Barrett Foa, Renee Felice Smith

Are Eric and Nell the new Kensi and Deeks?

After years of working side-by-side in the ops center, Eric Beale (Barrett Foa) and Nell Jones (Renee Felice Smith) find themselves in the line of fire on Tuesday's NCIS: Los Angeles. And it might mark a turning point for their relationship.

After Eric inadvertently becomes a witness to a crime while playing an online video game with a friend, he ends up getting thrown in jail (and getting "cozy" with some bikers, Foa tells TVGuide.com). As a result, Nell has to do a little undercover work to get him out.

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"Nell definitely turns up the charm factor and surprises everyone ... as this Stephanie Prim character, kind of a hard-hitting but very manipulative lawyer," Smith teases. "That was really fun to play."

But not fun for Eric to watch, according to Foa. "I would say that Eric Beale's witnessing of said manipulation and said cozying, sexying herself up to [Eric's friend], was making his blood boil a little bit," Foa says. "We haven't seen too much jealousy from Eric, but I think it's all part of the puzzle of ... where is this relationship going? Is it a workplace friendship, or is it something more? Are we seeing each other outside of work? Is there a love connection?"

Foa and Smith quip that their characters are like the "nerdy version" of Kensi (Daniela Ruah) and Deeks (Eric Christian Olsen), whose will-they-or-won't-they waltz has provided the emotional heartbeat of the show for five seasons. Both actors say they'd support the collegial relationship between Nell and Eric turning into something more.

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"They have such a strong respect and such a strong friendship that only a really strong relationship could be built on that friendship," Smith says. "We've seen them flirt and we've seen them have a kiss. This is kind of the history that's necessary for that kind of relationship to be forged."

There won't be a lot of time for gazing into one another's eyes on Tuesday's episode, however, as Eric finds himself in the midst of the action, according to Foa.

"It was exciting to shoot, with LL Cool JChris O'Donnell and Eric Christian Olsen kind of protecting me," Foa admits. "I'm usually locked up in my monkey cage tapping away on my computer. But Eric was really needed in the field this time, and it was cool."

And the potential sparks between Eric and Nell aren't the only thing called into question during the hour. "There's some themes about, 'Wow, should Eric Beale leave NCIS for a more lucrative life, maybe less dangerous?'" Foa teases.

Adds Smith: "He gets to see one of his best friends from college, who had kind of a similar background to him, and he's living this big high life bachelor lifestyle in this high-rise, downtown loft-style apartment. ... But ultimately, Eric works for the government, and he has a lot of impact on our safety and our country's well-being. So ultimately, that kind of weighs out for him."

Check out a sneak peek of "Zero Days" below:

NCIS: LA airs Tuesdays at 9/8c on CBS.

(Full disclosure: TVGuide.com is owned by CBS.)