After dropping off the schedule to make room for postseason baseball, FOX's serialized thriller "Vanished" faces a couple of tall orders when it returns on Friday, Nov. 3, at 8 p.m. (ET).
First, if it expects to go beyond 13 episodes, it must retain a good portion of the audience that watched it on Monday nights, where it premiered in August. Second, it must accomplish this on Friday, a night that has been big trouble for FOX since "The X-Files" left there for Sunday.
"They've said they can't decide on a back nine [order] until they see how we do on Friday night," says creator and executive producer Josh Berman. "FOX's belief is that our core fans will follow us to Friday. If our core fans follow us, we'll be on forever. It's really up to the fans at this point."
"Vanished" centers on the disappearance of Sara Collins (Joanne Kelly), the beautiful second wife of Georgia Sen. Jeffrey Collins (John Allen Nelson), who has a deciding vote in approving the next Supreme Court Justice.
As the investigation led by FBI Agents Graham Kelton and Lin Mei (Gale Harold, Ming-Na) progressed, the case broadened to include mysterious elements that linked it to other kidnappings and murders, cryptic biblical references and a shadowy organization using a stylized No. 9 as its symbol.
Sara was also revealed to have led a double life as a waitress in a New England fishing town, and to have given birth to a daughter being raised by Sara's parents as their own.
In the last episode before the hiatus, Agent Kelton was gunned down after revealing to Sen. Collins that Sara, briefly thought dead, was actually still alive. Now FBI Agent Daniel Lucas (Eddie Cibrian) has taken over the case.
"If people were surprised by the end of episode six," Berman says, "which is Graham Kelton getting killed, just wait until they see the ends of episodes seven, eight and nine.
"This is not a show that's just about a kidnapping. With the death of our lead agent, we're exploring a whole new world. The disappearance of Sara leads to the discovery of Chapter 40 of Ezekiel of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which is the chapter of Ezekiel that wasn't discovered when the other Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in 1947.
"So we're actually building on a real mythology, taking something that's super-cool and delving into it."
Part of the Kelton storyline was a botched rescue attempt he participated in that ended with the bombing death of a kidnapped boy named Nathan.
While that bit of backstory won't be addressed as much in the series, Berman says, "FOX has commissioned mobisodes for the Web that will delve into what happened with that boy. I think they're being produced now, so [we should see them] in the next couple of months.
"In a sense it's a prequel to what happened to Nathan, but different actors."
While Kelton's murder was concocted to respond to a request from FOX for a dramatic cliffhanger to lead into the baseball break, Berman says little else in "Vanished" has been left to chance.
"We've had this mapped out from the beginning, even with naming Sara 'Sara.' With the age of Sara, and Sara biblically meaning 'the breath of God,' that all ties in to the conspiracy. A prophecy is a prophecy, so there's a reason someone named Sara was chosen.
"It goes really deep, very mysterious and very mythical. By the end of the episode on Oct. 27, Agent Lucas realizes that the bad guys didn't just kidnap a senator's wife; they specifically targeted Sara Collins.
"We spend a lot of time with Sara in the next six episodes. And Reed Diamond has a three-episode arc as one of her captors."
Also guest-starring, as another kidnap victim, is Tina Holmes, who played the daughter of James Cromwell's character on HBO's "Six Feet Under."
"And we introduce the ancient cipher wheel," Berman says. "I have it in my office right now. It's the coolest prop I've ever seen."