'The Vampire Diaries' recap: How much can one family forgive?

tvd-bringing-1.jpgAfter this week's episode of "The Vampire Diaries," I'm clamoring for an Originals-only spin-off. The family dynamic between Klaus and his siblings is so wonderful, I'd happily watch an hour-long family dinner every week. The CW won't be keeping "Remodeled" around for long anyway, right? Open real estate!

In all seriousness, "Bringing Out the Dead" was one of the series' most poignant and exciting episodes, striking that elusive balance between supernatural action and emotional character development. It introduced two new Original characters and provided a surprisingly touching swan song for a character we weren't entirely crazy about.

Most significantly, though, it marked a turning point for the core love triangle of the show, thanks to an unlikely voice of reason: Klaus. Cue up your DVRs, kids. Let's get into it.

Previously on "The Vampire Diaries": Stefan continued to make no sense. I feel like I'm shouting into a void right now, but if Stefan just laid off of Klaus, everything would be fine! Why is everyone supporting Stefan's quest for vengeance? If all Klaus wants is for Elena to make a plasma donation every so often... let him have that.

8:01 - We pick up right where we left off, with Klaus vs. Elijah and their very physically violent sibling rivalry. Klaus is super mad about it because he spent a lot of time picking out those French doors. Klaus threatens to kill Elijah, but apparently their little bro Kol scares even Klaus so Klaus can't spare a dagger.

"Remember the oath of loyalty you once swore to me," Klaus says. "Always and forever." Do oaths of loyalty still count if you find out that the guy you're pledging eternity to actually ripped your mom's heart out of her chest? Just wondering.

8:04 - Let's just take a moment to reflect on Elena and Alaric's adorable roommate banter. It's like they're sharing their first apartment sophomore year of college. I absolutely love the way that he never, ever condescends to her or pulls the I'm-an-adult-you're-a-kid card. He may have moved in to be some source of comfort for the Gilbert kids, but they're essential to his survival, too.

Sheriff Forbes arrives with the murder weapon from the medical examiner's death, which turns out to be from the Gilbert armory. The only prints on it are Elena's. Why does Katherine not pop into anyone's mind? I know twins don't have the same fingerprints, but I would assume that doppelgängers do.

tvd-bringing-recap-1.jpgDamon thinks it's Meredith, of course, because Damon thinks he's the only psycho allowed to get Alaric Saltzman 2 a.m. drunk dials.

Elena takes out her ponytail as she says, "It wasn't Meredith. It's not Meredith." I think the removal of the hair elastic may have been a sign.

8:07 - Aw, Elijah got a haircut before his date with xoxo Gossip Girl Damon. I wonder if he did the full GTL or just needed a fresh look because his old 'do was so 2011?

8:08 - Stefan ushers Bonnie and Abby in the Lockwood caves and tells them to open the coffin. I'm sorry, but I'm completely bored by this story. The woman hasn't used her magic in 15 years, and in the previous episode a huge deal was made of the fact that she's no longer a witch, and now we're to expect that it just snaps right back? Also, Stefan, don't put people in caves, it's not nice.

He meets Elena outside and is super offended by her suggestion that he might have killed a person, because this is a completely outrageous concept. It's almost like he didn't spend the last 12 episodes screaming at her, "I kill people now! I'm no good for you! Go away! I kill people! I kill people! I kill people!"

Honestly. How dare she accuse him of murder?

8:09 - Caroline meets Dr. Meredith at the hospital, and neither of them beat around the vampire bush for very long. Apparently, Caroline's dad isn't too pleased that vampire blood was used to heal him. Caroline is crestfallen when the doc tells her that he was discharged earlier that day.

Am I the only one wondering why there was no mention of the fact that Tyler attacked her dad and nearly killed him? Is no one wondering where Tyler is? Are we supposed to believe he's just chained himself up in some basement to turn, turn, turn?

Meanwhile, Elena lurks, listening to see if Meredith accidentally slips and says something like "Oh, I discharged your dad right after I murdered some folks with the Gilbert weapons!" Spoiler alert: Meredith says no such thing.

Calling her dad, Caroline realizes he's somewhere in the hospital... and then finds him, with his throat slit and a knife in his belly, in a supply closet.

8:14 - I sometimes feel like I'm a broken record saying this over and over, but this show is so lucky to have plucked Candice Accola from relative obscurity. In the first season, any disposable blonde could have done her job, but now, the writers are throwing her more and more challenging material and she's never once underperformed. 

