After the last episode—that was so very good—I was really looking forward to what came next. And, well, let's just say that "Haunted" was a better episode than "162 Candles." *sigh* Now it wasn't bad; it just didn't compare with the excellence of the previous episode. In fact, I'd say that this one was more on par with the first three (lesser) episodes of the series rather than the much better four that followed. So, yeah, it was good… but I don't think it even attained the ‘very' modifier. Ah well. They all can't be fantastic, right?
Let's start with my biggest lack of wow… and that would be the character who is becoming my second favorite, displacing Caroline (but not in this episode). I am talking of Elena Gilbert. Ever since "Family Ties" when she stood up to Damon *and* Stefan for one of her best friends, I've been impressed with her strength, her morality, her empathy—which had been on display in the previous episode, her determination to live with her eyes wide open despite all that has happened in her young life. Well, in this episode she did and said things that didn't quite work for me. I don't know if that's because of the writers, Barbie Kligman and Gabrielle Stanton. Kligman also wrote "Friday Night Bites," (one of the early three) and Stanton wrote "You're Undead To Me," (a better episode than the first three but a slight drop in quality from the previous episode ("Family Ties") and the next ("Lost Girls").
My issues with Elena revolved around her interaction with Stefan and Damon both. Maybe because the last episode finally showed the first sign of the triangle that has been promised, this was an attempt to establish Stefan as the "good" brother and Damon as the "bad" in Elena's eyes. If so (and I honestly can't think of any other reason), it was clumsily done and didn't mesh with what happened in the previous episodes.
Let's start with Damon. When she saw him at the Mystic Grill (heh, cute name), she was very un-Elena-like. Yes, I get why she doesn't have the bestest ever impression of him, but on the other hand, he had just done a very big favor for her. And because of that favor, her brother is acting and feeling better than he literally has in MONTHS. He's acting more like himself since their parents died... because of Damon, because he volunteered to do something for her, for her brother, to ease her pain. Then the very next time we see her interaction with him, there was no sense from her that he had done so. Upon seeing him, she rolls her eyes, and then this exchange follows.
Damon: Stefan smiles. Alert the media.And I know he came across as sarcastic with his final response but I wonder if he did mean that, even just a little bit. After all when, right after that, she began grilling him about what he did to Jeremy, as if the fact that Jeremy was doing better was a bad thing, Damon was sincere with her. Despite her attitude and ignoring that Damon did exactly what Elena asked him to do. Now she's unsure whether she should have done so, but to question Damon as if *he* did something wrong is not fair. Yet Damon didn't take offense, he answered her honestly, and the way he looked at her, spoke to her was in direct contrast with how he treated Caroline. Even his opening "Stefan smiles," crack wasn't done in a malicious way, but rather as if the two of them were sharing a joke because they both know Stefan tends to brood.
Elena: You haven't given him a lot of reasons to be happy lately.
Damon: Oh, you're right. Poor Stefan persecuted throughout eternity by his depraved brother. Does it get tiring being so righteous?
Elena: It flares up in the presence of psychopaths.
Damon: Consider this psychopath's feelings hurt.
So Elena's attitude towards him just didn't fit with their previous scene. Yes, wariness and a touch of aversion because of his relationship with Caroline and what happened to Vicki, but balanced with that there should have been some sign of, not gratitude, but at least awareness that he was not *just* the bad guy. Again, he had just helped her brother for her… he'd even volunteered to do so without a request on her part. So that rubbed me just a bit the wrong way. Particularly because it was in such contrast to how she was with Stefan.
She all but bent over backwards to forgive Stefan, overlooking his lies and caginess. Sure she likes him, but it's not like she's known him that long, we're talking a few months (at most). But with Damon she doesn't cut him a break at all despite the fact that he just did a huge favor for her. I know, I know, it was awful what Damon did to Caroline, but Elena knows that *Stefan* knew about it and didn't do anything to stop it until Damon threatened Elena. (Yes, Elena didn't know that specifically, but she knew that Stefan didn't do anything even close to right away.) Still Elena forgave him for that in a snap of her fingers. Furthermore, I was left puzzled by Elena's attitude towards Stefan and their relationship.
After Elena found out the "whole" story from Stefan, she broke up with him. Vicki being truly dead confirmed that per their conversation at the top of the episode. But then after the events of the day, she was begging him to talk to her, let her be there for him. So what made Elena decide that now things are good with her and Stefan? Was Lexi's speech about when it's real, you can't walk away really that convincing? Or was it because Stefan had a sad when Lexi was killed? I just didn't understand the change in Elena's attitude from the beginning of the episode to the end. It didn't work for me. Not enough happened to justify that extreme change.
