If I had to trace all of the world's problems to ONE thing, the thing that everyone in the world should stop doing immediately (besides murder, which in the context of The Vampire Diaries is a minor annoyance at worst), it's everybody trying to get all up in each other's business all the time. Think about every major political or cultural issue and it all comes down to people trying to meddle in other peoples' lives. Knock it off, busybodies! Stop trying to legislate morality or dispatch armies when your time would be better spent making a nice sandwich or tending to your herb garden. Because The Vampire Diaries is nothing if not the vanguard of modern social theory, this week's episode "We'll Always Have Bourbon Street" tackled this very important issue head-on. And it was terrific! Just a terrific episode, in my opinion. Last week I feared that this whole siring thing was too nonsensical to hinge a plotline around, and worse, it had the potential of turning otherwise sympathetic characters into full-time cockblocks. But as usual my fears were unfounded because "We'll Always Have Bourbon Street" immediately set about subverting expectations and, if anything, totally agreeing with me that meddling is the worst. Also this episode had tons of other things going for it: Flashbacks! Dancing! Grody sex! Werewolf armies! Phoebe Tonkin looking pissed! Witch drugs! And some good, old-fashioned, nuanced angst. That final scene was comprised of just a few words and gestures yet was still more meaningful and affecting than even the most dramatic speech or sexy montage. Good one, show.
But don't just take my word for it, here are some be-captioned photos to prove it!
Okay this grossed me out, sorry. Let's put aside the fact that these two people are a real life thing, all I could think about was that they had morning breath and Elena was late for school. Also, this happened:
This opening montage was a parallel to how the previous episode ended: Damon and Elena shirtless hugging while Caroline and Stefan plotted to overthrow their love or whatever.
For me the only thing I liked about this part was that apparently Stefan crashed at Caroline's house and apparently Sheriff Forbes either didn't care, or she herself maybe stayed the night at someone else's house. And now suddenly I NEED to know what's up with Sheriff Forbes. What's her name, Sheriff? Is it Carol? Oh please tell me it's Carol.
New shirtless dude:
This was apparently the final hybrid to be sired to Klaus, but he was having a rough go of it. The systematic breaking of bones probably isn't the easiest thing to get used to, but at least we got another fantastic showcase for spandex out of it.
So Kim was the sassy hybrid from the previous episode whom I had THOUGHT that I liked, but I was wrong. Turns out she's awful! For one thing, she had just broken her sire bond but for some reason didn't think it was important for other hybrids to do the same. Suddenly she was all, "Plymouth rock landed on hybrids" or whatever and her attitude definitely threatened to ruin Tyler and Hayley's unsiring schemes.
Meanwhile Stefan could NOT contain himself and decided to tell Damon that his and Caroline's casual theory about the sire bond was DEFINITELY 100% happening:
Even though it was true that Elena was likely bonded to Damon, I still felt kinda bad for Damon here. If we are to believe that he's truly in love with Elena (and has been for some time), it must be kind of a blow to learn that maybe his love was, in some way, not requited. Or worse, that Damon's only shot for true love wouldn't be possible without some kind of supernatural circumstance. But the twist of this episode that turned a weird situation into an extremely poignant one was this: Damon had no intention of taking advantage of the sire bond. If anything he seemed super disappointed to hear this and was immediately eager to clear things up. So yeah, his reaction proved that he is a totally different Damon these days compared to the one who first flew around Mystic Falls and chomped on rando teenagers back in the pilot. Growth!
Anyway, at school (LOL school), Elena's friends were acting kinda weird toward her. All questioning where she slept the night before, telling her she looked kinda sloppy, stuff like that.
I mean, Elena didn't outright admit that she'd just spent the night swinging around on another branch of the Salvatore family tree, but come on. It was written all over her face.
Because this is not a functional high school, Damon showed up and gave Elena a vampire Capri-Sun and told her to enjoy it. The thinking was, if her body didn't reject it (as it had in the past), then she was legit sire-bonded to him.
And it worked: Sire bond verified. Also, credit where credit's due, Elena CRACKED A JOKE in this scene and it was actually FUNNY. She described her past experience with a blood bag as tasting like "hot garbage". You know? It's a start. But yeah, poor Damon! His lady was a mind slave! (Or something far less dramatic than that.)
We also learned more about the weird partnership between Shane (he's just going by Shane now according to Bonnie) and Hayley. It turned out she wasn't helping him because they were plotting stuff together or even because she had a crush on him. No, it turned out that she was systematically unsiring Klaus' hybrids in exchange for information on her biological parents. Sort of a quid quo pro but with werewolves sort of thing.
Aw, Hayley just wants to find her parents. I knew she wasn't bad.
