'The Vampire Diaries' recap: This is how Salvatores say 'I love you'

tvd-originals-1.jpgListen, I cry during "Vampire Diaries" episodes with alarming regularity. (I should probably talk to a therapist about how my emotional investment in this television show vastly overwhelms my emotional investment in... say... my actual life.) But tonight, I cried extra. In fact, I haven't ever cried this hard during a show that didn't have Coach Taylor in it. Except for the first time Sam Winchester died, maybe.

But I digress.

Tonight's episode reiterated a lot of the themes that have always been present in the show -- most significantly the fact that family can be both your greatest strength and your greatest weakness. Your brother is, essentially, born to be your greatest ally and your most ruthless enemy.

Even though these were ideas we've seen in play on the show for two and a half seasons, tonight gave an emotional resonance to them we haven't seen before. Basically, it made me want to drop everything in my whole life and get on a plane to go tell my sisters I love them and it would totally suck if a really old vampire ripped out their hearts.

Once again, I digress. Expect a lot of that tonight; I'm hopped up on cold medicine and my emotions have been put through the ringer by Julie Plec and Caroline Dries. Again. Here we go...

Previously on "The Vampire Diaries":
Stefan has no emotions, except he kind of does. The Original Witch is still HBIC even though she's been dead a thousand years. Alaric was all "I found something" even though he totally didn't find it; Hot Uncle Mason found it. No respect. No respect at all.

8:01 - "Bats hate the light." Oh, a bat reference. Because this is a vampire show. I'm amused. Elena is probably really glad that Damon and Alaric kissed and made up, because now the band is back together! Even if Damon can't join the cave party. They suggest that ancient werewolves drew the story on the walls. The letters in viking script spell out names that we know: Niklaus, Elijah, Rebekah. Um, also... Alaric speaks viking?

8:03 - Flashback time! Flashback episodes on "The Vampire Diaries" don't tend to have a ton of actual present day action, but they're always so rich with story that they often wind up being the most satisfying hours of the series. Mythologasm after mythologasm, basically.

Rebekah and Klaus's relationship has certainly evolved over the last century, but I like that their playful petulance has remained. The human versions of them are recognizable -- in fact, it doesn't seem that Rebekah has changed much at all. The girl who joined the cheerleading squad isn't far from the girl who insisted, "If I want to wield a blade, I shall wield a blade."

Klaus, on the other hand, has changed a lot. In this flashback, he's hanging back in the shadows, scuffing his feet and letting Rebekah boss him around. He confesses his fears openly, admits to tattling on his sister while cowering from his father. He barely resembles the man -- the villain -- we know today.

"Traitor," Rebekah calls him affectionately. And this was before he stuck her in a box for ninety years because she met a boy she liked.

8:04 - Back in the Lockwood cave, I have to give Elena kudos for suspecting that the wall is one of Klaus's fakes. He does know every weird cave-language in the history of mankind, as we know. Check Elena out, being all smart and stuff.

The last name on the list is Mikael, which Alaric thinks is enough to verify the wall. "I now like to call him Papa Original," Damon says. Damon, congratulations on being a month behind the whole internet.

8:05 - Alaric is very sexy when he gets his history on.

I can't really explain why I love this scene so much, but I really, really do. Alaric doing research while Damon and Elena spar in the background -- it feels like family time at the bachelor pad! The rapport feels so natural and inevitable.

The wonderful thing about Damon and Elena's relationship is how deftly and patiently it's been developed. It's not like they met, and music swelled, and the audience went, "Oh, so that's The Couple." It really did take two and a half seasons of very, very slow progression to get them to this point. I can't point a finger at a moment and say, "There, that's when things changed between them," because there's no such moment. There's a million tiny gestures, a gentle push and pull.

For the record -- I'm not talking about them in a romantic sense, but about their friendship. Sometimes the whole one-step-forward-two-steps-back progression can actually benefit a story. Here, it has.

8:06 - Becky handsprings over to Elena. Of course she does. And then Elena pushes the Flashback Button, and we go...

Back to Mystic Falls in the year 1000, or something thereabouts. Elijah (!!!) and his beautiful Pocahontas hair (!!!!) and Klaus are sparring, playfully - kind of like Elena and Damon just were. Aww! Symmetry.

We meet another one of their siblings - Henrick, who is much younger - but more importantly, we see Original mommy Esther and Mikael, just long enough to wonder why anyone would ever want to have children with that douche.

