The Vampire Diaries: Empathy for Mr. Vengeance (PHOTO RECAP)

Excuse me, but the Great Episode Store called and it wants last night's Vampire Diaries back! It is a weird store, true, but it has a great selection and you'd do best to visit and put "Our Town" on layaway, you will not regret it. Because "Our Town" was a great episode! Holy jeez, I'm still kind of weak in the knees from it.

When TVD Executive Producer Julie Plec declared Season 3 to be the season of the Originals, I really had no idea just how true that would be. Another thing I never imagined: The absolute and thorough devastation of Elena and Stefan's relationship. I honestly thought his Ripper stint would be limited to a two-part episode and they'd be back to mouthing "I love yous" in no time. Instead this season has been a thrilling (and slightly depressing!) dismantling of their love and the entire thing has been stewarded by Klaus's machinations. But that's a good thing because his character is just incredible. A great, well-written villain who is portrayed by a brilliant actor, and as he's increasing ceded power to Stefan he's becoming more sympathetic by the minute. That's saying something for a one thousand year old jerk whose main hobby is petty revenge. I think I might even be on his side now? Life is confusing!

Anyway, I dug the heck out of this thing. Want to talk about it? Blink twice for yes. For no, just keep your eyes closed for about an hour.

So, like most good episodes of TV shows, great films, or classic literature, we started with a shower scene:

Damon was clearly loving living in a post-kissing-Elena world, regardless of the fact that she didn't seem quite as into it as he did.

As far as he was concerned, everything was coming up Damon!

On the other hand, Elena didn't seem quite so enthused. You could tell because once again she was starting her day off with some strenuous, psychologically motivated exercise:

Oh, Elena. There are definitely worse problems to have. And you will have those problems later in this episode!

Meanwhile at the ghost house, Bonnie was just chillin', doin' some spells.

Much like in her dream last week, she suddenly found herself being stalked from the shadows. What was going on??

It didn't take long before the Salvatore bros sussed out the intruder: one of Klaus's hybrids.

But, as is the case with hybrids (and what I've been saying for, like, ever now), hybrids are insanely easy to kill.

Hybrids are basically the Puttys to Klaus's Lord Zedd. Just punch those big Z-buttons on their chests! Anyway, the ease with which the Salvatores (and Jeremy, for Pete's sake!) kill the hybrids has severely undercut Stefan and Katherine's reasoning for preventing Klaus's murder that one time. Oh well. Who can think about things like that when Stefan was doing stuff like this:

Meanwhile at school (LOL), Elena and Bonnie were busting out the big guns for Caroline's birthday.

Elena decided it would be a good time to alert Bonnie to the fact that Jeremy had been brainwashed into leaving town.

To Bonnie's credit, she immediately called Elena out for this terrible decision. And what a seriously terrible decision it was! As we talked about in the comments last week, just because Jeremy's leaving town doesn't mean he'll forget about what's going on back in Mystic Falls (and the danger his sister will be in). Furthermore, it's not like Klaus couldn't track Jeremy down in Denver if he wanted to. And Denver might just have its own mythological creature problems! Obviously this was just some production decision to thin out the cast of characters for a stretch, but still, Elena's reasoning for sending Jeremy away just straight up did not make sense.

Hilariously Bonnie immediately went over to Jeremy and practically told him upfront what was going on.

Oh, Jeremy. He didn't pick up on Bonnie's subtleties. Personally I was disappointed by the confirmation that Jeremy had indeed been compelled (and did eventually get on his plane to Denver). I guess I was hoping he'd been pretending all in the service of executing some rad scheme later on. Oh well.

Then the star of the show arrived and she was NOT having a good birthday so far. Boy troubles. You know how it goes.

Fortunately Tyler had had a change of heart about his siring since last he'd seen Caroline, and immediately admitted that he'd been wrong. But he also added that there wasn't anything he could do about the Klaus situation, and he was sorry. It was very heartbreaking! Tyler's back to being likable again, and because Caroline is the best, it was just a tough scene between two kids who can't make it work. And then he gave her an adorable charm bracelet.

Poor Caroline. Also this was the first of what would be many scenes in which Candice Accola wins all of the Oscars for acting because this lady was DOING IT. Crazy perfect.

Did you guys catch this part? I laughed so hard at it:

I bet being Klaus's personal assistant would be super annoying, wheeling caskets all around the house all the time. Roll your own caskets, you undead dandy. Just kidding Klaus, you're the best. Too bad this guy doesn't think so:

Stefan was FED UP with Klaus's hybrids following him around all the time and he was putting his foot down! So then this happened:

Haha! Firstly, that is probably one of the best and juiciest decapitations I've ever seen on network television. Credit where credit's due! But secondly, I hesitate to say this because Stefan is rotten to the core these days, but is he completely awesome now? I think Stefan might be completely awesome now.

Elsewhere, Caroline decided she couldn't face the day, so she decided to go home instead.

