Sometime around the turn of the century when I was in college (not saying which century, nosy) I took Introduction to Playwriting, mostly because it seemed like an easy A. I was like, "All I gotta do is make people yell at each other on stage?" But the class ended up being pretty educational overall. For example, the very first assignment was to write a scene between two people and they each have a secret. As it turned out, just giving someone a secret enhances personalities, focuses wants or needs, and raises personal stakes... All good things when you're writing characters! So in other words having a secret is basically a narrative steroid. It beefs things up! On the other hand, over-use can lead to a wrecked body and suddenly you're throwing sofas and you have tiny junk. (R.I.P. that metaphor.)
Anyway, look: This week's episode of The Vampire Diaries was mostly very fun and good, but I got so annoyed by all the keeping-a-secret junk. You know? Leave that soap opera stuff for the dunces trying to get easy A's in Introduction to Playwriting. Someone unnecessarily keeping information from someone else is the kind of storytelling that makes me so restless because of how not-real it seems. Same goes for easily explainable misunderstandings in rom-coms, or cracking the case via happenstance in mysteries. The keeping-a-secret plotline is the TV drama equivalent a gift box where the lid is wrapped separately for easier opening. You know? It's an artifice that really takes me out of a story. Sorry so complainy! I ran out of Halloween candy :(
But yeah, my personal preferences aside "The Killer" was a heart-blasting good time! I liked it, I promise!
"The Killer" began with Connor bringing the dead hybrid's head back to his RV in one of Klaus' pillow cases. I bet Klaus is gonna be so mad when he finds out! That pillow case's thread count was probably off the charts! Anyway, in flashback we saw Connor regrouping with the new professor dude. It turned out they weren't exactly besties and the professor really only sent Connor to Mystic Falls so that he could kill tons of vampires and keep building up that ghost tattoo of his. But now that Connor had had his run-in with Klaus & Co. he was even more pissed and quickly got himself back on the war path.
His preparation was a 2-part plan:
STEP ONE: Extract more werewolf venom. (I appreciated that the close-up of the severed head's mouth was that of a presumably underpaid extra. Put this clip on your demo reel!)
STEP TWO: Kidnap Jeremy at knife point. I enjoyed Jeremy's blase reaction about it, almost like he kind of expects this sort of thing to happen at any given time.
Oh, and guess what returned in this episode? DUELING DIARY VOICEOVERS! It makes sense to provide an occasional reminder of WHY this show has its title, but if you think about it, this sequence was even more appropriate than usual: BOTH characters are now vampires! That's TWO vampire diaries now! This show should change its name to The Vampires' Diaries.
While voiceovers, and in particular voiceovers in which characters explicitly state current their emotions, aren't my favorite things, I actually didn't mind this sequence weirdly enough. I interpreted it as being a bad sign for Stefan and Elena's relationship that they seem to have downgraded each other in the confidante department. But then again, what do I know, I'm just—OMG BABY PHOTO:
Is this an actual childhood photo of Nina Dobrev on her mirror? Adorable! Has that always been there? Man, that is cute. I love it when TV shows and movies include real photos from the actors' pasts. Separate question: Why does Elena keep a childhood photo of herself on her mirror?
Just FYI this is an Italian architectural site, you can tell by the license plate on that car. Klaus must've been pretty stoked that the site of a nine hundred-year-old temple was now an unpopulated forest area! Most Italian ruins are in unpopulated forest areas, it's a known fact.
So the point of all this was that Klaus wanted to find the vampire cure before anybody else, and if Stefan so much as said a word about it to his brother or girlfriend then all the vampires in the South might rise up and kill Connor and therefore Klaus would have to murder Stefan. You know what? I'm not even sure. If you ask me, these people have all become expert schemers and should know by now that it's best when everyone is fully informed and on the same page. Like, Elena wanted the cure, so if she knew there was one, just imagine how much better Klaus' scheme would've ended up. I'm not just saying this in retrospect of this episode's O. Henry-style twist, I remember thinking it during this scene. Why not tell Elena, she is motivated to help! But yeah, take away this "secret" plotline and a lot of the episode's drama would've gone down the drain. That's probably the main reason why secret-based plotlines aren't the best.
Hoookay. Back to the recap! Over at Mystic Grill, Matt hadn't so much as flipped the "Open" sign over and already April was inside trying to stave off loneliness.
It was kind of cute that April was looking for Rebekah, and even cuter that she thought Rebekah and Matt were a thing. NOT YET April. I mean, I'm pulling for it to happen, but they're not even close to it yet.
