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Chicago Fire's Jesse Spencer Breaks Down His 'Difficult Decision' About Casey's Future And Final 200th Episode Scene

MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD for the 200th episode of Chicago Fire, fittingly called “Two Hundred.”

Chicago Fire hit a massive milestone with its 200th episode on NBC, accomplishing something that few shows on network television are able to do while still going strong. And Chicago Fire went big with “Two Hundred” with one of the most game-changing events of the series to date: the departure of Jesse Spencer’s Matt Casey. Fortunately, both Spencer and Chicago Fire showrunner Derek Haas have opened up about the difficult decision that led to saying goodbye to Casey, as well as the surprising final scene that Spencer filmed.

Chicago Fire didn’t deliver the worst kind of heartbreak by saying goodbye to Jesse Spencer by killing off Casey, as Casey carried through on his intention to move to Oregon to take care of the Darden boys alive and well. As it turns out, like with the case of Monica Raymund as Dawson years ago, Casey was written out because the actor felt it was time to leave. Unlike with Raymund as Dawson, however, Chicago Fire had five episodes at the beginning of the season to build to saying goodbye to Casey. 

Jesse Spencer and showrunner Derek Haas spoke with CinemaBlend and other outlets about the 200th episode, and what the collaboration process was like in crafting Casey’s departure. Spencer said:

I realized I've been doing TV for a long time. I added it up, and I think this year is my 18th year of television straight, because I went straight from House into Chicago Fire. And we were coming up to the 200th episode, and so I called Derek on making a personal decision. [I] called Derek and broke the news that I thought it was time to leave the show. And he agreed that we should at least get Casey to 200 episodes. And it was a difficult decision, because I've loved the show from the start. But there's other things that I would like to do in the future. And there's some family that I need to take care of. And 18 years is a long time. That's a long stretch. I was marking off these milestones and looking to the future and I called Derek. Well, Derek didn't want me to leave, but we both agreed that if it was time for me, then it was time, so it was a difficult decision. And I hate to leave the show, because I do love this show. But you know, when the time comes, the time comes.

It may be hard to remember now after a decade of Jesse Spencer becoming iconic for his role on Chicago Fire, but he was fresh off of a run on Fox’s hit medical series House before coming to Chicago to fight fires for the Dick Wolf universe. Luckily for Fire fans, Spencer’s “difficult decision” to leave the show didn’t mean that he intended to leave between Seasons 9 and 10, with no on-screen closure for Casey, and returned for the five episodes that would lead to 200. 

It’s probably safe to say that Derek Haas will be joined by plenty of fans in not wanting Jesse Spencer to leave, but as the actor said, the time had come for him in his personal life. And his return for the first five episodes of Season 10 allowed Chicago Fire to bring his storyline full circle back to the beginning, when a second season wasn’t guaranteed, let alone another nine more. The Darden boys came back, and even Casey’s long-held desire to be a dad was sort of satisfied. Haas shared his own perspective on the collaboration behind Casey’s departure:

And just to add to that, I feel like all of us feel like anything past the first thirteen episodes was a bonus. You just don't know when you sign up, and also by the way, move to a different part of the country, and stay, that you're going to be on as long as you were. So I just feel like we've been in borrowed time for a long time. And I, of course, wanted to talk Jesse into staying and coming back and doing all the things as long as we could. But I was very happy that he gave us five more episodes than just saying at the end of a season, which happens sometimes too that, like, 'I'm out.' And so that let us bring back a storyline from Season 1. Which I know Jesse was excited about when we pitched it to him to bring back the Darden boys and really tie in the pilot to Jesse's leaving.

Derek Haas’ comments recall how Chicago Fire had to say goodbye to Dawson, after Monica Raymund carried through on her intention to leave the show after six seasons. She returned for a cameo to give some closure on Dawsey to start Season 7, but fans got five whole episodes to say goodbye to Casey. And Casey moving to Oregon with a planned return in three years is far less final than a character moving to Puerto Rico. 

In fact, Derek Haas confirmed that Brett is going to “be in a long-distance relationship for a while,” and that “Two Hundred” technically isn’t the last of Casey in Season 10. According to Haas, fans “are going to hear his voice after the 200th.” His voice could well be tied to that long-distance relationship with Brett (which I would say they’re surprisingly optimistic about) but only time will tell if that's the reason. I can’t be the only one who wants more of Casey and Severide, right? 

Of course, TV shows are complicated to produce, and often shoot scenes out of order from how they’re written in the script, so Jesse Spencer’s final scene on screen at Firehouse 51 wasn’t the last one that he filmed for Chicago Fire. When I asked about his experience with the final scene he actually filmed, Spencer shared:

The last [scene we filmed] was on the burn stage when we were doing overhaul, when Herrmann finds the dead cat and the father comes in. Yeah, it was hard. There's no doubt. It was hard to film that. There was, I guess, a strange feeling on set, but a happy feeling on set. It's bittersweet. And then someone's headlamp went out and for some reason – Props is amazing on our show, by the way before I say this, like Props is there with everything – and for some reason a battery was missing. And someone had to run off and get a battery and then we had these pike poles and they had built this amazing church. It looked real, such a good fire, and it was stinking hot in there, I'll tell you what. And everyone just started chant[ing], like hitting the pike poles on the ground, and like chanting, and it sort of became this semi pseudo, like, tribal send off for me. It was awesome, because everyone was sitting outside the stage, because it's raised up and it's got this big hollow sound, and it was something else. It was really nice.

