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Grey's Anatomy: Find Out Why Izzie Stevens Leaves Seattle Grace

Katherine Heigl, Grey's Anatomy, There's No "I" in Team ABC/ERIC MCCANDLESS

Yep, it's true. Katherine Heigl is taking a break from Grey's Anatomy this season to go off and shoot a Josh Duhamel movie.

But what's shocking, and what shapes the entire sixth season of the series, is the truth about why recently married cancer survivor Dr. Izzie Stevens is vanishing for multiple episodes.

We've got the exclusive storyline scoop on why Izzie goes AWOL—scoop that also explains how the show will get along without Ellen Pompeo during her upcoming maternity leave.

Want to know about the major shake-up coming to Seattle Grace? Read on.

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According to inside sources, this season of Grey's Anatomy is overwhelmingly defined by the merger of Seattle Grace and crosstown rival Mercy West. Yep, Seattle Grace is about to double in size, bringing in a slate of new doctors and paving the way for major shake-ups in the season to come.

What does this mega medical merger mean for our favorites? Well, Dr. Izzie Stevens is getting fired. Yes, fired, as in dismissed or downsized. Izzie gets laid off in the big merger and vanishes for a handful of episodes while Heigl shoots her next movie, Life as We Know It.

The shake-up also provides cover for Ellen Pompeo's maternity leave. She'll fade into the background while new doctors, administrators and nurses (played by the likes of Robert Baker, Jesse Williams and Nora Zehetner) fill in the gaps our MIA faves leave behind.

Producers are, however, working to keep Meredith Grey in as many eps as possible. This week Pompeo is banking footage for her maternity leave by shooting scenes for two episodes at once.

The Seattle Grace-Mercy West merger storyline is part of a long-term plan hatched by producers and ABC execs to make Grey's Anatomy a viable going concern for years to come. (We hear they want something like an ER that could continue for 15 years or more.)

No matter who's pregnant, moonlighting or otherwise unavailable, the writers will have a large, endlessly expandable palette of characters and situations with which to work. So, going forward, if Patrick Dempsey needs to shoot a movie (as he will, later this season), the new and improved Seattle Grace permits plenty of wiggle room in schedules and storylines.

Will you love Grey's as much if it's Grey's Anatomy: The New Class? Are you OK with Heigl and Pompeo taking some time off?

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Click the thumbnails below to see our Spoiler Stills gallery.

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