'The Vampire Diaries' recap: A heart-stopping moment, a victory party, and a brotherly pact

tvd-321-klaus-door.jpgWe've reached the penultimate episode of Season 3 of "The Vampire Diaries" -- and luckily, we can rest assured that we've got plenty more coming, because Season 4 was officially announced today. (Not that we were worried.) Last season, the second-to-last episode was a real heartbreaker, as we lost Jenna and John in one fell swoop.

This year, we said goodbye -- at least for now -- to Klaus, in a really powerful scene that showcased great performances from Joseph Morgan and Paul Wesley. I never thought we'd miss Klaus as much as Jenna, but the chemistry and delicious moral ambiguity he brought to the show are hard to come by. There's no telling if he's actually gone for good, because this show is twisty like that, but if tonight was his swan song, it was a great one.

Previously on "The Vampire Diaries": I rewound "Previously on The Vampire Diaries" twice just to hear Joseph Morgan say "Previously on The Vampire Diaries." Also there was a love triangle, a broken sire bond, and a brand new monster.

8:00 - This is a pretty great opening sequence. Who knew a classroom could be so terrifying? Alaric sits... and waits.

Poor, innocent Caroline comes back to school to clean up after the dance, while Tyler, still pretending to be sired, heads over to help Klaus pack up his McMansion. When Tyler says, "It's fine; I'll keep up the act and it'll all be over soon," what does he mean? They still haven't found a way to kill Klaus. Why does he have any confidence at all?

Rebekah's at school, already cleaning. How is it that the two girls in the school with the power to compel people to do what they want are somehow left cleaning up the dance debris? I know Dana's dead, but there's got to be someone around here to compel.

The sweet moment between Rebekah and Caroline was extremely necessary. These two have a lot in common. There will always be competition, but there is also a degree of mutual respect and understanding that's fun to watch.

8:04 - Team Blonde Badasses! If there was ever a doubt that Real Alaric is gone, that's eradicated now. Seeing him snap Caroline's neck so carelessly and stalk back across the parking lot as he burned was pretty epic. That's not an image any fan will soon forget.

8:05 - Elena and Jeremy lost their fourth parental figure just hours ago, but they're already awake and renovating the old room. Stefan shows up to check on things, but Jeremy isn't excited about their house being the new vampire headquarters. "Why don't you do the right thing and give us one day. Just one day without any vampires in it," he snaps. Elena doesn't protest. The doorbell rings -- at least Damon still does the courtesy of ringing it -- and there's Bonnie, looking surprisingly healthy given the night she's had.

8:07 - After the scene at the school, Rebekah is ready to leave Mystic Falls in the rearview, but Klaus needs to pick up his human Capri Sun first. After everything, Rebekah doesn't understand why Klaus needs his hybrids, and frankly, neither do I. He can compel vampires and humans into spending time with him; isn't that pretty much the same thing as having fake hybrid worshippers?

"I'm leaving now," says Rebekah. "You can either walk out that door with me, or you are on your own. Fine. Trust your hybrids over your family. Let your spite be the death of you; see if I care." She gives Tyler a nasty shove on her way out. Remember when she got him to feed on humans and then that storyline was totally dropped and we have no idea what his blood source is? Yeah.

8:07 - Isn't it kind of odd that all of this intense discussion is happening downstairs while Jeremy and Elena are upstairs painting, and no one thinks to include him? It's kind of sweet that Damon saved Bonnie's life, though he immediately slaughters that sweetness by justifying it with "I do stupid things, Bonnie."

8:08 - Everyone has a giant ugly phone in this episode. It's distracting. Alaric calls Elena and tells her to get to the school and not to tell anyone where she's going. Please don't tell me she actually listens.

8:08 - Klaus shows up to collect Elena, and Jeremy is literally sent to his room like a toddler on a time-out. No wonder he's such an indignant teenager. Unfortunately, Elena is already gone. How the hell did she get out of there? Did she climb a tree?

8:13 - This must have been Candice Accola's least favorite day at work ever. "Stop trusting vampires," Alaric spits. It's great that evil Alaric still has all the memories of regular Alaric. He knows things about these characters and he gets under their skin with incredible ease. Last season, I was hoping to see Tyler turn against the gang, because I thought that a villain who knew them all, and knew their weaknesses, would be fantastic -- and Alaric's brought that, tenfold.

8:15 - Meanwhile, Klaus basically starts bombing the house with everyday objects. It's a pretty great sequence, reminding us of Elijah's epic coin-explosion from Season 2. The music is fantastic here, too. Doesn't it just make you want to wreck stuff?

Just as Klaus is about to resort to arson, Stefan has a stroke of genius and realizes that with Alaric as their mutual enemy, the Salvatores can team up with Klaus to find Elena. Bonnie offers to use the desiccation spell that her mother used on Mikael, which is a smart idea -- except for the fact that the spell drained her mother of all her magic for 15 years, before Bonnie helped her get it back. Don't we need Bonnie to have her magic in order for this show to, you know, have a plot?

