1.) It's no mystery to anyone who reads my TVD thoughts that I'm a Damon/Elena fan. However, despite that couple-love, I adore the fact that they share no scenes in "Ghost World." Why? Because it shows unequivocally that Damon's 'being the better man' is not centered wholly on Elena and his love for her. In an episode that talked about Damon and redemption, and furthermore, Damon making a positive choice to let someone in, be the better "man" (to Ric), having nothing to do with Elena was awesome-sauce. For me, this tied into my own personal belief that Damon is not changing or becoming better FOR Elena, but rather BECAUSE of Elena's influence.
It's like what Andie said ... love changes a person, makes them better and Elena has ignited that desire that has always been in Damon to be better, but until he's ready, until he wants to, it's not going to happen. Because he's not doing it for her, he's doing it for him, he's allowing himself that belief that he can be better because he's acknowledging that the desire is there. And that desire has been brought to the forefront because of his love for Elena. But it's about *his* desire to change, and *his* choice to do so. And we saw that front-and-center because his change and desire to be the better man was not in any way tangibly tied to Elena here, but rather Alaric.
2.) Speaking of Damon/Alaric, oh boy, how much did I love that their epic bromance was restored to its former glory. Nay! It reached a higher plateau of awesome. He never said the words, but it was uber-obvious that Ric missed his bff! Every scene with them was pure gold and rewatch-worthy. I know this because I rewatched all of their scenes a few times after the episode aired initially. From Ric's petulant "We're not friends! I don't like you anymore." (Lie!) to Damon's hand-waving away that silly fibbing to Ric's witness of Mason's Damon-abuse and poorly disguised concern when Mason didn't want Ric along for the ride, it was bromance-on-the-rocks heaven. And it was such because it was so clear that both just wanted to be buds again.
Alaric just wanted an apology, an excuse to forgive Damon, and Damon just wanted to recapture their former bff-ness. And, yay!, both things happened in the episode. When Damon needed Ric, despite his current anti-Damon stance, he still came running to his aid, and when Damon picked up on Ric's queues when bitching to Mason about Damon's proof that, yes, Elton, sorry does seem to be the hardest word, Damon gave Ric his kind of apology. And despite Ric's claim in the previous episode that Damon's charms might be overrated, with just a crooked smile and the flirty eye-thing, Ric was charmed. And like that they were back on track. Whee!
3.) The Damon/Alaric bromance was not the only friendship highlighted. We mostly saw the lovely Bonnie/Caroline friendship, but there was evidence of the strength of the Bonnie/Elena bond as well. But first, Bonnie and Caroline ... I love how other than the few final moments, Caroline's role in this episode was basically to be the most awesome, supportive friend ever. She's there walking into a non-vampire friendly house that was previously filled with the presence of one hundred unhappy witches just to be there for Bonnie. Then, of course, when all the Jeremy/Anna stuff hits the fan -- Caroline is 100% behind Bonnie, sympathetic and mildly vengeful on her behalf and appropriately bitchy to Jeremy.
As for Elena, it's not as clear-cut for her because Jeremy is her brother. However, she didn't hesitate for a moment to let him know that what he was doing was wrong, she disapproved and the only reason that she wasn't telling Bonnie is because she damn well expected him too. And the situation with Jeremy and Anna led to an important realization for Elena that has been simmering since Caroline told her that she needed to live her life in the premiere.
4.) Which leads us to Elena's growth. I mentioned in #1, that I loved that we had no Damon/Elena because we got to see some growth from Damon that was unrelated to Elena, helping to show that him becoming a better individual is not tied to a romantic interest. The same thing applied here. Elena and Damon had no scenes, and so it wasn't prompting from or interaction with him that led to her realization that she does need to start living, and stop keeping her life on hold. Although, she started to make those moves in "Smells Like Teen Spirit" -- after the events of "The Reckoning" -- once she made the connection between Lexi's "help" in Stefan's diaries and Jeremy's link to the ghost world, she jumped back on the 'Save Stefan!' bandwagon. But seeing Jeremy clinging to the (literal) ghost of his past, ignoring what had happened in the space between then and now opened Elena's eyes to the fact that she was doing the exact thing. And so she took a deep breath, laid it out to Stefan and let go. The ball was in his court now, she was no longer going to cling to the past. She was moving on, and if he wanted to move on with her, it was his choice.