Anyway, April and Matt's informal Last Humans Standing Club meeting had to take a recess when Connor dragged Jeremy into the seating area at knife point.
That is not even a joke, Steven R. McQueen's neck is a national treasure! Sorry, not trying to be weird. (It's true though right?) Get that blade away from it! Oh here's something I thought of, though... Connor's plotline has established that the Brotherhood of the Five are technically a supernatural race right? So does that mean Jeremy's ring would protect him from getting killed by Connor? Also (spoiler for later) now that Jeremy's in The Five, he can't accidentally kill himself while wearing the ring? Food 4 thoughtz!
So now that Connor had three hostages, it was time to lure all the vampires to the Grill and grow his tattoo some. So he sent a mass text to the Salvatores and Tyler. (Guess he didn't know about Caroline.)
Another thing I love about Connor: His distaste for smartphone product placement!
So after receiving that text message, the town's hottest monsters convened to formulate a plan. The obvious one, as proposed by Damon and everyone else, was to bust into the Grill and murder Connor. HOWEVER, Stefan couldn't allow that, and worse, he couldn't tell them why OR EVEN hint at the fact that he had a conflict of interest here.
Stefan could've just said, "Yo, Klaus has a plan for Connor, I pinkie swore not to say what it is, but people in this room may actually benefit from it, so let's formulate a Plan B and I'll explain once Klaus gets back." But instead Stefan just kept outright lying to everyone and meddling with their plans, etc. Conflict!
So the Bonnie plotline made me laugh. The whole thing was hinged around the professor needing to distract Bonnie for SEVEN HOURS so that she wouldn't get mixed up in Connor's murder spree.
His plan? To get her high and HYPNOTIZE HER.
To be fair, the more we get to know this guy the more I liked him. The actor is compelling, sure, but also the character seems pretty smart (a published author!) and I think he brings out a more likable aspect of Bonnie's personality. She seemed more relaxed and was sassing him and everything! Maybe going away to college is exactly what Bonnie needs in order to become more cool and chill. She's always been sliiightly more mature than her friends, but in the context of high school that can come across as being a boring buzzkill. In college she might become more dynamic could even start smiling on the regular. Any of this make sense? I'm so tired, guys.
So anyway, Damon and Elena paid a visit to Alaric's apartment in order to paw through his stash of old antique maps. I didn't realize this, but did you know his place was directly across the street from Mystic Grill? Check out his view:
No wonder he was ALWAYS at the Grill. He didn't have to drive home! Is it safe to infer that every other character also lives within a 2-block radius? Where is Meredith's green apartment? Upstairs?
So, the mention of a Mystic Falls underground railroad couldn't have been a fluke: Slavery definitely happened in this universe. I was wondering! And yeah, just FYI, the entire town is built on top of an elaborate system of caves; it's frankly a miracle there haven't been more sinkholes and cave-ins.
There seemed to be about a half dozen scenes in this episode in which people questioned Stefan's weird obstinacy, but in this one, Stefan kind of stepped over the line in my opinion:
He vervained his own brother!
Even Elena was like, "Um why did you just vervain your brother?" And Stefan really quickly changed the subject without properly explaining himself. Something about how Damon miiiight not be as careful about protecting the hostages. Which, um, Damon has saved plenty of lives of people he supposedly didn't care about. How did Elena believe and/or agree with that lie so easily? Whatever. So Damon passed out and Stefan stole his daylight ring for good measure. (Vampire jewelry snatching is totally a thing this season.)
This was not a great episode for Caroline. I just have to say that right now. Unless you think that immediate, instinctive bitchcraft is the best way to interact with other women who step to your man.
Hayley gave 'tude right back to Caroline, but Caroline started it. I don't know. I know jealousy is a real thing, but from what I know about Caroline she's usually better about learning someone's name before giving them the stink-eye. Hayley got the best line though when she rolled her eyes and said "I don't do teen drama." So meta! You've done several of them, Tonkin.
Anyway, the main werewolf conflict here was that some hybrid dude (who was treated like an important character even though I don't remember ever seeing him before) was going to go extract Connor from the Grill per Klaus' orders.
But because hybrid dude was sired, he didn't have a choice. To demonstrate that siring doesn't have to be a thing, Tyler called up Klaus with the singular intention of not doing whatever Klaus said. But Klaus flipped the script and teased Tyler about Hayley, but Caroline used her vampire hearing to overhear this, so DRAMA. Well, not call-caps drama. But you know. Anyway, that was that scene.
