The Vampire Diaries S04E04: "The Five"

Well, I guess you can blame all those scenes at Whitmore College, but I am about to get hecka academic here! Look, the reason why The Vampire Diaries inspires such varied opinions and passion in its viewership is because this series is so large and complicated it functions as a bit of an inkblot test. Everything comes down to what you want to see from this show. Do you want a show about a love triangle? You will be happy 80% of the time. Do you want a show about a specific pairing from that love triangle? You will be happy 30% of the time. Do you want a fast-moving, well-paced story filled to the brim with fantastic actors? We're talking 95% satisfaction rates there. Or, maybe you just want a show that occasionally flashes back to ancient times where shirtless dudes in capes and wigs get magic tattoos and romance Rebekah. In that case you are ME and you enjoyed a great deal of "The Five." As a longtime, on-the-record Rebekah fan (even when she's at her pencil-stabbing bitchiest), I was more than willing to look past this episode's obvious shortcomings and just be so happy to get an entire episode that more or less hinged on her character. In my opinion Rebekah is the second best blonde on the show, but in recent episodes she's been the most captivating. I know, right?

So as much as I love Rebekah and be-wigged British actors without clothes on, it's only fair to mention the reasons why this episode was, so far, this season's fourth best. The main thing was, there was just not enough story being told, and it was a rare example of the writers not being able to hide that fact. Usually set-up episodes like these are given epic trappings so we don't notice how little is actually happening, but "The Five" even busted out a 12th century flashback and yet it STILL felt small potatoes. Like, why even bother having a flashback plotline when the characters just sat around talking? Would it have killed this show to give us even ONE example of what sets these ancient hunters apart from any old shmoe with a sharp stick? They have supernatural powers, right? Why not show us? Anyway, so that ended up being underwhelming. But also, too many of the modern day storylines felt like repetitive wheel-spinning. Instead of one killer scene where Rebekah gets manipulated, we got what felt like seven of them. I'd watch Claire Holt read election pamphlets and be riveted, but I couldn't help but feel like there were too many writerly contrivances at play here: Rebekah gets mad and leaves the room; Klaus convinces Stefan to be his go-between; Stefan convinces Rebekah to come talk to Klaus; Rebekah gets mad and leaves the room. You know? ENOUGH.

Oh, and can Klaus PLEASE have a more interesting plotline than this hybrid nonsense? Ugh, hybrids are the new moonstone. Not only did this episode explicitly show us once again that hybrids are borderline useless, it's just a supremely uninteresting goal for this VERY interesting character to have. You're telling me there aren't any other epic schemes Klaus could keep himself busy with? I'm sure we could brainstorm up dozens of them right now in the comments. Klaus runs for governor. Klaus declares war on the Ghost King of Shanghai. Klaus tracks down his werewolf relatives. Klaus hunts for the Ark of the Covenant. Klaus comes out of the closet. Klaus transfers his consciousness into an super-powered android killing machine. So many options! NO MORE HYBRIDS PLEASE.

As for Elena's two-steps-forward, one-step-back shenanigans, I don't actually mind that too much. It feels pretty accurate to what she's going through. The thing I'm restless with, though, as ever, is the supposed love triangle. Mostly because this is a show about Elena's "epic love" with Stefan. Period. Sorry, I obviously think Damon is the more entertaining and complicated character, but Stefan and Elena are perfect for each other. It's maddening to see this show pretend there's a possibility that Damon and Elena will ever, ever end up together. Cut Damon loose! He deserves better than Elena, anyway. I actually got chills when he was walking around a college campus in this episode, because that just felt like a better fit for him anyway. Give him a snarky, strong-willed love interest and be done with it. Elena and Stefan can go chill in the woods having laugh-free moments for eternity. They are soul-mates in this way.

Okay, sorry. I was all "I GOT OPINIONS" but now I'm ready to go. Hey guys, let's talk about "The Five"!

