David Caruso, CSI: Miami

CSI: Miami producer Barry O'Brien says he isn't worried one bit about the show's move to Sunday night. 

"We're answering the call with essentially a relaunch of our entire series in every category," O'Brien tells TVGuide.com. "It's rarefied air that you breathe when you've been on the air for nine seasons. It's an amazing achievement, and we want to respond with appropriate gratitude and a sense of growth, both in terms of the characters and stylistically."

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O'Brien's energy and excitement is evident as he starts discussing storylines for this season. The CSIs will investigate a crime with a literally disappearing murder weapon. One murder will be "witnessed" by a blind bystander. But the story O'Brien is most eager to tell is that of a massive prison break, which will provide headaches for crime lab leader Horatio Caine (David Caruso), who will try to corral the fugitives all season long.

"It puts a group of Horatio Caine's most desperate and dangerous enemies on the street gunning for him," O'Brien says. "You're going to meet a new Horatio Cane. He's going to be unleashed, unrestrained in suspect's faces in a way that he's never been before. He's more passionate than ever, and more dramatic and more compelling from a character standpoint. It's a David Caruso you haven't seen and certainly won't forget.

"A hero is only as effective and as dynamic as his opponent, and we're working to bring more dangerous, more unpredictable opponents, killers and criminals in Horatio's sights," O'Brien continues. "His new style will be born out of that. He's going to rise to that occasion and sort of has to up his game and become just as dangerous as his opposition."

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But what about that pesky Season 8 cliffhanger that left everyone but Horatio and Eric Delko (Adam Rodriguez) unconscious in the crime lab after being poisoned? "The survival of our whole team is in their hands, and I can say that one of our CSIs will not survive," O'Brien says. "The shock of losing one of our own really brings our team closer together than ever and recreates that tight-knit dynamic that made the series what it is.

"We were getting into a bit of fragmentation in Season 7 and Season 8," O'Brien continues, noting that Eddie Cibrian's exit from the cast is "a chance to really bring this unit back together and have them work for each other. They are far stronger as a team than they are as individuals. They each bring unique pieces of the puzzle together, which makes the whole better than the sum of its parts. As we put them into high-octane situations, they need each other to survive."

So, expect some of those team members to become more important. O'Brien says DNA analyst Natalia Boa Vista (Eva La Rue) will be personally connected to several of this season's cases. "You're going to see revelatory glimpses into her past and into who she truly is," he says. "I think Natalia is a character with a secret. She's got a stormy ex-marriage that was abusive. So we're going to use her more in the field, in the line of fire."

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And with Rodriguez rejoining the cast full time, expect continued exploration of Delko's back-and-forth relationship with Calleigh (Emily Procter). "There may be some new elements that threaten their future together," O'Brien teases. "You can look to Season 9 to clearly define their relationship, but before we do that, we're going to take them on quite a journey."

O'Brien says part of the show's rejuvenation will also take place behind the camera. The show has tapped David Arquette to direct at least one episode this season, and O'Brien says the crew is hopeful Rob Zombie will return to direct as well.

"We're evolving and you're going to see that process on the screen," O'Brien says, emphasizing a new sense of urgency in the way the camera moves. "You're going to see more edge, more excitement. We're bringing a sense of vitality to these stories and these episodes, and we're going to stress the action part of the action-procedural."

But you can bet Horatio's sunglasses and one-liners aren't going anywhere.

"David Caruso has created this iconic character. The character isn't going to change. It's going to be familiar, but we're going to take it to another level," O'Brien says, again reinforcing how much this season relies on Horatio's character. "We want to go forward and go deeper, and an inevitable part of that is mining the almost unknowable character of Horatio Caine."

CSI: Miami premieres Sunday at 10/9c on CBS.