This face pretty much sums it up:

See, while she was touched that her three friends remembered her special day, she actually had a pretty poignant speech about how she didn't really earn her 18th birthday because she's dead now and the passage of time is meaningless. Whoa, The Vampire Diaries, things just got heavy! I guess that's why this episode's called "Our Town," because it's all about lamentations of wasted lives, etc. But this was some surprisingly sophisticated stuff, and Caroline's philosophy was as meaningful as it was depressing. This guy knows what I'm talking about:

Meanwhile Klaus had a bit of an errand for Tyler to run:

Knowing that a hybrid's bite would kill a vampire, Tyler understandably did not want to bite Caroline. At this point it was unclear why exactly Klaus wanted to jeopardize Caroline's life except for just general mayhem purposes, and [spoiler alert] it's still not clear. However, this exchange would lead to the best payoff possible later on.

Thinking fast, Elena, Bonnie, and Matt decided to whisk Caroline to a more festive location for her celebration: The Fell Tomb, obviously. (BTW how weird is the Fell family shaping up to be?)

Rather than celebrate a proper birthday party, the kids decided they'd have a funeral for Caroline's old life. It was a pretty poignant idea, as it was clear she was having a lot of trouble reconciling being an ordinary teenage girl with the immortality she was now facing. To her credit, Caroline liked the idea and it even sort of helped her cheer up. And there was cake!

Over at Lockwood Manor there was some kind of cocktail party, fundraiser, and/or meeting of the Founders Society or the Historical Society or I don't even know. Important people, basically. And look who'd become the Mayor's new best friend!

In a surprise turn of events, the Mayor had befriended Klaus with full knowledge of who he was and what he was!

Same story with the Sheriff! They are now at the point where the oldest living vampire walks their streets and they're cool with it so long as there aren't any tussles. Both the Mayor and the Sheriff have kids caught in the middle of it, so it was actually sort of cool the way they were being so practical about it. Credit where credit's due.

Okay, so remember last week when a fan-favorite character from the books was introduced as a love interest for Alaric? Did anybody expect her plotline to take this turn?

What was going on here? First of all, that tall dude was the town's Medical Examiner. So that should say something about his credibility right there. "Another animal attack." - Medical Examiner. But didn't Dr. Fell have a bit of a crazy-lady affect to her? Sure she's pretty and Alaric seemed to like her, but I definitely found it easy to believe when her overprotective "friend" the Medical Examiner just straight-up told Alaric that she's mentally unstable.

Then Stefan arrived at the party with a one-track mind: Killing Klaus's hybrid.

But then Damon stopped him and pointed out how fruitless it was to murder hybrids when Klaus could just sire more of them. At this point Damon gave him a pretty good pep talk, telling him his plans are all wrong. If he wanted to defeat Klaus he'd have to make a bigger move and to quote-unquote "Be a better villain" than him. [Edit: I got this part way wrong! What actually happened is that Damon just wanted Stefan to chill out and stop doing mayhem in public, but Stefan countered that he needed to "Be a better villain" than Klaus. Or something. Look, all I know is he decided a change of plans were in order and he needed hit Klaus harder. Damon's job was to convince Klaus that Stefan was serious.]

Meanwhile back in the tomb, Bonnie told Elena off for sending her sweet dreamboat to Denver, then just high-tailed it out of there. (Didn't they carpool?) Anyway, then Tyler arrived to see Caroline again and Matt and Elena had a rare heart-to-heart. I laughed out loud when he informed her that her life seems awful to him. Dang, Matt!

He really had a point, though he claimed it was the booze speaking. Trouble has followed her around for at least a year now, and she is definitely much worse off in almost every respect. It's just funny that it took a character as peripheral as Matt to point it out to her.

So yeah, Tyler and Caroline were off in the woods where he excitedly told her that he's indeed capable of contradicting Klaus's wishes, and that he's now a free man, and he definitely wants to be with her and he even said the "I LOVE YOU" phrase.

I don't know if you'll believe this, but Caroline took him back!

Briefly. Because then this happened:

He bit her! Without meaning to! Dang, that sire stuff is no joke. Caroline was not happy about it, but she immediately started falling ill. Then my face twisted up and all around because CAROLINE NO!!!

I was really upset you guys. So then I got all mad when only a few feet away Elena and Matt were horsin' off with a flashlight.

So then I cheered when an unseen presence threw Matt against a wall and then kidnapped Elena. Serves you right!

Oh, but then it just turned out to be this guy:

Haha in retrospect, why did he approach the Matt/Elena situation that way? What a weirdo! I guess Stefan still thought he was Blade or whatever. Anyway, they were in his tiny red car and they were SPEEDING.

Then Stefan got Klaus on the speakerphone and threatened to kill his only provider of doppelganger blood (with which Klaus makes hybrids).

At least Stefan had the decency of killing her with vampire blood in her system. This was a scary scene, you guys!

But phew! Klaus relented and promised to remove all his hybrids, so Stefan did not crash his car on the same bridge Elena's parents drove off of. (Which, tasteful choice, Stefan!)

Incidentally, Elena was upset about this incident:

First off, this scene was as painful as any I've ever seen on this show. But also it addressed the biggest nagging question of this whole season: Why Stefan was behaving like he'd been dumped even though Elena would've willingly had him back the whole time. It turned out it was a pretty deep psychological thing on his part: Once he decided to become a Ripper he convinced himself that Elena would never have him back, regardless of her protestations to the contrary. It was a weird bit of pretzel logic, but it was more than enough to baffle, frustrate, and devastate poor Elena.

