There's an old joke doctors like to tell. "Hey Doc, it hurts when I go like this." And the doctor says, "Well, don't go like this." It's a lame joke, but it's nonetheless true. As human beings, we can't help but want to follow our instincts. To follow our guts, our primal urges. No matter how much it may hurt. We hold onto hope thinking one small detail, one tiny piece of information will somehow make things right, make it different, make it okay, stop the world from spinning off its axis. When the truth is, there's really no good way to say goodbye.

Leave a Light On is the sixteenth episode of the sixteenth season and the 358th overall episode of Grey's Anatomy.

Short SummaryEdit

Bailey and Ben face a huge, life-altering decision. Meredith and several of the doctors reflect on the past.

Full SummaryEdit

Flashback to the start of Meredith and Alex's internship.

Bailey walks into the living room as Ben folds the sheet he used to sleep on the couch.

Meredith grabs her mail.

Richard is reading a letter while at an AA meeting. The meeting starts and he throws the letter into the trash.

Link meets Jo in the attendings' lounge. He brought a bag of her stuff from the loft, including her mail. There's a letter from Alex, sent from Baldwin City in Kansas.

Bailey finds a letter from Alex in her mail, too.

Meredith pours herself a cup of coffee and then goes through her mail, finding the letter from Evil Spawn.

Link offers to sit with Jo as she reads it but she wants to do it on her own. She sits down and takes a moment to open the envelope.

Both Meredith and Jo's letter begins with Alex telling them he didn't want to do it like this. Bailey's letter begins with him telling her won't be returning to Grey Sloan. He doesn't want to hurt them but he's leaving. Actually, he already left.

Meredith's letter goes on to say that Alex chose the easy way out. That used to be what he did. Meredith thinks back to meeting Alex for the first time, when he called her a nurse. The letter says he owes her the truth but they both know that if he were to tell her in person, she would yell or give him crap, which always worked to set him straight. She always pointed out when he was being an ass. When that didn't work, she would hop into his bed and say that one thing that made sense. The thing is, he can't come back and face her. He knows he deserves to be called an ass but he doesn't want to be set straight. The one perfect thing isn't in Seattle, not anymore. Meredith thinks back to Alex being her person throughout the years. Alex swears he didn't leave because of work or her or Jo. He's with Izzie.

Alex knows Meredith now has the urge to call him and leave him hateful messages until he calls her back. Alex can't lie and promise he'll come back home, because it's not home anymore. When Meredith was about to lose her license, he reached out to Izzie as part of his plan to have people show up on her behalf. He admits the trial gave him an excuse good enough to finally call her, which he had been wanting to do. He wanted to know how she was doing. When Izzie picked up the phone, Alex blurted out the whole thing about Meredith's trial. He then heard kids in the background and he asked if they were her kids. Izzie got quiet and said they were. They're twins and they are Alex's. The letter goes on to say that Alex still loves Jo deeply. He always will. And if it were just about two women he loves, he'd choose Jo. But Izzie made their kids using the frozen embryos. She was single and couldn't have children because the cancer treatment nuked her eggs. Back when they froze the embryos, he didn't care about what she could do with them if they never used them. Meredith remembers his freaking out over the embryos. So he signed a paper saying she could do whatever she wanted. And she used them. The twins' names are Eli and Alexis. Alex didn't tell her or Jo. He went to meet his kids right after the trial. They are 5 and stubborn as hell, like Izzie. The second he walked in, they showed him their room and stuff. They asked if they could call him Dad. They want to be doctors and Izzie teaches them how to bake. Alexis has Izzie's eyes and Eli's smile is crooked like his. And now he lives on a farm in Nowhere, Kansas. Izzie works as a surgical oncologist now. She's made so many progress and keeps many people alive. Alex is applying to a hospital nearby. He couldn't be mad at Izzie for using the embryos, he was only grateful that she did. The kids are so smart. They get a home where they are safe and loved. They get to have two parents now when Alex rarely got to have even one. He loves them with every inch of him. He gets to be their father. He recalls lying about testicular cancer to get into Seattle Grace. It worked and he got a career that he loved. When he looks at his kids and doubt if he knows how to do right by them, he just thinks of Meredith and her kids. She's grown into this incredible mother and surgeon. She always referred to Cristina or him as her person but the truth is she's always been her own person. She's never needed anyone but herself. She can show up at his doorstep and get him to come back to Seattle, but he hopes she won't. She's his best friend and he'll miss the hell out of her, but he's finally exactly where he should be. He's never had that before. He hopes she comes to visit home some day, not to get him to leave, but to meet his kids so they can meet their "Auntie Mer." She'll love them and they'll love her. Until she's ready to do that, he hopes she won't hate him too much.

