'The Vampire Diaries': Matt remains perfect while Klaus and Caroline give us surprise tingles

tvd-caroline-birthday.jpgFirst of all, I'd like to apologize for the extreme lateness of this "Vampire Diaries" recap. In my defense, I was busy on Thursday night -- busy hanging out with Joseph Morgan and getting you all the scoop on the budding Klaus/Caroline romance -- so I'm hoping you'll forgive me just this once!

Hopefully the late recap doesn't imply that I didn't love this episode. In fact, it may rank as my favorite "TVD" episode ever. An unexpected connection, a Stefan/Klaus showdown, and tons of quality time with my fave, Matt Donovan? Count me in.

Previously on "The Vampire Diaries": Damon and Elena totally kissed, and some other stuff happened.

8:00 - Okay, I know all the "Vampire Diaries" fans love a good Damon shower scene, but I can't be the only one who was cracking up as he creepily smiled to himself while hosing down. Who does that? If he'd been humming to himself, or singing, even, I'd have bought it. But the weirdo smirk just made me insanely uncomfortable. He looks so lecherous.

Meanwhile, Elena is spending the morning working up a sweat and "channeling frustration" at her history teacher's bachelor pad. Honestly, these two are lucky that the authorities in Mystic Falls are the worst, otherwise he'd be out of a job and she'd be out of a good-girl-next-door reputation.

Basically, what we derive from these scenes is this: Damon is very pleased with himself. Elena, not so much.

8:03 - Once again, someone is lurking in the witch house while Bonnie tries to do her spells on the coffins. Kat Graham once described the language she chants in as "Plecian" - as in, a made-up Julie Plec vocabulary.

Outside, Damon's spidey sense tingles, just in time for him to take down a hybrid. The guy took so long to vamp-out when he was about to jump Stefan, so Damon had plenty of time to do a little heart-snatching. "Hybrids. Really bringing the neighborhood down," he says.

8:05 - Oh, right, these people sometimes go to school and do normal kid things, though Elena's decoration of Caroline's locker leaves something to be desired. It's interesting to see everyone lying to Elena -- Bonnie, Stefan, and Damon are working together on the whole coffin thing, but they haven't filled her in on what's going on. Eventually, people in this town will have to figure out that leaving someone in the dark "for their own good" never ends well.

Elena tells Bonnie that Jeremy is going to be leaving town. I almost feel like dragging this out another week lessens the impact of it, somehow. It was so powerful and sad in last week's episode, but talking it to death before his actual exit -- and turning it into a weird Elena vs. Bonnie thing -- is making it less painful.

8:06 - Back at the witch house, Damon does the coffin math that we all struggled with, and Stefan stomps around having a revenge temper tantrum. "He does what I say, or I dump his family at the bottom of the ocean!" he says. Damon warns him, "The only way to call someone's bluff, Stefan, is to be willing to lose everything if you're wrong." Unfortunately, Stefan is totally bat-poop crazy at this point, and as far as he's concerned, he has nothing to lose. This will go well.

8:08 - Bonnie not-so-subtly tries to drop a bunch of hints to Jeremy that he was compelled. "That's exactly what Elena said." Fortunately, Jeremy isn't the smartest, and he doesn't get it. I'd be more sympathetic to Bonnie's side of things, but in last week's episode when Damon told Jeremy he was about to compel him, Jeremy didn't even start to protest a little bit. This is what he wants -- basically, by compelling him, they eliminated the guilt he'd feel for ditching his sister, and that's about it.

8:09 - And the music swells for Tyler and Caroline's long-overdue breakup scene. (Honestly, I thought these two broke up after he vervained her at homecoming.) The thing is, Tyler seems to be giving up a little bit too easily, here. It's been a long-running theme on this show -- when it seems like there's no way out of a situation, they always find a loophole. There's got to be something Tyler can do to get rid of the sire bond.

Tyler gives Caroline a charm bracelet for her birthday. It's a little high school (it's got a football helmet on it, you guys) but it's cute -- and very Caroline. (I see an F dangling from the bracelet, but no C. Is the "F" for Forwood? Tyler is such a shipper.)

8:10 - Stefan and Klaus have my favorite relationship on this show. Klaus wants them to be friends so badly, and no matter what Stefan does, it just doesn't get through to Klaus that Stefan hates him. I will say, though, Stefan gets an A+ for that decapitation. The thing is, they've built up these hybrids as a massive threat to the vampires and the town -- Stefan even let Klaus go to keep the hybrids from killing Damon -- but we keep seeing the Salvatores kill the hybrids in really easy ways. I'm not seeing that they're much more threatening than your average vampire, as long as no one gets bitten.

