People are heartbroken today, and that's okay. Even I, a robot that was thrown together by a drunken scientist after a particularly hasty visit to a Pick-A-Part scrap yard, can still get sad over a TV show. Background: Before I started recapping this incredible television program we call The Vampire Diaries, I lived in blissful ignorance of the entire shipping phenomenon. It never occurred to me that I was supposed to choose a particular side of the love triangle and root for them with the focused intensity of a Green Beret. It just plum didn't occur to me! Can't they all just be characters who make relatable human decisions? Why do I HAVE to choose which relationship I prefer? Don't demand that I choose between Coke or Pepsi when my preference is PIZZA. Anyway, as it turns out I apparently have become a shipper, but only when I say something negative about Stefan or Damon, and their respective fans accuse me of shipping the other one. Relax stans, both of those dudes have problems, and by far the biggest problem they share in common is Elena. But anyway, by design this show is mercurial; it wants us to change our opinions about the characters because that's how real life works. We have to be mad at Ripper Stefan so that it's more powerful when Hero Stefan returns. We have to see Damon be sensitive sometimes so that it's more surprising when he's a dick. It's just the basic ebb and flow of character development and I see no need to stage online protests or send actual hate-tweets to real life people over fictional characters. So yeah, unless you do it to be funny or tongue in cheek, let's throw hardcore shipping in the garbage? Life is too short, babygirl.
That being said, I will admit to feeling very sad about Elena and Stefan's and Caroline and Tyler's breakups in "We All Go a Little Mad Sometimes." I don't ship characters as a rule (except maybe Jeremy and Klaus but HAHA see I'm kidding, try it sometime) but that doesn't mean I can't have tons of feels when a relationship reaches a fraught (albeit obviously temporary) conclusion as these two did this week. And yeah, I'll admit I even felt a degree of sympathy for shippers who have become so incredibly invested in the "Stelena" relationship. This was probably a pretty tough episode in that regard. I too will probably feel the same sort of heart wrenching, stomach twisting agony if my preferred One Direction ship doesn't come true (which haha that's a joke (I THINK (I DON'T KNOW ANYMORE))). And while I've been an on-the-record supporter of everybody on The Vampire Diaries just breaking up and being teens and making mistakes of the heart on the regular, I'm grown up enough to admit that my opinions about the characters and relationships are as mercurial as the show itself, which, again, is by design. Sometimes I think Stefan and Elena make a great pair. Sometimes I think Damon should win over the boring lady of his dreams. Sometimes I think a bloodthirsty villain like Klaus is capable of goodness and could someday earn a place in Caroline's heart. Other times I think Caroline should not date bloodthirsty villains and should stick to good-hearted shirtless bro-hunks (bronks).
Anyway, I am sorry to make this about me, but this felt like an especially relevant episode in which to discuss shipping! Basically being too focused on a single relationship can make you miss out on the good stuff that's happening in the bigger picture (in this case a truly stellar bit of character development for Elena). And also, you know, this is a serialized drama, so nothing is permanent. The ups, downs, changes, and shakeups are the essence of good TV. Anyway, I REALLY enjoyed this episode. Ships sank, it hurt my heart, but I am choosing to be entertained by it rather than ruined by it. Personal preference!
OK let's get into it!
As heavily implied by last week's illusory cliffhanger, when Elena murdered Connor she basically cursed herself to forever see bloody bathroom fixtures and also angry Connor haunting her every step. After a night of fitful sleep, she decided to throw in the towel and just nuke a cup of coffee, but was interrupted by a bloody-necked dead guest star!
But this wasn't just a normal imaginary enemy, no, he was actually able to grab Elena and jostle her around. Of course, Elena's so thin that basically a gentle breeze can grab her and jostle her around, but still. She had no choice but to resort to some VERY sharp CGI!
