‘The Vampire Diaries’ recap: Who’s afraid of the big bad

tvd-homecoming-klausphone.jpgWhen we have an episode of “The Vampire Diaries” that’s particularly heavy on exposition, like last week’s was, it’s generally followed by a high-action, fast-paced episode, like this week’s.

The trouble is, I’m tempted to say that “Homecoming” had too much action.

The rapid twists and turns coupled with nonlinear storytelling left us without much emotional resonance in scenes that should have been heartbreaking.

I’m going to warn you all ahead of time… I didn’t like this episode. This recap is much more critical than fun, so if that’s not your thing, feel free to click away! As usual, every single sentence in here is based on my own opinion and my own viewing experience. If your opinions differ, that’s awesome, and I’d love to hear all about your thoughts in the comments section.

Last fall we saw “Masquerade,” where our heroes worked together and came off looking like pros. This week’s episode was poised to be a similar success, but instead, everyone operated on their own agendas and the audience was left in the dark far too often.

I thought that Klaus, Rebekah, and Mikael’s big scenes were brilliantly
written and acted, but the rest of the characters were left in the
cold. I know that it’s the “year of the Originals,” and I’m so glad they’re being so richly developed, but I don’t want to sacrifice the rest of the characters too much.

Previously on “The Vampire Diaries”: Elena threatened to ditch Stefan if he doesn’t stop acting like such a vampire, Rebekah learned that her favorite brother murdered her mommy, and everybody really needed a hug but nobody got one.

8:01 – Stefan calls Klaus — who is in werewolf central, otherwise known as Portland — to let him know that Mikael has been daggered. The only problem is, in order to trust Stefan with the lie, given his compulsion, Elena had to actually dagger him, which was pretty tough on her delicate sensibilities.

I’m a little fuzzy on the specifics of this whole compulsion situation. We’ve learned that with years of training one can avoid the effects of compulsion, but it doesn’t make sense to me that Stefan can’t lie to Klaus, but he can plot to kill him. Loopholes are one thing, but it’s looking to me like Klaus was just sloppy.

When we flash back to an hour ago (a considerably less dramatic leap than the thousand years we traveled last week), we learn that Mikael does have a weapon that can kill Klaus. It’s a stake made of wood from the white oak tree. He seems awfully confident that it’ll work, given the fact that there’s no way to test the theory.

Even Rebekah is in on the trick after last week’s revelation that everything she’s ever believed to be true has been a giant lie. She looks positively revolted by the idea of making nice with her brother at this point, but she still gives him the run-around like a good little schemestress.

Man, cell phones must really blow Rebekah’s mind. I wonder if they’ve told her about Bing yet.

After they get off the phone, Elena does the honor of removing the dagger from Mikael.

8:05 – Later, Rebekah paints her toenails, because her dad is in town to kill her brother who killed her mother but damn it, her toes are going to look fantastic at the homecoming dance. When her father wakes up, she hasn’t warmed up to him any despite last week’s reveal that he didn’t kill Esther.

“Nothing you say matters to me,” she says. He tells her that he hasn’t been hunting her, as Klaus has had her believe for a thousand years — he was only after Klaus. “If you were after him, you were after me,” she says. “You destroyed our family. Not him.”

Basically, Rebekah is going to let the Scooby gang kill Klaus, but she’s still devastated by it. It’s almost brave of her to continue to hate her father for turning them into vampires. Once Klaus is dead, she’ll be completely alone if she continues to refuse to let her father into her life.

Of course, that’s assuming that they’ll actually kill Klaus this week, which we know they won’t because Joseph Morgan wasn’t upped to series regular to be killed off after seven episodes. Also, he’s awesome, so…

tvd-homecoming-bonnie.jpg8:06 – Instead of going to homecoming, Bonnie suggests that she and Elena stay home with Alaric and do sexy history research! See, Bonnie and Matt would be the most boring couple in the history of couples, but Bonnie and Alaric would not be boring. Let’s make that happen. The CW hasn’t had a student/teacher relationship since… Tuesday.

