By Mandi Bierly
Updated March 28, 2011 at 06:42 PM EDT
Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

The April 5 episode of CBS’ NCIS has been a long time coming for “Tiva” fans. We’ll finally meet Ziva’s CIA boyfriend Ray, played by Without a Trace‘s Enrique Murciano. “You never know if you’re gonna have chemistry, and since I had no say in the casting, I was sort of waiting to meet this famous Enrique Murciano,” Cote de Pablo says. “I had actually researched him. I looked him up on Google. I got as much information as I could. And then when I met him, it was kind of instant. We hit it off. He’s from Miami, I’m from Miami. He had me laughing immediately, and I’m a sucker for laughter, so that was it.” Wait. Back up. She really Googled him? “Ohmygod, I so Googled him,” she laughs.

The actress says we’ll see a new side to Ziva when Ray arrives in town. “There’s a lovely scene in which he basically brings his interpretation of ‘fancy’ candlelight dinner, which takes place by the vending machines at NCIS. It’s really funny. There’s kissing involved. We kept it light and we kept it fun, and we kept it like two people who are genuinely in to each other and wanting to move things along. It’s about what’s going on between the lines. These two people are touchy-feely, and that’s different for Ziva.” Does this dinner get interrupted by Tony (Michael Weatherly)? “Oh no. Tony has nothing to do with this dinner. He doesn’t come. He doesn’t surprise us. He doesn’t just walk in,” de Pablo says with mock exasperation. “It’s just between Ray and I, and it’s a scene in which I believe he’s going to say something to Ziva that he hasn’t said before.”

So Ray, who makes his appearance right as Tony’s shower buddy E.J. (Sarah Jane Morris) returns to lead the investigation of a port-to-port killer, is keeping something from Ziva? “Halfway through the show, and after that very tender, loving scene, she discovers that he has a little secret that he hasn’t told her that has to do with the port-to-port killer case. It throws everything up in the air, and it causes a lot of friction between them and a big blow out,” de Pablo says. “I think Ray is a good guy. I think he makes a mistake, and Ziva has a lot of issues, trust issues in particular. Somewhere along the line, they’re going to have to have a longer chat about what happens in this particular episode. Things don’t end very well, that’s all I can say about that.”

As for how Ziva and E.J. will be getting along, de Pablo says Ziva won’t trust her. “Aside from the fact that Tony and E.J. are having a full-blown little affair on the side, Ziva doesn’t quite know why she doesn’t like her. It’s not only professional. Things are confusing Ziva. But at the same time, she’s happy with Ray.” And how does Tony handle the presence of the man he likes to call CI-Ray? “I know that they have had a really interesting scene in the bathroom,” de Pablo teases. “I always laugh about it: The best scenes always happen in the most inappropriate places on NCIS. It’s when the characters can have some ‘alone time,’ and get into the nitty-gritty of whatever it is that’s going on emotionally with them. They have one of those scenes, and I’ve heard it’s really, really good.” So not well, in other words. De Pablo has warned Murciano that some fans may not take to Ray because they’re devoted to the idea of “Tiva,” but, she says, “The great thing about Enrique is he’s got this attitude like, ‘Just wait till they meet me.’ He’s a confident guy, and I love that.”

As TV’s No. 1 drama, which always shakes things up in its season finales, moves closer to the end of year eight, de Pablo says the cast has been kept in the dark about the final hour. “We know that it has something to do with the port-to-port killer. We know that something awful is gonna go down, like always. And we’re all deathly terrified,” she says. “It’s funny because if you were to ask any of us, ‘Do you feel stress’ or ‘Do you feel tensions are rising,’ everyone will say the same thing — no. But everyone is dealing with it differently. Some people are really tired, some people have body aches. Some people are just looking forward to a couple weeks of vacation. We may not be aware it’s a stressful situation, but we’re all going through it in our own way,” she says. And how was she coping when we caught up to her recently? “I’m just trying to enjoy every day because you never know what can happen. Today, before I left the show, I was making paper planes. Someone said I didn’t know how to make one. The first one I made, I have to say, kinda sucked. But then, the second one was absolutely fantastic and it blew all the other ones out of the water. Mine flew the farthest. That was a good day for me,” she laughs. “So that’s how I’m dealing with high levels of unconscious stress.”

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