The Definitive Guide to Grey's Anatomy's Steamiest Love Triangles

From Meredith's iconic first fight for love to her most recent, they're all in here.

By Billy Nilles Jan 17, 2019 11:00 AMTags
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"Pick me. Choose me. Love me."

Ever since Meredith Grey uttered those infamous words to her beloved McDreamy in season two of Grey's Anatomy, fans of the long-running ABC medical soap have known one thing for sure: This show knows how to deliver a truly excellent love triangle.

In the course of its 15 seasons, the show, finally returning tonight after its lengthy holiday break, has had some epic ones. And this season's no different. Not only is Mer (Ellen Pompeo) back in a love triangle of her own, with suitors DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti) and Link (Chris Carmack) vying for her affections, but Owen (Kevin McKidd) is back in one of his own with ex-wife Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) and pregnant former fling Teddy (Kim Raver). 

During a recent visit to the Grey's set, E! News tasked showrunner Krista Vernoff with teasing the future of these triangles—as well as the rest of the relationships we love to obsess over—in the second half of the season. When it came to the Owen of it all, she informed us that things will be "complicated and messy" from here on out. No kidding! As for Mer's situation, and the futures of all our other faves, you're going to have to check out the video above.

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Before we see what sort of decisions Meredith and Owen make—or don't—when Grey's returns, it's time for a refresher course on all who've been in this position before them. This is the definitive guide to Grey's Anatomy's love triangles!


Ah, the one that started it all. Back in season one of Grey's, we thought we were just watching a (slightly ill-advised) love story between young surgical intern Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) and the new head of neurosurgery at the hospital she's just been hired at, Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). But all that changed in the season finale when Addison Shepherd (Kate Walsh) showed up and uttered the unforgettable "And you must be the woman who's been screwing my husband" line at poor, unsuspecting Mer. In season two, Addison and Derek would try and give their marriage another shot, while Mer tried to forget about her McDreamy, but we all know how that turned out. Despite another major appearance on this list, MerDer would eventually realize they were endgame and spend the rest of Dempsey's tenure on the series in somewhat wedded bliss, leaving Meredith a widow when the actor was written out in season 11.


After Addison arrived to throw a wrench in Meredith and Derek's burgeoning love, we learned exactly what made McDreamy run across the country to get away from his failing marriage. And his name was McSteamy. Or Mark Sloan, to be more exact. Who will ever forget the indelible image of Eric Dane stepping out of Addison's shower with that tiny towel around his waist? It turned out that Addison had slept with Derek's BFF, who followed her across the country to try and convince her to return home before sticking around Seattle too. In the end, she didn't really want anything more from him than some booty and decamped for Los Angeles (and her own spinoff, Private Practice), making this the rare love triangle where the two suitors vying for the same person wind up with a friendship when all is said and done. Mark and Derek built their bromance back up from the rubble and stayed that way until Mark died following season eight's plane crash.


Towards the end of season two, Meredith and Derek's dog Doc needed the services of a veterinarian. Enter: Finn Dandridge, aka McVet. As played by hunky Chris O'Donnell, Finn wooed a still-single Mer, much to Derek's chagrin. (Never mind the fact that he was still considering a reconciliation with Addison. Men...) Heading into season three, Mer was forced to put Doc down, but continued to see Finn, choosing to date both suitors at the same time amid increasing pressure from both fellas to make a decision. Obviously, she chose Derek and Finn left her with a blistering, "He'll break your heart again, Meredith, and when he does, I won't be here." Damn.  


OK, so while Meredith's love triangle with Derek and Addison may have been the one that got Grey's fans' engines going early on, it was really the love triangle involving her mother Ellis (Kate Burton) and Dr. Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.) that jump-started the show's entire mythology. During their residency at Seattle Grace back in the '80s, both married docs began an affair with one another. Ellis opted to leave Mer's father Thatcher (Jeff Perry), but Richard couldn't bring himself to do the same, choosing to stay with Adele (Loretta Devine). Little did he know that Ellis got pregnant, putting their daughter up for adoption. Eventually, that child arrived at the end of season 10 as the new Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery. And as Maggie Pierce (Kelly McCreary) told a bewildered Richard that Ellis was her biological mother, he finally learned all that he'd given up with that choice he made all those years ago.


