'The Vampire Diaries' recap: Love will rip your heart out

tvd-kinney-ian.png "The Vampire Diaries" is back! There's no time for niceties tonight. Last week was a bye week, so let's get to "Plan B" right away.

On your mark, get set, play.

8:01 - Oh, Elena ( Nina Dobrev). You know it's bad when your boyfriend - your vampire boyfriend - tells you that watching him sleep is creepy. It's kind of their thing. This whole warm, intimate scene should feel comfortable and safe, but whenever anyone is happy on this show, I get nervous. It always means things are going to take a turn for the worse.

Meanwhile, Katherine is at a... cozy bed and breakfast? I picture her at a more upscale, fireplace in your suite, your own personal bellhop to drink for dinner kind of place. Make note, guys - I have a feeling that Katherine's random exposition about Miss Flowers is going to become relevant in the future.

Elena mentions a "Lockwood charity thing." Is Carol Lockwood the most charitable woman in the universe? She gives more than Oprah.

I'm trying really, really hard not to comment on how insanely sexy Mason Lockwood ( Taylor Kinney) is this week. I'm clearly failing miserably at this personal goal. "I don't trust anyone," he says. I wonder when that particular damage was done, because he sure seemed to trust her back at that bar when he killed his friend a year ago.

In the previous episode, I felt really uncomfortable with Elena sharing her blood with Stefan ( Paul Wesley). It seemed that the decision was made very hastily, which was out of character in my opinion. At that time, Elena plunged a letter opener into her palm to feed Stefan, and then he slurped her blood up and segued into one of their more urgent make-out sessions. This week, she's just pricking her finger, and I find it much easier to understand. Now it feels more clinical and obligatory -- Stefan looks reluctant -- as opposed to impulsive and sensual. That makes more sense to me, given who these characters are.

Oh, poor Mason. He believes Katherine when she says she loves him. He never had any hope - she's too manipulative, too smart, and too ruthless. This is like watching Heidi Montag get screwed over by Spencer Pratt... again.

8:04 - Jeremy ( Steven R. McQueen) has this perfect mix of innocence and misguided bravado, and it balances very well against Damon's ( Ian Somerhalder) centuries-old stubbornness. They both want the last word, but for completely different reasons.

8:05 - Jenna ( Sara Canning) is the coolest aunt ever. She invites Stefan over to dinner like he's a peer, not some kid, and she teases about his little slumber party with Elena instead of shutting it down. I wouldn't mind seeing her do a little bit more actual parenting, because these kids are in actual trouble, but I like this opportunity to see her interact with Stefan. I'll take what I can get with Jenna. I really want to love her, but I'm waiting on a good reason. Right now the most important thing about her is that she's important to Elena.

8:07 - Things could be worse for Sheriff Mom. Her dungeon has room service!

"It's not like I died, or anything," Caroline ( Candice Accola) says sarcastically. I'm having a little bit of trouble sympathizing with Liz right now, because she won't acknowledge that Caroline is her daughter, but she also doesn't really seem to be mourning the loss of a child. She's just angry, and almost betrayed. After Damon spared her life -- and after even she warmed up to Damon as a friend -- she should see the potential good in Vampire Caroline.

8:09 - We're finally getting some insight into the significance of the moonstone, but it's still a little bit vague to me. If it was used to seal the curse, then can it be used to break the curse, or simply to drop the whole full-moon part of it? If a werewolf had the moonstone, would he have the ability to change at will?

8:10 - I think that because this show is usually so great, the moments of not-so-greatness stick out like a sore thumb. Elena and Bonnie's ( Kat Graham) heart-to-heart is just dull. The dialogue feels stiff, and we're not learning anything new from this scene. They don't feel like estranged best friends, they feel like strangers making conversation on a bus.

