What darkness lies in the hearts of humans, vampires, and dopplegangers? Everyone takes a deep dive into theirs this week. And while Delena fans may whoop with joy at the riches they find buried in the dark, fans of Stefan/Elena can be heard all over the internet moaning, “The horror! The horror!”
But we begin with Alaric, whose heart is hiding a darkness that kills Council members, a stake that kills Originals, and a boatload of literary allusions that could sink Wikipedia. He’s locked up in the Salvatore dungeon, hoping that his alter-ego will make an appearance and fess up to where he hid the missing white oak stake. Elena comes to visit with a care package, which just happens to include some books—including Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, courtesy of Damon. “At least one of us still has a sense of humor,” Alaric quips.
Elena tells daddy Ric that she’s heading on a road trip to Denver with Damon. They’re going to pick up Jeremy; now that Klaus knows where her brother is, it’s not safe to leave him there on his own. Ric asks what Stefan thinks of Elena and Damon hitting the road together, and Elena confesses that it was Stefan’s idea. He believes that Elena has some unresolved feelings for Damon, and this trip might be a good opportunity for her to figure that out.
As Elena and Damon jet off to the Mile High City (first class, no less—Damon has miles), Caroline is at the school gym butting heads with Rebekah. It’s the annual Decade Dance, but Rebekah has decreed that they’re going to celebrate the Roaring 20s instead of Caroline’s chosen decade, the Swinging 70s. Caroline storms out, relinquishing her dance committee chair to Rebekah. Matt follows her outside, where we discover that the whole thing was staged just to keep Rebekah occupied and give Miss C. a day off from her responsibilities. She has someone waiting for her in the woods.
Damon and Elena find Jeremy at a batting cage in Denver. Swing and a miss, and Damon quips, “Next time we compel him, remind me to make him better at baseball.” Jeremy spots them and knows right away that something’s wrong. Damon and Elena bring him up to speed on the Originals situation, and the dilemma they face in trying to kill them: if an Original dies, all the vampires from his or her bloodline die too, so Damon and Stefan need to figure out which Original they’re descended from. Damon wants Jeremy to use his Sixth Sense powers to talk to Rose, the vampire who sired Katherine.
Jeremy agrees, but asks if they can do it later because his friend just got here and they’re supposed to hang out. But, uh-oh, Jeremy’s “friend” turns out to be Kol! Upon seeing them, Kol shows that he’s better with a baseball bat than Jeremy is. He smacks Damon in the face with the wooden bat he’s carrying on his shoulder. The bat breaks in half, so Kol grabs an aluminum bat and swings that, but Damon grabs it in one fist and then uses the broken half of the wooden bat to stake Kol. It won’t kill him, but it knocks him out of the game long enough for Damon, Elena, and Jeremy to make their escape.
The three of them hole up at a roadside hotel, where Jeremy tries to make contact with Rose. He asks Damon to tell him something important about her, and Damon says, “She spent her last day in paradise. Soaking in the sun, reminiscing about what it means to be human. And when death came, she didn’t fear it.” Elena says she was with Rose on her last day, and she definitely wasn’t in paradise. But Jeremy gets it right away: “It was in the dream he gave her.” And Rose appears. She tells them she was sired by someone named Mary Porter, but she doesn’t know where Mary is now. She’ll look into it and get back to them.
Caroline goes walking through the woods, clearly looking for someone. She smiles, turns, and Tyler is there. “You have no idea how much I’ve missed you,” he says, and they kiss as the music swells. They make their way into the Lockwood cellars and we get a joyful, sexy reunion where they make love on the floor. I have no particular investment in Tyler/Caroline, but I love Caroline to pieces, and it’s great to see her get a happy moment. It made me go awwwwwwww. <3
They bask in the afterglow on the floor of the cellar, but it doesn’t last long. Tyler says he feels as if he’s broken his sire bond with Klaus, but he won’t know for certain until he tests it. Caroline then explains about the bloodline problem, and that Damon is trying to prove that he and Stefan are not descended from Klaus. If they aren’t, Damon will try to kill Klaus—even if it means that Tyler dies, too.