So in a cold open that felt directly inspired by Teen Wolf (explanation-free beefcakery!), five personal trainers in wigs and capes stood around while an ancient witch poured a cauldron of lightning onto the ground.

Nothing at all sexual about the above image, moving on!

They all suddenly got Ed Hardy-style tattoos, then ceremoniously held up their swords to reveal the SAME symbols that Connor had been carving into his stakes in the modern day. So, that's a connection right there. If you were expecting something more interesting to happen in the cold open, sorry, I don't know what to tell you. Just lightning, beefcake, and a tiny bit of exposition. (I gave it an A+)

Anyway, I'm skipping the obligatory Stefan-and-Damon-break-down-today's-plotline scene because ZZZZZ, but also, like, we get it. You guys are at odds except you're brothers so you're stuck with each other. I'm kinda tired of the bickering, to be honest. Accept your new reality, fellas, and move on.

So then Elena and Stefan were in the woods and Elena was doing some kind of monologue ripped straight from "Scenes from a [Vampire] High School." Very theatrical, existential stuff. Plus they were throwing plastic arrows at each other while also nuzzling mouth regions. Vampire romance stuff.

Meanwhile at Mystic Grill, Matt took a break from wringing out filthy dish rags to bluntly reject the mea culpa of an ancient, world-class beauty. She bought him a truck and earnestly apologized for having tried to murder him. Matt had a good point that the apology wasn't quite sufficient, but still. It was nice to see that the dream sequence Rebekah had last week actually made her change her ways.

So yeah, Matt wasn't all that gracious about the NEW TRUCK. But baby steps, you know? Rebekah's humiliation didn't end there, though, because look who was sitting behind Matt the whole time!

Klaus and Rebekah hadn't seen each other since he snapped her neck and pretended to leave town, so there was still some bad blood here. But he knew that all he needed to do was bring up a certain band of ancient shirtless himbos and she'd be interested in his schemes again. As it turned out, the re-emergence of The Five definitely piqued Rebekah's interest. But because this episode was just a bonanza of drawn-out contrivances, it would still be several scenes before we learned what/how/why Rebekah cared about The Five.

Oh, guess what! Welcome to Whitmore College! (Is that how it's spelled?) This was like when Veronica Mars visited Hearst College during Season 2: We knew she'd be going there full time the following season, so the visit helped us get used to the idea. Because believe it, here's where the characters will be spending their time in Season 5:

SORRY STUDENTS! Enjoy the beautiful quad, lush lawn, rock wall, and camaraderie, because as soon as the next freshman class arrives, most of you will be murdered. Oh, what a poignant image this was.

Haha, that is not a parking space, Damon. (Aside that is probably not interesting to anybody: I went to UCLA which is where 90% of all movies and TV shows film their college scenes, and it never ceased to amaze me how incorrectly the campus was depicted. Like, Van Wilder's dorm was in the Life Science building? Or Elle Woods went to a fancy dinner in the Public Policy building? But the main thing was characters were constantly driving their cars on walkways. Get your cars off our walkways, fictional characters!)

So, the whole point of this excursion was that Bonnie had been summoned by the professor who had taken over Jasmine Guy's teaching position at the college. So Elena came too, and so did Damon because fine. A hunting trip or whatever. But because Elena doesn't know proper classroom etiquette, she and Damon immediately started talking amongst themselves.

The professor called them out, which was pretty hilarious. But I also loved that this was an Anthropology class but he was focused on the Occult and witchcraft? And also, he was making some point about how witches aren't always stereotypical storybook villains, sometimes they are stereotypes specific to The Vampire Diaries:

In other words, witches are black and/or African. Open your minds! #eracism

Oh, and LOL at the professor for not knowing how to use a projector. PRETTY SURE you can just center it on the screen, guy. Unless you LIKE staring directly into a projector bulb?

So apparently after Klaus woke Connor up in his RV, he chained him up in his dining room. Because of course Klaus did.

