The Vampire Diaries "Dead Man on Campus" Review: Fellow Shots (PHOTO RECAP)
Sometimes the best pizza is one you have to pick certain ingredients off of. Or if you're a fancy lady, maybe you soak up the pizza grease with a napkin first. What I'm trying to say is, we can't always expect the things we love to be 100% perfect but we can still love them 100%. You know? And maybe there's a reason for that: The labor of taking off all those floppy peppers made me even hungrier for that hot slice. Or with people: Your fondness for gross black licorice makes me feel better about MY weird tastes, so I want you around. Or with TV shows: You sometimes have bad, boring plotlines or insufferable characters or very questionable social subtexts, but as long as I can properly state why those things are bad, I appreciate the exercise and, by extension, you, even more. It's about mental engagement, guys. Things that aren't QUITE perfect require us to be vigilant, to care more, to use our slippery brains to process all of the options. So many things in life, both ostensibly "good" things and "terrible" things, are boring and ask nothing of us. That's why it's important to engage with imperfect things. They keep us sharp! They're instructive! They teach us how things can be improved. "This pizza would be better without these floppy gross peppers. NOW I KNOW."
If you want to forward the above paragraph to the Pulitzer Committee, feel free because it was perfect. But the point of it was, I really and deeply enjoyed MOST THINGS about "Dead Man on Campus." It was one of my favorite episodes of the season! But it wasn't perfect, for at least one very frustrating reason. Still though, a very good hour of television. Let's talk about it!
We started in the laboratory of a certain babyfaced shady blond hunk mad scientist who was putting the finishing touches on his newly minted hunkpire. As you might have guessed, this particular species of vampire was different from the others we'd already met, if only because of how long he'd slept in. Fourteen days straight or something? Where I do sign up to become an Augustine vampire, that sounds great to me.
Like most college-age teens with newly manifested vampirism, Jesse was HONGRY. Also he was super strong and broke out of his silver chains like they were made of yogurt or something.
Poor Dr. Maxfield couldn't reach his anti-vampire button fast enough and Jesse bit him up bad. Full disclosure: Now that Dr. Maxfield seems like he's headed for the grave pretty soon he's suddenly one of my favorite characters? First of all, look at him, duh, but also he's so feisty! Anyway, me liking somebody is the kiss of death so he'll probably be committing suicide soon. (YES WE WILL BE TALKING ABOUT THIS SUBJECT LATER.)
Another full disclosure: I like Bonnie now. SORRY IT'S TRUE. Her haircut, her new personality, her new lease on life, her taste in men. All are improvements over past seasons. This is not me saying I've somehow changed my mind about Bonnie. This is actually a matter of the SHOW changing its mind about Bonnie. She seemed so fun and chill and involved in this episode. Very into it. I didn't even mind her dumb new cell phone product placement. Keep sending selfie videos to your weird mom, Bonnie, that's your right!
Also, check out Bonnie's zany roommates!
Bonnie pretended she had to go register for classes but everybody knew she was just going out to the quad in order to mouth-attack Jeremy. But Caroline took it too far:
Haha yeah but anyway, this episode was very college-centric and I loved it. It just felt so fresh, you know? Just three gals kickin' it in their dorm room talking about boys and beer. No doppelganger drama whatsoever! Again, very into it.
So apparently Jeremy drove up to come have tons of sex with Bonnie, which is their right as teens. But of course now that Bonnie was The Anchor to The Other Side, it meant she could get cockblocked at any moment by ghosts. Like this lady:
It was pretty unsettling! If only because WHAT IS AN OLD PERSON EVEN? They exist on this show? Bonnie was definitely rattled.
Whoops! Looks like there was no getting around this: At any given time a ghost will pop up and grab Bonnie and she'll have to scream bloody murder because it hurts super bad. As far as unforeseen consequences go, this is a pretty cool one. Not cool because of the pain and inconvenience, more that it just feels like the first time death has had importance on this show, and Bonnie being the gatekeeper gives her more importance by association. Plus she and Jeremy are now permanently able to speak to ghosts which incorporates ghosts into the story more. Anyway, I just wanted to say I like this element, that's all. Why are you shouting at me, I'm scared now.
Elena made these flyers to pass out on campus. She and Caroline were throwing a dorm party for Bonnie's arrival which was very cool of them to be honest. I was also pretty jealous because my college had a "dry" campus and there was no drinking allowed in the dorms. I mean, we figured out how to drink in our rooms pretty easily, but partying out in the open in the common areas? NOT allowed. Whitmore seems pretty chill overall. Anyway, this was another run-in with Aaron whose main personality traits so far are that he's sad, has a dreamboat for a legal guardian, and gets compelled by Elena to forget stuff all the time. Very dynamic dude, basically.
