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When "JAG" debuted on CBS earlier this month, there were a couple of scenes that mystified fans who followed the show on NBC last season.

When the series' main character, Lt. Commander Harm Rabb Jr. (David James Elliott) first lays eyes on his new co-star, Maj. Sarah MacKenzie (Catherine Bell), both he and the viewers flash back to scenes of a dead woman who looks exactly like MacKenzie. And, indeed, it was Bell playing the character.The only problem is - those scenes never aired on American television. And what exactly this was all about was a total mystery to U.S. viewers.

Until now.

Turns out that Bell appeared - briefly - in the 22nd and final episode of "JAG's" first season. And that episode never aired in this country.

"I was sort of someone that Harm was in love with who was murdered," Bell said. "So it's kind of an interesting story because I was killed off and brought back from the dead, basically, this season.

"And in the season premiere this year, you see that he has the flashback. And a lot of people didn't quite get that."

Well, there's an understatement. Except for a few network types and for people involved in the show, nobody got it.

Except, that is, for viewers in other countries. And even they were confused.

Executive producer/creator Don Bellisario knew this was going to happen. He just didn't have a real good way out of the predicament that was created when NBC canceled "JAG" last spring and CBS picked the show up.

NBC aired 21 of the 22 episodes it paid for.

"The only episode that wasn't seen in the United States was a cliffhanger," Bellisario said. "Obviously, NBC didn't want to run it, and we didn't want NBC to run it. Because to run a cliffhanging episode and then shift to another network and try to play it off after a nine-month delay didn't make a lot of sense. So it never ran."

In that episode, Bell played a Navy lieutant who was a love interest for Harm. But her character was murdered in the first five minutes of the show, and the episode - and the season - ended with Harm's future very much in doubt.

"We're going to play it off in another episode later on, and I'll probably try to do some sort of a flashback to that episode," Bellisario said. "Because I left him handcuffed in a car being hauled off for murdering her."

All of which has turned out to be more than a bit confusing to viewers in Australia, New Zealand, Germany and even Israel, where the show proved to be quite popular in its first season - and where that cliffhanger aired.

"I apologize a lot on the Internet to the Australians. I really do," Bellisario said.

He said he never even wrote a conclusion to that cliffhanger, and that neither CBS nor Paramount, which produces the show, had any interest in producing an episode that would tie up the loose ends.

"So I had to deal with it. But I had to deal with it in a manner that wasn't going to disrupt the U.S.A.," Bellisario said. "And I just wanted to give (the international audience) a little something so that they could look at it and say, `OK. . . . Somehow he got out of that situation.'

"And if nothing else, for the American audience, it's a little bit of intrigue. Who's that girl who looks just like Sarah McKenzie, and what's it all about?"

Well, actually, those flashbacks were just odd and confusing for American viewers. And whether any viewers anywhere will ever be completely satisfied about these developments remains to be seen.

"Hopefully, we will do that, although I'll tell you we're doing episode 10 and I haven't done it yet," Bellisario said. "But, hopefully, I will do it before the season's over."

(CBS ordered 13 episodes of "JAG" for this season, although it has an option on four more installments.)

SWITCHING ACTRESSES: When "JAG" switched networks from NBC to CBS, Tracy Needham and her character, Meg, were dropped, and Catherine Bell and her character were added. According to Bellisario, the change fit better into his original vision for the show.

He praised Needham as both an actress and a person.

"But Tracy's character was younger (than Harm) - I thought too young even when I cast her - but NBC really liked her a lot," he said. "And as such, she had to play a junior officer with the frequent, `Yes, sirs. No, sirs.'

"And what I really wanted to do was have somebody that could stand up to David and be equal to him."

In the show's original pilot, he had a female character like that played by Andrea Parker.

"NBC did not want Andi Parker in the role, and Andi had other commitments - she was doing `ER' and some other things," Bellisario said. "And so I brought Andi back twice. And in the episodes, NBC saw the value of Andi and gave her her own show."

Indeed, Parker is co-starring in "The Pretender" this year on NBC. And that show airs in the Saturday time slot occupied by "JAG" last season.

"So you want to talk about irony," Bellisario said.

Enter Bell, who made a good impression on Bellisario in that cliff-hanging episode of "JAG" - even though she died in the first five minutes.

"I brought her in as a Marine major, made her the same rank as (Harm) - a major is equivalent to a lieutenant commander," he said. And that put them head-to-head, not `Yes, sir. No, sir.' . . . So the two of them get some sparks going.

"And that was the reason that Meg was shipped to Guam. Or Okinawa. I forget where I put her."