'The Vampire Diaries' recap: Caroline comes out of her cage

tvd-daddy-issues.jpgFirst of all, I should mention that I was on "The Vampire Diaries" set in Atlanta for a few days of filming this episode, "Daddy Issues," so I've been particularly looking forward to seeing all the bits and pieces come together. That said, I think that even if I hadn't gotten a special peek behind the scenes, this would be one of my favorite episodes of the year.

It's always nice to see an episode with all the series regulars present and accounted for, with some great development for a lot of the characters in and out of their relationships. I kept checking the clock during this one because it seemed impossible that so much had happened in so little time.

Speaking of time... I don't have enough of it these days, so let's get going. Hit play.

Previously on The Vampire Diaries:
Taylor Kinney was alive and growly and unfairly attractive. We miss you, Uncle Mason.
 
8:00 - I would just like to say that the fact that Tyler and Caroline don't look like they're absolutely frozen in this scene is a tribute to Michael Trevino and Candice Accola, because they shot it at seven A.M. on one of Atlanta's coldest mornings all winter. I couldn't feel my face.

Moving on - I love that Caroline thinks Tyler's there to talk about the kiss, but he's way, way beyond that at this point. He's downright scary in this scene - we've seen Tyler lash out a bunch of times but I don't think we've ever seen him manhandle a girl like that. And yes, Caroline's a vampire and he knows she's strong, but he's still getting rough. We've been so sympathetic toward him lately that it's easy to forget he's a bully with a canine temper. Basically, he's totally psycho here.

8:03 - Well thank God Jules wolfed out on a bunch of innocent campers last week, or Mayor Lockwood would've had no good town event to hold now! A funeral is as good an excuse as any to get the whole town together, right?

Oh, right, Uncle John is back. I looove David Anders, but I really hate Uncle John. And not really in a love-to-hate kind of way. He does, however, bring out a very amusing side of Jenna, and it's nice to see Sara Canning get to play a little. "It's okay I'm confused, right, because we were not expecting you like ever." I didn't realize that Aunt Jenna didn't know about Uncle John being bio-dad. Ouch?

8:04 - I love scenes where Stefan ( Paul Wesley) and Damon ( Ian Somerhalder) are bickering over the best way to protect Elena ( Nina Dobrev). In the end, they both have the same goal in mind, so it's kind of hilarious to see the roundabout ways they manage to arrive at the same point.

"The guy tried to barbecue me," Damon says. The man has a point. I mentioned this last week, but I'm glad that everyone has clued into the fact that Dr. Manwitch is on Team Elijah, so we don't have to see that story play out. It got boring before it even started. I just wonder where Bonnie's head is in terms of trusting Luka.

Perfect Damon line: "I may just have to go get a hero hairdo of my own and steal your thunder."

8:07 - So here's the thing... I have a lot of choice words for Jules ( Michaela McManus), but I'm not actually allowed to use any of them on Zap2it without getting a whole bunch of ugly asterisks involved. That said, there's no denying that she's actually right about all this stuff. Obviously, vampires and werewolves are destined to be enemies - otherwise their curses wouldn't be linked to incite combat. And Tyler's "friends" did lie to him... though I'm confused as to why Jeremy isn't taking any heat in all of this, because in the end, he was the only one who was truly Tyler's friend when Mason actually bit it.

Jules may be an enemy to the vampires, and thus an enemy to the viewer, but she's not any direct danger to Tyler. I actually believe her when she says, "We live by a code of loyalty. We take care of each other. It's my duty and honor to help you."

8:08 - "Are you okay?" I like Damon showing care for Elena and not trying to mask it with a snarl or a sarcastic comment. He's not asking about her physical well-being, he's concerned for her emotionally now that her deadbeat dad has shown up. It's really nice to see them on the same side. It's also cute how Damon keeps saying, "I'm the good guy! I've changed! I'm caring and sharing!" like if he says it enough, we'll all stop believing it. You can't fool us, buddy.

Side note: I love Elena's ponytail. She's always sort of swimming in all that hair. I think with Uncle John around she's got to be ready to fight at all times.
 
8:09 - Is this the first time Stefan and Tyler have ever spoken? I enjoy it when Stefan throws his vamp strength around. He's so fun when his eyes get all red and scary.
 
8:09 - And so we meet the much-buzzed about Brady. He's super hot, super funny on Twitter... super bad news for Mystic Falls. Oh, and these two are a couple? Perfect. That will be a great combination. I actually got the yuck-shivers when she said, "I want the boy more than I want vengeance." Is it really about wolf loyalty, or does she have another angle for wanting Tyler on her side? In this case, I'm actually inclined to believe the former. It's that pack mentality.

