[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Thursday's episode of Grey's Anatomy. Read at your own risk!]
Grey's Anatomy fans were shocked to find out in January that Justin Chambers was not only leaving the show, but that his last episode had already aired in the fall, with his character, Alex Karev, defending Meredith (Ellen Pompeo) at her medical board trial. Even though Chambers has been absent from the series since then, the show still has to deal with how his character will depart the Grey's Anatomy universe.
Since Chambers's last appearance, the story within the show has been that Karev is in Iowa helping his mentally ill mother and that there was no cause for concern. However, Thursday's episode revealed that there's a bit more going on than family issues. Jo (Camilla Luddington), Alex's wife, confessed to Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) that he had stopped responding to her texts after telling her that he was "going through something." Jo knows that he's not retaliating against her for taking her own emotional break from their relationship -- to deal with the PTSD of meeting her birth mom -- at the start of the season. But it's clear that there's been a serious fissure in their marriage that is only growing deeper the longer Karev stays in Iowa.
The distance only became more apparent in the closing moments of the episode when Jo returned to the couple's loft, obviously hopeful that Karev had returned from his trip, only to find their apartment still dark and empty. Jo isn't the kind of person to just let this kind of ghosting behavior stand for long, but the question remains whether Chambers will reappear for Jo and Karev to have proper closure to their relationship. There was hope that Chambers's exit wouldn't necessarily mean heartbreak for Jo, but right now, it does not appear a happy ending is in the cards for this couple who beat the odds to surmount their individual commitment issues and find happiness together.
Despite the hardship Jo has already dealt with over the past few seasons, it looks like fans should buckle up for yet another bumpy ride for this fan-favorite character.
Grey's Anatomy continues Thursdays at 9/8c on ABC.