By Natalie Abrams
June 24, 2015 at 11:05 PM EDT
Jeff Daly/USA Network
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It’s been the No. 1 question plaguing Graceland fans for more than nine long months: Did Mike Warren (Aaron Tveit) survive the season finale?

After Mike tried and failed to take down corrupt FBI agent Sid Markham (Carmine Giovinazzo), he was forced to go on the run with a bullet in his gut, seeking help from Paige (Serinda Swan), but accidentally revealing he lied about Lena’s fate. Hurt over his betrayal, Paige gave Mike’s location to Sid, who later cuts off Mike’s air supply at the hospital. But is Mike really dead? And what’s going on with the rest of Graceland, whom Sid has vowed to kill? EW caught up with executive producer Jeff Eastin to get the scoop on the new season:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Is there anything you can tease about Mike’s fate?

JEFF EASTIN: Can I tell them to see the poster? [Laughs] I can just say that Mike’s not done with the show, but I hope what we’re doing with him is fairly unique. Ultimately, at the end of the year, it’ll be a big surprise to everyone.

How is Paige dealing with the fallout of having sold Mike out?

Paige is having a real rough time of it. She’s having trouble forgiving herself for what she did, even though ultimately everybody else seems to. It’s her decision to not forgive herself that really drives her character through the rest of the season.

Sid threatened to go after the rest of Graceland. What kind of danger are they in?

When the show picks back up, Sid is out there. We see right off the bat that he attacks one of the housemates. Ultimately, the Sid story will intersect with Johnny’s (Manny Montana) story with Lucia (Jamie Gray Hyder) and Carlito (Erik Valdez). The roommates are in pretty severe danger as the season picks up. Sid’s out there. Sid knows who they are. Everybody is on alert.

What other threats are the Gracelanders facing?

One of our favorite characters this year is [Armenian gangster] Ari (Rhys Coiro). One thing we’ve been told we’ve done well in the past is create good bad guys. Where we find Briggs (Daniel Sunjata) is he’s being pinched by the FBI and forced to work with one of the worst people we’ve ever had to deal with on the show. Ari Adamian, who I think is one of the most joyfully brutal people that we’ve ever had on the show possibly, is one of the best bad guys I’ve seen on TV in a long time. Rhys Coiro, who plays him, does a fantastic job of making this despicable villain a really interesting and kind of likable guy.

More people in Graceland know the truth about Odin Rossi. Does this house still trust Briggs?

This season will really hinge on how the house responds to Briggs. None of them can trust Briggs and they all know they can’t. If anything, Briggs is persuasive and he’s able to convince all of them at various times to help him. The one thing that we really see this year throughout the season is that Briggs is playing a masterful game of chess. All of the moves really don’t become obvious until the very final episode this year.

Charlie (Vanessa Ferlito) is pregnant, but wants to go after the man who tortured her. How is that going to affect her in the new season?

Where we pick up the season, Charlie is pregnant and is a real bind, because she really desperately wants to go after Germaine (Russ Bain), the guy that beat her up and attacked her last year. She’s split between that and being a mom. What we find is ultimately she decides to take a chance and go after Germaine and ultimately that decision really does come back to haunt her.

Johnny is working for Carlito and has essentially become a dirty cop. What lengths will he go to to try to get out of this and how dirty will he get for Carlito?

Johnny’s story is one of my favorites. Where we pick up, Johnny’s pinched between Carlito—really Johnny has become the new Sid. He’s doing Carlito’s dirty work. The only reason he’s working for this guy is because Carlito is holding onto Lucia. If Johnny stops, he knows something really bad will happen to Lucia. Johnny is really in a tough bind. As we see the season progress, we see that Johnny goes to some really extreme lengths to get himself out of this predicament.

Is there anything you can tease for Jakes’ (Brandon Jay McLaren) storyline this year? Does he suspect something amiss with Johnny?

At the beginning of the season, he really does become a friend to Johnny. He realizes ultimately what’s going on with his friend. He starts to build a suspicion, but is built to understand what Johnny is actually doing, that he has become this dirty cop working with Carlito. Jakes, at that point, really works to try to save his friend. I would say Jakes becomes one of the most pivotal pieces of the entire story in the second half of the season.

Graceland returns Thursday, June 25 at 10 p.m. ET on USA. Check out an exclusive sneak peek from the season premiere:

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