Meanwhile at the Salvatore Shanty, Stefan was taking a terrifying stroll down memory lane.
He clawed up the recliner! Which is frankly rude, but in this case all he could think about was drowning, so fair enough. Quick question: Do pharmaceutical companies make Xanax for vampires? Think about it, pharmaceutical companies. Immortal customers are the best customers.
Over at Mystic Grill, Matt couldn't stop watching that footage of himself talking in a Dracula accent to his security cameras.
Meanwhile Katherine was HELLA thirsty and also so, so poor. Haha I can't get enough of how this show has really gone out of its way to remind us that Katherine is a hobo. If we're being real, basically EVERY character's financial situation is questionable, but the writers seem to really love making Katherine into a borderline pan-handler. Which is amazing, obviously. More please! Give me a whole episode of Katherine just trying to make ends meet. Like that one episode of My So-Called Life told from the point of view of Brian. Give me that but with Katherine. Second request: Make this whole show about Katherine because seriously.
Anyway, this was a great episode for Katherine (MOSTLY!) because her main thing was helping Matt figure out his gypsy-passenger situation (which was still happening for some reason). I love the idea that Katherine is such a born-schemer that even when she's bored she can't resist scheming on behalf of others. Katherine is the best.
I did not know that Aaron lived with Jesse. I thought Jesse was an R.A. or something? Maybe I dreamed that up. I don't know. Anyway, Jesse bit Aaron.
I don't mean to sound like a creep (impossible) but this episode contained SO MUCH male-on-male feeding and I did NOT mind. So many ladies have been bitten over the years so it's only fair. The metaphor of vampire biting has almost universally been about sex in basically every vampire text, so yeah. That's all, just wanted to point that out.
Then Caroline busted in just in time to break up this bro-feeding frenzy and it seemed like she wasn't as much mad about the part where Jesse had nearly slaughtered someone, she mostly just seemed annoyed that someone had turned Jesse without her knowledge. Priorities!
I did very much like this beat where Elena and Caroline took Jesse under their vampire wings and tried to cheer him up about being an abomination. This Elena that claimed being a vampire was awesome? WHO WAS SHE? Where was SHE for the first three seasons? I like her.
I also loved when Caroline taught Jesse how to heal injured hunks:
It was seriously so touching! Also Caroline suggested that Elena teach Jesse how to compel and Elena smiled so cutely. I liked this scene a lot. College!
Meanwhile at the Grill, Katherine could sense that Stefan wasn't doing great, mostly because he was sitting alone staring into the middle distance and frowning.
He did NOT want company, especially not from her. First of all, get real dude. It's saying something when he's more upset about drowning over and over than he is about remembering being The Ripper and ending the lives of countless innocents. Maybe don't hold Katherine's past against her?
Anyway, Katherine offered to help coach Stefan through his PTSD because, as she astutely pointed out, her life had been very hard also! But in exchange she needed help. He all rolled his eyes and grumbled about her needing a pretty simple favor, but as it turned out her "favor" was actually a favor to help Matt. See what I'm saying? Katherine was kind of a major hero in this episode.
Also this was another cute moment: Katherine now openly introduces Nadia as her daughter. Considering the history Katherine had shared with Stefan you'd assume he'd be more bowled over by this revelation, but Stefan was still dealing with some stuff and did NOT care about anyone else. I still prefer this Stefan to Amnesia Stefan because at least his bad attitude here was motivated by something very serious. Like WHAT reason did Amnesia Stefan have to be all mad at everybody? That's why he was frustrating. PTSD Stefan is definitely an improvement, for the record.
This plotline was kind of amazing. While the ladies threw a dorm party, Damon arrived to torture Dr. Maxfield WITH DISEASES in order to get info out of him. I guess there was no time to re-drain his blood of vervain, so it was injections of rabies, flesh-eating bacteria, and ebola instead? By the way I loved that Dr. Maxfield had a vial of ebola in his mini-fridge. Did the Center for Disease Control know about this? Do they also know about vampirism? Just wondering.
