Let's start with Elena. Of course. The torture played out as I expected it actually. It was done to get the real Elena out and Elena gave as good as she got. In fact, Elena was pretty much in complete control emotionally the entire time. And I love how key aspects of Elena's personality are still shining through, namely her stubborn bad-assery and her smarts applied smartly. Switch or not, girl knows she's in control and she's using that power. Of course the only time she wasn't in control was when Damon (*of course*) managed to get a rise out of her. And it was interesting coming off of what I noticed in "Pictures of You" how it was Damon that got the emotional reactions out of her. The same thing happened here. With Stefan, her little digs were delivered slyly. She was calm and cool about it and fairly emotionless. On the other hand, when it came to Damon her digs were delivered in anger and pain before she did manage to get control of herself and reverted to her calm, emotionless state. But still it was DAMON that got her to react! Uh huh.
As a Damon/Elena fan, I ADORED how her humanity was brought back for several reasons. It helped to highlight something that's been going on ever since the sire bond came up, namely that Damon has not been trusting his instincts. He's been following Stefan's lead, discussing things with Stefan, going along with Stefan's take on things (torturing Elena, calling their ex to come over and up the torture-ante) and, naturally, all of Stefan's plans were nothing but a big, ole fat bust. Because, yeah, Stefan. (Love you, boo, but yeah, planning is so not your forte.) Yet because of how the sire bond and all of its implications has so completely messed with Damon's headspace (especially when it comes to Elena), he's gone along with Stefan. Until now. Until Elena was no longer in their control at all.
At that moment, you could see it come over Damon. As he told Elena later, he was done playing. He was doing things his way and getting shit done. Cuz that's what Damon Fucking Salvatore does. So he did it. He was SO freakin' decisive once he realized Elena was no longer in their grasp, he didn't even stop to discuss it, he just came up with a plan, boom! Corralled Matt (who, of course, obeyed right away because, yeah, Damon has that boy trained) and went forth to bring back Elena's humanity and got it done. And I'm pretty sure it was all on Damon (with Matt's willing assistance), because--unless Paul Wesley played it totally wrong--Stefan did NOT know that Damon hadn’t intended to actually kill Matt and that he was wearing the ring. In other words, Stefan's plan(s) failed, Damon's was a SUCCESS! BOOYAH! Damon was SO decisive, just as Elena was SO sure he wouldn't kill Matt. The two were trying to one-up each other, but Damon was done playing as he said. So he did it, and Elena's bluff was called. She forgot a key reason she and Damon are so good together. In enough ways, the two of them are very much alike and that includes... they don't bluff when those they love are on the line.
I also loved how her humanity was brought back because of how beautifully it mirrored when she lost her humanity. Both Damon and Elena kneeling on the floor, facing one another and Damon was speaking softly, carefully to her, trying to reach her saying exactly what he needed to get her where she needed to be. Meanwhile, Stefan was on the outside watching just as he had in "Stand By Me" (Caroline was on the sidelines with him then, Matt rather out of it at this point too). The emotion, the connection, the pull-push was all between Damon and Elena. And taking that mirroring to an exquisite level was the fact that the EXACT SAME MUSIC was used for when Elena's humanity came back as when it left. See?
OH MY GOD! RIGHT?! SO AWESOME!
Ahh, and further proof that Damon gets shit done? Elena is on fire. Stefan tries to reach for her with his hands--which would burn him as well. Damon uses the fire extinguisher and the force of the foam to get her out of the sun and safe. Yeah.
Also further proof that Damon needs to trust HIS instincts when it comes to Elena instead of Stefan's? How about the fact that Damon once again showed just how much he knows Elena better than Stefan? He got that it's not that Elena doesn't want to come back because she has "nothing" to come back to (which is BS, Stefan. She's got Damon, her friends, including, yes, Stefan). It's because she knows that there is no risk that the boys will hurt her. Sure, she had to spell it out, but Stefan just dismissed it. Damon did not and realized that was key.
This brings us to Katherine and her part in all of this. Stefan was wrong and right at the same time about her. He rightly figured that bringing Katherine in to the equation will do the trick, but he sorta understands this from *KATHERINE*'s perspective, not Elena's. He knows that Katherine will happily torture Elena, but doesn't quite get that Katherine will get bored easily because, hey, what's in it for her? Of course we find out at the end that Katherine IS the key, but it's from Elena's end. Stefan was wrong to try and use Katherine HERSELF (as opposed to what she represented) to bring Elena back. Speaking of Elena's focus that pulled her humanity back, how they played that moment was brilliant and beautifully staged, directed and acted. As Stefan was imploring her to hold onto the one thing that would make her want to live, she locked gazes with him and began to calm down and without words, you could see that Damon immediately thought that Elena was clinging to Stefan and their love. It was how that flash of pain lit his eyes, how he slowly took his hands off of her and backed away, moving to the side. It was how throughout the rest of their interaction, he was very careful to not cross any "friend" lines.