Okay, so even though I don't usually love flashbacks (aside from wigs), I thought this episode did a great job with its flashbacks. This was a WWII-era one (which, was that the most recent time period we've flashed back to yet?) in which Damon and the gang were hanging around on Bourbon Street for some reason. Alas, no wigs:
But there WAS a highly relevant sired vampire situation:
In this case Damon had turned a girl into a vampire and her willingness to follow even his most casual suggestions to a T meant that she was sired to him! This flashback prompted Damon and Stefan to travel to New Orleans in order to seek out a local witch with whom he'd once consulted back in the day for similar unsiring purposes.
While the bros were away, Elena took the opportunity to invite her ladypals over for a night of expensive champagne and girl talk! But Caroline was still in a very judgey mood, so the evening was not without its occasional moments of tension.
Okay, this was a Top 5 All-Time Bonnie moment right here:
HAHA NOW WE'RE TALKING. Bonnie busted out this enormous ziplock baggie of witch weed like it was HER JOB. You know I love a witch drug. But joking aside, it was a rare moment when Bonnie was there to cheer people up. Something about seeing her friends be miserable really brought out the sunshine in our moody witch. I liked it!
So, just FYI, here's what New Orleans' Bourbon Street looks like on The Vampire Diaries. Haha first of all, that is not what Bourbon Street looks like. Last time I was there it looked like an open sewer littered with half-empty yardgarita containers. I went there with Lily Sparks and she pointed out how a popular joke t-shirt they sell there says "I got Bourbon-faced on sh*t street" isn't even kidding about that second part and it should really just say "I got sh*t-faced on sh*t street." Anyway, it was here on sh*t street where the Salvatore bros started bickering, like they do.
GET A ROOM YOU GUYS. Haha just kidding they are heterosexual brothers. But still, their spats are getting increasingly personal lately. I did like how Stefan immediately regretted being mean to Damon and promptly apologized. I don't know, it was a nice moment for him. I hope at some point he goes on to apologize to the families of all the people he murdered, and maybe also provide a more thorough apology to Elena for that time he terrorized her on at the site of her parents' death. As of now his overall remorse for that period is at a Chris Brown level of audacity. Sorry, guy!
I still want to see some kind of infographic to back this up, but apparently Stefan and Damon hadn't seen each other at all between 1912 and WWII, by which point Lexi had cured Stefan of his Ripper ways and he was ready to be chills bros again with Damon. So yeah, there was next to no brotherly bickering after Pearl Harbor!
Not only were they getting along, Damon was seriously considering joining the Army so that he could fight alongside Stefan, who had signed up to be an ambulance driver overseas. Unfortunately, Lexi did not think that was a good idea.
As much as I adore Lexi (and I'm still pretty mad at Damon for murdering her for, in retrospect, almost no reason), her reasoning here was pretty sketchy. Something to do with Damon being a bad influence on Stefan, who was somehow still fragile enough to be on the cusp of a relapse but would be fine dealing with wounded soldiers all day. I don't know. But, you know, dramatic conflict and all that.
Speaking of dramatic, remember that lady vampire who'd been sired to Damon back in the day? She was still chillin' in New Orleans!
Not only that, but she was following his instructions to wait for his return, and in an alarmingly creepy way: She'd spent the last 70 years counting up every brick in every building in New Orleans. (She didn't give us a total, but I'm guessing it was at least in the three figures.) So yeah. Scary. I'm tempted to accuse this show of making a troubling statement about the female psyche with regard to how much its female characters' lives revolve around men, but I know how much you guys LOVE when I get serious. Anyway yeah, I can't imagine anything worse than someone giving themselves over totally to someone else like this. Total nightmare. Sorry lady, nobody deserves that kind of fate.
OH HEY LOOK, DANCING!!!
I love me some dancing on this show. I don't care the reason, context, or character. DANCE KIDS, DANCE! So yeah. Loved this.
I also loved how this momentary 'we don't need men' moment was immediately followed by a conversation about men.
While chillin' in Damon's bathtub (?) Elena let slip that she rode Damon's pony all around the carnival and Caroline shifted back into judgmental mode. Which caused Elena to get SO MAD and storm out. But let me just say that I LOVED that. Elena SHOULD get pissed off and lose her temper more often! There is seriously just tons of foolishness going on around her all the time. That she's actually starting to get mad about stuff is just good character development. More of this please!
So then Damon and Stefan paid that New Orleans witch a visit, and I LOL'd because she was played by Tara's mom from True Blood. Also, she claimed that she didn't know magic anymore.
Like, I'm sorry, but if you are a witch with a library of ancient texts, you probably have at least a PDF backup in your Dropbox. I did not believe this lady's story!
