Derek is keeping himself very busy these days working with Callie on a brain mapping trial. They’ve now reached the point of putting brain sensors into their Quadriplegic test patient, Mickey, which overall seems pretty successful aside from a little glitch Derek notices in one of the sensors. While he goes off to run some tests to see where the problem is, he asks Shane to put his coffee mug in his bag back at the doctors locker room. However, Shane gets distracted when he discovers that not only did all the interns – now second years – get white lab coats, but so did a now-deceased Heather. Still feeling guilty about her death, Shane storms out, leaving the mug behind.
Jo takes the mug and uses it throughout the day, thinking it’s a communal cup. She confesses to her fellow interns that she’s worried about her relationship with Alex. He’s been acting really distant lately and she’s not sure why.
Meanwhile, Meredith is trying to decide on a research project to take on. There’s one she’s particularly interested in, but it’s something her mother began working on and she doesn’t want to ride on anyone’s coat tails, especially her mother’s.
Richard is using his accident as a means to help the interns – Jo in particular – learn how to be a better doctor. He instructs her to find out what’s wrong with his shoulder, refusing to take “I don’t know” as an answer. Even though Jo is a little preoccupied with Alex and intimidated to be working on the ex-Chief, she eventually uncovers the route of the problem and earns Richard’s praise.
A man comes in with a broken ankle with his wife in toe, but after doing some X-rays Stephanie discovers that this guy has way bigger problems on his hands. He has a giant tumor right on his heart. It’s size is so shocking it makes Stephanie drop and break Derek’s cup she was borrowing from Jo, making it shatter to the floor. But it turns out the patient is well aware of his condition. They’ve tried a whole bunch of different operating procedures, but none of them have worked, which is why he and his wife have been traveling the world and spending all of their life savings. They wanted to make the most out of life together while they still can. Even Cristina is stumped at what to do.
Callie informs Derek that she no longer wants to be part of the brain-mapping project since she wants to take time to focus more on her own life. The problem is, Derek was planning on doing the same thing so he could spend more time with his family. Callie suggests they just go ahead and cancel it. Derek fears how Mickey will respond to the news.
However, it looks like he wouldn’t be able to continue the research anyway since Mickey has a tumor in his brain, which was the cause of the glitch in the sensor during their earlier testing. Derek tells Mickey it’s too dangerous to operate, stating they will have to remove the sensors and quit the project. But Mickey doesn’t want to give up and says he won’t let Derek take the sensors out of his brain unless he removes the tumor as well, so they can continue the research study.
Arizona is becoming increasing concerned with Leah’s growing infatuation with her. Leah keeps pressing for them to hang out more, but Arizona doesn’t seem all that interested and is trying to keep things under wraps. After Alex informs her of Leah’s clingy nature, she decides to sever all ties with the intern and tells her they can no longer hang out. Leah apologizes and explains that she doesn’t get close to many people, so when she opens up she tends to get carried away sometimes. She promises it won’t happen again and runs away in tears.
While Shane is gluing Derek’s mug back together, he overhears Stephanie talking about her heart tumor patient, which gives him the idea to use brain glue on the guy’s heart, something that has never been done before ever. He approaches the idea to Cristina who loves it and commends him on his go-getter attitude. However, the patient seems less than thrilled with the idea since he’d already made his peace with dying and has maxed out all their credit cards/savings. His wife convinces him to at least give it a try regardless.
Before the procedure, Cristina bumps into Emma, Hunt’s new girlfriend. They bond over her risky operation, however, things get a little awkward when Cristina mentions that she’s Hunt’s ex-wife and Emma had no idea. Apparently he hasn’t felt the need to bring Cristina up in conversation yet. Regardless, the procedure ends up working and the patient is predicted to make a full recovery.
Once again, Alex gives Jo the cold shoulder and refuses to tell her where he’s been going every night. She asks if he’s cheating on her, but he says that’s not it and that it’s none of her business. What he’s really doing is going to a bar to watch his father play in his band. After talking and sharing a few drinks, Alex agrees to play a little guitar with him. As they play, his dad recalls how it brings back memories of times he had with his own son and how he has many regrets when it comes to parenting. He offers to show Alex a picture of his son, but the photo he pulls out is not of Alex, but a completely different boy. Enraged that his dad has abandoned yet another kid, not just him, he punches his dad in the face and storms out of the bar.
Callie talks to Mickey about the ultimatum he gave Derek. Mickey explains that he became a Quadriplegic due to his own drunk driving, which resulted in the death of two teenage girls. This project is his chance to make a positive impact on the world, making him feel like he’s actually worth having around. Even if he dies during surgery, he wants his brain to go to science so that he can still help in some way. It’s what he wants and it’s enough to convince Callie and Derek to move forward with the procedure.
Derek asks Shane to scrub in and be part of the surgery, but Shane is still feeling too guilty over Heather’s death and informs Derek, very bluntly, that he no longer wants to work on his service. Mickey dies during surgery, but they donate his brain to science just like he wanted. They both also agree to stick with the project and see it through.
Meredith decides to take on her mother’s old research project, choosing to see it as sharing her passion and not stealing her thunder. While she begins researching, Cristina tries to visit and make amends for their previous fight. Meredith coldly tells her that she plans on having both a career and a family. She doesn’t appreciate that Cristina doesn’t believe she can have both and accuses her of not having time for people who want things that she doesn’t want. Cristina walks out looking dejected.
Back at Meredith’s old house, Joe and Alex are fighting. He admits that he’s been going to see his father and blames her for putting the idea into his head since he’s now hurt all over again. Meanwhile, a restless Arizona reaches over on her nightstand for her phone and texts Leah to see what she’s up to.
Derek and Meredith both get home so late. They realize their crazy schedules just aren’t going to work and leave very little time for family. So Derek offers to cut back on his surgeries and just spend his time working on the brain-mapping project. This will allow Meredith to focus on her own research without having to worry about rushing home to the kids. She’s afraid they’ll eventually resent her for never being around and she doesn’t want to be like her mother, but Derek assures her that’s not going to happen. She agrees and they kiss.