The Vampire Diaries "The Cell" Review: Safe Zone (PHOTO RECAP)

By Price Peterson

Dec 06, 2013

The Vampire Diaries S05E09: "The Cell"

Sometimes in life you just have to accept the ridiculous in order to enjoy yourself. Which can be difficult seeing as nearly 100 percent of everything is straight-up ridiculous. Who came up with the idea for gravity? Like, sure, let's all cling upside-down on a giant orb for half the day, that's a great idea. Or water. That is wet, invisible nonsense. And guess what is currently hiding inside each of us? A SKELETON. Forget about skeletons in the closet, the one inside your body is the biggest creep of them all. But the thing is, if you dwell on these ridiculous ideas you might miss out on the finer aspects of life. By which of course I am referring to teen supernatural dramas, and specifically The Vampire Diaries.

This week's episode "The Cell" was very terrific so long as you could accept at least three ludicrous things as no big deal. Like how humans are suddenly so much more powerful than supersonic supersensory superstrong vampires, provided they have a dinky syringe of vervain on them. Or the fact that Damon had experienced five years straight of torture underneath Whitmore College but he didn't tell anybody about it, and also seemed to have forgotten about it entirely seeing as he was just trouble-free chillin' on campus for several weeks without having any flashbacks. Also, dragging an enormous safe out of the forest and leaving it on someone's front porch is just a normal thing that happens in Mystic Falls. See what I'm saying? All of these things were ridiculous as h*ck yet if you could refrain from questioning them you got some of the richest and best storytelling of the season so far. "The Cell" was a very good episode! Let's talk about it.

We began with a tiny bit of a fakeout: The exterior of the Salvatore Shanty looking surprisingly warm and inviting—if slightly sepia-toned—and also there was an African-American maid and a TV with some kind of cryptic lettering on it. OH WAIT THIS WAS THE 1950s! 

Damon came in dressed like one of the Drapes from Cry-Baby and I guess one of his human relatives was living here at the moment so they got to doing what Salvatores do best: STABBING.

It was just a whole lot of stabbing! The explanation was that the uncle/cousin/whatever had sold Damon into science, which is a very rude thing to do. So Damon shoved a glass into the dude's neck and then ANOTHER dude came out and syringed Damon. I mean, I don't know, the '50s were a rough time for everybody but especially the maid.

Then it was present day and Damon had stopped having the flashback just in time to realize that history was repeating itself!

Oh, Dr. Wes, you scoundrel. Just kidding, I mean I know he's a villain but I liiiiike him sorry. Damon did NOT like him though, so he just sort of laid on that filthy floor all frowning because he was already over it.

Speaking of over it:

HAHAHA I will never get tired of this show making fun of what a dumb device diaries are. Except, you know, even making fun of diaries STILL counts as relying on diary voiceovers for exposition. It's seriously so strange that of all things, Season 5 has decided to exhume THIS artifact. Were viewers really THAT nostalgic for early Season 1? If so let's just skip the diaries and bring back Tiki or Matt's mom. But yeah, back to the diary device, I realize that times are tough when one or more of the Salvatores is locked in a dungeon and the show can't have a top-of-the-episode expositional cell phone convo like usual, but oh well. At least we got the sight of Katherine writing in a diary and essentially lampooning Elena. Just to provide you with some foreshadowing for the rest of this review, Katherine's plotline is by far the best thing about this episode and also season. Let's just get that out of the way up front.

Anyway, then the doorbell rang. It was Caroline!

So yeah, this was crazy. The idea was that Stefan was still dealing with PTSD from drowning in a safe all summer, so Caroline decided that she would cure him with some safe-therapy. But it was like, how did she get that enormous safe over to the house? (Also, did the safe get bigger somehow?) Caroline mentioned something vague about her mom helping her get the safe there but that honestly just raised even more questions. And now I'm even wondering how Stefan got that safe to the quarry in the first place? Anyway, forget about the circumstances of how the safe gets anywhere, just accept that a vampire teen brought a several-ton safe to Stefan's front porch for therapy purposes.

