CSI Loses Veteran Cast Member Marg Helgenberger

Marg Helgenberger closes the CSI chapter of her life with fond farewells both on camera and off

Marg Helgenberger leaves CSI

Longtime cast member Marg Helgenberger says goodbye to CSI . . . for now

Marg Helgenberger has left CSI, but her final episode on Wednesday (Jan. 25) leaves us with the distinct impression that she isn’t going away forever.

“Willows in the Wind” wraps up the twist-filled and very personal case for Catherine that began last week and involved an old friend who was (apparently) killed. That turned out not to be the case, however, and her friend, Laura (Annabeth Gish), turns out to be not just alive but also behind the plot that got Catherine shot and several other people killed.

So that’s the crime part of it — a good, solid CSI case. But it’s what happens in the last few minutes of the episode that sets Catherine on her way out of the Las Vegas crime lab.

After she learns that the dirty FBI agent had a change of heart and died trying to protect her, and after a little chat with her soon-to-be-incarcerated ex-friend, Catherine apparently starts thinking about “the life she wants,” as Laura puts it.

That life is one away from the lab, where she has worked for 19 years and has stewed some this season over being passed over for a promotion. She’s moving on to a job with the FBI — which will present an easy opportunity for Helgenberger to guest-star somewhere down the line.

Her goodbye scene plays almost as if the show just filmed Helgenberger saying farewell to her castmates, and it works pretty well either way. “You are all family, which is why this is the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” Catherine says, and it’s easy to imagine the actress who plays her feeling pretty much the same way.

The final scene with Morgan in the diner also had a distinct passing-the-torch feel; we’ll be curious to see if Morgan now becomes more prominent, and how that might affect the dynamic when Elisabeth Shue joins “CSI” next month.

But it feels like the show did right by Helgenberger in her farewell, and the door is definitely open for Catherine to return someday (Helgenberger has said she’s open to it). What did you think of the episode?