Warning: spoilers ahead for the Season 4 finale of The Good Doctor on ABC, called "Vamos."
The fourth season of The Good Doctor has come to an end. While "Vamos" wasn't as deadly for the main cast of characters as last year's Season 3 finale that saw the death of Dr. Melendez, the episode nevertheless said farewell to a series regular who has been in the mix from the very beginning. News broke ahead of the finale on June 7 that Antonia Thomas, who has been playing the compassionate Dr. Claire Browne since the series premiere, would leave the series after the Season 4 finale. Here's how the show said goodbye to Claire, and whether Thomas could come back.
As the mission trip continued with the main players from St. Bonaventure performing surgeries down in Guatemala, Claire was really thriving despite not speaking the language, working in very different circumstances from the hospital where she had spent her entire career, and without the kind of oversight from more experienced surgeons that she was used to. The work clearly meant a lot to her, and it only took a little bit of encouragement from Shaun for her to follow her instincts and save a life.
Claire made quite an impression on one of the people at the hospital in Guatemala that the St. Bonaventure team was working with, and the woman approached Dr. Lim (off-screen) about asking Claire to stay. Lim encouraged Claire to take the job since it seemed like something she needed, although she was clearly sad about the prospect of saying goodbye to her friend. Claire dropped some reasons why it would be a bad idea, ranging from not speaking the language to just starting a relationship with her previously estranged father.
But ultimately, staying and continuing the work in Guatemala was what felt right for Claire, and she made her decision with enough time to spare in the Season 4 finale for some touching goodbyes. Tears were shed, but only because the characters would miss each other, and Shaun even gave Claire a hug despite usually avoiding hugs. The episode ended for Claire with her in the OR in Guatemala, rising to the challenges ahead of her and poised to do a lot of good.
Although it's sad to lose the character after so many years on the series, the upside of The Good Doctor saying goodbye to Claire Browne comes courtesy of Antonia Thomas, despite the fact that the actress is the one who made the decision to leave the series a couple of years before her six-season contract was up. In an interview for the Season 4 finale, Thomas weighed in on the possibility of returning as a guest star and reuniting with Freddie Highmore and the rest of the remaining cast members, telling Deadline:
Absolutely. Absolutely. I’ve had conversations with Freddie about coming back, and absolutely, yes. Really for me, if there was more time in the year to be able to shoot the show and to be able to go off and do some of the other things that I’m wanting to explore now, I’d do both. It has not been an easy decision for me to leave, so I absolutely would love to come back every now and then and say hi, I’m very much looking forward to that.
Since Claire wasn't killed off or sent on the run or deprived of her medical license, there's no reason why Antonia Browne couldn't reprise her role in Season 5 or beyond. If The Good Doctor can come up with a reason for Claire to visit St. Bonaventure, or for some of the characters to head back down to Guatemala, the show could check in on Claire. And hey, since Shaun and Lea got engaged after all their Season 4 heartbreak, maybe Claire can pop back up to New Mexico for the wedding! There doesn't seem to be any bad blood tied to Thomas' departure, after all.
The Good Doctor has also added to the ensemble to make sure that Claire's absence doesn't leave a gaping hole in the cast. Noah Galvin and Bria Samoné Henderson, who play new residents who joined St. Bonaventure in Season 4 and actually stuck around, were promoted to Season 5 series regular status in May. Then, news broke just hours ahead of the Season 4 finale that The Good Doctor's newest doc will be a regular when the show returns as well. It's just a matter of waiting for The Good Doctor to come back from hiatus for Season 5. For now, you can check out our 2021 summer TV premiere schedule for some shows to help pass the time during hiatus.