'The Vampire Diaries' recap: Damon reaches his screw-up quota on 'The Last Day'

tvd-last-day.jpgOnly two more "The Vampire Diaries" episodes left in the season, and Thursday's episode, "The Last Day," set them up to be quite a doozy.

We ended the episode with half of our main cast in serious peril. After last week's brilliant, but exposition-heavy episode, this one was action packed from start to finish. Here we go...

Previously on 'The Vampire Diaries': Klaus is an unkillable hybrid, the curse that doesn't make sense was fake all along, and Damon's eyes threw a temper tantrum. Oh, and Bonnie and Jeremy are still hidden away in a haunted house. But don't worry! They have internet there.

8:01 - Damon is shirtless. I'll give you all a moment to gather your composure.

He put on a shirt before he went downstairs to glare at people, though.

There's some exposition, in case anybody didn't get enough of that last week, as Elijah describes the sacrifice ritual. I didn't realize that the witch involved in the ritual didn't actually need to be sacrificed, she just needed to work some magic. Also... getting your blood drained sounds like a really painful, gross way to die.

Elijah has a special elixir that will wake someone up after they die, and he got it 500 years ago, and he hasn't tested it on anyone? Is there only one shot left? Also, if there's a 50/50 chance that the ring will work, they should still try the ring. Just have her wear the ring and drink the elixir. That increases her chances by like... some percentage! I don't like math.

8:03 - I'm surprised Carol Lockwood didn't try to pull the "come home, it's an emergency" card earlier. If my 17-year-old kid ran away I would totally lie and guilt him into coming home. I also would have been a 7-year-old mother, but that's beside the point.

Also... the Lockwood stairs are the most dangerous place in the world.

8:05 - I really appreciate Elijah's continued honesty with Elena... though I can't help but wonder if he's been carefully setting everyone up, maintaining his "nobility" just to rip the rug out from under them when it matters most.

Hell yeah, Jenna! First of all, it's good that Jenna has been crashing at the Salvatore house; I find it bizarre that Elena doesn't just gather up everyone she cares about and make them stay there forever. Second of all, crossbow!

To prove that he's not Klaus, Alaric has to tell Jenna something only she would know. "The first night you and and I spent together Jeremy walked in right when I was ab-"

That's what he picked? Really? Jenna and Alaric's sex life sounds like a bizarre mess of interrupting teenagers and banana ice cream.

How very Klaus to send Alaric over to warn them that the sacrifice happens tonight. He could've tried to keep them guessing, but I suppose he's far too arrogant for that.

8:06 - Wow. They really broke out the "Dawson's Creek" music for Tyler's return. I know I'm not alone in being thrilled that he's back. I spoke with Michael Trevino a bit this week about how Tyler has changed, despite not having been quite as long as it feels like he's been gone. Tyler -- and specifically his relationship with Caroline -- are such an integral part of the season. It definitely felt like something was missing after he left.

8:07 - MATT! Back at the Grill, Matt proves that once again, he's a troublingly good liar. "I'm putting on the best show of my life," he confesses to the Sheriff after Caroline leaves, "but either she is, too, or she's still the same Caroline." The Sheriff reminds him that a vampire killed his big sister.

Someone ought to remind the Sheriff that he's a 17-year-old kid and she's the Sheriff and she ought to find herself a better partner. Like maybe one who is old enough to vote.

8:08 - I think it's incredibly significant that Elena even bothers to seek Damon's approval, or at least his acceptance. "I need you to understand why I'm doing this," she says. At the beginning of the season, she never would've cared about his opinion of her. There's more intimacy between them in this scene than we've really ever seen, even before she grabs his hand.

"I can't lose you," he says. And instead of saying, "You don't have me," or "I'm not yours to lose," Elena says, "You won't." That's a pretty big deal, kids.

I think it's that spark of hope that pushed Damon over the edge, but I can't help but be reminded of his rash move in snapping Jeremy's neck at the beginning of the season. He's still acting on his own selfish impulse before he considers consequences, and it makes me sad to see how betrayed she looks at the moment he grabs her head. She hasn't looked at him that way in a long time.

That said, there's a key difference between this and snapping Jeremy's neck -- this time, he did it out of love and fear. When he hurt Jeremy, he did it out of rage and selfishness.

Whew. I can't believe this is only the first commercial break cliffhanger of the episode. I'm already exhausted.

8:13 - "How could you of all people take that choice away from her?" Stefan screams. He makes a good point. He essentially took the choice away from his brother 145 years ago, and Damon has resented him for it for well over a century.

