It's actually been nine months, but in the world of "Rookie Blue," it's only been a very short time since Detective Sam Swarek (Ben Bass) was shot.
His ex-flame, Officer Andy McNally (Missy Peregrym), watches him being wheeled into surgery as Season 5 of the Canadian-made ABC police drama starts with a two-hour opener Thursday (June 19). Dov Epstein (Gregory Smith) is at the hospital, too, hoping to see his girlfriend and fellow officer Chloe Price (Priscilla Faia) - as is her estranged husband, Wesley Cole (Cle Bennett) - as she recovers from also being severely wounded on the job.
Andy and Dov head for a nearby diner to grab a quick bite. Within moments, though, they end up among the hostages of a couple bent on robbing the place ... and the new adventures of the cops of 15 Division are off and running.
"I've never tried before to pick up exactly where we left off," co-creator and executive producer Tassie Cameron tells Zap2it. "We normally jump ahead three months or six months, so that we start in a bit of a fresh way and the audience has to play catch-up. This was more challenging because we're picking up moments after the finale of Season 4 and trying to remind everybody where you're at. And you're starting in this very intense, emotional place.
"We decided that if we were viewers of the show, if we skipped ahead even a week or a month, we'd be so frustrated not to have seen when Sam woke up and had his first moment with Andy," adds Cameron. "It was important to us to spend that time, even if it meant the episode had a slightly different structure."
Peregrym appreciates having that moment on camera, as well as Andy's first encounter with latest beau Nick Collins (Peter Mooney) after he watched her run to Sam's side. "To have a year off, then come back and put ourselves back where we were emotionally, was so strange," notes the actress, who's the new Mrs. Zachary Levi in real life. "Every day, there was crying and heavy stuff, but I think it's a really good first episode."
The season premiere also introduces new characters: Inspector John Jarvis (Oliver Becker), a no-nonsense superior destined to shake things up at the precinct; and Sarah Swarek (Robin Brule), Sam's long-estranged sister. Brought into the fold in the second hour is Duncan Moore (Matthew Owen Murray), a trouble-prone rookie with the nickname "Selfie" who gets Andy as a training officer.
As much attention as "Rookie Blue" gives the up-and-down "McSwarek" relationship of Andy and Sam, Cameron likes that Season 5 also showcases "characters that sometimes don't get an 'A' story. We get to do special episodes where it's all about Oliver (the officer played by Matt Gordon) or all about Nick. We've designed one around Oliver's worst day, personally and professionally, and Matt is stellar in it."
The new "Rookie Blue" season marks a couple of firsts for the show. Though more noticeable to the cast and crew than to viewers -- since half will be shown this summer and the other half presumably next year -- it's being filmed as a "super-season" of 22 episodes. Also, the Canadian audience already has seen the first new stories, since they began running there in May.
"It feels like a marathon in a way that I should have anticipated, but it just keeps going," Cameron allows of this year's production schedule. "It's really fun for us to develop stories that have some more continuing elements. The writers had a nice chunk of time off, longer than usual, so we came back in fairly fresh ... but we thought we were breaking a 13-episode season. We were well into production when we found out we were doing 22."
Cameron hopes the earlier "Rookie Blue" airings in Canada still leave surprises for American fans, as do the actors. Peregrym admits to being "not happy about" the extra potential for spoilers to emerge over the multiple-week telecast gap with the U.S.
Co-star Smith also would like secrets to be kept. Having directed a "Rookie Blue" episode each of the past two seasons, he's back in that chair twice during the extended Season 5, for which he has played injured in part.
"I threw my back out, I think just from stress, in February," he reports. "I had two months that were a little painful, but I'm better now. A little back pain, a lot of drama."
Some of the drama expectedly involves Dov and Chloe, Smith confirms. "The chickens definitely come home to roost," he says. "Her being married is an ongoing situation we're dealing with, even as we're filming now, but the first episode is about her health and his trying to make sure she's OK."
For everything else "Rookie Blue" involves in its newest round, fans can rest assured they won't be shortchanged when it comes to Andy, Sam and Nick. As confused as Andy herself is about that triangle when the season begins - "I don't know!," she plaintively tells an inquisitive Dov - Peregrym is intrigued to stay on the ride while filming continues.
"Everything was built up with Nick," she reflects, "then suddenly, she had to go back and put herself in such a serious position with Sam. I didn't want to throw away what happened with Nick, which is so solid and trustworthy and safe, but there's just this thing with Sam. The idea of losing him, and not being with him in that moment, was just horrible.
"It's really tough," Peregrym adds of Andy's love-life status now. "She left Nick to be with Sam in that situation, then was overwhelmed by how she felt about Sam. Nick can feel there's still something there, and how does Andy stay with him when that's so obvious?
"They're good friends and they back each other up, and I like the relationship that's developed with him ... but at the same time, it's not really fair for her to be with him if this is how she still feels about Sam, who she still has her issues with. They've never really worked through that stuff."
Photo/Video credit: ABC