by Billy Nilles | Sun., May. 5, 2019 3:00 AM
It's finally time to return to Coal Valley.
After two long months, When Calls the Heart is set to return to Hallmark Channel on Sunday, May 5, and when it does, it'll feel markedly different. In the wake of the college admissions bribery scandal that's both gripped and captivated the nation thanks to the fact that both Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman were among those implicated in the sting, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues by the FBI, the show was forced into a hiatus following the network's swift cutting of ties with Loughlin, its longtime star.
And while fans will find themselves having to get used to a Coal Valley without Abigail Stanton in it, as all of Loughlin's scenes have been edited out of the remainder of season six, which had already completed filming by the time she and her husband of nearly 22 years Mossimo Giannulli were incited for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud on March 12, Loughlin herself has had to get used to a new normal of her own.
In the days since the actress and her husband were said to have allegedly "agreed to a pay bribes totaling $500,000 in exchange for having their two daughters [Isabella Rose Giannulli, 20, and Olivia Jade Giannulli, 19] designated as recruits to the USC crew team—despite the fact that they did not participate in crew—thereby facilitating their admission to USC," Loughlin has watched as her professional prospects were taken away from her one by one. First, Hallmark cut ties completely, meaning that not only would she be edited out of When Calls the Heart, but her Garage Sale Mysteries film series was a thing of the past. Shortly after, Netflix confirmed that they, too, were severing their relationship with the disgraced actress, leaving everyone to wonder exactly how Fuller House will explain Aunt Becky's absence for the entirety of its sixth and final season.
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While her employers have cut ties with her, that hasn't exactly been the case with her (now former) co-workers. While Loughlin and Giannulli have watched their circle of friends dwindle in the days since they rejected a plea deal to serve two years in prison, got hit with a new superseding charge of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and now face up to 40 years in jail—"Lori and Mossimo are finding out quickly who their real friends are," an insider told People. "It's not like they are the victims of a crime. They are the crime. Many of their friends don't want to be associated with them right now."—her Fuller House family has stood with her in solidarity.
Standing alongside Jodie Sweetin and Andrea Barber as she accepted the award for Favorite Funny TV Show at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards on March 23, Candace Cameron Bure seemed to speak for everyone when she told the crowd, "Where there's a lot of heart, there's a lot of love—and a loving family sticks together no matter what. They stick together through the hard times, they support each other, they encourage one another, they pray for each other, and they stand by their side no matter how tough it gets."
It's a sentiment that costars Bob Saget and John Stamos have echoed in recent days. "You know, you love who you love in your life," Saget told TMZ photogs in late March, adding, "Candace said it really good at the Kids' Choice Awards. You love who you love."
Stamos, questioned nearly immediately after Saget, only had this to say: "I will [have something to say] at one point. I'm just not ready to talk about it."
While appearing on the Today show's third hour in late April, Saget was asked, yet again, about the precarious situation his friend found herself in. And yet again, he showed nothing but love. "I will say that I love her and I will say that, no comment," Saget said. "It's a personal thing, it's a personal thing...it's a strange time...and, what do you say?"
While her fictional family is sticking by her, Loughlin's real family is going through it. Despite the fact that mom and dad allegedly committed their crimes in the spirit of building a better life for their beloved daughters, younger child Olivia is said to be "furious" with her parents, as their misdeeds have brought her burgeoning beauty influencer career to its knees.
"Olivia is furious with her parents and it's going to take a lot to repair their relationship," a source shared with E! News. "She blames them entirely and feels they have ruined her career."
Since the scandal broke, Olivia and her sister Isabella have both opted not to return to USC and time will only tell when (or if) she will be able to get her career back up and running. "She is very distraught and is in crisis mode," our source shared. "Olivia is more embarrassed than anything and doesn't know how to handle all of the stress and scrutiny that has been surrounding her and her family. She feels completely lost."
In recent weeks, Olivia began splitting her time between the family's Bel-Air compound and another, undisclosed location—likely her boyfriend Jackson Guthy's home—and by May 3, she decided that it was time to fly the coop entirely. "Olivia's clothes and some personal items were moved out from her parents Bel-Air house this week," a source told E! News. "She wants more privacy."
Explaining that her mental health was chief among the factors weighing on her decision, the insider continued, "Everything that's going on with her parents is very stressful for her and she needs some space. She's doesn't feel that it's healthy for her to live with her parents right now."
For Olivia, getting away from her parents for some "distance from the drama" is an opportunity to focus back on work. "She wants to focus on rebuilding her business and not deal with daily negative attention," the insider added. "This is the healthiest thing for her right now and she wants to do what's best."
Best for her, maybe, but can't feel great for mom. Not only has her youngest flown the coop at a uniquely difficult time, but the stress of an uncertain future has begun to take its toll on her marriage. "There's a rift between Lori and Mossimo," an insider told E! News. "He is completely mortified by this whole thing and she is putting on a happy face and acting like everything will be OK."
Despite both deciding to plead not guilty, "They are blaming each other and disagreeing on things," the source continued. "They are starting to turn on each other and there is incredible stress and tension." Noting that this is "their worst nightmare that they can't wake up from," the insider added, "There have been dark and tense moments. But they know that their backs are up against the wall and they are hoping to get through this together."
And, for now, that means awaiting the outcome of a trial.
While initially facing just one indictment, Loughlin and Giannulli were under the impression that this might not be as serious as the government wanted it to seem. "She has been in complete denial and thought maybe she could skate by," a source told E! News. "She refused to accept any jail time and thought the DA was bluffing. She was adamant she wouldn't do any jail time."
But by the time it became clear she was quite wrong and was hit with that second indictment, it was too late to do anything but plead not guilty and head to trial.
"I think she and her lawyers underestimated how motivated the prosecution was. So she didn't plead, and then they hit her with another charge," a confidante recently told People. "Now she's willing to negotiate, but the prosecution says that the deal is off the table. So the only choice they've got is to plead not guilty. That's all they can do."
Not to mention that she remains steadfast in her belief that she's done nothing wrong. "Lori really believes she isn't guilty and that any parent would have done the same thing that she did if they were in that position," a source told us. "She plans to fight this and for her girls. She can't imagine what will happen to them if she goes to jail. She's rolling the dice and thinks that she has a strong defense."
"Lori feels like so much damage has been done publicly that the only way for her to counter it is to fight this case in court," an insider told People. "She feels like once all the evidence is presented, that people will understand how things happened."
But at the end of the day, it's begun to dawn on everyone involved that this whole thing probably won't end without a prison sentence of some sort. "Their lives will never be the same," a source told us. "They are scared and they don't know what's coming next. It all feels like a terrible nightmare."