This fight is pretty awesome. Now that Stefan's been dipping into the people juice, he's a much better match for Damon... not so much for that giant stake, though.

The juxtaposition between Jenna's reaction and Matt's reaction is pretty great. She's immediately on Elena's and Alaric's side, despite the lies upon lies she's been told and the fact that she's been victimized by their secrets. Matt, on the other hand, reacted negatively immediately and did the thing I always wish kids would do on these shows more often... he told a freaking parent, betraying Caroline the day after their big romantic gesture.

8:15 - "You talk a good game but you don't actually know anything," Elijah says. "She'll never forgive you, and never for a vampire is a very long time." I'm actually floored by how instantly and obviously Damon regrets his decision. I have a feeling that fans are going to try really, really hard to justify his actions, but in my opinion, it's going to be something that lingers in his relationship with Elena forever, regardless of how this all plays out and whether she actually turns. Think about how painful and horrific turning is. Damon watched his brother spiral horribly after turning, and as a vampire, Damon has never been happy. There's no real way to look at this that makes his actions commendable or acceptable.

8:15 - "I should've known you could handle it," Alaric tells Jenna. Duh. I'm so glad that ruse is over. Jenna is awfully forgiving, but I suppose if she forgives Elena she has to forgive Alaric.

8:16 - Elena is dealing with her impending transformation pretty well... considering the fact that she's clearly in denial.

8:17 - How sweet is it that Caroline was going to the hospital to check on Tyler's mom? And Matt thinks she doesn't have any humanity left. C'mon now. I think that the way Tyler has changed is particularly evident in this moment. He's a little bit more restrained, and he's also a little bit warmer toward her. It's like he's come to terms with how he feels about her.

She's trying to play it cool, too, but she caves when she asks him why he didn't say goodbye. I love her and Matt together, but there's something to be said for the way Tyler accepted her as a vampire right away - though, of course, there's the part where his suspension of disbelief was probably boosted by the part where he was already a werewolf.

Ugh, really? Couldn't Klaus take Jules instead? She's prettier and far more disposable.

8:19 - MATT! He's clearly going to be on Team Caroline. I knew he just needed a little bit of time to adjust.

Meanwhile, at the bar, Alaric and Damon are doing their manly-men-at-the-bar-pretending-not-to-be-in-love-with-each-other thing.

I've so been looking forward to seeing the first scene between Damon and Joseph Morgan's Klaus, particularly given the way Klaus was described as "able to out-Damon Damon" in casting sides. As Joseph Morgan explained to me, Klaus intimidates Damon by appearing to be comfortable and calm. When Damon is agitated, it's all over his face. His eyebrows do their impending doom dance and he twists his mouth and twitches his cheeks. It's sort of a spectacle to behold, and he wouldn't be Damon without it, but it's not something that anyone else can replicate. I'm glad Morgan took it in a different direction because Klaus looks anything but anxious. Even his threats are highly restrained, and he speaks with such a casual tone that you get the impression he's already onto any plan they could possibly hatch. He's incredibly menacing.

8:26 - Waterfalls! We haven't seen the Falls or heard them referenced since the pilot, so it's great that they were able to find such a pretty location. Stefan is so adorable here that you almost forget that everyone on this show is about to be gobbled up by the big bad werepire. It's brave of him to try to get Elena to talk, especially considering that what she has to say might hurt him. I also would like to say that I appreciate Elena's laziness here. How come to see the prettiest views you always have to climb high things? "It's your last day as a human. Why cheat now?" Why spend your last day as a human climbing things? I'd spend it walking into places I'm not invited, going outside without wearing jewelry, and rolling in a field of vervain just because I can.

8:29 - How nice of Alaric to invite Damon into his house! Now Damon can come over and watch him sleep any time. (But seriously, if you were Alaric, how pissed would you be that Klaus just appropriated your bachelor pad and made it into his torture lair?)

Now that Katherine mentions it, I don't understand why of all the vampires in town, Klaus has decided on Caroline. Sure, Katherine may have nudged him in that direction, but he doesn't seem easily swayed by the power of suggestion.

Speaking of the power of suggestion, it doesn't take much to get Katherine to try to stop the ritual. "Imagine how much fun that will be competing with Elena for Stefan's love for... I don't know. Ever," Damon says, and Katherine spills pretty easily. You'd think she'd be particularly wary of not pissing Klaus off right about now. It seems she's far more threatened by Elena than she lets on.

