Years ago, after several decades of research and untold billions in funding, scientists concluded beyond a shadow of doubt that holiday-themed TV episodes are the best. The scientists' report was published far and wide and holds up to this day, because let's face it, even crummy holiday episodes are STILL more fun than technically "better" non-holiday themed ones, am I right? (I'm right, because scientists.) But it doesn't take a brainiac to know why we get all these warm fuzzies toward our holiday entertainment; who DOESN'T inherently love a holiday? (Relax, Jevohah's Witnesses, I mean no offense. P.S. why didn't u come to my bday party??) As much as we love to complain about mall parking lots or holiday stress or being forced to hang out with our families, deep down we're just trying to act cool because we know a string of colored lights will bring us more warmth and joy than nearly anything else all year. It's like, any number of terrible things could happen on a Friday but it'll still be our favorite day of the week, you know? (Generally speaking of course, because f*ck this past Friday H8 U.) Anyway, what was I even talking about? Something something fruitcake.
Listen: I love holiday episodes of anything, and that definitely held true for this season's long-awaited (by me at least!) holiday-themed episode of The Vampire Diaries! Sure, the holiday stuff was as tacked on as possible, but I will be gosh-darned if TVD Santa didn't leave some pretty stellar gifts under the non-denominational tree this year! "O Come, All Ye Faithful" was jam-packed with good stuff, including some of my favorite Christmas music ever. Plus a Klaus rampage! And major death! And one truly memorable tank top. But why talk about these things when I can SHOW you!
So the day after Damon declined to 'un-sire' Elena (which, I still can't believe how dumb the un-siring process is... "You're not sired anymore." "Okay.") they were lying in bed together looking like they were so committed to each other that they'd skipped to the part of the relationship where they were middle-aged and bored.
Things got slightly more interesting when Damon changed his shirt for no reason!
Then they close-breathed on each other's faces while Elena made a big show of inviting Damon to hang out that day. Riveting, basically!
Meanwhile Klaus was slapping paint onto a canvas for some kind of local art show later that day (way to procrastinate, you oldest living being in the world!) and Stefan rolled by to hassle him about the typical junk Stefan's always hassling Klaus about. In this case, he needed more info about the special sword that Klaus retrieved from "Italy."
Love these guys. Anyway, yeah, more MacGuffin talk.
Okay, we need to talk about Mystic Falls' "Winter Wonderland" event.
So, of course it was non-denominational even though it was definitely Christmas-specific. That's because we're all LOSING THE WAR ON CHRISTMAS!!! #foxnews
No but seriously, this was by far the WEIRDEST town-wide event I've ever seen on this show. People were walking around in what looked like summer weather while this dude sprayed everyone with snow.
But my favorite part was that this show was intentionally cagey about whether this was ACTUALLY in December or not. Which, fine, I understand why the writers would be hesitant about getting locked into an already mind-numbing chronology. But the very notion that the citizens of Mystic Falls might be having a Christmas party NOT around the holidays is just so insane that I am LOLing all day about it. What is WITH these people?? A mid-day, warm weather, town-wide Christmas party is weird enough but if it's not even calendar-appropriate? At this point Twin Peaks is sharing an order of fries with Sunnydale and Neptune and they're all talking about how psycho Mystic Falls is. Like there's fun crazy and there's crazy-crazy, and Mystic Falls is definitely starting to make me nervous. Love it.
So then Tyler let Caroline on his master plan involving the hybrids. It was this: He was going to get a witch to force Klaus' soul into his own body, then imprison his own body so that Klaus would be trapped, and then the hybrids would scatter to the winds where they'd be forever safe from an immortal vampire who holds undying grudges. It would be the final stop for Tyler's Hybrid Underground Railroad and it was the perfect plan.
Caroline clearly didn't see it that way, though. Because let's face it, Tyler might be a great leader (seriously, his character has gotten way more awesome this season) but he's never really been a thinker. Just being honest! Sorry T.
Meanwhile in the woods, something MUCH more interesting was happening. Jeremy was chopping all the wood!
So first he was, like, looking at the wood.
Just, you know, thinking about which log he'd chop up next.
