Anyone who has an impression of CBS' "Numb3rs" as a nice little show about a quirky mathematician helping his FBI agent brother solve crimes may want to tune in to the fourth-season premiere on Friday, Sept. 28.
Director Tony Scott ("Déjà Vu," "Man on Fire," "Days of Thunder," "Top Gun"), who executive-produces the show with brother Ridley for their Scott Free Productions, is behind the cameras, and all bets are off.
"We shot out on the ocean the other day," says star Rob Morrow, "and it was crazy. I don't know how many cameras going, helicopters."
"Trust Metric," written by new executive producer Ken Sanzel, picks up on last season's cliffhanger, in which Colby Granger (Dylan Bruno), one of Agent Don Eppes' (Morrow) FBI team, was revealed to be spying for the Chinese.
"This episode is basically about who Colby Granger really is," says David Krumholtz, who plays math genius Charlie Eppes. "Without giving too much away, there's a lot more to the story than meets the eye."
"Fans were really angry," he says. "They unleashed everything they've been angry at. It's like, 'You guys got rid of Colby Granger, and here's another 10 things I hate about your show.' I'm like, 'Why do you watch?'"
Guest-starring in the episode is Val Kilmer, who has worked with Scott before, in such films as "Deja Vu," "True Romance" and "Top Gun." Kilmer appears in one of the episode's big action sequences, playing a mysterious figure connected to the revelations about Granger.
Although the Scotts are executive producers, they didn't create the show (that was Cheryl Heuton and husband Nick Falacci), nor do they run it on a day-to-day basis (this season, that's Sanzel).
But in "Trust Metric" -- which refers to one of Charlie's mathematical equations -- Tony Scott, in his TV directing debut, made his presence known in many different areas of "Numb3rs" production.
According to Krumholtz, he revamped the sets for both the Eppes home (which Charlie shares with dad Alan, played by Judd Hirsch) and Charlie's office at CalSci, a fictional version of CalTech (short for California Institute of Technology) in Pasadena, Calif.
New details at home include a working fish tank with live fish in permanent residence.
"We'll have to name them," Krumholtz says. "I think we'll name one Tony and one Ridley, and one Cheryl and one Nick, for our creators, then we'll have a revolving run based on who the show runner is. This year, it's Ken."
Charlie's office has been dressed out with lots of geegaws and doodads, including several abacuses, toys with mathematical themes and Rubik's cubes.
A new set nearby reflects a long-held wish of Krumholtz's, to see Charlie in another of his natural elements.
"I got something special this year," he says, "that made me as happy as a little girl. I have a classroom. First episode opens with me teaching a class."
Scott also took charge of the actors' hair, starting with Krumholtz's signature curly locks. The hair is now a bit longer, with curls tumbling over the forehead.
"Frankly," Krumholtz says, "it's been so much about the hair. He went out and found me product that I'm supposed to use. Every day it's a new thing. Now, later today, I have to call his hairdresser, the guy who did my hair. It's like, 'OK, are we going to shoot a scene?'"
Even though Morrow has close-cropped hair, he didn't escape scrutiny.
"He oversaw my haircut," he says, "which took a long time. He was like, 'Yeah, like that ... no, that ...'"
Told it doesn't look radically different, Morrow says, "That's what I said. They're all like, 'It's so great.' I'm like, it's pretty much the same.'"
Hair or no hair, Morrow feels that Scott's presence has had the effect of reenergizing a series going into its fourth year, when many shows can start to run out of creative steam.
"It's like 'Numb3rs' to the 10th power," Morrow says. "He's like a conductor, a ramped-up conductor or a circus ringleader in the middle of everything, controlling everything, whipping everything up into a frenzy, every department.
"He's got all the plates going, then he says 'Action,' and it's like everything's informed by that energy.
"I had to work the other night until four in the morning, and usually when I work until four in the morning, I'm not a happy guy. I don't want to be there. I can't even think, let alone act. I would have kept going until six. I didn't even think about being tired."
Asked if doing this big episode cut into the year's budget, Morrow says, "Big time. We've got to do another show in seven days [to make up for it]."
As for the future, Krumholtz says, "Maybe Tony's episode will be so good that Ridley will get jealous. That brotherly competition will come in. I wouldn't be surprised if one day Ridley Scott directed."