8:30 - How long was Tyler just waiting around for Caroline to wake up? She's got some 'splaining to do. I wonder if she's told Matt about Klaus and the sacrifice. I doubt it, because it seems as though he'd be a little more concerned about Elena if she'd filled him in.

8:31 - Stefan's revelation about the pros and cons of vampirism explain so much about Damon. Though Stefan caved to the bloodlust more than Damon did in the beginning, over the last 145 years Damon has actually been subject to much more of those "typical" vampire qualities. He's loved more fiercely, suffered more deeply, and unlike Stefan, he's already started grieving for Elena. That's a huge part of why he fed her his blood. We've heard a lot of talk about the way that emotions are heightened for vampires and Rose revealed that as a vampire gets older, turning off the emotions - be they rage or love - becomes more difficult.

8:32 - It was a stroke of genius to have Katherine trapped in the apartment with Klaus. He's been playing it so casual and quiet with everyone else, but with Katherine, we can see the way he's sort of delighted and impressed by other peoples' pain. That said... how awkward were the screams in this scene? I guess it didn't really feel genuine. I've written before about how agony is one of the most difficult things for an actor to portray - Michael Trevino did an impressive job of it during Tyler's first transformation, but this scene is a little bit stilted for me. Katherine remains fantastic, though, of course.

8:33 - MATT! Matt Matt Matt, being awesome. He just saved Damon even though Damon killed his sister. I mean, I'm not particularly sure what he was doing in the woods with a gun -- it's not like it's the first time Caroline's stood him up -- but I'm glad he was there. Maybe The Grill hasn't been paying too well since the fire and he was out hunting and gathering.

8:37 - Ouch. Well, Matt probably should've known better than to mess with Damon, but I do admire his go-getter attitude.

"You're lucky I already screwed up once today, or you'd be dead," Damon hisses. How nice of him to set a screw-up threshold for himself. Was this the first time Matt and Damon ever interacted?

8:38 - Caroline and Tyler are having the talk! I love this scene. I'm sure we won't get into it this season with everything that's happening, but I'm really looking forward to the love triangle between her and Tyler and Matt being addressed. Tyler essentially conceded to Matt before he left town, but Caroline seems to have been a little more upset by Tyler leaving than she initially let on. It's very telling that she doesn't say, "Why did you leave?" she says, "Why did you leave me?"

And. How perfectly adorable is his little half-smile when she says she could never hate him? I die.

Wait - Damon went to all this effort and only intended to save Caroline? I didn't know he cared about her. Saving only Caroline really wouldn't do much good in this situation, since he knows Klaus has Katherine hanging around as backup vamp. I really like how calm and strong Tyler is in this scene. He doesn't panic when he thinks he'll be left behind and he's so self-assured as he explains where he needs to be.

I could never hate you, Tyler. His smile. "Matt knows about you?" "I'm not leaving without him." Damon was going to leave Klaus his werewolf? When the town is full of vampires? Dumb.

8:41 - Ha! Stefan has climbed Mount Everest. I think "The Vampire Diaries" needs to release a series of hilarious comic books about how Stefan Salvatore has spent the last century of his life. He's such an overachiever.

It's telling to me that throughout their day together, Stefan seems to just know that whatever Elena has to say about being a vampire -- and spending an eternity with him -- is probably not going to be what he wants to hear. I think that the things he loves most about her are the things that make her not want to vamp out.

When Stefan says, "He did it because he loves you," it's the first time that he and Elena have really addressed Damon's feelings for her. It looks like it physically pains Stefan to get the words out, but it's good that they're out in the universe now.

Elena's speech is so perfect here that I'm just going to regurgitate it for you all. This is why I love her and why she is so believable as the woman worthy of both Stefan's love and Damon's.

"He doesn't really know what love is. And to be honest, I don't know if I do. I'm 17 years old; how am I supposed to know any of this yet? I know that I love you, Stefan. I know that. But my future? Our lives together? Those were things I was supposed to deal with as they came along. I was supposed to grow up, decide if I want to have kids and start a family, grow old. I was supposed to have a lifetime of those choices. And now? That's all gone. I don't want to be a vampire, Stefan. I never wanted to be one."

I could watch this scene a hundred times. It's beautiful - Nina's performance is great and Stefan's strength and supportiveness are tangible. At a Press Q&A on Wednesday, executive producer Julie Plec discussed why it's such a defining moment for Elena.

