Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit quite like some not-so-merry mayhem set to a delightful Christmas soundtrack, so I’ve decided to write a full “Vampire Diaries” to wrap up a fantastic Mystic Falls year. This week’s winter wonderland episode featured an unexpected death (I’ve given the victim a proper eulogy here), a bit of heartbreaking romance, and some major reveals that changed the course of the season.
Before we cue up the episode, though, I’d like to remind you that as usual, this recap is stuffed with my own opinions, which might be different from your opinions, because that’s how opinions work. (Madness!) Right now, I’m enjoying the choices the show has made with Damon/Elena, but I think Stefan’s heartbreak and anger is entirely justified. I love Caroline as much as ever, but I have yet to be convinced that she and Klaus are forever-love material. Also, I love Jeremy’s arms. If you disagree with these opinions so fiercely that you are currently overwhelmed with rage and feeling the urge to leave an angry comment and/or make a tumblr dedicated to insulting my mother, I suggest you skip this recap. No hard feelings! Happy Holidays!
Now, let’s get on with the show, shall we?
Previously on “The Vampire Diaries”: Someone made the terrible decision to add a cold open so cheesy, I cringe in embarrassment every time I hear it. We get it. Mystic Falls is everybody’s home and everybody there is miserable.
8:01 – Another episode that begins with Elena and Damon in bed together, this time with clothes on. Damon has resolved to keep things tame between himself and Elena until he can sort out his feelings about the sire bond. The thing is, as long as there’s no way to break the sire bond, Elena is, in some way, compromised. If he tells her to leave him alone forever, he’s making her do something against her will. If he doesn’t tell her to leave him alone forever, there’s an odd imbalance of power in their relationship. No matter how many people tell Damon that the sire bond doesn’t effect Elena’s feelings for him, it won’t matter unless he truly believes it. His guilt right now is entirely in-character. He’s spent the last three years talking about what a bad guy he is; he’s not going to suddenly believe he’s worthy of love now.
8:02 – Confession: I wish Klaus’s paintings were more like Joseph Morgan’s paintings, because these are all a little Bob Ross, happy-little-snowflake in a happy-little-tree for me. I really love Stefan’s attitude right now. The bitter sarcasm and dry wit suits him.
8:05 – We’ve all been wondering how Tyler planned to “take down” Klaus, given the fact that if Klaus dies, so does Tyler — and possibly Caroline, Stefan, Damon, and Elena. Now, he finally explains to Caroline how it’ll work. The plan is for a witch (one who can do actual magic, not Bonnie’s “expression”) to do the body-swapping spell, and put Klaus’s spirit into Tyler’s body. As we already know, in Tyler’s body, Klaus won’t have the powers of an Original vampire, which will give the other hybrids time to overpower him and stick him into concrete for an indefinite period of time.
I was a little confused about this, so I double checked with executive producer Julie Plec. Would Tyler just be in the concrete long enough for the hybrids to get out of town? “Longer than that,” Plec says. The ultimate plan would be for Tyler to be one with Klaus and the concrete for long enough for the hybrids to scatter, and for Hayley to find another body to house Klaus. (Apparently, that will take a while; they have high standards for bodies to stick into concrete. Or something.)
The plan is pretty confusing, but I’m really impressed with Tyler for taking charge and making sacrifices. His character development has been pretty stellar. The guy we met in Season 1 wouldn’t pee on someone if they were on fire. (But he’d probably pee in their shoes if he didn’t like them.) Tyler’s a man now.
8:07 – Now Jeremy is chopping wood up at the lake, because it’s so cold they need a fire, but so warm he needs to wear a tank top. This scene is entirely pointless except for the tank top. I guess it also stresses the level of trust between Bonnie and Jeremy, but honestly, I only want to talk about the tank top.
In order for the games to begin, Jeremy has to invite Elena into the house, because now that she’s dead, the weird witch deed rules say it’s his house. He hesitates to do it, and then when he finally does let her in, he tries to kill her as soon as he touches her. And you thought your sibling rivalry was rough!
8:08 - Stefan and Caroline are each other’s actual best friends. I know Caroline says that Elena and Bonnie are her best friends, but this season, Stefan has become her best friend. And I know that Stefan’s whole broody vampire I-miss-Lexi shtick requires that he be forever alone, but Caroline has become his best friend. It just happened and I really love it. They’ve made each other a priority without even noticing it. When she’s in crisis mode because her “boyfriend is a dumbass martyr,” she calls him. When he gets sexiled from his own house, hers is the couch he crashes on. You guys! They’re just the best!