8:15 - Bonnie and Abby hash out their family drama in the cave where Klaus' family drama is carved. (We still don't know who wrote the Original family history on the wall.) Like most things on this show, the key to the coffin's seal is family -- it requires two generations of witches. Wow, I really wish Bonnie was more than a plot device, because these scenes could not be more boring. Persia White is still on set these days, so we can expect the Bennetts' relationship to evolve over several episodes. I hope it involves more than just being the pawns in some vampires' vengeance plans.

8:16 - Stefan is skeptical about Damon's plan to trust Elijah. Normally I'd agree with Stefan -- after all, Elijah screwed them all over big time in the sacrifice ritual last season -- but Stefan and I are not on friendly terms right now.

Still bitter over Elena's completely justified murder accusation, Stefan plays the you-kissed-my-ex card. Damon isn't particularly interested. I do think it's interesting that Damon thinks that had Stefan not become a "dick," Elena never would have looked Damon's way. Hmm.

8:17 - It's almost poetic that Bill Forbes is suffering through a vampire transition in the same hospital where Caroline turned. Unlike her, though, he knows what's happening to him, and he's not interested. This is the first time we've seen someone begin the transition process and not feed. Is he going to have to chain himself up? That, too, would be poetic, considering what he inflicted on Caroline.

8:18 - I wonder if the murderer is leaving his or her weapons behind for a reason. After all, considering they're all engraved with the Gilbert insignia, it's not the smartest move, unless the killer is intentionally leaving clues or trying to frame someone.

Alaric talks himself into suspecting Meredith and he and Elena decide to turn the evidence over to the police. It's nice that the police are in on the vampire stuff without being so staunchly anti-vampire anymore, because there's some authority that the characters can turn to in this situation, without betraying their secrets.

8:19 - Stefan and Damon show up to the dinner party in leather jackets. I wonder if they called each other. "We can sit and eat or I can reach down your throats and pull out your insides," Klaus says. "The choice is yours."

I'd wondered why Klaus never seemed to go on any dates. I don't wonder about that anymore. While his decor is impeccable, his etiquette leaves something to be desired.

8:26 - I can only imagine how much fun the actors must have had shooting the dinner scenes. Honestly, that's the best way to describe this -- fun. The writers of this show have created the perfect mix of personalities when it comes to these brothers. The mouthy ones, the long-suffering ones, the hidden agendas. My particular favorite line here is Damon's "Hey Stef, remember when you killed Dad? Might want to dial down the judgment til desert."

8:27 - In an episode full of powerful scenes, the one between Caroline and Elena on the porch may be my absolute favorite. I think this show is at its best when the fantasy elements are stripped away and we're left with real, raw relationships between people who have history together.

Caroline, if you recall, was the picture of false sympathy in the pilot. She asked Elena how she was doing after her parents' death but she didn't show any signs of actually caring. In fact, while Elena grieved, Caroline had the audacity to be jealous of Elena's barely-existent love life.

tvd-bringing-recap-2.jpgThis scene, in which she asks Elena about her experiences with loss, shows how much she's grown since then.

I think it's particularly interesting that Caroline thinks Tyler might have done it -- at Klaus's command, but still. Elena's assurance that it wasn't Tyler is also great. She has no way of knowing Tyler's innocent. I mean, the guy almost turned her brother into roadkill just days ago. But Elena knows that Caroline needs to hear good news, and she's willing to offer it.

And then there is Matt. Always, there is Matt. He's so perfect, you guys. I knew he'd come.

8:29 - "I'm sorry, you missed so much!" Klaus cackles before giving Elijah the rundown on the whole Damon/Elena/Stefan triangle. I wonder what Elijah thinks of the new and improved Stefan Salvatore. After all, when Elijah went down for his six-month nap, Stefan was a very different man. Figuring out Siri must be tough enough, but a whole new Stefan? Mind-blowing.

"The allure of the Petrova doppelgänger. Still so strong," Klaus muses. In the least surprising twist ever, it turns out that Elijah and Klaus were in a love triangle with Tatia, the Original Petrova. The Salvatores and the Originals, it seems, have been doomed to fight over Nina Dobrev for eternity.

The reason she was used in the Original Witch's spells was because she sought to end the rivalry between Klaus and Elijah. (Apparently, she was so hot, they didn't care that she'd already had a kid.) Tatia was sacrificed and the family drank her blood as they turned into vampires. Her child would live to carry on the Petrova bloodline -- hence, Katherine and Elena.

"Family above all," Elijah says, clinking his glass against Klaus'. We'll see about that.

8:31 - "We've been at this for over an hour!" Bonnie rants, saying her mom isn't really trying to open the coffin. Oh, man. A whole hour to open a coffin that's been sealed for a thousand years. Put your back into it, Bennetts.

