“When Calls the Heart” returned to Hallmark Channel on Sunday, nearly two months after producers announced Lori Loughlin was out of the series amid her alleged involvement in the nationwide college admissions scandal.
The episode, the first of a two-night special event, began with a narration to address where Loughlin’s character, Abigail Stanton, had gone and why she will not be returning, People magazine reported.
“It’s been a week since Abigail got word that her mother had taken ill back east. True to her nature, Abigail wasted no time in rushing off to care for her. Abigail is much more than a friend, she’s family. I will miss her and Cody deeply, we all will, but we must get by as best we can,” Elizabeth Thatcher, played by Erin Krakow, revealed in a letter.
“…In her absence, we must soldier on and we will. We are a community, we are strong, we are Hope Valley,” the letter concluded.
Fans feared the Hallmark series would come to an end after federal authorities announced Loughlin and her husband, fashion designer Mossimo Giannulli, were among the 50 people charged over their alleged connection to the bribery scheme. Hallmark ultimately cut ties with the former “Full House” star days after the charges were announced, leaving viewers wondering what would happen to Loughlin’s character, who plays a significant role in “When Calls the Heart” plot.
Producers reassured fans the show has “many more stories left to share” and will not be calling it quits.
"As you can imagine, everyone involved with 'When Calls the Heart' was surprised by these developments, so we hope you can forgive us for initially staying silent while we sorted through how to respond," show producers wrote in an earlier post on “When Calls the Heart” Instagram account.
“With the full support of the network, we have gone on a creative hiatus to do some retooling on the remaining Season 6 episodes. That process has already begun. Hope Valley will return to your TV screens as soon as we can bring the episodes to you,” the statement continued.
The producers concluded the statement by thanking viewers for their support.
Loughlin and Giannulli pleaded not guilty to paying William "Rick" Singer $500,000 in bribes to get their daughters into USC. Prosecutors filed additional charges against Loughlin and 15 other parents with conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, honest services mail and wire fraud, and a new count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.