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I Am Tree Essay

"I Am a Tree" is the second episode in the third season of the American serialdramatelevision seriesGrey's Anatomy, and the 38th episode of the overall series. The episode focuses mainly on Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), as her romantic relationship with Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington) is tested through the arrival of his parents. The episode is the first to feature Diahann Carroll, who begins a recurring role as Jane Burke, Preston's mother. The installment marked Eric Dane's second appearance in the series and first appearance in the season, despite not being credited. The episode was instrumental in the producers' decision to have Dane promoted to series regular status in the following episode.

Further story arcs which provided a particular focus on individual characters include Addison Montgomery-Shepherd (Kate Walsh) facing Derek Shepherd's (Patrick Dempsey) desire to divorce her, Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) coping with Denny Duquette's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) death and the repercussions of her choice to quit the internship program, and Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) struggling with the choice between Shepherd and Finn Dandridge (Chris O'Donnell). Also dealt with was Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) attempting to have Stevens rejoin the program, Mark Sloan (Dane) arriving from New York City in order to resume his romantic relationship with Montgomery, and Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) being evacuated from the hospital.

The script for the episode was written by executive producer Krista Vernoff, while Jeff Melman served as the director. The installment aired on September 28, 2006, in the United States on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), with approximately 20.93 million viewers tuning in. Ranking second in the time-slot and third for the week, the episode garnered an 8.6 Nielsen rating in the 18–49 demographic, seeing a decrease from the previous episode, which received a 9.0 rating. Critical response of the episode ranged from mixed to negative; however, Montgomery's storyline was a particular source of critical acclaim from television reviewers. Although the episode was fictionally set in Seattle, Washington, filming occurred in Los Angeles, California.[1]


"I Am a Tree" opens to a voice-over narration from Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) about impulses, the episode's main theme. Having undergone surgery following the shooting in the season two finale, Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington) received an unanticipated visit from his parents, Jane Burke (Diahann Carroll) and Donald Burke (Richard Roundtree). It is revealed that the main reason for their unannounced arrival is meeting Preston's love interest, Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh). Due to the Burkes' overprotective attitude and strict moral beliefs, Yang initially fails to impress them, determining a negative outlook on their romantic relationship. Following the exposure of his affair with his former love interest Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), Derek Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) begins considering and ultimately decides on divorcing his wife. Facing the devastating news, Addison Montgomery Shepherd (Kate Walsh) abandons her hospital duties for the day, turning to alcoholism as a means to deal with the depression.

Feeling guilty for being the reason her marriage had initially failed, Montgomery begins questioning her ability to interact with men. Having made up his mind on divorcing Montgomery, Shepherd attempts at becoming romantically involved with Grey once again. Aware of Shepherd's plans, Grey begins to question her feelings for Finn Dandridge (Chris O'Donnell), with whom she had previously began a relationship. Unable to decide between what she wants and what she needs, Grey unwillingly stirs a rivalry between the two men. Now being unemployed, Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl) tries to move on after the death of her fiancé, Denny Duquette (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Realizing that she is unable to do so, she starts using baking as the way to overcome the grief. Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson) realizes her decisive role in Duquette's death, and begins experiencing strong guilt. Influenced by the recent revelations, Bailey tries to convince Stevens to reenter the internship program, which she had left as a result of her actions leading up to Duquette's death. Ultimately, Stevens chooses to attempt at returning to work at the hospital.

Richard Webber (James Pickens, Jr.) learns that Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) is living in the hospital basement, leading to her relocating with George O'Malley (T.R. Knight) in Grey's house, much to the displeasure of his roommates. A teenager patient with a large branch protruding through his abdomen is admitted into the hospital, and is revealed to have been thrown into a pile of tree clippings while street luging unprotected. The boy's distressed father Jeffrey Hernandez (Javier Grajeda) uses violence in order to make his son realize the danger he has gotten himself into. Alex Karev (Justin Chambers) is assigned to the patient and unwillingly becomes emotionally involved in the case, banning further interaction between the two. Shepherd, Bailey and Yang treat a patient admitted in the neurosugical service, who has a tumor pressing against his frontal lobe. His condition forces him to verbally express each thought passing his mind, without being able to control it in any way. Realizing her inability to choose between the two men in her romantic background, Grey decides on dating both, therefore attempting to compare their dedication towards her. At the conclusion of the episode, Shepherd visits Montgomery in her hotel room, in order to share his final thoughts on their upcoming divorce, but is shocked at the revelation that she had sex with Mark Sloan (Eric Dane).


