After twelve years of playing former exotic dancer turned forensic scientist Catherine Willows, Marg Helgenberger will be leaving the show that made her a household name and one of TV’s most beloved actresses. Major spoilers ahead in this CSI Files report.
This season’s twelfth episode will see the departure of Marg Helgenberger, one of the few remaining original cast members. Originally planning on leaving during season eleven, Helgenberger delayed her exit to provide a proper closure for her character. And she’s getting one.
While filming is about to wrap on episode eight, the show’s writers are hard at work completing scripts for episodes eleven and twelve, which will act as a two-part exit for the character of Catherine Willows. Starting in episode nine, the series will introduce four new characters who will play an important role in her exit arc. The characters include one of Catherine’s old friends, the friend’s husband, and two FBI agents. One of the FBI agents winds up in a steamy encounter with the recently demoted CSI, but does that mean the relationship is over for Catherine and Vartann (Alex Carter)? A source close to the show tells CSI Files there’s been no concrete evidence to prove the two were in an exclusive relationship, and when things left off in “The List,” the status of the relationship was undefined. “Perhaps infuriatingly undefined,” the source says, but “Catherine will not be cheating on Vartann.” In the case of Catherine, the show is trying to display that her life is “in flux and she’s searching for something, but she’s not even sure what that might be.” By the time her departure happens, most of those answers will be explained.
Though he hasn’t appeared in any of the episodes to air so far, Vartann will be making a return to the series. Fans can look forward to his return in episode eight, “and he will be in eleven,” the source confirms. Speculation online currently points to a grim ending for Catherine, but that is fortunately not the case. “The door will be open for her to return,” a source teases. “There may be something in the finale, but for now [episode] twelve is definitely her final episode.” And while Catherine may be exiting, Vartann will “continue to be in future episodes.” As for those closest to Catherine, fans will likely see the return of several key family members in this season’s twelfth episode. Could that mean a visit from Catherine’s daughter, Lindsey (Kay Panabaker) and mother, Lily (Anita Gillette)? The source plays the vague card, only saying “her family will be a part of her final episode.” At this time, unfortunately, plans have not been made to bring back William Petersen as Gil Grissom. “Scheduling wise, it doesn’t look like it will happen,” but nothing is set in stone.
Several past characters will also make a return visit within the next few episodes. Detective Vega (Geoffrey Rivas), who was last seen in “Hog Heaven,” will appear during this season’s eighth episode. Archie (Archie Kao) has been missing so far this season, but the show is finding a way to bring him back into the fold. The show hopes to get some other previous detectives and techs to stop by; meanwhile, there are no current plans to have Sofia Curtis (Louise Lombard) return, but “things can always change.”
There are no immediate plans to bring someone in to replace Helgenberger as the new leading lady, but the source suspects the show will go that route at some point. “There may be a time where there won’t be someone filling in, but it has not been decided.” The source adds, “there will probably be a transitional phase–it might be a couple of episodes, it might just be one episode.”
In terms of helping usher Catherine off the show, Nick Stokes (George Eads) will play a pivotal role. “Without giving away spoilers about what the storyline is, Stokes will hopefully play an integral role in helping Catherine solve her final case.” Someone may be going rogue, but it’s up to DB Russell (Ted Danson) to “keep the team on task,” a source shares.
“Marg has been a part of the DNA of the show,” and the source says they’re being very sensitive in regards to doing justice for the character.