Meanwhile at Whitmore College, Aaron was dealing with the "suicide" of his roommate Jesse, which had brought the suicide rate of his circle of friends to a solid 100%. It was some pretty sick irony that the lady who MURDERED Jesse was standing there trying to commiserate with him, but even Elena couldn't keep up the charade of sympathy for very long and she was already asking him for a personal favor right away. See, her boyfriend wasn't answering her texts!

Meanwhile in the '50s we really started to get a sense of just how badly Damon was treated by the mad doctor Whitmore.

Yep, lots of eye-stabbing and onto-floor-throwing. Ugh, the '50s.

Meanwhile Aaron agreed to help Elena find Dr. Maxfield but was chagrinned when he led her into the Whitmore House, which of course she needed to be invited into. But then, surprisingly, Aaron was able to invite her in because HE OWNED IT.

Haha this was also very ridiculous, the idea that (1) Elena didn't know Aaron's last name was WHITMORE, and (2) he had been trying to keep his family heritage on the down-low. Sure. That is such teen fantasy right there, the secretly wealthy hunk who doesn't want people to know about his family's prominence because they'll treat him differently. NOPE. In real life this guy would've been telling every co-ed within a hundred miles just who he was and getting soooo laid. Also I just don't believe that the only living heir to the recently murdered college founders' family could be anonymous EVEN IF HE WANTED TO. He'd be in all the papers, he'd be giving memorial speeches, everyone would be rallying around him for support. Like, I know that TV logic is important, and that characters remain silent when they're not on camera, and everybody lives in a vacuum or whatever. But sometimes it would be nice if people seemed real? Just a thought.

Then Elena saw her own father in a framed photograph in Aaron's house. What were you UP TO, Grayson? But before she could think too hard about it, Dr. Maxfield ran down the stairs and shot her up with vervain.

Aaron seemed surprised by this! It was probably fair to assume maybe he knew more than he'd let on about the existence of vampires, but nope. He had been completely in the dark about that. So in a quick but amusing beat, Dr. Maxfield sort of brought him up to speed real quick and gave him some reading materials to help.

That's always the problem with adding new characters to a long-running serial: It's hard to be invested in a character with no awareness of the overall mythology (see: April). It's like, get out of here dummy, you're in over your head. So at least Aaron will now become a more interesting character after learning the truth. Hopefully?

Meanwhile it was time to REALLY dig into Damon's experiences from 60 years prior. The big thing to know was that he had a friend in the dungeon. 

Meet Enzo! So, the thing is, everybody knows that one of the major reasons for flashback episodes on TVD (aside from wigs) is they always introduce a new character who will later appear in the present day. Pretty much always, yeah. So it's with great pleasure to inform you that Enzo is GREAT. He was some Italian dude who'd fought in WWII and became a test subject for the Augustines. Also he gave some monologue about falling in love with a nurse who'd worked there or something, which I'm guessing is only important because we'll be meeting her too someday? I don't know. But Enzo was handsome and he and Damon were insta-besties, that's really the main thing to know about Enzo.

I loved this moment between Katherine and Caroline. Caroline was trying to read a Psychology for Dummies book and Katherine just immediately accused her of having tingly sensations toward Stefan. Which I think is very possible! Caroline and Stefan are definitely both single now. However, I prefer to think that Katherine wasn't simply sexually harassing Caroline, she was actually trying to make sure she wouldn't be hurting Caroline's feelings if she decided to make a move on Stefan herself. That's MY theory anyway.

But yeah, so far Stefan's safe therapy wasn't working and he was fake-drowning so much. That's when Katherine stepped up with a very good idea. TO BE CONTINUED.

Meanwhile in the '50s Damon was still trying to get answers about why he'd been locked up and tortured so much.

Dr. Whitmore mentioned something about regeneration, and trying to isolate the science behind vampirism or something kind of uninspiring. But then we learned that the WEIRDEST part of his studies involved inviting his prisoners to an annual New Year's Eve party where he made them stand in a cage and also feed their blood to partygoers.

So uh, yeah. The Augustines were definitely a bunch of weirdos. Like, drinking vampire blood I maybe can understand. The human body is a joke and constantly breaking down, so sure, give me a few drops of that cure-all. But pouring vampire blood into a champagne flute pyramid? That's just rich person madness.

