'The Vampire Diaries' recap: Damon and Elena share a no-tell motel kiss and Rebekah becomes a whole new woman

tvd-319-damon-elena-kiss.jpg "The Vampire Diaries" has no shortage of tricks up its sleeve as we approach the end of Season 3. After the twist with the Original bloodlines, I was expecting more of a straightforward episode, but the final moments of "Heart of Darkness" surprised us yet again.

A lot of this episode's success can be attributed to Stefan and Alaric sharing significant screen time together. These two don't usually confide in each other, but this week, they had no other option, and their conversation revealed a lot about how both of these men work at this stage in the game. We were also privy to some very genuine moments between Damon and Elena, though those moments weren't particularly flattering to Elena as she cast blame and played dumb.

Previously on "The Vampire Diaries": There is one Original-killing stake left, and evil Alaric has hidden it from the other vampires. Also, I think Elena might be caught up in a bit of a love triangle. Maybe.

8:01 - "Alaric?" Elena asks. "Yep, still me," he says, and she walks right in. Because if he were evil and homicidal and murder-crazed, he'd totally be like, "No, Elena, don't come in here; I'm really awful right now." She brings him a toothbrush, clothes, and some boring books. Couldn't someone compel him an iPad or something? A couple seasons of "True Blood"?

Elena reveals that Stefan is setting her free to see if she comes back to him. I just have to say, I've been a girl for 25 years, and I've never had to fly across the country with a boy to decide whether or not I'm in love with him. Elena brings new meaning to the word "denial."

8:04 - Stefan's staying home with Alaric to try to turn him evil and then coax answers out of him about the location of the other stake. Damon doesn't think he can handle it. "You're good Stefan again;  you're in control. Sorry, you might get the girl, but you lose the edge," he says.

There's a loaded moment between Stefan and Elena before they leave. "Be safe," Stefan says. Awkward condom reference? No, just noble, self-sacrificing Stefan. He stopped drinking people and now he has no sense of humor.

8:05 - Caroline and Rebekah have it out over the theme of the dance, but Rebekah wins because Matt thinks bell-bottoms are super lame.

"Maybe he sees a challenge. Unlike some other people, I don't sleep with everyone I make eye contact with," Caroline snaps. Harsh. She's hardly one to begrudge a girl a one-nighter with Damon, given her Season 1 arc.

As she's leaving, Matt chases her down, and it's revealed that they were just trying to trick Rebekah into leaving Caroline alone for a day so she can go get Tyler. I'm not sure why that was necessary, because Rebekah doesn't seem to care about Caroline's love life and the entire Rebekah/Tyler/blood-slut storyline was completely discarded, but it affords us some good Matt time, so I'm on board. "Tell him I said hi," Matt says. (That is my favorite line of the entire episode, but I'll spare you the persuasive essay about why Matt rules and everyone else drools.)

8:07 - Lonely Stefan decides to borrow his big brother's drinking buddy for a while. "No matter what I go through to get her back -- fighting my bloodlust, trying to gain control of my life again," he says, "none of that matters if she has feelings for somebody else."

I understand the need to stall Elena's decision. It's got to happen in the finale, because those are the TV rules. If Pacey and Joey had sailed off on the True Love three episodes before the finale, there would be nowhere left to go. But unfortunately, waiting until the finale to have Elena make her inevitable choice is just making everyone look weak and stupid. Stefan shouldn't wonder if Elena has feelings for Damon, he should know. Elena shouldn't need to fly to Denver to figure it out, she should know.

8:08 - When Elena and Damon arrive at the batting cages to find Jeremy, the place is full of people. Then Kol shows up, breaks Damon's head with a baseball bat, and Damon retaliates by driving the broken bat in through Kol's belly and out through Kol's spine.

Then they just leave him there, like this:
  tvd-kol-stake-319.jpgAnd none of the other patrons of the batting cages have any sort of reaction. Nobody runs over, there are no shouts of alarm, nothing. What do the "Vampire Diaries" writers think Denver is like, exactly? This is not the Cornucopia in the Hunger Games arena!!

