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Why Sandra Oh’s Cristina Left Grey’s Anatomy In Season 10

One of Grey’s Anatomy’s most popular and beloved characters, Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) departed the series when Sandra Oh left Grey’s Anatomy. The main setting of the series is the fictional Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital (formerly Seattle Grace Hospital), though it has branched out and covered stories in other hospitals. Grey’s Anatomy was led for most of its run by Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo), who viewers followed from her days as an intern to becoming Head of General Surgery. One of the interns who joined the hospital at the same time as Meredith was Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh), who became Meredith’s best friend.

Like most of the main characters in Grey’s Anatomy, Cristina Yang’s life was a roller coaster, and her main storylines were those involving Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington) and Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd), both very complicated relationships. Cristina is very focused and competitive, and even though she’s a skilled and knowledgeable doctor, she often struggles to convey her emotions and finds it hard to empathize with patients. Cristina and Sandra Oh left Grey’s Anatomy in season 10, after Preston Burke (years after their relationship ended abruptly) offered her his job as the head of a hospital in Switzerland. Cristina took the offer, and she moved to Zurich.

Oh Felt She’d Given The Character Her All

Sandra Oh Chose To Leave The Series

So, when does Christina leave Grey’s AnatomySandra Oh’s departure from the series was announced in 2013. Oh was one of the cast members who signed a two-year deal in 2012 sealing her return for season 10, but not after it. In an interview with THR in 2013, Oh shared that she began thinking about leaving the show when she and her costars signed the aforementioned deal and explained she felt, creatively, she was ready to let Cristina go. However, that doesn’t mean saying goodbye to the co-stars she’d had since Grey’s Anatomy season 1 was easy. Sandra Oh left Grey’s Anatomy but didn’t feel the decision was real when she told them she was leaving.

Creatively, I really feel like I gave it my all, and I feel ready to let her go… It’s such an interesting thing to play a character for so long and to actually get the sense that she wants to be let go as well. [Cristina] wants to be let go, and I am ready to let her go.

Luckily, Shonda Rhimes was very supportive of her decision, and so Cristina Yang, unlike other characters from season 1, got a proper ending where she didn’t die. Grey’s Anatomy isn’t always the best at writing characters off, as the writers’ go-to solution tends to be to kill them, but Cristina’s ending was more fitting with her character. Cristina had worked hard all her life, and a big opportunity in one of the best medical research facilities for cardiothoracic surgery in the world was exactly what she deserved – even if the offer came from Preston Burke.

Dr. Yang Survived Her Arc So Could Still Appear In The Future

Christina Yang Lives Off-Screen In Grey’s Anatomy

Because Christina Yang wasn’t killed off by Grey’s Anatomy like Patrick Dempsey’s Derek and so many others, she could technically still return to the show at some point. As one of the few characters to have left the series for some reason other than a tragic death, she’s in a unique position to be able to cameo in the future if Oh is ever available and willing. Even Dempsey himself, whose character died in season 11, made a small comeback in Meredith’s COVID coma hallucination, which shows that Grey’s Anatomy still has some pull when it comes to getting its old cast members back for small roles.

With Ellen Pompeo’s role reduced moving forward, it might seem unlikely that Christina would have a reason to come back to Grey’s Anatomy, but it’s fun to know that such an event isn’t out of the question narratively should the show have the opportunity to do a small reunion.

Sandra Oh Had A Huge Career After Grey’s Anatomy

Sandra Oh Has Pursued Film, Television, And Voice Work

Now that the answer to “when does Christina leave Grey’s Anatomy?” can be put to bed, what of Sandra Oh’s career after Grey’s Anatomy? Dr. Christina Yang can truly be seen as Sandra Oh’s breakout role, as her acting career exploded after taking on the part. After leaving Grey’s Anatomy in 2014, Oh starred in the film Tammy as Kathy Bates’ wife before moving onto the Refinery29 comedy web series Shitty Boyfriends. She also went on to star in the 2016 film Catfight with Anne Hesche and Alicia Silverstone, then Oh appeared in the anthology series American Crime season 3 as Abby Tanaka.

In 2018, Sandra Oh was given the lead role of Eve Polastri in the spy thriller series Killing Eve, with the series ending of its own accord in April 2022. Sandra Oh has received critical acclaim for her part in Killing Eve, being the first actress of Asian descent to be nominated for an Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series Primetime Emmy Award. She won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of Eve Polastri, becoming the first actress of Asian descent to receive two Golden Globes.

Sandra Oh’s voice can also be heard as Castaspella in She-Ra and the Princess of Power, Virana in Raya and the Last Dragon, and Debbie in Invincible. She also stars in the 2023 Hulu original comedy Quiz Lady with Awkwafina. While Grey’s Anatomy may be where Sandra Oh got her first big break, she’ll end up being recognized for a lot more.

Could Sandra Oh Return To Grey’s Anatomy?

The Door Is Open For More Christina Yang

Sandra Oh left Grey’s Anatomy but since Christina Yang didn’t die, there is always a chance that she could return to the series if she wanted to. It is almost certain the show would welcome her back if she wanted to return. During the COVID-19 pandemic, several cast members returned – even dead characters – thanks to Meredith’s hallucinations. There was also the moment when Cristina, the character, sent a letter to Addison and Bailey. This happened in season 19, episode 16, where Cristina sent supplies for Addison’s PRT. Could this mean the return of Sandra Oh?

This was the first time in years that anyone even mentioned Cristina since she left for Switzerland. The last time anyone said her name was in season 17 when she sent Owen a text, asking for updates on Meredith’s condition after she contracted COVID-19. In season 16, she texted Meredith and also sent a letter of support for Grey when she had a medical licensing hearing. While Sandra Oh has been gone for 10 years, these moments ensured that fans never forgot Cristina and her time on the show. A stand-in actor also played Cristina in season 11 during Derek’s funeral.

Now that Meredith Grey has left the show as a full-time cast member, there could be a push for more returns from the past. Bringing back Sandra Oh and Cristina could be a huge moment for Grey’s Anatomy fans. Even if it is just a small return for one or two episodes, this could play out well for fans. With the recent emphasis on the reproductive rights storylines on the show, Cristina is the perfect person to return and help take up that fight in the hospital. In season 7, Cristina had an abortion that Owen shamed her for, but she stood up for her rights. Even if it is for that story, or in the future as a surprise, Sandra Oh left Grey’s Anatomy, but she could always return.

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