5.) Oh, Stefan! Despite the fact that he was tortured throughout the episode, and I *am* a Stefan fan, I also loved what we got with him here as well because it went a long way to explaining Stefan. Why he has failed so miserably in controlling his bloodlust, why he's so miserable and brooding. I'm one of the very few who has never been a Lexi fan, and so for me seeing that *this* was how she "fixed" him made perfect sense. Because the Lexi I saw (and wasn't impressed with) fit perfectly with the Lexi we see here. I'm not saying that I don't think her heart was in the right place, I totally believe it was, but her method just could never work. Because it never gave Stefan the choice. A person can't change (for the better or worse) truly unless they want to do so. Lexi forcing him to behave didn't make him a "better" person; it forced him to behave *like* a better person.
And that's why we've gotten two seasons of a mostly ineffectual Stefan, of a Stefan who's afraid to make any kind of big move because it could upset the balance of the rules that were created for him, of a Stefan who was never truly comfortable or honest in his skin. It's because this Stefan is not who Stefan himself chose to be. He was forced to be this incarnation of himself. And by showing us how shaky the foundation of that person he is today we can clearly see where, why and how he's like that and what is necessary for him to take the steps to create a stronger, lasting foundation to become the better person that *he* chooses to be.
6. It was pretty awesome that the only credited guest stars were Malese Jow and Taylor Kinney, ghosts we'd already seen in previous episodes. All of the others were uncredited so even the die-hard fans didn't exactly know which ones would show up. So cool. Being me, my favorite return -- as brief as it was -- was definitely PEARL!!!!! Again, it was brief, but I enjoyed the few seconds because I love her so and I did like that her appearance meant that both she and Anna found peace. It was also kinda cool to see nasty ole Frederick! Just a nice flashback to season one, in addition to, of course, Grams. She was my second favorite ghostly return.
7. And more specifically about Grams, I loved that the connection between her and Bonnie was still there, so strong, so beautiful. I loved how this new writer to the show (Rebecca Sonnenshine) seamlessly captured the character and her relationship with her granddaughter. The first scene had me smiling through teary eyes, and when she took her hand at the end, and they spouted Latin together and then she told Bonnie that she was "stronger than all of this. I'm so proud of you," I was like ooh, so beautiful. LOVE! I also liked the little touch of Caroline's "Miss Sheila." So Southern, and with just that little bit of interaction between them easily painted a portrait of their relationship when Grams was alive (and Caroline was human).
8. Speaking of Caroline. I mentioned her above as an awesome friend to Bonnie, but she was just awesome all-around. Yes, being the friend, but also with her cutely anxious little face, and her one-liners here and there, her attitude towards Jeremy, her brief interaction with Grams, and then her final scene was kick-ass. Seeing her go all bad-ass on a whole slew of the ghostly tomb vampires was fabulous, and so Caroline that she did so to protect a woman who had just recently set her up for torture!
9. I was never a huge Jeremy/Anna fan, but I did appreciate how the episode gave closure to their relationship. I can't say much more about it, because, again, not a fan, but that closure of the two together was something that was needed for Jeremy to get the message and move on. (A lesson that he will hopefully fully learn and stick with much more quickly than did Elena). Also on Jeremy, I kinda liked that he was such a douche to Bonnie, because he *is* a teenage boy with hormones and an overactive romantic longing. I like when we see these teenagers act like teenagers and do stupid, stupid things because they don't know any better, because they don't have the experience or the growth to handle some of these situations -- especially of the heart -- more delicately. So even while Jeremy pissed me off (as a Jeremy/Bonnie fan ... maybe former?), I appreciated that it showed him in a more realistic-teenage light.
10. Finally, I found the conclusion of the ghost story quietly effecting and as realistic as could be under the supernatural circumstances. The baddies were sent off once and for all, some of our ghosts got closure and/or a measure of peace (Anna, Pearl, Mason, Grams), others failed in their goal (Lexi, Frederick... hah!). And those around who were effected by the ghostly returns were helped in their situations (Mason inadvertently helping Damon with Alaric; Anna helping Elena realize how she was holding onto the past; Grams giving Bonnie the strength to be as awesome as she could be). All in all, it just really worked for me. :)
I'm not saying that the episode was perfect. It had some flaws (for me, notably, Rick's lack of admission -- or actually ANY admission from ANYONE -- that he was a bit of a dick to Damon first), but overall, it offered so much that I loved.
This was originally posted on tvdbloodstream.