"She's a vampire, I can't," Bonnie says when Elena asks her to be there for Caroline. I don't understand why Bonnie can trust Stefan and can't trust Caroline. Yes, Caroline killed someone, and that's horrible. But Bonnie is a supernatural creature herself, and there was a time when her powers were new and scary. I wish she'd just warm up.

That said, she's a teenager. When you're a teenager, you think you're the only person in the world who ever has gone or will go through what you're going through.

8:10 - Stefan is pretty hot when he's smirky and pleased with himself.

Mason is pretty hot always.

8:15 - Can everyone just stop asking the question, "Damon, what are you doing here?" Damon is everywhere. He's in your high school. He's in your bedroom. He's in your Founder's Day dance. He's in your living room playing Pictionary. Get used to it.

I'm confused about what Jeremy is blaming Elena for, here. He seems to have bought into his whole Gilbert Destiny thing, which would've been on him whether Elena was around or not.

Damon's reaction to the Katherine bomb drop is surprisingly not terrifying. "Werewolf thing aside, the guy's a surfer," he says. Definitely a notable quotable to save for later!

Stefan's protectiveness of Jeremy seriously makes him the best vampire boyfriend ever. "He's playing Indiana Jones, he involved himself," Damon says.

8:16 - MATT! What a lovely surprise! Finally, the Matt ( Zach Roerig) and Tyler ( Michael Trevino) bonding time I've been dying for all season. I love the way these two characters have been written, because it feels like a normal friendship. Too often on T.V., friendships between high school guys border on unhealthily codependent (see: Seth and Ryan, Riggins and Street, Chuck and Nate). Matt and Tyler feel very realistic to me in that they'd probably call each other best friends (though, ever to each others' faces) but they really barely know each other.

Tyler calls Caroline a "insecure neurotic bitchy little twit." Uh-oh. Was that the "beginning of a love story" bell I just heard chiming in the town square?

8:17 - "That's me giving you an aneurysm," Bonnie tells Damon about those nasty headaches. She's kind of a genius, and it freaks me out that she can do something so... oddly violent. She could do it to humans, then, too. I know that it's not in Bonnie's nature, but who knows if the next witch we meet will be so discerning.

There is a lot of interaction and fun brother banter between Stefan and Damon this week. I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- that's the best part of this show. Stefan and Damon are both instantly more likable and relatable around each other. I think Somerhalder and Wesley struck gold with their chemistry. They make it look easy.

Awww. Poor Mason - Bonnie played on his chivalrous awesome nice-guy thing, because she knew someone like Mason wouldn't let a poor weak high school girl lift a table on her own. And then - MAGICAL ANEURYSM. Kinney is really good at the "I'm in agony" face. It's what made his wolf transformation so cool in "Bad Moon Rising."

8:25 - Caroline's transformation has given us such an opportunity to learn a little more about a vampire's daily struggle to maintain balance. For example - I had no idea that even with enough human blood, vampires still have to manage an innate desire to kill. I'm also thrilled that it was Caroline who turned, because her controlling personality has made her such an awesome vamp. "I'm better than Stefan," she quips. "He's a bit of a problem drinker. A blood-oholic."

Foreshadowing, perhaps?

I hope that at the end of all of this actual conversation with her daughter -- who is still very much her daughter -- Sheriff Mom doesn't need to be compelled at all. She's a vampire hunter, basically. She's going to notice something's up with her daughter. How many times can she discover Caroline's secret and have it compelled away again? This isn't "50 First Dates."

8:26 - Oh, Damon is tying Mason up with Mason's own leash. Life's a bitch, isn't it? I won't mention Damon's deviously appreciative tone when he finds Mason's restraints.

Bonnie discovers that Mason has hidden the moonstone in a well. I haven't read L.J. Smith's novels, but I know that for those of you who were fans of "The Vampire Diaries" before the CW series was even a glimmer in Julie Plec's eye, that well has some serious significance. Congrats! It's been acknowledged.

"Hey, judgey. Thank you." One thing I like about Damon lately is that he tends to give credit where credit is due. Unless he's giving himself credit - then he gives it when it's undue as well.

