The key word of the episode was denial. Everyone was in denial, some in deeper than others, some traversing in an arena they rarely do, others happily setting up camp in a very familiar place. But every major character was swimming deep in denial.
Elena and Stefan are the queen and king of denial and have been since we first met them. After a season of both being forced to increasingly accept reality and stop playing pretend, each jumped right back into their emotionally unhealthy co-dependent relationship where they could fall back into their safety bubble of not. dealing. with it. Elena began the episode not so much, expressing to Caroline that she couldn't just test-drive where she stood with Stefan after making out with his brother. However, Caroline was too busy projecting her own predicament onto Elena's situation to stop and actually listen, be there for her friend. Stefan does not equal Tyler. For all of his faults, Tyler does not emotionally manipulate Caroline. Nor has he gone beyond dickish, stupid-teenage-boy behavior in his treatment of her. Stefan has. And perhaps Caroline is unaware of the depths to which Stefan has sunk -- we've certainly been given no indication that she knows about all of his summer murders (those were attributed to Klaus by both Elena and Caroline before Damon told Elena the hard truth that it was Stefan's dirty work). Nor do we know if Caroline knows about what what Stefan did to Elena on Wickery Bridge, or his callous disregard for the nearly fatal danger he put Jeremy in through his vengeful actions. Based on her attitude towards Stefan, I'm choosing to believe that she doesn't know the specifics ... because I love Caroline and to believe otherwise will make me love her a bit less. (And it's certainly in character that Elena would not have shared those experiences because they hurt too much.)
On the flip side, Damon does not equal Klaus. Whatever bad stuff Damon has done -- and it has been bad -- the vast majority of it took place over a month-span when he first arrived in town and his switch was off. Other than the Jeremy-incident (brought on by emotional upheaval, and if Elena and Jeremy are okay with him on that score, as they both appear to be, Caroline has no place to judge). Beyond that month, and we're at about a year and a half now in the show's timeline, other than being a snarky ass, Damon has saved ALL of their lives on a regular basis and has worked relentlessly to keep things on track, making the hard choices that no one else will make because they hurt ... they motherfucking HURT! Klaus? Is a sick, twisted puppy who tortures, kllls, treats everyone around him like a chess piece that he can play with and use/abuse at his whim. He's sociopathic, killing machine who has no regard for anyone or anything. No comparison. Yet, it is easier for Caroline to project her in-denial feelings about Tyler and Klaus onto Elena about Stefan and Damon, slotting the brothers in the roles that her beaux play.
And she is in denial. Deep. She told Tyler that she loved him for the first time, but it certainly wasn't this big moment at all. It was almost throw-away, in fact. And Tyler decided to dip into denial himself by accepting her love at face value and denying the reality of that *something* between her and Klaus, and also denying the power that Klaus has, even without the sire bond. Because it's easier to pretend that he's not in competition with Klaus for Caroline's affection, and that he has a chance should Klaus decide that's it. And Caroline knows that, which aids in her refusal to acknowledge even to herself that she IS intrigued by Klaus, and she won't, can't admit that; she feels guilty. So she tells Tyler that she loves him, she tells him that Klaus means nothing to her, and refuses to face the reality of the situation. Caroline did keep that drawing Klaus did ... by her bed. She also kept his jewelry. She is intrigued by him, by what he tells her, by the fact that this all-powerful creature seems to have one weakness, and that weakness is her. Being a vampire heightens aspects of personality. As a human, Caroline was petty, shallow, selfish and vain. Klaus' attention and all that it represents taps into those aspects of her personality and heightens them even moreso. And she simply can not, will not deal with that. She is in denial.
As, of course, is Elena. Like I said she started out the episode attempting to face the reality of the situation she is in with the brothers, but when Caroline poo-pooh that idea, Elena jumped on it like white on rice. From the moment she called him, you could see the mantle of the girl she used to be falling over her. So she was giddy and and she was happy. As she was when Stefan said yes, when Stefan showed up, when Stefan took her to the dance and said pretty words that put a soothing bandage over all of the confusion and awfulness. Never mind that there was absolutely NO dealing with the fall-out of anything. Not Stefan's awful actions, not the distance between them, not what happened with Damon in Denver. It's so much easier to pretend that she loves only Stefan, and that what happened with Damon was an aberration, and his telling her off was a good way to have a clean break. If she pretends it didn't happen, and stays away from him, then she can keep her happy reality that she isn't like Katherine, that she isn't stringing the brothers along, that she doesn't have feelings for both. It's just Stefan, always Stefan -- their bubble of pretense and delusion once more intact. Yup, their scenes showed, once again, that these two do not deal with reality. And it was very pointed. They didn't discuss ANYTHING of depth at all. Even references to what happened this season was glossed over in a joking way. Or flat-out misstated.
Instead of Stefan apologizing for what he did specifically, he made vague references ... because the reality would break the mood. When Stefan talked about going to the dance despite their past dance experiences, Elena ascribed the finding moments of normalcy in the crazy to Stefan as if it was a good thing. And it would be, if it were not THEIR brand of "normalcy." Because their brand of normalcy ignores the reality and thus the danger of the situation. And later, Stefan turned that conversation around to say that Elena told him he could feel. Sure, she did, once or twice, but the main instigator in getting Stefan on track, to where he is at a somewhat healthier place has been his brother. But nope, based on Stefan's words to Elena, it's all about her ... Damon isn't part of the equation at all. Except that he is. But Stefan doesn't want to talk about Damon, because that opens the door for Elena to talk about Damon and we can't have that. As I said in my first post, Elena actually attempted honesty with Stefan with regards to Damon. However, Stefan wasn't having it. Nope, it's much better to just sweep it under the rug, Stefan's M.O. to a tee, and the Stefan/Elena relationship in a nutshell.
