Mitch Haaseth/ABC

Meredith Kissed DeLuca On 'Grey's Anatomy' & He Could Be The New Derek

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There will probably never be anyone who could totally replace *the* Derek Shepherd on Grey's Anatomy, but DeLuca is pretty close to it. In Thursday's episode, there were several time jumps that helped propel his relationship with Meredith forward and by the end, it looked like she made up her mind. So when Meredith kissed DeLuca on Grey's Anatomy, it definitely seemed like he's being set up as the next Derek. Or, as close as Meredith will ever come to getting another great love in her life.

DeLuca, bless his heart, spent the first half of the episode chasing Meredith and trying to make dates with her. She turned him down for one, stood him up for another, and he almost lost all hope. Then, at the end of the episode, they had a very Grey's-like talk and he got through to her. It might have had something to do with a recently recovered coma patient whose fiancé had spent months by her bed.

Shortly after she woke up, she told Meredith to choose between Link and DeLuca. She advised Meredith to "kiss someone who turns back time for you" after her fiancé rewound the New Year's ball drop on his laptop so they could enjoy it together. I don't think it could be any clearer that DeLuca may "turn back time" for Meredith as her new almost-Derek.

Giacomo Gianniotti, who plays DeLuca, recently spoke to Entertainment Tonight about the love triangle between Meredith, DeLuca, and Link, and promised more healthy competition before Meredith gets to be "endgame" with either one of them. At this point, I'm inclined to believe that Meredith and DeLuca end up together, but Gianniotti said they have more to go through together before they get to the potential position of being together outside of the triangle.

"I think DeLuca is having a great time balancing everything and having a healthy competition between him and Link, which is fun to watch and fun to play," he said. "In the next couple of episodes, we’re going to see a lot more from both sides. Both Link and DeLuca share more common ground and continue this love triangle."

Although he couldn't say who he thinks the writers will ultimately choose for Meredith, he did agree that Meredith and DeLuca have more history. And that elevator discussion about his dad won't be the end of bonding with Meredith over something more than a mutual attraction.

"You’re going to learn a lot about DeLuca’s past, and the relationship with his father and his sister is going to deepen," Gianniotti revealed. "You’re going to get a lot more context, which will eventually become common ground between DeLuca and Meredith."

If DeLuca is the new Derek, then there still might be some bumps in the road before he and Meredith are official. Most fans probably remember that it wasn't easy for Meredith and Derek in the beginning either. When Meredith and Derek got together, it wasn't as simple as sharing some kisses and on-call room hookups. It took exes getting in the way, multiple love triangles starting up, and a few solid breakups to get Meredith and Derek to the point of no return.

It looks like her story with DeLuca is on a similar path, so he could very well be the new Derek. One kiss doesn't necessarily mean this is the start of their relationship, but it is a beginning of something more than DeLuca chasing Meredith with the thirst of a thousand men. Fans are just going to have to be patient for the happily ever after part.