I knew it couldn't have been Stefan that she was clinging to though with that moment coming with ten minutes left in the episode. If that had been the case, it would have ended the episode as some fresh turning point in the triangle. And it did make perfect sense that Damon (and likely Stefan) believed that was the case. It's not just the sire bond that has done a number on him, it's the continued insistence of EVERYONE that once Elena is back to "herself," she'll run straight back to Stefan. (This time it was via Katherine.) And I'm sorry, but when every single character says something, it's pretty much a given that the opposite will happen.
However, we got yet another little sign that Elena is just not there at all with Stefan anymore. He is the outsider in this equation now, he truly is, which we saw patterned throughout the whole episode. Damon is standing in front of the safe with Elena ("take me back to solitary," LOL, Elena), while Stefan is a few feet away. Stefan is at the window; Damon is kneeling by her side throughout most of the scene. Stefan is farther away from her while she lay on the floor recovering from the burns while Damon is closer. Damon is kneeling before her when she flips the switch; Stefan is a few feet back again. And in the final scene, Damon is sitting across from her, closest to her, while Stefan is across the room. Sitting next to Damon, farthest away from Elena, he brings her a drink--which Elena doesn't even begin to take (unlike the two times she's been upset sitting in that room when Damon brought her a drink to relax). Except for when Elena threw that dig about dumping him and at the end when Damon positioned himself away from Elena, Stefan was almost always just outside of Elena's dance space while Damon was constantly there.
This is not to say that Stefan didn't help Elena with her humanity re-emerging, but his help came from his history and his knowledge of how to come back from the brink, not about *their* history. Although it was definitely played in such a way to indicate the latter, Elena's reveal (almost casual) at the end that her touchstone was hating Katherine made it quite clear that it wasn't about Stefan for Elena, it just wasn't. And it also gave us another connection of sorts to Damon. In "Because The Night," Elena mentioned that Damon had to have emotions to do what he did to Lexi in the 70's and Damon basically said that he figured hate was the first emotion he got back and it opened the door. Well, what happened with Elena here? Her first real emotion coming back that focused her? Hate. Just like Damon. Two peas in a pod, I tell ya. :)
So even though we got no overt Damon and Elena in the episode, I was satisfied with the bigger picture, little details that were on display. And I also got some great couple stuff with Matt and Rebekah. Oh my heart, I love them so. All of their scenes were wonderful. Him reaching out, her being bitchy, he walking away, her showing up and then the conversations that followed were sublime. Now I don't agree that Matt needs better friends--he has great friends who have risked their lives for him, have literally died for him--but I agree with and love everything else she said. "Everyone needs an advantage in life, I could be yours." *sigh* Oh, if Rebekah isn't staying in Mystic Falls can Matt pretty please go to New Orleans?!? PLEASE!!! Zach Roerig and Claire Holt are just SOOOO good together. So blonde and pretty and soft and heartwarming and they have such a wonderful yin and yang. Plus, Matt and Rebekah are soooo good FOR each other. Ahhhh! I love them, I love them, I love them!
You know who else I love? Caroline! Oh my, she was splendiferous in this one. I pretty much loved every moment with her. And the stuff with Silas sneaking up on her, wearing different faces, scaring the bejesus out of her was soooo well done. It reminded me of the superbly suspenseful stuff we got in "History Repeating" way back in season 01. But aside from that, just Caroline herself was delightful. That she ordered cap and gown for Matt and Elena, that she has flashcards and energy bars ready for study sessions ("you dated that?" LOL! Oh, Rebekah!), that Candice Accola flawlessly delivered the line "Don't let anyone inside, even me. Because I have a key." ... all of that is why I adore Caroline Forbes so. Ah, she is SO much better with draggy Tyler not dragging her awesome down! With him gone, even with the Klaus-aspect of her story, she's more rounded. She's just not about a boy! And for some reason, pairing her up with Tyler made her about that boy. Ugh. But we have her stuff Klaus, and on top of that, the person she loves most is her mom (aww! and that cry of "mommy" made my heart hurt, oh, Caroline!), she forgives and wants to save Elena even though she tried to kill her twice. She's ready to step up and help Matt and do what has to be done for all of her friends. I LOVE CAROLINE!