"I Am a Tree" was written by Primetime Emmy Award nominee and series executive producer, Krista Vernoff.[2] Filmmaker and television producer Jeff Melman served as the director, his first such credit since "Blues for Sister Someone" in the second season.[2] The soundtrack used in the episode included Moloko's "The Time Is Now", The Chalets' "Theme From Chalets", Bitter:Sweet's "The Mating Game", Mat Kearney's "Crashing Down" and Roland Clark's "Open Your Eyes".[3] Also featured in the episode was "Open Your Eyes", the fifth single from the Northern Irishalternative rock band Snow Patrol's album Eyes Open.[3] Similarly to "Chasing Cars", the band's previous single featured in the series, the song gained significant popularity after being used in the series, resulting in a drastic rise in the sales number on iTunes.[4] Several one-time guest actors appeared in the episode, including Richard Roundtree, who portrayed Donald Burke, and Javier Grajeda, acting as Jeffrey Hernandez.[2] Although fictionally set in Seattle, Washington, filming primarily occurred in Los Angeles, California.[5] Scenes in the operating room were filmed at the Prospect Studios in Los Feliz, Los Angeles.[5]

Following his appearance in the second season, Dane returned to the series in this episode.[6] According to Dane, he was originally hired by the series producers in order to film one episode, but was ultimately asked to return. "As far as I know, I was doing one episode. That's what I signed up for. But because of who the character was, there was a lot of room for him to come back. I got real lucky, they invited me back."[7] When offered the series regular position, Dane was not aware of the character's future on the show, noting the boldness of the character's introduction in the previous season, by contrast to his first appearance in the third season.[7] Fellow cast member Pompeo offered her insight on Sloan's reintroduction, noting that the inevitability of the character's return was due to his overwhelming popularity, mainly among the female audience, who immediately responded to the concept of the character.[7] Dane only makes a short, uncredited appearance in the episode, seeing his naked character exiting a steamy bathroom.[2] The scene has become one of the most iconic of the series.[8] Dane offered his outlook on the scene, "It was a spectacular entrance. It was all about this brand new towel, which had a hard time staying together. Every time I put it together and let my hands go, it was almost like throwing caution to the wind."[8]


The episode received mixed to positive reviews among television critics, and underperformed the previous episode in terms of viewership. "I Am a Tree" was originally broadcast on September 28, 2006 in the United States, on the American Broadcasting Company. The episode was viewed by a total of 23.48 million Americans,[9] down 1.93% from the previous episode "Time Has Come Today", which garnered 25.41 million viewers.[10] In terms of vieweship, "I Am a Tree" ranked second for the night, just behind CBS's juggernaut CSI. The episode did not win in viewership, as its 8.2 Nielsen rating ranked second in its 9:00 Eastern time-slot and the entire night, for the rating of the key 18–49 demographic.[9]


  1. ^ abKrista Vernoff (September 28, 2006). "Krista Vernoff on blogging and "I Am a Tree"". Grey Matter. American Broadcasting Company. Retrieved July 7, 2012. 
  2. ^ abcdKrista Vernoff (writer), Jeff Melman (director) (September 28, 2006). "I Am a Tree". Grey's Anatomy. Season 3. Episode 2. ABC. 
  3. ^ ab"Season 3, Episode: 2 "I Am a Tree" Music". TV Fanatic. SheKnows Entertainment. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  4. ^"Eyes Open". iTunes. iTunes. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  5. ^ abClarendon, Dan (December 20, 2010). "Where Is Grey's Anatomy Filmed, Anyway?". Wetpaint. The Cambio Network. Retrieved September 29, 2012. 
  6. ^"Yesterday". Grey's Anatomy. Season 2. Episode 18. February 19, 2006. ABC. 
  7. ^ abcWolf, Buck (October 12, 2006). "Troubling Times for Dr. McDreamy". ABC News Radio. ABC News. Retrieved March 21, 2013. 
  8. ^ abGrey's Anatomy Season Three DVD: Commentary Feature. Buena Vista, ABC. 2007. 
  9. ^ ab"Weekly Program Rankings". Media Net. ABC. October 3, 2006. Archived from the original on January 10, 2015. Retrieved July 9, 2012. 
  10. ^"Weekly Program Rankings". Media Net. ABC. September 26, 2006. Archived from the original on March 29, 2012. Retrieved July 9, 2012. 

