NEW YORK - When Edie packed up and left Wisteria Lane at the end of Sunday's "Desperate Housewives," viewers were caught by surprise.
The sudden exit of the neighborhood's blond troublemaker has fans wondering how this plot twist will affect the ABC hit series, and whether Nicollette Sheridan, who has played Edie during its four seasons, will be back.
For weeks, rumors swirled that Sheridan was out of the show. Both ABC and Sheridan's publicist, Nicole Perna, have been tightlipped in response to inquiries about her imminent departure.
But creator and executive producer Marc Cherry was slightly more forthcoming. Yes, Edie's gone, he told The Associated Press on Friday. Then he added: "She won't be back for a few years."
What could that mean? Hadn't Cherry already announced he will bring his series to a close at the end of the 2010-11 season, just three years from now?
"We do three more seasons and then it's done," he said with a chuckle. "I will tear down all the sets personally.
"I want to be sure that when we leave the air, people still care."
But right now, what viewers really care about is Edie's future — if any. Could her return in what Cherry carefully described as "a few years" have anything to do with another recent rumor that "Desperate Housewives" will adopt a "flash-forward" narrative device (akin to the storytelling style on "Lost"), which could restore Edie to the show as seen a few years hence?
"I only address one rumor at a time," Cherry replied.
Edie bolted on Sunday's episode when the titular four housewives — Susan, Lynette, Bree and Gabrielle — faced her down after she had pulled one too many schemes against them.
"We're done," Susan (Teri Hatcher) told her. "From now on, you are invisible."
"And we're gonna make sure every woman in a 5-mile radius knows the kind of c--- you pull," said Gabrielle (Eva Longoria).
Edie tried to apologize.
"Did you hear something?" Bree (Marcia Cross) said as the women strode away. "Neither did I."
A few minutes later, viewers saw Edie toss a suitcase into her sports car and drive away.
"A climactic scene," Cherry told the AP.
But as the show nears its two-hour season finale next Sunday, fans are desperate to know: Is Sheridan done? Or is she still part of the show?
"We'll have to wait until next season and see," Cherry replied.