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Credit: ABC; ABC screenshots

What happens next could change everything!

Well, we knew (or at least strongly suspected) it was coming… and we even sort of anticipated how things would play out. But when the literal dust cleared following the collapse of the tunnels beneath Cassadine Island, it seemed we finally got our answer as to how General Hospital would be writing off both Jason and Steve Burton… if not how long his absence might last.

More: All the latest soap news

For weeks, rumors have circulated that Burton would be exiting the soap… although the actor himself has remained notably quiet on the topic, even as he has continued to post on social media and host his popular podcast with co-star Bradford Anderson (Spinelli). In fact, Burton’s silence has led many to speculate that what’s really taking place is a massive publicity stunt designed to get people talking (and tuning in) during the all-important November sweeps ratings period.

If that’s the case, it’s certainly worked. Leading up to the episode airing on Friday, November 19th, talk among fans had reached a fevered pitch. And when the hour ended with the tunnels collapsing, many felt that they’d gotten their answer. Yet when Monday’s episode revealed that Jason was missing, it did nothing to quell speculation. Fan reaction ranged from denial…

… to suspecting that all is not as it seems.

The two big questions now are how long Jason remains “missing” and what happens to those he left behind, especially if they presume he’s died?

Given that this isn’t the first time Jason has “died,” it’s easy to see why many viewers assume this is a temporary situation and that both he and Burton will eventually rise from the grave in which the character was temporarily (and mistakenly) placed.

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Above: First Sonny and then Jason “died.” We’re starting to think maybe Carly’s cursed!

Credit: Eric McCandless/ABC

Perhaps the person who’ll be hardest hit by Jason’s latest “demise” is Carly, who was attempting to reach him even as those on Cassadine Island were dealing with the collapse. During Sonny’s time as Mike, she and Jason had rediscovered their feelings for one another, married and were on the verge of giving in to their growing passion when her not-as-dead-as-believed husband strolled back into the picture.

Since then, Sonny and Carly’s relationship has been strained, with each keeping things from the other and both realizing their time apart had changed them. Might losing Jason, the friend both loved with all of their hearts, bring Sonny and Carly closer together… or drive them even further apart?

Then there’s Britt, the woman who — against all odds — Jason had begun to fall for. It was a pairing nobody (including us!) saw coming, but one which quickly grew far more serious than either could have imagined. Already facing a health crisis, will the brunette beauty ignore what’s in her own best interest in favor of wallowing in her grief?

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Above: Had Jason and his twin both been on the canvas years ago, Sam and Liz each could have had one!

Credit: Howard Wise/JPI (2)

More: Here’s why Holly hasn’t shown up in Port Charles

And of course, Jason’s supposed death will no doubt have an impact on the women who for so many years found themselves drawn to him. Elizabeth and Sam have each moved into new relationships, yet their ties to Jason can never be severed thanks to the children he gave them, Danny and Jake.

The Quartermaine clan might also be thrown into disarray as could, yet again, the future of ELQ. Already, the clan is still dealing with the arrival of interloper Austin and his claim against the company. How might Jason’s latest death impact the power plays already in motion

Interestingly, the life which might most be impacted is that of a man to whom Jason shared a lifelong bond despite them ultimately knowing little about one another. Drew and Jason have shared lives and loves, names and even transplanted memories. But only over these past few weeks did they truly bond. It’s no surprise that after the tunnel collapse, Drew’s first instinct was to say that he wouldn’t leave without his brother.

WATCH: Cameron Mathison (Drew) on this week’s shocking twist

It’s safe to assume that as headwriters Chris Van Etten and Dan O’Connor warned during our recent chat, “the events which unfolded on Cassadine Island will ripple across Port Charles for months to come.” But now, let’s hear your thoughts… is Jason really dead, or will he eventually make a “surprising” return? Who do you think will be most impacted by his absence? Check out our in-depth preview and predictions of how Jason’s demise will impact Port Charles in the photo gallery below.