Meanwhile Connor banished Matt and April to the storage room where April could monologue about how weird life is and Matt could try and chisel a hole into the cellar. (BTW Connor was openly discussing vampires in front of April, April was wondering whether vampires were real, and Matt was telling her no. So, that was April's plotline basically. Bye.)
Jeremy was getting special V.I.P. hostage treatment because Connor was either running a Big Hunter Little Hunter after school program OR he just enjoyed looking at Jeremy's neck. But Jeremy took the opportunity to bring up a very important point: Not all vampires are monsters. Connor countered that notion with a poignant bit of backstory:
He didn't really get into it, but I guess at some point Connor had a Lexi of his own but then she got too bitey so he had to stake her and now she's a tattoo of a naked lady on his forearm just like Petunia in The Adventures of Pete & Pete.
Then the hybrid dude arrived and did his best to avoid Connor's various booby traps, which mostly involved jars full of nails and werewolf venom.
Haha, sorry hybrid dude! I DID love the nod to Death Becomes Her though. (There would also be a neck-snapping later on, but no skin spray-painting, sadly.)
At this point Elena had been hearing too many explosions from across the street and a newly roused Damon begged her to not go get involved. But she made it clear she was on the war path, so he basically said, "Aight, just make sure to murder him while being careful about it." Good advice, in my opinion. So then she ran inside and started pleading with Connor.
His main piece of leverage was that he had Jeremy at gunpoint and was VERY shouty about how if anybody moved, including Stefan who was creeping behind the bar, he'd shoot "the boy." But Elena's main piece of leverage was the fact that Connor still had no idea that she was a vampire. Advantage Elena!
Elena tackled Connor. Jeremy accidentally got shot (again). Stefan pushed him out of the way from a booby trap.
After a raised-stake tussle with Connor, Stefan scooped him up and disappeared, leaving a baffled Elena to tend to her brother's gunshot wound.
At this point Jeremy admitted that his bond to Connor was more interesting than she knew.
(#neckporn) So yeah, Jeremy explained that he could see Connor's tattoo, which meant he seemed to be a candidate for a certain mythological calling should there ever be an opening in the near future.
Yup, it looked like the Gilbert sibs were following adversarial trajectories!
Meanwhile in the Underground Railroad, Stefan was leading Connor away like an angry school principal. But because life isn't easy, they immediately ran into Damon, who'd been relegated to the shadows and had climbed through a septic tank in order to intercept them.
Damon made it pretty clear he was about to murder Connor once and for all. Again, this was a good opportunity for Stefan to go, "Actually don't. Klaus needs him alive for a very important mythological reason that will affect all of us." You know, without giving too many details Stefan could've averted this conflict. Instead Stefan RELEASED CONNOR SO THAT HE COULD FIST FIGHT HIS OWN BROTHER. Good priorities. Good decision making.
Damon eventually got the upper hand. Or at least he inserted his upper hand into Stefan's upper ventricles. It was a good truth-extraction method!
Stefan finally spilled his secret: Connor was the key to turning Elena back into a human being.
Damon was shocked that a cure existed, sure, but he was also probably pretty shocked at just how much Stefan had messed up their entire day by keeping this secret to himself. Again, I can't emphasize enough what a blunder this creative decision was from a storytelling standpoint. Imagine the conflict if Damon KNEW the whole time that Connor could lead to a cure, and then had to struggle with whether he wanted Connor dead or not (and by extension struggle with whether he wanted Elena to be human or vampire). THAT would've held far more dramatic tension than Stefan keeping a secret.
Meanwhile Elena intercepted Connor in the cave system and they had a fatal showdown:
And then she killed him! Which was a nice bit of irony in that Elena didn't know Connor could've provided the key to turning her back into a human. But I'm telling you, wouldn't the pay-off have been far more interesting if she KNEW full well that he was the key, but her blood lust got the better of her, she lost control, and killed him anyway? It would've been much more in keeping with the theme of Elena struggling to maintain self-control AND it still would've provided the nasty twist this episode was aiming for. Not only did she kill someone, she killed the exact person who could've given her humanity back. I don't know. Look, what's done is done. No more secret-based conflicts, please writers?
But I have to say I will really miss Connor. He was definitely one of the best badasses this show has ever had, not to mention a superb introduction to the mythological Five. This show will always have trouble topping the Originals as far as powerful villains go, but the Five have restored the Hunters' good names as being formidable opponents. Sad to see him go!