Elena and Bonnie rehash the Jeremy situation a bit. I’m impressed with how Bonnie is managing, but disappointed that the writers aren’t giving her the emotional scenes that she deserves after taking a hit like that. So far we’ve seen her talk it out with Alaric (who she’s not going to open up to because he’s her teacher) and Elena (who she’s not going to open up to because she’s his sister). Not to mention, I wouldn’t mind seeing Jeremy’s reaction to losing TWO girlfriends in one fell swoop. No emotional consequences from that huge ghost storyline until January? Really? 

8:08 – Lack of humanity makes Stefan very vain, apparently, because he’s super concerned about his tie. I’m glad that everyone’s always constantly acknowledging how much their plans never work. That’s kind of the crappy thing about television, huh? The plan that’s in place at the beginning of the episode can’t ever be executed properly by the end of the episode, because that would be boring to watch, so instead, the characters just end up looking like failures all the time. It’s a double-edged sword.

I will say, at least they’re learning, right? Elena mentions that basically no one can be trusted, Rebekah in particular. As we learned from Elijah, who screwed the pooch at the crucial moment during the sacrifice, a person can not be trusted to murder his family member. Even if that family member is a matricidal maniac.

8:09 – TYLER!! Whoa. I didn’t realize how much I missed him. He’s being a ginormous tool, though, and apparently, he and Rebekah have been hanging out with creepy “Twilight” fans or something. “Rebekah knows some people who like to be fed on,” he tells Caroline. She is appropriately appalled.

“Quit hanging out with Rebekah the evil bloodslut,” she says. She really hates Rebekah — she even gets uppity about Matt going to the dance with her. I don’t blame her, though. It makes no sense that Matt flatly rejected Caroline for being a vampire, but he’s cool with going on a date with Rebekah, who is not just a vampire, she’s one of the vampires. And she helped turn his best friend into a hybrid abomination. Like, I know Matt’s lonely, but they can’t have murdered every willing teenage girl in this town.

“If I’m sired to anybody, it’s you,” Tyler says. He has no idea. If this is his first experience with glitter, he’s in for a treat when he realizes that glitter never goes away. He’ll be finding that stuff in bizarre places for the next two weeks.

Is it just me, or is vampire Tyler really condescending? I like nice Tyler, and I like superdouche Tyler from Season 1. This in-between Tyler is just kind of repellent.

tvd-homecoming-claire-nina.jpg8:11 – Soundtrack junkie moment! I asked TVD music supervisor Chris Mollere (follow him on Twitter for soundtrack info every week) about the song that plays as Rebekah gets ready. He told me that it’s “Free Like You Make Me” by Cary Brothers — which was unreleased until “Vampire Diaries” found a place for it. Because of the show placement, Brothers released it as a single.

I hate to say it, but again, this scene felt predictable. The sad music, the touching moment, Elena’s general lack of distrust at the beginning, and, most importantly, the necklace moment. It all spelled goodbye.

Still, Claire Holt’s performance in this scene makes it one of only two scenes in the entire episode that really works for me. Don’t get me wrong — there’s no bad acting elsewhere in this episode. The cast met their usual high standards. The writing was where it fell short to me. (I know! I hate to be this mean! But considering how I usually gush about the show, I don’t feel that bad being super-critical.)

Back to Rebekah. She is magnificent. The emotional ramifications of what has happened to her in the last few days — learning the truth about Klaus, confronting her father about anger she’s been harboring for a thousand years — are devastating, and you can really feel that she’s lost. She’s missing that sharp edge, and she feels vulnerable and alone. I wish she and Elena could be friends, but I’m sure she’s not going to be pleased about being staked before her big night.

8:17 – Damon seems proud of Elena for growing a pair and using the dagger. Honestly, I’m proud of her too, but given the amount of death that happens around here, it’s hard for me to relate to Elena’s minor freak-out. She knows Rebekah’s going to wake up, so as she sits there convincing herself, “It had to be done,” I’m kind of bored.

Damon compares her to Katherine, saying, “It was a compliment, sort of.” I think that’s a bit of a stretch considering their earlier conversations about eliminating wild cards so that the plan can be executed properly.

As Elena talks about her compassion and humanity being her greatest downfall, I’m reminded of Stefan. Old, good Stefan; our Stefan. Remember when he was teaching Caroline about how vampirism amplifies character traits — his being loyalty and sympathy and remorse? He and Elena have a lot in common when he’s not ripping people limb from limb.

