Grey’s Anatomy fans have been dreaming of seeing McDreamy again since 2015 — and so has Meredith Grey. Ellen Pompeo’s character was reunited with her late husband Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) during the season 17 premiere of the ABC drama.

Fans tuning into the Thursday, November 12, episode of Grey’s Anatomy were shocked when Meredith was found passed out in the parking lot after working nonstop amid the coronavirus pandemic. While she was unconscious at Grey Sloan Memorial, Meredith had drifted off to a beach with Derek.

“I miss you!” Meredith yelled from across the beach.

Derek, walking toward her, replied, “I know!”

“There have been studies about how intense our dream life has been. In the pandemic, people are having really intense dreams because of the lockdown,” showrunner Krista Vernoff told Deadline about the dream sequence. “We’re not getting enough stimulation, and so, it’s happening in our dreams. So, it started as that. It started as, how do we give people some escape. I had this imagining of a beach motif throughout the season, and I called Ellen, and I said, what if we bring back, I don’t know, some dead character that you could dream of on the beach, that would be so fun for the fans. And she said, ‘Let’s get Patrick.’ Even in my most excitable dream life, that thought hadn’t occurred to me as an option, and there it was.”

Dempsey left Grey’s Anatomy after 11 seasons in 2015. His character, a neurosurgeon, died in part because doctors failed to do a CT scan after he was in a car accident. It was the first episode creator Shonda Rhimes had written since the season 8 finale. When Rhimes left ABC for Netflix in 2017, she enlisted Vernoff to take over as showrunner for season 14 and beyond.

“Patrick and Ellen and I were all there at the beginning of this; I wasn’t there for the pilot, but I was there for the first seven seasons, and that was 17 years ago,” Vernoff said. “That was, like, a lifetime ago; my kids weren’t alive. It was so wild to walk out on that beach, and just be together again as these different people that we are now. But I can’t overstate how joyful and healing an experience this was.”

Rhimes celebrated Dempsey’s return via Twitter, writing, “Thought I would check in on twitter to see if you enjoyed the dreamy gift @KristaVernoff & @EllenPompeo gave to brighten up your 2020 … #GreysAnatomy.”

So, how many times will fans see Dempsey on season 17 of Grey’s Anatomy? And are any other deceased characters (McSteamy, Lexie, George, Ellis, etc.) still haunting Meredith’s dreams? Scroll through to find out:

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