Anyway, then Caroline took the opportunity to tell Elena about the fact that Elena was sired to Damon.
Elena did not take it well! But before they could really and truly have a falling out, a couple of hybrids busted in and took the vampires hostage.
So then Bonnie busted out her best defense spell!
Aaaand it didn't work. Yeah, now that she was using a different kind of magic I guess she was back to novice levels, so the best she could do was make sparks fall out of the light fixture. (Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't there a point when she could make Klaus' brain hurt with just a flick of her wrist?) Anyway, yeah, Kim stole Caroline which was NOT OKAY.
Back at the witch shop, Damon sussed out the witch's lies (she ended up being super old, but Damon said she didn't look a day over 50, which in my opinion was a TOTAL BURN seeing as she looked 35 at most, but whatever).
As it turned out, Damon had attempted an unsiring spell back in the day, it had involved the sacrifice of 12 humans, and it ended up being a fraud: The witch's mother had tricked Damon into murdering 12 people so that she could tap into a world-swallowing type of dark evil! (Wait, how many people died in that fire in the season premiere? Just askin'!) Anyway, that was some Big Bad-style foreshadowing, but re: the siring, it turned out there WAS no solution for that. Damon would simply have to command his mental slave to stop being a slave and then he'd have to leave town.
So yeah, it seemed like a pretty tough situation for Damon. On the other hand, Stefan seemed relatively enthusiastic about it.
Kim got super on my sh*t-list for this one:
I guess her plan involved making Klaus super sad by harming his crush? I'm not sure how that worked, but anyway, Elena stepped up to admit that she was far more important to Klaus than Caroline was.
This whole issue ended up being about Kim trying to establish herself as the Alpha Hybrid of the pack, and the only way Tyler would be able to regain control would be to get her to submit in front of them. So he fisted her ribcage and that was that.
Tyler was very badass in this moment! Yay Tyler, you go boy!
Back in Nawlins, Damon tried out this new unsiring tactic on the sad old vampire from wartimes:
This solution to the siring bond situation was equal parts sad and stupid. So siring is just a kissin' cousin to compulsion. Okay? But still, some major mental gymnastics go into it that make it a pretty poignant thing to have happen: You love someone so much that you stop loving them when they ask you to. Good luck, lady! At least she can stop counting bricks.
Then we received some unnecessary follow-up to the flashback situation (unless you consider seeing Damon in uniform to be necessary WHICH I DO):
Damon showed up to ship out with Stefan, but was intercepted by Lexi:
And that's how that particular story ended. Damon wanted to join the Army but he selflessly didn't join the Army in order for Stefan to not relapse into Ripper Stefan. Or something?
I guess the moral was that sometimes Damon thinks about others before himself. That's a pretty nice message, but it's not a character arc if we already knew this to be fact. Guys, it's Season 4. Damon has done nice stuff all along. Terrible stuff too, but at this point shouldn't we stop being surprised when he's an okay dude?
Then Caroline and Elena made up:
And Hayley successfully broke the final hybrid's sire bond, which entitled her to the full knowledge of her birth parents' whereabouts. Unfortunately the news wasn't good:
BUT! Shane dropped some big hints that it wasn't all that much of an obstacle, her parents being dead and all.
Yeah, who knew what he had in mind, except that the Pastor, Connor, and Shane himself had all implied that "something" was coming to Mystic Falls, and that thing likely involved the return of dead people. Or a warlock. Or the McRib. Something's gonna return.
Then, Damon decided that he had no choice but to "unsire" Elena by commanding her to stop loving him and then leave town? I'm still not totally clear on how this works. But it still felt like he was about to do something completely heartbreaking.
Fortunately/unfortunately (depending on your ship) Elena was fully prepared for this turn of events:
In about a half dozen words Elena made a convincing case that the sire bond ain't sh*t. Tyler had already told her that siring doesn't change emotions, only actions, so she already felt pretty confident that her love for Damon was real and had been present since before she turned. So yeah, it looked like they both were ready to accept the sire bond as a reality and just stand inside their love for the time being. The problem is that Caroline and Stefan seemed pretty certain that Damon would "do the right thing", but they were only half-right. It's just that in this case the right thing was to remain in love? Seemed like a pretty solid decision to me.
Yeah, I really enjoyed this ending. It was the rare TVD ending that didn't involve a super-loud ballad or fussy dialogue. Just a gesture and a watery eye and an unspoken declaration of commitment. Nicely done, you buncha writer hotties! Guys, this was a terrific episode in my opinion, maybe one of the best of the season so far. What did you think?
... Now how you doing?
... What exactly does Professor Shane have in store for this town?
... Does Sheriff Forbes have a boo?
... Have you been to Bourbon Street? What is your grossest memory of it?