"When we started this show the similarities with 'Twilight' were so extreme. This was our way of closing the book on that chapter of the similarities, because for Elena to say, 'I've never even wanted this for a minute. I'm still a kid and I still have choices to make in my life, choices that I wanted to make' -- I love that about Elena and I think that's so beautiful. We're happy to be able to let her have that introspection, when the choice has already been made for her." .

8:48 - Aw, it's always exciting when Stefan's car makes an appearance! This scene was mentioned at the Press Q&A as Daniel Gillies' favorite moment in the episode. "I thought that stuff was deeply moving," Gillies said. "It's so great - the moment when he flicks his eyes open, that sound, and then the beautiful wide shot."

In the bar, Klaus was intimidating Damon by invading his space. Here, the fact that he keeps his distance from Stefan and Elena is almost more threatening, if only because throughout the scene I feel like we're waiting for him to pounce on them.

I do think it's strange that Stefan doesn't go with Elena, or at least follow her. They know where Klaus is doing the sacrifice, right? So wouldn't Stefan want to be there while Elena's transitioning?

Loving Paul Wesley's quiet anger and sadness in this moment, though. He's working all the angles masterfully in this episode - from perfect teenage boyfriend to broody angst vamp.

How kind it was of Klaus to wait while they made out and while Stefan closed his eyes before whisking Elena away.

8:50 - I saw some fans on Twitter complaining about Stefan's panicked phone call to Damon, but I really like it. Stefan is at his lowest, most helpless point in the episode, and while he starts the phone call off accusatory, he ends it like a scared little brother. "I'll take care of it," Damon says, and Stefan doesn't tell him not to, or to come home, he just hangs up. He's terrified and he actually believes his brother might be able to fix it.

8:51 - Oh no! I really didn't think we were going to have to actually watch Tyler transform again. As fantastic as Trevino is in these scenes, I don't actually like to see them. It's gross. And he didn't even have time to change into his special transformation shorts!

I hate to poke at plot holes, but come on, Damon, you're a vampire. Grab the kid, throw him over your shoulder with your vampire super-strength, and zip off to the Lockwood cellar, where you can dump him before he transforms.

Matt handles that gun really well. That's... weird.

8:52 - Oh, man. Really? Of all people who could be this episode's product placement spokesperson, it's got to be Klaus? He's too good for this.

And now Damon remembers that he's got vamp speed. Brilliant.

"You can kill me for it," Damon tells Klaus after dropping the news of the rescued sacrificial lambs. "I don't care. It was all me." I love that last line. Damon saved the day all by himself and he wants to makes sure everybody knows about it.

"The nice thing about werewolves is they tend to travel in packs." Klaus lost his werewolf, but he's got a sparewolf. Ugh, he is so disconcerting right now. I have goosebumps.

8:56 - "Tyler, it's me. It's Caroline." She wants so badly for him to recognize her, but he lunges anyway. Mason seemed to recognize Tyler in the woods when he transformed, but maybe that was some instinctive relative wolfpack thing.

8:57 - Good morning, Damon.

8:58 - I figured that Greta wasn't being held against her will by Klaus, but I wonder if she knows yet that her entire family is dead.

What? I absolutely was not expecting it to be Jenna on the ground. When I said a few weeks ago that i hoped Sara Canning would pull a Candice Accola next season, I was referring to her shocking us all with her awesomeness, not... actually having her character turn into a vampire. Is everyone in this town eventually going to turn?

8:59 - Oops. Looks like Tyler got in a good bite before Damon kicked him away. I've seen some debate as to whether it was Klaus or Tyler who bit Damon, but it was definitely Tyler - Klaus would've used him as the sacrifice had he not already been compromised.

That said, I'm not worried that we're going to lose Damon. You'd have to be crazy to think that this show would let go of that character before his storyline is completely bone-dry. I think we're going to see some major boundaries broken down because everyone - Stefan, Elena, and Damon himself, thinks he's about to die a very miserable death. You can read more about what's coming up in the final two episodes here.

In case you're keeping score, the characters who are looking death in the face at the end of this episode are Elena, Jenna, Damon, Caroline, Matt, and Tyler. I'll even throw Bonnie in for good measure because we know she's about to storm the ritual, despite the fact that she and Jeremy have been living comfortably in the creepiest haunted house ever. (They've got internet.)

I'm going to give MVP to Joseph Morgan and Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley this week, because it's an imaginary award that I made up and I can do what I want. Stefan was at his best in this episode, and the standoff scenes between Klaus and Damon gave me the shivers.

What did you think about this episode? Weigh in below in the comments.
Photo/Video credit: The CW