'The Vampire Diaries' recap: And never think twice about Mystic Falls

tvd-newdeal-10.jpg"The Vampire Diaries" returns! It's no secret that I didn't love 2011's last episode, so I am pleased to report that the winter premiere delivers a much more powerful emotional punch. Two of them, actually.

The first time I watched this episode was via a screener from the network, and while the episode was complete, no music had been added at all -- and the episode still made me cry. That's saying something, considering how big a factor music is when it comes to knowing how you're supposed to feel while you're watching TV.

This episode introduced us to a pivotal new character, Dr. Meredith Fell (more about her here), and we said goodbye to one of my faves (let's face it, they're all my faves) when Jeremy made his traumatizing exit. (Seriously. I'm not okay about this.)

Oh, and then there was the little matter of a kiss... cue up the episode, let's talk.

Previously on "The Vampire Diaries" -- Some stuff happened that I didn't much care for, and also Klaus was awesome.

8:00 --The episode opens with Bonnie in a dream sequence. She finds the four coffins in the creepy witch house, and opens one that's separated from the rest. She founds Klaus looking unnaturally peaceful inside, clinging to his mother's creepy witch necklace. And then she wakes up... in her bedroom! Yes, folks, a Bonnie's bedroom set has officially (finally) been built.

8:03 -- Once, when I was in high school training for ski team, my coach was trying (and failing) to get my mile time down, and he told me that when I run, I should imagine that an axe murderer is chasing me. I told my coach that if an axe murderer was chasing me he'd probably be pretty dedicated to the cause, so I'd definitely lose, and I didn't want to spend the last few precious seconds of my life doing something as unpleasant as running. (My coach did not like me very much.)

Anyway, the point is, considering Elena's history, she probably always runs like she has an axe murderer following her, because she probably always has an axe murderer following her. We can't begrudge the girl a little paranoia.

8:04 -- Later, at the Grill, Bonnie tells Elena that her creepy coffin dreams are probably stress-related. If I were Bonnie, I wouldn't be complaining to Elena about my stress, but that's just me. Elena tells Bonnie, "The Stefan that we know is gone." Of course, she doesn't yet know that Stefan screwed up their plan to kill Klaus because he was looking out for Damon, but I still get the impression that Nice Stefan has left the building.

Over at the bar, Damon is doing a little day-drinking. (Since he's a vampire and his liver is never going to crap out and addictions are mostly irrelevant, I don't begrudge him either.) Meanwhile, Alaric says that Jeremy is flunking out of history class -- almost on purpose. So, he did what every teacher does when his student is struggling... he decided to meet him at the bar? The fact that Alaric has a job that doesn't involve cleaning toilets or taking off his clothes for money is seriously a miracle.

The bartender (played by Justine Ezarik, better known as iJustine -- Bing her) tattles to Alaric that Jeremy was fired from the Grill a while back. How is he ever going to pursue a career in distributing beverages to broody monsters now?

8:06 -- Instead of working, Jeremy is in the woods with Tyler, shooting beer cans with a crossbow he swiped from Alaric. "The point is, I'm pissed at Caroline and Bonnie dumped your ass," Tyler says. "The point is to get drunk and shoot stuff." Again... can't begrudge them that.

I think it's notable that Tyler says he's mad at Caroline, but doesn't say they broke up. I got the impression that the scene between them at the end of "The Homecoming" was a breakup scene, but maybe they're just on pause for a bit.

Also notable is that Jeremy says that Alaric is his guardian and that he likes it. I sort of love that there was no resistance from the Gilbert kids when Alaric moved into their house and started being the worst chaperone of all time. He obviously provides them with some sense of security, and it's cool that Jeremy, in particular, didn't feel the need to pretend he was the man of the house.

8:07 -- Back at the bar, Elena tells Damon that she's worried about Jeremy spiraling. I have to say -- I'm kind of unimpressed by Jeremy's regression here. After his parents died, he spiraled, turning into a typical high school burn-out. After Anna died, he spiraled, trying to off himself in a blaze of anticlimactic glory. After Jenna died, he spiraled, and started getting stoned with Matt. Can we get a little character progression here, please? At some point, this kid has got to realize that he can't go back to square one every time life hands him a pile of you-know-what.

I do like this scene between Elena and Damon here. He's flirting, and she's clearly flirting back, but he's not putting pressure on her or taking the eye-sex thing to a level that's inappropriate for a Sunday morning at The Grill. It's just casual, comfortable, we're-probably-going-to-bang-eventually flirtation.