The scene featuring the firefighters discovering a dead cat may not have been the most emotionally poignant of the 200th episode (even if it did come shortly after Casey and Severide pulled off their last daring save together), but the rest of the Fire team made it special for Jesse Spencer. The headlamp going out provided the opportunity for a sendoff that sounds pretty unique, not least because it was happening on the set of a burnt church on the stage.

Jesse Spencer went on to reveal that there were also some more conventional celebrations after he finished filming his final scene of Chicago Fire, saying:

And then I finished and then they wheeled out a cake and we had speeches, and Eamonn [Walker] gave a speech and Taylor [Kinney] gave a speech, [director] Reza [Tabrizi] gave a speech, Dimitri gave a speech, I gave a speech, [laughs] and I don't give speeches. But it's been a great crew, a great cast. I couldn't have asked for anything more. And it was kind of a fitting way to finish it, I think, at the burn stage. You know, it's a fire show, we started with fire and we ended with it. You know, it's what the show was all about. And I was like, 'heck, I'll even probably miss being on the burn stage.' [laughs] The burn stage is just no fun. It's fun the first time you do it, but then you know, it wears off. Just because it's physically hard. And it stinks.

Even if the scene with the roasted cat that turned out to be part of an arson case was a pretty surprising one to say goodbye to Jesse Spencer as Matt Casey, it does make sense that the longtime lead of Chicago Fire would end his run on the show on the burn stage. Even if he doesn’t have the fondest memories of working on that burn stage! When Derek Haas joked that he’s going to call up Spencer to return when it’s down to “two degrees in Chicago,” Spencer responded: 

Well, I'm not going to miss [that] but you know, even our rigs don't have heat. Well, they do have heat if you keep the engine on running, but you can't keep the engine on running because you're burning fuel all the time. So you just turn it off and it turns into an icebox. Even that, I'm like, 'I'm probably gonna miss this. Damn.' Not yet.

So what about Casey’s big goodbye scene, even if it wasn’t actually Jesse Spencer’s final scene in Chicago Fire? The show managed to find a fitting way to say goodbye to Casey that put a happy spin on the sadness of having to lose Spencer after all these years. The firefighters that Casey had toiled alongside for years joined him on the apron to say goodbye, after Casey got a special moment with Boden and with Severide. 

And according to Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney found a way to make that goodbye scene special. When asked if there were emotions crossing over between fiction and real life, Spencer said: 

Yeah, of course. But they were so funny, man. Because when, you know, I turn around and Boden's like, [deep voice] 'Hey, didn't think you were gonna leave without saying goodbye.' And they walk up, and I could see, on the first take, there was this glint in their eyes, and I'm looking at them, and Taylor [Kinney] walks up to me to say goodbye after Boden's speech. And he stands there for too long. And I'm like, 'What's going on?' And he pulls up this water bottle. And then he drops on the ground. And I should preface this with [that] we have these water bottle games, you know, to pass the time. You just all hug hands in a circle, and you kick the water bottle, and you've got to try and score goals between other people's legs. And it is the most fun game you can have with a water bottle. [laughs] I'm not kidding you. We have played this game for ten years now. So the first take he pulled out the water bottle, threw it down, then we all got into a circle and played the water bottle game. [laughs] It was awesome. I laughed my guts out.

Jesse Spencer, Taylor Kinney, and the rest of the cast of firefighters kicking a water bottle around is definitely different to picture than what actually happened, but it’s clear that they had a good time filming an incredibly important scene. And since Spencer said that it was on the first take, apparently they were all able to get serious again to film the actual farewell! Spencer weighed in on the cast saying their goodbye to him before their characters’ goodbyes to Casey: 

It was just perfect. It just wraps up ten years of this stuff for me. You know, we had to sit on it. I mean, it did play into a little bit that Jesse was leaving, but also I think it was pretty organic that you know Casey's leaving and he's going for three years. But is he? We don't know. And it's been a long time coming. These are compadres, they've gone through life and death together. So it's hard to say goodbye, 'see you soon' kind of a thing. But yeah, it was bittersweet, but I really enjoyed it. And we get some laughs out of it too at the same time. Don't worry about that.

So, was this really the end for Casey on Chicago Fire? Well, as Derek Haas said, fans will hear Jesse Spencer’s voice again, and Brett will continue her relationship with Casey long-distance... at least at first. I don’t know that Brettsey fans should be overly optimistic about that romance continuing long-term unless Kara Killmer leaves the show. After all, long distance is arguably what ended Casey and Dawson’s relationship, and would it really be fair to Brett to keep her attached to somebody who won’t be coming back for three years, if at all? A lot can happen in three years. 

And a lot can happen in the rest of Season 10. For as sad as it is to lose Jesse Spencer from Chicago Fire, there are plenty of story opportunities coming out of his departure. First and foremost, his departure means there’s a vacancy on Truck for an officer, which comes not too long after Stella passed her test to become a lieutenant. That’s not to say that she would immediately get Casey’s old gig, but there’s certainly some drama that could come out of the changes on Truck. Plus, there’s the issue of Brettsey, and just what Firehouse 51 looks like without Casey. 

Throw in the arson case that was revealed by the end of the episode with the burned cat – which is really dark enough that it seems fit for Chicago P.D. more than Chicago Fire – and there’s no need to worry that Fire will be out of story without Casey. See what happens in the post-Casey era of Chicago Fire with new episodes on Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC, between Chicago Med and Chicago P.D.!

Laura Hurley

Resident of One Chicago, Bachelor Nation, and Cleveland. Has opinions about crossovers, Star Wars, and superheroes. Will not time travel.