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Marg Helgenberger Leaving CSI After This Season—Is Ted Danson to Blame?

CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION, Marg Helgenberger, Jorja Fox, Ted Danson ROBERT VOETS/CBS

You work your butt off for a dozen seasons, and suddenly Ted Danson comes along and bam! Your character is demoted faster than you can say "DNA sample." Is that really the story we'll be getting coming into CSI season 12?

According to castmembers Ted Danson, George "Handsome Face" Eads and Marg Helgenberger…yes! But it's not the only story...

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Helgenberger, whose character Catherine Willows is one of the original CSI team members, announced today during CBS' TCA presentation that this next season will be her last.

Basically, Danson's character swoops in and causes Catherine to be "moved around" in the ranks. "The Langston departure has had a long reach and there will be fallout that we will deal with in the premiere and the following episodes, and it has shaken things up at CSI and moved things around," says executive producer Carol Mendelsohn. "It has moved Marg around a little and Nick's fetal pig around."

"There is a little resentment, but Ted's character so far is endearing and has a unique way of looking at a crime scene. It's a nice fresh perspective and it kind of gets under everyone's skin a little bit, in a good way," Helgenberger says. "I think Catherine is very intrigued by him. I think ultimately Catherine is a team player and they took some liberties last season the way the crime came about or was solved and she was willing to admit it. And this is the fallout."

It's too bad Helgenberger has valid reasons to want to retire Willows, or else we'd launch a campaign to trap her on the CBS lot.

"I've been itching to get back on the stage, but it's been hard," she says. "The commitment on this show and then raising a son, who's now 20, a production assistant on CSI! He was nine when I started the show. That's one of the cute things about being on this show as long as you've been on. A lot of crew members' children who were all little kids at the time are now working on staff. That's what makes it even more of a family and even harder to leave."

But don't get your crime scene vests in a bunch just yet. After she claimed that she would be done soon, Danson and Eads smiled knowingly and they basically told the press that they would try their hardest to keep her from leaving. And later, Helgenberger wasn't as adamant about exiting CSI.

"[The odds that this is my last season] are pretty strong. Yeah, I mean, there's chance [I'd come back]. They've always left the door open for me." For the record, Helgenberger told the crowd that this was her decision to leave.

So, there might still be hope for you Willows fans. After all, Helgenberger was supposed to leave CSI last year, but it was "hard to let go" of Willows, and she wasn't "done yet playing" the character.

Sad to see Helgenberger turning in her badge? Or do you think it's time for more fresh blood on CSI?

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