Credit: NAV/Fame Pictures Photo: Ellen Pompeo Heads to the Gym on August 30, 2011

Most Grey's Anatomy fans are painfully aware that the Grey's original cast's contracts are up at the end of this season. That means Chandra Wilson (Miranda Bailey), Justin Chambers (Alex Karev), James Pickens Jr. (Richard Webber), Sandra Oh (Cristina Yang) and, yes, Ellen Pompeo (Meredith Grey) and Patrick Dempsey (Derek Shepherd) all have to come to new deals with ABC if they are going to return to the show.

Now that we're heading into the second half of Season 8, where do they stand? The short answer is that we still don't know. But for those who are curious, here's the longer answer, with what we do know:

Up in the air. The most recent info comes from Patrick Dempsey, who says that there are six episodes left to film in Season 8, and after that, he doesn't know what will happen. That, plus the silence from everyone else, makes it sound like a decision hasn't been reached, even though contract negations were rumored to have begun months ago.  

Lots of options. Patrick Dempsey has talked more than anyone else about this recently, and in one interview he pointed out that there are more options than "stay" or "not stay" for the original actors: "The question is will I do a full season, a half season or come back at all?"

Is Ellen too busy? Ellen Pompeo, meanwhile, has started her own production company and has already sold her first pilot to ABC. We're thrilled about Ellen's success, but is this a sign that she might want to move on from her full time Grey's gig to pursue other things? We hope not! Maybe she's just a really great multi-tasker.

The finale will work either way. Instead of waiting for negations to be set in stone, Shonda Rhimes wrote the Season 8 finale without knowing what will happen with the originals. So at least you can rest assured that there will be some sort of resolution if they don't come back. Probably.

The show will go on. One thing is for sure: The show will go on, even if all the originals leave. It's hard to imagine, but we might be seeing Seattle Grace-Mercy West without MerDer this time next year. Crazy.

Grey’s Anatomy airs Thursdays at 9 pm ET/PT on ABC.

Satisfy your Grey’s Anatomy addiction: Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Twitter and Tumblr.