'The Vampire Diaries' recap: Stefan softens up and Evil Alaric strikes again

tvd-murder-stelena2.jpgThe phrase "game-changer" is used far too often when teasing television episodes... but it's an accurate description for this week's episode of "The Vampire Diaries." Last season, when we learned that the sun and moon curse was actually just a really old lie, fans were shocked and the characters had to reevaluate their entire situation. Last night's twist put us in the same position.

I skipped the recap last week because I was so repulsed by Sage and Damon using sex to  manipulate Rebekah and I didn't feel like writing about why the implication that a woman is somehow mentally weaker after sex is offensive, creepy, and doesn't belong on this show. This week, Rebekah flexed her muscles and took back the night, and it was a relief to see it. I still would have preferred that the issue never come up. Let's just say Sage's fate this week was well-deserved.

This episode was great -- and not just because its title was on loan from my favorite band. Bonnie finally got some emotional payoff, some major moral issues were raised (are supernatural creatures victims of circumstance who deserve forgiveness, or would we be better off if they were all dead?) and Stefan dropped the L-bomb. Plus, I love the way that they're drawing out the Evil Alaric storyline instead of offering a quick fix, and the small teases we've seen of Jeremy's life in Denver are definitely preferable to forgetting about him. We'll see Jeremy and Tyler back next week after way, way too long without them.

Let's watch...

Previously on "The Vampire Diaries": Alaric has two personalities, one of which really hates vampires, and there is a block of wood that threatens to take out the most powerful vampires in all the world.

8:00 - Elena shows up to Alaric's place with a Sorry About All Your Murder flavored muffin, but Damon, who has apparently been on Alaric-watch, doesn't let her in, because he doesn't want her to see that they're making weapons out of the sign. He's acting really sketchy about the whole thing, particularly considering that in less than 5 minutes, he's going to show her said weapons. I guess he just wanted it to be a surprise.

Once he's used some power tools, Alaric decides it's time to turn himself in to the sheriff. It's probably a good idea; let's be real, she'll never figure it out on her own. He's having some guilt issues about, you know, murdering the father of his student/friend/comrade. Stefan, who was once an expert in guilty feelings, just doesn't really care. He tells Alaric that they need him to help kill Klaus (side note: they don't actually) so the self-flagellation will have to wait.

Damon, meanwhile, thinks it would be a good idea if Alaric put the ring back on so he doesn't die while they go on a vampire hunt. I get that Damon is attached, but this is definitely on the list of Top 10 Most Terrible Salvatore Ideas Ever.

8:04 - In the woods, Elena and Caroline are discussing that thing where Alaric killed her father by sticking a knife in his gut and leaving him to bleed out in a supply closet. Elena is particularly grating as she explains how she's able to rise above all of the murder in this town.  "None of you asked for this. Who would I be if I just turned my back on any of you?"

Never mind that if they turned their backs on her, she would be dead and/or chained up in Klaus' basement with a tap surgically attached to her carotid artery.

MATT! The party is here. Bonnie isn't partaking in the vampire-killing today. Caroline thinks it's because she's doing her mourning off-screen, and to be fair to Caroline, that's generally a very fair assumption.

8:05 - Meanwhile, in a town that looks like it might be big enough to have a movie theater and a CVS, Klaus finds Finn, who continues to be just the worst. Klaus knows Finn is the worst and is having a blast taunting him, which is fun to watch.

tvd-murder-matt-and-other-people.jpg8:06 - Stefan and Damon take over exposition duties for this episode, explaining that their best bet is to have Matt (who is part of the plan!!!!!) and his muscles flirt with stupid desperate Rebekah, who will be so weakened by her stupid desperate lust for the quarterback that she'll be super easy to stake.

Clearly, they have been taking lessons in being awful from Sage.

I sort of like Caroline's crack about Rebekah being desperate enough to sleep with Damon, though, because it wasn't so long ago that Caroline was in that position. The parallels between Rebekah and Caroline are strong. Next time Klaus is promising to spend eternity showing Caroline the entire world, Caroline should take a good long look at Rebekah and how extraordinary happy she is with all of her culture and riches and no one around who truly loves her.

...And now Elena is pointing a crossbow at Matt, and I am too worried to think coherently.

8:08 - Klaus reunites Sage with Finn. This is a fantastic couple. They deserve each other in so many ways. After a quick product placement break which reminds us that Hot Kol is being super hot off screen while we have to watch Finn on screen, Rebekah sets off on a vengeance mission. For the record, when it comes to this Rebekah vs. Damon situation, I am 100% Team Becky.

8:09 - "Hello, lover." And girl crush.