Damon isn’t worried about Elena’s soft spot getting in the way, though. He’s got a Secret Plan that has nothing to do with Elena. “Do you trust me?” he asks. “Yes,” she says, without even a moment of hesitation. Who’d-a thunk it?
8:18 – Caroline breaks the news that the school dance is canceled, so Tyler is moving the party to his house. “Kegs and beer pong for homecoming?” Elena asks. Um, since when has a Lockwood party featured beer pong? Lockwood parties are full of people giving impromptu town history lessons.

And then… wait for it..


IN A SUIT!!! He is so cute as he stands there all awkwardly at the door. Poor Matt. Even his bloodslut date stands him up on account of being dead. (We’re going to talk about this more later, though, because I am not pleased by how this all plays out.)

8:19 – Did Tyler compel My Morning Jacket? And a bunch of people to build a giant stage in his backyard?

Nope, but I think Klaus did. “It’s not a party, man,” Tyler tells Klaus. “It’s a wake.” Siring feels too much like compulsion, I think. Tyler doesn’t even have the presence of mind not to go around announcing to people that he’s answering Klaus’s every beck and call.
8:20 – Klaus is home! I’ve missed him. His hair looks magnificent. Portland treated him well.

8:25 – “This is weird. Us being here together,” Matt tells “Elena” as Caroline approaches. This is the moment where I clued in to it being Katherine, not Elena. The fact that “this is weird” was all Matt could muster up for his first love rang false, especially for this show, which usually packs an emotional punch in even small moments.

I think that part of the problem up to this point is how much is being held back from the audience. We can’t tell where their plan is going wrong because pretty much everyone seems confused the entire time.

We get another moment of “Ew, Rebekah” from Caroline. Is it that she’s jealous that Matt was supposed to be on a date, or is it just because she hates Rebekah? Either way, Matt seems pretty over the whole thing. He’s already having a crappy night, which would make very little sense if he was on a date with newly single Elena, since he was pining for that for quite a while last year.

8:27 – It’s interesting that Klaus still refers to Mikael as his father. He says that he’s been planning the funeral forever, and that with Mikael gone, he’ll be able to wake-up his casket-bound siblings. I’m not sure why Mikael being dead exonerates the Original sibs from whatever betrayals put them in the boxes in the first place, but I’m not going to question any plan that will wake Elijah up. I want to see Elijah, Klaus, and Rebekah back together as soon as possible.

Turns out the Scooby gang had the right plan when they decided to strategically withhold information from Stefan, since he’s Klaus’s first stop when Klaus wants info. Klaus promises that once he’s sure Mikael is dead and once the hybrid-killing weapon is destroyed, he’ll let Stefan off the hook from his compulsion. I’m not sure if this means he’ll give Stefan his humanity back or if this means Stefan won’t have to babysit Elena anymore.

There’s a certain tragedy to Klaus’s trust that once he takes the leash off Stefan, Stefan won’t turn around and try to hurt him. Through all of this, Stefan — who he compelled and who is currently plotting to kill him — is still his best friend.

8:28 – “Did my daughter go to the dance?” Mikael asks, and for a moment, I sympathize with him. Considering how little we’ve seen of him, he’s a surprisingly three-dimensional character. He was an undeniably bad father, but when it came time to protect his family, he went to enormous and desperate lengths. He’s been alone for a thousand years because a man he raised as his son framed him for a murder he didn’t commit. His children hate him. He carries the burden of being the creator of a race of monsters that slaughters innocents. He’s obviously strong, having trained his body over the centuries to make do with a different kind of nutrition than it was built for. This guy has so many layers.

Stefan is back to collect Mikael, and now they have to take him out of the equation, so Mikael kills two birds with one stone and enjoys a quick dinner fresh from Stefan’s jugular. Can’t say Stefan didn’t deserve a taste of his own medicine.

tvd-homecoming-klaus-tyler.jpg8:30 – Sired-up Tyler basically treats Klaus like the lovable but slightly weird older guy who supplies the keg for the teenagers in exchange for an opportunity to relive his glory days. Klaus reveals that pretty much everyone at the party is a hybrid, so clearly he was more than successful in his quest to create an army. (And, dang, how much blood did he take from Elena, anyway?)

