In Martin Scorsese’s 2006 film The Departed, the theme of blurred identities is explored as a young police officer goes undercover to infiltrate the mafia, while a mafia informant goes undercover to infiltrate the police force. There have been lots of identities blurred in this season of The Vampire Diaries, and there will be plenty more blurring by the time the final episode ends. But enough about my crying, let’s get to the recap.
We open this episode with Elena as we’ve never seen her before: bouncing, carefree, happy. She literally bounds out of bed, dances in front of the mirror, puts on her cheerleading outfit and heads downstairs. This is Elena, Year Zero. Before her parents died, before she lost Jenna and Ric, before vampires came into her life. She meets Jenna down in the kitchen and kisses her mom good morning.
Of course, it’s all a beautiful dream. Today’s Elena wakes in a grey hospital room with a heart monitor clipped to her finger. Jeremy has brought her in after she collapsed at the end of last week’s episode. Dr. Fell is there and she tells Jeremy that Elena has a slight concussion, but she’s going to be fine. Then Meredith asks Jeremy if there’s anyone he wants to call.
Oh, Meredith. Of course there isn’t. Jeremy and Elena don’t have anyone anymore, and Jeremy’s resigned expression says as much.
But like a good brother, he calls Elena’s vampire boyfriends, who are out on the road, driving Klaus’s body off to a secret hideaway. The brothers freak when they hear that Elena is in the hospital, where she’s a sitting duck for every Original who wants her (and thus, Alaric) dead. They order Jeremy to take Elena home, pronto, where the vampires can’t come in uninvited. Damon expresses his frustration with a back-handed compliment to Stefan: “Have I told you lately how much I appreciate you not being the dumbest brother on earth?” BWAH.
This bit of news creates a dilemma for the Salvatores: One of them has to go back to protect Elena. The other needs to keep on driving so they can hide Klaus’s body, keep Alaric from staking him, and thus keep all of Klaus’s descendants alive. “Our life is one, big, proverbial coin toss,” Damon quips. Damon calls the wrong side of the coin and continues out of town, while Stefan… walks back to Mystic Falls? Maybe Damon turns him into a crow and he flies home in a straight line.
At the hospital, Alaric shows up in Meredith’s office. He finds her hidden stash of vampire blood – the one she’s been using to magically heal her patients – and dumps it. He warns her that the Council will arrange to have her medical licence revoked, and then goes off to retrieve Elena. But when he gets to her room, she’s already gone.
Matt, Tyler and Caroline bring Elena safely home and ensconce her on the sofa. Caroline tucks blankets around her and offers her tea with vodka. She apologizes for being smothering, but Elena says, no, it’s nice. Awww, Elena just needs a mom.
She falls back to reminiscing about the Time Before, when she was dating Matt. Bonnie, her witchiness still in pre-pubescence, is getting a bad feeling about the bonfire later that night. Elena says it doesn’t matter because she can’t go; her aunt Jenna is in town and her parents want to do family night. Matt says she has to go and tries to convince her to sneak out. At this point I want to yell at the TV set, “LISTEN TO YOUR GIRLFRIEND, ELENA!”
Matt kisses Elena goodbye, and Bonnie picks up on the complete lack of heat between them. She says if Elena’s not into Matt anymore, she should just let him go. Elena wakes suddenly to see Matt sitting across from her in the living room, and immediately apologizes for stringing him along back in sophomore year. She says she’s making the same mistake now with Stefan and Damon, and she has to let one of them go. Matt asks which one, at which point, Stefan walks through the door and scoops her up in a hug.
Matt suggests that they should get Elena the hell out of town, but Elena refuses to go on the run for the rest of her life. Matt looks at Stefan for support, but he says they should let Elena make her own choices, even if they’re wrong. “Nothing wrong with free will, Matt,” Stefan says. “Trust me. You don’t realize that until you lose it.”
At which point I am tempted to go off on a rant about all the stuff Stefan did this season while he DID have free will. But I have ranted those rants before, and so I will chew through my tongue instead.
Then we hear Elena calling for Stefan. Pan over to the front door, and we get THE RETURN OF ELIJAH. Squeeeeeeee!
Jeremy is at Mystic Grill picking up some food when Alaric slides in and offers him a beer. He reminds Jeremy that Elena’s association with vampires nearly cost her her life, again. Ric asks for Jeremy’s help: find out where Klaus’s body is stashed, and Alaric will kill him, thus killing all of Klaus’s descendants – including Stefan and Damon. “Let Elena live a long, healthy, human life. And when her life is over, mine will be, too.”
