Getting the negative out of the way first because I do have a lot of negative I need to vent, folks. I can't say I'm happy. I'm not. The fact that Damon is being painted as the bad guy all-around while Stefan gets a clean slate (from Caroline), Stefan gets mushy feelings (from Elena), Klaus gets a mushy feelings (from Caroline), Elijah gets a clean slate (from Elena) and Damon is a self-destructive, controlling dick. For wanting to keep Elena alive. For saving Matt's life. For caring too much. Yeah, that all just sticks mightily heavily in my craw.
Clearly, nothing anyone does bad on this show is ever going to be held against them ... unless they are Damon Salvatore. Elena clearly doesn't care about all that Stefan did, nope, she's all 'Feel something for me,' holding onto his face, wanting him to be with her in the moment, kiss her, love her. Caroline clearly doesn't care that Klaus has terrorized all of them, killed people they know, people they don't, sire-bonded Tyler to him, nope, she's all 'Ooh, he bought me a pretty dress! He's an artist! He drew a pretty picture of me!' let's get sentimental over him.
Which of these things is not the like the other? Oh, right, Damon -- he can never be forgiven or treated with any kind of understanding. No, he'll always be judged, and found wanting. rose_marie_rose had made me feel better by pointing out that people stick with patterns of how they treat someone, and that when someone starts out bad, it's harder to let go of that aspect of them, as opposed to someone starting out good. In that case you tend to remember the good. However, that doesn't work now because of ... the attitude/reaction to Klaus, and Caroline preferring Stefan -- who killed tons of people, including two classmates, and terrorized Elena (of his own free will) -- to be with Elena, rather than Damon, and Elena being all 'Oh, Stefan! Feel something for me, bb!' Yeah.
So all ships out there, whose characters were featured tonight, this is what they got --
Caroline/Tyler - Him telling her he loved her, her defending him, and trying to leave calls for him because she misses and worries for him so.
Caroline/Matt - Jealousy over Rebekah to the point that she chooses to go to the ball as Klaus' date essentially.
Caroline/Klaus - Pretty dresses and drawings as presents, sweet talk and intrigued/adoring looks throughout the evening, including the dance (from both of them), delving into each other's lives and sharing.
Stefan/Elena - Longing looks, tension-filled moments during the dance, reminders of how he let her do whatever she wanted (even if it meant walking to her death), face-holding, obvious signs of how deep their twu wuv is.
Elena/Elijah *(Ooh! A new one!) - Understanding looks, conspiring together, guilt on Elena's side for lying to his face over the plot to kill him.
Damon/Elena - Damon struck upon seeing Elena enter, Damon telling Elena she looked stunning ... all on Damon's part, of course, and then we get to the "good" stuff: Damon manhandling Elena, about twenty seconds of a dance where they barely acknowledged each other, Damon telling Elena he loved her in the middle of venting at her, and her responding that it's wrong (although, she did mention later that she didn't mean it, big fucking deal when taking everything else into account), Elena assuming the worst of Damon when he saved Matt's life (who you know isn't going to mention that Damon went after Kol to SAVE MATT'S LIFE!), Damon being told by Stefan(!) that he doesn't let Elena make her own choices or do anything, Damon fucking Rebekah.
Yeah, which thing here is not like the other? Oh, right, Damon and Elena -- because dagnabbit, the Damon/Elena fanbase had a WHOLE SIX EPISODES where they kinda acknowledged that there's something maybe real there ... amidst Elena's continued uber feelings of twu wuv for Stefan ... because Julie and Kevin don't want the Stefan/Elena fanbase to feel that their couple doesn't still have a shot! (As if...)
And I don't get it. Everything that is awesome about Elena pretty much goes down the drain with Stefan. Instead of the smart, ass-kicking, awesome woman we've known this season, she becomes this pathetic, clinging, submissive girl with Stefan. This is the guy who threatened to kill her on the bridge where her parents died JUST FOR REVENGE and three episodes later, she is BEGGING him to show that he feels something for her. Give me a fucking break. This season has gradually given us an Elena Gilbert who is strong, proud and all-around bad-ass. This episode, where she's once more in Stefan's sphere, all of that went bye-bye.
Look, I was bummed after delving into all the spoilers, and my lovely flist cheered me up. One of the key things that worked was despite how damn unfair the cast/crew are to the Damon/Elena fanbase in press, on the show we are getting an in-depth, well-crafted love story for our couple. That's not quite flying now. I'm beyond frustrated with the fact that for two seasons running now, Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec have gone out of their way to assure Stefan/Elena fans that all will be well, and yet there was no concern for all the misery that Damon/Elena fans went though last season. And NOW when there's actual Damon/Elena content -- which is naturally on the downswing after only six friggin' episodes (barely) -- they talk about how they want to make sure they keep both fanbases happy and sticking with them. Funny how that wasn't a concern when Stefan/Elena fans were having sunshine blown up their couple's ass last season. However, I could try and push that aside as long as we got fair balance on the show. Tonight? Proved that maybe, just maybe, that wasn't happening.