When they make some progress after some familial angst, Bonnie runs off to call Damon and tell him that it almost worked, which seems like a huge waste of time to me, but while she's gone, the coffin pops its top.

8:36 - The Salvatores and Originals begin their negotiations. The most interesting thing about this conversation is that every single person involved is lying... except for Klaus. Damon has no intention of returning the coffin. Stefan has no intention of giving up his grudge. Elijah has about sixteen different agendas and none of them involve Klaus' happily ever after.

Klaus, on the other hand, is blunt. He needs Elena's blood, and thus, he needs Elena alive and non-vamped. He's willing to ensure safety and peace as long as she makes blood donations and -- oh yeah -- does her best to continue the Petrova bloodline. When Klaus says that the love triangle will end with Elena as a vampire or dead, he's not wrong.

tvd-bringing-recap-4.jpgIf the Salvatores left town right now, it would break Elena's heart. She'd never be the same and it would always be her very worst heartbreak. But she'd probably pick up the pieces and settle for some version of the life she might have led if her parents never died. She'd never be totally happy, but she'd be alive, and she'd be able to have a lot of the things that she's wanted in life -- most notably, a family.

8:38 - Matt walks Elena home while Caroline goes to be with her family, but when they get to the Gilbert house, the lights don't work. "Electricity must be out," Matt says, casually, like this isn't the beginning of every horror movie ever. Did they miss the part where there is a murderer on the loose? These kids have learned nothing from Kevin Williamson.

There's blood everywhere. They find Alaric, who makes perfect blood handprints, nearly gutted upstairs. (Why did he go upstairs after getting stabbed? The world may never know.)

8:44 - Like Bill Forbes, Alaric doesn't know who attacked him, so he doesn't know if it's a supernatural wound. In a gorgeously messed-up twist, Elena has to kill him -- they do know that she's supernatural, so his ring (which is pretty defective at this point) will save him from her.

Matt Davis is really excellent at dying on screen. He should do this professionally.

8:45 - "Because of Elena, you're going to lose your brother, and you'll only have yourself to blame," Klaus tells Stefan. He offers the one thing that they can't promise Elena -- protection, not only from Klaus, but from the Salvatores themselves. He's even got a suggested cure for her inevitable loneliness.

Klaus thinks Elena should hook up with Matt, because Klaus has been reading my Twitter and/or conversing with Zach Roerig's agent. It appeals to Klaus because the Petrova bloodline will continue to produce doppelgänger blood for him. It appeals to me because Matt will get more screen time. This is a win-win situation.

In all honesty, though, the idea isn't terrible, and it's the most logical fix for this impossible situation that we've heard thus far. The problem, per usual, is love. Elena loves the Salvatores and the Salvatores love Elena, and all three of them are too selfish to give up on each other for the sake of peace in Mystic Falls.

8:47 - As odd as it is, Bill Forbes is arguably the strongest character we've seen on this show. He shows no physical signs of bloodlust. He hasn't even broken a sweat. He's simply weakening as he comforts Caroline about his impending death. She rolls through a course of emotions -- sadness, anger, fear. He talks her through them, soothing her with a nice speech: "You is kind, you is smart, you is important." (I'm pretty sure that's how it went, anyway.)

Despite Bill's insistence that saying goodbye to parents is a part of life, it's hard to ignore the unnatural reality of this particular situation. Caroline's father is choosing to die -- not because he's mentally ill and suicidal, but because his mind is strong and clear. She hasn't had the time to process that a child might have if her parent has a terminal illness. She's just got to live with the fact that he didn't love her enough to stay with her. His principles were his priority. I think that's the saddest thing of all.

tvd-bringing-recap-3.jpgAnd once again, Candice nails it. (As does Marguerite MacIntyre as Liz, in the doorway, watching.)

8:51 - Back at the mansion, Klaus searches for any remaining traces of The Ripper, but Stefan can't even get excited over fresh blood anymore. He's given up.

And then Elijah strolls in, like a boss, and reveals (with quite a bit of flourish), that he's been quietly running the show all along. He doesn't trust Klaus and he's not interested in negotiating with terrorists. He took matters into his own hands and woke up the siblings.

"Long time, brother," says Kol. Joseph Morgan's performance in the next five seconds is magical -- he looks simultaneously terrified and apologetic, a combination we certainly haven't seen on Klaus' face before this moment. It's as if Kol is a wild, rabid animal advancing on him. (In an upcoming episode we'll be taking a trip down memory lane to 1912, where I expect we'll learn more about why Klaus daggered Kol.)

