He was on his way to the capital, Kamahl Santamaria told his Breakfast colleagues, going south ahead of Finance Minister Grant Robertson's 2022 Budget the next day.
Instead, the former long-time Al Jazeera English anchor stepped off the TVNZ morning show's colourful central Auckland set on Wednesday May 18 and into New Zealand broadcasting infamy.
Whether the Auckland-born journalist, a 16-year veteran at the Doha-based international network before being poached to replace outgoing Breakfast presenter John Campbell, made it to Wellington isn't known.
He wasn't part of the state broadcaster's post-Budget coverage, and hasn't been seen or heard from publicly since that last Breakfast appearance a month ago.
The Kiwi who came home amid mild hype instead simply disappeared from our screens, his lengthening absence initially unacknowledged by the broadcaster that had introduced him to viewers just three weeks earlier.
Eventually, people started to notice. Inside media circles, rumours swirled.
It was just over a week before the first news stories appeared.
'Why TVNZ Breakfast's new host Kamahl Santamaria hasn't been on the show for 9 days', was the nzherald.co.nz headline on Friday May 27.
Below a publicity shot of a smiling Santamaria, the Herald reported the contents of a short statement sent by TVNZ after queries on the whereabouts of their new star.
"Kamahl is currently away dealing with a family emergency."
The nature of the "emergency" was private, the statement added.
"We are respecting he [sic] and his family's privacy."
The sympathetic response sparked pushback from those who thought the media's gaze ought to fall elsewhere, with barbs hurled on social media at reporters questioning the 42-year-old's employment situation.
Cryptic responses from fellow posters quickly alluded to a more complex situation than indicated by TVNZ's statement.
"This tweet won't age well", one wrote on Saturday May 28, after a fellow tweeter expressed support - since deleted - for the host.
People don't like ambiguity, and among the replies came one which made it clear Santamaria shouldn't hope for a smooth fade out by the public lens.
"I am intrigued now."
Intrigued, of Twitter, didn't have to wait long.
By mid-Saturday afternoon, TVNZ head of news and current affairs Paul Yurisich - the fellow Al Jazeera alumnus who recruited Santamaria - announced the presenter had quit, just 31 days since his first day on air.
Within 24 hours the "family emergency" vanished and was replaced, in a new statement from the public broadcaster, with "a personal matter which required his full attention".
Now, the married father of a teenage daughter had told them he wanted to take an extended break with his family.
"Kamahl is focused on his family at this time, and we ask that everyone respects their wish for privacy."
By Sunday morning, Stuff was reporting at least one woman in the TVNZ newsroom had complained about inappropriate behaviour from Santamaria.
By nightfall the same day, Newshub said it'd confirmed complaints were made about Santamaria to senior management at Al Jazeera.
More would follow as the new week began, including from one woman who told Stuff on Tuesday that she'd previously been subjected to a lewd email and attempted kisses by the broadcaster.
TVNZ, meanwhile, hunkered down, with a spokeswoman declining to answer questions from the Herald about whether there'd been any complaints against Santamaria, or why his departure was initially described as a "family emergency".
The broadcaster didn't comment on individual employment matters, the spokeswoman said on Sunday May 29.
Even TVNZ's own journalists found themselves shut out.
"Out-of-body experience on 1 News tonight", wrote Newsroom co-editor Tim Murphy on Twitter that same Sunday, after watching the home ground reporter's efforts to find out more.
"6pm news reporting on what TVNZ management - and their own head of news and current affairs - WON'T tell them about the departure of Breakfast host Kamahl Santamaria.
"Virtuous but fruitless report, indicating big internal tensions."
Down in Wellington, the city Santamaria never got to present from 10 days earlier, broadcasting and media minister Kris Faafoi had already been briefed several times about the situation at TVNZ.
A "no surprises" principle means ministers are told about sensitive matters which may become public - Faafoi confirmed on Thursday June 2 that he'd first been given a "high-level update" about the situation at TVNZ from its board of directors on May 23, and was also told of Santamaria's resignation just before it was announced.
Asked for his view on how the matter was initially framed as a "family emergency", Faafoi said it was a matter for TVNZ.
"I can't direct them. I'm prevented by law from doing that. I was very interested in making sure that their processes were robust," he said of his written request that the broadcaster check its processes around recruitment.