Back in Elena’s kitchen, Elijah tries to negotiate a deal with her. He wants Klaus’s body; it turns out blood runs thick among thousand-year-old vampires, even after they’ve entombed each other for centuries. He offers to take Alaric on a merry chase for the next few centuries while Elena lives out her natural life. He gives Elena his word: “I will not revive Klaus within yours, nor even within your children’s lifetimes. Perhaps that’ll finally teach him some manners.” Hahahahaha.
Elijah asks Elena to decide whether to trust him or not. Then we hear Damon’s voice ringing like tin through the speaker phone: “Not! Hello!” LOLOL. “No, no, no, no, did I mention no?” I’m glad I didn’t go off on that rant earlier, because it’s way more fun to listen to Damon rant. Elena obviously doesn’t agree, because she overrules him and makes the deal. Jeremy then calls Alaric and tells him he can find Klaus at a fake place, deliberately throwing him off the trail.
At the Lockwood mansion, Carol and Liz are frantic. They tell Caroline and Tyler that the Council knows what they are, and they have to get out of town before Alaric’s mob comes after them. They agree to leave, but first Caroline says she has to help her friends. They decide to meet at the Lockwood cellar in two hours.
Out in the middle of nowhere, Damon has Klaus’s coffin stashed in a storage locker. He brings Bonnie in to cast a spell on it so that Alaric won’t be able to track it. Bonnie opens the coffin and Klaus opens his eyes, but he remains incapacitated and dried up. “Creepy,” Damon mutters, and I have to agree.
Bonnie asks for a minute alone with Klaus, which Damon finds bizarre because who would want to make out with the guy in this condition? But he leaves, and Bonnie gives Klaus a truly scary witch face. “You should burn in hell,” she tells him. “But if you die, so do my friends. So does my mother. What am I supposed to do about that?” Uh-oh, Bonnie’s got something brewing, and I bet it smells like eye of newt.
Stefan goes off to meet up with Jeremy and Elijah at the fake location they gave Alaric. Their plan is to wrestle the stake away from Alaric, giving Rebekah time to get to the storage locker, retrieve Klaus’s body and get the hell out of town. Before Stefan leaves Elena’s house, he plants a passionate kiss on her, “just in case there is no later.” He then calls Damon, and they get into a very high-brow philosophical argument about existentialism and free will:
Damon: You just had to let her make the choice, didn’t you?
Stefan: What would you have done, Damon?
Damon: Grabbed her, gagged her, threw her in a well. I don’t know. Anything other than let her trust Elijah.
Stefan: You know she’d just hate you for it, right?
Damon: Yeah, but she’d be alive and she’d hate me. Thus the eternal difference between you and me, brother.
Thus proving that both brothers are bad for Elena, and that her true soul-mate is Jean-Paul Sartre.
Damon hears someone in the hall of the lockers and thinks it’s Rebekah – but it turns out to be Alaric, who grabs him from behind. “How did you find me?” Damon gasps. “You’d be amazed at how competent law enforcement can be when it’s not corrupted by vampires.” Heeeee. Alaric takes Damon down and starts searching through the lockers, one by one.
Back at her house, Matt brings Elena a cup of tea. They talk about Stefan and Damon, and Elena says that Stefan helped her figure out how to live again, after the accident. “That’s how love should be,” she says. “You should love the person who makes you glad that you’re alive.” But when she’s with Damon, “he consumes me.” Oh, to be that young again.
Flashback to the night of the bonfire. Elena calls home because she and Matt got into a fight. Matt started talking about college and marriage, and Elena couldn’t deal with it. She tells her mom that she doesn’t know how she feels about Matt. “Yes you do,” Mom tells her. “You’re just afraid to say it.”
Elena asks if someone can come and pick her up from the bonfire, and of course mom and dad do, because they’re good parents. And OH, everything about Elena’s guilt complex suddenly makes so much sense. No one else on this show feels quite so guilty, or quite so responsible for everyone else ever, than Elena does. And now we see why: she blames herself for her parents’ deaths. If only I had stayed home on family night! If only I hadn’t gone to the bonfire! If only I hadn’t called them to come get me! Poor kid. No wonder she’s so traumatized.
When she wakes from this reverie, Elena is in Matt’s truck. He admits that he drugged her tea, and now he’s driving her out of town to safety. And Jeremy was in on the plan the whole time. More lack of choices! I bet Jean-Paul is starting to look pretty good now.
