Sasha Alexander, Angie Harmon
A lot will have happened when Rizzoli & Isles returns Tuesday — and that's just the way Sasha Alexander likes it.
In the Season 3 finale, Maura (Alexander) had a change of heart and offered to donate her kidney to her ill half-sister Cailin (Emilee Wallace) on the condition that her biological mother Hope (Sharon Lawrence) didn't tell her. When Season 4 (9/8c, TNT) picks up three months later, she will have done so.
Get the scoop on Rizzoli & Isles and more of your favorite returning summer shows
"I knew that they weren't going to show the surgery. That would've been boring and I would not have been able to have cute outfits on," Alexander tells TVGuide.com with a laugh. "I don't think it was necessary to show it happening. ... It's much more interesting to see her emotional state post-surgery. It's a big year for Maura. A lot is going on."
Though it's been three months, things are definitely not back to normal. Maura's physically healed, but she's in a funk, obsessing over the fact that she hasn't received a single thank-you from Hope for her good deed. "Maura is in such a negative headspace, which is new for her, but it was fun to be able to do, to play around with that, especially when she and Jane [Angie Harmon] follow Cailin around to make sure that her kidney is OK," Alexander says. "As upset as she was with Hope last year, that's her family, her biological one at least, and a thank-you note isn't too much to ask."
Thank-yous or not, Maura will get to know that family better this season — perhaps more than she wants to — as the murder trial of her mob boss dad Paddy Doyle (John Doman) finally takes place. But before that commences in the fifth episode, she will unearth some startling details about Hope, who, it turns out, lied about being in contact with Paddy all these years. Suspicious that something might be up with her mom, Cailin goes to her estranged sister for help and eventually ends up living with Maura in the wake of the revelations.
"No one's quite sure what's going on with Hope," Alexander says. "We're learning that this woman is not everything that she's pretending to be. Angie and I have a wonderful scene with her in the second episode — this slow unveiling. Is this woman a good guy or a bad guy? She's so evasive. She's got that Stepford thing happening. I think for Maura, it's not just uncovering her past, but really just learning who her parents are and choices that they've made in their lives that are kind of dishonest.
See TV's sexiest crime-fighters
"It's an interesting road for Maura because you get to meet your biological parents and you're slowly learning that they're not necessarily people that you want to know," she continues. "So it's tricky. Every episode uncovers a new layer about them and Maura's in a position of looking at Jane and saying, 'You guys are really my family.'"
The arc, though, won't drag out for too long. A verdict for Paddy will be in "pretty quickly," Alexander says. "We move past it because there are so many other things going on." Among them: Jane's paralyzed ex Lt. Col. Casey Jones (Chris Vance) returns, having had his spinal surgery, and Amaury Nolasco joins the cast as Lt. Det. Rafael Martinez, the force's new drug unit head who has a complicated past with Jane. "He and Jane are a really fiery match. There's just a lot of fire and sparks between them," Alexander says. "I think fans will like watching them."
But most importantly, Maura ends up in jail as an (obviously innocent) murder suspect. "She is definitely not made for jail," Alexander quips. "I tried to convince them to add cool Valentino belts to the orange jumpsuit, but they wouldn't go for it."
Rizzoli & Isles premieres Tuesday at 9/8c on TNT.