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'Revenge': Inside TV's greatest guilty pleasure

Summer in the Hamptons may be over, but things are about to get a lot hotter on ABC’s addictive hit drama. From a killer engagement party to twisted schemes — and maybe even some steamy love-triangle action — the drama at the beach is just getting started. Read on for all the secrets to what’s ahead

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The mind’s behind ABC’s buzzy soap Revenge have learned their lesson when it comes to spoilers. ”It took us by surprise in December when we had a photo leak onto a website that showed Tyler with a gun to Emily’s head,” recalls creator Mike Kelley. ”It never occurred to me that people would have an interest in exposing what we’re doing. Considering the nature of the show we’re writing, it probably should have.”

He’s being humble, clearly, given Revenge‘s fervent fan base and the fact that one of the most anticipated reveals of the season is just around the corner. If you thought the recent paternity jaw-dropper concerning Charlotte (Christa B. Allen) was shocking (and it was), just wait. In an explosive pair of upcoming episodes — airing Feb. 8 and Feb. 15 — viewers will finally learn what actually happened in the deadly beach scene that opened the series’ juicy September pilot. Who’s dead? Who’s the killer? How does everyone we’ve come to know and love (and love to hate) on Revenge fit into this mess? This time, says Kelley, ”we’re taking a lot of care so nothing leaks.”

That means that just a week before the scene films, no one — save for Kelley and his team of writers — knows the identity of the victim or the shooter. ”My fate is still hanging in the balance,” says Josh Bowman, who plays dreamy blue blood Daniel Grayson, a possible victim and one-half of the couple being honored at the game-changing episode’s engagement party. Even Emily VanCamp, who’s usually pulling the strings as revenge master Emily Thorne, claims she isn’t clued in: ”They’ve been very careful what they tell us, because we do interviews and things like that and tend to overshare.” The precautions don’t stop at keeping the actors in the dark. ”We’re going to a very remote location to shoot what happens on the beach,” Kelley says, adding that they may film the scene multiple ways. ”Also, we’re going to make sure that all major players are on hand to deflect any speculation of who is getting killed.” Your move, paparazzi!

The fact is, though, that shooter and shootee will be identified come Feb. 15. ”Here’s the thing: I’ve always known who I wanted it to be, and then things evolve and you want to stay open,” says Kelley, who admits that ”who’s dead has changed several times” since he wrote the pilot. But that dead body isn’t the only thing to get excited about for the rest of Revenge‘s freshman season. EW sat down with the show’s cast and creator to discuss what to look forward to through the May finale — and beyond.

Villains Return
If you thought devious troublemakers Tyler (Ashton Holmes) and Amanda (Margarita Levieva) were gone for good, think again. Both will resurface by season’s end, with separate motives. Tyler and Amanda ”decide to start f—ing with Emily, and they’ve got new, different agendas,” Kelley reveals. ”Emily’s got a number of enemies at this point with bones to pick.” Despite the repercussions for her character, VanCamp is eager for both to return, explaining, ”We’d be crazy not to have them back!” There’s also hope for the reemergence of fan favorite Lydia (Amber Valletta)…eventually. Kelley teases: ”We’ve got an idea to bring her back,” though that’s likely to happen much closer to the end of the season.

New Faces Emerge
As Emily Thorne’s arrival at the beginning of the summer proved, new blood stirs up lots of delightful drama in the Hamptons. Several new characters will be joining Revenge, each with their own intentions, including Grandpa Grayson (William Devane), who’s called to the manor by his pet daughter-in-law, Victoria (Madeleine Stowe), just in time for the engagement party and her increasingly heated divorce from Conrad (Henry Czerny). Victoria also gets a new henchman, Lee (Derek Ray), who Kelley says will do ”something so diabolical you can’t believe it” to incite the wrath of Emily. Finally, look out for a yet-to-be cast ”dark and mysterious” man, an old flame of Victoria’s who predates Conrad and the now-deceased David Clarke (James Tupper).

The Engagement Party
We got a glimpse of Revenge‘s biggest blowout back in the series’ September premiere, which featured a flash-forward of Victoria throwing Daniel and Emily an extravagant fire-and-ice-themed engagement bash. We’ll finally see that night play out in the Feb. 15 episode, which — considering the dead body on the beach outside Grayson Manor — is fittingly titled ”Chaos.” ”It’s pretty spooky what happens on the beach that night,” Kelley says. ”We in the writers’ room spent weeks on this. We might not reveal everything that happens right away — because we’re going into a trial for the murderer — but at the end, someone will be arrested and someone will be dead.” Kelley encourages fans to guess all they want about the identities of the killer and the victim, but he promises one bombshell in the great reveal that no one could anticipate. ”I don’t think anyone will have guessed it,” he says, ”but we’ll see.”