After seven straight hours, Bonnie finally came out of her drug-fueled magic trance:
At this point the professor pep-talked Bonnie into chilling out about her angry ancestors and to just, you know, do magic. Knowing where her specialities lie, he even busted out an unlit candle for her to go to town on. Obviously she was unable to light it, but she DID manage to light the DOZENS of candles surrounding them.
It was supposed to be an awe-inspiring reveal, but it was hard to look past the fact that Bonnie had lit every candle in the room BY ACCIDENT. That's some Season 1 Bonnie stuff right there! I bet after this scene the professor went outside and his Camry was on fire.
So then the boys, having reconciled over Stefan's justifications for ruining everything (seriously, Connor's death only proved how foolhardy the entire exercise was), found Elena awkwardly digging a grave in the woods by herself while a Cat Power song played and a blood goatee dried right on her face.
What followed was this emotional speech where Elena was pissed at Stefan for lying (I agreed!) but also she was pissed at Damon for having encouraged her to kill the man who'd just shot her brother and staked her in the torso. Because ta-da! Elena had finally murdered someone! Oh, get over it, Elena. The not-murdering-anybody thing only applied to regular folks. Not mythological hunters. He was fair game. If we're including supernatural creatures, then YOU WERE NO STRANGER TO MURDER IN THE FIRST PLACE. So yeah, it was hard to sympathize with Elena here, especially if she was too sloppy to even WIPE HER DAMN FACE. Get it together, babygirl! I want Vampire Elena to work just as badly as the next fan, but you gotta represent yourself better!
So just to follow up on the Caroline vs. Hayley non-rivalry, Caroline got mad because Hayley was mourning her dead friend by hugging Tyler.
It's like, get over it, Hayley! It's just DEATH. Maybe don't make friends with hybrids? They are basically the Putties to Klaus' Lord Zedd. Punch them in their Z-buttons and they're done! Anyway, at this point Tyler finally explained what was up with his friendship with Hayley: He WANTED Klaus to think he'd cheated on Caroline, but the truth was, Tyler and Hayley were organizing an underground railroad (basically) for sired hybrids and Klaus would be super mad if he found out. Caroline seemed to accept this answer, so that was good.
Oh, and because everyone's dying to know what happened to April: She had her memory wiped, tried to hang out with a couple of buff bus boys, got rejected, and then went home alone.
But first Jeremy gave her his vervain bracelet (which hadn't helped him the previous time he'd been compelled, but whatever) and the best part was he couldn't just give it to her, he had to pretend he'd picked it up off the pavement?
When she expressed concern about wearing this hepatitis string, Matt told her he liked it and she immediately decided to keep it because biceps.
As for Jeremy, his day was about to take a turn for the weird:
Nevermind the fact that Jeremy's ring is hilariously ill-fitting. Apparently the Brotherhood of the Five works a lot like the slayers from Buffy: When one dies, another is activated! Looked like Jeremy just got a promotion!
Back at the Salvatore Joint, Damon took a break from reading Stefan's diary (LOL) to ask whether he actually wanted Elena to be human again. His answer? YES.
Damon went on the record as being fine with Elena either way, and Stefan deserves credit for being so chill about this. He honestly has no choice at this point. These brother just have to accept that they are destined to fall in love with the same ladies, and whoever's got the honor of being with her owes it to the other to be a good sport about it. In my opinion. (I've mentioned that die-hard shipping is ridiculous, right? It's ridiculous. Team Everybody's Single.)
This episode's stinger was a big, bloody tease. Elena was writing in her diary when blood suddenly started dripping right onto her emo prose! In typical Elena fashion, she never once looked overhead for the blood's source. Instead, she just followed more blood splotches until she found quite a mess in the bathroom she shared with Jeremy:
Yikes! It's probably hard enough for a teenager to clean a bathroom without parents or a cleaning lady, but just imagine a vampire teen! I'm sure this is probably a common sight for most vampire teens.
Someone had even guilt-shamed Elena by writing "killer" on her mirror! Very rude. But! It was all just a fantasy.
So, moral of the story was, if you're going to kill a mythological killer of supernatural creatures, be prepared to hallucinate blood all over your bathroom. It's a helpful moral that more people should learn.
Despite being hecka frustrated with all the Stefan stuff, I thought this was an action-packed, fun episode. Good character work (well, Caroline was having an off day), fun violence. I even liked the Bonnie stuff! Oh and look who was in the preview for next week's episode: KATHERINE.
... Will you miss Connor?
... Was Stefan and Klaus' plan a very good plan?
... Are you worried about Jeremy's new calling?
... Do you wear jewelry or accessories found on the ground?