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10/17/2013 04:12 am ET Updated Oct 17, 2013

'Law & Order: Special Victims Unit' Bids Farewell To Richard Belzer's Sergeant John Munch (VIDEO)

In a special tribute at the beginning of the hour on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," the cast came together to bid a farewell to Sergeant John Munch. After an incredibly long run, Sgt. Munch was retiring from SVU.

"I don’t know where it all went," Munch said in front of his assembled friends and colleagues. It was a sweet tribute to a character who'd been a part of the television landscape for more than two decades. That said, other than this opening scene, and a quick scene at the end where he packed up his things and left, the bulk of the episode was just another case.

Entertainment Weekly's Samantha Highfill noted that he only got about 10 minutes to say goodbye. "We’re sorry it seemed so rushed, but you know how it is. Crime doesn’t stop for anybody… even when television shows probably should," she wrote. There was a nice closing touch, though. A flashback showed Munch sitting at his desk, as he was first seen on "Homicide: Life on the Street." Then, we shifted to him today in the same position. He even made the mistake of answering the phone by saying, "Homicide," before correcting himself.

After playing Munch for the past 21 years on 10 different shows, Richard Belzer wrote a farewell letter for HuffPost, thanking the cast for a memorable 500-plus hours on television. "I am truly blessed to have been in the company of so many remarkable people for such a long time!" he wrote. "Yes, I am sad. Yes, it's bittersweet. But after 21 years, smart money is on Munch not totally disappearing from the face of the earth. If Sherlock Holmes can survive the Reichenbach Falls then surely we have not seen the last of Detective Sergeant John Munch.”

"Law & Order" SVU" moves on without Sgt. Munch, Wednesdays at 9 p.m. ET on NBC.

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