This image was lost some time after publication. explores the fascinating case of the character of Zach from NBC's hit drama, Heroes: The best friend and confidante to the series' pivotal cheerleader character Claire, Zach (actor Thomas Dekker) was conceived by the show's creators to be a gay teenager. And while Zach never once uttered the words "I'm gay," up until the "Homecoming" episode that aired Nov. 20, all signs still pointed to Queer. (The episode features the cheerleader punching out another girl who called Zach a "gay boy," and later features a scene in which Zach refuses to accompany Claire to the homecoming "for a million different reasons," then seguing into a maddeningly vague speech about embracing one's otherness.) AfterElton reports the official Heroes website even summarized the exchange by saying "Zach stammers with his reply, admitting that he's gay," words which then went mysteriously missing from the online recap. His MySpace page, meanwhile, lists his orientation as "Not Sure," and his favorite movies as a lavender laundry list of the usual suspects (Rocky Horror, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Velvet Goldmine, etc.). So why, then, with Dekker about to leave the show to star in a Terminator TV series, are NBC and the actor's reps now insisting the character was straight all along?

An NBC publicist told AfterElton in a phone conversation that Zach "is not gay", that it was something that was "for sure" and "in all certainty." AfterElton contacted NBC for confirmation after being told by Thomas Dekker's management (Dekker plays Zach), the character of Zach is absolutely straight.

Two scenarios seem the mostly likely: for unknown reasons, NBC suddenly shied away from the idea of a gay character. Or Dekker's management wanted Zach to be straight. (Dekker's management declined to comment on the topic.)

Series creator Tim Kring wrote in to AfterElton to respond to the piece, saying it was never his intention to deceive or confuse the audience, but that "it has simply become too complicated behind the scenes to push this issue further with this particular character." Just how or why these "behind the scenes" complications manifested themselves he does not say, though we'd caution against too quickly hurling accusations at the network of having toyed with the self-esteem of the show's gay youth fanbase by dangling a hottie imbued with all the prophecied Signs of The Gay in front of them, only to callously yank him away from their team at the very last moment. Perhaps NBC felt that with everything they have already done for The Gays with Will & Grace and sister-network Bravo's all-fabulous reality programming schedule, they finally had a chance with the character of Zach to validate the existence of an even more disenfrachised youth subgroup: straight, male, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert fans.