Meanwhile in the present day, a couple of blonde hunks were getting real. By that I mean Dr. Maxfield finally clued Aaron in about how his parents had died.

Haha Aaron relax. By the way, I get that "animal attack" is the all-purpose explanation for vampire murders, but it's also something that makes less and less sense anytime I think about it. WHAT KIND OF ANIMAL, detectives? Is that in the report? Do the bite marks match up with anything in those woods? A fanged baboon maybe? What about DNA evidence? I don't know, nevermind. Aaron got mad and punched Dr. Maxfield in the face which made ME so mad. Leave his face alone, you sad-sack trustafarian!


Katherine went INTO the safe with Stefan! The logic was that his PTSD would turn him into a Ripper-esque mess and having a human nearby would spell certain doom for that human. So Katherine banked on his ability to overcome those impulses with his innate sense of heroism. Which yes, that is Stefan's dichotomy: Mass murderer AND hero. It's not a contradiction, it's just his spectrum. So this was the one way I feel like Katherine's suicidal tendencies paid off, unlike last week's lazy attempt at pathos. She wasn't explicitly trying to kill herself, she was merely saying that if she DID happen to die during this exercise, oh well. That's definitely different than throwing yourself off a clock tower because your long lost vampire daughter cut you a stank-face. So yeah, Katherine being in the safe with Stefan = GENIUS.

Speaking of genius:

Back in the day Stefan and Enzo had worked out an escape plan, and it meant that Enzo would let Damon drink his thimble of blood each day so that Damon could grow stronger and bust them both out during a New Year's Eve party. And he did it! (By disgustingly breaking his hand on camera in order to slip some shackles.) Anyway, that's when the night REALLY got started.

Unfortunately during the carnage Damon accidentally set everything on fire and Enzo's cage bars were too hot to touch.

And that's when Damon flipped off his emotions-switch and bounced.

Elena did NOT like this story, and fair enough. It made Damon look very bad! Because poor Enzo! But also, they'd had a deal. (Which makes sense; all characters introduced in flashbacks need to reappear with an angry agenda.) I will say that the entire element of these two powerful vampires being unable to break out of their cells over a 5 year period was hard to believe. Yes, they were weakened by vervain, but even a weak human should be able to overpower a scrawny doctor with a syringe and bustle out of the cell right? Plus Damon had been drinking twice as much blood as the doctor knew about, so couldn't he have made a move sooner? I don't know, I just felt like we've seen vampires get vervained in the past and they usually bounce back and get things done pretty soon afterward. This whole imprisonment situation felt inconsistent to me. But again, just gotta accept it and move on.


Katherine went from making Stefan infuriated about her presence to close-talking and breathing with him and nurturing him and it worked and he was cured and oh man SO GOOD. Katherine the schemer, using her skills for good. But not just GOOD. Something sort of epic. As ridiculous as it was that the safe was on the Salvatores' living room floor, it was all worth it to have this scene happen. One of the series' finest. 

And of course Caroline accidentally (?) cock-blocked them. But still, that look between Stefan and Katherine shortly after?

Amazing. Amazing. The best. 

So after Aaron punched Dr. Maxfield's perfect face, he stole a gun out of the safe and went to the dungeon to find out which of these vampires killed his parents.

And that was the twist: DAMON HAD DONE IT. Even though it had only happened last summer!

The reason for that was because his main coping mechanism during his imprisonment was the dream of someday getting out and systematically murdering the Whitmore descendants forever onward. So even though he'd been out of the dungeon for 55 years he'd been secretly keeping this promise to himself, including the time earlier that summer when he apparently left Elena's bosom to go murder Aaron's parents. Which, again, if Whitmore murderizin' remained so fresh in Damon's mind, then why was he so taken by surprise that the Augustine stuff was still going on in the exact same locations?

And that's when, for the first time in her life, Elena suddenly disapproved of murder. 

And for the record, so did Aaron.

So yeah. Not sure this is quite as major a reveal as it was supposed to be. (Because who cares about Aaron OR his parents? And also Damon has been a murderer for hundreds of years, deal w/it.) But between this and Enzo's "death" it was clear that Elena was suddenly troubled by Damon's actions and maybe Caroline had been right about him. I don't know! But this is a soap involving a love triangle so it stands to reason Elena and Damon will be breaking up at some point before the final season's mad dash toward OTP endgame. Was this the beginning of that?