Meredith folds the letter and wipes some tears.

Jo's letter begins with Alex telling her she deserves more than a letter. She flashes back to meeting him at work for the first time. Alex admits the letter is cowardice and the worst thing he's ever done. He swears it's not about her. She deserves so much better than this. He loves her and how brilliant and brave she is. No matter what she goes through, she never lets it hold her back. It makes her stronger, kinder. She made him kinder. She loved him for exactly who he was and he loved her. It might not be fair to say that, but it's true. What's also true, however, is that he's in love with Izzie. Jo starts crying and remembers the few times Izzie was brought up in conversations with Alex. Alex writes he always imagined her having a happy life with kids and baking. He never imagined himself in that picture, but suddenly, he is. A part of him always wondered about her, feeling they left things unresolved. So when Meredith needed those letters, he reached out and they started talking and it felt like no time had passed, like him and Izzie were frozen in time. Now they're not. They are living on a farm now. He'd never think he belonged there but he does. He can't lie and pretend the truth isn't what ie is. If it were just nostalgia and his missing Izzie, he would have been able to walk away and come back to her. But she had his kids. And he knows that Jo understand what that really means, why he can't leave and miss another second of his kids' lives. He hopes Jo loves him back enough to let him take the chance to make his kids' lives whole. He can give these kids the family he and Jo never had.

The kids climb into bed with Izzie and Alex.

Alex says he doesn't know how to look anyone in the eye if he doesn't stay and do everything he can to make his family and life work. Jo was wrong when she said she was just the "Let's get a dog girl". And he was never holding a candle to those pieces of paper thinking anything would ever chance. He meant it when he asked her to marry him and when he told her he loved her. But Izzie had their kids and he missed five years of their life. Not because he was a junkie or off his meds like his parents. He didn't exist to his kids until he walked through that front door. And once he did, he had this family on this insane farm. He wishes getting everything he always wanted didn't have to hurt Jo in the process. He can't lie to her, nor can he come home. He can't look her in the eye because he wouldn't be able to walk away. He thanks her taking care of him and for taking care of herself when she needed it, too. He went to a lawyer and signed divorce papers. He left her everything, including his shares in Grey Sloan, because she deserves it. He knows whatever she decides to do with the shares will be amazing, just like Jo herself is. Jo breaks down. Alex tells Jo she deserves everything good in life. He hopes she can find someone better than him. He's sorry. He doesn't know how to end this, so he just tells her goodbye.

Bailey reads that Alex suspects she won't be surprised or happy. He recalls being called Evil Spawn, which was one of the better nicknames he's ever gotten. They both know he deserved it. He knows Bailey didn't like him much in the beginning. Nor did he like her. She was mean and impatient and she liked everyone but him, even though she pretended otherwise. Bailey remembers him as an intern. Alex writes that she seemed like all his other teachers who took one look at him, decided he was garbage and that that was all he'd ever be. However, unlike the others, she let him grow up and gave him crap when he deserved it. She pushed his buttons and limits when he needed it. She did more than just teaching him as is required in a teaching hospital. He admits it'd be great if he could stay at Grey Sloan and repay her for everything she did for him but they know he can't do that. She helped him grow up and took a bullet out of his stomach. She remembers. She protected Jo from herself. He learned so much from her that he can't write it all down. It took him a long time to say it but he's a good peds surgeon. He's an okay guy and still trying, but he's a great surgeon. He knows that now, thanks to her. She kicked his ass and asked more of him and hired teachers, like Arizona, who did the same. Alex knows he's not the guy with a million Catherine Fox Awards on a shelf. Tuck and Joey say bye as they leave for school, making Bailey reflect on Alex's troubled past. Alex writes he became the guy she trusted to run the hospital and keep her secrets. Now he's a father of two incredible kids with Izzie, which he's sure is breaking her brain. He has a shot at being Chief of Peds at Shawnee County in Baldwin City, but he's guessing she's the last person he should write down as a rec. Alex has to finish the letter because his kids are asking for pizza sushi, which is not a thing, and if he keeps going, there will be feelings all over the place. He's just writing to say goodbye and thank her. He knows it sounds small and lame compared to everything she's done but that's it. He loves her. Goodbye.