I don't know about you, but were you rattled by how graphic this was? We knew it was fake (especially the cartoon knife) but it's still not very often when you see a close up of man getting stabbed in the neck with a kitchen knife. Brutal! But there was a sick twist:
IT WAS ACTUALLY JEREMY! And he was REAL! And his Platonic-Ideal-of-a-neck got STABBED! Fatally! By his own sister!
Fortunately Elena's a literal monster now so his ring brought him back to life the next morning.
Haha I loved how a big point was made about how Elena FINALLY killed a human being (with supernatural powers and ill intent, but still) but nobody stopped to wonder who her SECOND victim might be: Her own BROTHER! I don't care that he came back to life and now his brain is even slightly more broken than before (R.I.P. the Mystic Falls slasher) and he now has the memory of his own sister stabbing his perfect, perfect neck with a huge cartoon knife. That seems like it might end up being permanently traumatic in my opinion. It's no wonder that Elena slipped out of the room slightly before he resurrected and then didn't even bother to bound downstairs and apologize. Nope, for her it as all about shouting at Stefan and taking a shower.
Yeah, Elena was still kinda pissed about Stefan's allegiance to Klaus in the previous episode, and she was not very sympathetic when he tried to pull one of those "I can't tell you why, you just have to trust me" ploys. Has that EVER worked? If your significant other asked you to just trust them without asking questions, would you EVER actually do that? No you wouldn't, because trust actually means being honest up front and trusting that they'll keep the secret. Not being honest indicates LACK of trust. P.S. You can read more of my opinions about relationships in my new self-help e-book, I'M SO LONELY.
Back at the Lockwood Werewolf Crash Pad, Hayley and a couple of other hybrid redshirts were mourning a fallen comrade by getting absolutely blasted in the A.M. And even though we'd come to accept that Hayley was probably a stand-up chick who just liked to chill with outdoorsy bros, this little gesture spoke volumes:
Yeah, you don't just go touching bros' lips unless you want them pressed against your face, neck, and body. Hayley's definitely horny for Tyler, you guys!!
So at this point Klaus showed up, followed shortly by Caroline who unceremoniously gave Tyler all his sh*t back. It was this big dramatic showing and Klaus totally bought into it:
Actually he was pretty chill about Tyler and Caroline's "breakup" despite being visibly stoked. For those of you who are unabashed Klaus fans (I'm looking at you, mirror), this was a fantastic episode for him. He had a lot of great scenes and his villainy was perfectly balanced with his more heroic nature that I love so much. So anyway, yeah, he bought the ruse and then took off.
But it had all been a scam! Tyler and Hayley want to keep their Underground Werewolf Railroad going, so Caroline graciously agreed to help keep up the charade of Hayley and Tyler's burgeoning romance. Except...
Hayley DEFINITELY wants Tyler. But I loved how this plotline was unfolding. Except for that sexy lip-wipe move from earlier, it's clear that Hayley probably didn't have an intention of breaking anyone up. She just has feelings she can't contain. So she's still likable in my opinion (and would become even more so later in her dealings with Klaus.) Anyway, I just wanted to say how relieved I am that this show has presented Hayley as a new love interest for Tyler (and competition for Caroline of all people) without making her a villain. That's hard to do! In my head I am already skipping to the part where Hayley and Caroline are both over Tyler and they become besties. Fingers crossed!
At this point Klaus showed up at Elena's house because he had some info that might prove beneficial to her. And while we know he'd like to keep Elena alive in order to turn her human again, I still got the impression that Klaus' motivations verged on empathetic here.
Because HE had killed FIVE hunters, remember? That's five ghost jerks just hassling him nonstop for a long time. So even though, sure, he wanted to preserve Elena's life, I dug that his helpfulness was also vaguely because he didn't want her to go through what he had.
By the same token, however, I appreciated the hypocrisy of Klaus pretending he wanted betterment for anybody, especially saying this to Stefan of all people.
Meanwhile at school, I have no idea WTF was happening there. All the classes were cancelled so that some college professor could set up some dioramas in the cafeteria? No idea. Anyway Jeremy and Matt shared a moment in which Jeremy divulged the presence of his new ghost tattoo.
