'The Vampire Diaries' finale: Nina Dobrev describes the moment Elena chooses between Stefan and Damon

tvd-322-elena-tea.jpg"Vampire Diaries" star Nina Dobrev has been on quite the whirlwind this spring -- just this week, she met fans in Barcelona, dazzled in NYC at the Met Ball, and flew to Los Angeles to appear on "Conan." (You can check out her interview tonight at 11 p.m. EST on TBS.)

Lucky for us, she wasn't too busy to give us a bit of scoop on this Thursday's big Season 3 finale, in which Elena will finally choose between Stefan and Damon. It's not a decision that she comes by easily, of course -- each brother has his faults -- but in a moment of personal reflection, Elena will realize that there's one Salvatore she just can't live without.

Of course, if we told you which brother she chooses, we'd probably be tossed into one of Klaus's creepy coffins for all of eternity, so our lips are zipped. Nina did tell us a bit about Elena's headspace going into the life-changing decision, though.

"Because of the circumstances, one of the Salvatores does leave town," Nina says. Don't worry - the guy who hits the road isn't out of the running. "When Elena does make the decision, she's alone. She's not with either brother. She's taken away from that element of temptation, and away from the pressure, and she's not forced to make an impulsive decision because they're both standing in front of her."

tvd-murder-trio.jpgFans can trust that the decision Elena makes is one that's well thought-out and solid, based on what she really wants, and not on what she thinks is best for anyone else. "Because she's by herself, she can make the decision without being swayed by one or the other," Nina explains.

We're just relieved that she's finally making a choice after a season of wavering. Though we were getting a little bit tired of Elena insisting that she didn't know what her feelings were, Nina says that it was important for Elena to go through this season without a boyfriend.

"The girl had to explore her options and figure out what she wanted!" she laughs. "Before this year hadn't been with Damon, she hadn't really tried that. She was just tempted by him and enticed by him. Now, she's seen both sides, and she can make an educated decision. I think every girl needs to do that. You have to date around before you settle down, because if you don't, you'll always be wondering if you made the right choice."

As Elena looks toward her future with one of the Salvatores, she'll also take some time to reflect back on her past. Nina embraced the opportunity to play pre-vampire Elena as a cheerleader with regular, teenage problems.

"We never get to see happy Elena before the vampires came into her life," Nina says. "Everything was simple, but simple is good, and especially recently she's been wanting things to go back to the way they were. She was a normal girl. Her problems were that she failed a class or Matt didn't get her the right flowers. Simple things. We get to see Elena with her mom, with her aunt, with her dad. We see her dynamic with Bonnie before they knew she was a witch and her relationship with Matt when they were together. It's really cool."

Nina's favorite thing about the flashback sequences was welcoming her close friend Sara Canning back to set after she'd been gone for a year. "It was so nice. She was my roommate and my really close friend, and I hadn't seen her in so long because she lives in Vancouver now," Nina says. "She's such a talented actress. It's crazy. Even just in this one episode, she shines so bright. She truly lights up the screen."

As we know, the finale required some intense underwater work for Nina after a car crash sequence sends Elena over the edge of Wickery Bridge. Though Nina is an experienced scuba diver, having to be aware of the camera and her character while submerged added an unfamiliar element.

nina-dobrev-scuba-vampire-diaries.jpg"I'm normally extremely comfortable under the water. I've been diving all over the world and swum with sharks and whales and all kinds of stuff," she tells us, "but it was a whole other beast this time. You're underwater and you have to talk, and react, and open your mouth -- it gets really intense. I kind of got claustrophobic, actually."

It may not have been Nina's favorite day on set, but once fans see the intense flashbacks -- complete with some new information that will add a complicated twist to Season 4 -- it will absolutely be worth it.

Additionally, Nina tells us that the final twist of the episode changes things for Mystic Falls so drastically that she can't even share her hopes and predictions for Season 4 until we've all seen the finale. We've still got you covered, though -- we'll see Nina next week and be sure to grill her even further on what's to come.

Tune in to "The Vampire Diaries" season finale on Thursday, May 10 at 8 p.m. EST. Duh.
Photo/Video credit: The CW