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A complete timeline of Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd’s iconic love story on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Dempsey exited the series in season 11, but Meredith and Derek’s story continued after Derek’s death.

Below is a complete timeline of one of the most iconic relationships in television history.

Season 1, episode 1: It started as a one-night stand

Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey on the "Grey's Anatomy" pilot.
Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey on the “Grey’s Anatomy” pilot. 

Viewers first met Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) and Derek (Patrick Dempsey) on the floor in the living room of her mother’s house. They had met at Emerald City Bar (aka Joe’s Bar) the night before and hooked up.

On her first day as a surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital, Meredith learned that Derek was a neurosurgery attending and her boss. They couldn’t resist each other and eventually started dating.

Season 1, episode 9: Meredith learned she was the ‘other woman’

On the “Grey’s Anatomy” season one finale, Dr. Addison Montgomery (Kate Walsh) arrived at Seattle Grace to let Derek know she was going to fight for their marriage. She memorably told Meredith that Derek was married by calling Meredith “the woman that’s been screwing my husband.”

Season 2, episode 5: Meredith begged Derek to love her

Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey on "Grey's Anatomy" season two episode five.
Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey on “Grey’s Anatomy” season two episode five. 

At the beginning of season two, Derek was caught between his relationship with Meredith and his marriage to Addison. Meredith was upset with him, but eventually realized she wanted to be with him.

To try and fight for him, she gave him one of the most memorable speeches in “Grey’s Anatomy” history.

“Your choice, it’s simple: her or me, and I’m sure she’s really great. But Derek, I love you. In a really, really big, pretend to like your taste in music, let you eat the last piece of cheesecake, hold a radio over my head outside your window unfortunate way that makes me hate you, love you. So, pick me. Choose me. Love me,” she said.

Ultimately, Derek decided not to sign his divorce papers and instead work on his marriage to Addison.

Season 2, episode 27 and season 3 episode 1: Meredith loses her panties at the prom

Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo on "Grey's Anatomy" season two episode 27.
Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo on “Grey’s Anatomy” season two episode 27. 

At the hospital prom for Dr. Richard Webber’s (Jim Pickens Jr.) niece, Meredith and Derek couldn’t resist each other though they came with other people. They had sex in an exam room. When they were interrupted, Meredith hastily got dressed and lost her panties, which Addison found later in Derek’s suit. She pinned them to the hospital bulletin board.

Also in season three episode one, Derek told Meredith he was in love with her even though he was with Addison and she was dating Finn, the vet (played by Chris O’Donnell).

Season 3, episode 25: It was so over between Meredith and Derek

Ellen Pompeo on "Grey's Anatomy" season three episode 25.
Ellen Pompeo on “Grey’s Anatomy” season three episode 25. 

Meredith and Derek eventually left their respective partners and began dating during season three. But external pressures, like the deaths of Meredith’s mother Ellis (Kate Burton) and stepmother Susan (Mare Winningham), combined with Derek’s desire to be chief of surgery caused a strain.

At her best friend Dr. Cristina Yang’s (Sandra Oh) wedding, Meredith announced that Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington) had left Cristina by saying “It’s over, so over.” She was also referring to her relationship with Derek.

Season 4, episode 17: The house of candles

Ellen Pompeo candle house
Ellen Pompeo on “Grey’s Anatomy” season four episode 17. 
Randy Holmes/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images

The pair were dating other people while conducting a clinical trial to cure a specific type of brain tumor throughout season 4. Derek was going to sell the land he bought to build a house for him and Meredith because she wasn’t ready to commit and start a family.

When their final clinical trial patient lived, Meredith showed Derek she was ready to commit by building the floor plan for their house out of candles on his land. She told him they could be extraordinary together rather than ordinary apart.

Season 5, episodes 17 to 19: The ring, the woods, and the engagement

Ellrn Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey on "Grey's Anatomy" season five episode 19.
Ellrn Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey on “Grey’s Anatomy” season five episode 19. 

In the middle of season five, viewers learned that Derek had an engagement ring for Meredith. But after he made a mistake during surgery that killed a pregnant patient he had bonded with, Derek went into a deep depression.

When Meredith went to Derek’s trailer to confront him about his state and the fact that he was going to propose to her, Derek got so angry he hit the ring into the woods with a baseball bat.

