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The Blacklist

The Blacklist unveils a shocking amount of backstory

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Will Hart/NBC

Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Thursday’s two-hour return of The Blacklist. Read at your own risk!

The true mastermind who’s been dismantling Red’s empire was revealed during The Blacklist‘s two-hour return on Thursday — but much more of the show’s mythology also came tumbling out.

Though it initially appeared that Dembe (Hisham Tawfiq) had betrayed Red (James Spader), it was actually Mr. Kaplan (Susan Blommaert) who sought revenge on her former employer. It turns out, Kaplan was more than just a cleaner for Red, but once acted as the caretaker for a young Masha, a.k.a. Liz Keen (Megan Boone), working for Katarina Rostova (Lotte Verbeek) and eventually uncovering that she’s a Russian spy and becoming her cleaner.

Via flashback, viewers learned Katarina had an affair with her mark, a young Red, who kidnapped Masha because he believed she was his child. Katarina was able to get Masha back after the infamous house fire, but with the KGB and U.S. Intelligence hunting her, she had to abandon her daughter with Kaplan to turn over to Liz’s future adoptive father Sam.

Eventually, Mr. Kaplan’s girlfriend — of whom she bears her name — was killed by a man looking for her employer, leaving Kaplan listless. But with Masha in danger, Red enlisted Kaplan’s help to protect her. In taking the new position, Kaplan vowed to always put Masha first, which is why she helped fake Liz’s death last season. How did this all come together? And what’s next? EW turned to executive producer Jon Bokenkamp for answers.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Did you know from the beginning that Kaplan would have such deep ties to Masha and Katarina?
JON BOKENKAMP: No, not really. It’s something that we found as we went along. Kaplan wasn’t a character that was in the original pilot or the pitch, but as we started exploring Red’s world, she became really interesting and compelling to us, largely because of the actress, also just because of the role. She was unexpected, and it was really fun to write for her. As we got to know her better, it felt very organic. Midway through season 2 and it seemed very obvious in season 3, it became more clear who she was and how deep her ties went. It wasn’t something that was laid out in the very beginning, but something that felt very natural as we explored the landscape and the background of the show.

How has Kaplan been able to keep all this in this whole time since she considered Katarina her best friend?
Well, that was largely through Masha and getting to know this child and making this commitment, and probably being the closest thing that she had really to family. She’s a little bit of a lone wolf, so she took a vow to protect her, and thus became, in a way, part of the family — warts and all.

Will Liz ever learn the truth that Kaplan had ties to her?
Yeah, I think she will.

What would that reunion look like?
Well, beyond just her ties to Liz and how deeply involved in her upbringing she was, she also holds even bigger truths about her purpose, or her relevance, to Reddington and things that can be damaging. So Liz will certainly learn who Kaplan was to her in time, but more importantly is the threat of the deeper secrets that Kaplan has that Reddington feels can be incredibly damaging.

Kaplan literally dug up all the bodies. What exactly does she plan to do with them?
The 86 bodies are a bit of an appetizer for the meal to come. I’m sure Reddington has killed far more than 86 people. In fact, he references in an upcoming episode that this is a glimpse of the damage that she could do. More than anything, more than those bodies being a specific plan, they really throw a grenade in the oatmeal bowl and wreck havoc on not only Reddington but also the entire Task Force. This a big problem not just for him, but for everyone connected to him, anyone who is intimately connected to him like the Task Force. It has a huge ripple effect.

Is Katarina really dead?
I don’t know how to answer that. Is she really dead? She really walked off into the water and was never found. So there’s that. I don’t know. I don’t know how to answer that anymore. I’m sorry.

To be clear, Red was the man who kidnapped Masha when she was young?
Yes, that’s who we saw in the relationship and in that car. Yes, that is true.

Red believes he’s Masha’s father, but will we get a definitive answer to that?
Yes, we will. The truth behind why he came into her life, we will explore that in a deeper way than we ever have by the end of the season. Yes, issues of paternity will come back by the end of the season and we will land on an answer.

What can you tease of how this war between them will heat up?
Look, I think Kaplan is one of the best big bads that we’ve had. I think she’s complex and is coming at Reddington from an emotional place. It’s not about business as usual, it’s not about taking over his empire; it is about dismantling him and pushing him out of Elizabeth Keen’s life. There is nobody better to do that than Mr. Kaplan. She has deep, intimate secrets, she knows about his relationship with the FBI, she knows who he is to Elizabeth Keen, so she really has an arsenal that can be crippling to him. We will see Reddington in a brutal fight in a way that we’ve really never done before on the show. The ramifications of this fight, this war, are going to be catastrophic; they really are.

Will there be casualties?
Yes, there will be.

The Blacklist airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on NBC.