Dr. Maxfield was not feeling well from all the injections. And call me a Dr. Maxfield stan but didn't this seem overly sadistic of Damon? Look at this poor hunk! I was already thinking it, but then Caroline actually brought it up to Elena, but Damon sort of isn't the nicest guy sometimes. Charming, yes, and also is he crazy jacked now this season? But still: Damon has always had sort of a dark cloud and this stuff kind of reminded me of that. Leave this poor doctor alone! (He still looked good though sorry YAY DISEASES)
Meanwhile Katherine lured Matt into the back room where Nadia summoned his "passenger" and he admitted that he was still chillin' in Matt because he hadn't gotten the memo that Silas was dead and so he still intended to kill Katherine. Or whatever? Whatever, something like that. So Katherine got out a be-spangled dagger and did this:
Which, I GUESS did not fatally wound Matt. Or maybe that had to do with the immortality ring. But yeah, the gypsy guy inside of him died. Oh, and by the way we learned that these Travelers are basically just witches that possess people. Which was maybe the kind of magic that Klaus used on Alaric that one time? Does that tie together at all? That's what my brain does, guys, it tries to make sense of this crazy world and also The Vampire Diaries.
Anyway Nadia was NOT happy. That was her boyfriend in there! But honestly Katherine raised a good point: Nadia's boyfriend sucked.
Meanwhile Bonnie was trying to enjoy the party and eat all the jell-o shots but the old lady ghost showed up looking all bummed.
This was a minor beat, but again, very good. We learned that this lady was a witch, just in case you didn't remember that The Other Side is for monsters only. But also we confirmed that Bonnie no longer has magical powers! Which is a pretty major revelation in my opinion. Not that her powers were ever particularly major or reliable, but still. That was a huge part of Bonnie's personality before. No wonder Bonnie 2.0 seems more squared away. Now her only job is to function as a conduit (and maybe therapist?) for those crossing between planes. To me that is interesting but we'll see won't we.
Oh, at this point Dr. Maxfield explained a new and important thing about Augustine vampires: THEY DRINK VAMPIRE BLOOD! So then on the dance floor Jesse bit Caroline.
That is VERY cool! I know this is sort of a retread of Mikael drinking Katherine's blood that one time, but I'd been waiting for a proper plotline about vampires-who-feed-on-vampires and it looks like that is where this is going. Yes!
Then there was more of this guy.
Again they bonded over dead parents and whatnot. But Aaron also explained about how Dr. Maxfield was his only family anymore and suddenly Elena realized that her boyfriend who she'd CLAIMED was not overly violent was probably getting overly violent with Aaron's hunkiest family member.
Then Stefan remembered being so wet and then he crushed a shot glass.
Ouch! Quick question, obviously vampires can heal very easily but do they also carry Wet-Naps around? It's not like blood gets sucked back into their bodies or disappears. How are they cleaning off their newly healed wounds? They must go through so much OxyClean on laundry day.
Out back Stefan was having a bad memory fiesta and Katherine tried to get him to settle down so he choked her and she told him to remember all the people he'd killed and that made him chill out. LOL vampires.
But just when it looked like Katherine had a momentary glimpse of victory, Nadia ran out to confirm that her boyfriend had died (um, didn't that happen immediately?) and she was now so mad at Katherine and was running away from home and get out of my room mom!!
Poor Katherine. All she'd done was murder some creepy gypsy spirit and now she was getting grief about it.
So anyway, yeah, Elena had to call up Damon and ask him politely to not murder her professor.
He was NOT happy about it, but to his credit he agreed to hold off on the murder for now. Unfortunately then Jesse arrived and he was so thirsty for vampire blood, thirsty in the way that you or I might get thirsty for Cactus Cooler. VERY THIRSTY.
Oh another thing about Augustine vampires is they are super strong, stronger even than regular vampires. Which stands to reason since they need to overpower their prey. Also I hate to kick a species while it's useless, but THIS is how the hybrids should have been! Stronger and faster and meaner, but nope, they were just badly dressed teens patiently waiting to have their hearts ripped out. The hybrids were the cast of DeGrassi basically.
Just when it looked like these two dudes would be upright making out in the hallway ALL DAY, Elena ran up and stabbed Jesse through the heart with a piece of wood she'd found somewhere.
And then he died! Right there in Caroline's arms. Seeing as vampires can intentionally graze each other's hearts all the time, it made sense that Caroline was angry with Elena for straight MURDERING him.
And it should go without saying that Elena did not seem very sorry about having done it. I mean, she was sorry that Caroline was sad, but she didn't seem to see that she'd kind of overstepped things with this baby vampire. Apparently a direct hit to the heart was the only thing that could have stopped a vampire who had only just barely overpowered Damon. Neck-snapping? NO WAY.
SPEAKING OF NO WAY.