8:13 - "Without a full moon you're no match for me." Okay, really, what does Stefan hope to accomplish here? Does he really think he can just vamp out on Tyler, talk him into understanding why they killed his uncle, then walk away and trust him to be loyal? When has that ever worked?

8:14 - So glad that Jeremy ( Steven R. McQueen) is in this episode. "Looks like I slept through the homecoming," he tells Uncle John, and he's got the bed head to prove it. Remember when Jeremy was a scrawny Ephram Brown emo kid with nail polish and a bottle of Visine in his pocket? No, me neither.

He warns Uncle John about the "anti-vampire stuff." Things are becoming very political around here - you're either with the vamps or against them. It's cool that Jeremy is willing to give up his ring so easily, and also cool that Uncle John recognizes what a douche move it'd be to take it.

Aww, look at how Jeremy looks at Bonnie. Can they please make out now?

8:15 - I find myself really wanting to trust that Elijah will stick to his word like Dr. ManWitch says he will, but I don't. Wait a minute - since when are Bonnie ( Katerina Graham) and Jeremy all public-snuggly? Did something happen while they were M.I.A. last week? If we missed their big "let's be together!" moment, a-la Serena and Nate on "Gossip Girl" last year, I'm going to be so, so mad. Honestly. Who hooks up off-screen?

8:16 - Wow, Jenna's life sucks, and Alaric has a crappy poker face.

8:17 - I'll just say this one more time and then I'll stop - what the heck is David Anders' accent? "I've been alright, Damon," he says. Apparently he just got back from Scotland? And I'm pretty sure there was some Australian happening in the kitchen earlier.

8:18 - "We go to to the same school, we have the same friends, we keep the same secret. This could work, Tyler." I'm still kind of waiting for Stefan to get around to the "sorry we killed your uncle over a rock right after your dad died because of us" part. Obviously, though, Tyler isn't waiting. I have a bad feeling that he's really going to regret calling Jules.

8:18 - Damon is such a close talker when he's pissed off... or feeling amorous... or, you know, awake. It's good to know that he's drinking the vervain, too, but I can't help but wonder if it's making him and Stefan weaker before it makes them stronger. Like how a flu shot can kind of give you a touch of the flu before it builds up your immunity to it.

8:19 - MATT! Look at him in his terrible denim jacket. The writers can write the most bland, inane lines for Matt ("Yeah, you're avoiding me a little.") and then Zach Roerig does his little half-smile-teasing thing and suddenly the scene is pure gold and I'm all melty inside. tvd-daddy-issues-matt.jpg

I'm sorry. I know everyone is all Team Forwood or whatever, but there's enough angst on this show. I just want Matt and Caroline to like, hold hands and watch bad movies and flirt while he's wiping down tables at the Grill. Elena, Stefan, and Damon bring bucketloads of trauma and pain and agonized longing. Matt and Caroline are so refreshing.

8:20 - I think it's cool that Jules has been a wolf so long some of the wolf qualities have bled over into her human life... like how she can smell just about anything coming a mile away, including a lie, apparently. I have to say, the mace-style Vervain spray? Why didn't anyone think of that before?

And there's the scene I've been waiting for for like two months! When I was on set, Accola was so excited for this scene where she got shot in the head. She's gotten to do some really badass stuff this season, but this one takes the cake I think. I can't help but be a little distracted by the fact that there were a ton of people, including Matt, milling about like three seconds ago. I'll believe that he made it into the Grill, but did everyone else in town just... not hear the gunshot?

8:25 - Good morning Caroline. Headache? Man, I love this show. She's got a bullet in her brain and she has to go in and fish it out herself. Gross and perfect. "I see you got the bullet out. That was nasty. I've got lots of wooden bullets. Other toys. It's going to be a long night, sweet pea." There's something about Caroline that allows her to retain the high-school-kid-in-danger qualities even when we know she's a vampire that's just this side of invincible. Her pain is real and we can feel the trauma of moments like these. The MVP is practically Accola's already and we're only 25 minutes into the hour.

8:27 - Yeah, Tyler, you messed up badly this time. Haven't Stefan's eyebrows taught you anything yet?

8:27 - Here's Andie Star! We pretty much know everything that's going to happen with her already, thanks to my chat with Somerhalder, but it's nice to see it all go down. I also like the way they've edited this scene, with Elena watching them interact. Despite what Dobrev says, I can't help but think that Elena is at least... interested in the way Damon is with other women. She has to like that he's in love with her, even if she doesn't love him back.  That's just... part of being a girl. They're about to have a moment, so this is when Stefan will burst in -- or call.

In the bathroom, I'm not sure why Elena is so concerned for Tyler's well-being. Have they even ever been in a scene together? Do they know each other? It's interesting that even she pulls the "It's Elena!" card. This time, though, Damon calls her on it, telling her to stop "assuming that I'll play the good guy because it's you who's asking." Zing.
 
