Richard Belzer's beloved Sgt. John Munch got the proper goodbye he deserved on Wednesday's episode of "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." After handing in his papers last week, the sarcastic investigator was roasted by his colleagues at a retirement party.
Though he's bidding farewell to the squad, it may not be the end of the character.
"After 21 years, smart money is on Munch not totally disappearing from the face of the Earth!" Belzer teased to TODAY. "If Sherlock Holmes can survive the Reichenbach Falls, then surely we have not seen the last of Det. Sgt. Munch!"
NBC told TODAY last week that there could be opportunities for Munch to return and work with the "SVU" detectives in the future, though there are no plans in place yet. But Wednesday night, the long-running drama explained just how the show's sole source of humor might return.
At the sergeant's farewell party, Capt. Cragen (Dann Florek) shared the good news: "SVU's loss is the DA's loss." In other words, Munch is headed to the district attorney's office to be a special investigator.
But even if his return to "SVU" isn't set in stone (for now), the conspiracy theorist is a survivor when it comes to television. Belzer's character was first introduced two decades ago on "Homicide: Life on the Street." He's since made appearances on two other shows from the "Law & Order" franchise, as well as on "30 Rock," "Sesame Street," "The X-Files" and more. (Who's to say he won't pop up on another program?)
As for Munch bidding his team adios after more than 14 years together, Belzer said it was "more emotional than I could ever imagine."
The episode kicked off with his party, but ended on a quiet, touching note that paid tribute to Munch's work as a detective: As he was at his desk, the show flashed back to a black-and-white scene of the character as a younger investigator. The phone rang, and back in the present day, Munch answered, "Homicide."
"Warren Leight and Julie Martin wrote a respectful, witty and poignant script that gave Munch a sweetly sad goodbye," Belzer told us of his last episode as a regular. "As an actor, I was so remarkably privileged to work with the incomparable Mariska Hargitay — beyond a sister to me; the great Chris Meloni; best partner in the world, Ice-T; Dann Florek, the total pro; my brother from another mother, Dean 'Mayhem' Winters; the always classy Danny Pino; my favorite Southern belle, Kelli Giddish; the elegant Raul Esparza.
"I am truly blessed to have been in the company of so many great people for such a long time."
As Cragen said, "You had one hell of a run, Sgt. Munch."
"Law & Order: SVU" airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on NBC.