Why is no one answering the most important question here? Are My Morning Jacket hybrids?

8:34 – Concerned about what’s about to go down and whether anybody’s going to get blood on his mother’s expensive rugs, Tyler confronts Caroline. Of course, we already know that for some very strange reason, Damon, Elena and co. have decided to leave Caroline out of the scheming this time. Again, more confused characters, more confused viewers.

It made sense for Elena to leave Bonnie out of the bonfire hijinks; Bonnie is a witch, but she doesn’t heal like vampires do and she doesn’t have a ring. It doesn’t make sense to leave Caroline out when 1) Caroline is a vampire who has proven her awesomeness time and again and 2) Homecoming is Caroline’s thing. She was obviously going to be there, front and center, the whole night.

This conversation finally cements for Caroline that Tyler can’t be trusted. She knows it’s not his fault he’s sired by Klaus, but she’s still a little mad at him for being the thing that’s ruining the perfect senior year she thought, for a brief delusional moment, she was going to be able to have.

“Can we please just go back to the party now?” How come when Klaus shows up to a party, nobody’s first instinct is let’s just leave?

And then Tyler sticks her with a syringe of vervain. I’d wonder where he got it, but then I remembered that his mom’s medicine cabinet is probably considerably well-stocked.

8:35 – Klaus offers “Elena” a beer and prods her about Mikael. “He came at me. I didn’t have a choice,” she says. I feel like Klaus should be a little bit bitter about this, because basically, an 18-year-old mortal girl is telling him that she did what he spent a thousand years too scared to attempt. And then she put on a pretty dress and went to the dance.

8:36 – Tyler went and got Matt to help him clean up the giant mess he’s made. “I just know that I’ve got to protect [Klaus] no matter who gets in my way,” he says, trying to explain his allegiance to Klaus over Caroline. They’ve stuck Michael Trevino with a tough job here, because the siring concept is still so murky as far as what he’s doing because he must, and what he’s doing of his own free will.

No confusion on Matt’s part, though. Matt is just mad. He got set up with a vampire (p.s. he hates vampires), roped into being on a date with another vampire, now he’s got to throw his ex-girlfriend (vampire!) over his shoulder because his former best friend (vampire!) can’t get his vampire crap together.

Can we all just agree that Matt really needs an outlet for his frustration at this point? Preferably sex, with a human, but like, yoga would work. Or crafts. He should start a blog, maybe.  

8:37 – Damon intercepts Tyler in the crowd and they head to dead dad’s study. This time last season, someone was accidentally killed here, so let’s just hope Tyler keeps his teeth covered. To be honest, I’m loving this fight. I don’t know why, but I love it when our series regular cast members get to do action sequences together. When those action sequences are combined with the wolf-out special effects? Even better. 

And then Bonnie comes in, looking stunning, by the way, to break up the scuffle. Here we are subjected to more on-screen character confusion as she tries to put the pieces together as to why Damon is there wielding a weapon.

8:38 – I’d be impressed by Klaus’s beer pong skills, but that table is nowhere near regulation size. These Mystic Falls kids are going to get laughed off Greek Row next year if that’s how they’ve been playing all through high school.

tvd-homecoming-doorwa.jpg“I’m going to have a little chat with my dad,” Klaus says. He seems entirely unfazed by the revelation that Mikael is not, in fact, rotting. When he actually comes face-to-face with the man, he calls him by name.

Mikael says he can’t die by hybrid attack, but it brings about a question — if an original was actually ripped apart, like if his heart was yanked out and his head was ripped off and both were thrown to the bottom of different oceans, could he heal from that? How come no one has attempted to just rip Klaus’s heart out?

Mikael has compelled one of Klaus’s minions to hijack “Elena.” I feel like by this point in the episode, anyone who really knows this series knows this isn’t Elena, so the OMG moment is a little dulled. I’m not sure why Klaus would even care at this point about Elena dying. Doppelgangers aren’t immortal, so he knew she’d die sometime, and he’s already got a ton of hybrids on his side — all of whom, we assume, are going to live forever barring extreme circumstances and all of whom are forever bound to love him. He’s not going to die as the only one of his race. Elena can’t matter to him that much anymore.