In season two, as Alex (Justin Chambers) was realizing the true nature of his feelings for Izzie (Katherine Heigl), he was forced to jealously fume as she fell for charismatic patient Denny Duquette (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). And he was left to help her pick up the pieces when Denny passed away in one of Grey's most heartbreaking finales ever. By season five, they were back in each other's arms, but when Izzie began having an affair with Denny, a hallucinatory side-effect of her undiagnosed brain tumor, Grey's delivered what can only be described as one of the strangest love triangles to ever grace our TV screens. She eventually broke up with Denny, married Alex, survived several surgeries, and then left Alex with a Dear John letter when Heigl was written out of the show in season six. It was a weird time for the show, you guys. What else can we say?


After meeting in season two, George O'Malley (T.R. Knight) and Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) began dating and, after some ups-and-downs involving his feelings for BFF Izzie and his father's death in season three, they reunite and run off to Las Vegas for a quickie wedding. Naturally, he began to wonder whether the wedding was a mistake and drunkenly slept with Izzie, causing his bestie to confess that she's in love with him. Once Callie found out, it was over between the couple and George was free to pursue a relationship with Izzie—a relationship that went nowhere real fast. And that, kids, is why we don't sleep with our best friends.


When army trauma surgeon Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) arrived at Seattle Grace in season five, Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) was quickly drawn to him. Despite some very intense moments involving his PTSD, things were going well until Owen hired his former colleague Teddy Altman (Kim Raver) as the new chief of cardiothoracic surgery as a "gift" for his girlfriend, who had no head of cardio to learn from. The only catch? Owen and Teddy's feelings for one another. When Teddy eventually decided to resign to stop from interfering in Cristina's relationship, the career-oriented doc begged her to stay, offering Owen to her in exchange. That didn't sit too well with Owen, naturally, and they break up. But at season's end, during the hospital shooting, Owen finally realizes that he loves Cristina and chooses her over Teddy. They impulsively get married, but after she chooses her career over an accidental pregnancy and has an abortion, their relationship is fractured for good and they divorced.


After Erica Hahn (Brooke Smith) helped awaken Callie's bisexuality before dumping her and leaving Seattle Grace—Callie did cheat in her with Mark, to be fair—Grey's got its second same-sex love story with the arrival of the perpetually bubbly Arizona Robbins (Jessica Capshaw). With CalZona in full swing, despite an early hiccup over their differing stances on parenthood—Callie wanted a kid, Arizona did not—they stick it out until Arizona gets offered a grant to treat children in Malawi for three years and Callie's lack of enthusiasm caused Arizona go without her. Heartbroken, Callie turned to Mark yet again, sleeping with him and getting pregnant. When Arizona returned home, desperate to reunite with Callie, she found out the news and decided to help Callie raise Mark's child, despite not being too thrilled about him being a constant in the rest of their lives together. They got married, only for Arizona, dealing with the aftermath of losing a leg in the big plane crash that also claimed Mark's life, to cheat on Callie, effectively ending their relationship for good. By the time Callie left the series in season 12, she was following a new relationship to NYC, but when it was Arizona's time to leave as well, in season 14, Callie was single, paving the way for a reconciliation in the Big Apple that CalZona fans could only turn to fan fiction for. 


