TELEVISION -- In 2012, after playing the character he originated for over 21 years, Emmy winning actor Steve Burton left General Hospital (GH) and the role of Jason Morgan.
Two years after Burton's departure, former Young and the Restless actor Billy Miller was recast in the role of the "Stone Cold" mob hitman, essentially closing the door for Burton to return to the show that made his career.
However, on Sept. 19, 2017, after months of teasing and speculation Burton made his return to the daytime soap, in a yet to be confirmed role.
Since the announcement that the actor known for making Jason Morgan a fan favourite was returning, people clamoured to know who he was playing,
Would Burton be taking on a new role? Or, would some twist in the story make the character everyone believed to be Jason with a new face (Miller's recast) really be someone else while Burton returned to the iconic role?
The tables began to be set for Burton's return long before his air date, beginning with the return of Franco (played by Roger Howarth, and formerly James Franco) after a short off-screen absence.
After being forced to confront his past and the people he hurt through a civil suit that took him out of town, Franco returned to Port Charles ready to start his life anew.
However, everything Franco thought he knew about his childhood was thrown for a loop when he found a photo of himself with another boy that looks exactly like the man he was obsessed with since he first entered the scene in 2009, Jason Morgan.
Would the mystery of who this young boy was tie into the return of Burton, or was this just another teaser story line that would be abandoned once the truth about the mystery character shocked the viewers?
The small return of Burton, revealed in the final seconds of the Sept. 19, episode left much to be desired and many questions unanswered.
Also, due to the clever placement of a mask and hoodie only Burton's eyes were visible, but fans knew that the mystery character at a secret Russian facility was Burton.
The man now known to be played by Burton was introduced a week earlier when Ava Jerome (played by Maura West) headed to St. Petersburg, Russia in the hopes of having experimental surgery to help fix the burn damage caused when she set a fire to her art gallery.
Ava interacted with the man in the wheelchair many times, and her time around him was capped off when he grabbed her after she offhandedly mentioned another former GH character.
A twist that the writers seem to be throwing into the mix lies within the cleverly constructed scenes where the villainous Valentin Cassadine (played by James Patrick Stuart) mentions his presumed dead nephew Nikolas right before it would cut to the man in the wheelchair.
If the prior story lines are any clue of what's to come then there's at least three solid theories for who Burton could be playing now that he's back on the canvas.
The first is of course the eponymous Jason Morgan.
There's been some not-so-subtle foreshadowing in recent weeks during onscreen conversations between people that knew Jason before he returned with a new face.
All of them have agreed that he's not the same man that he was, and while some of it can be written off as wanting to have a different and safer life with his family, one has to wonder if these are hints for why the once unwavering enforcer is now a docile stay at home dad, and if he's really the same man that disappeared five years ago.
Of course Burton being Jason means that the man believed to be living his life has to be explained.
One theory floating is that Miller is the real Jason returned from being captured by Helena Cassadine, while Burton is the twin that was once believed to be Franco - a long story that ends with James Franco's iteration of the character apparently dying before the role was recast with Howarth.
This theory can be switched around as well so Miller could really be an impostor brainwashed into believing he's Jason to fool everyone while the real Jason was held in the Russian facility.
While brainwashing does seem a bit out there, this is a show that's seen it done before, once again featuring Helena Cassadine. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to think that before she died, the Cassadine matriarch sent the fake Jason to town to not only do her bidding, but also mess with the people she hated if her plan was foiled.
The final theory is a new one, and involves yet another Cassadine.
After escaping Port Charles by faking his death, Nikolas Cassadine went to his family island where he apparently met his untimely end at the hands of his greedy uncle Valentin.
After being shot and falling into the water below - which is not only an almost exact mirror to how Burton was written off the show when he was shot by Cesar Faison and kicked into the harbour, but also the way that staff at the Russian clinic have described how the mysterious patient played by Burton became the way he did.
So the question of who will Burton really be playing seems to be getting deeper and harder to unravel.
Of course if he's really Nikolas, then that doesn't explain the story with Franco and the young boy he knew as a child. But does that mean the writers are just messing around for drama, or is there another return on the horizon?
Time will tell who Burton is really playing, and since GH is a long-running soap opera that knows how to spin a good story, don't expect an answer anytime soon.
Right now the mysterious man still needs to get out of the Russian clinic, and make his way back to Port Charles, so keep watching because it looks like it'll be a November sweeps reveal as to who Steve Burton's character really is.