Fans of American Dreams's bespectacled boy next door, Luke, will be surprised, surprised again and then just plain shocked by his portrayer Jamie Elman's appearance in tonight's Without a Trace (airing at 10 ET on CBS). "You'll get to see me a) without glasses, b) without much of a sense of humor and c) without any of the sensitivity that [ex-girlfriend] Meg can bring out in Luke," the wry actor tells TV Guide Online. "I play a troubled rich kid, who is involved in some very shady things.

"I hope, in a way, that fans of Luke won't even recognize me," he adds, "'cause I was going for something really different. Viewers who do know it's me... well, I just hope they can forget about some of the more malicious aspects of the character I play when they see me again as 'that record-store guy' on American Dreams.

Luckily — well, sort of luckily — Dreams lovers will have a little time to adjust to the scene-stealer's Jekyll-and-Hyde routine: Elman is missing-in-action on NBC's superlative 1960s-set drama for a few weeks. "Luke makes a comeback in the first episode of 2004, on January 4," he says. After that, it seems, the music buff is in for the long haul. "[Roxanne's new part-time job] at the Vinyl Crocodile keeps Meg — and Roxanne — in Luke's life.

"What does that mean?" he continues cryptically. "I'll just say this: Things are gonna get a little complicated for Luke in 1965... and it's really good. Trust me."