At one point there was a smaller piece of wood just chillin' on a tree stump, so Jeremy took a second to look at it.
Then Jeremy chopped some more wood.
Gotta chop that wood.
But then something got his attention.
It was Elena and Damon! Two vampires who were bound to initiate Jeremy's vampire blood lust!
Jeremy really had to think about what he was going to do next.
I mean, because, it's like, do you kill your sister or what? Jeremy wasn't sure.
Then Bonnie came out and stood there.
Just giving Jeremy some moral support, you know? Or maybe she just wanted to see how the wood was coming along.
Bonnie could tell that Jeremy was confused, so she took him inside where his confusion continued.
The cabin was legit his now, so he had to invite Elena inside in order for her to come inside. Because vampire laws.
Jeremy had to think about it though.
He invited her in! When Elena entered she touched Jeremy's arm.
Then Jeremy looked at his arm.
Then he tried to murder Elena with a big splinter!
But she is a vampire so she spun him around into submission.
She didn't mention it at the time, but he probably smelled like firewood.
This is technically a promotional photo and wasn't on the show, but I felt it was necessary to give you the picture of this series of events. So yeah! Big drama at the lake house. BIG. Sorry I couldn't provide more pictures, but time constraints and all that, you know?
I did not understand what the F was happening inside Mystic Grill:
Some kind of art show? Typical Winter Wonderland activities! Anyway, here was Klaus' still-wet contribution:
This was definitely the kind of painting that only has merit if the artist (especially when that artist resembles Joseph Morgan) stands beside it and explains that its meaning involves mortality and darkness, etc. Otherwise it looks like a piece of motel room art defaced by the Joker while a nearby thug blares Prince on a boombox.
I DID enjoy the sweet banter between Klaus and Caroline though, especially when he made a disdainful reference toward her high school status. That's what I like about Klaus, he actually makes the prospect of immortality seem really rich and fun instead of the utterly boring lives that the Salvatores seemed to be enjoying in their bizarre go-nowhere small town.
Unfortunately this was once again a situation in which Caroline was using Klaus' feelings for her against him, and she was just causing a distraction so that Stefan could try and go gank Klaus' sword. The metal one.
But the sword was missing from Klaus' safe! But Stefan DID discover a treasure trove of love letters that Klaus had collected over the years but hadn't written himself. I don't know who Alphonso was, but he needed to do a better job at not being boring. Also, he grossly described himself as "your forever man" and misspelled "tolerable." I really hope this lady ended up deleting his number from her phone because ugh.
In perhaps this episode's nastiest twist, Jeremy put a baggy shirt on.
Professor Shane had decided to join Elena, Damon, and Bonnie at the lake house where he was going to attempt to subdue Jeremy's killer instinct using hypnotism.
But it didn't work! He still wanted to kill Elena so hard.
So while Tyler and his hybrids were busy planning their escape from Mystic Falls, they ran head-on into Stefan and Caroline, who themselves were plotting to keep Klaus SAFE so that they could find a cure for vampirism.
Caroline felt pretty awkward at being torn between all these parties, but even more so when they were suddenly surrounded by hybrids and chained up in some kind of basement. Harsh, Tyler! Kind of safe to say they're officially broken up right?
Ugh, sorry, this next scene was the worst. I don't usually call out bad acting, but yikes, Somerhalder. But anyway, it had to do with Damon suggesting that Jeremy dust-off his crush on Bonnie in order to fight his killer instinct.
So Jeremy and Bonnie are back on! Which is cool, they're good kids. (R.I.P. Jamie?) But it seemed out of nowhere and totally unearned. So great, their romance is only happening due to a casual suggestion by a vampire who didn't really care that much. Epic! (Whatever, GET IT GIRL.)
Out on the dock Elena (who is an immortal vampire) was keeping warm in a blankie and grilling Shane about what exactly he's up to.
Yeah, it turned out he had lost his wife and kid somehow, but Elena was in no mood for follow-up questions. So that's all we knew. But that's why Shane was sympathetic to her need to 'un-sire' herself, because he was also trying to 'un-sire' himself from his grief. Which just proved that siring is nothing more than strong, normal emotions. Ugh, is siring the moonstone of Season 4? Get out of here, siring.
