12 Grey's Anatomy Episodes Where Sandra Oh Shone as Cristina Yang
Sandra Oh has been making fanfare all throughout award season with her spectacular performance as Eve Polastri on BBC America's sexy crime thriller, Killing Eve. Besides this career-defining role, many TV viewers may know Oh from ABC's Grey's Anatomy as the tough-as-nails heart surgeon Cristina Yang, who might be more of a straight-talker than Eve, but is just as wonderfully nuanced. Oh graced the medical drama for ten seasons, portraying arguably one of the best characters on the show (and on television).
While Grey's fans love Meredith's sisterhood with Maggie and Amelia, it's hard to ever forget the brilliance that is her person, Cristina, who supports her, pushes her, and above all, always gives her the unadulterated truth. Here are 12 Cristina Yang-centered episodes of the series that showcase Oh's talent, whether you're looking to relive Grey's finest moments or want to learn about this seminal role without having to binge 300+ episodes of the never-ending series.
Season 1, Episode 1: "A Hard Day's Night"
The first-ever episode of Grey's Anatomy really set the tone for Meredith and Cristina's iconic friendship. The two of them team up to solve Derek's Katie Bryce case with initial reservations about one another. Although Cristina has suspicions about Derek favoring Meredith because of their one night stand, the dark and twisty friends eventually make up and call a truce — in the least corny way possible, of course, because they're not about soppy apologies.
Season 2, Episode 1: "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head"
While the show's pilot established their friendship, this episode further tightens Meredith and Cristina's relationship. Cristina admits that she's pregnant and that she put Mer down as her person on her termination appointment. It's the first time that we see Cristina vulnerable around anyone, and wow did it punch us in the feelings. Grey's Anatomy might be known for its steamy hookups and grand romances, but it also features the best ride-or-die friendship moments on primetime.
Season 2, Episode 4: "Deny, Deny, Deny"
Cristina recovers from an ectopic pregnancy, which leads to her hospitalization. While the episode has some levity with hilarious moments (see Oh's "Somebody sedate me" line), it also heightens the drama in the series by exploring Cristina's relationships with her family, friends, and boyfriend as she desperately wishes to go back to work. Somehow, even after losing "a fallopian tube, a baby, and a boyfriend all in one day," she still has the emotional energy to help Meredith with her McDreamy problems.
Season 2, Episode 12: "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"
In this episode, Burke tries to get into the Christmas spirit, only to find out much to his chagrin that Cristina is Jewish. At work, things tense up when Cristina sides with a young patient whose mother attempts to convince him that Santa is giving him a heart this year. Cristina is her usual self, blunt and irate, which is why Burke is turned off by her total Grinch attitude. But we see Cristina open up about the personal reason why she decided to go into medicine and talk candidly to the young boy who doesn't want a new heart.
Season 3, Episode 25: "Didn't We Almost Have It All?"
This gut-punching episode follows Cristina on her wedding day, during which she entirely changes herself to please Burke's family. In short of spoiling the plot, let's just say that things don't end well and that you'll probably be sobbing every time you listen to Ingrid Michaelson's "Keep Breathing." Still, we're glad to see Cristina come back to her senses after everything goes down in the season three finale.
Season 5, Episode 2: "Dream a Little, Dream of Me, Part 2"
As one might expect, Cristina can get fed up with Meredith's incessant Derek drama. When they fight, a giant icicle impales Cristina right in front of the hospital, though lucky her, there's the fine Dr. Owen Hunt in a G.I. Joe outfit right there to carry her to safety. The early season five episode deftly explores Cristina's friendship with Meredith while showing us the usually abrasive heart surgeon's softer side as she befriends Owen (way, way before he and Amelia became an item).
Season 5, Episode 19: "Elevator Love Letter"
Most might remember "Elevator Love Letter" as one of the best Meredith and Derek episodes where the latter proposes, but it also has a powerful subplot featuring Cristina. While they're sleeping one night, Owen chokes Cristina, which is a manifestation, we later find out, of his PTSD. The episode delicately and complexly addresses Owen's mental health while teasing out the nuances in Cristina's reaction after the incident.
Season 6, Episode 24: "Death and All of His Friends"
"Death and All of His Friends" has to be one of the grimmest (and best) episodes of Grey's to date, portraying a horrifying shooting at Seattle Grace. Among many others, both Owen and Derek get shot. In the harrowing season 6 finale, Cristina is really Meredith's rock through and through, forcing her dark and twisty friend to come to her senses in the chaos and even later performing a high-stakes surgery at gunpoint.
Season 8, Episode 19: "Support System"
Cristina finds out about Owen's affair and asks him to tell her all of the details. We truly see a complicated and heartbreaking performance from Oh here, who does an excellent job of unraveling Cristina's tough facade after this gut-wrenching reveal. While it's painful to watch, Oh gives her all in one of the most emotional episodes that the show has ever had.
Season 8, Episode 24: "Flight"
If there's an episode that prepped the Golden Globe winner for a thriller series like Killing Eve, it might be this arc where Cristina and other Seattle Grace surgeons are stranded after a plane crash. As her friends are in grave conditions, Cristina alters between slapping sense into her fellow surgeons and screaming for her lost shoe. Admittedly, her missing footwear bit brings a lightness to the situation, but it also highlights her desperate, crumbling mental state spot-on.
Season 9, Episode 24: "Perfect Storm"
There's no plane crashes in the ninth season finale of Grey's Anatomy, but Meredith does go into labor during a power outage and has internal bleeding right after giving birth. While "Perfect Storm" might have some of Meredith's biggest moments, Oh delivers a solid performance here. It's a big day for her character. Cristina gets to perform a thrilling surgery in the dark and see her friend survive a dangerous procedure. But in the end, she also has to resolve her relationship with Owen, who wants a child when she doesn't.
Season 10, Episode 24: "Fear (of the Unknown)"
When Sandra Oh leaves a show, she leaves with a bang. In the season 10 finale, Cristina has accepted a position in Switzerland to take over Burke's heart facility, but she's reluctant to leave Seattle. The episode is replete with bittersweet moments, including one where Cristina forces Meredith to realize that she's the sun, not Derek. Cristina's words really do have an impact on Meredith, who we see grow outside of her relationship with Derek in the next five seasons.