Stefan arrived and made a reference to 50 Shades of Grey, because of course Stefan did. But because this timeline is 2010 or early 2011 at the latest, Stefan must have been making reference to Twilight fan-fic, right? So basically Stefan goes on the computer and reads Twilight fan-fic.

But it was extremely charming when Klaus pretended for 2 seconds that he didn't want Stefan meddling in his schemes only to immediately reverse that and be all, "I'M SO HAPPY YOU'RE MEDDLING IN MY SCHEMES." Just like old times. Look how glow-y Klaus gets when Stefan is around. It's seriously touching!

Back in the 12th century, the lead hunter himbo Alexander was giving a public demonstration of the new vampire threat. Which, I HOPE it's convincing, Alexander, or else you're just openly murdering people in a town square.

This vampire did NOT seem very happy about the bright, penetrating sunlight of the--OMG WIG ALERT!!!

I knew to expect wigs, but I was NOT mentally prepared for these ones! Look at Klaus! Look at Elijah! Look at their wigs! Anyway, they discussed how they had been turning tons of vampires over the past hundred years, but there were now so many that people were becoming aware of them. Something like that. Also they were highly interested in the burgeoning relationship between Rebekah and Alexander:

Okay, we're not keeping score, but KLAUS' WIG WINS. So much better than Elijah's. Elijah's English accent was pretty fun, but that lace-front was doing him no favors. Klaus killed it though.

Anyway, now it was time for our first major Rebekah-gets-manipulated scene, this time with Stefan and a non-presence named Dawn Nikki & Paolo Cousin Oliver April.

Klaus knew that Rebekah didn't want to help him in any way, so he put her Ex up to doing his dirty work instead. Rebekah is a notorious raw nerve when it comes to heartfelt situations, so she very easily agreed to Stefan's request for help. But in general it never made sense that Klaus would be so personally terrible at getting Rebekah back on his team. So basically 65% of this episode's tension had to do with Klaus being unable to personally manipulate the most easily manipulated character on the show. Not the most compelling stuff. On the other hand... Anything Rebekah: Compelling! (To me at least.)

Meanwhile at college:

Bonnie got a crush, y'all! On the professor dude. Sort of. Look, I don't know, it's just nice to see Bonnie getting involved, you know? Anyway, she also brought over a flyer for a frat house party. Seeing as Elena was somehow unable to feed off of some random girl in plain view of hundreds of people, Damon decided that a party with the following theme might make for a more opportune co-ed hunting experience:

Oh, students of Whitmore College, you're really tempting fate with this one. On the other hand, the college is technically in Mystic Falls right? So maybe this is their way of exorcising the stress and anxiety of having been personally touched by murder on a regular basis? Sad stuff.

So then Klaus, Rebekah, and Stefan had an awkward, flashback-laced dinner party that really got underway once Klaus reluctantly apologized for being so mean lately.

So yeah, then we flashed back to another meal scene in the 12th century in which the Originals flirted with Alexander and he said something about having an 'ultimate weapon' against vampires. But again, writerly contrivance dictated that Rebekah couldn't just come outright and say what it was, so first the characters did this dance about how they'd decode Connor's tattoos, but to do that they'd need Alexander's original sword, etc.

So yeah, the sword will decode the tattoos, which constituted a puzzle, the puzzle's solution was a map that revealed a treasure, etc. I could hardly keep track. It was basically a laundry list of what the characters would be tracking down over the next few episodes. Cool! Because the moonstone and white oak MacGuffins were so riveting. (S.S.S. sorry so snarky, I acknowledge how hard it is to fill up 22 episodes a season. At least there's been no mention of POWER CRYSTALS. Yet.)

Oh, and Klaus kidnapped Jeremy for tattoo decoding purposes. Which, fine. I highly doubt Jeremy would've not come over if asked. Jeremy doesn't have a ton going on, Klaus. Be nice.

Guess what time it was? PARTY O'CLOCK!

It was a good thing that Damon always had theatrical, period-specific, murder-related costumes in his trunk. Unless they drove home and had them in their closets? Still weird.

