I loved this episode; on the other hand, I really, really, *really* didn't like this episode. That doesn't make sense, right? Let me explain. I blame Melinda Tsu Taylor. She always does this to me. She writes these episodes that are amazing but have scenes that just don't work or moments that are blindingly out of character and I'm just left scratching my head or outright infuriated. In this one, she and co-writer Holly Brix pulled a doozy. And, yeah, Caroline Dries and Julie Plec deserve some flack too because they oversee the show and they let this one through. *sigh*
I want to end this write-up on a good note as always, so I'm saving what I loved—and I really, really, REALLY loved what I loved—for after the bad. So let's get that out of the way first. Alas, the bad was the A-story and with the exception of Elizabeth Blackmore's performance as Valerie, it was pretty much all of it. Alright, let's let 'er rip.
The flashbacks took place in 1863, two years before Katherine, and the show decided (stupidly) to remind us that Stefan was 16. When Ian Somerhalder at 37 is more believable at 17 (admittedly, television's version of 17, but still) than Paul Wesley would be at 10 years younger than his actual age (33), don't remind your viewers that he's supposed to be playing 16. Paul Wesley looks his age. In the flashback? He looked his age. He did not look even 23 years old, let alone seven years younger than that age. It was distracting. When Stefan and Valerie were at Lily's grave, once he mentioned his age *snickers* (16), I spent the rest of the scene thinking about the fact that I was supposed to actually believe that Paul Wesley was 16 years old. I mean, really?!
Moving on, so, Valerie took great care to make sure that Caroline knew that she wasn't a vampire yet then and that she hadn't compelled Stefan, that she hadn't played the same mind games as Katherine. Nope, she was just a witch. And it was also clear from Valerie's telling of the tale that no witchy-woo of any kind was used since she was merely a siphoner, right? It was also clear that Valerie presented herself as a well-bred young lady. Soooo… let's go back to point #1. 1863.
Look, I understand that The Vampire Diaries is not a show that one watches for historical accuracy. I completely get this. However, there is willing suspension of disbelief… and there is no freaking way in hell. This, for me personally, falls into the latter category. A gently bred-young lady is (a) not going to go wandering off alone with a young gentleman, (b) is not going to kiss, let alone passionately kiss, a gentleman, especially one she's *just* met and (c) were he to try, she would be quite offended, and (d) she most certainly is NOT going to have sex with him!
At that point, I was all like 'HELL, NO! This is not right!' However, at this point, Valerie's flashback ended and Caroline looked like she was going to be sick, and I was like, 'Oh, OK, I got it, Valerie is lying.' I figured that Valerie was just juicing the story up to make Caroline feel insecure and drive an emotional wedge as well as a physical one between her and Stefan. And, of course, Caroline would fall for it. Of course. And that way, the show gets some sex and skin in as well. Makes sense. Smart.
Yeah, no. Because then Stefan continued the story post-sex to Mommie Dearest (erm, gross!) so it totes *did* happen. Let me go back to my position of no freaking way in hell. Come on, seriously! No, just no. I just… no, I just can't. Even if they want to play the card that Valerie would have gone down that road, Stefan as a well-bred Southern gentleman would not have. Even more so, Stefan as an innocent, 16-year-old (*snickers*) virgin of ye old Southern gentility would not have.
No, no, no, I say.
*sigh* Now, going back to Katherine and Tsu Taylor's habit of having those out of character moments. She did it badly with Damon in "The Cell," Elena so horrendously in "Woke Up With A Monster" so I'm not surprised that she did it here with Stefan in this episode. Not to such a bad degree as she did with Damon and Elena in those episodes, but to perhaps the same degree as she did with Stefan in "Woke Up With A Monster" too. Everything that we watched with him and Katherine (especially how Paul played Stefan's interactions with her in "Memory Lane"—think of their first kiss) spoke of a young man's first love. So frankly none of that jibes with Stefan having a first love, a first time now with Valerie TWO FREAKING YEARS before he thought he was in love with Katherine Pierce.
