<EM>Alias</EM> Alias

Sydney Bristow's team at APO will be getting bigger when Alias returns for its fifth season on Sept. 29 (the show's new time slot is Thursdays at 8 pm/ET). Producers are adding three new characters to the hit ABC spy series — and that's not counting star Jennifer Garner's soon-to-be-born child, who will also be written into the action. (Yes, Syd is pregnant with Vaughn's baby. That much is certain in the secret-filled, perpetually uncertain Alias world.)

For starters, French actress Élodie Bouchez has been tapped to play a cohort from Vaughn's shady past, which had been just barely hinted at prior to last season's horrific car-crash finale. "She and Vaughn share a history," says executive producer Jeff Pinkner, "and in our season finale we started to tease the audience with what that history is and what secrets Vaughn has been keeping from Sydney. We knew there would be another player in that story, and [Bouchez] plays that role."

Also coming on board is Balthazar Getty as Thomas Grace, an APO agent who is "a little rough around the edges," says his portrayer, and thus doesn't play well with others. "It's pretty cool how they introduce my character," hints Getty of his debut in the season's second episode. "I come in fighting."

As does Rachel Nichols, whose butt-kicking agent, Rachel Gibson, will become APO's youngest rep. "She joins the team early in the season, but they don't actively set out to recruit her," says Pinkner, "and if I were to tell you much more, it would give away the fun of meeting her character." The exec will say, though, that introducing this newbie will "show how you [create] a superagent like Sydney Bristow. She doesn't have the skills Sydney has, but she will need to acquire them over the course of the season."

Pinkner says the plan to spice up the cast with the aforementioned new arrivals developed "simultaneously" with Garner's announced pregnancy, and is not a calculated effort to cover for her understandably decreased on-screen fisticuffs. After all, Sydney still may find herself in a scrape or two. "We're not going to do anything that begs credibility anymore than we have in the past," he notes. "But if danger comes to her, she will absolutely fight it off."

And there will be danger in great supply as the new season picks up immediately after the car crash. The question of Vaughn's true identity and what else he was going to tell Syd "will be answered in the first episode — or most of it will be," allows Pinkner. "The consequences reveal a new enemy who is far more pervasive and dangerous and mysterious than any we have fought before." — Additional reporting by Matt Webb Mitovich