Meanwhile at the Winter Wonderland festival, the sitting Mayor of the town openly offered alcohol to her underage son. But then it all turned into a bummer when what unfolded next was basically a break-up scene!
Tyler was informing his mother that he'd be "leaving town" for a while and also dropping out of high school (LOL). I truly felt bad for Carol Lockwood here. Who would she gaze at longingly NOW? (Where you at Sheriff Forbes?)
Poor lady. (Her day would later get even worse, unfortunately.)
So at this point Tyler and Hayley confronted Caroline in the ladies' room. Something about messing up their plan, but I will just quite frankly admit that I COULD NOT follow what was happening at this point. But you know what, life is short, if I'm going to love this show then I just need to accept it as the roller coaster it is. My brain is just not cutting the mustard these days. (Can mustard be cut?) Also I guess nobody needed the sword anymore? (The metal one.)
So yeah, Caroline suggested that instead of trapping Klaus in Tyler's bod they should trap him in Rebekah's. Something like that. Still not a fool-proof plan, but definitely better than semi-permanently desiccating Tyler.
Tyler loved the idea and went to go tell everybody, but that's when Hayley got Caroline alone and SNAPPED HER NECK!
Whoops, it turned out she was working with Shane and AGAINST Tyler and Caroline's change of plans jeopardized THEIR plans. Or something. I'm not great at this. But it was definitely not a good moment for Hayley's likability.
Temporarily murdering Caroline DOES NOT get you far in this world. Unless you're Stephen Amell in which case you get your own show so long as you agree to be naked a lot. (This reminds me: Hey how's the Wonder Woman casting going so far, The CW?)
A plotline that had begun so STRONG then ended with a bit of whimper when Jeremy decided that his off-screen crush on Bonnie meant that he no longer wanted to murder his sister.
Oh well. But at least now we know Jeremy has the proper attire with which to show off an ostentatious tattoo, am I right?
Part of Hayley's plan involved straight-up TELLING Klaus that all of the hybrids had been un-sired. I mean, I'm pretty sure that's what was happening. I don't think she was working with Klaus all along, I think she and Shane just needed the hybrids to be killed and the best way to do that would be to make Klaus mad at them for betraying him. But then he didn't seem all that mad at Hayley for being directly responsible for all the un-sirings? Look, I don't know.
Just before he stormed off to go heart-snatchin' Klaus and Stefan shared a truly nice moment when Stefan asked Klaus about his trove of letters.
Klaus admitted that he kept them as souvenirs of his victims (in the same way that Ripper Stefan wrote down his victims' name in a closet) because of the crushing loneliness of being an immortal murderer. Or something. It sounded sweeter when Klaus said it, mostly because it was the biggest acknowledgment to date that Klaus does not go untroubled by his own wicked ways. (Is now a good time to once again say how amazing Joseph Morgan is on this show? Feels like a pretty good time to say it again. This guy is one of the best actors on TV.) Anyway, I liked this moment, particularly in light of what was about to happen.
But first: April finally got a brief moment in the sun in her first ever INTERESTING plotline!
After discovering Caroline's lifeless body on the bathroom floor, she finally got a sense for just what a hornets' nest of a town she'd relocated into.
Because just as April began to call for help (btw I'm still LOLing that April was wearing her tiara and sash the whole time) Caroline sprung up, blocked the door, and then placed a phone call to Stefan in which she said SO MANY incriminating supernatural things. Like, you know, confirming the existence of werewolves, vampires, and that Rebekah was currently a corpse in a specific basement.
And then Caroline nonchalantly tried to compel April into "forgetting" everything she'd overheard, but of course we knew April was wearing that vervain string that Jeremy found on the ground that one time. That made April's delivery of the "Okaaay" even better because she didn't even know compelling was a thing and was just sort of agreeing to stay mum on everything Caroline had just said. I don't know, but I liked April a lot in this moment, and I hate to admit it, but it was a particularly dumb one for Caroline. Get it together, Caroline! You're not as sloppy as this.