Then Valerie found out she was pregnant. I thought that at least we had our saving grace out of this ridiculously historically inaccurate (even for this show) and wholly out of character Stefan/Valerie 1863-sex-romp-at-first-sight. We'll have a Stefan Salvatore offspring through the centuries. Cool! But then I realized that Valerie was with Lily in Europe and Lily. And Mama Salvatore didn't realize that Valerie and Stefan were a thing so therefore she lost the baby… and, then, yeah, she lost the baby. So, in other words, the whole freaking thing was utterly pointless. Ugh!
It just made me think longingly of "The End Of The Affair." The fantabulous introduction of my darling, long-departed, forever-missed Rebekah. Now that was a beautiful introduction of a past Stefan love story. And a large part of what made it work so well is that it wasn't Stefan and Rebekah meeting that first night at the speakeasy and then having a quickie twenty minutes later in a back closet. The flashbacks took place over the course of what felt like days, even weeks, possibly months. We don't know how long their courtship lasted. We just know that it took place over a period of time that made it feel real and not some hook-up. We believed that Stefan and Rebekah were in love. We mourned the loss of that love. But this? One conversation and then Valerie took his virginity? And then, oh, yeah they spent the summer together, but that's all after the fact. Trust us, it was great!
So disappointing. And it's a shame because I was looking forward to seeing what history Valerie and Stefan had. They really could have created something there. And, you know, she didn't even have to be someone that he had a relationship with, but someone who was in love with him, but he didn't know. (He is rather clueless sometimes.) Or I don't know, someone during his Ripper phase who he almost killed. He'd met in passing and then had watched him from a distance. Or better yet, if they had played the love story out over a few episodes. Something.
Like I said, the only good thing was Elizabeth Blackmore's performance. Her Valerie both in the flashbacks and present was lovely. There was sweetness and innocence, but still an edge and bite beginning to seep through in 1863 that I liked. And the scene on the bench when she was confessing all to Stefan without telling him anything at all since she made herself invisible and silent to him was beautifully done. I think she's giving a truly lovely performance all around.
But that's just the Stefan/Valerie part that wasn't well done in the A-story, there was also Stefan and Lily. Oy vey. I get that they are trying to make Lily not just a straight-up villain. This is a good idea, however, going from her threatening to take away the love of Damon's life last week to Stefan teaching her how to drive this week, uhm, too much. We kinda need to work on some better transitioning, show.
Yes, I get that Damon
Seriously, explain to me like I'm stupid why Stefan was acting all buddy-buddy with his mother? Just because he was "upset" with Damon didn't take away the fact that she was awful to Caroline and Elena-in-a-Coffin. At all. She's still terrible. She still punished him and Caroline for something that Damon did. And by him being nice to her after she was an evil beyotch for something that *Damon* did should by all rights make her suspicious!
That it didn't makes Lily stupid—which we haven't seen signs of. And it makes Stefan stupid—that he was nice to her—and while he's not the best-plan-maker or as smart as Damon, he's not stupid. So basically every single Stefan and Lily scene was bad. It was badly written. It was out of character for Stefan because Stefan Salvatore is not an idiot. And it was out of character for what we do know of Lily Salvatore because she is not an idiot.
So for the A-story, that's two for two: Stefan and Valerie, big fail. Stefan and Lily, big fail. That leaves… Stefan and Caroline. *sigh* Stefan and Caroline, Stefan and Caroline, Stefan and Caroline. My pretty, sunshine-y Stefan and Caroline. This was not a good episode for you two. No, it was not. It revealed your big couple flaw: Contrived obstacles.
Every television couple has to deal with them. Every single one. However, here's the thing with Stefan and Caroline, while I adore them dearly and I do think that Paul Wesley and Candice
I mean, the contrived angst is just so much more obvious (vervained skin, etc.) because they have that comfortable, fluffy chemistry as opposed to sweet chemistry on top of that molten, burning chemistry like oh, Damon and Elena. For example… think of that last scene. Had it been Elena (in her vampire-phase) and Damon had been unable to even lay a finger on her, we would have been able to feel the two of them vibrating with the desperate need to touch one another through the screen.
