Loyal viewers of Live With Kelly and Mark are more confused than ever by Kelly Ripa’s most recent absence from the program. The talk show host was replaced by Anderson Cooper during the latest episode on Thursday, July 27.

Anderson, 56, joined Mark Consuelos at the news desk for the broadcast, which featured segments about puppies, mushrooms and an interview with chef Michael Symon. They both did a fantastic job carrying the show in Kelly’s absence and kept the audience laughing with their banter. 

Mark, 52, was also joined by another special guest during the show — his adorable dog, Lena! Lena sat in Mark’s lap for part of the episode and at one point, she dozed off in his arms. During a commercial break, Mark brought Lena out to the audience and held her in the air in a hilarious nod to the iconic “Circle of Life” scene from the Disney film The Lion King

“Mark, you make me smile the whole hour!” one viewer commented on a clip from the episode on Instagram. 

Kelly Ripa Is Replaced by Anderson Cooper on ‘Live’ 
Erik Pendzich/Shutterstock

At the end of the episode, Mark promoted Generation Gap, Kelly’s game show that airs new episodes every Thursday on ABC. The Riverdale actor mentioned that Kelly’s dad, Joseph Ripa, would be making an appearance on the quiz series. Mark also thanked Anderson for temporarily stepping in on Live for his wife. 

Anderson is a longtime friend of Kelly and Mark and has decades of news anchoring experience, making him the perfect choice for guest cohosting Live. In a March 9 Instagram post, Kelly confessed that she was “starstruck” by Anderson in the early days of their friendship. 

Over the past two weeks, Kelly has been absent several times from Live. On July 20, Maria Menounos filled in for her at the news desk. The TV presenter recently welcomed her first child, daughter Athena, via surrogate with her husband, Keven Undergaro

Maria, 45, gushed over the sweet baby gift that Kelly and Mark left in her dressing room backstage. 

“I will take credit, but I had nothing to do with it,” Mark confessed to viewers of the gift basket. “My wife is the best gift-giver.” 

On July 21, Kelly was missing from Live again. Maria joined Mark for the second day in a row to cohost the morning series. Mark briefly mentioned that Kelly was “out on assignment.” Kelly returned to the show on Monday, July 24, and appeared for three episodes in a row before her most recent day off.