are facing, and also as a personal challenge for Meredith as she deals with the effects of long-term COVID-19.

Season 18 will also find Meredith more established in her role as residency program director, which — if her first day on the job is any indication — will likely involve her deviating significantly from how Richard Webber did things, possibly creating tension between her and her mentors.

We’ll also see Jo Wilson navigating her new normal as a single mom to baby Luna, as other characters adjust to their new relationship status quos. Amelia and Link’s relationship status feels a little up in the air, so we may see Link bunking with Jo long term, returning to Amelia, or getting a place of his own. Levi will likely no longer be renting space from Jo after reconciling with Nico, and may be adjusting to experiencing his first live-in romantic relationship. And of course Maggie and Winston will be newlyweds, while Teddy and Owen will likely be back in the throes of wedding planning, unless they decide to skip the ceremony this time and just elope.

We may also hear updates of Jackson’s endeavors to revolutionize the world of medicine from Boston as he runs the Catherine Fox Foundation, especially since Catherine herself will still be in Seattle. Similarly, we expect Tom Koracick’s new role as a shareholder in the hospital to create some drama, even if Tom himself isn’t a regular character on the show anymore. But with Jesse Williams and Greg Germann having departed from the main cast, we don’t expect either of these storylines to take center stage.

Season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy also incorporated the Black Lives Matter protests around the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent trial of Derek Chauvin, and we expect Season 18 to continue to work in significant real-world events as they arise.

Related: Ellen Pompeo Talks Grey’s Anatomy ‘Toxic’ Work Environment, Says She Only Stayed Because She Needed to ‘Provide for My Family’

Is season 18 the final season of Grey’s Anatomy?

After coming down to the wire on whether Season 17 would serve as the final season of Grey’s Anatomy, an eleventh-hour deal was ultimately reached, bringing the medical drama back for at least one more season. But as for Grey’s fate after Season 18, we still don’t know. Pompeo and showrunner Krista Vernoff have both previously indicated that they’re willing to wrap up the series if either the storyline or the network call for it, but neither has seemed quite ready to pull the plug without a mandate just yet.

As for ABC, the network that has served as the home of the series since 2005, they still seem to be on board with as much Grey’s as they can get for years to come. “Grey’s Anatomy continues to be a ratings juggernaut,” said Craig Erwich, President, ABC Entertainment and Hulu Originals. “We will take Grey’s Anatomy for as long as we can.”

How can I watch Grey’s Anatomy Season 18?

Grey’s Anatomy will air on Thursday nights on ABC at 9 pm ET/PT. For those without cable, episodes can be watched as they air on Hulu + Live TV or YouTube TV, or the next day on Hulu. New episodes will also be available on the ABC app eight days after they originally air.

Where can I catch up on past seasons of Grey’s Anatomy?

Every episode of Season 17 is currently streaming on Hulu. You can also currently stream the entire series, including Season 17, on Netflix.

Next, excited for all your favorite shows to return in the fall? Check out our 2021 viewing schedule to make sure you don’t miss a thing.