External links[edit]

According to episode writer Krista Vernoff, the episode provides a particular emphasis on the development of Sandra Oh's character.[1]

He woke, and before the last traces of the nightmare had faded he made up his mind: he'd take him out to the forest and finish it. Fifteen years ago, before he shot him, the man said, "Don't kill me, I beg you. This is my tree." All that time the words had stayed with him. Maybe they would stay with him forever.

Karima brought in his breakfast, a black scarf on her head, eyes still as a tree on a spring night. The Tiger had stopped looking into those eyes many years ago, though they had enchanted him in his youth. Back then the Tiger's claws dripped with blood from the water wars and Karima's eyes spoke to him of love. Slowly, absent-mindedly he drank the water from his glass. He set the glass down on the table and then stared at it.

"Now the water's inside me," he said, "and you're finished, you fucking empty glass!"

The Tiger spoke to everything around him like this, as if he was in a play, but he never said any of it out loud. He couldn't have kept his job otherwise. He was a bus driver – it paid him money and helped him to forget.

Karima was sitting in the living room, switching channels as if she was playing a crazy tune on the buttons of the remote. On an Iraqi station the announcer flashed a lipstick smile and introduced a famous folk singer performing a traditional song about maternal devotion. At the first "Ah", Karima shed a tear. The Tiger walked past without a glance and went into his room. He put on his driver's uniform, took a pistol wrapped in a piece of cloth down from the shelf and stuck it in his belt. He left without even saying goodbye.

The Tiger worked the night shift, but it was still early. His eyes were narrow, as if he was on a mission. He went into the Hemingway café and ordered a coffee. There was no sign of the Moroccan, so he sat down at the fruit machine. He played and won. He played and lost and played again. In the end he lost forty euros. He threw a scornful glance at the fruit machine and left the café. It was snowing heavily. The Tiger looked at the snow.

"You know, if you weren't mad, you wouldn't shit in the bowl you eat from," he said.

It was just the kind of thing you'd expect from a kid born on streets full of drug dealers and police brutality. The Tiger called it Cowards Corner – he was strong enough and callous enough to do anything he wanted without worrying about the police. That's why they called him the Tiger. They gave him the crown and cheered him off, to the water wars.

Before work, the Tiger went to the public library and headed for the crime fiction. Rage filled him as he looked at the books on the shelf.

"I know you've jumped out at me from nowhere," he said, "but I'm gonna fix you up good and proper, you fat bastard."

He pulled a book from the shelf and sat down to read.

He started reading crime novels when he moved to Finland, even before he learned to drive a bus. The Tiger really wanted to write but he didn't dare – he couldn't imagine how to turn the images of horror in his mind into words. He would look at the front covers and spit out the writers' names: "You geniuses, sisters of whores, authors of blood and violence everywhere in Cowards Corner, in the water wars and on paper. May God curse the father of the world you live in."

The Tiger went outside to smoke a cigarette. He watched the snow falling. He didn't talk to it. Back in the reading room he opened a book and drowned in it. Time passed. He shivered and looked at his watch. He put the novel back in the crime section, borrowed another one and left.


The Tiger gripped the steering wheel tight as he drove the number 55 bus through Helsinki's icy streets. Images and memories ran like a trail of ants through his blood, crowding and swarming from his head to the tips of his fingers. He looked at himself in the mirror. His skin was as dark as rye bread, flecked with sparse white beard. Who would have thought the Tiger would ever become so old and frail?

The bus stopped by the opera house. He turned to the building and sighed.

"Sing, sing. Farid el-Atrash used to sing that life was beautiful if only we could understand it," he said. "Well you can kiss my arse."

He hadn't seen his son in three years. Mustafa had always fought back when the Tiger treated him badly. He was twenty now, selling hash out of the small flat he lived in with his Russian girlfriend. The Tiger's wife was lost in her own world, adrift from her husband in mind and body, punishing him for twenty-four years of bitterness. Karima Skyped her brothers in Baghdad for hours, laughing and crying, yearning for the past and complaining about her luck. She used to go through her photographs with the old Finnish woman who lived next door, gazing together into the stunning eyes of the elegant young English teacher she had been. The pictures died with the old woman, her only friend. There were no eyes to grieve with over the shadows of the past.

