Where is Alex Karev? That’s the burning question that fans have been asking since Justin Chambers abruptly announced his exit from ABC’s long-running medical soap in January, and now a new theory might explain the character’s absence. Some fans are convinced that Alex is with Izzie on Grey’s Anatomy… which honestly makes about as much sense as any theory at this point. Since TV episodes are typically written and filmed well before they ever air, the episodes since Grey’s returned from its winter hiatus have been unable to address Alex’s permanent absence, since they were already in the can before Chambers quit. In the absence of any explanation from the show itself, viewers have been left to speculate where the beloved character has gone — and this new possibility would resurrect the ghost of a long-gone character to provide a reason for Alex’s mysterious vanishing.

The only clues the show has provided involve Alex returning to Iowa to visit his mother and his failure to respond to Jo’s text messages. Most theories about his departure therefore revolve around Alex’s schizophrenic mom having a relapse and him staying in Iowa to care for her, or getting in a tragic accident on his way back to Seattle. But could something else have happened while he was in the Hawkeye State to convince him to stay? A fateful run-in with an old flame, perhaps?

Is such a turn of events even possible? Where even is Izzie? The last time the character was seen on the show was way back in Season 6, Episode 12; after having been fired from the hospital earlier that season and leaving Alex after assuming he was involved, she returned to Seattle to apologize to her husband and tell him she was officially cancer-free. While Alex was happy to hear that she was healthy, he told Izzie he deserved better than a wife who would assume the worst of him and leave him without a word; they filed for divorce soon after and she was never seen again.

In the show’s 300th episode (Season 14, Episode 7), a crop of patients reminded Alex and Meredith of their fellow interns Izzie, George, and Cristina, and Alex theorized on where his ex might be and what she might be doing:

Iowa can definitely be considered "kinda woodsy"…

If Alex’s vision of Izzie’s life is true, there’s a chance she moved to Iowa and built a new life for herself. And there’s a chance that her former spouse could run into her while visiting his mother. Sure, that would be quite a coincidence, but let’s not pretend that Grey’s Anatomy hasn’t partaken in its fair share of crazy coincidences and soap opera-y plot twists before.

But even if Alex and Izzie suddenly ran into each other, it still feels unlikely that he would abandon his loving, supportive relationship with Jo to return to his toxic relationship with his ex… unless there was something other than romance that drew him to Izzie. Like a child, perhaps? Reddit user SiriusSprinkles9 reminds fellow viewers that, back when Izzie was about to go through chemo, she had some eggs removed and fertilized by Alex and frozen. What if Alex finds out that Izzie carried one of those eggs to term and had Alex’s child? And what if Izzie’s cancer came back, leaving no one but Alex to care for his previously unknown son or daughter?

It still wouldn’t be a perfect exit for the character, but having him stay in Iowa to care for his child would be a more honorable, fitting end to Alex’s story than suddenly leaving Jo for Izzie or dying off-screen or just inexplicably ghosting his wife.

Whatever the case, Grey’s showrunner Krista Vernoff promises viewers that they will get answers soon. "It was a very careful threading of a needle," she told Variety about having to craft a satisfying and respectful exit for a long-time cast member’s very sudden departure. "We’re, episode by episode, illuminating the story of where Alex is. And it takes us quite a few more episodes to get there and to give the audience clarity." Whatever form that clarity takes, fans should prepare themselves for an emotional bombshell. One person who found herself shocked by upcoming plot developments was Alex’s onscreen wife herself, Camilla Luddington, who expressed her emotion on Twitter:

Answers about Alex might be coming soon: in two weeks, the 16th episode of the season will be titled "Leave A Light On" and, according to the press release, will revolve around "Meredith and several of the doctors reflect[ing] on the past." Between that ominous-sounding title and the emphasis on nostalgia, there’s a high chance that it’s the episode that finally solves the mystery of what happened to Dr. Karev, and bids his character a fond farewell.

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