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Here's the shocking way 'Grey's Anatomy' said goodbye to Alex Karev

Fans of the medical drama knew a big reveal about the doctor was on the way — but they never saw this coming.
The exit of Dr. Karev, played by Justin Chambers, on "Grey's Anatomy" has finally been explained.Jennifer Clasen / ABC
/ Source: TODAY

Warning! This story contains spoilers for the March 5 episode of "Grey's Anatomy."

In some ways, Thursday night’s episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” proved to be exactly what fans expected.

After all, they’ve long known Dr. Alex Karev wouldn’t be returning to the halls of Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital again, since actor Justin Chambers announced his decision to leave the hit series after 15 years back in January.

And fans also know that any exit on “Grey’s Anatomy” is sure to be a jaw-dropper.

But that’s where all expectations ended Thursday, because there’s no way viewers could have seen this coming.

As Bailey (Chandra Wilson) revealed, the good doctor — who was one of the original interns back in the Seattle Grace days — didn’t just abandon his job.

“Alex Karev isn’t coming back,” she said, with a letter from him in hand. “Left his wife, his friends, his job …”

Yes, bombshell No. 1 is that Alex dumped Jo (Camilla Luddington), whom he married just two years ago. But get ready for No. 2!

“Alex Karev is now a father of two … with Izzie Stevens,” Bailey continued.

Never have so few words packed so much shock.

Katherine Heigl speaks about possibly returning  "Grey's Anatomy"
Izzie's been busy.Walt Disney Television via Getty

But the chief of surgery wasn’t the only one to get a letter loaded with juicy details. Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Jo and Richard (James Pickens Jr.) got letters, too, and they all shed light on Alex’s seemingly out-of-character move.

It all went back to events from earlier in season 16, including Meredith’s big trial to keep her medical license — an event that prompted Alex to reach out to old associates on her behalf, even his ex-wife, Izzie, whom he discovered had started a family with embryos they’d frozen during their marriage. So he was suddenly a dad to 5-year-olds twins.

And that’s all it took to change his mind about everything, evidently. Or, as he put it in his letter to Jo, “When I told you I loved you I meant it, but Izzie has our kids, Jo."


That expression of pain isn’t just on behalf of Jo, but also on behalf of all the loyal “Grey’s” lovers who’ve been left reeling by the Alex’s exit.

Alex suddenly boomeranging back to Izzie was just a plot point too far for many, who expressed that they would have rather seen him killed off than exit the way he did.

Some went so far as to write their own ending to that effect.

One person who did appreciate Alex's farewell? Pompeo, the show's star.

“For me personally for Karev to go back to the beginning.... was the best possible storyline,” she wrote in a post on Instagram Friday. “It pays homage to those incredible first years and the incredible cast ...that created a foundation so strong that the show is still standing.”

But pleasing or not, it’s really over.

“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,” star Chambers said in a statement to TODAY when he first announced his departure. “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.”

And Alex is blessed with surprise twins and … Izzie?