When Franco was killed off of GENERAL HOSPITAL, fans were shocked and hoped that this was all a fake-out to trap Peter, but very quickly it was revealed that the character was, in fact, dead… but portrayer Roger Howarth was not leaving the soap! After a period of time off, Howarth was set to return in a top-secret role that had viewers speculating he’d be playing anyone from his old ONE LIFE TO LIVE character of Todd Manning to a recast of Drew Cain and everyone in between! But in the May 27, 2021, episode, Howarth made his return to GH as a doctor named Austin!
Austin first appeared hiking in the woods and stumbling upon Maxie Jones all alone and in labor! She was grateful he wasn’t Peter August and he was grateful she wasn’t a bear. Austin introduced himself and revealed he is a doctor, so she agreed to let him help bring her baby girl into the world. (Not that she had much of a choice!) Unfortunately, after Maxie delivered Louise, Austin was knocked out by Peter’s evil pawn, Nurse Jennings, who was under orders to steal the baby for him!
Rushed to General Hospital, Austin soon recovered from his injuries and promised Maxie that he would do whatever he could to locate her baby, who the mother claimed had been stolen away by Chloe. Austin helped Dante Falconeri search the area around his cabin and stopped the detective from falling into the same pit where they found Chloe’s body. He also rented out the cabin to Anna Devane and Valentin Cassadine so they could snoop around, too, and Anna recognized Austin’s father in a family photo.
The good doctor seemed to know more about Port Charles than he was letting on, and eventually met with Britt Westbourne for a job at GH, declaring he was going to be sticking around for a while. Then he hired Scott Baldwin to represent him as he appeared before the Quartermaine family to announce that he was the son of Charity Gatlin and Jimmy Lee Holt and was contesting Edward Quartermaine‘s will so he could receive the inheritance that was rightfully his.
Austin befriended Harrison Chase and used him to snoop around the Quartermaine mansion to collect the evidence that Edward had planned to put Jimmy Lee back into his will. Armed with this proof, attorney Scott Baldwin promised he could win the case and get what was owed him. Meanwhile, Austin grew concerned about Leo‘s behavior and urged Ned Quartermaine to speak with Olivia about getting their son tested to see if he was on the Autism spectrum. He also was confused as to why Maxie was spending so much time with him since she claimed he was a sad reminder of her losing her daughter.
Olivia lashed out at Austin but after Leo was diagnosed with Autism, she later apologized and was grateful for his help. As his friendship with Britt Westbourne grew, Austin confided to her that his brother was on the spectrum. Austin tried to help Maxie remember more about the night Louise went missing after her birth only to have her try and distract him with a kiss! He eventually put the pieces together and realized that Bailey was really Louise. Unfortunately, he inadvertently helped Victor Cassadine reach that same conclusion which led to Peter abducting the baby! Thankfully, the villain met his fate and Maxie was reunited with Bailey Louise. She forgave Austin for his slip-up, and he wondered if they might have a future together.
Austin and Maxie’s relationship continued to develop but things got complicated when his past caught up with him. A mysterious man met up with him on The Haunted Star and warned him that his mission had failed and he needed to return to the fold. After backing out of a weekend with Maxie and the kids to attend to “business” in Pautauk, Austin was upset when the mystery man showed up in Port Charles again. He introduced him as his cousin, Mason, but wouldn’t say much more. And despite his best efforts to get rid of him, Austin was annoyed when Mason continued to pop up, even at the hospital, warning him of an incoming patient he should take an interest in.
Austin tried to insist he didn’t take orders from anyone, but soon found himself treating patients off the record for injuries like gunshot wounds. He offered Britt a shoulder to lean on when she opened up about her Huntington’s Disease diagnosis. He forced Spinelli to run his dating algorithm on him and Maxie, and she was upset when she found out. Between that and Austin not telling her what was really going on with his cousin, Maxie decided they should call it quits.
Austin then found himself getting mixed up with Ava Jerome, and arriving at Wyndemere after she killed Nikolas Cassadine, he agreed to help her hide the body and cover up the crime. Unfortunately, when he returned to the island to finally do it, he was attacked by The Hook/Heather Webber, who hooked him and left him for dead! Thankfully, Austin survived, but he and Ava were stunned when the police searched the stables and didn’t find Nikolas’ corpse.
Things grew more complicated when Mason threatened to expose Ava and Austin’s secret unless they did his bidding and helped get information on Sonny Corinthos. Austin helped her fire Pilar as Avery’s nanny so that they could hire Betty to spy on Sonny. When Austin was questioned by the police about a body they’d found, he realized that Dex Heller was following him and confronted Ava about what she’d told Sonny about the whole situation. Austin later paid Cyrus Renault a visit in Pentonville under the pretense of a checkup but actually delivered a flash drive. Revealing that Cyrus had paid for his education, Austin declared he had paid off his debts and wanted nothing more to do with him or Mason. Then it was revealed that Austin knew all along that Nikolas was alive and had actually secretly helped nurse him back to health!
Keep watching GH to see what happens next!
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