At the Originals’ mansion, Rebekah finds Esther waiting for her. Rebekah grabs Mommie Dearest by the throat and asks for one good reason why she shouldn’t kill her. “Because I’m dying,” Esther replies. She explains that she’s been drawing her power from the Bennett witch line, but the connection was severed when Damon turned Abby into a vampire. Her body is weakening and won’t last much longer. She takes Rebekah’s hands, shudders, and falls to the floor dead.
Back in the Salvatore dungeon, Stefan and Alaric are on their way to getting drunk together. They both wonder how Elena is doing in her quest to rescue Jeremy. His ring is the same as Alaric’s, so they can’t rely on it anymore to keep him safe, since dying and getting resurrected tends to turn people crazy. “Who knows,” Alaric says, “maybe his alter-ego is a pot-smoking hippie pacifist.” BWAH.
Ric says it disturbs him that his own other-self is so hostile and militant. Then we get to the dark heart of the episode:
Alaric: The thing is, he’s me. I’m not compelled. I’m not possessed. There’s no humanity switch. What drives him, is me.
Stefan: No. He’s not you. He’s the darkest parts of you. Parts we all have.
And speaking of darkness, Klaus takes this opportunity to barge in. He’s got a white oak stake in his hand, but by his count, there should be one more. Since Alaric’s alter-ego is the only one who knows where it’s hidden, Klaus decides to bring him out by snapping Ric’s neck. Alaric is still wearing the magic protecto-ring, so he’ll come back to life again—this time, Klaus hopes, as Mr. Hyde.
Across a darkened motel room, Elena and Damon exchange a series of smoldering glances, during which Elena watches Damon drinking, half-naked. Damon lies down next to Elena on her bed. They talk quietly, so as not to awaken Jeremy with the taut-rubberband sound of their unresolved sexual tension. Elena asks Damon why he never told her about the dreamscape he gave Rose on her dying day. “Why don’t you let people see the good in you?” Elena asks. Damon whispers, “Because when people see good, they expect good. And I don’t want to have to live up to anyone’s expectations.” He turns to face her and she turns away, clearly frustrated (sexually and otherwise). Damon takes her hand and confusion washes over Elena’s face. She bolts from the room.
Outside, Damon follows her. He stands a few paces behind her, as Elena fights with her emotions. Then she turns and rushes at him, and they kiss, long and passionately. This is more than the sweet, tentative kiss they shared on the porch in The New Deal. This is long, scorching, and full of pent-up longing, with Elena taking the role of initiator and aggressor. And that’s what I love about this scene: that she’s the one taking the lead.
Sadly, the would-be lovers experience a painful case of coitus interruptus when Jeremy walks out and announces that Rose has found Mary Porter. She’s in Kansas, so it looks like the gang is off to see the Wizard. Or at least Dorothy and Toto.
Meanwhile, in the Salvatore dungeon, Alaric comes back from the dead. Stefan has been waiting half the night for him to wake up. “On the plus side,” Stefan quips, “I did almost finish reading Moby Dick.” Another literary allusion! This one is about the futility of revenge; Stefan should have read that book before he wasted half the season trying to kill Klaus.
Instead, Stefan has to try to kill Alaric. Ric takes off his ring and says that the threat of death is the only thing that might make his alter-ego put in an appearance. Stefan clearly doesn’t want to threaten Ric with death, but he doesn’t see many other choices. So he starts beating on Ric. When Ric starts bleeding, Stefan’s face changes. “Use it,” Alaric taunts. “If you want the answers from my darkest side, you’re going to have to tap into yours.” Stefan throws Alaric across the room, into the opposite wall. He falls to the ground, and when he comes up again he’s other!Ric.
Stefan beats up on psycho!Ric for a while and finally threatens to snap his neck. Without his ring he won’t come back, so Mr. Hyde confesses to the location of the stake: “It’s in the cave. Where no vampire can get it.” Stefan locks Alaric in the cellar and heads out to retrieve the stake, but he finds Klaus and Rebekah upstairs, waiting for him.
Elena, Damon, and Jeremy come upon Mary Porter’s house and find her staked to the wall inside. Kol is there, proud and smirking that he did the staking. He knows that Damon is trying to find out who he and Stefan are descended from, and now, he never will. Kol beats up on Damon for a while, just for funsies, and then leaves. While Elena comforts him, Damon asks her what the hell’s going on.