8:17 - Alaric is pretty sadistic as he describes his torture of Caroline. "It's like inhaling razor blades with every breath," he purrs. Yucky. He wants Elena to kill Caroline, if only to put her out of her misery,

8:24 - Klaus and Stefan arrive at the school, but before they rush in to save the lives of their respective love interests, they do some sexy bro-leaning against the hood of Klaus's gas guzzler. When Klaus says he's going to leave town with Elena, Stefan casually replies, "I'll come with you." Basically, that's Klaus's dream -- him and Stefan, all domestic, playing footsie and watching "American Idol," with Elena stashed in the basement like a spare keg.

I thought this was going to be a boring love triangle exposition scene, but after Klaus assures us that he's Team Stelena, the conversation takes a much more interesting turn as Stefan finally says what we've all been seeing over the course of the let few episodes. "You know, all this time and energy you've spent trying to get me and my brother to hate each other, it's actually had the opposite effect," he says. "Damon and I have been through a hell of a lot worse then you."

8:25 - Back at Chez Salvatore, Abby is strong enough to refuse Damon's offer of blood, so she's obviously been working on getting her urges under control. When Bonnie brings up her plan, Abby is immediately averse. She tells Bonnie that in order to stop Alaric's heart, she'll also have to stop a human heart.

Am I the only one wondering whose heart Abby stopped to kill Mikael? And why doesn't Abby mention the part where Bonnie will no longer be able to use her witchy powers after this? Those powers are important! They keep Bonnie relevant!

"This spell asks you to tap into dark places," she says. "Places of temptation." Oh, please let that come up later. Please, please, please.

8:26 - The product placement in this episode is really grating. I wish they'd use it in the less-awesome episodes and leave the awesome ones to stand without giant ugly phones. Jeremy is the go-to human for the heart-stopping, but Damon wants to take away his ring. It's not clear whether Damon's taking the ring because he wants Jeremy to just... die, if Bonnie can't restart his heart,  or if he's taking the ring because he wants to use another human for the plan. (Not Matt!)

Bonnie links herself and the vampires so that they can stop Alaric's heart as she stops Jeremy's.

As a measure of caution, Klaus reveals that he's the one who created their vampire bloodline, so that they now have a vested interest in protecting him. I'm not sure I believe him -- not only is it highly convenient, but the reveal is a bit casual considering how important that plot point is. Props to Klaus, though, for reminding the Salvatores that they need to have his back as they head into battle.

8:28 - "You're an 18-year-old girl without parents or guidance or any sense of right and wrong anymore," Alaric says. He makes a point. The reality is, in a grander scheme, Alaric has the right idea. Ridding the world of all vampires is probably a noble cause, particularly given that most of those vampires have already lived more than their fare share of years. The problem is that we as an audience have fallen madly in love with a handful of these vampires, so we -- and Elena -- are quite comfortable in the moral grey area.

Elena's training comes full circle, now, as she whirls on Alaric, disabling him just long enough to let Caroline free to go get help.

Out in the hallway, Caroline is caught by Klaus, and for once, that's a good thing. "It's okay. It's okay; it's me. You're safe," he whispers, and it's actually genuine. In this moment, she's relieved to see him; she even trusts him. The devil you know is always better than the devil you don't.

8:30 - "Why am I still alive?" Elena asks Alaric. "There's obviously no humanity left in you." Is anyone else having flashbacks to every conversation she had with Ripper Stefan this season? Why are you even here if you don't secretly love me deep down? Ugh.

Before Elena can figure out if Real Alaric is hiding inside Evil Alaric, Stefan and Damon show up... and Alaric promptly puts them out of commission with a couple of swift neck snaps. Klaus tries his best to get at Alaric's heart, but even the Original Hybrid is no match for Ultimate Warrior Ken. Bonnie doesn't even get a chance to stop her ex-boyfriend's cheating heart.

At school, Elena saves Klaus's life by threatening her own. She realizes that Alaric's life is tied to hers so that he's not immortal -- he can't die until she does. This is a neat twist, but it's getting a little bit tired that every villain needs Elena to stay alive for one reason or another. Even Katherine was trying to keep Elena safe to deliver her to Klaus. I guess it nicely parallels the unfortunate reality of television, which is that a heroine's life is never truly in danger, because she's the central focus of the show. Making even the villains protect her adds some element of believability to her perpetual near-misses.

Caught off-guard, Alaric gives Klaus the chance to get away -- with Elena. Now, Klaus is faced with an interesting dilemma. If he kills Elena, his hybrid supply dries up, but he ultimately resumes his place at the top of the food chain. Things that make you go hmmmmm.

8:35 - He opts for (c), all of the above. He's going to take all the blood she's got now, so he'll kill her, but he'll have a backup supply. I've never heard any rules about how much blood needs to be consumed to create a hybrid, so if he just gave everyone a drop, he'd have enough for a few dozen armies.

