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Grey's Anatomy Justin Chambers Alex Karev Camilla Luddington Jo Wilson Karev ABC

Grey's Anatomy Season 16 is returning from winter hiatus this week, and it won't be the first episode without Justin Chambers as Alex Karev, but it will be the first one we KNOW won't feature Alex ever again. The ABC show is meant to address Alex's absence, but not in a way that provides closure.

Fans have speculated on how Grey's Anatomy could write out Alex after 16 seasons on the show. But perhaps an even bigger question is ... why aren't the Grey's cast and producers saying more about Justin Chambers' exit? His co-stars have been mostly quiet, and the producers have been silent.

Grey's Anatomy may be going through something right now, and the circumstances behind Chambers' abrupt exit are personal. He made his own statement about leaving -- and thanked ABC, Shonda Rhimes, and original cast members Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson, and James Pickens. That was followed by the surprising news that his final episode already aired on November 14. It wasn't even the winter finale, which aired November 21. No one knew that was it for Chambers and Alex Karev until his statement last week.

And then? Mostly silence, or vague statements that said nothing specific about working with Justin Chambers.

Ellen Pompeo simply tweeted this as her reaction:

That's it so far. Camilla Luddington plays Jo Wilson Karev, Alex's wife, and so far she has said nothing publicly. This is not to pressure her unduly to say something, she doesn't owe us anything. It's just surprising to fans that so many cast members have been silent or responded in ways that seem ... distant ... considering the context.

As of today, only a few Grey's Anatomy stars have directly responded to Justin Chambers exit. Jake Borelli plays Dr. Levi Schmitt and had this to say at Entertainment Weekly Pre-SAG Awards celebration, when asked about Chambers' exit:

I mean that’s the hard part about Grey’s, people come and go. We had that happen with Jessica Capshaw and then before, and I think it’s like life, it ebbs and flows. You know, Alex Karev, the character, has been a massive part of the show for so long, so it’s going to be interesting being in the hospital without that force. So we’re excited to see what the rest of the season brings.

Not to pick that apart, but there wasn't a single word about Justin Chambers. Again, no one owes us anything, but the Grey's Anatomy cast and producers have to know fans are confused and curious about this whole situation.

Same thing for Jason George, who plays Ben Warren on Grey's Anatomy and Station 19; here's what he said about Justin Chambers' exit (via People):

Sixteen seasons … he’s not the first person to leave the show and he won’t be the last. Sixteen seasons on the show, you have to solute that. That’s an amazing achievement, so if he says it’s time, it’s time.

Alex Blue Davis, who plays Dr. Casey Parker, appears to be the only Grey's Anatomy cast member so far to post something specific about working with Justin Chambers:

Justin Chambers has been on Grey's Anatomy since Season 1. He, Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson (Dr. Miranda Bailey), and James Pickens Jr. (Dr. Richard Webber) are the only stars who have been on the show since the beginning. ABC already renewed Grey's Anatomy for Season 17, and -- until last week -- Justin Chambers was expected to return with the rest of the series regulars.

Even if Grey's Anatomy fans don't need the nitty-gritty details of why he left, they have noticed that the silence out there on Justin Chambers' exit sounds very different from the reactions to, say, Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew leaving at the end of Season 14. Those characters had big send-offs and there were gushing posts about the stars and characters.

Now? Alex is already gone and not much has been said about it. Producers haven't stepped in to say how it might affect Jolex or Jo Karev's storyline, nothing.

There's definitely a lot going on behind-the-scenes that fans don't know about, and plenty we don't need to know about. But being left in the dark about this abrupt exit -- that apparently already happened two months ago -- just fosters a sense of betrayal. Whatever the cast and crew might think of Justin Chambers, fans have loved Alex Karev for 16 seasons. The show has existed for 16 seasons because of the fans.

Grey's Anatomy Season 16 returns from winter break Thursday, January 23 at 8 p.m. on ABC.