Like, I don't know. I feel like I ranted about suicide A LOT last week and you can just go re-read that because I stand by it. But I made the mistake of using Katherine's character as a silver lining, a point of contrast, in that she would never commit suicide because she's awesome and knows the value of being alive. So while I'm tempted to say "WHOOPS I WAS WRONG ABOUT KATHERINE," I actually think it's better to complain about how this turn of events was just a very bad piece of writing. Katherine's decision to commit suicide here was totally unsupported by the story, unmotivated by her emotional state, cheap, lazy, and terrible. And again, the suicide thing! Just what in the f*ck is going on in the TVD writers' room these days? Are they okay? Why is suicide at the tip of their fingertips when they're writing these episodes? Are things getting bad in there? Does anybody need someone to talk to? I'm here, guys.
Look, suicide is wrong. We all know this. You knew this even while I was ranting about it. I'm not trying to be King Obvious over here. But the reason we need to openly rail against this stuff is because, and no offense, but the TVD fandom is comprised of a lot of younger viewers with, say, dramatic outlooks on life. One glance at various tumblr tags will prove that maybe this demographic should not be pummeled with suicide plotlines in which suicide is treated as a salvation from angst. I think it's generally fine for this show to treat brutal murder like it's NBD because I frankly don't think it's a risk that susceptible viewers will give murder a whirl. But suicide is different. And we definitely don't all need to compare notes about how suicides have touched us personally, but I'm betting it's touched us all? From junior high school up until now I've been touched by it way too often. When people are in deep, dark places their minds make rash decisions, and these sorts of cheap plotlines make suicide seem common and easy and appealing to people who should NOT be thinking that way. I'm honestly very upset that I have to get into this for a SECOND week in a row. And to see my very favorite character, the most vital, dynamic, clever, and headstrong character in Mystic Falls, resort to this very terrible option just makes me so mad at this show. Like, if this show were a person I'd push it into a mud puddle. How does The Vampire Diaries get so much right but then go and do something as buffoonish as this? I generally try not to be a backseat writer but I'm 100% confident there was a more creative way to give us this Stefan-saves-Katherine's-life moment. In this case it not only cheaply contradicted a lot of what makes Katherine wonderful, it perpetuated suicide as a first-resort option during bad times. It's not. Heroes don't consider it. Neither do anti-heroes. Katherine deserved better.
Stefan politely chided Katherine for attempting suicide and reminded her that Katherine Pierce don't go out like no chump. WHICH WAS CORRECT. But that still did not make the preceding incident worth it. I legitimately love seeing Katherine's path toward humanity unfurl, and I also very much love seeing Stefan and Katherine bond and reconcile, but this was not the way to do it. Sorry, I truly hope I won't have to rant about suicide again in the near future.
So, um. In other news:
Bonnie and Jeremy finally got to shirtless hug! I think they were in a hotel room? Was this room explained? I can't remember, my brain went away two screengrabs earlier.
Anyway, as we all know, ghosts are the ultimate cockblockers.
I have felt bad for Bonnie in previous incidents but never as bad as during this scene. Ugh, Jesse, couldn't you wait in the hallway?
Well, at least Bonnie bounces back from unspeakable torment LIKE A CHAMP. But then again, who wouldn't?
Meanwhile, this episode was NOT finished titillating our faces off:
At this point Damon realized that Dr. Maxfield had been experimenting on AUGUSTINE vampires, which Damon had heard of before, because HE'D BEEN ONE. Whoa, right?
Then Dr. Maxfield scrambled across the lab and hit the anti-vampire button and so much vervain steam went up Damon's nose.
And that's when Damon woke up in a dang DUNGEON!
And not only that, but he started having subliminal flashbacks to a truly unpleasant-looking vacation he'd once had:
And in the final shot we realized that this had been his same dungeon chamber 60 years prior when he was an Augustine vampire lab rat. Uh oh, that could be the first ever flashback episode I'LL ENJOY. Holy moly.
Guys I am so excited about where this plotline is headed. The post-Silas world is a truly glorious place now. I didn't know how much I craved a fun and scary Big Bad plotline until this one got underway. New vampires! Retro sci-fi themed mythology! Jell-o shots! Season 5 just might end up headed in the right direction yet. You know, if the characters don't all commit suicide or anything. Lord.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING OKAY?
... Now that Matt is passenger-free, will Nadia want to take a ride herself?
... Is Bonnie 2.0 a major upgrade or still buggy and crash-prone? (computers)
... Should Katherine and Stefan become besties again?
... Are Jeremy's shirts the real Big Bad?
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