It's the question on the mind of every Grey's Anatomy fan: Who will be sticking around Seattle Grace next season?
With several of the actors' contracts up at the end of the season — and creator Shonda Rhimes putting the finishing touches on the finale script as we speak — fans are waiting with bated breath to find out which of their favorite doctors will be returning for Season 9. While there's no official word yet on who will be back, we decided to toss out a few ideas of our own as to how Meredith, Cristina and the rest of the gang could leave. Even though not everyone's contracts are up, we came up with a crazy-but-plausible scenario for everyone — and because some of our favorite couples could get split up, we've added a few scenarios in which one half stays and the other goes. Enjoy!
Meredith Grey and Derek Shepherd (Ellen Pompeo and Patrick Dempsey)
She stays, he goes: Derek has to die. No, seriously. He does. We spent forever in "will-they-or-won't-they" territory, and you just know there's no way Rhimes is going to kill the hopes and dreams of her fans by breaking them up. Never gonna happen. And so, when Derek carries Meredith across the threshold of the newly finished McMansion, he suffers a fatal heart attack and perishes in Meredith's arms. Romantically tragic.
He stays, she goes: No, Meredith wouldn't have to die. But she makes a big decision to avoid following in the footsteps of her often-absentee mother (may she rest in peace): She becomes a stay-at-home mom — which also gives Pompeo an opening to pop back up in the future.
They both go: Less than a year after adopting Zola, Meredith discovers she's pregnant. Twist! She and Derek see it as a sign that it's time for a major life change and opt for a quieter life, opening a private practice in a small mountain town where Derek can build a new McMansion — which has a spare bedroom for the broken-hearted Cristina — grow a McBeard and raise their McBabies.
Cristina Yang and Owen Hunt (Sandra Oh and Kevin McKidd)
She stays, he goes: Feeling as though he's failed at his marriage — and by the looks of this week's episode, his job — Owen decides to re-enlist in the military. But he's killed in a bar fight, the cheating McCheatface!
He stays, she goes: After being wooed by another hospital, Cristina accepts their offer, sending her as far away from Seattle Grace and Owen as possible. In Burke fashion, she leaves without saying goodbye — even to Meredith, which really kills the MerCris fans.
They both go: In an attempt to repair their marriage, Cristina and Owen get away from the hustle and stress of Seattle and move into Derek's new mountain McMansion where Owen's military skills come in handy as the men hunt and fish for all their food.
Lexie Grey and Mark Sloan* (Chyler Leigh and Eric Dane)
*We know they're not currently a couple, but we're going to treat them as such anyways.
She stays, he goes: Realizing he can't choose between Julia (Holley Fain) or Lexie, he ditches Seattle Grace altogether and moves back to New York where he goes back to his philandering ways.
He stays, she goes: When Mark knocks up Julia, he decides to marry her, causing Lexie to go off the rails. She seeks solace in the mountain McMansion where the fresh air finally makes Lexipedia less crazy.
They both go: When Lexie gets an offer at a hospital across the country, Mark grapples with whether he should just finally let Lexie go. Deciding he can't live without her, he buys a last-minute plane ticket to meet her, only to discover that Lexie didn't take that offer and has myseriously disappeared.
Callie Torres and Arizona Robbins (Sara Ramirez and Jessica Capshaw)
One stays, one goes: After his child dies in the ER, a distraught parent grabs a scalpel and kills Arizona. (How else would they be separated? Rhimes has already said they're MFEO.)
They both go: If Mark were to head back to New York to sow his wild oats, Callie wouldn't want her daughter to be without a father. So she'd ultimately decide to join him back east — which Arizona would begrudgingly agree to after many arguments — where the trio would run a family practice, the perfect place to meet dissatisfied married ladies in need of a little McSteamy in their lives.
Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson)
After spending years working for the top spot at Seattle Grace, Bailey finally gets the offer to be Chief of Surgery — at another hospital. Yes, the rock of the hospital will say goodbye, leaving Callie in contention to take the job — and we all know how well it went the last time Dr. Torres was in charge.
Alex Karev (Justin Chambers)
Ready to leave Seattle Grace behind, Alex books a one-way ticket to Africa to reunite with Dr. Lucy Fields (Rachael Taylor), where he deftly works to save children and rides an elephant to work each day. That, or Izzie (Katherine Heigl) gets cancer again and he nobly decides to go take care of her. (Let's hope for the former.)
Jackson Avery (Jesse Williams)
After his mother, Catherine Avery (Debbie Allen), becomes disgruntled by a failed affair with Richard, she gets even by wooing Jackson away to work at her hospital. There's no Lexie there, but he'll find happiness with that urology fellow.
April Kepner (Sarah Drew)
After failing her medical boards, she obviously has a nervous breakdown and has to be committed to a mental facility.
Teddy Altman (Kim Raver)
Finally able to let go of Henry (Scott Foley), Teddy trades up by reuniting with Dr. Perkins (James Tupper) in Germany, where they have cute little blonde babies who don't have medical issues.
Richard Webber (James Pickens Jr.)
He decides to retire in order to spend time with his Alzheimer's-stricken wife Adele (Loretta Devine) during her last remaining good years. They live together at Rose Ridge, where each day he reads the story of how they fell in love from a notebook — wait, have we heard that somewhere before?
How do you think the docs of Seattle Grace should say goodbye?