Sigh, okay, venting done. Time for mostly positive thoughts now. :)
Outside of the shipper stuff ...
- I really like Esther; I love her plan, and I love how she's accomplishing it. I was a little iffy on Alice Evans in the first scene (with Klaus), but with Elena and then with Finn, I just loved her. Wonderful job. And I found out something quite interesting, when she said that she kills Klaus, it will kill all of her children, I thought: Good, I don't want any of the Originals beyond this season. They worked in season 02 and are working for me in season 03, but I do want them all gone by season 04. Yes, even Elijah and Rebekah. I love them, but I love the core cast, the Mystic Falls residents I know and love more. I want them front and center.
- I also really liked Finn. That he knew Esther's plan and was willing to go along with it was really awesome, I thought. There was a gentle, quiet strength about the actor that I genuinely liked.
- I thought of the three girls in ball gowns, Caroline by FAR looked the best. Elena's dress was way too busy, and I didn't like Rebekah's hairstyle.
- Continuing on the shallow note, HOT DAMN!, did Ian Somerhalder look MIGHTY FINE in that tuxedo or what!?!?!? So hot I want to lick him up with a spoon. YUM!
- The Damon/Carol discussion was just awesome. I find it sad, but there it is, that Damon is treated with the most respect and liking from Liz and Carol, and not from anyone supposedly in his inner circle.
- I loved the blood forming a family tree on the parchment at the end, very cool. Speaking of, I think THAT should have been the end, not Damon and Rebekah getting it on, because that was really cool!
- Speaking of the getting it on, yeah, I stand by what I wrote in "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Ian Somerhalder and Claire Holt just don't have great chemistry. There's some, because, duh, Ian Somerhalder, but overall, yeah, it just wasn't that hot for me, and I watched it a few times. On that note, I'm sorry but the vamp-speed during vamp-on-vamp sex just kills the flow. I mean, I never mentioned it before, but even in the Damon/Katherine scene in "The Return," when they vamped from the wall to the table, it always takes me out just a little. The only reason they get away with it is because the Nina Dobrev/Somerhalder chemistry is so ridiculously hot.
- Despite my bitching above, I actually did quite enjoy the Klaus/Caroline scenes and they definitely are my secondary Caroline-ship. There were some very lovely moments between the two, although, again, I did think that they should have been way more one-sided considering, you know, he's Klaus. But hey, he's not Damon. That explains it.
- I'm gonna say it: I may be the only one, but I don't think that Paul Wesley is doing this stellar job this season. Other than when he's snarking, there's really no difference from this Stefan than from season 01/02 Stefan. There are no gradient shades of characterization. He's just Stefan. And Wesley is showing the same skill level we've seen all along.
In closing, taking the Damon/Elena shipper side out of it, it was a really good episode. Not great, I didn't think it was great, but it was really good. (Better than last week for sure!) This was definitely not as weak as "Memory Lane," but it is my second-least favorite Caroline Dries episode. :( And putting the Damon/Elena shipper back into the game, I did love Damon's expression when he saw Elena walk in. Alas, that was pretty much the only moment as a Damon/Elena fan that I could truly enjoy ... and even that was all from Damon's point-of-view. Other than a few smiles, Elena treated Damon mostly like he was a nuisance. I mean, really, it took all of two episodes after Wickery Bridge for Elena to once more cut Damon out of the loop and start conspiring with Stefan again? Wow!
Look, I know it's going to be a long road ahead for Damon/Elena and Damon, I just wish they would balance out the playing field in terms of how the other characters treat Damon. Plus, start giving the Damon/Elena fanbase some genuine, non-Stefan/Elena-flavored pep talking in their press. And on the show! Please, on the show, give us something more, anything more. We NEED more from Elena's side. I really hope and pray that this will open the door to Damon pulling away from Elena emotionally so that she can OPEN UP HER EYES and realize that she DOES care about him. Because nothing else is sinking that message home clearly. And one thing I do trust in indubitably is that we are supposed to believe that Elena DOES care about him.
However, as of now, she treats him like a sexless boyfriend -- not realizing it, but she does -- and he lets her because he loves her so much. And it's REALLY not fair to him. So, hopefully this will lead to him stepping back so she can take a look at whether she wants him in her life close or not (I do think that eventually she'll find that she was really taking him, his presence, how he was with her for granted and that she does misses/needs/does love him). Maybe with what happened in tonight's episode, it will be the push he needs to man up, walk away and just be there to help the group save the day* but no longer be her -- well, I keep saying it, but it's true -- sexless boyfriend.
* Hah, unless, he's now suddenly -- and so inexplicably -- the "liability."
Hope springs eternal. I mean, I do think we'll get something great and wondrous and awesome with Damon and Elena eventually. It's just going to take time.
Patience, grasshopper, patience. I know. :)
ETA: I wrote a follow-up that really deals with and makes me feel better about my major issues with the episode here.