Who cares, because:



All right, look, one gripe: The tone of this episode treated Stefan and Katherine's hookup as some kind of funny fling. Like, 'Look at this wild hookup!' But if you've been watching this show since the beginning, then the idea of Stefan and Katherine coming together like this isn't just some minor or meaningless thing. This is, like, premise-rattling. Forget that Elena is the main character; Katherine is the CATALYST for the entire PREMISE of the show. She had such a rich and anguished history with the Salvatores. Her shadow loomed over all of Season 1 and culminated in one of the great twists in modern TV. Her arc from supervillain to sad hobo has been the richest and most surprising in the show's run. This hookup was not some fun lark or some trashy rebound. These are two broken people who get each other more than any other characters on the show. Now that they've hooked up I pretty much don't want to see either of them be with anyone else? But then the tone of this hookup (complete with lusty music and a throw-caution-to-the-wind apathy) made me think that this was just a temporary stop or a footnote in each person's journey. I really hope not. Stefan and Katherine's love (then hate, and now maybe future love) just feels so much more epic than a one-off fling. I'm really hoping this wonderful turn of events will be explored and deepened. I would love to see someone as hardened and jaded as Katherine dissolve into a romantic, thus completing her re-humanization at which point she could become the new main character of the show instead of Elena. I would ALSO love to see Stefan actually get into it with someone as dynamic and independent as Katherine. But knowing this season, I'm just not sure it'll be giving us what we want. But seriously credit where credit's due: This turn of events was tremendous. So good.

So then Damon woke up from his head-wound and Elena was gone! She was in the laboratory next door strapped to a table.

So yeah, Enzo was back. I would've added an exclamation mark to that statement but DUH, of course he was back, that's how flashback characters work. Still though, Enzo is crazy-likable. Just a good addition to the show, I hope he stays awhile! He'll definitely need awhile to get caught up on all the new cell phones and Windows tablets and Mi-Fi gadgets. Welcome to the future, Enzo!

"The Cell" was very, very entertaining for many reasons. Damon looks good as a greaser; Enzo seems very promising; the Augustine society remains very intriguing; Dr. Maxfield's face; and most of all KATHERINE (and Stefan). That last element was the most important, mostly because Katherine is the best, but also now that Stefan has fallen for her (hopefully?), it is the most I've liked his character in a while. I mean, he was fine, he's the romantic lead and frequently the hero, but now that his heart is making these good decisions I'm way more invested in his inner workings. The show is always doing this: Forcing us to shift our sympathies from one Salvatore to the other, much like Elena does. Or at least, that seems to be the intention anyway. At this point I like both guys and am interested in their journeys. Whatever mistakes this season has made (ugh, Silas), at least it's kept us very invested in these core characters and has gotten back on track with a fresh-seeming storyline. Only one more episode until the mid-season hiatus! What could possibly go wrong?


*rollerblades into a hedge*


... Was the Stefan-Katherine kiss everything or EVERYTHING?

... OR are you holding out hope for a Stefan-Caroline thing?

... Enzo: Thumbs up or THUMBS UP?

... Do you care about Aaron at all be honest.

  • Comments (314)
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  • marcusj1973 Feb 03, 2014

    Finally catching up and HOT DAMN!!! I missed some good stuff.

    Ever since Caroline and Tyler broke up, I've been all over the Stepholine bandwagon. I'm totally getting a Lexi vibe from her as far as their friendship goes, and if we're being honest, Lexi being introduced and summarily killed off so early and quickly in this series is one of it's biggest loses. Caroline nicely fills that vacuum of "flirty friend".

    She's so awesome that when she showed up with that ridiculous safe, my first thought was, "Aww see, she IS the best!"...followed quickly by a, "Wait, what?". When Katerine started busting her chops about gettin' some Salvator lovin'...fantastic! "See, it's not just me who thinks you two are doin' it. Or at least should be!". My feelings on the subject were validated.

    And then, in a way that no other show I can think of can do, TVD flipped the roles of heroes and villains on it's head and like a fickle teenager, I was actively rooting for Stephan and Katherine in the safe.