8:12 - MATT!
8:12 – While Stefan goes to Klaus’s house to steal the sword from the giant safe he keeps in full view of everything, Caroline distracts him by talking about his beautiful lonely snowflake, and then they share an adorable moment of witty banter about champagne, which is apparently their thing now. Last season, it was always very clear that Caroline was playing Klaus when she got her cleavagey flirt on. The line between distracting him and actual flirting is definitely starting to blur, though — for the audience and for Caroline, it seems.
8:14 - Stefan chats with Damon while he rifles through the Haus de Klaus in search of the sword. Damon figures it’d be easier to just kill Tyler, or to get Klaus to kill Tyler. Sigh. Damon. Come on. Develop.
While on the phone, Stefan happens upon a pile of old letters, which he apparently finds very intriguing — but before he pores over them, he asks Damon about unsiring Elena. “Are you okay?” he says. And then my heart just breaks for him. Like I said, I’m pretty into Delena at the moment — I like what Damon brings out in Elena, and the romance between them doesn’t feel forced (though I do watch their sex scenes with one eye closed, because weird). But I still really feel for Stefan.
I keep seeing people on Twitter saying that Stefan is technically the one who dumped Elena, or that it’s technically mutual. And technically, that’s true, but human emotions don’t operate on technicalities. When Elena said that heartbreaking “I know” to Stefan, it was because she was completely aware that she’d put him in a situation where he had only one choice, and that was to end their relationship. She had already moved on. The only thing that Stefan did was say the actual words. I’m glad it happened, but I can still feel sad for Stefan, and I can still understand why the idea of the sire bond gives him a tiny sliver of hope that Elena might actually still love him. I’m just touched that he’s checking on his brother right now, okay?
8:15 - Damon gets off the phone to watch the fireworks. Shane hypnotizes Jeremy to bring out his subconscious. Essentially, he’s trying to get Elena to use their family memories to build a detour from Jeremy’s subconscious to his actual conscience. If he can recognize Elena as something that he loves and wants to protect, it gives him the choice to kill her or not to kill her. Right now, he can’t be compelled by vampires, but he is compelled by his own urges. They need to essentially vervain his compulsion and give him his free will back.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t really work. When Shane asks Jeremy how he feels about Elena while he’s still in a trance, he goes on a rant. “She ruined our lives,” he says. “She’s not even my real sister, she’s just the reason that everyone I’ve ever loved has died. I will kill her, even if that means I die myself.”
8:17 - Stefan meets Caroline in the back alley behind the Grill. It’s a wonder that stairwell isn’t entirely bloodstained, with all the shiz that’s gone down in that alley. Stefan is talking about how Tyler can’t kill Klaus yet, when Tyler conveniently shows up with his pack of angry hybrids. Tyler’s goals this season don’t align with the rest of the gang’s, and I’m glad that that is finally becoming an issue. He’s still mad about the hybrid Chris, and rightfully so. Stefan, Jeremy, Klaus — and Caroline — conspired to kill Chris even though Chris had just risked his life to help them. Their priority has always been Elena, but Tyler is the one person who has little to no investment in Elena’s well-being. They’re barely friends. Why should he keep sacrificing people he cares about to keep her safe?
8:23 - Damon and Elena share a drink at the lakeside. She hasn’t forgotten that the last time she was at the lake house, she was madly in love with Stefan. Now, she says, that’s “just barely a memory.” Twist that knife in the Stelena fans’ backs a little more, why don’t you? At this point, she’s so consumed by her feelings for Damon that even she is questioning them a bit.
Personally, I think that Elena’s feelings for Damon are rooted in truth and reality, but were catalyzed a bit by her sire bond. Though Tyler said that the bond affects actions, not emotions, even he admitted last season that the sire bond gave him a strong faith in Klaus. If Elena’s faith in Damon (not her love for him) has been given a boost, it probably was the final thing that pushed her to actually pursue him, whereas before she’s been content to just stew in her lust. It makes sense that she’d feel a little bit overwhelmed.
8:24 - Back in Mystic Falls, Caroline and Stefan are being held in the Lockwood cellar. That place probably stinks like dog sweat. Tyler tells Stefan that the cure for vampirism doesn’t mean anything to him; his priority is keeping the hybrids safe and preserving his own life, not making sure Elena and her family can sleep well at night. And I can’t fault him! The amount of blood that has been shed in Elena’s best interest is kind of incredible. Though, you know… locking your girlfriend up in a cellar isn’t exactly a nice move. (What, did he think Caroline was going to keep the secret? Caroline doesn’t keep secrets.)