8:12 - "Mr. Saltzman was like the most normal guy in town," Matt says. Matt is confusing the word "normal" with the word "drunk" but with his mom, who can blame him? 

Sage and Finn are taking a stroll through town square, reminiscing about their time together and how Sage has "taken care of herself" through the years (sex!) but she never stopped loving Finn. Elena calls for backup.

8:14 - Rebekah's plan is to bleed Damon out until all the vervain is out of his system, and then compel him to do something awful, like kill Stefan or Elena. Gratuitous shirtlessness and blood are never a bad thing on this show, so we'll allow it.

My favorite part of this scene is Klaus's suggestion that she flip Damon upside-down and their subsequent banter. Just your average how-to-torture-a-vampire sibling rivalry.

8:15 - "Go and manage your witch," Rebekah tells Klaus. Your witch. I'd love to see the vampire/witch hierarchy addressed on a deeper level in future episodes. This isn't the first time that an Original has referred to a witch as if she's a possession. From what we've seen thus far, witches are actually more powerful than vampires, and, of course, witches came first. So what's with the vamps taking ownership over the witches? We saw a little of it with Katherine and Lucy in Season 2, when Lucy was obligated to repay debts to Katherine before abruptly turning on her.

Bonnie is stuck under Klaus' thumb, working on undoing the spell. He threatens her and shows her that Kol has taken video of Jeremy in Denver with his dog. (I'm 99% sure that's Steven McQueen's actual dog.)

tvd-break-caroline.jpg8:17 - Alaric offers Caroline a thin apology for killing her dad. I'm sure it's not the first time he's apologized to someone for doing something he completely doesn't remember. Caroline is cautious, but she does cut him a break. "Right after I turned into a vampire I killed someone. A stranger. I just killed him, and what's worse is I liked it," she says. "I have blood on my hands too. We all do. I'm no better than you." Caroline is the best.

8:20 - Apparently all those times that Damon begged Stefan to stop saving him finally sunk in, because despite Elena's pleading, Stefan refuses to prioritize Damon over killing the originals. I wish that Damon could see Elena fighting for him like this.

8:26 - Elsewhere, Damon has a dream that Elena helps him out of his shackles, feeds him her blood, and then kisses him. (He was just drinking her blood. Ew.) To me, it was pretty clear that it was all a dream from the start because of the fuzzy lighting, but let's just move on from this because I'm sure that when he woke up, it was painful enough for the "Delena" fans. No need to rehash it.

8:28 - "You. Bother. Me." You tell him, Bonnie!

8:29 - Sage introduces Finn to tequila, and suddenly he has reason to live! Just kidding, he's still the worst. She casually gives a what's-up nod to Troy, a vampire she turned who probably won't be important at all later in this episode.

Stefan and Matt vervain-spike their shots to get their attention. Then Stefan baits them, luring them outside with his eyebrows. Elsewhere, Bonnie is doing the spell to remove the bind.

Once outside, there's a scuffle. Elena appears to shoot a crossbow (LOL) but when she misses, Matt appears, like a BAMF, and stakes Finn right in the gut. He's the best. Matt, not Finn. Finn is the worst. Sage cries and cries while Finn burns.

Since no one cares that Finn is dead or Sage is sad, let's discuss the more important things about this scene. 1) Matt just staked his first vampire! So proud. 2) Elena, at some point, decided that killing Originals was more important to her than running off to save Damon from Rebekah, and she went along with Stefan's plan. 3) Paul Wesley's eyebrows are magic.

8:36 - "Thank you Bonnie! See you in physics class!" This is the best line of the episode.

Bonnie sees Damon hanging there, being tortured, but she doesn't stick around to help. Instead, she lets Klaus walk her to the door, because Klaus is a true gentleman.

I'm sure there are Damon fans who are very angry about this whole thing, but let's be honest... Damon wouldn't risk his life to save Bonnie's, unless Elena made him do it. Besides, it's not like Bonnie just pretends she didn't see him -- as soon as she's outside, she calls Elena to let her know what's going on. Finally, we get to see Bonnie have a long-overdue emotional meltdown. Kat Graham is fantastic in this scene. I love when an actor isn't afraid to really go for it in crying scenes. So often we see the whole one-perfect-tear thing, but some occasions just call for full-on, body-wracking ugly sobs, and Graham does that boldly here.

This is too sad. I need a dance break.



8:39 - Sage shows up to fight with Stefan, with Troy at her side. "Oh, you remember me. Good. Then you know I like to go all ten rounds." That's a great line... until she starts choking on it. Sage and Troy die on the floor.

