‘Grey’s Anatomy’: How Will Alex’s Exit Affect Jo? Properly Addressing Justin Chambers’ Departure Will Take Some Time

Grey’s Anatomy changed forever when Justin Chambers announced his departure from the Shondaland series after 15 strong years. The actor’s final episode reportedly aired on Nov. 14, meaning writers will have to wrap up the longstanding character offscreen. As things stand now, Alex is married to Jo (Camilla Luddington), who still has a presence at Grey Sloan Memorial. So how will Alex’s exit affect Jo on Grey’s Anatomy? There’s plenty to unravel in the next few weeks.

[Spoiler alert: Grey’s Anatomy Season 16, Episode 13.]

Justin Chambers announces his exit from ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

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On Friday, Jan. 10, Deadline reported Chambers’ exit from Grey’s Anatomy. In a statement, the actor said:

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. 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.

As I move on from Grey’s Anatomy, I want to thank the ABC family, Shonda [Rhimes], 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.

‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 16 hints why Alex Karev leaves

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As Chambers’ announcement was made in the midst of the midseason break, Grey’s Anatomy briefly touched on the actor’s absence in the season 16 winter premiere. Jo stated Alex went to take care of his mom in Iowa. But don’t worry. That isn’t the full extent of Alex’s ending.

In Grey’s Anatomy Season 16, Episode 13, the ABC series dropped a few subtle clues to indicate Alex’s actual exit hasn’t happened yet — but will in the near future. For now, everyone expects Alex to return from Iowa. Meredith (Ellen Pompeo), Richard (James Picken Jr.), Bailey (Chandra Wilson), and Owen (Kevin McKidd) got Alex’s job back at Grey Sloan. But will he ever come back to take the position?

Midway through the episode, Jo told Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) that Alex hasn’t been returning her calls. Jo revealed Alex may need some time. However, she also wondered whether Alex was getting “revenge” for when she needed time after discovering she was a product of rape. But she quickly refuted her deepest fears, noting her husband would never do something like that.

Nevertheless, Jo returned to an empty apartment at the end of the episode. “Time goes on,” Meredith said in a voiceover. “And when one thing ends, something new always begins.”

Krista Vernoff shares how ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ will address Alex Karev’s departure

Following the Grey’s Anatomy episode on Feb. 13, Krista Vernoff spoke with Variety about all the changes in season 16. The showrunner also touched on Alex’s storyline moving forward, confirming everyone will find out what is happening soon.

“Viewers will learn more about what is going on with Alex in the coming weeks, Vernoff said.

But when will Alex officially leave Grey’s Anatomy? It seems the exit will drag on for some time before fans are given a solid answer.

“We’re, episode by episode, illuminating the story of where Alex is,” Vernoff said. “And it takes us quite a few more episodes to get there and to give the audience clarity.”

Meanwhile, Vernoff explained how Alex’s departure will affect Jo. And as expected, it is not an easy task.

Justin Chambers and Camilla Luddington as Alex Karev and Jo Karev on 'Grey's Anatomy'
Justin Chambers and Camilla Luddington as Alex Karev and Jo Karev on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ | Eric McCandless via Getty Images

“It was a very careful threading of a needle, where we are giving a little bit of information and pain to Jo,” Vernoff said. 

That said, Vernoff shared the Grey’s Anatomy writers don’t plan to make Jo spiral like in season 15. However, to properly do so, the series will need to take some time. She said:

Jo went through so much pain and so much grief just last season that I wanted to be careful. And so it’s a bit of a mystery [what’s going on with Alex], so that we don’t watch Jo in the same place that we watched her in last season. We did it as carefully as we could. But it takes a while to get there.

At this point, it’s too early to tell how Alex will leave Grey’s Anatomy. As Vernoff noted, the ABC drama will add more pieces to the puzzle within the next few weeks. And from the sounds of it, Jo will come out the other end just fine. But how will the writers be able to pull that off when Alex was Jo’s rock? It seems highly unlikely Jo will end up completely unscathed. Regardless, we’ll just have to see what happens next.

Read more: ‘Grey’s Anatomy’: Shonda Rhimes and Sandra Oh’s Oscar Party Reunion Has Fans Begging for Cristina Yang’s Return