And, by the end of the episode, Elena was right back in the mindset that she was when with Stefan before -- deny! deny! deny! don't face reality because it hurts. One night, that's all it took before they both fell back into the unhealthy patterns of their relationship. Stefan emotionally manipulating her grief over Alaric to make inroads, ignoring his own brother -- who was grieving -- in the process. Once again, Stefan put his selfish wants and desires above everyone else. I'm not saying that I think that Stefan is being deliberately deceptive and emotionally manipulative; he's completely convinced himself of all that he says. It's how he functions. He finds a reality that works best for him, and then convinces himself of the purity of that reality and runs with it. And then ignores, glosses over, brushes aside anything that contradicts said reality.
Obviously something happened with Damon and Elena in Denver, or she wouldn't have brought it up, but she was there, in his arms, and talking about Damon would just address the elephant in the room, and upset the happy result of that trip in Stefan's opinion. I said after the last episode:
After their, erm, discussion, do Damon and Elena go back to the wary, uncomfortable interaction that they've shared since the events of the Mikaelson ball? Interaction that Stefan doesn't understand is just a part of their push-pull dynamic, and only sees as them not getting along. And if so, will that, along with he and Elena at the 20's dance, lead him to believe that his supposition was correct … that Elena doesn't actually have feelings for Damon, and the road-trip accomplished what he expected it to? I don't know. We'll see.Based on Elena asking him to the dance, his response, and the bit of interaction between Damon and Elena, Stefan did in fact seem like that is exactly where his mindset was. Denial, it is the other half of Stefan's OTP.
And speaking of Damon, for one of the few times ever, we saw him in denial as well. His almost callous commentary about providing a mercy killing for Ric when speaking to Elena and Stefan (although, yeah, he was right) disguised his pain over the situation. And in the end, he waited outside denying that Ric didn't want to be alone because it would hurt to be with him. But -- unlike Elena, and Jeremy -- Damon once again took the hard hit, made the hard choice and stuck around to watch his friend fade away. No one else was willing to do that. But Damon did. Because Damon *always* makes the tough choices. And this was a choice that Elena couldn't make. That Jeremy couldn't make. Instead, Elena ran away and then allowed Stefan to draw her back into the save haven of his arms -- never mind that the safe haven is based on a lie and she *knows* that now; she just won't deal with it. She won't stand by Damon, or Jeremy, the two people who love Alaric as much as she does because it would hurt too much. Stefan gave her "permission" to feel, but she was already feeling. What she needed was to deal with what was happening, with Ric dying, with what could happen to Jeremy with Ric gone, with the Esther situation. And instead of letting her deal and acknowledge that stuff -- as she was beginning too -- Stefan took her away from Ric's apartment, and back to school, the remnants of the dance, so that he could turn it around and turn her pain and vulnerability into a reason to turn to him ... only him. And she took it. Because it was easier to fall back into that pattern where as much as it hurt to feel, it didn't hurt as much to deal with what was hurting.
And because Elena was swayed from dealing, so was Jeremy. Instead of staying with Ric, staying with his sister, he took off -- with that ring still on his finger -- and shut himself off from dealing with losing Ric. And because neither Elena nor Jeremy would stand and face reality, stay with Ric in his final moments, instead leaving it for Damon to deal with it, deal with the messy aftermath, deal with the pain, he was left alone and BonnEsther was able to easily move in on the near-dead Alaric. Would Esther have been able to complete her plan with Alaric had Jeremy and Elena been there? Probably. However, there is the chance that Bonnie's love for Elena and Jeremy would have been strong enough to control Esther long enough for Alaric to die. But we'll never know because Elena and Jeremy were off not dealing so Esther was able to carry out her plan through her "sister."
Oh, Bonnie. Yeah, I was initially really upset with Bonnie for her comment to Damon about there always is another choice ... but, denial! She knows there was no other choice, and that what Damon did was the best option as horrible as it was. She knows that, but it's easier to blame Damon for doing what he did to Abby, than to accept her own responsibility in bringing her mother into the situation. Abby was safe, away from all of this madness, but Bonnie found her, Bonnie essentially guilted her into helping and the end result was Abby's death and turning. It's just so much easier to blame Damon because that helps alleviate that guilt and that hurt that Bonnie feels. And that's the role Damon's chosen to play; he's the bad guy, making the hard choices, so that they all have someone to hate rather than themselves.
Which is what Klaus continually plays when it comes to Stefan. Being the bad guy so that Stefan won't hate himself. We heard that in "The Murder of One," and then saw him try to reconnect with Stefan again in "Heart of Darkness." And like everyone else, he's in denial, for him, it's about Stefan. He refuses to accept that he won't ever get his friend back, and so he keeps pushing, keeps prodding. Joining everyone else for a swim in denial.
Except Alaric. He was the only major character tonight who was completely aware and accepting of the reality of the situation. And, yet in the end, because everyone else wasn't, he was screwed. Of course.
So, two episodes left and what happened with Damon and Elena in Denver simply has to be dealt with. The fact that it wasn't at all in this episode, I'm choosing to believe now is because those emotions will erupt in a way that NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THE THREE can ignore (much like Stefan being forced to realize that he was willing to do anything to save Damon's life without any excuses that it had to do with anything else in "Homecoming"). If I'm wrong, I'm wrong and this show has truly played me for a fool. Ah well. More's the fool them because I won't be the only one who walks away. But, the last two finales have managed to make *most* of my issues with the season work and make sense, bringing the larger picture into focus. Two more episodes, they can certainly pull it off. So, once again, I'm putting my irrational, emotional self to the side, and giving them the benefit of the doubt that this will all play out as it's certainly appeared all season that it would.