Elena: Stefan thinks I have feelings for you.
Damon: Do you?
Elena: I don’t know.
Damon: Hmm. I guess you thought this little trip could help you figure that out, didn’t you? Or maybe you’re hoping I’ll screw it up, so I can just make the decision for you. Am I wrong?
Damon: Am I wrong?
Elena: It’s what you do, Damon! You sabotage things. Think about it. Every time there’s a bump in the road you lash out.
Damon: What if I didn’t? What if there was no bump?
Right, like that’s going to happen! There are always bumps, Damon. Life is nothing but bumps. Nevertheless, he seems determined not to give Elena any excuses to run away: “This time I’m not going to make it so easy for you. This time you’ll have to figure it out for yourself.”
Back in Mystic Falls, Rebekah drags Alaric upstairs and off to the caves. Klaus pours himself a drink and settles himself on Stefan’s couch. Stefan asks if Klaus is going to kill him, but then answers his own question:
Stefan: You’ve had every chance and every excuse imaginable to do it, but yet you haven’t. Which means you don’t want to.
Klaus: You know something, you’re right. See, I’m still waiting for my old friend to come back. And by the looks of it, he’s just beneath the surface, waiting to come out and play. Isn’t that right, Ripper?
Stefan: I’ve been fighting that part of myself. Thinking that if I repress it, it would go away. But it won’t. And now that I’ve accepted it, it can’t control me. And neither can you. So, unless you’re gonna stake me, why don’t you get the hell out of my house?
Bestill my heart! Klaus loves Stefan so much. And I love them together.
Damon, Elena, and Jeremy are on their way back from their failed mission. In the car, Rose appears to Jeremy and gives him an anvilicious monologue on The State of Elena and Damon: “It’s not just that she makes him a better person. She does, but he changes her, too. Damon challenges her, surprises her. He makes her question her life, beliefs. Stefan is different. His love is pure. He’ll always be good for her. Damon is either the best thing for her, or the worst.”
Clunky exposition, yes, and Stelena fans could be forgiven for feeling like the show is trying to shove Delena down their throats. But I do like the way this little speech plays into the theme of the episode. If bloodlust and rage are at the heart of Stefan’s and Alaric’s darkness, Damon is at the heart of Elena’s. In the words of Joseph Conrad, “it was written I should be loyal to the nightmare of my choice.” Sadly, we do not have Conrad writing monologues for Rose.
Meanwhile, another couple hits their own bump in the road: Tyler is at Caroline’s and discovers one of Klaus’s drawings of her on her bedside table. He asks why she kept it, and Caroline admits she doesn’t know. Uh-oh, we all know what that answer means! Tyler does too, and says he’ll find somewhere else to bunk while he’s in town.
In the caves, other!Alaric enters the Space Where No Vampire Shall Pass, protected by the spirits of the dead witches. He retrieves the stake but then tries to strike a deal with Rebekah: “There’s only one stake out there, which means only one Original has to die. Help me, and I’ll make sure it’s not you.” She shoots him down, saying, “I don’t want one Original to die.” She then steps over the threshold, unimpeded. “I want them all to die.” Stunned, Alaric asks how she got past the barrier. “I thought you of all people would understand. After all, my son did use your body at one point.”
Hello, Esther! That was very clever of you, to hijack your daughter’s body As You Lay Dying. Next week our guest authors will be Homer and William Faulkner.
SHIRTLESS SOMERHALDER SIGHTINGS: There’s an entire sequence of shots of shirtless!Damon from Elena’s point of view, in which the camera lingers lovingly on his chiselled form. Elena lies in bed, watching Damon move about their shared room in the dark. He sits by the window and drinks, and we get close-ups of Damon putting his feet up, Damon fingering his glass as it rests on his bare belly, Damon’s mouth as he swallows the liquor. All the while, Elena is silently watching him, clearly aroused by the sight. I love the gender-bending twist on this tableau. The default gaze in movies and TV is male, and the object of the camera’s affections is nearly always female. I love that the show is not afraid of turning this trope on its head, and that Ian Somerhalder is game for being seen as the object of desire for the show’s female protagonist.
QUIPPITY QUIP: “Alright, Whoopi. What do you need? Candles? Incense? Pottery wheel?”