Skeet Ulrich and Ashley Scott, <EM>Jericho</EM> Skeet Ulrich and Ashley Scott, Jericho

What do the Morse-code messages say? Is Hawkins a hero or a villain? As the Feb. 21 return of CBS' Jericho nears, TV Guide has the inside scoop on these bombshells — and more!

Are we ever going to get outside of Jericho and really see what happened?
You'll get a lot of answers in the first new episode of the year (airing next Wednesday), which shows events that happened 36 hours before the bombs were dropped — if they were actually "dropped." But in the future, the show will only follow peripatetic lead character Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich) and other Jericho residents. "We're trying to tell the story from the point of view of the people in this town," says executive producer Jon Turteltaub. "So we're not going to all of a sudden be in Moscow in a secret room with missiles."

Morse-code messages are played over Jericho's opening titles. What do they say?
If you know someone in the Navy, ask them to translate for you. The message changes every week. In the first episode, it was simply "Jericho Pilot." But the producers have also used it to offer clues on what's coming up. "In the episode in which a stranger comes to town," Turteltaub says, "the message was, ‘He knows Rob.'" As in Robert Hawkins (Lennie James), Jericho's resident mystery man.

How is Hawkins able to still get Internet access on his laptop? Wouldn't the electromagnetic pulse that occurs after a nuclear explosion cripple it along with the rest of the electronic equipment in town?
Hawkins' laptop has a metal alloy body that was designed by the military and Panasonic to protect the software and the inner workings of the computer from an EMP. His Internet access is through military domains, which have backup systems for national emergencies.

When are we going to find out if Jake and Hawkins are heroes or villains?
Executive producer Carol Barbee says Jake's whereabouts for the last five years will be revealed by the end of the season. You'll also find out who was responsible for the bombings and how Hawkins was involved.

How is it that Mary Bailey's tavern hasn't run out of booze yet? And how are customers paying for all those drinks?
Some of the people in the bar are making alcohol from their own stills. Others are paying for it by bartering labor or goods from their farms. But the issue of money will come up. "We really have to deal with the whole country kind of falling apart on a financial [level]," says Barbee.

Emily's fiancé, Roger, didn't look so hot when he returned to Jericho. What happened to him?
As a result of the blasts, Roger's plane to Chicago went down in a field somewhere in Nebraska. He's been walking back to town for weeks, during which time he hooked up with a group of refugees from a FEMA camp, where things were getting ugly. "He saw a lot of really bad things out there," says Ashley Scott, whose character will find that the man she planned to marry is not quite the same.

Is it really over between Emily and Jake?
The high-school sweethearts were definitely on track for a reunion before Roger reared his shaggy head, so don't be surprised if they get cozy in the future. "There is an ancient pull between Emily and Jake that's going to get them both into trouble again," Barbee says.

What kind of research have the producers and actors done to make the story seem authentic?
From a scientific standpoint, the producers depend on a consultant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information on the effects of a nuclear radiation release. The show also works with an adviser from the Department of Homeland Security, who explains the damage inflicted by different types of bombs. To understand the human toll, Ulrich says he looked at home-video footage of the tsunami that hit South Asia in late 2004. "That's what sits with me most," he says. The writers have also drawn on the events surrounding Hurricane Katrina and the Sept. 11 terror attacks. "We sort of watched the end of the world on CNN," Barbee says. "But it wasn't in our neighborhood. We watched it from afar."

Why set a postapocalyptic show in Kansas?
The producers measured out a geographical location where you could theoretically see the bombs go off, but far away enough not to suffer the full effects of the blasts. "That's why Hawkins is in Jericho," Barbee says.

So what is in the barrel in Hawkins' basement?
It's the question that Lennie James gets asked most when Jericho fans recognize him on the street. His answer? "Sorry, man, I can't tell you." We'll find out soon enough.

Coming next Wednesday, in TVGuide.com's Interviews & Features: Lennie James himself previews what's ahead for Hawkins, Jake and the others! 

Get a sneak peek at the return of CBS' The Amazing Race in the Feb. 19 issue of TV Guide.

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