[This story contains spoilers from Grey's Anatomy's "Who Is He (and What Is He To You)?" episode.]
After multiple references over the years, ABC's Grey's Anatomy finally introduced Jackson's father, Robert Avery, during Thursday's bottle episode that saw April and Jackson travel to Montana for a case.
And in typical Grey's Anatomy fashion, the surgical case had a direct impact on Jackson's personal life as the younger Avery was finally able to understand why his father - played by Eric Roberts - left his mother, Catherine (Debbie Allen), and son all those years ago.
As it turns out, Robert wasn't one for the "Avery way" of handshakes and galas and preferred a simpler life running a diner in Montana where, as he said it, people leave happy and don't die.
Of course, not everything goes as planned in the episode dubbed "Japril the Sequel," as Jackson (Jesse Williams) struggled to share with his father the issues that have bothered him for years. Instead, April (Sarah Drew) - always on point - urges Jackson to do what he came to Montana to do and clear the air with his father so he can instead focus on their risky throat transplant.
"Kevin [McKidd, who helmed the episode] gave me a great direction when we were shooting that scene - I was infusing it with how much April cares and wanted Jackson to heal this brokenness, but Kevin said to just be steady and strong and to make it about the patient," Drew tells THR. "He knew that if April needed Jackson to connect with her in any way, he wouldn't do what she needed him to do. It was one of my favorite scenes; Jackson was shifty and April was rock-solid and it was exactly what Jackson needed. She knew what he needed better than he knew what he needed for himself."
After struggling with his inability to tell his father how he felt, Jackson and April are inspired by a figure of speech that arises during their discussion about Robert. It leads to a night of celebrating for Jackson and April as the on-again/off-again couple seem to finally be on again. The next day, Jackson is able to tell Robert what it really means to be a father (as in Robert wasn't either a father or a grandfather to Harriet).
"It's somewhat therapeutic. There is a degree of closure to be able to give someone a chance to be able to represent themselves and be able to say what it is you need to say," Williams tells THR. "It's better than nothing and Jackson can now put this big, scary mythical blob a little bit in his rear view and get a little bit of weight off his shoulders and move on with his life."
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To hear Drew tell it, the whole episode was a departure from typical Grey's Anatomy and felt like they were "shooting a movie." Production was done on location over three days in Topanga with the crew from Scandal, as Grey's was in production on a different episode on the show's Hollywood soundstage. Also a departure was the voiceover, with the episode shifting to be told from a male perspective with Williams serving as the narrator. "A lot of episodes are really female-driven and this was a pretty unique episode where we were able to follow a guy's internal wrestling," Drew says.
As for what happens next for the seemingly on-again couple with a penchant for hotel rooms, Williams and Drew both are quick to praise the other's performance and tout the great chemistry that has existed for multiple seasons between April and Jackson.
"I can't imagine [April and Jackson sleeping together] doesn't draw them closer because if it doesn't solidify or re-establish or re-ignite their romantic relationship, it for sure cements their platonic relationship," Williams says. "They can - they do - need each other; they do want to be around each other; they do confide in each other. They know things about each other that nobody else knows. They have the ability to listen that nobody else employs. They have to be - I mean they're in each other's lives in a major way. That rift could have kept breaking and I think this kind of draws them back in a way."
Drew notes that things have definitely shifted for April and Jackson, who, no matter what the outcome of their relationship is, are currently still roommates raising a daughter together.
"They could either go back and be buried in uncertainty or confusion and be living together with their daughter, or it could lead to confusion about who they are to each other," Drew says. "Though it could also solidify their best friendship all over again and remind them how important they are as friends - or it could also totally rekindle their marriage. Any one of those options makes a lot of sense moving forward."
As for what's to come in the remaining eight episodes, Drew says the cast has read the penultimate episode of the season and, while she declined to go into specifics, said it's "very exciting and really interesting" with "a lot going on - and high drama."
What did you think of April and Jackson's trip to Montana? Sound off in the comments section below. Grey's Anatomy airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.