It wasn't planned this way.

Warning: This article contains spoilers about season 3 of Virgin River.

Virgin River is missing its resident busy body.

In season 3 of the Netflix series, which dropped today in its entirety, Hope (Annette O'Toole) is nowhere to be seen. At least not physically. Doc (Tim Matheson) informs everyone that she's away visiting her ailing, elderly aunt and taking her to doctor's appointments. This becomes the source of even more drama when an impending hurricane leads Hope to lose even phone contact with Doc.

But as the season continues on and one roadblock after another pops up when it comes to Hope returning to town, you might start to wonder why we're only seeing her via FaceTime and Zoom calls.

virgin river
Annette O'Toole as Hope on 'Virgin River'
| Credit: netflix

The answer is the great disruptor of the last year and a half, COVID-19. "That was a pandemic pivot," explains showrunner Sue Tenney. "We've worked very hard to make sure she was still very much in the show. If we have a fourth season, everyone is now vaccinated and the pandemic is not what it was. So, I would hope that we would have Annette back."

Because O'Toole wasn't able to return to set in the midst of the pandemic, they came up with creative, virtual ways to incorporate her character. But Tenney says it did lead to some major re-writing and the loss of a storyline that fans were no doubt hungry to see—Doc and Hope's vow renewal ceremony.

"We had a very lovely, two long episodes about that," she reveals, noting that they chose to cut it rather than just have it happen off-camera. "Two episodes of plot on that. When we get to that point, which is a re-commitment ceremony, we definitely are going to want to see that. But we have some drama going on with both of those characters that puts that on the back-burner, but also heightens their commitment to one another."

Virgin River season 3 is on Netflix now.

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