Rebekah arrives at the storage facility. She and Damon try to wheel Klaus’s coffin out to his car, but Alaric gets the jump on them and attacks. He knocks them both out of the way, opens the coffin and stabs Klaus in the heart. Klaus’s body bursts into flames and Rebekah bursts into wailing and gnashing of teeth. Oh, Klaus! I will miss you and your unrepentant evilness. But since no one ever stays dead on this show, I choose to not be terribly worried.
Alaric turns to Rebekah, ready to kill her next, but Damon shoves her away and she runs. Alaric runs after her. Damon calls Stefan to give him the bad news that Klaus is dead. Neither of them feels anything yet, but it took Sage about an hour to get sick after Finn was killed.
Stefan: An hour’s not enough time to get you back to Mystic Falls.
Damon: For us to have our epic goodbye, Stefan?
Stefan: Not us, brother. You and Elena.
Damon: I guess you’ll just have to say goodbye for both of us.
Oh, come on, boys. Stefan turned himself into a serial killer last year to save Damon’s life. OF COURSE you are are the epic love story with your epic goodbyes. I am not buying your stiff-upper-lippy-ness.
Damon rings off with, “Call me if you cough up a lung,” which is perfect Damon and made me chuckle.
Jeremy calls Matt on the road to tell him the news. Elena insists that they have to go back. And then Matt forces Elena to make that choice she’s been torturing herself over: “Damon’s not with them. He’s a hundred miles out of town. I can keep driving to him, or I can turn around and go back to Stefan.” Finally they’re letting a young woman make her own choices, and this is what they come up with? Some philosophers you lot are.
Elena calls Damon, and they have the following exchange:
Damon: Since I’m possibly a dead man, can I ask you a question? If it was just down to him and me, and you had to make a choice who got the goodbye – who would it be?
Elena: I love him, Damon. He came into my life at a time when I needed someone, and I fell for him instantly. No matter what I feel for you, I never un-fell for him.
Damon: Yeah, I get it. Stefan. It’s always going to be Stefan.
Which, of course, is an echo of Katherine’s words from last season, and comes as no great surprise. Elena continues: “I can’t think about always. All I can think about is right now. And I care about you, Damon. Which is why I have to let you go. Maybe if you and I had met first…”
Which made me roll my eyes, because what difference would that make? Seriously? She knew Matt first and she didn’t love him.
Damon tells her goodbye, and then Alaric comes back. He lost Rebekah’s trail so he decides to use Damon as a punching bag.
At the Lockwood cellar, Caroline runs in, frantic and crying. She tells Tyler that Klaus is dead. He looks surprisingly unafraid, and tries to reassure Caroline that she’ll make it through this. “Tell my mother I left town, like I was supposed to.” He then falls to the ground in pain, and tells her to leave because he doesn’t want her to watch him die. Caroline refuses, but he transforms into the wolf and chases her away.
Rebekah meets up with Elijah at the rendez-vous point in the woods. She tells him that Klaus is dead, and they share a tearful embrace. Elijah is baffled that Tyler is dead while Caroline and Stefan are fine. Rebekah is sure that Klaus turned their bloodline, so how are they still alive?
Then we see Bonnie in the cellar, calling out to Tyler. He emerges, hale and whole, but not speaking at all like himself. “I must say, you really did that spell brilliantly,” he tells her. “I didn’t think you had it in you.” Ah-ha, so Klaus isn’t dead at all! He’s just inhabiting Tyler’s body. I am not crazy about this development, because while Michael Trevino is not a bad actor, he’s not in Joseph Morgan’s league. And if you’re going to have a super-villain as a main character, you need a super actor to make him sympathetic. I’m not convinced Trevino can pull it off, but we’ll see.
Bonnie then proceeds to give Klaus the smackdown:
Bonnie: I did it to save my friends and my mother, Klaus. Not you.
Klaus: The spirits won’t be happy with you.
Bonnie: The spirits don’t get to tell me what to do anymore. I’m done getting pushed around by all of you. I did it because I wanted to.
YOU GO, Bonnie. She looks so determined and, frankly, terrifying when she says this. I am stoked to see what badness she gets up to next season.
And speaking of badness, Rebekah is pissed that Klaus is dead. She knows that Alaric will be coming after her next, and she’s tired of running. So she’s going to get rid of Alaric, and there’s only one way to do that:
She stands in the middle of the road, right on the Wickery Bridge, and lets Matt’s truck barrel straight towards her. Matt swerves to avoid her, the truck goes flying off the bridge, and we have splashdown!