Speaking of weird, that witch-obsessed Anthro professor attends frat parties. Good sign! Cool prof. Definitely getting tenure. (Also he drinks blue drinks, which was a definite Save the Cat moment for me, because I LOVE BLUE EDIBLES SO MUCH).

So while Bonnie went upstairs to chill with the professor, Elena started feeding off of roofie-creeper frat dudes.

And hey guess what? Elena was getting better at self-control! Credit where credit's due, Damon was a pretty decent teacher in that respect.

Speaking of aspiring teachers. We learned a bit more about Connor and how he seemed pretty eager to be Jeremy's mentor. As it turned out, Connor also shared the ability to see secret tattoos, and an old Army buddy had recognized this skill while in combat and had imbued Connor with the same special hunting faculties as The Five. Assuming they even have special hunting faculties. But the important thing was, the tattoo would only reveal itself as he killed more vampires, which suggested that maybe Connor hadn't killed that many vampires yet? The tattoo was unfinished! Or at least that's what Jeremy assumed as he sketched the naked, glistening contours of a grown man.

Oh, Jeremy. His life has gotten so creepy lately.

Meanwhile things were getting steamy in the 12th century!

After a brief moment where both Rebekah and Alexander expressed admiration for Alexander's sweet tats, it turned out that Alexander was WELL-AWARE of Rebekah's vampirism and had acquired those tricked-out daggers that she'd come to know all too well.

Fortunately Klaus was still half-werewolf so the daggers didn't work on him. He was able to undagger himself and "kill" The Five. I put that word in scare quotes, because in my opinion the actor who played Alexander was too recognizable to be relegated to a single, slightly unimportant flashback episode. I'm guessing one of his heretofore secret abilities is the ability to be alive and well in modern day Mystic Falls? We'll see!

But yeah, anyway, what had happened was, apparently Rebekah had more or less sold out the Originals because she found out what Alexander's "ultimate weapon" was and decided she wanted in: He knew how to turn vampires back into humans!

So yeah, obviously, this possibility would have HUGE ramifications not only for these characters but maybe even the premise of the show. Klaus wanted to find the cure in order to turn Elena back into a human (and thus be able to create hybrids again), and this interestingly intersected with Stefan also wanting Elena to go back to normal also. It's definitely not clear that the show would make such a dramatic move, but the possibility is undeniably tantalizing. Personally, I've learned my lesson about judging a storyline before it happens; I thought vampire-Elena would be a disaster, but I was wrong. It's been terrific so far. So who knows if Elena getting turned back would be good or bad? Can't judge it till we see it, folks!

So, back at college, Bonnie and the professor bonded over Jasmine Guy's fondness for Stephen King novels.

Also, he more or less offered to become her new guru, promising to teach her how to tap into powers that her angry ancestors won't get all bent out of shape over.

Obviously Bonnie seemed more than down, but a tidbit from earlier gave us all pause: The witch that had helped The Five get powers back in the 12th century had evidently DIED from it. So, um, be careful, Bonnie?

Downstairs on the dance floor (what murder parties are complete without glowstick dancing?) Elena was openly feeding on college students and dancing TOOCLOSEREALCLOSE with Damon.

Fortunately Bonnie came downstairs and put an end to it all. Elena was immediately ashamed of herself.

Seriously, it was almost whiplash-inducing.

Her blood drinking didn't seem particularly overboard. But OH, can I ask a question? Why is she refusing to heal her victims? First Matt, and now these strangers: Couldn't she give them a parting gift of a lil bit of vampire blood to fix their gaping puncture wounds? Not doing so just seems rude to me. Maybe Damon IS a bad influence there? Other than that, though, he seemed pretty reasonable.

Oh, and in case it wasn't clear yet, Connor was clearly a BAD ASS. Look at what he did to the poor hybrid who was guarding him:

He BIT OFF the dude's piercing! And then used it to pick the lock on his torture table! That's just ingenuity. And madness. But mostly ingenuity.