8:29 - Brady is so hot and so evil. It's really a shame how that works out.
 
8:33 - Watch out, Ponytail Elena is a BAMF herself. I love the way that she's relating to Uncle John. "You and I, we're family," he says, in that patented self-righteous way.

"That word is off limits to you," she hisses. She's been so awesome in the last two episodes; I've completely forgiven her for her passive blah-ness in the entire first half of the season. When they keep Katherine in her cage, Elena has the opportunity to shine.

8:35 - Finally, the stakes feel like they're raised on the vampires vs. werewolves war that's been building since Mason rolled into town in his rumbly Bronco. This clash in the woods is intense.

I hate to play favorites, but when an episode is written by Julie Plec and Kevin Williamson, the dialogue always has a little extra bite. "Since Stefan got here before me, I'm going to let him try it this way before I resort to my way, which is a little bloodier," Damon says when he shows up. Unfortunately, Jules has another wolf trick up her sleeve... a whistle only dogs can hear. The pack has arrived! But on "The Vampire Diaries" in the dead of winter, they wear shirts! And they're still hotter than all of Taylor Lautner's friends! Unnecessary exclamation points!

8:37 - Oh my god, Tyler Lockwood, I might never forgive you for those three seconds of hesitation before you let Caroline out of her creepy RV torture chamber. And then to just stand there while Jules has a gun to her head! She sat with you all night while you wolfed out like a crazy animal man who could kill her with one bite and she still respected you in the morning! Get your act together!

This battle is epic.

8:38 - Dr. ManWitch has arrived! "Elijah made a promise to Elena. I'm here to see it's upheld. You need to go." Wow. Elijah is going above and beyond the call of duty to keep his word. Just how much will Dr. ManWitch be intervening to save them from things unrelated to Klaus, though? I guess Stefan and Damon should thank Elena for that deal they so vehemently oppose.

8:44 - "I can come in if you want me to," Stefan says. "You don't have to pretend with me." I love this scene so, so much. She looks absolutely wrecked, but somehow, there's still burning hot chemistry between these two. I don't think there's supposed to be, but it's nice to know that even on a friendship level, he has someone. Whether you're a fan or not, it's inevitable that sometime in the run of this series, Damon/Elena is going to happen, and when it does, it's going to absolutely crush Stefan. I'm glad there will be someone he can turn to, if only for a shoulder to cry on.

"I'm not girly little Caroline anymore. I can handle myself," she says. Yes she can. But I still hope she calls Matt and he comes over with, like... soup. Or something else Matt-ish.

Yes, I officially want Caroline to make out with everybody on this show. All the time.

8:45 - So Uncle John says he knows how to kill an Original, but I still can't believe him. It's a special dagger, which must be dipped in the ash from an old oak tree and "plunged" into the heart of the Original. It just seems too easy that Isobel knew this and Katherine, somehow, didn't. Aren't they on the same team?

"If she accomplishes what she's attempting, Klaus will never set foot in Mystic Falls," John says of Isobel. Is her goal to kill Klaus?

8:46 - Oh, poor clueless amazing perfect Matt. "Hey, did something happen?" he asks. Hello, understatement  of the century. I feel so sad for him in this scene. Part of me likes that Caroline didn't need to call anyone when she got home to an empty house after the world's most traumatizing evening (amazing how all of that happened during Matt's shift at the Grill, huh?). Part of me just wishes she'd called anyway.
 
By the way -- Jeremy and Bonnie, still cuddling, hours later. If they've already gotten together and are just going to spring it on us, I will cry. I want to see the moment she finally caved and gave in to the power of Jeremy's unexpected hotness!

But back to Matt and Caroline, but mostly Matt. It's just so him to kind of... allow this. He doesn't call her out on her lie, he doesn't go the melodramatic route and hang up on her. He just lets her let him go... at least, that's what he thinks she's doing. He's so used to her hurting her that he barely flinches this time. That said... bad lie, Caroline. You know he basically works at the Peach Pit. There's a 99.9% chance that everyone you know is in his eyeline at any given moment.

8:47 - "I had no idea they would come for you." I like Trevino's work in this episode a lot, because even though I'm really really mad at Tyler, I'm still pretty sympathetic to the fact that he's got nobody right now. That said, I threw imaginary confetti in the air when Caroline slammed the door in his face.

Here's what I can't get over: she stuck by him when he was going through hell. She literally held him together while he was in agony and terrified. She wouldn't leave him alone even when her own well-being was at risk. He was so overwhelmed by this in last week's episode (which was technically yesterday) that he just haaaad to kiss her. And now some stranger manages to sway him to the point that he's willing to stand there while she's bleeding all over an RV with a gun to her head? Sorry, Tyler. Nope.