And on top of that, Stefan once again made it crystal-clear that all of this horror that has been inflicted upon Elena and her friends is because of him! He flat-out told her: "Everywhere I've been pain and death follow. Damon follows me." Yes, Stefan that is something that you are very much aware of, and yet you had "to know" Elena, thus putting her in the crosshairs of all of that pain and death. Geez! He's really quite selfish and thinks only of his pain, doesn't he? I mean, when Elena and Caroline were in danger, Stefan played it cool, briefly handled Damon, but then once he was out… eh, just let it go. But, oh, now that Damon took away something that *he* loves, suddenly it's a vehement cry of "no more!" Sure, Stefan. Ugh.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Damon isn't worse than Stefan, because he is. Going back to my original point (Damon and Elena vs. Stefan and Elena), it just seems a bit lopsided that Elena can overlook everything hinky with Stefan, but not budge an inch with Damon (despite what he did for her). *sigh* To be fair, though, I'm not sure that I'm not being completely biased here. Damon is my favorite character and that might just be clouding my judgment here a tad. Maybe? I don't know, but if I am, it's their fault for writing Damon so damn well and for casting Ian Somerhalder in the role. So there!
And I was so proud of Damon after seeing the difference in Jeremy. Aww, Damon genuinely did a good job in taking away Jeremy's suffering. He really did help him. On the other hand, I love him, but damn, he is *such* a dick! He's just so mean to Caroline. Telling her that she was the only stupid thing, "And shallow. And useless." My heart broke for Caroline in that moment, but it didn't stop me from appreciating the fantastic line delivery, the pauses, the way he looked at her, started to turn, the quick look back from Ian Somerhalder. So good. But he's still a jerk. (But I still love him.)
And yet Caroline is still hung up on Damon (too). I find that interesting. We know that Damon only compelled her to be OK with his vampirism. We also know that Damon has been sweet to her, but he's mostly not been. So why is Caroline still hanging on to him? Thinking on Caroline's comments to her mother about her father—who obviously left her and her mother for someone else—and Damon being older, I wonder now if Caroline has some deep-seated daddy issues. If so, that would definitely help explain the continued lure of Damon for her.
Aha! But she may have an alternative now. Hmm, Matt Donovan. Him denying it when a drunk Caroline cried about being as shallow as a kiddie pool, bringing her coffee, offering to take her home, carrying her in his arms and following through when her mother, the Sheriff, saw her was all so nice (without the not-so part of it, Damon!). Aww, Matt is *such* a good guy. And their final scene in her bedroom was so sweet. I think I could like these two. Hmm, we'll see.
Oh, and speaking of Caroline's mother, the Sheriff… well, I know that I like her already. We haven't seen much of her, but what we have has shown her to be a good person, someone who cares for the town and loves her daughter, but just has no idea how to communicate with her. So, yeah, because of that I'm not team!Lexi. Like at all. I've gotten from other fans of the show that Lexi is a big hit and many are upset that she was killed, but I am glad Damon took her out. In doing so, he saved Sheriff Forbes.
Also, I just wasn't all that impressed by the character. I understand why Damon doesn't like her; I'm with him. I found her obnoxious, pushing her way into Stefan's dance space, spouting deep advice to Elena when she doesn't know Elena, she doesn't know her relationship with Stefan or all of the horror that Stefan's presence has brought to her life. And then on top of that, she was compelling free drinks, and getting a hapless bartender to give alcohol to teenagers. Even one of those things would have gotten the poor guy fired… but she didn't care. And the latter could likely send tons of the underage out on the road drunk.
Finally, Lexi had enough strength to break away from the two deputies. She also took three bullets from the Sheriff and just kept on going for her, clearly intending to attack, probably kill, Caroline's mother. I'd feel a bit upset on her behalf and peeved with Damon had she made even the slightest attempt to vamp speed away. But she didn't. If she had, she likely would have succeeded in getting away and lived to see another one of Stefan's birthdays. But nope, she just put her target on the Sheriff and Damon's action saved her life.
Of course, Stefan and *Elena* didn't see that part of what happened. They only saw Damon stake Lexi so naturally they can't know that by doing what he did, Damon saved the life of the mother of one of Elena's best friends. *sigh* Not that he did it for that reason clearly. Although, I'm not sure that he planned specifically on killing Lexi. I think the stake was there just in case. Obviously just having a handy vampire to take the fall for his actions suited his purposes. If Lexi had tried to vamp away instead of attacking the Sheriff, Damon wouldn't have needed to stake her, the blame still would have fallen on her.
I'm not saying that Damon killing Lexi was A-OK because, again, saving Sheriff Forbes' was just an unintended benefit to whatever Damon's diabolical master plan is. He could have missed her with the stake, giving her the chance to run, but instead he calmly killed his brother's best friend because it suited his needs. That is not good. However, I'm not mourning the loss of Lexi at all, and I'm glad that Damon did it because the Sheriff wasn't killed by her. I'm team!Sheriff Forbes.
