Is it possible that Phil Robertson's suspension from Duck Dynasty is just for show? Probably not entirely, but it may end with little fanfare next month.
On Wednesday, January 15, A&E will begin airing new episodes of the hit reality show with no plans to edit Phil out of the already-completed material.
There are also Duck Dynasty marathons airing nearly every night this holiday season, despite Phil's anti-gay comments and the ensuing controversy.
Despite his "indefinite suspension," all signs point to Robertson being back on the program before long, provided all parties can agree on how to move on.
"The network also hopes the media and fan furor will cool down over the holidays and that tensions over shooting future episodes can then be resolved," EW reports.
“There’s no negotiation to have; we’re doing the show,” an insider said.
The episodes slated to air after New Year's are part of the show's fourth season, which averages a colossal 14.6 million viewers, including DVR playback.
A new sneak peek (below) shows more of the same beloved family reality-comedy fans love, and it would be stunning for A&E to cancel the show.
They're now in a tight spot, though. How do they best move forward with tensions high and people on both sides of the debate likely to be upset?
A&E suspended Robertson over anti-gay remarks he made in January's GQ issue, in which he condemned homosexuality in particularly coarse terms.
The 67-year-old responded to backlash about his interview by stating, "I would never treat anyone with disrespect just because they are different from me."
After A&E's suspension, Robertson's friends and family came out in support of him, hinting that the show may be done for after he was placed on hiatus.
"[Phil] is the reason for their success. They're not going to abandon him. They're also not about to let anyone threaten their religious beliefs," a source told E!
The family released a statement on the Duck Commander website saying, "We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith."
In church Sunday, Phil wasn't ceding any ground. He reiterated that he is a lover, not a hater, he showed few signs of contrition for the national controversy.
It will be very interesting to see how this plays out, now that Robertson has - willingly or unwittingly - become a cause celebre over the past week.