I loved that Matt seemed unsurprised for the most part. It's like, why bother? Just accept any crazy old thing that people tell you at face value. It gives you more time to comb your hair.
I have no caption for this above picture, I mostly just wanted to point out how aesthetically appealing Matt's ensemble is. Those colors are exactly the right palette for his complexion! Way to go, Matt! He is really starting to clean up well.
Anyway, their convo got interrupted:
Oh it was Professor Shane whose first name is ATTICUS and he sometimes wears DEEP-Vs. Haha this show and its sexy teachers. Anyway, Professor Atticus Shane, everyone.
Meanwhile, after another set of hallucinations caused Elena to attack Damon, Klaus up and snatched her away so that he could lock her in the world's fanciest jail cell. But it wasn't so much villainous as it was TOTALLY THOUGHTFUL. Apparently the biggest part of this curse is that it makes you want to kill yourself, so Klaus had the windows bricked over so that Elena couldn't take off her ring and give herself a vampire sunburn.
He even opened up to her about his experience. His curse lasted 56 years (!) and he still had no idea why it up and stopped all of the sudden. He also warned her that her hallucinations would get stranger and more manipulative, so she should watch out.
And after Connor hassled her some more, he morphed into someone approximately 1 million times awesomer:
Katherine! Well, hallucination Katherine. But I'll take it!
THIS GUY!! Where on earth had he parked his motorcycle this time? Did he stand on the seat while driving? Lord.
So then Professor Shane gave the high school a lecture that was very specifically about what will probablyyyy lead to the introduction of a big bad character later this season. Some immortal and/or dead warlock named Silas who is the world's most powerful creature or whatever. Who knows. All I know is his legend arrived accompanied by a MacGuffin that was basically just a big rock (that I am PRAYING contains a geode) with the word "Silas" written on it. (LOL TVD writers.) At first I was like, "Wait, giving this special presentation to the high school makes no sense." Until I realized that this actually made SO MUCH sense, because if the students learn anything this year, it might as well be about the supernatural creature that will pretty soon destroy the last remaining shreds of happiness in their soon-to-end lives. This was basically just a public service announcement. In L.A. we get earthquake drills. In Mystic Falls you get lectures about primordial warlocks.
Oh, right, April was there too! I can't remember why. Hold on. Ummmm. I feel like it had something to do with... You know what, it's not coming to me. But April was definitely there as you can clearly see in the above screengrab. I'm not lying about that—Oh wait, I think she was there because... Nope, can't remember. Oh well.
Meanwhile, back in Elena's rococo prison, Fake Katherine was bringing up some very compelling points:
It was like that a lot, but peppered with Fake Katherine explicitly telling Elena that now that Elena was a vampire Stefan would never love her. Oh come on, Fake Katherine, there is no way you actually care about that stuff. And YOU seem pretty cool with vampirism. Elena should've known right then and there that this was not the real Katherine, but instead she got super mad and tried to tackle her and it was very LOL:
Haha Crazy Elena definitely had her charms in this episode. All stabby and tackly.
Meanwhile at the high school Damon was chillin' in Alaric's old classroom and drinking booze that was STILL in Alaric's desk drawer?
Quick question: Was the town aware that Alaric had died? I mean obvs he had that tombstone in the cemetery, but had the school been notified? Or did they just cordon off his classroom to preserve it in his memory? WHAT IS UP with this high school?
At this point Bonnie and Damon summoned Professor Shane and got his advice about Elena's curse by showing him the sketch of the tattoo from the guy that Professor Shane had sent to this town and who was now most likely dead because the original question involved a curse brought forth by the death of a hunter so the hunter was probably dead. (TMI?) Anyway, he took it well and was honest about what was going on: You kill a hunter, that hunter will haunt your brain until you die. And it'll only stop after the NEW hunter kills his or her first vampire. In this case, word had already spread that Jeremy was a "Potential" and so now he needed to kill a(nother) vampire to get fully activated.