8:44 – Klaus calls Mikael “Father” again, here. Some habits you just can’t break.

“I don’t need them,” Klaus says of the hybrids. “I just need to be rid of you.” This is the most powerful scene in the entire episode, and it’s actually one of my favorite scenes in this entire season. At this point, Klaus is somehow one of the most sympathetic characters we’ve got. He’s not trying to kill anyone we love — in fact, he’s downright invested in Elena’s safety — and it seems that his most dastardly days are behind him. Now, he’s just a man who was so damaged by his father’s abuse when he was young that a thousand years later, he’s still afraid to step over a threshold despite the fact that his supernatural powers vastly surpass his fathers’.

I mean, I’m assuming that Klaus has that dagger that he pulled out of Rebekah somewhere on his person at all times, given how prone he is to temper. Mikael is just a regular Original, meaning that it’d come down to who can stake whom the fastest. Since Klaus is a hybrid and is thus stronger and scarier and better, he’d probably win.

All this means that his fear of his father isn’t based on logic; it’s irrational. He was so deeply destroyed by his father’s rejection that he’s forgotten his own strengths and his own power. This entire army that he built wasn’t really about not being alone; it was about having a force against the man who raised him to be violent.

I mean, we get tears from Klaus, here! Tears! From Klaus! Where has Joseph been all my life, honestly? Can we get him on all of the shows ever? “My whole life, you’ve underestimated me,” he says, spitting the words out like they taste bad in his mouth. “If you kill her, you lose your leverage, so go ahead. Come on, old man, kill her.”

Mikael says that Klaus’s “impulse” will keep him from greatness, but in this moment, his restraint is what makes him the victor. He could have attacked; he could have commanded his hybrids to attack. Instead, he waited.

tvd-homecoming-stab.jpgMikael stabs “Elena,” and then suddenly, a lot happens all at once. If ever there was a television scene made to exercise your rewind button, it’s this one. Let’s break it down.

Klaus, caught off guard by the “death” of “Elena,” is vulnerable for a moment. Damon attacks Klaus from behind with the white oak stake, catching him by surprise… and unfortunately, missing the mark of his heart.

Then, we’re all shocked and appalled to learn that “Elena” is actually Katherine, and finally, we get to see a little of that Katherine sparkle we’ve been missing for weeks as she releases the wolfsbane grenades with a bored-sounding “Kaboom,” rendering Klaus’s (suddenly very small-looking) army useless.

Meanwhile, Damon still hasn’t hit his target on the floor, and before he does, Stefan appears out of nowhere and barrels into him, sending him sprawling away from Klaus, much to Damon’s dismay.

tvd-mikael-death.jpgKlaus grabs the stake, covered in his own blood, and finally does what Mikael didn’t think he had the courage to do — he hurtles out the door and takes Mikael out. The kill sets the stake on fire, eliminating the only known weapon in the world that could have killed Klaus. R.I.P. Mikael. You were fascinating.

8:48 – Considering everything that just happened, Klaus is bizarrely calm as Damon and Stefan sort themselves out. “He’s earned his freedom,” he says.

So basically, by stopping Damon from killing Klaus, Stefan gets un-compelled. Which also would have happened had he stayed home and caught up on “Fringe” while Damon killed Klaus, so… not understanding.

But hey, who needs logic? The music swells. Stefan and Klaus look deep into each others’ eyes. They step closer together. The music swells some more. And… nobody makes out, but really, they did, with their eyes. “Thank you, my friend,” Klaus says, forgetting the part where Stefan lied to him about Mikael being dead and stuff. Stefan is released from compulsion. Run free, Stefan. Free like the wind.

And Damon… is gone. Also, like the wind.

Is it just me, or does Stefan look less than happy about being unshackled?

8:50 – Caroline wakes up at home in her bed, and it’s Tyler who is there, waiting for her. Listen, I love Tyler and Caroline as a couple, but I was really hoping that it was going to be Matt who rounded that corner. I don’t necessarily want Matt and Caroline to get back together, but Matt was toyed with for this entire episode. He was a pawn for his friends, there to be Katherine’s cover story and Tyler’s clean-up crew. A little bit of emotional payoff would’ve been nice. You know I never want to see Zach Roerig written off this show ever, but as a Matt fan, part of me wants to see him leave Mystic Falls behind and go have a real life somewhere else, with people who give a crap about what happens to him beyond their own agendas.