But the Tiger didn't care Karima was lonely – he had turned in on himself as well, only caring about the bus, the fruit machine. After work he'd meet up with the Moroccan and drink. His friend would talk about the difference between women in Finland and France, Spain and the Middle East. He had nicknames for all the regulars and knew all their stories. When the Moroccan had his own business to attend to, the Tiger would talk to the fruit machine and throw away his money.


The Tiger looked for the fat man in the mirror – no sign of him among the passengers. He hadn't appeared for more than two days. But he'll turn up at the last stop, the Tiger thought to himself, fingering the pistol in his belt. He closed the doors of the bus and accelerated away, cutting a path though the snow, which came down now like a blizzard.

The fat man looked like an Iraqi. He had been riding the bus for more than a month, but the Tiger never managed to work out how he got on. Passengers were supposed to board through the front doors, but the fat man didn't. The Tiger kept his eyes on the mirror – constantly trying to catch the fat man sneaking on by the doors at the back – it was really getting on his nerves. He was like a ghost: appearing on the bus and then disappearing.

It was obvious from the start the strange man's appearances and disappearances were aimed at the Tiger, even before he managed to confront him about it.

He was sitting on the back seats, so the Tiger went right down the bus and told him in Finnish it was the last stop. The fat man smiled and stared at his face. The Tiger switched to Arabic and asked him if he was Iraqi.

The fat man took some chewing gum out of this pocket and put it in his mouth.

"Don't kill me, I beg you. This is my tree," he said.

The words struck a powerful chord in the Tiger's mind. He stepped back a few paces, then took one confused step forward towards the man. They were the same words he'd heard fifteen years ago in the pomegranate orchard.

"What do you want?" the Tiger asked.

"Nothing," the fat man replied.

The Tiger had a good look at the man's face.

"Did you use to work with the water gangs?" he asked.

"No, but you killed me."

"I killed you? But you're not dead!"

"How are you so sure I'm not dead?"


Karima had no idea what kind of work he was doing back then. Whenever he was away he would tell her he'd been in other cities, buying and selling used cars. After the police got on his trail, the Tiger fled with his family to Iran, and on to Turkey. There he forged some documents and applied to the United Nations to be treated as a refugee from the regime, claiming he had fought the dictator. In the end they helped him to reach Finland.

That night, the night of the pomegranate orchard, the Tiger had been driving the car. He and another killer had to go to a grand house on the outskirts of Baghdad. The house belonged to the boss of a gang controlling a small river that flowed in across the border. They were transporting the water to areas hit by drought in tankers and selling it. All the gangs running weapons and counterfeiting banknotes had started trading water – the competition to control the market was deadly. Some of them controlled wells and began to impose taxes on farmers. The government tried to barter oil for water from neighbouring countries but soon lost control, overwhelmed on all sides by rebels, groups of religious extremists and then the drought, which derailed a bureaucracy already shot through with corruption. The Tiger's mission was clear: he had to eliminate everyone in the big house.

The two of them crept through the fence into the grounds and then burst into the building. Five men were sitting at a table, eating and talking. They killed them all. The other man started turning the place over, looking for the papers. The Tiger ran into the kitchen, where he found a servant girl cowering in the corner. A window was open on the far side – someone had escaped. A shadow was heading deep into the orchards. The Tiger killed the servant girl, jumped out of the window and started running after him.

Soon the Tiger was out of breath. He couldn't see the man, but he could hear the crackle of dry twigs as they ran through the dark. There wasn't much time. The Tiger swept back some branches and found a man kneeling close to the base of a pomegranate tree. He couldn't see his face. The man said it was his tree and begged the Tiger not to kill him. The Tiger aimed his pistol and fired and fired again.


The Tiger handed a ticket to a drunk, turning his face away from the stench of the man's clothes. He looked down the bus for the fat man. No sign. He looked back at the road in front.

"Roads … roads … all the roads we have walked, when the world is done for," he said. "Where are you, you fat bastard? Where are you? Do you think the Tiger's frightened? A tiger who's seen all the roads, afraid of a sheep!"

He didn't have a plan for getting rid of him. All he knew was that he'd bury the fat man and get rid of his shitty past forever. Once he had asked the Tiger to drive him around the forest at night – it didn't matter which forest – a request which the Tiger tried to ignore. But the man kept appearing and disappearing, so the Tiger asked the Moroccan if he could get him a pistol.

The Tiger drove back and forth along route 55 – his shift was due to finish at two in the morning. Just before midnight, the fat man appeared. He was standing at the bus stop for the swimming pool. The Tiger watched him closely, in case this ghost disappeared again.