Ahem. Mikael isn't a fan of fighting for fun. He only likes people to fight for their lives. We see, now, why Klaus was terrified of him before he was a vampire... but I still am not quite sure why Klaus is scared of him now that he's the all-powerful hybrid.

8:09 -  While Elena plans her "mean girl power-struggle" with Rebekah, Damon heads to the jail cell to check on Stefan. (It is a jail cell, right? It looks exactly like the Salvatore dungeons, but it seems there's light coming in. Is it the same jail cell where Daddy Forbes tortured Caroline?)

Stefan status update: "Pasty and pouty." Elena is impressively unmoved by the whole thing, and considering the last year of her life, she's also impressively confident about her ability to outsmart Little Becky. "I've got this," she tells Damon. I really hope she's right. I'm rooting for Elena so much right now, and I don't want her to go back to being the girl that thinks she can solve problems if she just claps her hands because she believes.

8:10 - "We should all listen to Elena, right? I mean, her plans always work out so well, don't they." See? Mean Stefan and I, we could be BFFs.

Paul is incredible in this scene, but I can't really figure out what it's getting at, or what Damon gets out of their conversation that implores him to open the bindings.

Honestly, what about the exchange they just shared screamed "I, Stefan Salvatore, Ripper extraordinaire, deserve to be let out of this cell." All of Lexi's work, starving Stefan with her mind, was for naught! If this turns into one of those things Damon does without thinking that Elena then holds against him for four episodes, I'm going to be so bored.

This vaguely reminds me of Season 1, when Stefan and Damon played darts while Stefan, meanwhile, was really just trying to get Damon to spill his secrets.

8:12 - "Hey, what's up?" Rebekah says, all casual, like Elena's just stopping by to drink a Diet Pepsi and clear some "90210" off the DVR. Have I made it clear how much I love Rebekah? She's just so good at being a vampire. Compelling a runway show to choose a dress! She and Tyler are basically my kind of vamps. Everyone in this town uses compulsion in like, dire, life-threatening situations. I would definitely rather use it to ditch practice and go party.

"You will learn what I allow you to learn. Is that clear?" Please can we keep Rebekah forever?

tvd-originals-alaric.jpg8:15 - Bonnie is in this episode! How great is Alaric's little giggle when he says "I'm obsessed!"? He's definitely got his groove back.

"I brought you the necklace that wouldn't die," she says. (But really, that thing is made of a proprietary blend of silver and ancient magic. Did she really think that putting it sorta close to an open flame would destroy it?)

Cue the obligatory awkward "I just broke up with my boyfriend and now the only thing that will make out with me is my carton of Ben & Jerry's" conversation that nobody wants to have with their hot history teacher.

And apparently it took Alaric way, way too long to associate that symbol with Elena's necklace. I guess that's a good thing; it means he hasn't been staring at the chestal region of his students much.

8:16 - Another reason I relate to Rebekah: she's got her ex-boyfriend's house all to herself, and if she didn't do a little snooping, she'd basically be a robot.

One of Esther and Mikael's children was lost to a plague in Europe, so they traveled all the way to what's now America (more specifically, Mystic Falls) to avoid the illness. (This was before they had those surgical masks that crazy germophobes wore during the SARS scare, clearly.) I wonder if losing that child is what made Mikael such a jerk.

tvd-originals-3.jpgMystic Falls was a "mystical land" where everyone was "healthy, blessed by the gifts of speed and strength." Kind of like... oh, a Lockwood. Yep; it was a werewolf village. The Originals would go into the caves to hide from the wolves.

"One full moon, Klaus and my youngest brother, Henrick, snuck out to watch the men turn into beasts." Is it just me, or does it sound like for a town where everyone lived "peacefully," a whole lot of people in this town had killed people and triggered their curse? Klaus's scream is nearly bloodcurdling as he carries Henrick back to the house, bleeding.

Joseph Morgan's work in this scene is brilliant. He's so raw and young; unrecognizable against the Klaus we know today. He looks like he's never seen blood before.

8:19 - "I kind of went off book, but don't worry, I know what I'm doing," Damon says during his ill-timed check-in call. Famous last words, Salvatore. Elena sounds extremely dubious, but surprisingly... not mad. She trusts Damon. Who'd-a thunk it.

Basically, this is where Damon suddenly has the brother he's always wanted. When we met Damon in Season 1, he wanted nothing more than Stefan to be his BFF partner in crime. They could feed on human blood as long as they were sure to mind their table manners; they could party and live dangerously and give each other high-fives and bro-hugs forever.