Finn, the brother who has been in his coffin for 900 years, has some serious crazy-eyes going on as he stabs at Klaus. He only made it 100 years after turning before Klaus locked him up -- I'm curious as to whether that's because he was the family's weakest link, or Klaus' greatest threat.

And then, of course, is Rebekah, wearing her homecoming dress and a scowl. I'm so glad she's back! I also love the way she fits into her family -- all these men in dark clothing and Rebekah, a bombshell in red. It's just a great image.

Elijah dismisses Stefan and Damon. "This is family business," he says. Stabby, stabby family business.

8:54 - Really? Caroline's dad is dying in her bed? Couldn't the sheriff spare her bedroom? (Having been in the actual set, I know that Caroline's bedroom is actually the only one in the house, but this is still weird. The couch would have worked.)

This scene is wordless, and since I've already sung the praises of Candice and Marguerite, I have little to add, except for this: Caroline's grieving daughter hair is awesome.

8:55 - "Will you stay with me until he wakes up?" Elena asks Matt, crouched over Alaric's body. "I can't lose any more family."

I think for some it seems that Elena's relationship with Matt has recently grown stronger, but I'm not sure that's necessarily the writers' intention. There have been little moments scattered throughout the series that show us just how connected these two characters are. She was the only one who could comfort him when he found out Vicki had died in Season 1. In Season 2, he was the one she called for help when they needed a hand bringing Jenna home from the hospital.

I think we all have friends who we might not see on a regular basis or talk to every night, but can always count on to be there in dire moments. These are the people you can go a month without seeing, but when you finally do see them, it's as if no time has passed at all. I think Matt and Elena are that kind of friend for each other. That's all they are, though -- friends. If there were any passion in this relationship, the occasional neglect and the lies she's told would have damaged it. The fact that it's platonic between them now is what's kept their friendship afloat.

8:55 - When Stefan and Damon have their post-game chat in the woods, Damon ignores a call from Elena. Klaus has gotten to him, and he's realizing the trouble he could potentially bring to Elena's life. I can hear all those 'shipper hearts breaking, but I actually think that Damon distancing himself from Elena, even for a brief time, shows how much he loves her. Of course, she might not feel that way when he starts getting his kicks elsewhere, but for now, it's very unselfish of him.

tvd-bringing-recap-5.jpgThe exchange between the brothers is long overdue. "I love her, Damon," Stefan says. It's the first emotion he's expressed since the Ripper road trip that isn't driven by anger or fear. He says it simply and unapologetically. This moment really struck a chord with me.

"So do I," Damon replies. Neither of them sound particularly happy about it.

8:56 - The Sheriff says that Meredith has an alibi for Alaric's attack, meaning they don't have any suspects and the rest of the Council is likely at risk. When Alaric finally wakes up, he immediately grabs for Elena's hand, By killing him, she saved him.

8:57 - So, Bonnie got the coffin open, but its contents escaped. The Salvatores have forgotten the lesson they should have learned with the moonstone, opening the tomb, and the sacrifice: Don't let Bonnie do stuff without tons and tons of supervision. And no, Abby doesn't count.

8:57 - Klaus can boast all he wants about not being able to die, but in the end, that doesn't matter. Now that his family has rightfully turned on him, they're condemning him to a fate worse than death: A loveless eternity. Klaus has carried his siblings from town to town, relying on them the way that a child relies on a security blanket, and now he has nothing.

Okay, so, confession: I knew that the Original Witch, Esther, was in the coffin, thanks to The CW leaking a very spoilery promo trailer for next week's episode early. I now shake my fist at them, because while this episode was one of the show's best, it would've been better had this reveal been kept secret.

Though the surprise fell flat (and, frankly, felt rather obvious in hindsight) the scene was saved by two things -- Rebekah's face when she saw her mother (oh, my heart!) and Klaus's shock when his mother says she can forgive him, because he's her son.

tvd-bringing-recap-6.jpgNext week: I'm hoping the episode begins with a "Clueless"-style makeover montage for Finn.

They can fix his hair and teach him to use "sporadically" in a sentence.

I'm looking forward to getting some more information next week about what really transpired between Esther and Klaus, as well as some insight into whether he legitimately feels guilty for killing her (or half killing her) or if his concern is only for his own well-being.

I'm going to pass on issuing the MVP this week, because the acting has become so flawless on this show from start to finish, and it feels so arbitrary to try to choose the person who had the most impact when nearly everyone was tugging at my heartstrings. The true MVPs are writers Al Septien and Turi Meyer, to be honest.

You know what to do! I love reading your comments and notes, so please leave your thoughts below or tweet them to me @cadlymack.
Photo/Video credit: The CW