I said in my write-up of the whole show that as Stefan, Paul Wesley, was a bit stiff, but I have to say he's proven me wrong. This whole new side of Stefan has brought out some wonderful acting by him, and it's being handled beautifully. Not just by him, but the writers as well. It's such a fascinating take; that for Stefan, human blood is like a hard drug to him. Seeing him spiral more and more out of control has been heartbreaking and horrifying. When he was facing Elena in the woods, eyes wild and crazed, blood dripping from his mouth in copious amounts, and her aghast reaction, it was just like a sucker punch.
Now, I'm not a Stefan/Elena fan (they're a bit too boring for me, and I find that the actors lack in chemistry big-time), but I don't dislike them. In fact, I can enjoy them at times, like in this episode. In the Stefan and Elena practice dance scene, I thought that they were adorable and it contrasted so magnificently with the Damon and Elena dance later. The playful flirting during the rehearsal versus the unexpected tension and chemistry on display during Damon and Elena's dance was evident. Seriously, that edge of unintentional flirting was intense. Having both pairings share the same romantic dance highlighted the difference between the two. Even if Stefan was hopped up on human blood, the sweetness and innocence that underscores their relationship was present. While the passion and tension between Damon and Elena was highlighted in their turn on the dance floor.
Ah, that dance. The chemistry was palpable between them. It was filled with a simmering tension that both dearly felt. Seriously, the whole scene from beginning to end was wonderful, and just made me squeal with an insane amount of squee. It practically left me breathless and not just because of that chemistry so on display during the dance, but the so many details that were there.
- Damon playing her hero by stepping up.
- Damon *not* making jokes or snarky commentary while doing so.
- The reactions from Jenna and Alaric; hers a mild curiosity, his a bewildered worry because he knows that something is up.
- Elena's reaction to Damon. It sure didn't seem like she was thinking about Stefan or anything else but Damon while dancing with him.
- The fact that, of course, Damon would know how to dance that style. And that he was dancing with Elena in this old-style dance, with her fancy dress and softly-curled hair... three things that were much more reminiscent of Katherine than the Elena he knows.
Does that last bit mean that I think that Damon was reacting to the similarities as opposed to just Elena herself? Not consciously. However, there was a subtext of his attraction for Katherine there that I don't think he's even aware of. But it's just a subtext and certainly not the overriding measure of his feelings for Elena, which the last scene made clear.
It revealed, in my opinion, a depth of feeling that was completely beyond egging on Stefan, memories of Katherine, and his friendship with Elena. Damon had no intention of sticking around to wait for Stefan to come to. I don't doubt that he loves his brother—despite their tumultuous history—but Damon is not a soft, caring, stick-around kinda guy. Also, there's still a lot of baggage that goes with that relationship, so, as far as he's concerned what he's done the last few days (telling Elena about Stefan's problems, confronting him about it, protecting him and going after him to clean up his mess, going along with Elena's plan) has been more than enough. So he didn't stay because of Stefan; he was literally turning to walk away, pausing only long enough to wait for Elena. It was only after she said she was staying and slid down that he decided to stay. Fully and completely for Elena. That brings me back to my earlier point that while there may have been an underlying, subconscious pull to the Katherine-similarity of Elena during the dance, that it was just a tiny pull. Unlike Stefan--who appears to be more drawn to the fact that Elena is NOT Katherine, for Damon, it is who ELENA is that has drawn Damon to her.
Oh, this episode... phew! As a Damon/Elena fan, I just loved how this one – penned by Caroline Dries and Bryan Oh—did seem to elevate their relationship to a somewhat deeper level. Elena, and the viewer, saw Damon as the hero when he stepped up for her, and stayed by her side at the end.
The Damon/Elena-ness is just one of the reasons I love this episode so. Another wonderful aspect of it was how a more teenaged-based function (the Miss Mystic Falls pageant for the older teen girls) touched upon the high school settings, but in a way that offered some wonderful characterization. Elena completely forgetting about something that she likely would have been excited about the year before due to the death of her parents and the supernatural crazy of her life compared to Caroline's reaction. For her, this was an incredibly important event for her young life, and something that she had worked hard for leading up to it. Through their conversations with others and each other, we learned a bit more about Elena's mother and her relationship with Elena. We also found out just how much of a black sheep that Liz Forbes is in her family, and how Caroline desperately aspires away from that distinction.
And then there was the wonderful character stuff with Stefan, and Bonnie. First, Bonnie: Kat Graham did a marvelous job portraying the tightly controlled rage that was just simmering beneath the surface over the vampire-driven events that had led to her Gram's death. How she bonded with Caroline, how she distanced herself from Elena, her reaction to Stefan and Damon all made so much sense. It was interesting how Elena realized there was something wrong, but didn’t know where it was coming from, while Stefan seemed to absolutely get it... which was kinda awesome as I sorta semi-ship Stefan and Bonnie and those two have more chemistry than does he and Elena. So that tension between them is very intriguing.
Alongside the strong character stuff, we also got one of those moments that play out differently and wonderfully on this show as opposed to most others. It was at the close of the pageant when Caroline won the title. It wasn't because Elena was off dealing with vampire boyfriends gone amok. Nope, Elena was standing up on that platform right next to her when Caroline won fair and square because she earned it. And she was genuinely smiling and applauding Caroline's win, as Caroline turned first to Elena to celebrate with her. It was the show, yet again, showing us that friendship is as important as the romantic entanglements. And friendship ran a strong current throughout the episode. We saw different sides of through the reveal of the growing closeness between Caroline and Bonnie due to the increasing distance between Bonnie and Elena. And, of course, there was Caroline putting aside her deep desire to win to encourage Elena to stay in the competition (even though she fully believed that Elena would win) because she knew how much it meant to Miranda, and thus Elena.
Okay, enough rambling analysis, some random thoughts ...
- I loved that while Jeremy was upset (understandably) with Elena for all she kept from him and the mind-wiping, he acknowledged that he basically understood why she did part of it because he's glad he doesn't remember some of the horror. Wonderful way of not going cliché, show.
- I'm sorry, but it so must be said again: CAROLINE WON! And not because Elena was pulled out of the running for some vampire!drama-related reason, Caroline won fair and square because she is AWESOME! and totally deserved to win.
- I thought it was cool that alongside Damon threatening John Gilbert—which was a reminder of just how "bad" Damon can be, we had concerned scenes with Stefan, and so many moments with Elena that showed Damon as more than just the bad brother. It was definitely an interesting twist seeing him in more of that "good" brother role for once.
- Speaking of threatening John... I loved Damon's when John threatened to tell on Damon. "I'll kill all of the council members, sever your arm, pull your ring off and then kill you." Blah, blah, blah, yes, Damon is so bad, but it was nicely, erm, realistic to see him put this human in his place. Damon IS a vicious killer and has been around for a century and a half. He should be able to tell Gilbert what's what. The thing is, though, that while this scene reminded us of this truth about Damon (in case Ian Somerhalder's charm and hotness and/or sizzling chemistry with Nina Dobrev had made one forget), the fact that it was paired with the concerned scenes with Stefan, and all of those moments detailed above with Elena, shows that Damon is more than just the bad brother. We're seeing dimensions to all of the characters... including Damon.
DAMN! I love this show! And, oh, this episode! There was literally not one moment that did not work 100% for me.
And next week? Stefan tries to commit vampire-suicide. Oh Stefan.