8:16 - MATT! "Except with tequila." I love Matt. I know everyone talks about how boring he is and how he doesn't have a storyline, but moments like this are why he's so essential. He's the guy who Elena called to help Jenna home from the hospital when she walked into a knife, remember? He's important to the characters and in the grand scheme of the show, having the perspective of an outsider looking in on all the madness is important.

I know it's Caroline's birthday and all, but shouldn't Elena be spending some quality time with Jeremy before she sends him away forever? I think Caroline would forgive her that, just this once, particularly because Caroline is being very Eeyoreish about her birthday.

8:17 - Can we take a moment to feel really bad for Tyler? He's all alone. Nobody in town trusts him, his super-hot girlfriend can't be with him anymore, and everyone just seems to have given up. (When Stefan got all Klaus-y, Elena made it her mission to get his humanity back. Nobody's out there fighting for Tyler's soul, though.)

That said, this whole "free will" thing is looking a little shady. Klaus doesn't give up that easily.

8:19 - Funeral party! This town is the weirdest. "You need to say goodbye to your old life so that you can move on with your new one," Elena tells Caroline. I hope there's a deleted scene of everyone singing drunken dirges on the DVD.

It made me smile that even after the last year, Caroline is oddly self-satisfied when Matt calls her a mean girl. "Sometimes, no offense," he adds, because he is Matt and he is perfect.

I love the candle-lighting scene -- when Bonnie uses her powers for fun little things it's so much more charming than when she's trying and failing to open coffins with creepy chants.

8:21 - The council meeting is taking place at a fundraiser to restore Wickery Bridge -- the very bridge where Elena's and Jeremy's parents lost their lives. Meredith makes an appearance at the event, and isn't exactly subtle as she lays into Alaric about vampires. She is a Fell after all -- a card-carrying member of a founding family. "I hate that bridge. My senior prom date dumped me on this bridge," she says. I have to admit, despite the eerie music they're playing, signaling the skeletons in her closet, I really like Meredith already. She can stay. (How convenient that Jeremy leaves just as she arrives. This show is at capacity.)

Klaus makes nice with the mayor, who has, apparently, been filled in on Tyler's new hybrid status, because she barely flinches when Damon reminds her that Klaus is "an immortal hybrid who ruined your son's life." Klaus even agrees to protect Tyler if Stefan stops being a reckless, vengeful jerk. I have to admit, as much as I love bad Stefan, he's gone a little too far at this point. Revenge is a bad reason to put his entire town at risk.

"Get your brother under control or the council will be forced to take action against him," the mayor says. Oh, because the council has done such a good job of "taking action" against bad guys in the past. Come on.

8:28 - Caroline is drunk-texting Tyler. It's her birthday, so she gets a free pass. Meanwhile, Bonnie makes it all about her when she snaps at Elena for getting Jeremy out of town. Even Matt is bored with this storyline. 

8:30 - Sheriff Mom is a little more anti-Klaus than the Mayor is, but she still wants Stefan to stand down from his quest for revenge. She's right. I still don't understand what Stefan wants revenge for. He promised Klaus 10 years of servitude and Klaus let him off the hook after just a few months. His girlfriend and his brother still cared about him. Everything that Klaus "took" from Stefan, Stefan can have back, if he stops being such a massive jerk. He should stop making a spectacle of himself and focus on the singular goal of getting that fourth coffin open to kill Klaus.

8:31 - Enter Brian, Meredith's prom date, who seems to think she's in over her head somewhere. They have a bit of a conflict and Alaric steps in, because he still hasn't learned that if he thinks someone's hot, she's probably going to turn into a vampire and die soon.

Brian, it turns out, is the medical examiner, a key player in the council's whole hide-the-vampires game. He warns Alaric that Meredith is a little crazy, but Alaric doesn't take the bait.

Elsewhere, Stefan shows up, grabs a knife, a tries to take out Klaus's new favorite hybrid, who totally looks like a Backstreet Boy. (Actually, this is Daniel Newman, grandson of Paul Newman.)

"To beat the villain, Damon, you have to be the better villain," Stefan hisses. Sigh. Remember when Damon was the villain? The good ol' days.

8:32 - With grouchy Bonnie gone, everyone's back to giggling at the funeral, until Tyler shows up. I like how Matt pulls his whole tough-guy thing, as if Tyler couldn't snap him in half with the flick of a wrist.