Okay, back to Tyler and Caroline. Our boy is irritatingly cavalier and downright condescending as he explains that he poisoned his girlfriend for her own good.

Part of what I loved about Tyler and Caroline was that they were on equal ground in their relationship. They rescue each other. They’re there for each other. When he’s naked and cowering and crying on the floor of a cave, she’s the one who puts him back together. After everything they’ve been through, after Caroline’s proven her incredible strength time and again, for Tyler to assume that she can’t take care of herself is absurd and unacceptable.

He’s right that she wouldn’t have left her friends behind. But, given her track record, she probably would’ve helped them. She’s earned the right to make that call on her own, not to have Tyler make the decision for her.

tvd-tyler-caroline-breakup.jpgNext, he tells her that he’s okay with his sire situation. Thirty seconds ago he admitted he was forced to stab her because Klaus put her in danger, now he’s cool with being in Klaus’s servitude for the rest of his life. Which, by the way, might be eternity.

He asks her not to turn her back on him, but I’m really proud of her for rejecting that terrible proposal. Caroline is no longer the kind of person who needs to settle for someone who doesn’t put her first. In Season 1, she may have been everyone’s second choice, but she’s not going to play second fiddle to anyone — and especially not to Klaus. For as much as I love Tyler and Caroline together, I don’t want it to be at the expense of Caroline’s awesomeness, so I wholeheartedly approve of this breakup.

Of course, given the fact that he’s admitted she is everything he likes about himself, losing Caroline is probably going to push Tyler over the edge into full-on Klaus henchmanship. I hate to say this because, as you all know, I think Trevino is magnificent, but I wouldn’t be surprised if our season finale death this year is Tyler.

tvd-homecoming-damon.jpg8:53 – Back at Chez Salvatore, Damon is not in good shape. He thought he had every possible angle covered — and, to be honest, he almost did. The Katherine thing was a neat trick. He just should’ve locked Stefan up instead of leaving him on the floor after Mikael’s snack.

“We’ll survive this,” Elena says, putting her hands on his face and talking to him like she’s trying to soothe a child having a temper tantrum. She makes a rather major breakthrough here, admitting that they’ve lost Stefan and it’s time to move on with their lives. “Then we’ll let him go. Okay? We’ll have to let him go.” She doesn’t even cry when she says it. It took her nine episodes to get here, and I’ve been waiting for it, but honestly, I feel like the moment gets glossed over because we jump back into another “twist” so quickly.

(By the way, I keep seeing tweets from people who wanted Damon and Elena to kiss in this scene. Really? You want their first real kiss to happen while they’re basically in mourning? You guys. Come on.)

Elsewhere, Katherine and Stefan are driving out of Mystic Falls and reflecting on “where it all went wrong.”

There are a few incredibly disjointed flashbacks. Essentially, it adds up to Katherine learning that Klaus told his hybrids to kill Damon if Damon killed Klaus. She brought Stefan in to prevent the kill. There’s a big show made of Katherine begging Stefan to “care” about his brother’s impending death.

Here’s my problem with this whole set-up. First of all, we already know Stefan didn’t want Damon to die; we saw that last week. Second of all, Stefan’s actions were ultimately self-serving — he got his freedom, and now that Mikael is gone, Damon is currently No. 1 on Klaus’s hit list. Damon also has no one looking out for him in Mystic Falls who isn’t a plain old human.

Third of all… what was the point of Katherine’s flashy wolfsbane bombs if not to keep the hybrid army from attacking Damon? We know that Originals are capable of compelling hybrids, so once Klaus was dead, Mikael could’ve compelled everyone to back off Damon. Hell, Stefan and Katherine could’ve woken up Rebekah so they’d have backup on that. They could’ve brought Bonnie in to hand out migraines.

All in all, this is flimsy. It’s an elaborate way to give Damon and Elena the all-clear to get over their Stefan hangups, while meanwhile, keeping Stefan from turning into a villain. 

