'The Vampire Diaries' scoop: Damon and Elena get 'hotter,' Stefan's revenge on Klaus turns Mystic Falls against him

tvd-gallery-trio.jpgConfession: We weren't too upset about "The Vampire Diaries" going on hiatus for the holiday season. This season has been so fast-paced (read: awesome) that we needed a breather to collect our thoughts!

That relief lasted about five minutes before we started getting antsy for more Mystic Falls. There's still a month left before "TVD" returns to our screens at 8 p.m. on January 5, but our withdrawal symptoms were flaring up, so we thought it was about time to check in with executive producer Julie Plec. Julie gave Zap2it a ring from Atlanta where the cast was hard at work on episode 314.

Looking back on some of the things we've loved about Season 3, Elena's ( Nina Dobrev) evolution is high on our list. In the first episode, we found her having spent a summer pining for Stefan ( Paul Wesley). As the season soldiered on, however, she finally emerged from her cloud of denial. Finally, she put her foot down and gave Stefan an ultimatum.

"She said to him back in Episode 7 that she can't love a ghost for the rest of her life. She said, 'Get it together or you will lose me.' She threw down," Julie says. "She gave him a chance to let his humanity come through and break through, and he didn't, in her eyes. She has to move forward."

In the mid-season finale, Elena finally decided to let Stefan go -- and yes, she meant it. Damon ( Ian Somerhalder) on the other hand is having a little trouble coping with the apparent loss of his little bro. "When we come back from hiatus, Damon is doing what Damon does best when someone pisses him off: He's day-drinking," Julie laughs. "He's seen neither hide nor hair of Stefan since he ruined their plan and got his freedom from Klaus ( Joseph Morgan), and Damon and Elena are kind of spiraling a little bit. They don't know where he is or why he betrayed them. All they know is that he has completely screwed them over and they have to move on."

And move on they do, albeit "under a cloak of fear and paranoia," Plec says, because as usual, they're waiting for the other shoe to drop as Klaus seeks his revenge on them for the whole Papa Original debacle.

Terror reigns in Mystic Falls, but that doesn't mean that there's no room for romance amidst the madness.

"When we come back in Episode 10, Elena and Damon are finding themselves in these moments where the romantic tension is a little bit deeper and the physical tension is a little bit hotter," Julie teases. (We know what you're thinking. Hotter? How is that even possible? Trust us... it is.)

Though Stefan is out of the picture, Damon and Elena continue to spend time together. "They have to work together against Klaus, so they keep finding themselves in these moments that they're now both free to act on, without guilt."

tvd-damon-carry-elena-vertical.jpgOf course, Stefan never stays gone for long. At some point, it will be revealed that his big "betrayal" at Homecoming was for Damon's benefit. "Eventually, somebody is going to found out that Stefan saved Damon's life, and Damon and Elena are going to have that to contend with," Julie says. "They're going to have some choices to make."

Though we're antsy for Damon and Elena to move forward (there are only so many almost-kisses the audience can handle) there's no denying that Stefan's evolution has been one of the most intriguing parts of Season 3.

Julie agrees. "For me, the biggest pleasure of the season -- which I won't say is totally a surprise because theoretically we knew that he had this in him -- is watching Paul Wesley do what he's done. It's been kind of thrilling," she says. "I love me some Paul! I think he's a wonderful actor, and to really see him get to explode on screen has been so exciting and so intense and emotional. I'm really proud of him. I'm proud of the show, in a way, because that storyline really worked the way that we wanted it work."

Now that Stefan is free of Klaus's compulsion, we'll continue to see that bad-ass Ripper we've come to love watching on screen.

And by "love," we also kind of mean "hate," because as magnificent as Paul is in the role, it breaks our heart to see Stefan as icy cold as he's been in the last few episodes. "It's awful! I think what's so great about it is watching him be both completely, horrifically detached, but also those moments where you kind of get the glimpse of something pure under there," Julie says. "They're little moments, and they're so rare and so hidden, so it's very much a testament to him as an actor and to what he's putting into the character, because that's not something that you can necessarily write."

Klaus's reactions to the changes in Stefan drove their relationship in the first half of the season. Now that Stefan has turned on Klaus -- which Klaus wasn't expecting when he freed Stefan -- we're going to see an epic clash.

"We have not seen the worst of Klaus. We also have not seen the worst of Stefan taking on Klaus," Julie tells us. "One of the fun things we're doing when we come back in January is taking the pissing contest -- I guess that's the best term for it -- between Stefan and Klaus to a whole other level. Watching these powerful characters and these powerful actors go head-to-head is going to be awesome."

Stefan isn't used to being the antagonist, and as he seeks rage-fueled revenge on Klaus, he'll discover that Klaus may be even more manipulative than he'd thought. In fact, Klaus sets a plan in motion to turn Mystic Falls itself against Stefan, ripping his home away from him the way that Stefan has hijacked Klaus's family.

"There's a moment where Damon's at a cocktail party and sees Mayor Lockwood chatting with Klaus, and Damon's like 'What the hell are you doing? He's ruined your son's life, he's ruined all of our lives,'" Julie says. "[Mayor Lockwood] says, 'Klaus has offered to leave me, my family, and this town alone if you can get your brother to behave.' So we start to see this manipulation that Klaus has in the town of Mystic Falls, and now that Stefan's pushing back, Klaus is able to step forward and say, 'Hey, I'm not here to cause a problem! Stefan Salvatore is the problem.'"

We. Can't. Wait.

Tune in on January 5 at 8 p.m. EST -- and in the meantime, keep clicking on Zap2it, because we've got plenty more scoop coming over the next few weeks.
Photo/Video credit: The CW
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