    This show never ceases to amaze me at it's ability to turn villains into likable characters. Damon, Katherine, Elijah, any measure, these were BAD people. Yet a little tale explaining how and why they are the way they are and *poof*

    Aaron and Max...yada, yada, yada. Damon and Elena...yada, yada, yada. Those two arcs were clearly just setups for later. Which is fine. Stepholine vs Stepherine. I'm awfully conflicted.

  • Madelynn1984 Dec 15, 2013

    Haven't read the recap yet, but just wanted to say this episode was amazing. I loved all of the striking emotional moments, like Damon telling Elena the story about leaving Enzo (who I was REALLY hoping would appear later), and Katherine and Stefan in the safe. . . super hot! Yay, so much fun! Also like what's his name finding out about his family's legacy, and loved the backstory on why his family is all dead. Lots of DRAMA headed our way! Wheeee!

  • AmyTeves Dec 14, 2013

    This is one of my favorite episodes this season. Too bad Damon has been sipping all that vervain but it didn't seem to help him out much to build up a tolerance. But, the vervain gas is probably a lot more potent than what he has been taking.

  • lynelltiller Dec 12, 2013

    What I want to know is, if Damon kept track of the Whitmores for all those yeas and killed a bunch of them, how did he not know that the Whitmores still has Enzo locked up and doing experiments???

  • bosh_nessy Dec 11, 2013

    Am I the only one who's suuuuuuuper uncomfortable with the whole Bonnie/Jeremy relationship? All of their scenes just feel so awkward to me. Like I know they were basically shoving it down our throats the whole time Bonnie was dead, but their lovey-doviness still seems like it came out of left field somehow??

  • lucasoliveira1 Dec 11, 2013

    I kind of dig them being together because of Season 2. Their relationship was built-up real nicely back then and ever since I think they should be together. Of course there was that whole break-up thing/Jamie (lol, Jamie) awful plot that messed up their relationship but I was still holding out hope. When Jeremy died, and Bonnie went crazy about it, I felt the sparks coming back. When she died and they started having these personal, human-ghost moments, it definitely brought it all back. On that matter I think the writers did a great job and I just hope they stay together permanently now.

  • wind_shadow Dec 10, 2013

    I hate when the "real world" and "having to work to earn a living" get in the way of my TV-watchin'.....JUST saw this episode. Honestly not their best, in my opinion. Although I DO feel really bad for Aaron. I don't even know how you deal with feeling like everyone around you dies. Death is treated just a liiiiiiittle too casually on this show (as has been discussed many times before), but to have his parents killed and then his friend AND THEN his roommate? And so close together? Damn.

    And only on TVD could a medical-experiment-torture subplot feel! Sorry. Not really feeling it. Although Enzo is a potentially interesting new character.

    Also, I kind of miss Matt. :-/

  • Madelynn1984 Dec 15, 2013

    I KNOW! The real world made it so I just today saw this episode finally!!! Silly real world!

  • lucasoliveira1 Dec 11, 2013


  • wind_shadow Dec 12, 2013

    Meh. I guess just because I'm not really that interested in a lot of the current story lines. Makes me wonder what other characters might be up to. When I start wondering about April, then you can have me committed,

  • Madelynn1984 Dec 15, 2013

    Hahaha, oh, April. :D No, but I'm with you on Matt. I've always liked him.

  • chris17blue Dec 10, 2013

    So yes, I've decided to give it a go and post my thoughts in full detail.

    - I have no interest in Dullena. I have no interest in Damon. I could care less about Damon and how he was tortured for 5 years. He deserves a lot worse.

    - I despise the writers for destroying something as beautiful as Stelena in order to make Dullena happen.

    - Nina and Ian were God awful in their so called "love scenes". They have zero on-screen chemistry. Nina looks repulsed by him.


    - I have no interest in Stefan and Katherine as a couple. I'll never ship them. That relationship sounds as stupid and as pathetic and contrived as Dullena is.