Emily Goes on the Defensive
While we know that she’s doubled down on her revenge plans (thank you, Victoria), the seemingly unstoppable Emily Thorne won’t have all the power in the future, as a vital and prized possession goes missing. Plus, an innocent person will be kidnapped, forcing Emily to carry on with the engagement party against her wishes. ”There’s an element of fear, but she was trained for years to deal with bumps in the road,” VanCamp says, ”so she’s certainly up for the challenge. But Emily Thorne never panics.” What Emily can’t anticipate, however, is the betrayal by more than one of her allies — Jack? Nolan? Takeda? Ashley? Daniel himself? — who have shifting agendas. Says Kelley cryptically, ”What Emily does when she learns that people are betraying her is that she gets more careful and more devious.”

Video Revelations
Those recordings of Mason Treadwell’s interviews that Emily stole before she torched his house were loaded with details about what happened to her father. And just because the tapes are in Victoria’s possession now, thanks to her violent henchman Lee, they’re not gone: Emily has her own copies, and specific videos will turn up when needed. So expect secrets to trickle out over the rest of the season. ”Now that we have these tapes, we have new ways of learning truths,” Kelley hints.

The Mystery Murder Trial
Whoever committed the murder — or, possibly, whoever is framed for committing the murder — will stand trial over the course of the rest of the season. But don’t expect Revenge to morph into a courtroom show. ”It won’t become Law & Order all of a sudden,” Kelley promises. He adds, ”Somebody’s dead and somebody did it. But this show, at its heart, is a high-octane soap. We’ll donate only as much time as we need to the trial.” (Our prediction: The killer will be a peripheral character, which will keep the show from drowning in a legal quagmire.)

A Dark New Mood
After the engagement party, summer in the Hamptons quickly turns into fall, and then winter. While seasonal residents usually flee the shore for NYC, Revenge‘s players will mostly remain beachside. ”Entering a bleak season is going to be incredibly symbolic to what’s happening in the story,” VanCamp says. ”A central character is going to die on that beach, and the repercussions are going to be very bleak for many people.” (The show’s production team is taking the edict seriously, and recently sent crews to the Hamptons to film winter footage.)

”There’s something unsettling about resort towns in the off-season,” Kelley points out. ”It’s an opportunity to shift the tone of the series a little bit. When you think of The Shining and the Overlook Hotel, it applies very nicely to Grayson Manor.” Don’t worry: Revenge‘s hallmark — huge, lavish bashes — won’t fade with the summer, as evidenced by this spring’s Thanksgiving episode. ”It brings unexpected family members together,” Kelley teases, ”and members of the Revenge family you haven’t met yet.”

Juicy Origin Stories
Revenge will delve into the backstories of Nolan, Emily, and Victoria with an eye toward ”some big surprises about the broader conspiracy of what brought Emily’s father down,” Kelley reveals. We’ll also find out more about Emily’s training with her Japanese mentor, Takeda (Hiroyuki Sanada), who becomes a bigger player going forward. ”We’ll learn how Emily Thorne became Emily Thorne,” Kelley adds. ”That is, the time period between her decision to destroy these people and gaining the tools to do it.”

One Steamy Love Triangle
Rudimentary rules of television tell us that you don’t just kill off your show’s hottest guy, so it’s possible that Daniel Grayson isn’t dead on the beach. If that’s the case, we’ll likely see increased tension between Daniel, Emily, and Jack (Nick Wechsler). Kelley won’t confirm one way or the other but says, ”Everything that happens on the beach that night will forever alter the course of Emily’s romantic ties to both Jack and Daniel.” Bowman assures us that Daniel is ”absolutely marrying for love.” But Jack will get in the game a bit more as he finally realizes what exactly is going on around him. ”Jack is starting to want to fight for Emily himself,” explains Wechsler. Adds VanCamp, ”Emily’s love for Jack is, on many levels, much stronger, but I don’t think the love triangle would work if she didn’t feel for Daniel as well.” (Despite a sketchy report that VanCamp and Bowman are dating, Bowman recently said that he was single.) Kelley also knows that they’ve got to deal with a fan phenomenon that the writers have dubbed ”Jacklash.” ”People don’t like that he’s been duped by Amanda for this long,” Kelley says. ”He’s going to be placed a lot closer to Emily.”

A Scandalous Season 2
Details are sparse and Kelley reserves the right to change his mind, but he and exec producers Marty Bowen and Wyck Godfrey are already plotting a scandal-driven season 2, which will return to the Hamptons in its prime: the summer. Currently the plan is for a flash-forward in May’s season finale to preview the next big mystery that will play out beginning this fall. (The show has yet to be officially renewed, but the chances that ABC won’t order a second season are about as likely as Victoria Grayson donning overalls and Crocs.) ”We want a very compelling cliff-hanger to pull everyone back,” Kelley says. Of season 2, he offers: ”I can tell you that there will be a wedding — at least one — and there will be more murder. Maybe in the same day!”

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