I'm also team!Friendship which I get in plenty of shapes and colors on this show. I love that. We saw the trio of girls in varying couplets and the depth and strength of that history was on display once more. In possibly my favorite scene of the series thus far, Elena and Bonnie warmed my heart and just made me smile.
Bonnie I'm a witch.This was just such a light, happy and, yes, magical scene. It highlighted the friendship between these two, but it was also just so nice seeing a spot of happiness in a show that is often about drama and angst to a ridiculous (but wonderful!) level. It all started with Bonnie trying to lift Elena's spirits and then deciding to tell her best friend *her* supernatural truth. The magical floating of the feathers, and Elena's genuine smile in response was a balm amidst the vampire-fallout. Bonnie opening up to Elena with such a huge, unbelievable secret is a testament to the power of their friendship. And then Elena believed her without question, confirming that strength. Of course, how could she not at that point knowing what she knows and seeing what Bonnie just did? But still, it was the conviction in her voice, and the smile on Bonnie's face in response that made it about their friendship and not the supernatural.
Elena: I believe you.
The other half of the trio didn't have the same kind of joy, but their interaction too showed the longevity of their relationship, but also underscored the difference between Bonnie and Elena, and Bonnie and Caroline. To Elena, Bonnie told the truth, but to Caroline, she kept the meaning and importance of the necklace from her. In doing so, she unintentionally helped send Caroline into her drunken tailspin.
We'd already gotten a hint in the Pilot that while Caroline is best friends with the other two, she's also just a bit on the outside of *their* friendship. This episode confirmed that… and why. Caroline is shallow. Caroline does lash out when she doesn't get her way, and Caroline is prone to pity-me-parties. Ah, but that all just makes her so much more real. I love her so, and definitely more than Elena in this episode.
But back to Bonnie and Caroline. Despite not trusting Caroline enough to tell her about her witchcraft, she still tried to be there for her. She let go of her insincere and not very nice attempt to get the necklace. ("I didn't want to tell you this but I'm your friend, when you wear it makes you look fat." God, Caroline!) And later at the Grill she wouldn't let Caroline agree with Damon's verbal abuse. Not that it helped as that's when Caroline bit back, equating Damon's treatment of her with that of Bonnie. Oh, Caroline.
She's not as broken as Vicki (by a long shot), yet she definitely has her issues. But she has friends, real, genuine friends (unlike Vicki) and it was nice seeing that circle of friends widen to showcase Matt. Yes, I implied above that I think romance is on the horizon for Matt and Caroline, but right now, in this episode, it was all about him being a friend to her. Again, the history of these characters (Elena, Bonnie, Caroline, Matt, Tyler) that grew up together is all so beautifully shown. It's a wonderful case of show, and not tell… the sign of excellent writing.
Phew, OK, let's hit the random stuffs—
- I loved how they did the opening scene with the cuts during the Sheriff's interviews. It was cool how the dialogue would switch between the different players answering the questions about Vicki depending on the previous line, jumping from Matt to Elena to Jeremy to Stefan. Nicely done.
- It was also nice (and a pleasant surprise) that there wasn't a big misunderstanding between Stefan and Elena over Lexi in a towel. I'm very anti-ridiculous misunderstandings that a brief conversation wouldn't clear up. With this, a brief conversation ensued, and cleared it up. Very nicely done. (And the only positive I could find in Stefan and Elena for this episode.)
- Hah! Jenna and Elena's reaction to a happy, functioning Jeremy was amusing. Of course, Elena knows why, but Jenna is in the dark about what happened to Jeremy… and Logan. Poor, clueless Jenna.
- Oh, dear Lord! Caroline was on fire with the dialogue tonight. So funny, so sad, so inappropriate: "I'm totally sorry to do this. I know it's so Indian giver and I know we're not even supposed to say that anymore…" Oh, Caroline, you slay me.
- Speaking of my precious Caroline, she looked pretty in that purple party dress.
- A few Bonnie thoughts… Firstly, so her dad is in the picture, but no mention of her mother, hmm. Grams line about the necklace (that Bonnie wished was prettier, LOL!) finding Bonnie and thus being her "witch's talisman" was interesting. Of course, I find just about everything with Bonnie and Grams interesting. Jasmine Guy is just wonderful casting and her and Katerina Graham play off of each other so well. I just love all of their scenes.
- And speaking of Bonnie-related scenes, so in her dream she's come face to face with the very ancestor to whom the necklace originally belonged. What could "It's coming" possibly mean? Hmm, I am intrigued.
So, this was a good episode, but when the last three ranged from very good to excellent, it was a bit of a letdown, I'll admit. Still here were definitely some great stuff (everything with Caroline and Bonnie, separately and together, that glorious Bonnie and Elena scene especially), but my issues with Elena in her interactions with both Damon and Stefan, and my dislike of Lexi dinged this one for me. Still, it was good overall and the series is progressing nicely. I look forward to what comes next.