"I want her to be happy," Matt says when Elena gives him the poor-you face as Caroline leaves with Tyler. "It's what I want for all of you guys." Listen, you guys, he is just the greatest character ever. When Stefan arrived in town and immediately swept Elena off her feet, Matt was nice to him, even though his heart was broken. When Tyler admitted that he'd fallen for Caroline, Matt didn't stop being his friend. Matt is just the best. He's the one constantly getting left behind as his friends wade deeper and deeper into the supernatural world, but when they need him to bring a bottle of tequila and sing happy birthday, he shows up for them, every time. It's a beautiful thing.

Outside, Caroline and Tyler do that thing you do with your ex when you're drunk and you should know better. (And he drops the L-word! Aww.) In their case, though, it's a little more high-stakes -- he nips her neck, and suddenly realizes that Klaus actually has stripped him of his free will, just in a subtle, Klaus-y kind of way.

To her credit, Caroline immediately realizes that she's been played, and she screams at him to get away from her.

Back at the tomb, Matt and Elena are flirting, laughing, and having fun -- it's a tiny glimpse of what their lives were probably like before Elena's parents died. "We don't have any more drinks and Matt's being haunted by the Fell ghost," she teases him.

Then Stefan swoops in and steals Elena away. Typical.

8:38 - In case I haven't made this abundantly clear: Paul Wesley is so, so good. This season has been an incredible showcase of his talents and the fact that he doesn't get acknowledged alongside Ian Somerhalder when it comes time for awards nominations is a crime.

Stefan and Elena speed down the highway. She panics; he just doesn't care.

Back at the fundraiser, Damon pulls Klaus aside, warning him to give Stefan what he wants. "He's operating on crazy right now," he warns, but Klaus doesn't believe Stefan could bring himself to off Elena.

"Crazy or not, that kind of love never dies," he warns. Twist that knife in Damon's side a little harder, Klaus.

8:40 - Matt brings Caroline home because he's perfect and stuff, and Candice Accola proceeds to break all of our hearts. "I'm sorry mommy," she sobs, hallucinating as she's dying. As much as I adore Caroline, I love when this show does terrible things to her, because Candice just kills the vulnerable, traumatized scenes.

8:40 - Stefan starts the process of turning Elena as he's speeding through town. "I'm going to drive your blood source off Wickery Bridge," he threatens as she screams. If Candice does trauma brilliantly, Nina Dobrev is the winner when it comes to sheer terror.

(As an aside -- they just aired the commercial that congratulates Nina on being the first-ever write-in winner for a People's Choice Award. I'm so glad that the "Vampire Diaries" fans showed up in droves to support Nina when it came to these votes -- she's so deserving of it.)

8:46 - Even with everything that Stefan has done to her, this is the worst. "My parents died going over this bridge," Elena sobs. "I almost died. You knew that. You're the one that saved me." Destroying Klaus is Stefan's priority. It means more to him than Elena's life, than Elena's choices. He was horrified last season when Damon tried to turn Elena, and now he did the same thing to her, complete with an extra dose of insensitivity.

"Destroying Klaus is all I have left," he says. Apparently, he missed the entire first half of the season, when Elena and Damon were falling all over themselves to save him every single day. He hasn't actually lost anything. If he focused his energy on getting his humanity back, Klaus wouldn't have actually stolen anything from him.

And then he abandons her on the bridge. The cherry on top of a fabulous evening, surely.

8:48 - Klaus shows up at Caroline's house. Even though they're far from friends now, Matt knows that Tyler wouldn't have bitten Caroline on his own -- he knows it's Klaus's doing. I'm still a little confused on Klaus's motives here. Did he want an invitation into the Sheriff's house? Did he want to win the Sheriff's favor? Is there something about giving Caroline his blood that benefits him?

And then begins a string of incredible scenes that prove that "The Vampire Diaries" is one of the best shows on television, despite what Nielsen might say.

"Are you going to kill me?" Caroline asks Klaus.

"On your birthday? You really think that low of me?" he asks. Ritualistic sacrifice, altars of blood, mass murder, compulsion, stuffing his family members into boxes for centuries at a time... but dear god, the man would never sink so low as to not respect a birthday. What does she think he is!? A monster!?!?

I love this scene so much. First of all, Candice and Joseph kill every frame of it, creating a connection that I never would've believed could be legit had lesser actors been playing these roles.

Caroline has led a relatively small life. Had she not been turned into a vampire, she probably would have lived and died in Mystic Falls all her life. She'd still be talking about winning Miss Mystic Falls well into her forties, she'd keep her high school yearbooks dusted off and easily accessible for years. She'd have grown up beautiful and boring and that would be it.

