5 ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Characters Who Got Fitting Exits — And 5 Who Didn’t (PHOTOS)

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Cristina got keys to the castle

Sandra Oh, the consummate professional, gave the Grey’s Anatomy writers her “two weeks’ notice,” so to speak, a full season in advance. As a result, they had all of Season 10 to craft Cristina’s powerful exit. After realizing that she could only reach certain heights working at Grey Sloan — meaning she was ineligible for what was then called the Harper Avery Award, for example — Cristina visited Burke in Switzerland and inherited his cutting-edge heart research center.

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Burke got closure with Cristina

Many Grey’s fans know the drama behind Isaiah Washington’s firing in Season 3, and at the time, it made sense that Burke would leave Seattle after his and Cristina’s canceled wedding. But the actor and character returned in Season 10 to help close out Cristina’s storyline: Burke, who wanted to spend more time with his family, rightly chose Cristina as the only cardio god to whom he’d entrust his research center.

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Stephanie went out in a blaze of glory

Stephanie (Jerrika Hinton) displayed her cunning one last time at the end of Season 13, dousing a rapist and would-be pyro with alcohol before he could harm her or the young girl she was protecting. And after she saved the girl from the resulting explosion and inferno, she told Richard (James Pickens Jr.) she needed to experience life outside of a hospital for once, having spent much of her childhood in treatment for sickle-cell anemia.


Nathan ran off into the sunset with Megan

After Megan (Abigail Spencer) was found in Iraq ten years after her disappearance, Nathan (Martin Henderson) faced a dilemma: resume his relationship with her or continue his relationship with Meredith (Ellen Pompeo)? At Mer’s urging, he chose the former and moved with Megan and her adoptive son, Farouk, to Los Angeles, and the shot of the three of them playing on the beach at dusk was a triumphant sight to behold.

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April followed her faith

The much-maligned exit of Grey’s Anatomy fan faves April (Sarah Drew) and Arizona (Jessica Capshaw) made headlines weeks in advance, and of the two character departures, April’s had more resonance. After narrowly surviving a car crash with former fiancé Matthew (Justin Bruening), April realigned her priorities and decided to work with Seattle’s homeless population, which she considered God’s work. (Bonus: Matthew put a ring on it, too.)

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Leah couldn’t quite leave

Now for the dubious departures, starting with Tessa Ferrer’s character. After the Grey’s writers decided to nix Leah at the end of Season 10, they had Richard explain to her that she’s an excellent doctor but not a good enough surgeon. Then, the writers had Leah return for six episodes of Season 13, with Richard explaining that she had indeed become an excellent surgeon. So why have we not seen Leah around the hospital? Why is it that the last we saw Leah, it was when Stephanie poached a surgery from her?

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Erica disappeared into a parking lot

Speaking of vanishing characters, Erica (Brooke Smith) walked into the Grey Sloan parking lot in Season 5, never to be seen again, after arguing with Callie (Sara Ramirez) about Izzie (Katherine Heigl) stealing a heart for Denny and about whether Callie can “kind of” be a lesbian.

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Izzie moved out

Izzie disappeared after a breakup, too. Amid Katherine Heigl’s much-publicized fallout with her Grey’s Anatomy bosses, Izzie got fired for botching a kidney transplant, and she left a “Dear John” letter for Alex (Justin Chambers), believing him responsible for her downfall. She later tried to reunite with him, but Alex shot her down hard, and she fled Seattle for destinations alone, leaving shippers bereft of closure.

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Derek died after his heroics

In a way, there’s a certain irony that, after a car wreck, the brilliant neurosurgeon Derek (Patrick Dempsey) died of brain injuries at the hands of less competent surgeons. But his death still left MerDer shippers feeling betrayed, and one has to wonder whether the Grey’s writers could have done to Derek what they did to April — kept him alive, in Seattle, and merely offscreen — when Dempsey decided it was time to leave the show.

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Callie decamped to New York

Shonda Rhimes has said that she didn’t know Sara Ramirez would be exiting Grey’s until after the Season 12 finale, Callie’s final episode, had already been filmed. Luckily for Rhimes and the writing staff, Ramirez picked a logical point in the plotline: Callie had decided to move to New York City with then-girlfriend Penny (Samantha Sloyan). But we wish we could have seen what the writers would have scripted had they known in advance that Ramirez would be leaving.

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You don’t reach a record-breaking 16 seasons without losing some cast members along the way, but not all Grey’s Anatomy character exits were created equal.

Some Grey Sloan surgeons’ storylines came to logical and natural endpoints, while other characters were inelegantly excised from the ABC medical drama. (And at least one Grey Sloan doc might still be in the hospital parking lot, 10 seasons later.)

Click through the gallery above for our picks for who got fitting exits, and who didn’t.