After he saved Izzie Stevens’ (Katherine Heigl) life, Derek finally proposed to Meredith in an elevator at Seattle-Grace on season five episode 19, “Elevator Love Letter.” He covered the walls with the CT scans of patients that represented milestones in their relationship and work together.

Season 5, episode 24: The Post-it note wedding

Meredith and Derek planned to get married at city hall on a random busy day at the hospital. When they realized they couldn’t get away to sign papers, they wrote their vows down on Post-it notes and signed them. They considered themselves married from that moment on.

Season 6, episodes 23 and 24: A pregnancy, a shooting, a miscarriage, and a dangerous proposition

Ellen Pompeo on "Grey's Anatomy" season six episode 24.
Ellen Pompeo on “Grey’s Anatomy” season six episode 24. 

At the beginning of the hospital shooting on season six, episodes 23 and 24, titled “Sanctuary” and “Death and All His Friends,” respectively, Meredith found out she was pregnant.

A disgruntled widower named Gary Clark (Michael O’Neil), who believed that Derek was responsible for the death of his wife, shot Derek before Meredith could tell him. When Gary found the operating room where Cristina was trying to save Derek, Meredith ran in and told him to shoot her instead.

Then, while she was operating on Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd), who Gary had shot, Meredith had a miscarriage.

Seasons 7 and 8: Legal marriage and Zola’s adoption

Meredith Grey with Zola.
Zola and Meredith on “Grey’s Anatomy.” 

After trying and failing to have a baby throughout season 7, Meredith and Derek decided to adopt their daughter Zola, an orphan with spina bifida at the hospital. They legally married each other on season 7 episode 20, “White Wedding,” so they could begin the adoption process.

At the beginning of season eight, social services learned that Meredith lost her job for tampering with Derek’s Alzheimer’s clinical trial and removed Zola from their custody. Dr. Webber eventually took the blame for tampering with the clinical trial because Meredith was trying to help his wife. After an agonizing wait, Zola was returned to Meredith and Derek’s custody and the adoption became official.

Season 9: Derek Bailey Shepherd’s birth and buying Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital

After surviving the plane crash on the season 8 finale, Meredith and Derek discovered that Meredith was pregnant. Their son Derek Bailey Shepherd was born at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital in the middle of a blackout.

Meredith, Derek, and the other survivors of the plane crash bought the hospital with the money they got from suing the former owners. Along with majority owner Jackson Avery, (Jesse Williams) and the Avery Foundation, the new owners of the hospital decided to rename the hospital after the two plane crash victims who died, Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh) and Mark Sloan (Eric Dane).

Seasons 10 and 11: Tension rose because of their careers

Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo on "Grey's Anatomy season 10 episode four.
Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo on “Grey’s Anatomy season 10 episode four. 

Meredith and Derek agreed that Derek would focus on childcare while Meredith focused on her career. But tension rose between them after Derek was offered a job working for the president at the White House. He eventually turned down the offer to keep his promise to Meredith and be with his family.

Derek became so resentful of Meredith because of his choice that on season 11, she told him to take the job and go to Washington D.C. They were estranged when he left but eventually made up.

Season 11, episode 21 & 22: Derek’s death and Ellis Shepherd’s birth

Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo on "Grey's Anatomy" season 11.
Patrick Dempsey and Ellen Pompeo on “Grey’s Anatomy” season 11. 

Derek committed to Meredith, his kids, and staying in Seattle. He was on his way to the airport for a flight to Washington D.C. when he saw a car crash as it happened. He saved all of the victims, only to get hit by a semi-tractor trailer later.

He was rushed to Dillard Medical Center with life-threatening brain injuries that went undetected because doctors failed to order a CT. He was pronounced brain-dead in surgery and when Meredith got there she took him off life support.

After his death, Meredith learned she was pregnant. She took her kids and left her friends and family in Seattle to have the baby in a secluded town on the beach. Because of complications during labor, doctors called Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) who arrived to take Meredith and the kids home to Grey-Sloan.

Season 17: Their love story continued in Meredith’s COVID-induced visions

greys anatomy season 17 derek return
Patrick Dempsey on season 17 of “Grey’s Anatomy.” 

On season 17, Meredith got COVID and would slip in and out of consciousness. While unconscious, she’d see visions of loved ones who had died, including Derek. The scenes were on a beach.

In one of her dreams, the couple had a traditional wedding, complete with spoken vows and Meredith in a white wedding dress. But instead of joining Derek in the afterlife, Meredith eventually woke up to continue caring for their three kids.

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