Who Is Returning On ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 17? These Theories Might Break You

At least one more Grey’s Anatomy alum is headed back to the show, but their exact identity is anyone’s guess. The returns began at the end of the Season 17 premiere, when Meredith collapsed and had a vision in which she was reunited with her late husband Derek Shepherd on a beach. Now, the Season 17, Episode 4 promo teases another person from Mere’s past will show up in the Dec. 3 episode, making fans lose it as they try to theorize who is returning on Grey’s Anatomy Season 17.

Warning: Spoilers for Grey’s Anatomy Season 17, Episode 3 follow. As the show’s longtime protagonist slipped into what appears to be a coronavirus-induced coma at the end of the most recent episode, McDreamy assured her, "I’ll be right here when you’re ready." His words seem to imply Meredith may die soon, which leads fans to believe this beach is a "crossing-over" point between life and death. This would mean that Meredith likely will only encounter characters who have already died on the beach.

However, if these are simply dreams (and not some kind of purgatory), Meredith can imagine whoever she wants. That opens the door for any former Grey’s actor to show up, regardless of their character’s mortality status on the show.

No matter which familiar faces grace viewers’ screens this season, showrunner Krista Vernoff told Deadline that finding out who comes to the beach will be "a joyful discovery."

So, who do fans think is coming back? Let’s run down the major guesses:

1. Ellis Grey

There’s a good chance Mere’s mom will appear on the beach, since that’s who showrunner Krista Vernoff originally included in the Season 17 premiere script as a way to keep prying eyes from knowing it was actually Derek who was returning in Episode 1.

The mother-daughter duo had a rocky relationship to say the least, but Meredith did name her second daughter after Ellis, so there’s definitely still some love there. If they do reunite, hopefully viewers will finally get to see the Grey matriarch tell her daughter that she’s proud of all she’s accomplished as a surgeon and a parent.

2. George O’Malley

Meredith’s former roommate and one-night stand (sorry to remind everyone) died after a terrible bus accident at the end of Season 5. George was the heart of the show’s original intern class, who cared more about helping patients than scoring the coolest surgeries. Mere could use some of his compassion during her illness.

3. Lexie Grey

Mere’s younger half-sister Lexie was suddenly killed in a plane crash at the end of Season 8, so it would be nice to give her the chance to say a proper goodbye. One fan noticed that actor Chyler Leigh recently started following the Grey’s cast again on social media, which could be a sign she’ll be the next alum to return. However, since Leigh is a series regular on Supergirl (which films in Vancouver), her current gig could make Lexie’s chances of appearing less likely.

4. Mark Sloan

If anyone deserves to be relaxing on a beach, it’s McSteamy. Audiences were devastated when Eric Dane’s character Mark died an agonizingly slow death after the Season 8 plane crash. Sure, Meredith wasn’t as close to him as some of the other people on this list, but there’s no doubt his return would be a major hit with fans. He would be showing up after Derek, and they were best friends after all!

5. Cristina Yang

Okay, admittedly this option seems a little less likely. In April 2019, actor Sandra Oh told Extra TV she would not return for a cameo on the show because of her commitments to Killing Eve, but that could change since Season 4 of the BBC America series still isn’t in production yet. It would be great to see the Twisted Sisters reunited, and it makes sense that Meredith would want her person by her side during this trying time.

6. Alex Karev

Alex was one of the longest series regulars in the show’s history, before he left Seattle in Season 16 to raise his surprise twin children with Izzie Stevens. As one of the last remaining interns from the first few seasons of Grey‘s, he and Meredith developed a close bond over the years. Since the character was Mere’s original power of attorney, her old friend could give her some advice as she figures out whether it’s time for her to cross over to the "other side."

Ultimately, fans will have to wait a few more weeks to find out who the next visitor is for sure. Grey’s Anatomy Season 17 continues on Thursday, Dec. 3, at 9 p.m. ET on ABC.

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