And THEN he had the audacity to just LEAVE HER THERE.

Man, that was rotten, you guys. Just rotten! But then we went from one upsetting scene to another: Remember, Caroline was dying!

Seriously, the four of them had to have car-pooled to the tomb right? And then Bonnie drove home? All I'm saying is, good thing Matt has powerful legs.

I felt bad for Sheriff Forbes because she really had no idea what to do. She'd only just discovered her daughter was a vampire a few months back, and now she had to deal with hybrid venom? Whoa, that is advanced monster stuff. Luckily there just happened to be an advanced monster in the neighborhood.

Now, obviously Caroline was only in this situation because Klaus intended her to be. It was in question whether he'd somehow changed his mind about having her bitten, or if this exact scenario was what he'd been hoping for all along. Either way, it ended up being a thoroughly and truly beautiful scene. Seriously! (These photocaps won't reflect that, however).

See? I'm a fraud. The actual scene was a brilliant piece of writing in which Klaus recognized Caroline's existentialist dilemma and assured her he'd felt the same way during various stages of his life, up to and including considering suicide. He gave her a choice: Life or death. And then he informed her that if she chose life, the entire world awaited her, an eternity of art, culture, and general splendor that she couldn't even fathom in this small terrible town she called home. Who among us hasn't wondered if we were meant for bigger things? Which of us hasn't wished we could escape our surroundings and join the ranks of an elite class? Klaus managed to elegantly sum up in a few sentences what any gifted teenager needs to hear. It was no wonder Caroline chose that option.

Now, again, Klaus's intentions are definitely up for debate. We know we's a world class schemer and at this particular point in time he'd do anything to regain leverage over Stefan. But we also know that for a thousand years Klaus has done all he could to stave off loneliness. Between carting his family around in caskets or forcing near-strangers to be his travel companions to siring an army of new friends, Klaus's psychology is totally consistent with the idea that he perhaps just simply saw something in Caroline that moved him. Youth, potential, goodness. It doesn't matter. All I know is he possibly gave the show's best character one of the best gifts she could've ever hoped for: A tiny dose of enlightenment.

Or, you know, he just wanted to sire her. I don't know, I'm not a doctor! Either way. Good scene. That'll do, show.

Back on Elena's porch, we did NOT get a repeat of the previous episode's kiss. Instead Damon attempted to defend Stefan's despicable actions to Elena. She wasn't having it, but this exchange did raise the question: Did Damon encourage Stefan to become a better villain so that Elena would get over him faster? Who knows! On the surface of things, though, he was pretty sweet to her:

And in the long run, his willingness to not push things further might just pay off.

The next day Elena wished Jeremy farewell.

But look who stopped by for a last-minute lingering hug!

Another thing about this episode: Bonnie was pretty awesome. First of all, she was 100% correct that Elena shouldn't have sent Jeremy away. Free will, in general, is not something anybody has any right to destroy. But also Bonnie was able to get over her anger about the Anna situation and seemed to be genuinely sad to see Jeremy go. We know the feeling!

Later Caroline awoke from her hybrid venom hangover and realized she'd been fully cured.

Now, I'm not saying Caroline was in any way won over by Klaus's generosity, and it's still not 100% clear what his intentions are, but still: This is a great turn of events. Part of me wishes Klaus could somehow be normalized, made more sympathetic. What better character than Caroline could bring that out in him? But also, wouldn't this make for a particularly interesting love triangle? The fact that both Tyler and Klaus gave Caroline bracelets must mean they're romantic rivals now, right?

At this point the episode was already filled to the brim with great moments, but it wasn't done yet. In another really well-written and moving scene, Matt and Elena met on the bridge where her parents died and threw an impromptu funeral for Elena's past life also.

I don't necessarily think Elena and Matt's bonding time was meant to imply a rekindling of their romance, but I DID really dig the full-circle nature of Elena returning to human friendships again. Matt is one of the least-changed things from her old life, and I dug how happy she looked to be around him. Aw, these kids.

Oh okay, and then Meredith walked up to Alaric at the bar and they joked about being drunks?

And then Sheriff Forbes randomly took Damon on a crime scene tour:

And Meredith's "friend" the Medical Examiner had been murdered, probably during an animal attack. Ten bucks says his job remains vacant forever. But that's the cliffhanger: Is Meredith a psycho killer?? Probably, you know how this show frowns upon misdirection!

I don't know what to tell you, you guys. I loved this episode. It made me want to think deep thoughts! Klaus rules, Stefan drools. (Except when he's awesome). Bonnie was great. Nina Dobrev remains a championship sobber. Caroline 4-ever. So good!

Okay bye.



... Explain why Klaus reached out to Caroline like he did.

... What will be Stefan's turning point back to the good side?

... Does Meredith sit in her apartment yelling at her shoes?

... Will Bonnie continue Skype-ing with Jeremy via MiFi?

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