When last we left our heroes, Elena Gilbert, a woman who has demonstrated time and again that she values nothing more highly than her family and her humanity, had incinerated the last vestiges of both. So what’s the next move for someone who’s become a cold, pitiless monster with no other drive but to devour weaker beings and sate the carnal desires of youth? Go out for cheerleading!
All throughout “Bring It On,” characters were insisting to one another that they should cut loose and have some fun after plowing through so much hardship recently, and the episode itself embraced that spirit. It hearkened back to the early, frothy days of The Vampire Diaries in many ways, from Elena replicating Damon’s "Human Speed Bump" trap to the high school existing only as a font of extracurricular activities to an act-long party scene crammed full of telegenic extras and red Solo cups. Cap it all off with an old-fashioned, vamp-on-vamp scrap in the woods and you’ve got an hour that set out to let its hair down and move past the grimness of the previous couple of installments.
Of course, all of those setpieces revolved around the fact that Off-Switch Elena is a stone-cold sadistic sociopath, but hey, 90210 this ain’t.
Even Elena rejoining the cheerleading squad signaled a reversion to an older version of herself. She may be attracted to it now because it gives her the opportunity to “throw people around”—more so than for anything approaching team spirit, let alone pep—but I still liked how it linked Evil Vampire Elena to Purehearted Human Elena. There’s a throughline to her identity, which grounds the tragic reality of what she’s become; this isn’t some demon in Elena’s clothing tearing girls’ throats out because they know how to accessorize. Importantly, it will also keep her from becoming a Katherine clone, and Nina Dobrev is fulfilling her end of the bargain by playing evil Elena with more of an bratty, icy insouciance as opposed to Katherine’s sinister playfulness.
Alas, Stefan and Caroline’s grand plan to re-establish some normalcy was thwarted. Drain one jugular and then casually allow a friend to suffer massive spinal contusions, and all of a sudden everyone’s on your case again. Try as they might to keep Elena out of trouble, she had barely emerged from her vervain nap before she pulled off a total end-run around them. Because keeping anyone of trouble is one thing nobody in Mystic Falls is very good at, at all, ever.
The party she finagled at the Salvatore abode even briefly did perennial worrywarts Stefan and Caroline a bit of good, which was nice to see. Stefan’s always more fun when he’s got a trusty blonde “sober buddy” to counter him. Elena picked up on that too, which raised the question: Was it jealousy that led her to storm off, and to later impale her best friend both physically and emotionally? And if she’s capable of jealousy (and, clearly, of enjoyment), is she capable of tapping other gut reactions, thus leaving open the possibility of re-flipping her switch whenever the writers decide to execute that particular plot device?
For now she’s still content with her easygoing nihilism, and she’s snared a veteran nihilist for an accomplice. She and Damon are road-tripping to the Big Apple, and probably not to take in a matinee of The Book of Mormon. Once again he’s on the fence between wanting to protect Elena from herself and wanting to say “fuck it ” and indulge in all the visceral pleasures of vampirehood he had so persuasively laid out to Rebekah.
Yet I doubt this is merely a pleasure cruise for him—he’s got a bead on Katherine, after running into (and immediately, if mercifully, dispatching) an old friend with ties to the city, and to her. If she’s in New York, then so is the cure. And if he can hit the town with a gorgeous and uninhibited partner before saving the day, well, such is the Tao of Damon. There’s no one better in the business at aligning the greater goal with his own desires.
NOTES & QUOTES
– God bless Mystic Falls High and its lack of any semblance of authority to notice students who only show up like five times a semester. The policy toward unexcused absences is so lenient it makes a Montessori school look like a military academy.
– Meanwhile, Klaus and Hayley were off cobbling together a backdoor pilot for The Originals. Oh, there are all new mysteries to be explored in New Orleans? YOU DON’T SAY.
– The hybrid and the lycanthrope did bring plenty of heat, though. Between their burgeoning alliance/seduction/head games and Elena taking every opportunity to strip down, this was one of the more overtly sexually charged TVD episodes we've had in a while—again trying to inject some welcome fun back into the show after a weighty few weeks.
– As Elena settles in with the Salvatores, Matt became the proud new owner of Lockwood Manor. You get a mansion! And you get a mansion! Everybody gets a mansion!
– Stefan feels guilty for Elena’s condition, because Stefan.
– “I can’t believe you’re making me say this: Show a little restraint.”
– “I just came up with a list. It’s called Things You Suck At.”
– “I thought you were still vacationing on Numbskull Island.” Ian Somerhalder has a knack for making even the flimsiest snark lines sing.
– “That does explain your charming bravado. Abandonment issues will do it every time.”
– “I dunno. Maybe this is a better version of me.”
– “You’re like Sherlock Holmes with brain damage.”
– “Painting is a metaphor for control... Art taught me that one’s vision can be achieved with sheer force of will.”
– “Or Damon will come home and kill everyone.”
– “I admit, under any other circumstances, this would be a major turn-on.” Co-sign.
– “I’m not big on goal-setting, but let’s imagine a time when you don’t want to kill your best friend.”
What'd you think of "Bring It On"?