'Grey's Anatomy' EP Says Season 16 Will Provide 'Clarity' on Alex's Fate

Meredith Jacobs
Justin Chambers Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Exit Alex
ABC/Mike Rosenthal

Back in January, Grey's Anatomy fans were shocked to learn Justin Chambers had left the series in its 16th season. Furthermore, there wouldn't be a farewell episode for Alex since, by the time the news broke, his last appearance had already aired.

So far, his absence has been explained by a trip to Iowa to care for his mother, but in the most recent episode, he wasn't returning Jo's (Camilla Luddington) calls. "It was a very careful threading of a needle, where we are giving a little bit of information and pain to Jo," showrunner Krista Vernoff told Variety. "We're, episode by episode, illuminating the story of where Alex is." Expect to receive "clarity" in "quite a few more episodes."

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The abrupt departure of Justin Chambers is just the latest in a long succession of cast member exits from the ABC drama.

According to Vernoff, this slow unraveling is because of the rough time his wife went through in Season 15. She met her mother and found out she was the product of rape and her subsequent depression led to her hitting rock bottom. (The couple made it through that together and even got legally married earlier this season.) "Jo went through so much pain and so much grief just last season that I wanted to be careful," the showrunner added.

In February 13's "Save the Last Dance for Me," Jo returned home, clearly hoping to find Alex waiting, but their apartment was still empty. But the series also seems to be setting her up for a potential storyline as a foster parent — given her reluctance to hand over the baby she picked up as a Safe Haven volunteer and her bringing up her past as a foster child — so that might come into play to reduce the pain we'll see her endure when Alex's absence is ultimately explained.

Camilla Luddington Grey's Anatomy Season 16 Episode 13 Jo Karev

(ABC/Rick Rowell)

Since the November 14 episode, the series has kept Alex involved in the storylines from afar, through conversations and texts with the other characters. For example, his response to Catherine (Debbie Allen) buying Pac-North was "a laugh until you cry emoji with a party hat."

Grey's Anatomy, Thursdays, 9/8c, ABC