So at this point Stefan had decided he wanted to bust Elena out of her safe room and he used Caroline to distract Klaus over that Grill. That meant a low-cut top and a seemly out-of-nowhere friendliness toward him that by now he probably associates with a scheme being afoot. But they still had a fun rapport. And there was this knee-weakener of a moment when Klaus told Caroline that if he still had sway over Tyler, he would've commanded him to treat Caroline right.
And her reaction to this weird confession made my heart skip a beat:
This was a GREAT episode for reaction shots, let me tell you. These kids are a strong bunch of actors already, but moments like these where they express so much with just a glance are what make me love this show and TV in general. Just sheer, full-frontal humanity.
I'm obviously conflicted with how exactly someone as bright and good as Caroline can ever fall for someone with such a tarnished soul as Klaus', but that's perhaps why this particular matchup thrills me so much: IT'S SO WRONG. I basically have to watch it through my fingers, but it's an undeniable thrill to see something so wrong on paper still make me want to see what happens next. You know? I don't know if I'm explaining it that well. It definitely feels like this matchup is outrageous and dangerous but that might be why it's so loaded with possibility. I don't know. I'm sure my opinion about this will keep changing, just like this show wants it to.
So while Caroline was distracting Klaus, Stefan went and got the keys from the hybrid tasked with guarding Elena (and who, as we learned, had been un-sired from Klaus by Hayley). Anyway, Stefan should've known that being trapped in this room was in Elena's best interest, but Klaus had decided to keep it a secret? Ugh, with the secrets already! Anyway, here we were, Stefan busting out his mentally ill girlfriend for no good reason:
And she immediately stabbed him with the leg from her bed frame!
Typical vampire romance stuff.
So then Elena ran out into the night where she got hassled by Katherine, Connor, and then, finally, some dead brunette:
Oh right, it was Elena's mom! I think we'd seen her for a few minutes back in the S3 finale, but still, this was probably a more profound moment for Elena than for us. Especially when this lady started saying the same old stuff:
But apparently hearing her own mother tell her how awful she was finally wore Elena down. That's when she took off her daylight ring and threw it right off Wickery Bridge!
(This town really ought to just dam up that river and dismantle the bridge already, it's just not worth it.) But anyway, that's when Damon arrived, and he was NOT a hallucination:
But was it too late for Elena to not kill herself?
Meanwhile at Tyler's Werewolf Crash Pad, Klaus arrived to hassle the hybrid who had helped Elena escape.
That's when Hayley stepped up to Klaus and it was pretty great:
Great specifically because Hayley ain't no wallflower you guys! I like a strong woman. But I also loved that Klaus kinda dug her moxie also. Part of him is probably pretty tired of everyone being so scared of him all the time that he must find it downright refreshing for people to sass him right back.
But it was all ruse anyway, as Caroline had spilled the beans to Klaus that Elena's curse wouldn't be broken until Jeremy had vampire blood spattered on his face. So they had arranged for this particular hybrid to be the sacrificial lamb (lamb = a hybrid).
So yeah, Jeremy worked his magic with his hatchet and the werewolves in attendance were NOT HAPPY. Because to them that was just a regular murder of one of their own, all to just prevent another girl from trying to commit suicide. Didn't seem like a fair tradeoff! These past few episodes have tried to convince us that only human deaths count, but that is easily the craziest suggestion this show has tried to convince us of in a while. So you're telling me that vampires and werewolves are worthy of falling in love with, but their deaths aren't a big deal? Elena had personally killed monsters in the past, but it was HUMAN murder that truly rattled her? None of this makes sense, and I liked that this episode kind of admitted as much. Don't tell us monsters are living breathing creatures with feelings and then pretend their deaths don't mean anything.
But whatever, now that Jeremy had activated his hunter-ness, Elena immediately felt less compelled to commit suicide. Unfortunately, she'd thrown her sunlight ring in the river just as the sun began to rise:
Fortunately Damon did some quick thinking!