Mark and Lexie, Meredith's half-sister played by Chyler Leigh, were endgame, but boy did they love letting other people come between them. After getting together in season five, they were first thrown for a loop when a pregnant teenage girl claiming to be Mark's daughter arrived in season six, causing Lexie, not ready to be anyone's grandmother, to end things. After knocking Callie (Sara Ramirez) up in season seven—earning him another spot on this list—Mark loses Lexie yet again and recruits his plastics protege Jackson (Jesse Williams) to help him win her back. Instead, she starts a relationship with the childless hunk. By season eight, Jackson was aware that Lexie really wasn't over Mark and dumped her, making the time right for the star-crossed lovers to find their way back to one another yet again. But by season's end, both would wind up dying in the finale's epic plane crash, with Mark telling Lexie they were "meant to be" as she succumbs to her injuries. He would later be removed from life support after being rescued, as per the wishes in his will.


After the season six merger of Seattle Grace with local Mercy West hospital, recently divorced Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) began a relationship with Ben Warren (Jason George), an anesthesiologist among the newcomers. But after watching a doctor die right in front of her in the finale's shooting, she takes some time off and, upon her return, breaks up with Ben. As they keep their distance during her "healing time," she begins dating hunky nurse Eli (Daniel Sunjata), causing a jealous and hurt Ben to begin pursuing her yet again. And that was the end of Eli. By season eight, Ben would propose and the two remain together to this date, despite Ben's many, many career changes and boneheaded decisions. (Yeah, we said it.)


At the end of season eight, Mercy West transplant April Kepner (Sarah Drew) make the impulsive decision to give up her virginity the night before taking her board exam, sleeping with best friend Jackson. She failed and moved back home, only to be re-hired in season nine. Upon returning, she and Jackson began sleeping together yet again, only to break-up after a pregnancy scare resulted in hurt feelings. (She was relieved, he was stung.) They both moved on, with April meeting and eventually getting engaged to paramedic Matthew (Justin Bruening), despite the fact that both are still clearly in love with each other. Naturally, on her wedding day, as his poor girlfriend Stephanie (Jerrika Hinton) looks on horrified, Jackson stops the wedding and asks April to run away with him. After eloping, they went on to watch their first child die upon childbirth and eventually divorce. By the time April was being written out at the end of season 14, Matthew would return and the two would tie the knot, living happily ever after with Jackson's blessing.


After Derek's death, Meredith was finally feeling ready to move on when Nathan Riggs (Martin Henderson) arrived on the scene in season 12. The only problem? After sleeping together, Mer learned that her half-sister Maggie also had feelings for the hunky surgeon. She tried to keep her distance to protect her sister's feelings, but by lying to Maggie, she only wound up hurting her even more. Soon, Maggie had bigger fish to fry when her adoptive mother Diane arrived at the hospital, only to die, but Mer would still lose out on her chance with Nathan when his presumed-dead girlfriend Megan (Abigail Spencer) is found alive, prompting him to move to L.A. with her and her son Farouk to start a new life.


Yes, Owen and Teddy are back in a love triangle and it's a little more complicated this time around. After Owen's marriage to Amelia (Caterina Scorcone) fell apart and led to divorce in season 14, the ginger Chief of Trauma Surgery began sowing his oats and that involved a fling with Teddy after she helped bring the once-missing Megan back into her brother's life. Towards the end of season 14, however, when Owen began fostering a baby, finally getting his chance to be a father, and Amelia began taking the baby's teenage addict mother under her wing, the exes found themselves in a truly modern family situation. So, it was only a matter of time before Teddy showed back up, pregnant with Owen's biological child. Now that he finally knows the truth, what will he do? That remains to be seen.


With showrunner Krista Vernoff unofficially declaring season 15 the "season of love," it was time for Meredith's love life to finally go back into overdrive. But who will she choose? Hunky Andrew DeLuca (Giacomo Gianniotti), the former intern who drunkenly kissed her at the end of season 14 and has made it clear it wasn't because of the alcohol? Or Atticus Lincoln (Chris Carmack), aka Link, aka Ortho God, the hotshot new chief of orthopedic surgery who asked Mer out in the midseason finale? Stay tuned...

Grey's Anatomy returns on Thursday, Jan. 17 at 8 p.m. on ABC.