By Lynette Rice
Updated February 28, 2011 at 12:00 PM EST

Image Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBSThis should come as some relief to CSI fans: Though Marg Helgenberger’s contract on the CBS procedural expires at the end of this season, the actress is expected to return to the show in some capacity next fall.

Here’s the rub, though: It doesn’t sound like she’ll play Catherine Willows for an entire season. The actress told People that “we’re talking maybe [only] doing a few episodes” so the 52-year-old actress can return to the theater. “The older you get, the more comfortable you become with who you are and who you are continuing to become,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter.”

Refrain from panicking just yet, though: One insider says its unclear how many episodes Helgenberger will ultimately do because her new deal has yet to be finalized. So stay tuned.

Helgenberger has been on the show since its 2000 premiere and the third original cast member to consider giving up series regular status. Gary Dourdan (Warrick Brown) departed in 2008, followed by William Petersen in January 2009 — though he recently reprised his role of Gil Grissom in the Feb. 3 episode. (Relive it by clicking here). – Follow the mystery (of TV!) at @EWLynette

CSI scoop: Marg Helgenberger talks about her contract, her TV boyfriend and William Petersen