8:24 - Jeremy looks wistfully at old photos of his family, from when his arms were skinny and his nails were painted. Shane wants to try messing with his mind again, but Damon is pretty over Shane’s theories. Damon has an advantage here, in that he actually knows Jeremy. He may not exactly like him, but at this point their interests are aligned, which is what matters on this show.
Damon says that Jeremy should use his feelings for Bonnie as a way out of his subconscious, since presumably, both his subconscious and his actual conscience are still into her. I have to say, I’m not particularly interested in Jeremy’s or Bonnie’s love lives — I’d prefer the show focus on other aspects of their storylines — but he was super cute when he said, “I feel that way about you.” D’awww.
8:26 - Outside, Shane and Elena share a moment. I have no idea why she’s telling him all of her business; it’s usually a little more difficult to get invited into the Mystic Falls Monster Circle of Trust. Shane reveals that he lost his wife (cough, cough) and son, and spent some time looking for a spell to make himself love them less, to alleviate some of the pain of the loss. You can’t hypnotize yourself out of loving too much.
Damon comes out with an axe, still considering separating Shane’s head from his body, because he hasn’t figured out Shane’s angle, and Damon isn’t super into people he can’t figure out. Besides, what’s Shane’s interest in the vampirism cure? “I didn’t say I was looking for the cure, but I can tell you where to find it,” Shane says. He explains that he’s already been to where the cure is hidden. The sword apparently provides a map to the cure, whereas Jeremy’s tattoo, when completed, will contain the spell needed.
8:27 - “A toast before people can judge us.” Tyler and his mom have the weirdest relationship. He has sex with his girlfriend in her house while she’s home (and awake), they drink together in public even though he’s 18 and she’s the Mayor… it’s all kind of hilarious and awesome. She’s basically Regina George’s mom from “Mean Girls” but in better clothes.
It’s adorable that the Mayor’s first thought is that, if he’s buried alive in concrete, Tyler will miss out on the cap and gown ceremony at graduation. Ultimately, though, she’s proud of her son. Ugh, this is going to hurt later.
8:28 - We heard a little bit about Silas back at the creepy Mystic Falls High School presentation, but Shane clears things up for us now. Silas was a witch who fell in love with a woman. He wanted them to live together so that they could be together forever. He and his witch BFF created an immortality spell, but then the witch BFF got jealous and killed the girl Silas loved, before they could make her immortal, Thus, Silas was cursed to an eternity alone. Legend has it he found a way to reverse the spell, but he was buried alive, with the cure — which isn’t exactly a cure for vampirism. It’s a cure for immortality, and once one is no longer immortal, he no longer needs to drink blood.
8:33 – Shane says his interest in finding Silas’ cure is purely academic, but obviously that’s a lie. It’s got to be some way connected to his dead family members, and to Hayley’s dead family members, who he has promised to resurrect, if you recall.
8:34 - Speaking of Hayley, she and Tyler convene with Caroline in the bathroom at the Grill, which sees an awful lot of action. Caroline is awfully quick to forgive them for sticking in a hole in the ground, but whatever.
Caroline’s hatred for Rebekah has come in handy, because she has the bright idea to put Klaus in Rebekah’s body and shove that into a concrete grave, so Tyler doesn’t have to go in there. It’s a good idea — except for the part where I love Rebekah and it would make me really sad — and it would serve Klaus right for daggering Rebekah in the first place.
For some reason, though, this doesn’t work for Hayley. She texts Shane, “We have a problem. The plan is falling apart.” I’m still not entirely sure why her plan requires Tyler to be the one in the concrete. I thought she liked Tyler. Like liked-him liked him.
8:35 – Bonnie is still hypnotizing Jeremy when Caroline calls her to find out if it’ll work. “Do you need my help?” Bonnie asks. “I can leave Elena here with Jeremy.” Um, isn’t the entire point of all of this that Elena can’t be left alone with Jeremy? And that’s why they’re trying to fix him? So that she can move back into her house and once again be alone with Jeremy without one of them getting murdered? Did I just miss the entire point of this entire thing? Or did Bonnie miss the entire point of this entire thing?
Then, back at the Grill, Hayley snaps Caroline’s neck. She obviously doesn’t know who she’s messing with.
