Virgin River planned to bring back this character for Christmas (and we're glad they didn't)

Ricky almost made a comeback in the Virgin River Christmas episodes, but the showrunner explained why he (thankfully) never appeared.
Virgin River. (L to R) Sarah Dugdale as Lizzie, Grayson Maxwell Gurnsey as Ricky in episode 408 of Virgin River. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2022
Virgin River. (L to R) Sarah Dugdale as Lizzie, Grayson Maxwell Gurnsey as Ricky in episode 408 of Virgin River. Cr. Courtesy Of Netflix © 2022 /

Mel meeting her biological father in the Virgin River Christmas episodes wasn't the only major reunion on the books for the special season 5 event. A certain someone else was originally poised for a holiday homecoming.

When Virgin River returned for season 5 on Netflix, fans knew that at least one character would be missing from the season. Grayson Gurnsey, who had appeared in the series since season 1 as Ricky, departed the series at the end of season 4 as the character left for basic training. It was a tearful goodbye for him and Lizzie, and the timeline of his training teed him up for a comeback at the end of season 5.

However, if you were hoping to see Ricky back in town in time for Christmas, the two final episodes of season 5 came and went without a mere mention of Lizzie's ex-boyfriend or the Jack's Bar waiter who had been such a big part of not only the community but the series. According to the new Virgin River showrunner Patrick Sean Smith, a Ricky appearance was planned but never came to fruition.

As Smith told TV Line back in November:

"In full honesty, having him return [for Christmas] was part of the plan. But the episodes were so full already, having to answer the cliffhangers from part 1 and then setting up the cliffhangers for season 6, and all of the fun that we had planned."

Patrick Sean Smith

The outlet also explains something about the show's compressed and oddly confusing timeline that some fans might not have realized. Smith confirmed that Ricky's training was established to last through December, which as we know, the series jumped in time to in the second part of season 5. It would have made for the perfect opportunity for Ricky to reappear.

After watching the complete fifth season and taking in everything that happened, Smith's reasoning for walking back on the Ricky comeback makes all the more sense. There simply was too much going on in all aspects of the season to sneak in a character return that would have major ramifications for a central couple. Writers have to be smart about when to employ these kinds of twists, and Virgin River's writers made the right call.

It's much too soon for Ricky to return to Virgin River, simply because his return would have the greatest impact on Lizzie. Currently, her storyline doesn't have room to deal with a surprise drop-in from an ex-boyfriend. She and Denny finally got to a stable place in their relationship, and now that she's pregnant and thriving in her work (and dealing with her mother), what would Ricky add to that? Most especially, what would have he added to her storyline in season 5?

Even for a show with slower pacing than most television dramas, Virgin River's fifth season had bigger fish to fry than Ricky. As much as we all loved his character, season 5 and its Christmas episodes were better off for not staging his triumphant homecoming. If anything, that could be saved for a short arc in season 6, though it's still not necessary. His departure felt complete and was handled with care. It's not wise to undo that just for the sake of shaking things up.

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