Jon and Kate Gosselin

They’re reality TV’s cuddliest family, but increasingly noisy critics allege that Berks County’s Gosselins — and their show, Jon & Kate Plus 8 — aren’t all they appear to be

Which brings us back to sweet Aunt Jodi and her mysterious disappearance. Jodi — who is married to Kate’s brother, Kevin — was a popular fixture on Jon & Kate Plus 8, often babysitting the brood, cooking with them, playing dress-up, even taking the kids overnight. Until she suddenly vanished from the series, leaving viewers wondering if she’d moved or died. Last June, Jodi’s sister Julie unraveled the mystery, blogging that TLC had finally decided to compensate Jodi for appearing on the show, at which point, she says, Kate lost it, insisting that only she and Jon be paid. Soon, Jodi — along with Kevin, another regular — was gone. In a video posted on Julie’s blog, Jodi confirms that the website is accurate. “Sometimes,” she says, “the truth is hard to hear, and this is one of those situations.” The TLC camp says that Julie’s account is inaccurate.

Beth Carson, once one of Kate’s best friends — she often watched the kids and traveled with the family on the show — endured a similar unpleasant departure from the series. (Though Carson pretty much wrote Multiple Blessings, poeticizing Kate’s anecdotes keystroke by keystroke, Kate is almost always referred to as the book’s sole author.) Jenny the babysitter, another fan fave, also no longer works for the Gosselins; a confidentiality agreement blocks her from explaining why. All of this has left former friends of the Gosselins who have been shoved out of the family’s life both puzzled and concerned. One is worried because she claims Beth and Jodi often “were the ones on set taking that role [of looking out for the children’s well-being], telling the film crew, ‘Okay, they need lunch’ and ‘You’ll get your shot later.’”

THE LATEST EPISODES of Jon & Kate Plus 8 detail the Gosselins’ move to a new $1.13 million house on 24 acres in Lower Heidelberg Township, near Reading in Berks County. Viewers have also met the family’s two new dogs. (Of course, this hasn’t stopped fans from trekking to the old house to snap pictures as if they’re on a studio tour, much to the former neighbors’ consternation.) The most burning question viewers have begun to ask is whether Jon and Kate will adopt, yes, “just one more baby,” as Kate wistfully says on the show, with the couple answering in a recent episode with an enigmatic, “No. We don’t know. We don’t know what’s going on.” And that is, after all, the point — to make sure viewers don’t know what’s going on, either, so they keep tuning in, week after week.