Cut to Alaric kicking the crap out of Damon. Damon calls him “Ric,” and Alaric says, “Don’t call me that. We’re not friends.” It kind of hurt my heart a little to hear him say that. The old Ric really is dead and gone. He knocks Damon senseless, and Damon has a little reverie of his own:
It’s night of the bonfire. He’s lying in the middle of the road, apparently waiting for a car to stop so that he can jump up and eat the driver. He hears Elena on the phone, talking to Bonnie, and immediately rushes over to greet her. “Katherine,” he breathes, and she looks around her, confused. “No, I’m Elena,” she says, and Damon can tell by her demeanor that it’s not his lost vampire love. They start to make small talk, and Elena confesses that she got into a fight with her boyfriend.
Damon: About what? May I ask?
Elena: Life. The future. He’s got it all mapped out.
Damon: You don’t want it?
Elena: I don’t know what I want.
Damon: That’s not true. You want what everybody wants.
Elena: What? A mysterious stranger who has all the answers? [Heeeeeee.]
Damon: Well, let’s just say I’ve been around a long time. I’ve learned a few things.
Elena: So, Damon. Tell me. What is it that I want?
Damon: You want a love that consumes you. You want passion, and adventure, and even a little danger.
Elena looks intrigued, and asks Damon what he wants, but just then her parents arrive to take her home. He compels her and says, “I want you to get everything you’re looking for. But right now, I want you to forget that this happened. Can’t have people knowing I’m in town yet.”
So, we see that Elena did meet Damon first. But, come on. When she remembers, is she suddenly going to realize she loved him all along? From a two-minute conversation on the night her parents died? Watch my eyeballs roll, they are like slot machines in my head.
On the other hand, I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the cocky, unrepentant, unsmitten Damon from Year Zero. It kind of feels like a missed opportunity that we never got to see this Damon spar with that Elena a lot more.
At the river, the water’s surface is perfectly still, and you would never know that a truck plunged through it moments before. There’s a beautiful intercutting of shots from the present and from the past (which is only slightly marred by the knowledge that, at night, there is no light under 20 feet of water.)
In the present, Elena wakes up in the front seat of the truck, but Matt is unconscious. In the past, Elena wakes in the back seat of her parents’ car. Her mom is unconscious, while her dad is frantically trying to break open the window. He can’t – the pressure of the water is too great. Doors won’t open, windows won’t break. He turns to hold Elena’s hand. She mouths “I love you,” then slips into unconsciousness.
In both present and past, Stefan swims to the rescue. He shows up on the driver’s side of the vehicle. In the past, Elena’s dad waves him around to the back seat, where Stefan rescues his beloved daughter and swims her to safety. In the present, Stefan opens the driver side door and reaches past Matt, ready to save Elena again. But Elena waves him off. She refuses to go, and tells Stefan to take Matt first. OH, ELENA. You really are your father’s daughter. *cries*
At the storage site, Alaric tries to stake Damon, but Damon holds him off, gets up and fights back. Suddenly Alaric looks stricken and weak. “What’s happening?” he gasps. He falls to his knees, and Damon knows what’s happening: Ric is dying. Which can only mean… Damon holds him frantically, losing both his friend and his love, and chants to them both, “You are not dead. You are not dead,” as if that could make it true.
At home, Jeremy is frantically calling Matt, wondering why he and Elena are not back yet. Alaric appears, and Jeremy can’t figure out how he got in without an invitation. “I don’t know,” Alaric says. “I just wanted to say goodbye, and it kind of happened.” At which point I BURST INTO TEARS. Awwwww, Daddy Ric! Jeremy realizes that he’s seeing dead people, and is stricken with the knowledge that his sister must be dead. “I just want you to know that I’ll always be here to look after you, Jeremy,” Ric comforts him. “You’ll never be alone. I promise.”
Next we see Elena lying on a slab, looking blue and pale. Stefan is sitting a vigil beside her. Damon storms into the hospital asking where she is. Dr. Fell stops him in the corridor and tells him there’s something he needs to know:
“When Jeremy brought Elena in here earlier tonight, her injuries were worse than I let on. It wasn’t a concussion. It was a cerebral hemorrhage. Bleeding on the brain.” Then she drops the bombshell: “I helped her. She needed my help.” And we all know how Dr. Fell cures patients who are in danger of dying, don’t we?
Pop! Elena’s eyes open, and she takes her first gasping breath: as a vampire.
Is it Season 4 yet?
SHIRTLESS SOMERHALDER SIGHTINGS: None.
QUIPPITY QUIP: “Locker 1020. Mini-fridge, couple bird cages, box full of Playboys, one beef-jerkified Original.”