8:41 - Did you guys catch Shane telling Damon that the pastor took “eleven innocents” with him when he died? That’s confirmation that the “gas fire” killed 12 people — and as the witch told Damon in last week’s episode, for “expression” magic to work, it requires a human sacrifice of a dozen people. You can bet that isn’t a coincidence, and you can bet that Shane is big time lying about his involvement in Pastor Young’s ‘splosion. My guess? The pastor was severely depressed after losing his wife to cancer, and he did seek Shane out for supernatural assistance. But not to ease his depression. To raise his wife from the dead, which requires black magic, which requires the sacrifice of a dozen human souls.
8:42 - I got all warm and fuzzy when Jeremy got his brain back and gave Elena a big hug. It’s a Christmas miracle! Then I tried to remember if Jeremy and Elena are actually related, because I’m that kind of person. They are cousins. Oh well. There’s always Katherine.
8:43 - Stefan finds Klaus in the town square, talking to Hayley, who is the worst and has to go now (sorry Phoebe, I love you, but I love Caroline the most). Obviously she just told Klaus all about Tyler’s evil plan, because she’s the worst, but Klaus doesn’t rush off to exact his revenge, because he values Klefan time.
Stefan tells Klaus that he found the letters, which are apparently letters he stole from his victims after killing them. I’m guessing there’s a good reason that they’re letters, not, like, a lock of hair, or a photograph — one of those letters will likely have some important information later. Klaus says his letters are like Stefan’s list of victims’ names — they’re a reminder of the inherent loneliness of a killer. It’s quite poignant, actually, and I love that as usual, Klaus isn’t shy about showing Stefan his soft underbelly. In being the strongest creature in the world, he doesn’t necessarily have to be afraid of vulnerability. It’s kind of cool that through all of the scheming and betrayal, Klaus still considers Stefan a friend, in his own insane sort of way.
8:45 - Back at the Grill, April finds Caroline, and she has no pulse. Sigh. I really want to like April, but it’s just not working for me. I thought April would increase the stakes, since there was another vulnerable human who didn’t know about the whole vampire thing. Unfortunately, she hasn’t raised the stakes, though, because I still don’t care about her. Caroline wakes up, talks about werewolves in front of April, and then tries to compel her, but Matt and Jeremy already vervained her, so she can’t be compelled.
8:45 - MATT! Again. Briefly. (Come on, it’s Christmas, can’t someone catch him under the mistletoe or something?)
8:47 - Hayley tells Tyler the truth because, presumably, she does like him: “If
you run now, you might make it out alive.” He doesn’t run away from
Klaus, though. He runs to Klaus. Hero Tyler!
8:47 – This is one of the best murder sequences we’ve ever seen on this show, and we’ve seen a lot! It seems that the reason Hayley needed Klaus in his own body was so that he could sacrifice the twelve hybrids. As the only creature stronger and faster than the hybrids, the bloodbath had to be at Klaus’s hand. Only this show could set a brutal massacre against “O Holy Night” seamlessly. I’ve been feeling pretty Grinchy this holiday season, so this is pushing all the right buttons for me. This is the side of Klaus I just love to watch, this is what makes him stand out. Any character on this show can flirt and be adorable. Only Klaus can make a violent bloodbath bizarrely sexy.
8:51 - After that epic scene, it’s a little hard to care about the Delena of it all, but we’re back at the lake house. It’s a classic loner-looking-in-on-a-happy-family-at-the-holidays scene; it could only be more cliche if Tiny Tim was inside and Damon was outside getting snowed on without adequate outerwear.
Elena goes outside to invite Damon in, but it’s his pity party and he’ll cry if he want to. Seeing Elena with Jeremy again has reminded him of ghosts of Christmas past — namely, Stefan. The Salvatore brothers have good holiday memories from their time as humans, and Damon decides it’s important to him to do right by his brother. He doesn’t tell Elena to forget about him forever and never care about him again, but he does put the brakes on their relationship. He tells her to go back to Mystic Falls and leave him to help Jeremy kill vampires and complete his mark. Again, he hasn’t un-sired Elena — it’s not actually possible for her to be un-sired. He’d have to tell her to forget about him, and then he’d have to avoid contact with her forever. That’s just not going to happen. This is all sad, but you know that their separation isn’t going to actually last, so everybody just calm down.
8:54 - Stefan and Caroline, apparently unaware of Klaus’s bucket of crazy and unfazed by the fact that they can’t get in touch with anyone, settle in for a fireside BFF chat. They finally acknowledge the fact that yes, Klaus is bad and evil, but so are all of their friends. The only difference is that Klaus hurts people they care about (sometimes), and they hurt people they don’t care about. “What makes us any better than him? I think it’s just that we have a family we can trust,” Stefan says. (Did he just call Caroline his family? D’awwww.)