See, this scene between Bonnie and Caroline has so much more oomph than the one with Bonnie and Elena. There's actual tension between the characters, the dialogue feels like the way people talk, and the awkwardness is palpable without feeling phoned in.

8:28 - Oh, my god, Matt and Elena are actually interacting. It's like they know each other or something. Is it my birthday?

As for Stefan and Elena - could this fake fighting turn into real fighting? Her increasing frustration with being left out of the loop doesn't feel like a game.

8:29 - Wow. Damon is... kind of sadistic, which isn't a word I would've used to describe him before. He's always gone for the quick kill, not the long, drawn-out torture. This is just hard to watch. And I don't care that Somerhalder thinks Damon is over Katherine - I think Damon's a little jealous that Mason is getting some from her and he's not. This is brutal.

I know I pay a lot more attention to Kinney's general hotness than I do to his acting prowess, but I'd be remiss in leaving that out right now. I'd imagine that scenes like this are pretty uncomfortable for an actor, because great physical agony is a hard emotion to replicate. It's sort of awkward, writhing in pain when you're not really feeling it, shouting and groaning in response to a sensation that's not there. Kinney makes it heartbreakingly believable.

8:32 - Vervain in the well! Genius. Mason really doesn't trust Katherine.

8:35 - Jeremy found vervain for werewolves! He's such a smart kid. I bet he could make the honor roll if he put his mind to it and stopped letting little things like vampires distract him. Wolves get hurt by wolfsbane the same way vamps get hurt by vervain, then judging by Stefan's skin in the last scene, things are going to get gross. Damon, can you at least take a picture of Mason now before you shred his face?

Jeremy's reactions to the horror show in front of him are great. He may speak like an adult and look like an adult, but he's a kid, and all of this is new and scary to him.

8:37 - This is now two episodes in a row that Elena has, without hesitation, hurried into somewhere dark and scary to save Stefan's vampire butt. At the beginning of the season I was concerned that Elena's general awesomeness would seem anemic when compared to Katherine's sharp tongue and complete lack of scruples. Now, watching Elena literally repel down into a scary well... I'm convinced that she won't be overshadowed.

Girls rule on this show.

Ouch, Stefan. His pretty face is all messed up, and worse -- his hair is flat!

Sorry, but... a snake? That's what's down there, eying Elena? Stefan's face has been burned off and Damon is making Mason gargle his own melted vocal cords. I'm not afraid of a snake.

8:39 - "Why would a vampire help a werewolf break a curse that keeps them from turning whenever they want?" Damon asks Mason. (So, I'm guessing that confirms that with a moonstone, a werewolf can change at will.)

Mason replies, "Because she loves me."

"Now I get it. You're just stupid." Those are some awful big words for someone who was crying over Katherine like a month ago, Salvatore.

"Just help Tyler. Don't let this happen to him," Mason begs Jeremy. Wow. Way to lay a huge responsibility on the guy. Now, if Mason dies -- and I've come to terms with that inevitability, but I don't want to talk about it, okay!? -- Jeremy will almost certainly feel a bit like Tyler is his responsibility. I actually really like that idea. Both Jeremy and Tyler could use a true ally with what's coming.

Dear God, Damon, would you keep your crazy kid-killing hands off of Jeremy's neck? Is there a time-out chair for unruly 170-year-olds who can't quite grasp the whole "keep your hands to yourself" kindergarten rule?

Mason, at this point, wants to die. I think that's the saddest thing about Mystic Falls - so many people and creatures there feel as though they're enduring a fate worse than death at one point or another. I wish Mason wasn't giving in so easily, though. The real curse isn't the wolf thing; the real curse is Katherine. And doesn't he have a responsibility to stick around, for Tyler?

He ripped Mason's heart out? Literally. I'm... nauseated. And sad. I don't want to talk about it! Jeez!