Stefan didn’t even have to break his compulsion to save his brother, so there was no great breakthrough there. Plus, he’s still got his humanity switched off — he doesn’t want to feel remorse for the last few months of his life, so he’s doing just fine.

The real problems here aren’t the plot holes, though, but the way they chose to tell the story. The the flashback device was employed in order to amp up suspense in what otherwise would’ve been a rather straightforward tale, but along with the suspense, they created confusion for the audience and for many of the characters. Sacrificing emotional depth for suspense isn’t a good idea, and here, that’s what happened. There are key character moments that the audience didn’t get to see: Stefan making the decision to save his brother. Elena asking Matt to attend the dance with Katherine. Damon convincing Elena to stay home and twiddle her thumbs while the plan was executed without her. We didn’t even get to see Elena’s face when she learned that Stefan had “betrayed” them.

Listen, I know this show isn’t five hours long and we can’t see every angsty breath that every character takes. I’m just trying to piece together the reasons I wasn’t moved by what should have been a resonant episode. My heartstrings were pulled only by Rebekah and Klaus — two characters who, as a viewer, I shouldn’t be prioritizing above the rest of the group. I’m all for multidimensional villains, but we’re so far into their heads that we’ve forgotten about the people we’ve followed for three seasons now.

8:56 – Anyway, sorry for ranting. Back in the car, Katherine admits again that she loved both Stefan and Damon. I wish she’d make up her mind. She made the extra effort to go get Stefan tonight because she was afraid that if Damon died, Stefan would never come back, and if Stefan never came back, she, too, would lose her last hold on humanity. It feels like a bit of a reach, but I’ll take this one, because I’ve been hoping we’d see some development with Katherine and her Salvatore issues. She says she needs Stefan to drum up a little emotion to do one final thing: Get mad.

tvd-stefan-coffin.jpg8:58 – Get mad, and get even. Stefan and Katherine somehow appropriated Klaus’s coffin collection and set them up in (I assume) a foreclosure. Klaus thought Stefan was his friend, but Stefan is pissed about their summer of slaughter, and he’s taken Klaus’s family both as revenge and, I assume, as leverage, so Klaus doesn’t kill Damon or abuse Elena’s blood supply while Stefan is off… doing whatever Stefan’s going to do.

Again, I’m just confused. Maybe I don’t like this episode because it makes me feel like I’m not particularly smart! Stefan would’ve been a lot better off waking up the siblings — Elijah, who knows him, at the very least — and breaking the news that Klaus killed mommy. Then he’d have a strong ally against Klaus. That would be revenge. Taking the coffins isn’t revenge, it’s a cat-and-mouse game designed to make Klaus even more angry. (Also, why are there four? There are only three originals left, if you don’t count Rebekah, who appears to be stashed in a dungeon somewhere.)

I guess we’ll find out in January why this move was so important to Katherine and how it benefits Stefan, but as far as mid-season cliffhangers go, color me unimpressed.

Next year: Well, judging by the promo, Stefan’s thievery backfires. Shocking.

Okay. MVP definitely goes to Joseph Morgan. The face-off in the Lockwood doorway was quick, but the variation of emotions we saw in his eyes in three seconds of that scene far surpassed almost the whole rest of the episode. I’m guessing we won’t see Claire Holt for quite a while, but I hope she’s back soon, because as usual, she was wonderful this week and has brought an incredible depth to a character that could’ve come off as a brat. And on behalf of my fellow fans, a very big thank-you to Sebastian Roche for elevating the last few episodes, big time. He’s fantastic.

I feel guilty about being so harsh in this recap, particularly given the fact that its the last one for so long, so let’s finish this up by making a list of the awesome parts of this episode, shall we? Rebekah’s conflict over her father and brother. The fact that she wore the dress Elena suggested. Elena being kind enough to return the necklace before staking her. Matt in a suit! Caroline and her glitter gun. That weird painted van that’s always parked outside Mystic Falls High. My Morning Jacket. Tyler and Damon’s super awesome fight scene. The return of the Bonnie migraine. Mikael’s awesome death. Katherine’s “kaboom.” Caroline refusing to settle for a sub-par version of Tyler. Elena putting her own emotional health above Stefan’s.

Your turn, guys. Have at me in the comments!

Photo/Video credit: The CW

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