Richard is speaking at the AA meeting. See one, do one, teach one. That's been the motto of every hospital he's run, every teacher he's loved. He loved being a surgeon and saving laves, giving people back their loved ones when all seemed last. He loved his students, not because of ego, but because it gave him the same rush. He remembers teaching the interns of Alex's class. This morning, he woke up to a letter from a student of his whom he wouldn't have put money down on. As he reflects on Alex's difficult start at Seattle Grace and teaching him lessons, he acknowledges Alex did the work and stepped up. He became an excellent student, a stellar surgeon, and a fine teacher. He chose to abandon everything for the woman he loves and for the two children they now have. Richard wanted to look him in the eye and yell and tell him that he's made a mistake. Richard has been there before. He's fallen in love with two people at the same time. He knows you can only follow your heart and gut feeling. He wanted to tell Alex not to give everything away, but he missed his own child growing into an adult and he'd give anything to have those years with Maggie. He guesses he just wanted to say goodbye. He recalls working at Pac-North with Alex. He wants to thank Alex for helping him to be a better doctor and teacher. But he left with only a note and an apology, not considering Richard might want to say goodbye as a teacher, as a colleague, as a friend. See one, do one, teach one. He's seen people leave, he's done the leaving, and lately, it seems like all the people he loves are disappearing. He can't find a way to make it stop. His hand shakes.

Flashback to Alex telling Jo about the life he's imagined for Izzie, followed by a series of flashbacks to his and Izzie's relationship, ending with their life on the farm with Alexis and Eli.

Ben finds Bailey staring at the letter. She tells him that Alex is not coming back. He left his wife, his friends, and his job to be a father to his children with Izzie. If they take her recommendation seriously, he'll soon be Chief of Peds at Shawnee Memorial. Ben asks what this has got to do with Joey. Bailey says it was a matter of luck that Alex became the person that he is today. He could have just as easily been lost to this world, aimless. But he survived his home, his family, his foster homes, and became a man, a father, a fine surgeon, all by chance. Joey's future shouldn't be a matter of chance. Ben says okay. He just wanted to talk about it. They both make these big decisions without each other. He's down for all of it. Joey should have a family. But that family needs to learn to talk to each other first. She agrees. She apologizes. They have a new teenage boy in their house.

Link hovers over Jo. He's trying to decide if she needs space or if he can take her day drinking. He pulls her up to go to the bar but Maggie pages her for a cecal bascule for a CABG patient. The bar is for tonight, but today, she is working. She puts on her white coat. Link tells her she's his hero. She agrees and heads out to work.

Zola walks into the living room with her science project, which she wants to show to Alex. He helped her come up with it. It's a dog feeder. She shows how it works. Zola wants to go show Alex right now. Meredith tells her that her Uncle Alex loves her so much and informs Zola about the letter.


  • Meredith Grey
  • Alex Karev
  • Miranda Bailey
  • Richard Webber
  • Jo Karev
  • Atticus Lincoln
  • Ben Warren
  • Tuck Jones
  • Zola Grey Shepherd
  • Joey Phillips
  • Jake
  • Eli Stevens
  • Alexis Stevens
  • Izzie Stevens

Main CastEdit

Guest StarsEdit



Medical NotesEdit

There are no patients treated in this episode.


Song Performer Scene
"Shiny Happy People" Reuben and the Dark feat. AG
  • Ben and Bailey have a tense moment as he cleans up the couch.
  • Meredith gets her mail and finds Alex's letter.
  • Richard reads the letter at an AA meeting. He throws it in the trash as the meeting starts.
  • Link hands Jo her stuff and mail, pointing out Alex's letter on top.
  • Bailey finds her letter, too.
  • Jo tells Link she's reading the letter by herself.
"Turn to Stone" Ingrid Michaelson
  • Meredith finds out how Alex reconnected with Izzie and that she had their children.
  • Flashbacks to Izzie and Alex's relationship and wedding.
"Turn to Stone" Life on Eris
  • Montage of Izzie and Alex flashbacks and shots of their kids.
"Beautiful & Brutal" Plested
  • Link watches Jo.
  • She says she has to go back to work for now.
  • Zola shows Meredith her science experiment and wants to show Alex.

Notes and TriviaEdit

Grey's Anatomy 16x16 Promo "Leave A Light On" (HD) Alex Karev Farewell Episode

Grey's Anatomy 16x16 Promo "Leave A Light On" (HD) Alex Karev Farewell Episode


Episode StillsEdit

Behind the ScenesEdit


Alex (to Meredith): You always said Cristina was your person. Then I was your person, but you've always been your own damn person. A force of freakin' nature. You've never needed anyone but you.

Ben: Congratulations, Miranda. It's a boy. (Miranda chuckles)
Miranda: It's a teenage boy.
Ben: It's another boy.

See AlsoEdit

A complete overview of this episode's crew can be found here.

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