However, I realized definitively in this one that I totally do NOT ship Klaus and Caroline. When Caroline turned around and Klaus was there I literally (much to surprise, honestly) went "ugh." Hmm, I guess without Tyler around to show me just how lame a crappy Caroline coupling could be, I've lost most of my affection for Klaus and Caroline. Still, I cannot deny that Accola and Joseph Morgan do indeed have chemistry. He's just not even remotely redeemed enough for my Caroline. I could see it someday, just not now. And partially why I could see it someday is because there are definitely feelings there from Caroline's end. Everything that SiKlaus said came from *Caroline*'s mind. Uh huh. She wanted him to come back, to ask her to join him, to want her with him. Double uh huh.
Alright then, plenty of randoms left...
- With regards to Bonnie, I'm not sure what's going on with her. She's obviously on the "good" side of things, but there's this distance that is almost cold about her right now. Still, her bad-assery magic busting doors open was awesome! It was frustrating though that Caroline could easily forgive Elena, but Bonnie couldn't. *sigh* Bonnie. It's not like it's out of character though.
- Also in character is Katherine's inability to get what happened with Elijah. Because she is SO self-involved, she just doesn't get that Elijah didn't put a break on things with her because he was mad at her (and he didn't dump her, damnit, it was a pause! A PAUSE, I TELL YA! Ahem.), but because he loves his family and has hopes that he can bring the humanity of his brother back. But Katherine has spent so many centuries looking out for only herself, caring only about herself that she can't quite wrap her brain around Elijah's selflessness for family. Oh, Katherine.
- Still, Katherine provided three of my favorite moments in the episode... First her "Oh, honey, you look awful" when she first saw Elena. I laughed out loud legit. Her "Oops!" (which I would totally gif, but I'm having difficulty getting a good copy so far, grr) at "forgetting" to lock Elena in made me laugh even more. And finally, her mispronunciation of Quetsiya's name followed by "whatever" cracked me up. Oh, Katherine.
- So Elena is planning on killing Katherine--just as Katherine is getting the promise of invulnerable immortality--I wonder if this will bring about any Stefan/Katherine feelings to the fore. That's one relationship that has yet to see closure. Hmmm............
- Cuz, yeah, Damon's got his closure when it comes to Katherine. "I love Elena. I despise you," he said with a sweet smile. Hah!
- So, yeah, I commented in my "Pictures of You" write-up that the group needed a safeword so they would know when it's Silas and when it's not, but duh, that wouldn't work because Silas can get in their heads so he would know what the safeword is.
- Hee, not one, but two bouts of product placement. At least it was mostly organically done and not in the middle of a big emotional scene. ("The Last Dance" BONNIE IS ALIVE TO ELENA reveal, I'm looking at you!)
- So can we put to rest the complaints about Damon always getting the blame from the group? That just doesn't happen anymore unless Damon actually IS to blame. This torture-track was something they all took upon and went with and the closest to anyone getting some flack was Caroline to Stefan.
- Yay! I figured when I read that Damon threatened Matt to get Elena to flip her switch that Matt would be in on it, and he was. Whee! I love me some Matt and Damon interaction--let's try and keep Damon killing him to a minimum though, please. And, show, do NOT be foreshadowing that Matt will die. I simply will not accept that. Just so you know.
- Speaking of love for Matty. Aww, Damon said that everybody loves Matt. That everybody would include Damon, right? ;)
- Hmm, so coming back from the dead hurts. I don't think we knew that before.
- Caroline taking her blood and needle-plunging it into her mom's heart? Aww, and, erm, eww! But, yay! Liz is still alive!! (Speaking of Liz and Caroline, man, that brief phone call between them and how Liz was all "Hi, how's it going?" before Caroline ran and hugged her... squee! I loved it.)
- So, yeah, Elena essentially said what I've been saying about her with the switch off. It took away everything that made Elena who she was. Yup, and that's why she wasn't even remotely peeved AT ALL with the boys for all they did to bring her humanity back. Because a humanity-less Elena is just not the Elena Gilbert that she would want to be and that (almost) everyone loves. (I do hope that Rebekah finds that she can like this Elena too, though!)
- OK, really? I love this show like whoah, but the fresh make-up on Elena after the torture, Matt-death, humanity-resurrection was a tad bit ridiculous, LOL. Oh, show, it's OK, I still love you so.
And how can I not when it continues to be the utter absolute height of teh AWESOME! SQUEE!!!!!!!!!!! So Elena's humanity is back on and being driven by hate now. Hmm, let's see what happens when her other emotions begin to take hold because I don't think Elena is fully there yet. Two more episodes left!