And now, thanks to the town's "vampire problem," she's got access to more than that. "Great cities, art, and music," Klaus teases. "Genuine beauty." I never thought I'd want Caroline and Klaus together, but I want Caroline to be the kind of woman who wants an extravagant life -- a life bigger than Mystic Falls. Count me in for Klaroline or whatever we're calling it.

Before we get too excited about it though, I will say that it feels like Tyler is getting written into a corner here. A lot of the most important aspects of his storyline feel like they're being handed over to Klaus, and that bums me out a bit, because I feel like Michael Trevino has really earned his place on this show and having him being written out of many episodes at a time every year is getting old.

8:52 - Damon picked up Elena from the bridge. "I'll survive," she says. Somehow I always do." The "because I am first on the call sheet" is implied, I suppose.

Stefan won this round against Klaus, but at her expense -- and, again, given the relative weakness of the hybrids (how easily Stefan got the jump on Nick Carter back there!) it wasn't worth it.

Damon does defend Stefan, a bit. "I can't help but be a little proud," he says. What Stefan did is probably something Damon would've done a couple seasons back, so I can understand why Damon gets a little thrill out of it. I have a feeling that if Damon had been in that car and seen how devastated and scared Elena was, though, he wouldn't take this side.

And then, finally, they talk about the kiss. "It's right," Damon says. "It's just not right now." I'd agree with that.

While we're talking about the kiss, I wanted to share a fun fact with you guys. Originally, Damon and Elena's first "real" kiss was written in to the end of the "Homecoming" episode.

"We wrote the scene into the last episode before the holidays, and then we took it out and didn't shoot it. We just said 'It's not right yet, it doesn't feel right. They're not ready, they're not in the right place,'" Julie Plec told me this week at a TCA party on Wednesday. "Elena, specifically, wasn't in the right place for that kiss. As it was in ['The New Deal'], there was a 50/50 chance that she'd haul back and slap him in the face, and a 50/50 chance that she'd kiss him back. We needed the kiss to happen when we knew we could hit that 50/50 mark perfectly."

8:56 - Goodbye Jeremy! Honestly, I didn't think that Jeremy was for real leaving until this shot of him looking back at Elena as he left the house. That has "and that was the last we saw of him" written all over it. Word is that while Steven R. McQueen still lives in Atlanta, he hasn't been back on set since filming this episode, and there are no concrete plans to bring him back to the show quite yet. I remain hopeful, though, because while last week's episode was a great one for Jeremy, he didn't get to do anything cool in this week's. It was a total waste of a swan song.

While it was nice to see some closure for him and Bonnie, I really wish we'd seen the goodbye between him and Alaric. Their mentor relationship has been built up since Season 1, and we should have had the emotional payoff in the end.

8:57 - Caroline wakes up, not dead, with a diamond tennis bracelet from Klaus on her nightstand. This guy moves fast. That was their first ever scene together, and now it's diamonds.

I love the contrast between Tyler's gift and Klaus's gift. Tyler's is so high school. It's the kind of thing you love for a while then lose at your first frat party. Klaus's gift is something you keep forever. Particularly when you're immortal.

8:58 - "You're not going to jump, are you?" Matt says, joining Elena at Wickery Bridge, because he's an awesome friend. He's always showing up for people when they need him, this guy.

Of everyone on the show, Matt was most representative of Elena's life before her parents died, and the fact that he's sort of giving her permission to give up the ghost means a lot. "You're not that girl anymore," he says, and it's a powerful moment, because Matt loved that girl. He cried on that girl's shoulder when his sister died.

And then, somehow, he pulls yellow flowers up out of a cement bridge and throws them over the ledge in memory of the Elena who should have died on that bridge over a year ago. See, you guys. Matt makes things blossom out of concrete. He is magical!!

8:59 - At the Mystic Grill, Alaric is sulking over the goodbye scene we didn't get to see, and he and Meredith bond over their mutual love for day-drinking. But meanwhile...

9:00 - TURNS OUT MEREDITH IS CRAZY and probably killed Brian with a stake. Cue music!

Next week: Michael Trevino is shirtless and some other stuff happens.

MVP this week should probably go to Candice or Joseph for that scene, but I'm giving it to Zach Roerig because he was awesome in this episode and he never gets the chance to be awesome. Also because it's my made-up award and I do what I want.

Feel free to disagree with me in the comments! Make sure to keep your eye on Zap2it over the next few days, because I've got interviews with Michael Trevino and Joseph Morgan on the way.
 
Photo/Video credit: The CW