I am so completely on Team Caroline right now. Who knew that she'd become easily the most relatable and the most badass character on this show?
 
8:51 - Mystic Falls 101: If you open a door, always expect someone to show up behind it when you close that door, giving you quite a fright. Seriously, it happens every time. How about a new gimmick?

Of course, it's usually a vampire that appears out of nowhere. Is Uncle John a vampire? How about we stake him and test the theory.

I like that when he says he's trying to protect Elena, she spits, "Got it. Get in line." It's a good thing that she's just as annoyed as we are by the Protect Elena At All Costs Club.

There's no better way for us to sympathize with Uncle John than to have him pull the You're An Orphan And I Understand card. Dead mom's bracelet, two points. I'm glad he refers to Miranda as her mother. I'm still dying for a flashback of some kind to Elena's life before Miranda and Grayson died. (Like... when she was with Matt.)

"Miranda and Grayson were your parents, Elena. And I know I'm nothing to you. You have no reason to believe me or trust me. I've done so many horrible things, but when you lost your parents, I lost my brother. My family. I lost my way. I'm probably never going to make things right with you, I know that, But I'm going to do everything I can to protect you and protect this family."

Trying not to believe him... it's just... so... hard.

8:52 - Okay, seriously, does anyone ever knock at the Gilbert house? Come on in, Stefan, make yourself comfortable in the shadows.

I love, love, love how she just runs into his arms. The moments when they genuinely lean on each other for support are so touching and sweet. "I need your help," he says. Whaaat? Is Stefan actually letting Elena in on one of his big Stefan Plans?

8:53 - "I'm sorry about your friends," Tyler tells Brady and Jules. You're sorry? I hate you, Tyler! And then he tells them about the moonstone. So dumb. I honestly can't believe that after what they did to Caroline, he could even think about going back to that RV. They tortured her for hours. They put a bullet in her brain and left it there for her to fish it out herself. And he's, what, gonna sit around and drink a 40 with them?

8:55 - And I'm crying. I didn't realize how badly I needed someone to show up and comfort Caroline until they did. Stefan is a stand-up guy in this episode. He just organized a girly slumber party. I mean... really? "We're going to slumber it," Elena says. Sweetest thing ever, or sweetest thing ever?

8:56 - Hey, slutty Andie Star. I don't want to, but I kind of like this woman. In a show where all the kids are forced to act like grown-ups and all the grown-ups are insanely childish, it's really nice to see a grown up making grown up decisions. Like heading on over to the Salvatore house for some casual bathtub sex, for example.

I love when she calls Damon tall, dark, and handsome, and he says "I'm not that tall." It's true. He's not.

It's amazing that this scene is between Damon and another naked woman, and meanwhile, it's entirely a Damon/Elena scene. Yes, it's sad that he can't tell Elena all of these things without compelling her to forget, but at this point, I don't think he needs to tell her. I think the fact that he continues to show up, continues to save and protect her, has clued her in to the fact that he really is in love with her, in a selfless way that can't be explained away by lingering Katherine feelings or sibling rivalry.

The blood in the soap is really gross. It's such a shocking thing to see so much  blood in an otherwise sexy scene.

Damon says he kills "because I like it. It's in my nature. It's who I am. But then I have to stay together to protect her, and she wants me to be the better man, which means I can't be who I am." Does that mean it's in Stefan's nature to kill, too, the way it's in Damon's? Does Stefan experience these feelings of going against his instincts? Maybe he's just better at hiding them than Damon is.

8:58 - Oh, excellent. Katherine and Uncle John are in cahoots now. What .

9:00 - Next week on "The Vampire Diaries": Stefan and Elena go to "Dawson's Creek."

Okay, the MVP this week is an obvious one. Candice Accola is a rockstar and "The Vampire Diaries" is so, so lucky to have snapped her up. I remember listening to the commentary for the pilot episode, when  Williamson and Plec mentioned how "green" she was - she still had a lot to learn about basic things like lighting and acting for the camera. How far she's come! It's amazing. She might be the character I care most about, in the end. I just really, really want her to somehow find a happy ending.

I can't wait to hear what you guys thought of tonight's episode! So much development happened, especially within all the different "ships" -- except for Jeremy/Bonnie, who are apparently getting their development on in the bye-weeks.

Comment below and let me know what you loved and what you didn't love. How did you feel about Damon's bathtub confessions? Did you see the chemistry between Caroline and Stefan like I did? Do you feel that Tyler needs to be redeemed, or has he been through enough to excuse his actions (or lack thereof) in tonights vamps vs. werewolves showdown?

Photo/Video credit: CW