Should Jeff Clarke return to Chicago Fire?

CHICAGO MED -- "Natural History" Episode 202 -- Pictured: Jeff Hephner as Jeff Clarke -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC)
CHICAGO MED -- "Natural History" Episode 202 -- Pictured: Jeff Hephner as Jeff Clarke -- (Photo by: Matt Dinerstein/NBC) /

Should Jeff Clarke return to Chicago Fire? Fans have suggested a familiar face to fill the open spot on Ambulance 61 in Chicago Fire season 7.

With Chicago Fire down a paramedic after Monica Raymund’s decision not to return, fans are wondering if the show will add a character—and a very well-known name has been thrown into the mix.

Several Twitter users have suggested bringing Jeff Clarke (Jeff Hephner) back as Sylvie Brett’s (Kara Killmer) next partner on Ambulance 61. But how plausible of an idea is that really?

Though Clarke recurred during Chicago Fire season 2, One Chicago fans know he was shifted over to Chicago Med during that show’s second season—having left the Chicago Fire Department to become a doctor.

So at first blush, Clarke to 61 sounds like a perfect idea: he has medical training and he’s worked in the CFD before.

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And adding Jeff Hephner to Chicago Fire as a series regular would be a major plus. As we said when he seemed poised to make the leap on Chicago Med, any show would be lucky to have him on a weekly basis.

He’s an incredibly talented actor, and one of the most beloved recurring actors who’s ever been part of the One Chicago franchise. That makes this casting idea a no-brainer, right?

Well, no. It’s not that simple.

There are several potential hurdles to the whole Clarke-to-61 concept. The first is that the One Chicago shows have different writers, and Chicago Med‘s writers sent Clarke to a whole other state.

When he was written out of Chicago Med season 2 in “White Butterflies” he was headed to Hawaii to begin his residency—after telling his ex-girlfriend Dr. Natalie Manning (Torrey DeVitto) that he was looking for a fresh start:

"Clarke: I matched in Honolulu. Chicago Med wasn’t even on my list.Natalie: I just assumed…I mean, you must have known about this for a while now.Clarke: Yeah.Natalie: Why didn’t you say anything?Clarke: I don’t know. I just felt like it was time to move on."

So not only would Chicago Fire have to get Clarke back from another state less than two years later, it would have to come up with a convincing reason to pull him back to Chicago. Why would he uproot an established life and walk away from a position he’d earned to go back to a city he was specifically intent on getting away from?

Clarke’s a smart guy, and he doesn’t say anything he doesn’t mean. It would feel out of character for him to say he needed to move on—and then turn around and come right back.

Even if you stretch his words a little bit and say he only made those comments because of his breakup with Natalie and now he’s over it, you still have to come up with something big enough that he would change his entire life around for the second time.

Another major issue is that when Jeff Clarke was introduced on Chicago Med in the first-season episode “Timing,” the explanation for his having become a medical student in the first place was in part due to a back issue:

"Natalie: You’re in med school?Clarke: Yeah, um. I hurt my back on the job, so no more lugging fire hose. I always liked the medical side of things."

Being a paramedic doesn’t require hauling fire hose, but it can still be physical with the moving of patients and equipment—plus as Chicago Fire has shown us a lot, Ambulance 61 gets into tons of trouble that other rigs don’t.

Would Clarke pass a physical to get back into the CFD? He might be okay otherwise, but it would be about what someone else thinks, not his opinion. And even if he passed, how will he do if the ambulance is ever put in the line of, er, fire?

This is an injury that was bad enough to force him out of one job, so it doesn’t seem like something that would heal and go away (or it would’ve done that before he made such a drastic move)—and we definitely don’t want him to hurt himself more if the ambulance winds up in a physical situation, which on Chicago Fire it’s almost certain that it will.

Clarke will know that, too, having previously been at Firehouse 51. He’s a smart guy, and if he’s making an informed decision, he’d be putting himself into a situation that wouldn’t be the best for him physically—on top of the aforementioned personal concerns.

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Of course, you could just say damn the torpedoes, invent something, and roll with it. Jeff Hephner would be an unbelievable get for Chicago Fire, and it wouldn’t be the first time that a One Chicago series played loose with plausibility to make something work. Fans were never quite sold on the idea that Clarke had been interested in medicine before, yet we went along with it because that’s how much we love Hephner.

Derek Haas and company could probably throw out all of the aforementioned precedent and just bring Jeff Clarke back to Chicago anyway, and there would be much rejoicing. That’s how good an actor Jeff Hephner is, and how much we love having him around One Chicago. When you’re looking for a new series regular, you want the best person for the slot, and he would definitely be one of them if not the best.

So do you want to do what makes the fans happy, or do you want to do what’s true to the character we’ve come to know and love so much? That’s the dilemma with this idea.

If you want to do something fun for Chicago Fire and excite the fans, then bringing Jeff Clarke to Ambulance 61 would be a great idea. Jeff Hephner is someone that fans would welcome with open arms, even with how high their expectations will be set for anyone following Monica Raymund.

If you want to do what’s best for Clarke and what makes sense with established canon, then there are a lot of hurdles to get over. As much as it pains us to admit it, it wouldn’t be the best idea for our favorite firefighter turned med student to become a paramedic, unless a lot changes before Chicago Fire season 7.

Next: 5 reasons why Chicago Fire will miss Dawson

Would you like to see Jeff Hephner return to Chicago Fire? Do you think Jeff Clarke is the right fit for Ambulance 61? Let us know your thoughts on the latest Chicago Fire fan theory below in the comments.

Chicago Fire returns this fall to NBC.