After inhaling hydrofluoric acid at the last fire, Chief Ripley (Brett Tucker) collapsed and wound up at Grey Sloan memorial. However, a pre-existing heart condition made it harder for the hospital to treat him, which was only exacerbated when he checked himself out to go find Vic (Barrett Doss) and explain he hadn’t stood her up that morning. He eventually made it back to get care, but by then the toxin had spread too far and Maggie (Kelly McCreary) was unable to get his body to respond to the treatment.
While the diagnosis was a devastating one, it did allow Hughes enough time to find out why Ripley didn’t make it to the diner to accept her marriage proposal and get to say goodbye. It was a heart-wrenching moment for the couple, especially as the episode was also filled with flashback scenes that showed how truly in love with each other they had become over the course of their relationship. They truly seemed like soulmates, but Ripley’s body shut down and he died from the prolonged exposure to the chemical.
The final scene of the episode saw the entire Station 19 crew lie on top of the firetruck with Hughes as she cried it out over her dead fiancé– a scene that echoed everyone getting on the floor with Izzy (Katherine Heigl) after Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) died at the end of Grey’s Season 2.
TV Guide talked to Barrett Doss about the heartbreaking death and where Hughes goes after such a devastating loss.
How did you react when you first read the script and saw how this crossover was going to play out?
Barrett Doss: When we did the table read of this episode, we all lost it a little bit. It was very emotional, but it was also one of the most satisfying ways to end [this storyline]. If we had to end the story, we might as well end it on a high note or on the lowest note you could ever reach. It was very sad.
How did you and Brett prepare for that heartbreaking goodbye scene?
Doss: We only read it one time before we actually shot it — during the table read — and after that we did a lot of talking. I mean, Brett and I have been working together so much this season and we work very well together. So that’s a gift, but we just sort of went into it. I should say this first: It was the last scene we shot together. They scheduled it at the very end of the day, on Brett’s last day of shooting. It was his last scene. It was our last scene together, and it was heartbreaking. So it was really a goodbye. After a season of working so much together and enjoying that work so much, it was actually surprisingly easy to find our way into that really sad, sad space where you lose someone who you care about, who you’re going to miss.
So, it was actually easier than I think I thought it would be to get there emotionally, but it was still really, really difficult. But luckily we’re good scene partners and we work well together. So it was hard, but it was also again really fun — one of my favorite scenes to shoot actually.
You guys have had some close calls in the past, but this is actually the first major death we’re seeing on the show. How have you guys dealt with losing your first cast member?
Doss: Well, we are all going to miss Brett so much. He’s such an amazing person to work with and even though he wasn’t technically a series regular we all thought of him as one. He’s got such a great attitude and he’s such a welcome addition. He was such a welcome addition to our team when he came in last season, but none of us knew who was going to make it out of the skyscraper at the end of last season. So, we’ve sort of been waiting with bated breath for someone to go and we didn’t know who it was going to be.
Brett and I both found out fairly early what was going to happen to him, so we’ve know for a while, but it’s never easy. I mean, you never want to say goodbye to someone, especially somebody who brings as much to the table as Brett does for our cast. But we knew that we were going to make his departure as heartbreaking as it could possibly be, so again, it’s a great way to go out when you know everyone, fans and cast and crew, are all going to miss you.
This episode revealed a lot about Vic and Ripley’s relationship that we as an audience didn’t know. How much of that backstory were you aware of going into the crossover?
Doss: It was a surprise. I mean, of course we hadn’t seen any of those scenes and we didn’t know what had happened. So sometimes when this stuff comes up, like the proposal for example, I was thinking, “We haven’t even said ‘I love you’ to each other yet.” And, of course, we had. We just hadn’t seen it on the show. It was actually really fun to fill in some of those holes for ourselves. Once we figured out where going it was like, “Oh man, this is going to be so satisfying.” Because you actually get to see how we sort of fell into bed together the first time and you see when we say I love you to each other for the first time. It fills in all of those gaps that I think the fans and we as the actors wanted to see. Otherwise, we sort of come up with answers on our own for a lot of that stuff, but it was so awesome to actually get to shoot those scenes because otherwise it just lives in your imagination, the imagination of the fans, and it’s just so nice to make it reality.
I love the closing scene with everyone getting on the fire truck with you. It reminded me of everyone getting on the floor with Izzy after Denny died on Grey’s Anatomy. Do you feel like Ripley could be the Station 19 Denny Duquette?
Doss: It was something that we talked about a lot. There were things that we were doing, even when we were shooting that scene, that goodbye scene, the farewell scene in the hospital where in the first few takes I got into the bed with him. It was so funny, because after that, Stacey McKee, our showrunner, was there and said, she came in and she goes, “OK, you can’t get into the bed. That’s a Grey’s thing with Denny.” And so we had to sort of avoid certain images that are so associated with Denny or with Meredith and Derek.
Denny’s been such a — he left such a long shadow in the Grey’s Anatomy universe and hopefully Ripley will leave the same sort of shadow. I think he will. He certainly made an impression on, of course not just Victoria but the entire station and the rest of the entire department, of course, but all of characters we know.
What can you say about Hughes’ healing process in dealing with this? And what kind of head space is she going to be in as we go into the finale?
Doss: Well, I think of Victoria as a person who’s really self sufficient. Opening herself up to love and opening herself up to a risky relationship that she wasn’t quite sure about until recently, I think it’s going to have a really profound impact on her. I think she’s going to have to rely on other people to help her get through this and that’s not something she’s used to doing. She’s very loyal herself. She would be there for anybody on her team, but I don’t think she wants anybody to be there for her. I think there will be a process of certainly the grieving process, which will involve a lot of pushing away, and hopefully we see the team rally around her like they did in that last moment of the episode.
Is Montgomery going to be her main support or are we going to see someone else actually be the one she confides in as she goes through this?
Doss: [Montgomery] lost a husband. He lost his husband who was also a firefighter, so he’s been through this personally. And I think he certainly offers a level of experience with this sort of grief that he can help guide her through this process. So hopefully she’ll be open to it.
What can you tease about the upcoming finale? I know we’re going to go fight some California wildfires and Patrick Duffy is going to be there, but what can you tell me about it?
Doss: Well, it’s a very dangerous situation. None of us, with the exception of Captain Sullivan of course, played by Boris Kodjoe — Captain Sullivan has seen wildfires before, but none of this team has ever fought a wildfire. So it’s brand new for everyone and will certainly put some of us in danger and give us a brand new challenge because it’s a whole different ballgame when you’re out in the middle of a field or you’re working outside and it’s so uncontrollable. Some of our skills might not be as useful as we want them to be in those sorts of situations, so it’s definitely a risk, and we’re all going to be in a great deal of danger.
Station 19 airs Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.