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The prominent CBS program, CSI, will begin its 12th season this fall. When a show is on a network for 12 seasons, it generally goes through some changes, and CSI is especially familiar with upheavals in its cast and crew. Yet, it still comes as a surprise to learn series veteran Marg Helgenberger’s Catherine Willows will be the next to leave Las Vegas.

Helgenberger will follow in the footsteps of other key players, including Jorja Fox, William Petersen, and Gary Dourdan. The announcement of her leaving also coincides with another cast change-up. When Petersen’s replacement, played by Laurence Fishburne failed to renew his contract for Season 12, Ted Danson stepped in to replace him. Luckily, Helgenberger still has a few episodes to go, so we’ll get to see what her relationship with Danson’s character will be like.

There’s been a certain amount of speculation that Helgenberger’s leaving was directly associated with Ted Danson getting the head honcho position. However, according to THR, Helgenberger had planned to leave after last year’s episode rounded out at over 250 for her. Executive producer Carol Mendelsohn urged her to stay on for one more round so the writers could cut her out in a proper way. Said Mendelsohn:
“Marg will be around through January, so Episode 12. People come and go and come back, so hopefully when we say goodbye, that won’t be the last time we see her.”
The bad news is Helgenberger’s final season won’t even be a full one. The good news, though, is that the writers aren’t planning on killing her off, at least to Mendelsohn’s knowledge. I’ll still be tuning in to see if Catherine Willows and Ted Danson’s D.B. Russell butt heads. It could be the most interesting thing that has happened on CSI in five years.