Emily Procter and Adam Rodriguez, <i>CSI: Miami</i> Emily Procter and Adam Rodriguez, CSI: Miami

Just how much damage did the bullet that CSI:Miami's Calleigh Duquesne (Emily Procter) fired in the show's Season 7 finale do to Calleigh's relationship with lover-partner Eric Delko (Adam Rodriguez)?

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The good news: Delko may be aimlessly wandering the Everglades, but at least he's alive. That comes as a relief to fans who feared the worst when it was announced that Rodriguez would leave the show this season. And it's a relief to Rodriguez as well.

"Because of how the season ended, I didn't want to leave it on that note," Rodriguez tells TVGuide.com. "I felt that would be cheating the fans. So we discussed making sure that I was participatory in Season 8 so that we could fade the character out the right way and give him a proper exit.

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"I feel like Eric Delko has gone through so many ups and downs and has had such a great journey on the show," he says. "There will be resolution with Eric and Calleigh, and it will be a nice, slow exit. I think people will be happy with the way it all ends."

That leaves only the bad news: Calleigh will be a bit of an ice queen before coming to that resolution. "Eric and Calleigh have many, many scenes to do together, but realistically, at the moment there hasn't been any closure," Procter says. "She's definitely facing an internal struggle. I think that's going to be very difficult. She is saying publicly that she doesn't care, but she cares very much and it's very difficult. But she's also such a straight arrow, and I think she believes she was just following protocol."

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The premiere episode divides its focus on the cliff-hanger resolution and a flashback to 1997. In addition to learning just how Horatio (David Caruso) came by his iconic shades, viewers will also see how the Miami CSIs first came together. "You see everyone's enthusiasm for when they first got the job, and hopefully people will be able to notice how we've subtly changed," Procter says. "I think it's easy with a procedural to think people don't have that much arc to their character, but I'm hoping that [the audience will see] that we do."

The flashback also provides the introduction of new cast member Eddie Cibrian. As L.A. Detective Jessie Cardoza, Cibrian swings into Miami for Season 8, which could pose its own share of problems for Calleighko. "It turns out they met on Calleigh's first day at the Miami Dade Police Department," Procter says. "He was on his way out as she was on her way in. So they have this old, established friendship at this point, and I think their characters are very easy with one another.

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"But who knows?" Procter adds when asked if that friendship could turn into romance. "It's CSI:Miami and it's Calleigh Duquesne, so anything can happen!" In other, possibly related news, the actress adds that we will see a shirtless Cibrian this season.

Cibrian isn't the only new face on the show this season. Boston Legal's Christian Clemenson joins the cast as a medical examiner and, according to Procter, Omar Benson Miller's Walter Simmons will force the CSIs to do more science and research instead of relying on databases. "[The new characters] add a lot of life to what we're doing," Procter says.

Also visiting the show this season, during November sweeps, will be CSI's Dr. Raymond Langston (Laurence Fishburne). Langston will visit all three shows in the franchise while working on a case, but Procter has her own thoughts about his true motives for coming to Miami. "I'm sure it's Calleigh Duquesne!" she says. "He's heard she's single and he has to be headed over for a little of that. If I were sitting at the poker table, that's where I'd put my money."

returns Monday, Sept. 21 at 10/9c on CBS.