Why Justin Chambers' Character Alex Karev Wasn't Killed Off 'Grey's Anatomy'

During last week's episode of Grey's Anatomy, fans finally learned what happened to Justin Chambers' Alex Karev after the actor had announced in January that he would be leaving the show. Chambers' final episode had aired on Nov. 14 without a big sendoff for Karev, and during the March 5 episode, fans had their goodbye wish granted, though many weren't happy with the writers' decision.

During the Nov. 14 episode, Karev returned home to care for his mother after stepping in to help save Meredith's career, and it was revealed last week that he ultimately left Seattle to be with his ex-wife, Izzie Stevens (Katherine Heigl), and their 5-year-old twins on a farm in Kansas. Some fans wrote on Twitter that they would have preferred the writers kill Karev off than direct him to abandon his wife Jo (Camilla Luddington) and Grey Sloan Memorial, but according to a source, Karev was kept alive for a reason.

"The reason he wasn't killed off is because Shonda Rhimes is leaving the door open for a return, in any capacity, if he wants to come back," a source told Us Weekly.

Chambers shared in a statement announcing his departure that he was leaving the medical drama to pursue other career opportunities after 15 years with the show.

"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," he said in a statement to Deadline. "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."

He continued, "As I move on from Grey's Anatomy, I want to thank the ABC family, Shonda Rimes, original cast members Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens, and the rest of the amazing cast and crew, both past and present, and, of course, the fans for an extraordinary ride."

Showrunner Krista Vernoff spoke out Karev's departure after the March 5 episode, calling the character "one of our very best friends."

"It is nearly impossible to say goodbye to Alex Karev," she said in a statement to Us Weekly. "That is as true for me and for all of the writers at Grey's Anatomy as it is for the fans. We have loved writing Alex. And we have loved watching Justin Chambers' nuanced portrayal of him."


"For 16 seasons, 16 years, we have grown up alongside Alex Karev," she continued. "We have been frustrated by his limitations and we have been inspired by his growth and we have come to love him deeply and to think of him as one of our very best friends. We will miss him terribly. And we will always be grateful for his impact, on our show, on our hearts, on our fans, on the world."

Photo Credit: ABC/Mike Rosenthal