If Damon is trying to do the whole "maybe he'll love me enough to be cured" thing that Elena was going for a few episodes back... I gotta say, I like his version better than hers.

8:25 - Stefan is getting Damon drunk via a game of quarters. He's remarkably good at it. "It's precision borne out of tragic boredom," he confesses, lamenting his years lost to wallowing in despair, drowning in guilt, and regretting his existence.

"I happen to like the edge, Stefan. Your problem is your inability to resist falling over it." Right now, Damon is the equivalent of a casual drinker expecting their recovering alcoholic friend to be able to go out for just a couple drinks just once in a while. It's unrealistic, sadly.

8:26 - Rebekah gazes at a photo of Stefan and Elena in happier times. "Honestly, I don't get you two as a couple." Oh gurl, you just became the voice of about half of the fans, and the enemy of the other half.

Elena really has Becky's number. She knows that despite her vampirism and her ancientness, she still cares about life on a moment-to-moment basis. She has human reactions - she wants friends, she loves her brother, she goes to Claire's and buys their pink hair feathers so she can look just like Aria from "Pretty Little Liars."

When Elena uses that knowledge, Rebekah spills a bit more. She confesses that her mother and Mikael begged Ayana to protect their children from the werewolves; I guess that first taste of Henrick had the wolves clamoring for more human blood. 

Ayana warns that the spirits would turn on the family. I'm guessing it's the spirits of witches who came before them -- witches are really nasty after they die, huh? Can't they just quiet down and let people go about their business? You're dead, witches! Shh.

When Ayana refused to help, though; Esther had to do it. Yes, Esther is the actual Original Witch that the show has been referring to -- it doesn't mean she was the first witch, as it seemed to imply, but that she was the witch of the Original family. They're good at choosing their words on this show.

I really like this twist. The desperation of a mother who has already lost two of her children is something that can't really be measured - it's the only thing I can imagine would drive someone to think something as crazy as, "I know! I'll make it so my kids live forever!"

8:31 - There were recently some rumors in the "Vampire Diaries" fandom that we'd be meeting a vampire/witch hybrid, but Rebekah effectively quiets that -- one can't be both. "A witch is nature's servant. A vampire is an abomination of nature," she clarifies.

I wonder if that means that witches can't turn, or that if a witch turns, she loses her witch powers.

Now, we get into the details of the vampire curse - or the protection, as Esther would've thought it. "She called upon the sun for life and the ancient white oak tree for immortality," Rebekah recalls, adding that her father dosed them with blood in their wine, and then killed them. "He wasn't delicate about it, either." Another thing that Klaus and Stefan share, then: the memory of their own fathers murdering them.

I'm not sure who the girl is who Mikael brought in for them to feed on; I'm assuming it wasn't a sister, but she seems bizarrely compliant given that they weren't vampires yet, so they can't have compelled her. Unless Mikael turned himself first?

tvd-originals-elena.jpgRebekah explains that nature fought back, which is why for every strength the vampires have, they now have a weakness. (Though, let's be honest, that whole "burning in the sun" thing is the easiest problem to solve, ever.)

The spell gave the white oak tree the power to kill them, so they burned it down. I guess only Klaus stole the ashes to make the daggers, then. "And with that, the predatory species was born."

I have to say, their casting of Rebekah was genius. Most of this episode is Claire Holt's, as she tells the story -- a lesser actress would make this amount of exposition excruciatingly boring, but I'm hanging on her every word.

8:35 - I interviewed Ian Somerhalder before the season premiere -- weeks before he'd gotten the script for this episode -- and he looked directly into my camera and begged Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson to let Damon have a little fun (dancing fun, specifically), the way that he did with Vicki in Season 1. "Where did those days go for Damon?" he wondered.

Apparently, Julie and Kevin heard his plea, because Damon's back to dancing on tables! This scene is nicely juxtaposed with the one where Klaus compelled the entire bar while Stefan tortured Ray in the season premiere.  Damon is just... compelling people to ignore Stefan's odd drinking habits. "I thought you could use a hug, Stefan." I hope Damon is relishing these brotherly moments, because I have a feeling Stefan is just biding his time before returning to the ripper side.

...Or, until Mikael shows up and ruins everything. Damn it.

8:42 - If they'd never turned into vampires, Klaus may have lived his entire life without knowing about his mother's affair, but he killed a human and it triggered the werewolf side -- revealing the secret to everyone, including Mikael.