At this point Hayley broke the news to Tyler that she had betrayed him a million percent and it was all over for those 12 hybrids. Then, set to a haunting acoustic version of a beloved Christmas carol, Klaus went all Beatrix Kiddo on almost all of the world's remaining hybrids. You know, the priceless army of easily killable redshirts that so much of Klaus' plotlines have centered around.
Even Kim. Bye, Kim! You had your moments. Best of luck on whatever higher-profile TV show you'll be cast on next.
Meanwhile, Damon's shame over failing to un-sire Elena (and also lying to Stefan about it) drove him to finally "freeing" her from the feelings that she'd more or less had for him since Season 1.
So yeah, that was sad I guess? Who knows/cares?
I enjoyed this highly ironic moment between Stefan and Caroline in which he expressed remorse over being so judgmental toward's Klaus murderous ways. He finally put into words what this show would have us believe all along: All these vampires are repeat murderers (including Caroline, who once took out a fleet of Sheriff's deputies in 4 seconds flat) so maybe they should all just exist in the present and hope that things can change for the better. But that's when, of course, Caroline decided to drop the exact wrong bombshell:
Ooh, Stefan was MADDD. I guess I didn't understand why he was so surprised though? Mad, sure, because that's awkward. But surprised? Don't adults get it on all the time, especially when they're mutually in love? I don't know.
So then April snuck into a dungeon basement and discovered not only a pool of blood where Kim had been killed, but also a casket containing a very hot corpse.
Yay Rebekah!! I don't know about you guys but I need Rebekah back in my life STAT. Also yay for getting April finally involved in the main story! Sorry, but we are WAY past the point when we can tolerate characters that are out of the loop. We've come too far for that, you guys. Now I've got my fingers crossed that April will develop a personality! Sorry so greedy.
Finally... Uh oh:
Generally when the world's oldest vampire approaches you covered in blood and holding a bottle of champagne, you should probably get your prayers in order. In this case Mayor Lockwood's inability to see the writing on the wall was incredibly poignant: She thought the only threat was against Tyler and that Klaus would leave her alone. Alas!
She forgot to account, however, for Klaus' propensity for petty brutality.
Aw, poor lady. Carol Lockwood was by far the town's worst mayor in history but she still seemed like a great mom (her scenes in which Tyler "came out" were some of the series' best). And Susan Walters is straight-up fantastic (at least there's still Teen Wolf, girl!), so she'll be missed for sure. But look on the bright side, now Mrs. Lockwood spy on her son from the Other Side ALL THE TIME!
As shocking and feel-bad as that moment was, I did love the nasty sense of humor that came along with it. Not only the grim tableau above, but the slightly hilarious alt-title card:
Haha, this show! Only TVD would feature an FCC-baiting massacre and the drowning of a kind, middle-aged mom, then try to get cutesy with a CGI snowflake. And THAT'S why this show is so incredible.
So story-wise, a major thing that's nagging at me is the notion of 12 sacrifices on this show. It's clear Shane needed 12 hybrids to be murdered to carry out his plan, much in the same way that Damon's murder of 12 New Orleans residents helped a witch turn evil. But what exactly qualifies as a "sacrifice" now? Did the pastor's flock count? Does it not even matter who does the actual murdering, and do the victims have to be mortal humans? Like, hadn't there been far more than 12 murders in this town up until that point? Why 12 hybrids all of the sudden? Lotta loose ends here. But putting that aside, I'm excited about the prospect of either (1) Bonnie suddenly activating an evil persona, or (2) the re-emergence of Silas from that same tomb where the cure is being held. (I forgot to mention Shane's explanation of the cure, mostly because it was boring: Something to do with making people not need blood anymore? I don't know and/or forgot.) But yeah, like I said, this year's main plotline is so jam-packed with complicated schemes and MacGuffins that I've more or less stopped trying to keep it all straight in my head. At this point it's just a roller coaster and regardless of my confusion it's still a thrill ride. I for one can't wait to see (and not comprehend) what happens next!
HAPPY WINTER WONDERLAND DAY!!
... I guess if you understand Shane's plan, could you please explain it to me?
... Who are you madder at, Hayley or Klaus?
... Have you stopped caring about the main love triangle yet?
... Hi Jeremy.