    - Caroline has the absolute right to hate Damon. She has the right to be upset with Elena. Elena is not acting herself, either she's 1) still sired to Damon (which is her only saving grace) or 2) she's gotten a lobotomy and she doesn't remember all of the horrible things that Damon has done. This video best showcases the changes in Elena:

    and no it's not called character evolution because Elena has devolved. She has become just as bad as Damon is. She doesn't care that she kills people. She doesn't care that she killed Jesse. She excuses Damon's actions constantly. She's just okay with dating a "reformed serial killer"...

    - Damon is still a disgusting piece of shit. He's trash, he left his "so-called friend" there to die. He was still killing innocent while he was dating Elena. HE HASN'T CHANGED AT ALL.

    I wish that people would wake up and see that. Peace!

    ps. Someone asked me why I hate Damon so much - here -

    ^ I agree with every single one of those points made.

  • lilysophiaful Dec 11, 2013

    I will be totally honest and agree with you 100%. I do think the show destroyed such a beautiful couple. When you watch season 1-2 you can see how much they truly loved each other. It was pure love. And now this has been completely destroyed by Elena and Damon. I still love Damon. But don't think he was meant to be with Elena. Now I don't think they could ever go back. And personally I don't think Elena deserves Stefan after this.

  • chris17blue Dec 11, 2013

    Wow, that is big of you. You have my respect.

  • chris17blue Dec 10, 2013

    Oh yes, the fact that Damon is the one who turned Elena into this horrible monstrous apathetic thing is the biggest reason I hate him. He used the sirebond to remake her into him.

    1. He told her to drink from the vein. (not blood bag, not animal blood)

    2. He told her to kill the Vampire hunter. (even though it destroyed her and it drove her to suicide)

    "You told me to kill him, so I did"

    3. He made her turn off her humanity. The only thing she had left after losing Jeremy.

    He did all of this because he wanted to change her, he wanted her to become like him. Well congrats, she already is like him. Elena is basically Damon #2.

  • chris17blue Dec 10, 2013

  • ChanX95 Dec 10, 2013

    KATHERINE!!!!! That is all.

  • xoxomc Dec 10, 2013

    1. Stefan & Kathrine <3 . They are so great for each other because he's the "good" guy with the dark aspects (the ripper stuff etc) and she's the evil girl with the hidden good aspects.its perfect.
    2.Still hoping for Caroline & Klaus to end up together somehow for the same reason. Caroline is the nice goody girl and klaus the ultimate bad guy that needs to be taught what love and kindness is.
    3. How is it that Elena's relationships always get kinda boring? I was never a fan of her relationship with Stefan because they were too much alike (too mopey and sad ) and they were neever fun to watch. But i really really liked her with damon. Before they got together. Where is the passion?? I hope this drama with the whitmore family will make things interesting between them again. You know what i miss? the fun they used to have when she first became a vampire and he was trying to help her fit into her skin. So bring back the fun Delena pleaseee.

  • Arthur_Sp00ner Dec 09, 2013

    I agree.. great episode. Seems like the writers needed some time to figure out how to continue a great show after what was left of it, when a huge part of it with the Originals departed.
    This not only had major implications in future storylines but also (unfortunately) on some characters, mainly Caroline. She really was one of my favorites since Season 3, after leaving the annoying schoolgirl behind and becoming a strong, confident vampire woman, that had the most powerful supernatural being wrapped around her little finger. But regrettably, this season she has fallen back into her old self, only this time being in college.
    It seems now that the writers are desperately looking for a new role for Caroline. So far it looks like they try to make her some kind of new Lexi, which does not work at all... Lexi is unique, old, powerful and had an aura about herself.
    Something that Caroline naturally does not have.
    And Stefan and Caroline would be the biggest mistake in TVD history, they just don't fit as a couple.
    Her character works best as Klaus' kryptonite (including amazing chemistry with Joseph Morgan), so please --> departure to New Orleans, become Klaus' Queen!

    We finally got to see good old evil, twisted, bloodthirsty Damon again! Please more of that, including a terrific introduction of a new mysterious character in Enzo.
    Stefan and Katherine, finally (now as an awesome human version of Elena, and both of them able to understand each others pain better than anyone else at the moment) --> 100% approved (could develop into a good storyline with Katherine on the verge of dying)

    The Cell finally brought TVD's strengths back and let's us hope for a much improved rest season.

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