Neighbours spoilers follow.
Neighbours' return episode addressed the absences of David Tanaka, Aaron Brennan and Nicolette Stone on Monday (September 18), but have they really left Erinsborough for good?
The trio of characters were at the centre of some of the biggest storylines during the "final" months of the show last year, but none of them were included in the casting announcements for Neighbours' new season.
Sure enough, the show's comeback episode confirmed what fans had been expecting, with casual mentions that David, Aaron and Nicolette no longer live on Ramsay Street.
All three characters had briefly considered moving away during the final episodes in July 2022, but they eventually chose to stay in a heartwarming happy ending.
That was all well and good at the time, but with a two-year time jump in play, lots has changed on Ramsay Street since we last watched our favourite neighbours.
Early in the return episode, David's father Paul Robinson alluded to having fewer family members in town when his sister Lucy asked why he'd suddenly started doing favours for the Kennedys. (Paul had given Karl's wayward daughter Holly Hoyland a job at Lassiters.)
Paul replied: "Since I thought about all the people I lost a few months ago and how it made me feel."
Later, Nicolette's mum Jane shared a touching moment with her son Byron, explaining how happy she was to have him back in her life again. She was also proud to see him working at Lassiters, rather than his previous career as a male escort.
Jane said: "When Nicolette and Isla moved away, and then Aaron and David too, it was such a loss. But then having you back, and seeing you get so serious about a career… I'm just so glad that you've found a new passion."
Despite the sad news, this may not be the last we'll see of David, Aaron and Nicolette.
Earlier this week, Australian programme 10 News First went behind the scenes at the revival of Neighbours. Eagle-eyed fans spotted that Matt Wilson, who plays Aaron, was included in the footage and seemingly on set for filming.
Meanwhile, shortly before Neighbours started shooting its new season, Charlotte Chimes – who played Nicolette – told social media followers on a livestream that she wouldn't be back.
Charlotte suggested that she had been asked to return but declined the invitation, prompting show bosses to recast the role of Nicolette.
Rumours have also been rife among fans over a potential return for David, which would seem likely if Aaron and Nicolette are also back.
It's worth mentioning that none of this has been officially confirmed by the team at Neighbours, so we'll have to wait patiently to see the possible storyline twists and turns ahead in the coming months.
Neighbours' executive producer Jason Herbison previously told us: "There were people who were unavailable as they had moved on to other projects, so we had decisions to make over whether or not we might want to recast those roles, or whether or not we might move them on from the show.
"But I will say that, just because a character is not back in episode one, it doesn't mean they may not return in the future. Certainly, there's a lot of love from the actors who have been on the show."
Check out more of our Neighbours coverage:
Neighbours releases new episodes from Mondays to Thursdays for free on Amazon Freevee in the UK and US. In Australia, the show airs from Mondays to Thursdays at 4.30pm on Channel 10, with a 6.30pm repeat screening on 10 Peach.
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