Viewers would have just felt that yearning just emanating with every look, practically leaping off of their bodies. That chemistry that Ian Somerhalder and Nina Dobrev share would have overcome the obvious contrivance of, yeah, OK, here's another obstacle we've thrown in the path of getting these together right now. Instead, we had Stefan and Caroline just sitting there like, 'Yeah, OK, this sucks, so, wanna play checkers?' That is what it felt like. There was no urgency. There was no sense of 'God, I want to touch you NOW!' That would have been there with Damon and Elena.
So, yeah, Stefan and Caroline… we really need to just keep with the sunshine and fluffy cutes, with a bit of angst, Caroline neuroses, Stefan-based cluenessless and bff-ness-turned-to-soulmate-love. The OTT-angst and obvious contrivances? They don't work with them. Nope.
Phew! Now as to what else works… or rather what worked in this episode really, really, *really* well! The B-Story. Damon. Damon. Damon. And did I mention Damon? Oh. My. God. Damon. Freaking. Salvatore was like on fire in this episode. I loved every single thing about him beyond everything ever so much. I believe I may have literally rewound every scene he was in. (Seriously, not just the Damon-in-a-towel scene. All of them.) I just—Lordy, I just love him so much.) He is my everything in the universe.
His one-liners. His eyes. His body. His hair. His love for Elena. His love for his besties. His dedication. His loyalty. His nonchalance. His smarts. His—my goodness, his everything. Seriously, folks. Damon was freaking gold!
I loved Damon and Bonnie. And Damon and Alaric. And Alaric and Bonnie. And Damon and Alaric and Bonnie. And Damon in the middle of Bonnie and Alaric and *especially* Damon choosing to NOT be in the middle of Bonnie and Alaric. (Oh my goodness, flustered Damon caught between his fighting besties is HI-larious!) And then… and then… my favorite line: "Aww, my besties are buds again." All in the delivery, baby, and Ian Somerhalder is king!
Yes, you read that right what I wrote above! The words "love" and "Alaric" were in the same sentence. When is the last time that happened without a negative somewhere in the mix, huh? I know! Crazy, huh? Don't get me wrong, I still loathe Alaric and Jo, but Alaric felt more like my Alaric in this one. I think it was because he was truly interacting with Damon and Bonnie for real and he wasn't lying to them like he was while in Europe.
And by the end, the Phoenix Stone (aha! see, I knew they'd say it enough, LOL!) secret is out already and at least they're all on the same page. Yay! And, of course, Damon totes saw through Alaric's lies. He's not drunk anymore. Hee. It was so obvious that Damon did when Bonnie asked Ric that in their first scene by Damon's expression. Oh, oh, oh, speaking of that first scene… my second favorite line: "Please tell me I'm not interrupting something." Hahahaha! Love it. And Damon just smirks! Double love it.
And let me just take a minute to talk about the absolute 100% difference in body language in this naked Damon-scene with Bonnie versus the one with Elena in "The Birthday." Again, I'm sure that shippers are having a ball, and hey, more power to them, but I continue to take great delight in how obvious the show is making it completely clear that Damon and Bonnie are nothing but platonic best friends with a complete sibling vibe.
With Elena, Damon was all but posing and saying "Hey, baby, take a look, ya like what you see? You want some!? Huh? Huh!, Yeah, baby!" Meanwhile, Elena was blushing, flushing, faux-outraged, not-looking, clearly wanting to look, literally peeking even though she wasn't sure it was "safe" to look. On the other hand, in this situation, Damon threw his towel off at *Alaric* to annoy *Alaric* and walked out. He barely even focused on Bonnie. And Bonnie shut her eyes with a grimace, barely reacting herself. All that was missing from her response was a sighed "eww."
It was hilarious. There was nothing even remotely sexual about that moment *at all.* It was purely ha-ha-ha jokey. I laughed. Of course I laughed my ass off during most of their scenes. Except for the parts where I wasn't supposed to… because the B-story was awesome!
Like the fact that for the first time *ever* The Vampire Diaries actually referenced the fact that Damon was a Confederate soldier in the Civil War and that he's not exactly comfortable talking about that fact with his friends today. I was shocked, and happy. And, then really, really not happy when freaking Valerie killed Oscar because, damnit, I liked Oscar. A lot.