Klaus shows up with his latest henchman, Tony, who reminds me a lot of Maddox. Klaus totally has a type. Turns out Elena wasn't actually being paranoid on her run this morning.

Does anyone else find it interesting that Klaus is so singularly focused on finding the coffins that he doesn't seek any revenge on Damon for constructing an elaborate assassination plot and even involving Klaus's dreaded non-father? I would have thought that the incredibly vulnerable moment that Klaus had as Mikael berated him would, in hindsight, have him really angry, and definitely vengeful. He doesn't even seem mad at Damon for exposing his soft underbelly. He's just concerned about Stefan.

8:10 -- Bonnie goes to the witch house, alone, to look into her stress dreams. Normally I'd say that's a pretty dumb move -- everyone in Mystic Falls should employ the buddy system at all time -- but I think Bonnie still feels safe at the witch house, even though they sicced Vicki and Anna on her when she used them to revive Jeremy.

Stefan is there! It's pretty wild that Stefan has become the guy who we're supposed to be afraid of when he steps out of the shadows.

8:14 -- Did Stefan follow her there to the witch house, or did he put the dream in her head? Sometimes I forget that vampires have that power. He wants Bonnie's help with Klaus's family, saying that his family is his only weakness and the only thing that can be used against him. This is not a new theme for this show.

8:15 -- "I thought we'd all stay in, have a meal together like a typical atypical family," Alaric says, hitting all my warm-and-fuzzies, but Jeremy isn't having any of it, because he just really loves Tyler so much and wants to hang out with him all of the time. (I love that Jeremy acknowledges Tyler's super-hearing here. Too often, the characters on this show speak in their full voices when any old monster could be lurking nearby.)

He invites Tyler in, which I'm sure will become a problem later this season. Actually, I think this is the first time we've seen Tyler in the Gilbert house ever. Too bad they don't feel quite up to giving him a warm welcome, instead grilling him on his Klaus situation.

"Compulsion, that's just mind control, like hypnosis," Tyler says. "Being sired is like faith. You do something because you believe it's the right thing." He does admit that if Klaus asked him to, he'd rip out his own heart. Finally Jeremy seems to clue in to the fact that Tyler isn't the same guy he once was.

8:18 -- "Cheers, mate." Over at the Salvatore Mansion, Klaus is having a friendly drink with Damon. Their very careful, reluctant alliance is interesting to watch -- Ian Somerhalder and Joseph Morgan are very compelling on screen together. I have to admit that on occasion, Klaus makes it easy to forget that he killed Jenna. I find myself thinking that with a little TLC, he could be pretty cool.

Though Damon makes a joke about bonding over their "mutual loathing" of Stefan, he's actually making an interesting point. Stefan is definitely On Notice for both of these men, but they both also harbor a pretty powerful affection for the guy. Obviously, the brotherly connection is indelible, but it also seems like Ripper Stefan was Klaus's only true friend, ever, and after a thousand years of powerful loneliness, that's got to run very deep.

Damon is on vervain (I guess building up a tolerance is easier than we knew) so Klaus can't compel him. Instead, he makes a phone call. I assumed it was to Tyler, but it's Jeremy we see hanging up the phone back at the house.

8:20 --
Tyler leaves hastily -- though whether it's because of the Elena and Alaric Interrogation of Doom or because of some sire brain connection, we don't know. While Elena and Alaric contemplate Tyler's "cult mentality," Jeremy ditches his ring, goes outside, and stands in front of a speeding car. (It's not a Ford Focus; only the good guys drive those. No word yet on whether bad guys use Bing.)

Alaric throws Jeremy out of the way at the last minute. Aww.

tvd-newdeal-jpg8:26 -- The car is driven by Klaus's hybrid, Tony, so Elena is confident that Alaric will be saved by his ring. I know that the ring prevents supernatural deaths, but this is feeling like a bit of a stretch for me. Having your neck broken by a vampire with super-strength? Yes, supernatural. Being stabbed in the heart by a vampire with super-strength? Yes, supernatural. But this was a case of Alaric vs. Car, not Alaric vs. Hybrid Fists of Doom. It feels like it shouldn't work.

8:26 --  "We need sun. I want a fortress, not a dungeon," Klaus says, compelling the construction workers at his new... fortress, I guess. It's pretty. Tyler shows up to check on the progress of their master plan, but it a little disturbed when Klaus fills him in on the result.

"I didn't think that we'd actually have to kill anyone," Tyler says. Tyler, "The Vampire Diaries" airs on The CW on Thursday nights. You should probably start paying attention.