That's when the episode went to commercial, which was funny because we didn't see the presumably awful ordeal of Elena holding herself under water for a long time while Damon vampire-scuba dived for her ring. Nope, the magic of television just put us right into Elena's bedroom a few hours later:
And that's when her weird, standoffish relationship with Damon suddenly got a little less so.
This time, instead of getting awkward and pushing him away, Elena seemed positively stoked for all that Damon had done for her, and became even more so when he very maturely tried to make the case that Stefan was the one for her.
But he saved his best move for last when he revealed that this whole time they'd been trying to find a cure for her vampirism. BOOM! THAT is how you get to a self-hating vampire lady's heart!
Yeah, now Stefan's gonna REALLY feel foolish for having kept that a secret. Anyway, the point was, something in Elena had changed over the course of the hallucination, and specifically it meant she was a little more clear-eyed about her wants and priorities, and there was now a good chance that Damon could be classified as a "want." It wasn't so much a revelation as an acceptance, an acknowledgment that self-control can only get you so far when your heart wants something else.
Oh, but then this happened: Caroline came back and had to face the music with Tyler for having conspired to murder one of Tyler's friends (a legitimately terrible transgression, in my opinion). And OH BTW Caroline had ALSO agreed to go on a date with Klaus.
But Tyler WAS NOT having it! He threw a glass against the wall and everything! For her part Caroline looked pretty shattered also, but in this case both of them had compelling arguments and it looked like their relationship was about to be thrown onto the pyre of circumstance. Poor kids! Maybe they are both better off.
Meanwhile Matt—who is now apparently Mystic Falls' answer to Huggy Bear—told Damon that April had told him that her dead father had been besties with Professor Shane. Dun-dun-dunnnn!
And even though it was the next morning, Professor Shane and Bonnie were still hanging out? That's not inappropriate! Anyway, he was telling her all kinds of stuff about how witches are the best and witches will inherit the earth, etc. Sounded very witch-political to me.
But this is where the episode got REALLY heavy. Well, maybe not heavy. But emotional and potentially game-changey. Elena and Stefan broke up!
Elena came clean about the fact that over the course of the past few months she'd grown closer to Damon and now that she was a vampire her feelings for him have become off the charts. Surprisingly, Stefan not only understood (he loves talking about vampires' heightened emotions so much), he rightfully took some of the blame for this due to the fact that he'd been an epic monster toward her in the recent past and had basically driven her into Damon's arms.
Okay, I just made a joke of the whole thing, but if you watched this scene you saw a restrained, mature, clear-eyed breakup the likes of which we rarely see on television. The most diabolical part about this was in making Stefan so chill about it, the writers made him so much more decent and deserving of happiness than before the breakup. I felt bad for him! But in a good way: This is how breakups often are in real life; if you're lucky you have the option of letting them bring out the best in you. For people who like Stefan the best, this scene should be read as a bit of a victory for the content of his character. For fans of Damon, obviously, it's a victory in how his essential goodness actually got results.
But shipping aside, the most important aspect here was Elena's self-actualization. This was an audience surrogate whose emotional inner life remained mostly static over the course of three seasons and is only now starting to bloom into something more complicated. Not only does it make her more compelling and empathetic, it sets the stage for an even richer, more authentic series of romantic travails in the future. If we're on her side we care more deeply about what happens to her. Oh, and Nina Dobrev's delivery of the line "I know"? Absolute perfection. Both of these actors knocked it out of the park (baseball terminology meaning they did a great job). I may not have been shipping this couple or any couple outside of One Direction, but I am still a human being(-shaped robot) and I want what's best for everyone. As sad as this scene was, I think it did show everyone's good sides and I have a strong feeling that no matter what happens between these three, they'll all eventually wind up in a much better place than where they began.
OK that's enough BYEEEE
... U sad abt Stelena?
... U sad abt Tyroline?
... U happy abt Delena?
... U happy abt Klaroline?
... U worried abt Jeremy's neck?