Having proven that it could stand on its own two feet without Desperate Housewives
as its lead-in, Grey's Anatomy
remained in its new Thursday-night slot as the seriocomic medical series entered its third season. In addition to established stars Ellen Pompeo
(intern Meredith Grey) Patrick Dempsey
(Dr. Derek Shepherd), Katherine Heigl (intern "Izzie" Stevens), and Isaiah Washington
(Dr. Preston Burke), former recurring players Eric Dane (as plastic surgeon Mark Sloan) and Sara Ramirez (Dr. Callie Torres) have now been promoted to "regular" status. The season begins as the Seattle Grace Hospital medical team's favorite bartender Joe (Steven W. Bailey) provides those who came in late with a quick run-down of the events of the previous two seasons. Meredith is now torn between two lovers, Derek Shepherd and Dr. Finn Dandridge (Chris O'Donnell
). The prickly relationship between Derek and his estranged-wife Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh
) is made even more so by the reappearance of their daughter. Intern Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh
) has decided to remain with her current amour, Preston Burke. And after seriously considering giving up the medical profession after the death of her beloved heart patient Denny (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), Izzie changes her mind when the Denny Duquette Memorial Clinic is established. The first of the season's two most crucial story developments occurs when Chief of Surgery Richard Weber (James Pickens Jr.
) announces his impending retirement, sparking a tense competition amongst Derek, Burke, Addison and Mark to take Weber's place. The apparent dark horse in this competition is Dr. Colin Marlow (Roger Rees), though Marlow makes his mark on the proceedings by coming between Cristina and Burke. Another major plot deveopment involves a disastrous collision between a cargo ship and a ferryboat, which threatens to claim the life of protagonist Meredith Grey (it also provides Izzie's former beau Dr. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) the opportunity to become overly involved with an unidentified accident victim, played by Elizabeth Reaser). At season's end, Dr. Weber's successor is announced, Cristina and Burke are about to be wed, Callie demands that her husband George O'Malley (Sara Ramirez) make a commitment, and the interns sweat out the results of their first-year medical exams.