The other passengers got off at the last stop. The fat man tried to get off too, but the Tiger closed all the doors and started driving, quickly leaving the route behind.

The fat man laughed.

"What are you doing, man?" he said.

It was stupid, reckless – there was only an hour before the bus was due back in the depot – but the ageing Tiger was in another world. He was so angry he couldn't think straight.

The fat man was shouting from the back of the bus.

"Are you going to kidnap a dead man? Well, if we're going to the forest, then fine."

The Tiger didn't really answer.

"Dead, alive, it's all the same," he said. "I'm dead and alive. You're alive and dead. So what? Do you think you're a scarecrow and I'm a crow? It's amazing, these questions of the dead and the living. They don't repent and they never learn … Today I'm going to teach you!"

The bus turned off the main road on to a dirt track leading to the forest. The fat man moved up close and sat by the Tiger. He kept talking about the past, about coincidences, about water, war and peace. He said he'd been looking for the Tiger for years, asking other people about his death, piecing together why he'd been murdered.

"That night I was driving my old Volkswagen, with a little pomegranate tree in the back of the car." he said, taking an unlit cigarette from his mouth. "The branches were sticking out of the window, waving in the cool night breeze. My only daughter had leukaemia and we'd been taking her from one hospital to another. But she got worse and worse. I asked holy men to bless her and when I despaired of them I went to fortune-tellers and magicians. An old woman, a famous psychic, told me to plant a pomegranate tree in an orchard of pomegranates. But I had to do it at night, without telling anyone. 'Give life its fruit so that it will give you its fruits,' the old woman said.

"'Why does it have to be a pomegranate?' I asked her.

"'Every one of us is something else as well – a pomegranate, a flower or some other living thing. He who knows how to move between himself and his other lives will have the doors of serenity and well-being opened for him,' the old woman answered.

"'I'm sorry, but why can't it be an orange tree or a grape vine?' I asked her.
"'Oranges cure nightmares and grapes are for grief, but pomegranate is the pure blood of your daughter,' she said.

"I would have liked to ask her some more questions, but the psychic asked me to leave, saying that too many questions rob mystery of its power. I didn't understand what she meant. I was thinking about planting the tree at night and in secret. I was desperate. I was ready to do anything that might help cure the flower of my life, my only daughter.

"It was dark when I arrived. I parked my car and took out the pomegranate tree. I cut the barbed wire and went deep into the orchard, looking for the right place. The gunshots started while I was digging. I didn't pay them much attention – I thought it was some kind of celebration, maybe a wedding. I was kneeling next to the tree and levelling the soil when suddenly you appeared between the trees and aimed your pistol straight at me. It was pitch black. But you opened fire and killed me. Why?"

The Tiger didn't believe it for a second. The man he'd chased and killed that night was a member of the water gang. Yes, the poor sod had begged for his life and said something about his tree, it was true. But the Tiger hadn't seen his face in the dark – why should he believe it was even the same man? He tapped the pistol in his belt once more. He had to get rid of this ghost from the past, a ghost which had risen up from under ground. The Tiger held his tongue for the rest of the journey.

Deep inside the forest he stopped the bus and forced the fat man out, waving his pistol in his face. He wanted to stick the barrel in his back there and then, but he was too frightened. Could he really shoot a ghost?

The fat man laughed at him.

"You've already killed me, man," he said. "What are you doing?"

Then he made a run for it.

The Tiger opened fire but the fat man didn't fall. He was running fast now, like a young man. The Tiger chased him between the trees. In the darkness a shiver ran across his skin and he felt that he was back in the big house that night, as if the fat man, the bus, the snow, his son and Finland were just a waking dream in his head, as if he were back there, a strong, ruthless Tiger, hunting down his victims in the vicious water wars.

Through the open kitchen window the Tiger saw a shadow in the pomegranate orchard. He fired a bullet into the head of the servant girl. Then he jumped through the window and ran after the escaping shadow. He heard the sound of footsteps breaking dry twigs. Then he saw another man sitting, levelling the soil around a pomegranate tree. He ran past him and carried on chasing the man who had escaped.

The forest opened out on to a frozen lake. The Tiger kept running, chasing him over the ice. Finally the man stopped. The Tiger ran up to him, aiming his pistol at the man's face. The man from the water gang turned, raised his hand and pointed his own pistol at the Tiger. Shots rang out.

Blood flowed across the icy surface of the lake.



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