8:13 - Jeremy, Elena, and Damon hit the motel to try to summon Rose. Damon drops his guard a bit to reveal that he gave Rose a lovely last day on earth. Jeremy drops his hoodie to reveal his new and improved biceps.

tvd-319-tyler-caroline.jpg 8:15 - Soundtrack Junkie moment: This "Dawson's Creek" song is "Redemption" by The Strange Familiar. I'm still a little confused by this Tyler/Caroline reunion, though. Did he call her? Why are they hiding from Rebekah? In their rush to get their clothes off, who lit all the candles in the cellar? Why are there blankets in there? Can't they just go do it in the car like normal teenage monsters?

8:16 - I love Rebekah, I love Matt, I want them to have a million little blonde babies. Julie Plec promised me a "Dawson's Creek" moment between them, and I think we definitely got it. I was half expecting him to offer to teach her to drive the police cruiser he borrowed from Deputy Doug.

In the house, Rebekah is all glowy from all that almost-affection from Matt, but her buzzkill mother shows up to die on the floor. I hate when that happens.

8:18 - I can't stand Rose. I found her weepy and pathetic when she was alive, and I find her smug and icky when she's dead. Jeremy's translations of her weird, overinvested-shipper comments are funny, but other than that, she gives me the uh-oh feeling. She reveals that she was turned by a vampire named Mary Porter.

8:19 - Alaric offers some interesting insight into why having an alter-ego isn't all that different from having a regular old dark side the way Damon and Stefan do. "He's me. I'm not compelled, I'm not possessed, there's no humanity switch," he says. "What drives him is me."

Unfortunately, Stefan and Alaric's drinking sesh is crashed by Klaus. Stefan proceeds to tell him everything, again. Did someone put truth serum in Stefan's bunny blood? Why is he incapable of keeping anything close to the vest? Klaus even ended up killing Alaric again anyway.

8:26 - "A motel?" Stefan gets all weird about it, but honestly, I can't think of anything less sexy than sharing a grimy motel room with your potential love interest and your little brother who has abandoned his golden retriever. (They could've at least picked up the dog. And compelled themselves a nice hotel room. I'm sure this dystopian, murder-capitol-of-the-world version of Denver has them.)
 
8:26 - "What's up with you and Damon?" Jeremy asks. "What do you mean? Nothing's up," Elena replies. Zzzzz. Wake me when she gets a clue.
 
8:29
- "At some point we are going to do this in an actual bed, right?" Caroline asks Tyler, because she's classy like that.

Caroline's suggestion for how Tyler should deal with Klaus: "Tell him to suck it." I love her. She then ruins the mood by telling Tyler that if Klaus dies, he dies, and Damon doesn't really care if he dies. I, the broken record, don't understand why Damon wants Klaus dead so badly, but... whatever.
 
8:31 - Director Chris Grismer did a great job of conveying the building tension between Elena and Damon in this motel scene. I love the looks they're exchanging, and his hesitation as he lies down on the bed, and I seriously got tingles from that hand-holding. "Why don't you let people see the good in you?" she asks, as if Damon having a warm and fuzzy heart of gold is a whole new revelation to her.

"Because when people see good they expect it, and I don't want to have to live up to anyone's expectations," he replies. Then they hold hands for a second, and I get all tingly inside. So does Elena, apparently, because she's so confused about her feelings that she has to get up and go for a walk.

"Don't," she says, when he follows her.

"Why not?" he asks. She doesn't have an answer for that, so she kisses him. With a run-and-jump, even. I love a good run-and-jump.

8:37 - I keep seeing disgruntled shippers angry at Jeremy for crashing the party, but honestly, they were making out up against the wall next to the soda machine at a no-tell motel. It wasn't going to go any further. It's not like they were somewhere sexy, like a dirty underground cellar in the woods that smells like werewolf sweat.

tvd-319-stefan-vamp.jpg 8:38 - Alaric wakes up from being dead, and Stefan drops the obligatory "dick" of the episode. Alaric's getting pissed, but he's still not evil. He convinces Stefan to start beating him up. This is so twisted and sexy. 

