Aw, quit handing him so much grief over a pun. He just picked a handy expression, that's all. He shouldn't have to handle topics with such care.
Anyway, I agree that if they could handwave away Merle's departure, that would be great.
And if people are polling for Andrea and not for Merle, that's obviously a case of the right hand not knowing what the left hand is doing. I bet I could count the total votes for Andrea on both hands.