He'd also been assured support was in place for all involved.
Faafoi, who announced this week he plans to leave politics, may have been left feeling comfortable.
But some of the broadcaster's staff were so incensed internal emails began bouncing into rival media inboxes.
Staff had been upset they weren't consulted about Santamaria replacing Campbell, and that the new hire didn't undergo a rigorous vetting process, several told the Herald.
Yurisich, meanwhile, had "ruffled feathers" with long-standing staff since arriving at TVNZ in late 2020, one said.
The news and current affairs boss's email to staff on Monday May 30, the first weekday since the scandal emerged, acknowledged the scrutiny TVNZ journalists had been under.
In the email, leaked to the Herald, Yurisich wrote: "It's been a tumultuous, unsettling few days for everyone".
"I want to acknowledge how difficult it has been, with us in the spotlight."
The lewd email, the private Instagram and the unwanted kisses
It'd only just begun.
TVNZ leaders, including their new chief executive, former National Government minister Simon Power, were soon confronted with more allegations about Santamaria's behaviour during his TV career.
Among them was a young female colleague in Al Jazeera's Doha office, who told Stuff Santamaria once sent her an email which openly objectified the appearance of her and another colleague, before signing off with "Xxx".
"There is no more attractive outfit on a woman than the white blouse/black skirt combo ...... and YOU are making it work, baby ;)
"(Between you and [name withheld], I may just combust!!)."
She claimed that Santamaria also twice tried to kiss her in the Al Jazeera newsroom, with both attempts averted when - as he held her upper arms and leaned in - she turned her head so his lips landed on her cheek instead, she told Stuff on Tuesday May 31.
The attention stopped after she confided in an executive producer, she alleged.
The disturbing allegations followed claims of similar incidents raised by other former Al Jazeera colleagues of Santamaria in interviews with the Herald and 1News the day before.
Santamaria had made fellow women feel "uncomfortable" with inappropriate comments, a former Al Jazeera colleague claimed to 1News.
And the TV presenter was alleged to have sent multiple women inappropriate messages using the newsroom's internal messaging system, a former Al Jazeera colleague told the Herald.
Multiple complaints were made to Al Jazeera's human resources department and senior management over several years, the woman alleged.
On one occasion, Santamaria was called into a meeting with a mid-level female staffer to discuss his alleged inappropriate behaviour.
Al Jazeera didn't respond to a Herald request for comment, although the international broadcaster held a staff meeting on Thursday June 2 to talk about working in a safe environment.
It was now five days since Santamaria's resignation, and the public had received an onslaught of allegations about the man who'd graced their morning TV screens for just three short weeks.
On Tuesday May 31, the same day Stuff published allegations Santamaria had sent a lewd email to an Al Jazeera colleague, a New Zealand-based journalist told the Herald she'd also received unsolicited messages from Santamaria.
The messages were sent from a private Instagram account he used to follow mostly women, including many Kiwi journalists, the woman said.
He also liked several of her old photos, which also made her feel uncomfortable, she said.
Investigating the private account, she discovered of the 155 accounts he followed, 143 were women, including many working in the media in New Zealand and his female TVNZ colleagues.
The same day another woman told the Herald of receiving an unsolicited - and since deleted - message via LinkedIn from Santamaria, her former TV3 colleague in the late 1990s, in which she claimed that he told her he used to "watch her walk across the newsroom floor".
"It went on to say something else, which I can't remember the exact wording of, to the effect of I thought you were ... really hot or gorgeous, or something like that."
The message ended with an emoji with heart-shaped eyes, she said.
"I was a little bit taken aback ... I guess I took it as a pretty strong indication to engage in flirtatious dialogue with him, which I didn't reply to."
The message was out of character from the "really sweet and nice" colleague she'd "liked a lot" when they worked together in his first television job before leaving New Zealand for roles in Australia and then Qatar.
"I remember him being really sweet and nice and I liked him. I thought he was a nice guy."
One review, many leaks
The latest allegations came a day after Power told staff, in a Monday May 30 email leaked to the Herald, that a senior lawyer had been asked to review recruitment policies, processes and practices to ensure they were fit for purpose and robust.