8:40 - "So you guys can make out some more?" Aw, Jeremy is such a little brother. Turns out that Scary Mary is dead and looks a lot like the little girl from "The Exorcist." Kol staked her because Stefan told Klaus everything. "She was a bit of an Original groupie," he explains, hinting that Mary could've been turned by any of the Originals, so now that she's dead, the Mystic Falls vampires will never know where they come from.

8:43 - Stefan continues to beat the crap out of Alaric, but he's caught off-guard when Alaric starts bleeding. He tosses him up against the wall, and Evil Alaric finally comes out to play.

8:48 - Alaric reveals that the stake is in the old cave, where the vampires are blocked. Rebekah and Klaus heard.

8:49 - With Kol gone, Elena and Damon decide to have a first aid sexual tension party, but this time, Damon isn't going to let it fizzle out with longing looks and lingering injury-caressing. She turns away from him, and he finally stands up for himself. "What the hell is this?"

She tells him, bluntly, that after they have good moments, he always lets her down by lashing out. (It's still bugging me that she thinks he "lashed out" after the Original Ball, when what he actually did was save Matt from having his bones crushed by Kol.)

This time, he says, he's not giving her that option. He's not going to lash out and make the choice easy for her. She's going to have to figure out how she feels. Finally.

8:54 - Stefan says that now that he's accepted his ripper side, it can't control him... but just minutes ago, he told Alaric that he could lose control if he goes too far. I can't decide if he's just talking tough for Klaus or if we were supposed to see some kind of big change in Stefan while he was punching Alaric.

8:55 - Rose is the worst. Why is she still hanging around, mouth-breathing at Damon and Elena? And why is she trying to convince all the Stelena shippers Jeremy to get on board with Damon/Elena?

"It's not just that she makes him a better person, and 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."

It sounds really pretty, but this logic is deeply flawed. Stefan will not always be good for Elena. We just saw almost an entire season of him being absolutely not good for Elena. Chewing through people's necks, killing poor Not Now Dana, telling Elena to get out of his life on a regular basis, blindly pursuing vengeance without regard for an entire town of innocents -- these are not good for Elena things.

In terms of Damon challenging her and making her question things, yes, that's all good, but the audience still shouldn't be hearing it from Rose, of all people. These are things that Elena should be saying to Damon. Here, this is how she can do it. Honestly, if Elena had told Jeremy these things when he asked her about Damon, even that would have been a more powerful storytelling move than having it all come through Rose.

I also sort of think that the writers imagined Rose talking to the fans, not to Jeremy, because she never mentions that thing where Damon snapped Jeremy's neck. Elena may have forgiven Damon for that, but I'm sure it's still a point of contention for Jeremy, and if this is a conversation with Jeremy, that should've been addressed.

8:56 - There's been some backlash on Tumblr that suggests Tyler overreacted to Caroline keeping Klaus's drawing, but I think Tyler responded appropriately. Let's remember that he's 18 years old, here. And Klaus is really evil almost made him kill his girlfriend. And he's 18. I wouldn't want to have a slumber party, either, if I was him.

tvd-rebekah-esther-319.jpg 8:58 - Twist! Rebekah is not Rebekah, she is Esther. We should've seen that coming, given Esther's abrupt "death," but I totally didn't see it coming, and it's awesome. I've been hoping to see the return of the body-swap magic, and Claire Holt is the perfect person to pull it off. If Evil Alaric pretends to be Regular Alaric, and Evil Esther pretends to be regular Rebekah, we are in for an incredibly compelling hour next week.

MVP this week goes to Nina Dobrev. Even when Elena is at her most annoying, Nina plays it honestly and without judging the character. (That's our job.) Plus... the run-and-jump, you guys.

Drop me a line in the comments below (if you comment on enough entries before April 30, you could win an iPad) and let me know what you thought about this episode. Do you think Rebekah is dead? Did Stefan make a mistake in sending Elena to Denver? Does this mean Elena has made her choice? What do you expect to happen next with Caroline and Tyler?


Photo/Video credit: The CW