Tyler shows up, but he's caught between his instinct and his fake sire bond. If he reveals his autonomy at the wrong time, he'll have shown his hand too early and blown the whole ruse.

When he leaves, Elena and Klaus engage in a little love triangle exposition. "Finale spoilers, please!" Klaus says. "You'll have to watch and see!" Elena replies. Isn't that the worst?

8:44 - Tyler to the rescue! He sneaks in to untie her, and finally, the hybrid showdown is here. I'm glad that after everything, Tyler got to participate in the ultimate Klaus takedown. Hopefully now the Salvatores will consider him one of the gang again. "I'm not your little bitch anymore," Tyler says. "Maybe real love is stronger than fake loyalty. But what would you know about that?"

The second Stefan has a clear shot at Klaus's heart, he takes it, but as Klaus starts to die, something incredible happens on Paul Wesley's face. There's a flicker of remorse, or sadness, or fear, and it's truly spectacular. Despite the fact that I occasionally find him dull when he's being "good Stefan," it's hard to deny what was said at the very beginning of the pilot -- this is his story. Elena will probably choose Damon at the end of the season, and she may choose Damon forever, but this has always felt like Stefan's story.

I'd be remiss not to talk about Joseph Morgan's work in this scene as well. Klaus looks stunned, and betrayed, and mostly, he looks really sad. Things were finally looking up for him. He had a little hope for his family. The quiet moment as Stefan and Klaus look at each other, Stefan's hand stopping Klaus's heart -- that's what I watch this show for.

8:47 - Bonnie is rocking it in this episode. This could be the beginning of an absolutely fantastic storyline for her, if they see it through next season. She's unable to start Jeremy's heart with her magic, so she may have lost it, the way her mother did. Of course, the black veins crawling all over her while she did the spell are not a good sign, so there's a good chance that the temptation of dark magic has gotten under her skin and we may soon see a very different side of Bonnie. I can't tell if his heart restarted because he was wearing his ring or because she was shaking him, though.

8:52 - Elena's speech to the brothers at the door isn't particularly revelatory. "She has no one, and she's lost everyone that ever mattered to her -- almost everyone -- and how do you choose, in a moment like that?" Julie Plec told us last week. "For the last two episodes of the season, the fall out is going to be about her asking herself that question and really trying to understand how she could possibly let one of them go when she's already lost so much."

The boys' response is what's interesting, because they don't let her off the hook. They don't tell her it's okay, or that they'll wait around until she's ready. They just leave.

Inside, Caroline is throwing a mini victory party. Invited are Jeremy, Bonnie, Tyler, and a new character named Zach Roerig. (Sorry, but I know Matt Donovan, and that is a Zach Roerig swagger if I've ever seen one.) It's pretty sweet to see them all gathered for a good reason, instead of a dark one.

8:54 - Oh, right, there's a vampire council in this town. I sort of thought that everyone on the council knew about Caroline and Tyler and all the others, but I guess I was wrong, because Alaric airing everyone's dirty laundry seems pretty dramatic. Will there be new characters introduced now? A band of concerned citizens rising up to overthrow the sheriff and the mayor? This seems like a room full of relative nobodies, but things can change, I guess.

8:56 - Stefan and Damon have a little victory party of their own as they take Klaus's body to the lake to dump it. (Yes, the lake, not the Atlantic Ocean, because they are dumb.) In a moment of brotherhood, they both promise not to interfere with Elena's choice -- the rejected brother will leave town in an effort to preserve what's left of their relationship. "And then in sixty years, we'll go back to being brothers, and none of this will have mattered," Damon says. Oh, my heart hurts.

8:58 - At home, Jeremy is concerned that Alaric will take Elena's life just to end his own once he's finished his mission. He vows not to let that happen. Dot, dot, dot.

Elena starts to paint, but she pauses, overwhelmed by a headache or migraine of some sort, and passes out, bleeding from her nose.

I'm sure this will end up being some witchy vampire mess, but it would be interesting if it was just a human thing. She was drained of a ton of blood, she hit her head really hard -- hard enough for it to happen in slow motion -- and then she came home and did tequila shots. It wouldn't be out of the question for this to just be damage caused by being a tiny person whose body was traumatized all day. Not to make the obvious comparison, but one of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer's" best storylines was the very natural death of her mother. If Elena's natural human weaknesses are becoming a problem in this Mystic Falls war, it might push the Salvatores to turn her, just to save her.

What did you guys think of this episode? I wish I knew whether Klaus would be rising up from the lake next week, so I could decide how much to mourn the loss of Joseph and his great contribution to the show. The trouble with supernatural shows in general is that there's always a veil of doubt that prevents us from properly processing any death. Still, if it was his final episode, it was a great scene to go out on.

I can't wait to see how Rebekah and Elijah react to his death in next week's episode. Yes, folks... Elijah is returning, with a vengeance. Literally.

Photo/Video credit: The CW
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