The broadcaster's board had during the week closed ranks on the saga, with all but chairman Andy Coupe - believed to be out of the country and unable to be contacted - either not responding to Herald questions or referring comment to TVNZ's corporate communications.
A statement from acting communications general manager Ginny Green, and attributed to deputy chairman Kevin Malloy, said the board couldn't comment on specific employment matters but was "confident the situation has been handled swiftly and appropriately throughout", the Herald reported on Thursday June 2.
But changes to recruitment policy appear possible, with Power revealing to staff in his leaked email that he'd told Faafoi three days after Santamaria's May 28 resignation that he didn't think TVNZ's recruitment policy had been followed consistently, and it needed to be reviewed.
Power later confirmed the review to the Herald, but the leak set off a fresh round of public relations headaches for the state broadcaster after story production and operations general manager Andrew Fernie - affronted at another email leak - sent an e-rant to staff.
The challenging time didn't excuse leaking internal emails to other news outlets, Fernie wrote in a Tuesday May 31 email to staff titled "Leaking TVNZ emails, why?"
He felt "so embarrassed and frankly quite disgusted" when Power's email about the review was leaked, Fernie wrote in the email, which was then leaked to the Herald.
"Our reputation and our brand is being wilfully destroyed right now ... this is the time that we should be sticking together."
However, in replies also shared with the Herald, two staff hit back, one taking aim at TVNZ's initial use of the term "family emergency" to explain Santamaria's absence, and saying if staff really were a team - as Fernie's email suggested - it was no good "sweeping things under the carpet".
Anyone who thought leaks were the issue "needs to take a long hard look at themselves".
Another turned Fernie's claims of embarrassment and disgust against him - parroting the words to describe what some staff still faced in 2022 - "gender pay gaps, unconscious bias and being sexually harassed".
Five incidents of alleged sexual harassment or sexism had occurred at TVNZ since 2016, the Herald reported last year.
The broadcaster, in response to the leaked email, also told the Herald it'd reduced its gender pay gap from 4.6 per cent in 2019 to 3.2 per cent in the last financial year.
It also regularly offered diversity and inclusion training for employees, and another session on unconscious bias was scheduled for this month.
"As a general policy, if a TVNZ team member raises an issue concerning the behaviour of another staff member, the issue is taken extremely seriously, treated confidentially, and investigated swiftly... we do not tolerate any form of harassment or inappropriate behaviour in the workplace."
A month after his fleeting foray into morning TV came to an abrupt end, Santamaria isn't alone in facing an uncertain future.
The man who gave him his new start back in their home country, news and current affairs boss Yurisich, is also on leave from TVNZ - first reported on Thursday June 2 - as the investigation into the hiring policies and practices takes place.
Terms of reference for the independent review by senior employment lawyer Margaret Robins were finalised a week ago, with findings expected in about three weeks.
They'll be made public.
A day after manager Fernie's fiery May 31 email attacking staff over perceived disloyalty within the ranks, Power took a more conciliatory approach.
He apologised to staff about the broadcaster's initial claim Santamaria's absence was related to a "family emergency", a staffer told the Herald.
The use of that term, Power told staff, was "wrong".
Santamaria, meanwhile, has disappeared from public view - in real life and online.
Within five days of his resignation he'd scrubbed his social media presence, deleting his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube accounts.
His personal website, kamahlsantamaria.com, has been changed to a private setting.
And, like his future, his physical whereabouts remain unknown.
Three days after he resigned, a white BMW registered in his name was parked outside his $3.1m Remuera home.
There were signs people were home, but the front door and windows had been boarded up on the inside with plywood, and a networked security camera was taped to a front window.
Reporters and photographers from several broadcast and print media organisations are understood to have knocked on Santamaria's door since news broke of his ignominious exit from TVNZ.
They all wanted to know the same thing - what went on before.
When Santamaria came to Breakfast for an on-air introduction to the public the week before joining fulltime, the fresh face of New Zealand morning TV told his soon-to-be co-hosts he'd enjoyed tremendous opportunities at Al Jazeera, but when he got a phone call asking if he wanted to "come and sit on the couch" he thought, 'Why not?'
"I wanted a new challenge," he said, the open palms held in front of his body expressing excitement for a future about to be undone by the past.
"I wanted to come home and do something which I hadn't done before, and this is it."