Esther was so ashamed, she put the curse on Klaus to suppress the werewolf side -- which sounds to me like a huge favor, but to him, she was dooming him to be the only one of his race forever and ever. She rejected him, but it wasn't enough for her husband. Mikael killed her, ripping her heart out while Klaus watched.

This bit of the story speeds right past a lot of unanswered questions. We know what the hybrid curse entails, of course; that was basically beaten into our brains for all of Season 2. What we don't know is why the Bulgarian Petrova family was brought into a curse that was initiated in a completely foreign village, across an entire ocean. What was Esther's connection to the Original Petrova? What could she have possibly done that made Esther create a situation where Esther's children would hunt Petrova children for eternity?

Moving right on past all that...

tvd-originals-4.jpg"I know you think she hated you, Niklaus, but she did not. She was just afraid," Rebekah told Klaus as they mourned. If that's the case, though, why is she still seeking vengeance on him from beyond the grave? She used Vicki to try to screw Klaus out of his hybrid army. 

"I'm sorry she turned her back on you. I will never do that," Rebekah promises -- as does Elijah. Everyone else, it seems, was hunted down and killed by Klaus before we met them in the 1920s. He didn't kill them until they turned on him, Rebekah explains -- saying that her stubbornness and Klaus's intolerance for disappointment are their most heightened traits. Elijah's morality is his, which literally made me laugh out loud. Oh, Eljiah, you are the most excellent.

"He's my brother, and I'm immortal. Should I spend an eternity alone instead?" Rebekah says of Klaus when Elena questions her loyalty. "If you come after my brother, I will rip you apart. And I get my temper from my father." Can Claire please be a regular forever and ever?

8:46 - Mikael prods Stefan for answers, but Stefan explains, "I'm compelled to do what [Klaus] says." The fact that he said that, as opposed to some polite variation of "screw off," means that he wishes he could say something, right? Right!?

Stefan's emotions peek through at the edges the moment that Mikael reaches into Damon's chest. I've said it before and I'll say it again: There's nothing a Salvatore hates more than someone else messing with his brother.

"His emotions have been shut off. He can't care," Damon says, but Stefan looks conflicted; even wild-eyed in his moment of panic. He blurts out that he can lure Klaus home. Of course, Mikael knows better than anyone that there's always a loophole. Who knew that it would be in our best interest for Klaus to come back to Mystic Falls?

8:52 - "Vampire, werewolf, slaughter, mayhem, etc. etc," Alaric says, pointing at the symbols on the wall. Elena takes a slightly closer look, and realizes that Rebekah's story doesn't match up with what's on the wall. "Rebekah doesn't know what really happened," she says -- and once again I love Elena, because she's just being so smart this week. Can this become a consistent thing? It's working for me.

One question, though. Who the heck wrote on the wall? Was it Ayana? I'm guessing Klaus didn't commit matricide at a block party, so who saw him do it? I guess Mikael himself is the most likely culprit. 

8:53 - Elena heads over to the Salvatore house to break the horrible news to Rebekah that her brother -- her best friend, essentially -- murdered their mother by ripping her heart out and then lied about it for a thousand years.

Could it be that Klaus is on the run from Mikael not only because he's afraid of dying, but because he's afraid that Mikael will tell Rebekah the truth?

I'm so glad that Klaus is evil again, because for this entire episode, I've felt so bad for him. I basically wanted to bake him cookies and tell him his mommy loved him. Now that this newest twist is revealed, it explains why the Original Witch would continue, even after her death, to torment her child.

Again, Claire Holt is flawless. As her face crumpled and her knees buckled, I was more or less shouting at Elena to just give Rebekah a hug. (Elena did not hear me. Apparently Elena just left her there, crying.) My own waterworks began just as Rebekah was forced to admit to herself that Elena was right. All the pieces fell into place; she'd been betrayed by the only person not currently stuffed into a coffin that loves her. When she begs Elena, "Why are you doing this to me? I've done nothing to you!" she is just a desperate, hopeless teenage girl, with everything she believes in shattering around her.

8:55 - Back at the bar, Damon is feeling smug. I'm practically expecting him to break into a version of Sandra Bullock's "you think I'm gorgeous, you want to kiss me" song from Miss Congeniality. Or, you know, a more sibling-appropriate version.

Stefan isn't having it. "You reminded me what my freedom felt like, and when we kill Klaus, I'll be free. Free to leave," he barks. "I didn't do this for you, Damon. I did it for myself." Now he's just being hurtful for no good reason. He and his brother just had a totally fun time together! Can't they be each others' wingmen forever?

