Thursday nights’s Season 17 premiere of Grey’s Anatomy included some crazy twists and turns including the return of a fan favorite character. Warning: spoilers ahead!

McDreamy is back! Well, kind of. Patrick Dempsey‘s Derek Shepard made a surprise appearance at the end of the two-hour episode in a dream sequence with Ellen Pompeo‘s Meredith Grey. Shepard, who died in Season 11, appeared to Grey after she passed out in the hospital parking lot due to a medical emergency. Fans were on the edge of their seats, waiting to find out what’s wrong with the titular character. Fainting and seeing your dead lover doesn’t usually result in a good prognosis. But, fans put their worry aside to celebrate the return of McDreamy, even if it was a bit heartbreaking.

“We all know 2020 has been a really long, ugly road, and we were so happy just to be able to film these scenes and know how much joy it was gonna bring people. We definitely had a ball.” Pompeo told Jimmy Kimmel on his show Thursday night after the premiere.

The show has incorporated the COVID-19 pandemic into its plot, highlighting the difficulties doctors and nurses face in real life. Fans, including Kimmel himself, have hypothesized that Grey had been worked to the point of exhaustion, which caused her to faint. Showrunner Krista Vernoff spoke to Deadline about highlighting the pandemic, while also making the show a positive place for fans to come to in a otherwise negative time.

“From a writer’s perspective, it happened because it was my job to find a way — once we determined that we were doing the pandemic — to also bring joy, and escape, and fan candy, and all the things that at Grey’s Anatomy we give people,” she said. “We give them romance, and we give them humor, and we give them joy, and a lot of that is lacking for the medical community in this pandemic. And so, I was walking on the beach one day, and I was like, what if there’s a Meredith dream motif?”

Pompeo, who lives close to Dempsey in Malibu said she pitched him the idea of returning while they were on a hike.

“The idea just struck me so I just said to him, would you ever consider coming and being a part of the storytelling this season?” she said to Deadline. “I know that Patrick has his foundation in Maine where he helps cancer patients and cancer survivors, and that’s a huge effort of his, and I know that it’s important to him, also, to give people hope, and give people joy, and we wanted to bring something to this moment.”

Clearly, the show did bring something to this moment as fans freaked out on social media:

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