8:27 -- Alaric was killed in the crash, but he hasn't woken up yet. We know that his ring has been a little bit slow lately from Damon's random BFFicide, but time is a-ticking. Damon points out that Jeremy's vervain bracelet is gone, and Elena doesn't spare much sensitivity when she says, "That's why Tyler was hanging out with you!" Maybe that was just a bonus, Elena! Did you ever think of that? Maybe Tyler really just wanted to discuss art and artful hair-gelling.

Jeremy's reaction to Damon's plan is the most logical thing I've heard anyone say on this show. "Let's get the hell out of here, pack our bags, and go!" His assertion that school and work doesn't matter is 100% correct at this point -- if the show's writers have given up on the day-to-day boringness, why shouldn't the characters? Steven R. McQueen is having a fantastic episode, by the way.

8:29 -- More of Bonnie's ever-elusive bedroom! I have to admit, I thought it would be a little witchier... candles, piles of grimoires on the nightstand, a little eye of newt next to her Taylor Swift Wonderstruck perfume. That said, the girl drives a Prius, not a broomstick, so I shouldn't be too surprised.

8:30 -- Damon and Elena head for the Witch House. The witches won't let Damon in the house, so Elena gets some alone time with Stefan. He's indifferent about Jeremy's life, which infuriates Elena enough for a slap. I think it's interesting that her lowest point in her relationship with Damon was when he displayed indifference toward Jeremy's life, and now Stefan is mirroring that. It's going to take a lot for Stefan to recover from this moment, in Elena's eyes.

8:34 -- Elena heads out to "deal with Jeremy," leaving Damon to handle Stefan. And (man)handle him he does. I love when they do that wall-slammy thing. "Let's talk," Stefan says. Instead, Damon attacks. They tussle in vamp-speed, which is always fun to watch.

Damon asks for answers about Stefan's epic betrayal, but Stefan is more concerned with revenge. "Klaus took everything from me. I'm doing the same to him," he says. It's very telling that at this point -- when he's free to do as he pleases -- Stefan has chosen to seek vengeance on Klaus, instead of working on getting all the things Klaus "took" back.

From where I'm sitting, it's hard to blame Klaus for all of Stefan's loss. Stefan had a hand in almost all of it. When he had his humanity, he feared Klaus enough that he was afraid to break his word after Klaus saved Damon from the wolfbite. Now, that fear seems gone. He's being reckless with other peoples' lives. We can't blame Klaus for that. At this point, it seems Klaus is more willing to listen to reason than Stefan is.

Then, the big reveal -- Stefan admits he messed with the plan to spare Damon's life. Damon isn't exactly thankful, though. "Stop saving me," he hisses. He would've gladly sacrificed himself to take Klaus out of the picture for Elena. Cute.

8:36 --Back in the woods of debauchery, Jeremy turns his crossbow on Tyler, but Tyler smells Jeremy's cologne from a mile away. It's definitely important that Tyler warns Jeremy about Klaus's ongoing plans. It seems that Tyler has a shred of free will left, it's just too little, too late.

8:37 -- Alaric's ring kicks in, kind of. He wakes up -- but he looks like he'd rather be dead. He's barely on his feet five seconds before he pukes blood and hits the floor.

The paramedics that show up when Elena calls make a few hasty diagnoses, but Tony the hybrid mouth-breather is hovering, and compels them to leave without even doing that Damon eye-thing.

For a moment, letting Tony in seems like Elena's only option... until Super Jeremy shoots him with the crossbow, then chops of his head with a meat cleaver. (Is a meat cleaver a normal thing to have in a family kitchen?) Elena is clearly scarred for life. It's so cute that she still gets freaked out by little things like decapitations on her porch. Jeremy isn't having the best day ever, either. He probably really, really wishes he was working at the Grill about now.

They take Alaric to the hospital... why? They can't just give him the hybrid blood that's all over their porch?

8:43 -- Damon and Stefan decide to unite against Klaus. This is kind of Damon's dream -- the one thing he wanted when we first met him, he and his brother, minus the bunny-blood-guzzling, teaming up against the world. Be careful what you wish for.

8:45 -- At the hospital, Alaric has a miraculous recovery, which intrigues Dr. Fell (played by Torrey DeVitto, Paul Wesley's real life wife) but sexy history teachers can call her Meredith. If you're a book fan, your brain just exploded, right? Here's some dish from Julie Plec about how Show Meredith was developed from Book Meredith.

8:46 -- Klaus meets Elena at the Salvatore mansion, where she hands over Rebekah, against Damon's wishes. When he sees her all dressed up with no place to go, his whisper of, "My poor sister," sounds so genuine.

