Michael Ausiello
December 29, 2008 AT 12:00 PM EST

I smell fresh Emmy material for Brothers & Sisters matriarch Sally Field.

According to sources, Balthazar Getty, who plays the Oscar winner’s eldest son, was informed last week that producers were not planning on picking up his option as a full-time series regular next season. However, that doesn’t mean that Tommy’s place setting at the Walker dinner table is being permanently removed. Not yet, anyway. Per a B&S source, Getty is currently in talks with the show to stay on in a reduced capacity, perhaps as a recurring guest star.

While a rep for the show declined to comment, Getty’s spokesperson denies that the actor is leaving.

Rumors about Getty’s possible exit have been grist for the gossip mill for months. The actor’s real-life drama — the collapse of his marriage and ensuing tabloid-ready romance with Sienna Miller — has allegedly alienated him from his co-stars, many of who had grown close to his wife, Rosetta, and their four young children. What’s more, according to E! Online‘s Marc Malkin, Getty has been showing up late for work and proving increasingly “difficult” to work with.

But per multiple sources, Getty’s sorta-departure is not the result of any one issue but a combination of factors that also includes budgetary and storyline considerations. Tommy has long been considered the most disposable of B&S‘s siblings. Removing him, at least as a regular presence, frees up the show to introduce some new blood.

In any case, don’t expect Tommy to exit by way of a casket. Although an ABC insider says the idea of killing off a Walker has been discussed, the network would likely view such a twist as “too morbid.” As a result, Tommy is likely to either relocate with his wife and baby, or just drift into the background and reappear for the occasional disastrous dinner party.

What do you think? Is Tommy an integral part of B&S? Or will you not even notice if he’s missing? Also, could Getty be the subject of a certain blind item (tee-hee)? Sound off below!

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