Killing Finn also killed off his vampire family tree -- all the vampires he turned, and all the vampires they turned, are now dead. Very cool, very unexpected twist.  If the originals die, the vampire entire species will be eradicated.

8:46 - Stefan goes to Klaus's house, willing to trade the stakes for Damon. Damon is alone when Stefan walks in. Instead of, you know, just grabbing Damon and running, Stefan makes a big show of yelling for Klaus.

This doesn't make a lot of sense. The Originals didn't even know that the Salvatores had those weapons until this point -- way to show your hand, Stefan. Plus, Rebekah took Damon to get her revenge for the brain-rape, not as leverage. As far as Klaus and Rebekah knew, they'd burned the last of the White Oak.

In order to see if they're lying, Klaus basically compels Damon to rip his own arms off. Gross.

8:48 - Caroline and Elena discuss the fact that once they find out which Original is the vampire-ancestor of the Salvatores, Katherine, Rose, and Caroline, they can kill all the rest of the Originals. Hopefully including Klaus.

Back. Up. At the beginning of this exact episode, Elena was preaching about how most vampires didn't ask to be turned. They are the victim of supernatural circumstance. Her best friend is a vampire. The men she loves are vampires. Her birth mother was a vampire. The aunt who sacrificed her life for her? Vampire. No one knows that vampires can be good better than Elena Gilbert.

And yet, she's totally okay with taking out the majority of the species (just as long as Stefan, Damon, and Caroline are safe) if it means that she never has to give Klaus her blood again? This is bordering on psychotic. It's been a long time since Klaus has done anything to them unprovoked. He's made it clear that all he wants from them is for Elena to be safe enough to provide him with a blood juice box every so often. He is hardly a threat anymore. Yes, it's very evil that he keeps threatening their loved ones, but if they'd stop trying to kill his entire family, he'd lay off.

If Elena sees that Caroline, Stefan, and Damon are people whose lives need to be preserved -- people with families, and loved ones, and connections -- then doesn't she think that all the other vampires around the world have those things, too? You can't go both ways. You can't say "Oh, they're just victims of circumstance! They have good hearts! Forgive them!" and then, two seconds later, say "Kill them all, except the ones in my history class!"

tvd-murder-damon-bex.jpg8:49 - Using compulsion, Klaus gets Damon to reveal that there are actually three more stakes left.

Klaus is sick and tired of being lied to. He says that by being a target for Stefan's rage, he's given Stefan's life purpose. He's willing to be hated, because that way, Stefan doesn't have to turn his anger inward. It's similar to what Damon said last season, about being okay with Elena hating him as long as he could keep her safe. Klaus's love for Stefan prevails!

There are three people in the room who are not paying attention to Rebekah, and she's sick of it, so she sets Damon free.

8:54 - "Let's all say a prayer for Finn, who slept in a box longer than he lived as a man. He was a lovesick fool and he's better off in death." I hope one day someone eulogizes me so sweetly.

Rebekah shows her soft underbelly again when she admits that she's got a sort of sick sense of admiration for the Salvatores because of their devotion to keeping each other alive. "The Salvatores may fight like dogs but in the end, they would die for each other. At least they know what family means. You destroyed ours," she says. She even admits that she'd consider staying in Mystic Falls if Klaus left.

8:55 - Stefan and Elena pow wow back at the brooding house. This is the first time in many months that Stefan has said "I love you," to Elena, and it's sort of nice to hear it again. Even if I'm not on board with these two getting back together quite yet, it's good to hear Stefan admit to having actual emotions without adding a tag about how much it sucks to feel things.

Of course, he baits her about her feelings for Damon, too. "I just want you to look me in the eye and tell me that you don't feel something for him," he says. She says that she doesn't know what she feels. Ugh. After all this time, she really hasn't sat down and done a little bit of soul-searching on this subject? The "I don't know what I feel" just serves to stall her inevitable admission that she does love Damon. If she can't tell Damon, she could at least be honest with Stefan. Her avoidance is just boring at this point.

8:59 - All healed up, Damon goes to Alaric's house to collect his stake, but unfortunately, Evil Alaric stole it and hid it. This means two things -- Bonnie's herbs are not working, and Evil Alaric can potentially take out an entire line of vampires. This is not going to end well.

MVP this week goes to Kat Graham, because when Bonnie finally gets something interesting to work with, she runs with it. I loved her strength as she stood up to Klaus, contrasted with her vulnerability when she ditched Damon and went outside.

The next new episode airs April 19, and then we'll get an uninterrupted run until the May 10 finale. What do you predict will happen next?

Photo/Video credit: The CW
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