I mean, I liked Oscar in this one episode more than all of the other Heretics combined in the last two episodes. Oscar was awesome. And I don't think it's just because I know Tim Kang (Oscar) from his work on The Mentalist. The character is cool, and I liked that bit of a backstory with Damon… and I want to hear more about their conversation, and I want more conversations with them. And more of Oscar in general, and damnit, Valerie killed him. That pissed me off. Grrr!
But it pissed me off in a good way. I was upset because I liked this character and it made sense why Valerie killed him—OK, Julian's introduction in the A-story was decent (I'll give them that). See, just everything from start to finish in the B-story was just top-notch awesome. Including the continuing intrigue of what-the-hell about the Phoenix Stone. I mean, what the heck is up with this thing? Really. Inquiring minds want to know. Hmmm…. I mean, I'm sure there are spoilers out there, but this spoiler-phobe doesn't want to know that way.
OK, then, randoms—
- Aww! It's my favorite human-cockroach hybrid cockroach-human! Tyler! I wasn't expecting to see him again so soon. Uhm, didn't really give me much time to miss him. OK, then.
- Clearly "she" is not Caroline, per Stefan and HCH's conversation in the "3 years from now" flashforward, so OK then, I was totally wrong. Boo! Well, I mean, good. I wouldn't want Caroline going after Stefan, what am I thinking? This is good. Good.
- When we saw Stefan pouring gasoline over his car, I was all: "Stefan's gonna burn his car?!" And then he did! And I was like: "OMG! Stefan burned his car!!" And, yeah, the Stefan/Elena anti-fan in me had a petty laugh about the fact that I remember a few significant scenes with those two in that car, and now, oops! It's ashes.
- And then when I saw his diary, I was like "OMG! Stefan's gonna burn his diary!??!?" And, then he pulled it out. Oh, Steffy, you softie, you!
- Hah, the present-day scene after Stefan burnt his car was him being all uber-protective of said car, warning Lily not to hurt it. Oh, Stefan, my poor boo, what you don't know.
- Damon. Naked, but for a towel. So hot. Bless you, show. Bless you.
- Aww, Damon mentioned Matt! And he insulted him! He loves him!! Hey, it's Damon logic. (According to Elena. Remember from "Down The Rabbit Hole.")
Elena: We lost Bonnie on the island. Damon stayed back to try and find her.And look where Damon and Bonnie are now? See, there's hope for Damon and Matt yet. Uh huh!
Matt: That's funny. Doesn't he hate her?
Elena: He doesn't hate her. I think he actually kind of loves her. You're mean to the people that you care about.
Matt: That's some messed-up logic.
Elena: Damon logic.
- Damon and Alaric are roomies! I need to see more of this action, please. This will help mightily in erasing Pod!Alaric, thank you muchly.
- Riding the shallow train again, Damon's arm also looked particularly nice when he was standing in the middle of Bonnie and Alaric before he decided he was no longer going to be in the middle of his besties. So nice that I literally rewound the scene *just* to stare at his arm. Yes, I am that shallow.
- So, yeah, I'm wondering if Julian is going to be the big bad for at least the first half of the season now. Hmmm….
- Hah, Damon called Lily "Mommy." I don't know why I found that so funny, but I did. Pure gold, this episode, I tell ya, he was pure gold.
- I keep saying it, third episode in a row and I'm sure that it will slow down, but until it does, I will keep pointing it out. I LOVE, LOVE the continued Elena and Damon/Elena presence throughout the show. Damon's constant references to his girlfriend, Bonnie and/or Caroline writing the diary entries to Elena, and the refrain that Elena Gilbert is the love of Damon Salvatore's life. I just love it so hard. You can't watch this show (even without Nina Dobrev physically on the show right now) and not be aware that Elena is IT for Damon.
So, yeah, this was not my favorite episode and probably, in my opinion, the worst of the series because the A-story was just not good. Oh, but the B-story was so awesome and Damon was such perfection that it's hard not to say I didn't finish it with a huge smile on my face. Because, yeah, Damon Salvatore, man, I love him so much.