Finally, Stefan admits that he wants to kill Klaus, so Damon basically pulled off what Elena couldn't. It would've been way more convenient if Stefan had gotten on board the killing-Klaus train before he was compelled, but whatever.

Damon, on the other hand, looks like he's about to cry when he says that the only reason he's trying to save Stefan is because he feels guilty that Stefan saved him first. Nobody believes him; he doesn't even believe himself.

And then they fight. No need to be alarmed, kids. This is how Salvatores say "I love you."

8:57 - Elena goes home, and the song that's playing is magnificent, so of course she finds Damon in her bed. Of. Course. I love their little postgame rendezvouses.

Let's talk about this song for a moment. Julie tweeted about it last week -- it's called "We Don't Eat" by James Vincent McMorrow, soundtrack junkies. I almost never do this, but let's just all pause and take a moment to read through these lyrics and try not to sob thinking about poor, lonely Rebekah right now.

I moved to the coast, under a mountain
Swam in the ocean, slept on my own
At dawn I would watch the sun cut ribbons through the bay
I'd remember all the things my mother wrote

That we don't eat until your father's at the table
We don't drink until the devil's turned to dust
Never once has any man I've met been able to love
So if I were you, I'd have a little trust

Two thousand years, I've been in that water
Two thousand years, sunk like a stone
Desperately reaching for nets
That the fishermen have thrown
Trying to find, a little bit of hope


tvd-originals-elena-bed.jpgNow, is everyone crying again? Good. The song is available for free from Amazon for a limited time -- click here.

On to Damon and Elena. Her complete comfort with him is so nice to see. Again, it's been slow going, but they got there. This friendship is solid, and important. It's not a reluctant alliance against a common enemy, it's not borne out of fear; it's just a true thing.

I never really "choose a side" when it comes to the whole Damon/Elena/Stefan triangle. I've loved Stefan and Elena's relationship so much at moments; I've hoped for Damon and Elena to hook up at other moments. I think that right now, Damon and Elena are heading (slowly) in that direction. I'm not saying anything about the "end game" of the show, because I genuinely have no idea how it'll all end; I'm not even sure that the writers have chosen yet. Even if Elena ultimately chooses to be with Stefan, that choice will only be stronger if she's at least explored the attraction to Damon.

They confer on about the fact that not only does Stefan want to kill Klaus now, but Rebekah might, too. "She's just a girl and she lost her mom too young, and she loves blindly and recklessly even if it consumes her," Elena says, clearly reflecting on her own experience. This would describe a lot of people in Mystic Falls -- Damon and Elena, of course, included.

This show is at its absolute best when it's about Stefan and Damon and their bond with each other, not their contention over Elena and/or Katherine, so Elena's line here is one of my favorites, ever on the show. "I think that you're going to be the one to save him from himself," she whispers in the dark. "It won't be because he loves me. It'll be because he loves you."

In the end, Damon is Stefan's last tether to humanity -- just as, in Season 1, Stefan was Damon's.

(I almost wish that line had been saved for a scene that wasn't quite so Damon/Elena heavy. I worry that the Stefan/Elena shippers will be too busy rending their garments to appreciate its perfection.)

8:59 - Remember when she used to have nightmares about him? It was about a year ago that he watched her sleep like a predator in her bedroom. Now she falls asleep beside him like that's where he belongs.

Next week: Klaus once again uses an American accent while addressing his adoring public. What, like he thinks everyone in Virginia is a hillbilly who can't understand his sophisticated dialect? Not cool, Klaus. Also, Tyler is back! FINALLY. Hopefully his blood-drinking over the last two weeks hasn't completely changed him. I'm not a fan of big character transformations happening off-camera.

MVP this week is easily Claire Holt. She had the heaviest workload, and the scene where she learned the truth about Klaus just shredded my heart. I really hope that Rebekah can be accepted into the fold; it seems like all she wants is a normal high school experience with friends and people who love her. Can we give her that? She hasn't actually done anything too horrible to anyone... at least, nothing that's unforgivable, especially in this town.

My only complaint about this episode is that it needed much, much more Elijah. The moments we saw were poignant and perfect. My hope is that Rebekah will wake him up now that she'll need a stronger ally against Klaus.

Okay, your turn, guys. What were your favorite moments? What didn't you love? You know what to do with the comments section below!

Photo/Video credit: The CW
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