"The life of my sister in exchange for your brother, yeah, I'd say that's a bargain. Consider him spared," Klaus tells Elena. He also promises to keep Rebekah away from Elena, because he needs Elena alive to dangle her like bait for Stefan. This all seems like a pretty good deal for Elena... particularly given the part where the only person who Rebekah is more angry with than her, is Klaus. He looks completely devastated when she drops the bomb that Rebekah knows he killed their mom.

8:51 -- Jeremy and Alaric have a little father-son talk outside the hospital. "Damon says you owe him a drink," Jeremy says. Again, cute.

All in all, though, this conversation is pretty worrisome. Jeremy is so jaded and sad now, and to make it worse, he's just accepted it all. "I've just got to get used to it," he says.

No one should have to get used to this, reply Alaric's concerned-guardian eyebrows.

8:52 -- Elena is feeling sorry for herself over a sink full of blood, which... yeah, is a pretty good reason to have a pity party in and of itself. She tells Damon the truth about Rebekah, and his reaction is admirable -- he's worried, definitely, but not condescending. She feels like she had to do it and he trusts her judgment after a beat. They really feel like equals in this scene.

"My brother's sort of running his own show right now," Damon says. He doesn't mention that they're working together, though. Hmmm.

8:53 -- Klaus has a really heartwarming chat with Rebekah's dessicated body back at his "fortress," revealing that he's not making a house just for himself, but for their entire family. When she starts to stir, he puts the dagger back into her heart, but he has the grace to look pretty sad about it. She can't kill him -- he knows this -- but he still won't wake her up, because he doesn't even want to face her anger at finding out the truth.

Klaus has a little bit of a creepy obsession with his family. It's feeling a little "Game of Thrones" if you know what I mean. I don't think she'll be dead for very long. Claire Holt is too awesome to leave in the same dress episode after episode.

tvd-newdeal-jeremy.jpg8:54 -- And now, the scene that made me cry 100 rivers. Elena, Damon, and Alaric arrive in Jeremy's room and flat-out tell him that they're about to compel him -- and the thing that's most striking to me is that Jeremy doesn't protest, even before Damon sits down to do the eye-thing. He's tired of trying to be tough, and he hasn't been able to admit it, so he's quietly taking the way out when it's offered.

Alaric insists that Jeremy never think twice again about Mystic Falls, and Damon checks with Elena before he says those fateful words. Her nod is possibly the most heartbreaking moment of this entire episode. She has no family now, period, and that is written all over her face. Nina Dobrev deserves so much more recognition than she gets.

I'm not sure if I think Jeremy is actually leaving the show for good. For what it's worth, there are several more episodes in McQueen's contract for the season -- but that doesn't actually mean anything, because Warner Bros is allowed to cut episode counts short if they please. I would point out that there was a lot of attention paid, at the beginning of the season, to the idea that humans can overcome compulsion if they want it badly enough, and work hard enough to do it. Loving his sister is a big reason to work hard, if you ask me. (Also, this could be wishful thinking. I just... really am sad about this one. I was completely unprepared to say goodbye to this character.)

8:56 -- After that amazing, tragic scene, we're supposed to care about some junk with the coffins. I don't. Basically, there's one that doesn't open, and Bonnie thinks that the key to killing Klaus is in there, trapped by a spell. Blah blah. Jeremy is leaving.

8:57 --. Out on the bloody porch of doom, Elena thanks Damon for being there for her over the last few months of madness. It's a really sweet moment, and, very selflessly, he chooses not to revel in it. Instead, he gives her an inkling of hope that Stefan might still be salvageable.

I'd sort of hoped that Elena would initiate their first real kiss, since Damon's feelings for her have always been on the table, but the fact that she leans into it says everything. This is a perfect moment -- it mirrors what he thought was their first kiss in the Season 1 finale, and it's not about lust or fear, just about a quiet moment of support and affection.

Delena shippers, congratulations!

Next week on "The Vampire Diaries": I don't know, I just got punched in the gut and then had my heart squeezed, I'm not paying attention to the promos. Here, you watch it:



MVP for this episode goes to Steven R. McQueen. Though everyone showed up with their A-games, his scenes resonated the most. I'm hoping to do a more in-depth article with some opinions on his goodbye -- word is he's not doing interviews on the subject, though.

Okay, per usual, it's now your turn to throw your two cents into the comments section! Let's talk about (1) Meredith & Torrey's debut (2) Jeremy breaking my heart (3) Stefan's motives (4) Bonnie's bedroom and (5)... was there a number five? I think some people might have kissed or something.

2012 is going to be a good year, vamp fans.


Photo/Video credit: The CW
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