The 38-year-old actress, who played Meredith’s (Ellen Pompeo) sister Lexie Grey from seasons 4 to 8, was featured in the promo after the Thursday, March 25, episode of the ABC hit.
“Lexie!” Meredith yells in the teaser after Anna Nalick’s “Breathe” (the song Leigh sang during the season 7 musical episode) plays.
After the sisters are reunited in the dream sequence, Meredith, who is battling coronavirus, admits she “likes” it on the beach.
“Are you gonna stay?” Lexie asks.
Leigh becomes the latest former Grey’s star to appear on season 17. Patrick Dempsey’s Derek Shepherd and T.R. Knight’s George O’Malley previously joined Meredith in her dreams as she battles COVID-19.
“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 after McDreamy’s first appearance in November 2020. “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.”
After Leigh opted not to return to Grey’s Anatomy ahead of season 9, Lexie was killed in a plane crash.
“Earlier this year, I made the decision that season 8 would be my last on Grey’s Anatomy,” Leigh said in the statement in May 2012. “I met with Shonda [Rhimes] and we worked together to give Lexie’s story appropriate closure.”
Nine years later, social media users couldn’t contain their emotions after Thursday’s promo aired.
“LEXIE GREY IS ACTUALLY COMING BACK AHHHHHH,” one person tweeted.
A second user wrote, “Good morning … I’m still crying about Lexie’s comeback.”
Other fans are holding out hope that Lexie will be joined by ex Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), who also died after the plane crash.
“MARK SLOAN YOU BETTER BE ON THAT BEACH WITH LEXIE NEXT WEEK #greysanatomy,” a social media user tweeted.
Another viewer tweeted, “They gave us Lexie in the PROMO, so if the big surprise is that Eric Dane is going to show up in the same episode and I get to see Mark and Lexie together again, I am really gonna need to be sedated #GreysAnatomy.”
Sarah Drew, who was written off the show after season 14, also filmed a guest appearance earlier this month. Her character, April, however, is still alive and filming with former onscreen husband Jesse Williams (Jackson Avery).
Grey’s Anatomy airs on ABC Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET.