Station 19 might have had a little fun this season with tigers and drag queens, but the show is taking a turn.
In tonight's episode, the team finds a mother in distress, claiming her daughter has been kidnapped and is being held hostage inside a man's house. They're not on duty, but they rush to assess the situation and save the day anyway. Things get tense and it all heads in a direction you might not be expecting.
Star Barrett Doss, who plays Vic Hughes, tells E! News that the episode delves into something the show hasn't really explored before.
"What is going to be the most interesting and potentially most surprising and challenging part of this episode is the understanding that when they're off duty, our heroes that we know and love, in particular the Black firefighters, are just Black people who walk through the world like Black people," Doss says. "People don't know that they're firefighters."
"When we are on duty we may have a different relationship to the police department, but when we're off duty, we definitely have a different relationship to the police department," she continues. "Sometimes it's not enough to be a firefighter."
Doss says the show is having a "very important and very real" discussion about the vulnerabilities that Black people face in the country and how much further society has to go in the fight for social justice and racial equality.
"Obviously we've been, as a country and a world community, reckoning with social justice revolution," she says. "And I'm really thrilled that we get to take part in that conversation on Station 19."
It's not hard to imagine where things might go wrong tonight—if people are in danger, there are few members of the Station 19 team who wouldn't rush in to save them no matter what—but Doss says there's also an opportunity to explore some new aspects of these characters.
"[On the show], we of course deal with very real trauma that exists in the world and the realities of being a first responder during COVID-19, but what we haven't gotten into so much on the show is how our characters relate to their identities within the group," she says. "I think that this particular call and the events of this episode lead us to question some of the relationships that we haven't explored and the parts of our relationships to each other that make us different and struggle through those differences."
"As much as we all may love each other as a team, we're not all the same and we don't walk through the world as the same person," she continues. "And that's something we haven't done as much on the show. Some of us may be treated differently when we're off the job so I think it'll be a challenging experience for the audience."
Switching gears to something a little more fun, Vic's getting her socially distanced flirt on with a guy from Station 23 while Dean (Okieriete Onaodowan) is still pining after her without telling her that's what he's doing. But Vic says she's taking things slow after the death of her almost-fiancé Ripley (Brett Tucker) in season two and her whirlwind romance with Jackson (Jesse Williams).
"Vic has found herself, multiple times, with people who she sees in some way as being out of her league. Between Ripley and Jackson, even if they both made her feel special at some point, I think she struggles with that power dynamic," Doss says. "So taking some time to weigh her actions, especially with COVID, has given her some extra time to deal with that."
The thing with Dean is that while he's basically in love with her, she has no idea.
"I don't think she thinks of Dean that way," Doss says. "But sometimes you don't realize you feel something for someone until you do, until they tell you [how they feel] and then all of a sudden you're like, 'Oh, wait.'"
She teases that that surprise "may be coming," but for now, Vic is happy to keep on flirting and taking it slow.
"Jumping into her relationship with Jackson happened very quickly. It was perhaps ill-advised to jump in so quick [after Ripley's death], so she may still be dealing with the consequences of that choice, so it'll take her some time to open herself up to more love. She has enough with Travis [Jay Hayden] right now."
As for what might happen if/when Dean actually does tell Vic how he feels, Doss does not think Vic would be too thrilled right off the bat.
"She would be uncomfortable with the idea," she predicts. "I think she's seen how station relationships have played out in the past. She was involved in one before, and she knows that having to keep it secret is bad and the exposure is almost worse, so I think it would be shocking and an unwelcome surprise, but that's not to say she wouldn't warm up to it."
But don't expect it to happen soon, especially after tonight's episode.
"I think right now though, there's too much," she warns. "There's too much on [Vic's] plate, and I think this particular traumatic experience is going to take everyone's attention away from their emotional lives, though of course, it might also bring Dean and Vic closer together."
Catch the midseason finale of Station 19 tonight at 8 p.m., followed by Grey's Anatomy at 9 p.m. on ABC.