Then Caroline’s poker face fails and, without actually speaking, she tells Stefan that Damon and Elena slept together. Yes, Caroline is a terrible secret-keeper. This is not new or surprising. She always spills the beans, and since Stefan is her new True Best Friend, BFF rules apply. Yeah, it’s uncool of her to tell him. But it doesn’t look like Damon and Elena ever had any intention of doing it, and as long as Stefan was going to keep a torch lit for Elena, it was sort of unfair to him not to know. I guess?
8:56 – So, here’s the thing about Bonnie and Jeremy. Both of these characters are more interesting when they’re involved in storylines that don’t involve romance. I want more for Bonnie — she deserves to finally have something interesting happen to her, instead of being the deus ex machina that allows interesting things to happen to other people. And as far as I’m concerned, Jeremy has already had his big epic love, and it’s hard to compete with a romance that lasted beyond the grave.
But I still like where things are between them right now. I like that Jeremy is the one who is pining, and that Bonnie hasn’t shown her hand at all. We have no idea if she still has feelings for him, and that leaves him to suffer quietly, which he deserves after cheating on her with a ghost. I suspect that these two will keep each other waiting a while, but will find their way back to each other in the midst of it all — and since we’ve already seen what it looks like when they’re falling for each other, we don’t need to watch it again. We can see more interesting storylines happen for these characters on screen while their romance inches along off screen. At least, I hope that’s how it works.
8:57 - Tyler finds the bodies of all of his hybrids. It’s a macabre, sad scene. Though we didn’t get to see his relationships with them develop on-screen, we’ve heard about the importance of a werewolf’s pack, and we can assume that the well-being of these people mattered to him significantly. He saw himself as their leader, he worked hard to earn their allegiance, and he made them promises. Now they’re dead because he trusted the wrong people.
As Tyler walks away from the terrible scene, we see that Miss Mystic Falls is hiding in the tombs. (What girl in her right mind hears “There’s a dead body in a coffin in the creepy tunnels under the town!” and goes down to find it? April probably runs upstairs instead of out the door to get away from a killer, too.) Luckily, she’s going to wake Rebekah up, and hopefully Rebekah will make her less annoying.
8:59 - And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for. Alone in the Town Square, our champagne-drunk Mayor calls her son. “Tyler, honey, you’re supposed to be my sober cab. I drank half the party,” she tells Tyler’s voicemail. But Tyler isn’t there — just blood-spattered Klaus and the end of a bottle of champagne (which he’s drinking without Caroline; so much for their thing).
“Don’t hurt him,” she begs, a good mother in her final moments. “He’s my son. He’s all I have.” Klaus calmly drowns her in the fountain. When she’s found there, it will probably be assumed that she fell, drunkenly, and drowned. It’s a sad, disgraceful end to a woman who prided herself on dignity and appearances. It’s heartbreaking. I know I’ve railed on the Mayor in the past — I mean, she was really a terrible Mayor — but I like Susan Walters a lot and I’m very sad to see her go. Hopefully, this means we’ll be seeing more of her on “Teen Wolf,” which films in Los Angeles, not Atlanta, now.
What’s important is how this death will drive the story forward. Tyler’s vendetta against Klaus is even more personal now, and he’ll be even more eager to sacrifice himself — or his senior year — to take Klaus out.
I’m also curious to see how Caroline reacts to this. Yes, we’ve established that Everybody Does Bad Things, but it’s very different when someone strikes close to you. Klaus just made her boyfriend an orphan, and almost killed all of his friends. Caroline often works closely with Mayor Lockwood on town events. Yes, technically, everyone is evil. But as I said before — emotions don’t operate on technicalities.
Everyone in this episode was spectacular, Joseph Morgan especially, but MVP obviously goes to Jeremy’s tank top. When that horrible hoodie stole the tank top’s screen time it was just devastating. The episode was all downhill from there.
This was one of my all-time favorite episodes of the show, and I can’t wait to discuss it with you guys! Join me on Friday at 3 p.m. EST for a chat on ConnecTV. We’ll talk Stefan and Caroline’s new BFFdom, Jeremy’s arms, the return of Jeremy’s feelings for Bonnie, the sire bond and how Delena can progress, Klaus’s massacre, and whether or not Tyler is capable of staging a one-man revolution.
In the meantime, leave your comments and thoughts below! All opinions and ‘shippers welcome, but please keep it polite. Happy holidays!
Photo/Video credit: The CW