Will MerDer Survive 'Grey's Anatomy' Season 11?

MerDer fans (aka people who root for Meredith and Derek, for those of you not up on your 'shipper lingo) have been having a rough year. Season 11 of Grey's Anatomy has found Meredith and Derek bickering and resenting each other, ultimately leading to Derek leaving his wife and children in Seattle to go pursue a career in Washington, D.C. This turn of events was especially shocking for those who actually took creator Shonda Rhimes at her word and assumed that MerDer would never break up. "I don’t think that it’s a marriage-ending argument. It feels very TV for people’s marriages to end over easy things or hard things. I actually would like to watch a couple have a hard time in their marriage, and have it not be that that means their marriage is over," the über-producer told Entertainment Weekly back in August of last year. "There’s something really great about watching a couple have a mature marriage where stuff goes wrong, things are hard, and people try to push through it and figure it out."

But just one week after that interview, Rhimes sang a different tune to TVLine: "I’m not going to say that Meredith and Derek are never going to break up." (You hear that? That's the sound of thousands of MerDer shipper hearts breaking.) "I’m not going to say that simply because we’re writing a story and we’re on this long, long journey," Rhimes continued. "I’ve learned never to say absolutes about anything anymore. People always say, 'Seven seasons ago you said…' Well, I didn’t think we’d still be here.”

So Rhimes is hedging her bets due to the evolving nature of writing for television. That's perfectly reasonable. But six months after that interview — and almost halfway through Season 11 — is it possible that the natural course of events will lead to divorce for the show's central couple? Viewers have good reason to be concerned: it was recently revealed that Derek's move to D.C. means actor Patrick Dempsey will be off the show for a significant stretch of time. "It’s highly possible that we might not see Derek for a while," Rhimes vaguely teased to Entertainment Weekly.

Is there any cause for hope? What do ABC's press releases have to say about MerDer in the upcoming episodes? This week's episode is called "All I Could Do Was Cry" (that certainly sounds ominous) and it states that, "Meredith tries to find someone to take care of the kids so she can visit Derek for the weekend." Oh, good! They're making an effort to make their long-distance relationship work. That's promising, right? How does that trip turn out? In the following episode, "The Great Pretender," apparently "Maggie gets upset when Meredith dodges her questions about D.C." Uh-oh... Sounds like things didn't go too well in the nation's capital. There's no mention of Meredith or Derek in the description of the episode after that, but the hour is titled "Staring At The End," so that certainly doesn't bode well for anyone.

If there is any reason to not give up hope just yet, it's the fact that Dempsey is still signed on to Grey's through Season 12. So there's no chance that Derek will simply stay in D.C. and fade from the show entirely. He's coming back eventually, one way or the other. And let's face it — even if Meredith and Derek do break up this season, there's just no way the Grey's Anatomy series finale will arrive without a reconciliation between the couple. MerDer is pretty much the definition of endgame.

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