Dr. Ross? Pshaw. The ER return that most fans — or at least the most vocal fans — have been clamoring for is that of Dr. Barnett. And this fall, their prayers will be answered when Shane West’s Ray heads back to County General with a new lease on life and eyes for the woman that got away, his ex-roomie and unrequited love, Neela.

Let’s rewind first: When last we saw Ray, he was heading home to Baton Rouge to mend his broken heart and recover from a tragic car accident that left him a double amputee. As West points out, “He wasn’t in a very good head space.”

Well, a lot can change in a year. When Ray returns in the Oct. 30 episode, he’ll have both feet firmly planted on the ground — literally and figuratively. “He’s walking on his own again,” reveals executive producer Joe Sachs. As we’ll learn, Ray has endured months of rehab, during which he was fitted with new cutting edge prosthetics. “He in no way appears disabled. He’s been through hell and has come out a better, stronger guy. He’s matured. He knows what’s important in his life.”

What or who? Although only back for a brief time — Ray’s in Chicago for a medical conference related to physical medicine/rehabilitation (his new specialty, natch) — Sachs hints that his presence has a huge impact on Neela. “His return affects her in a big way,” he says. “It stir the embers of that relationship and makes her question, “Could I be with this guy now?”

Sachs isn’t providing an answer to that question, although he promises that “Reela” fans will be “satisfied by the story.” Adds West: “He’s coming back at the right time, when she needs that friend and possibly that romance back. There are definitely sparks reignited.”

So much so that the Oct. 30 episode won’t be the last we’ll see of Ray. West is on board for at least one more episode, to air shortly before ER signs off for good in May. “It’s going to be a double surprise,” the actor teases. “One in the beginning of the season when he returns, and one at the end.” Hmmm…. might that second surprise involve oh, I dunno, a ring?

Hey, speaking of surprises, here’s another one: Next week’s Ask Ausiello will feature more scoop on West’s highly-anticipated return. In the meantime, go ahead and celebrate your hard-fought and well-earned victory in the comments section, Reela fans.