Call it the curse of being on the bubble: After 10 roller-coaster years, CSI: Miami will end its season without a major cliff-hanger.
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"We've gone more internal. It's a more emotional story that goes to the soul of these characters," executive producer Barry O'Brien tells TVGuide.com. "It is a far more personal ending. You're left with this feeling that the team is a family."
But the foundation of that family will buckle a little. Sunday's finale (10/9c, CBS) opens with Ryan Wolfe (Jonathan Togo) bloodied and unconscious in a strange place. When he comes to, he sees the dead body of Assistant State's Attorney Joshua Avery (Ryan McPartlin) and instantly becomes Suspect No. 1. "We find quickly that Ryan is exonerated... but as we dig deeper into the evidence and what transpired, another one of our own falls under suspicion," O'Brien teases. "Horatio & Co. follow this evidence, regardless of where it leads — even if it's a painful place. There's a chance one of our own has crossed the uncrossable line."
(Possible spoiler alert: Cast member Eva La Rue has signed on for ABC's Mandy Moore comedy pilot. You do the math.)
Yet O'Brien insists that Horatio (David Caruso) and his team will persevere. "There is a certain amount of betrayal and heartbreak in the finale," he says. "But there is also a sense that going through this is a galvanizing force. The team that remains is stronger than ever before. In telling this story, the bond between our characters is very much reaffirmed."
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In other family-related news, Calleigh (Emily Procter) will finalize her plans to adopt. But thanks to Delko (Adam Rodriguez), Calleigh may not be a single mother. "Calleigh is a single woman who has a challenging, demanding and often dangerous job," O'Brien says. "Light is shed on all of that in the adoption process, and it's not until a very impactful show of support comes from Eric Delko that she is granted custody of these two young children. There's been sort of an up-and-down trajectory for them for a number of seasons now, but you get a sense of a really strong future for these two characters."
Does that mean if the show earns a Season 11 that Calleigh and Delko will be a couple? "This is a personal expression of support and admiration and a promise of a presence in Calleigh's life and the lives of these children," O'Brien says. "It does set the table for a deepening personal connection. I feel like we finally earned the right to progress their relationship fundamentally in this way."
While O'Brien waits to hear about the show's fate, he is actively planning a Season 11 that continues the thematic exploration that began this season when Horatio was repeatedly bested by the powerful Navarro family.
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"We're seeing Horatio on a very uncertain landscape, where it's not always so clearly black and white, right and wrong," O'Brien says. "Horatio can't always see the opposition in front of him, and can't quite measure who's for him and who's against him. We want to keep that story going ... and make Horatio face certain compromises in his quest for justice that we haven't seen in previous seasons. We want to go deeper with Horatio and get a chance to see clearly the man behind the dark glasses."
But if another season isn't in the cards, O'Brien says he's happy with where Season 10 leaves the characters. "We have a lot more story to tell," he says. "But if that's the way it plays out, I am incredibly proud of this finale. If this is the parting shot, I feel really good about it. "
CSI: Miami's Season 10 finale airs Sunday at 10/9c on CBS.