ABC's long-running medical drama returned Thursday with a resolution to the accident at Joe's Bar that left Grey's and Station 19 favorites scarred (literally and figuratively), but the biggest question to come out of its winter premiere wasn't whether everyone who was in danger made it out alive. (The answer, by the way, is yes. Whew.) It was about a character fans won't be seeing any more onscreen: Did Grey's address Chambers' abrupt exit head on? And was Alex Karev's story wrapped up in a bow?
The short answer: no.
After fighting for his "person," Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), and pleading with the medical board to spare her from losing her medical license by bringing many of her former patients to her hearing and reading letters of support from past colleagues, like Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), in the series' 350th episode that aired Nov. 14, 2019, Alex then unexpectedly flew to Iowa to care for his ailing mother.
And that was where Alex remained in Thursday's return episode of Grey's. Though Alex was mentioned off and on by a few characters, mainly his wife, Jo (Camilla Luddington), and Meredith (who drops by their place seeking her best friend for a vent session), the questions surrounding how the show will handle Chambers' unexpected absence remain.
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EXCLUSIVE: 'Grey's Anatomy' Star Justin Chambers Thinks a Meredith-Alex Romance 'Is Possible!'
"You're not Alex," Meredith says a bit bewildered when she sees Link (Chris Carmack) with Jo, who's taken in a safe haven baby illegally. Jo replies almost nonchalantly that Alex is in Iowa "visiting his mom." Meredith mentions that McWidow, aka Cormac Hayes (Richard Flood), has taken over Alex's old position at Grey Sloan as chief of pediatric surgery, leading to Jo and McWidow to spending a lot more time together at the NICU and even, gasp, bonding a little over babies?
It's unclear whether Jo and McWidow will form a friendship or even professional relationship moving forward, but it doesn't bode well for how Alex's story wraps up that his former position at Grey Sloan has already been filled by a very capable doctor who's already getting into the tangled web of Meredith's love life. While it doesn't appear that Alex has been aware of Jo's extracurricular activities while he's been away, could Jo's drive to become a mother be the thing that instead pushes them apart? Does Alex decide to stay in Iowa forever? The answer to these questions continue to be left unanswered... for now.
"There's no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that's defined so much of my life for the past 15 years," the actor said in a statement to ET in January. "For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time."
"As I move on from Grey’s Anatomy, I want to thank the ABC family, Shonda Rhimes, original cast members Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens [Jr.], and the rest of the amazing cast and crew, both past and present, and, of course, the fans for an extraordinary ride."
Chambers' sudden exit prompted Pompeo to briefly react to the news one day after it broke. Responding to a tweet by Vanity Fair that read, "#GreysAnatomy is about to feel one of its biggest losses yet," the 50-year-old actress and executive producer couldn't help but share her thoughts on the situation.
"Truer words have never been spoken," Pompeo tweeted, alongside a broken-hearted emoji, conveying her emotions over losing one of the Grey's OGs.
Along with Pompeo, Wilson and Pickens Jr., Chambers was one of the last remaining original Grey's cast members on the medical drama. Chambers was first introduced as Alex Karev in the pilot episode on March, 27, 2005 as a temperamental, often rude and dismissive surgical intern at the then-named Seattle Grace Hospital. As the series progressed, Alex grew to be more empathetic toward his patients, friends and colleagues at the hospital, especially with kids. He gradually ascended to head of pediatric surgery at Grey Sloan, while briefly becoming interim chief of surgery.
At the time of Chambers' departure, Alex -- who had been fired at the end of season 15 for being complicit Meredith's insurance fraud -- was serving as chief of surgery at rival Seattle hospital, Pacific Northwest General Hospital (Pac-North), alongside Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) and Richard Webber (Pickens Jr.). He had unsuccessfully tried to recruit his wife, Jo, to leave Grey Sloan for Pac-North.