So then the best scene of the episode. This was after Rebekah and Klaus had had yet another argument about how much they basically hated each other and Stefan summoned her to make amends.

And after touching her in a heartfelt way over how much he loved Elena (Rebekah's a big softie and now apparently Team Stelena), he admitted that he himself would take the vampire cure if it meant spending all his mortal days alongside Elena.

Because Rebekah was so overcome with humanity, she let slip that she had personally buried Alexander (whom she still loved) at some cathedral in Italy and that's where his sword was. The same sword that would somehow provide the key to Klaus finding the vampire-human cure. Or whatever. But now that the info was out in the open, the whole thing was revealed to be a setup and Stefan had just been trying to manipulate Rebekah into giving up the info. (So was Stefan lying about the humanity stuff? It's a mystery now!)

So yeah, it apparently wasn't enough that they'd gotten what they wanted from Rebekah. Now they also had to put her down also. Horrible! I felt so bad.

Rebekah's final, emotionally fraught monologue before Klaus daggered her was a stunner of a scene. Perfectly written and acted, she basically summed up all the ways Klaus falls short as a person, and how all her admitted mistakes of the heart were badges of honor compared to his failures. Maybe it's because I relate better to the older, more world-weary characters on this show, but this scene really got me, guys. It just got me. Someday it'll be hard to believe that Claire Holt was once just a "guest star" (!) on our favorite show before she went on to start winning Oscars and being the next Nicole Kidman or whatever. Same with Joseph Morgan. These two are crazily talented actors, to the extent that it often seems like a whole 'nother show when they're around. If we can't get our Originals spin-off, then I'm at least crossing my fingers that they can get sliiightly better plotlines in the near future. I just feel like these performers are so good yet the characters themselves have begun to stagnate a bit. Just my opinion! But yeah, this was a great scene in general and I loved it so much.

Klaus knows what I'm talking about:

MISS U REBEKAH. I'm sure she'll be back though. This show has A LOT of characters, so we just need to accept that many of them will be written off for entire stretches of episodes. But I think Rebekah will be back sooner rather than later, especially if my theory about the reappearance of Alexander comes true. SOMEONE will have to admire his sweet tats by candle light, you know?

At this point Klaus made Stefan run all his errands, including keeping all his secrets and hiding Rebekah's body in a safe place. Because Klaus had a plane to catch! (The sword MacGuffin was still in play.)

So after Damon took Elena home and she explained to him that she hates everything about him and his vampire ways (but in a friendly way!), she came clean to Stefan what was really going through her head:

She HATES being a vampire. Fair enough! She gave it the old college try (literally) and it's just not for her.

Unbeknownst to her, however, Stefan had some cold-hard knowledge that might help her situation. He kept mum though, because his old boo had asked him to.

So then Connor beheaded the hybrid with a chain. !!!

Yeah, it was as cool as that sounds. (But seriously, ugh, these hybrids...)

And oh hey look at who was helping Connor be a vampire hunter!

Boom. I guess? So, this was not the best cliffhanger that The Vampire Diaries has ever had. Generally speaking, a character should be around more than one episode for a cliffhanger reveal to be particularly shocking. So yeah, cool, someone we barely know is theoretically a bad guy. But because we still don't know all that much about The Five or what they can do, this whole scenario was littered with question marks. Oh well. Remember all the terrific Rebekah scenes??

Flashback episodes are by definition expository, so it's no wonder "The Five" wasn't the most exciting hour of television. But a set-up episode just means we're headed for another climax, so that's pretty exciting. WHAT WILL HAPPEN? WILL THERE BE WIGS? Nobody knows!



... Are you for or against Elena becoming human again?

... Do you prefer Bitchy Rebekah or Heartfelt Rebekah?

... Who had the best wig: Klaus, Elijah, Alexander, or Rebekah?

... Can you name at least ONE scheme for Klaus that would be better than making more hybrids? Seriously, let's brainstorm it up!