8:46 - Jenna is so happy and innocent and uninformed. Someone get Alaric an "I'm With Doomed" t-shirt, please.

8:48 - Confession time: I teared up a bit when Mason begged Jeremy to look out for Tyler, but now that Caroline and Sheriff Mom are finally sharing their lives instead of living on parallel lines, I'm full-on crying it out. "Bonnie wasn't mean to me once," Caroline says, and it's so real and innocent. It's something I can imagine having said to my mom when I was a kid.

It's gut-wrenching to watch Caroline give that connection up because she knows it's the right thing to do. She's not selfish. She doesn't even try to hold onto her mother for an hour, or a night. She compels her right away to keep her safe. I'm going to include the whole brief monologue below because it's really beautifully written.

"I know I can trust you, but you're never going to trust them. I'm going to take you home. You're going to forget that I'm a vampire. You'll remember you got sick with the flu. You had a fever, chills, and ickiness, but I made you soup, and it was really salty. We bickered. You got better, and then your selfish little daughter, who loves you, no matter what, went right back to ignoring you. And all was right in the world."

8:49 - Now that I'm already crying, I'm just gonna let them keep falling for poor, duped Mason all rolled up in a tarp on the floor of the Broodinghouse. I wish Damon would text a fake goodbye to Tyler, too. Won't anybody think of the children?

8:50 - "You shouldn't have," Katherine says about her lover's death. The way people say "you shouldn't have" when someone gives them an unwarranted gift. Ugh, I love to hate her so, so much.

"Send my love to Stefan," is the way that she signs off the phone call with Damon. Twist that knife, Kat.

8:51 - Uh, is Jenna a robot? She's suddenly all Stepford. And wouldn't she have recognized Elena's voice on the phone? At least enough to look confused?

"Jenna's been my little spy for days now, and unlike you, Jenna actually listens to me." O-kay, well that answers those questions.

Oh my god! Katherine just made Jenna plunge a kitchen knife into her own stomach. It's this twisted game of dominoes - Katherine hurts Jenna, which hurts Elena, which hurts Damon and Stefan.This is the worst we've seen from her, I think, because Jenna wouldn't hurt a fly if a fly landed in her tequila shot.

Why did an alarm just go off in the kitchen?

8:55 - "The doctors told Alaric that she got lucky," Elena tells Jeremy. I'm surprised we've got an update on Jenna's condition this early. I figured we'd have to wait until next week to learn whether she'd live or not.

I take no comfort in this. I know this show pretty well by now, and all that means is that the actual episode-ending cliffhanger is going to be decidedly worse than Jenna attempting to do surgery on herself over a loaf of bread.

I really wish we'd been able to see the scenes with Jenna and Katherine. The only interaction we've seen between them was on the porch in "The Return," but I'd like to see Katherine pretending to be Elena. Luckily, it sounds like that'll happen next week.

I freaking adore Jeremy, and I'm so glad that he's got both feet in the supernatural world now, because he and Elena can be a united front. Sure, Damon and Stefan are looking out for her, but being taken care of by a brother has a value and a safety that being taken care of by someone who wants in your jeans doesn't offer.

8:56 - "It was nice to see Matt today. He hasn't been around for a while," Carol tells Tyler. Word, Carol Lockwood. Word.

Tyler was doing really well, learning to control his anger through Mason's advice and guidance. Maybe being abandoned by him is what will set Tyler off on the wrong path again. Poor kid. His luck with father figures is as good as Jeremy's luck with girls.

Soundtrack junkie moment: "Wires" by Athlete. I first heard this song in a "One Tree Hill" episode in 2005 and downloaded it immediately. I'm so glad music supervisor Chris Mollere pulled it out of the archives. It signals that sad, sad things are about to happen in three... two... one...

8:57 - Paul Wesley killed this scene from the first frame of Stefan's face. He knows what's coming, and it's completely unbearable to him. Elena's dialogue is practically unnecessary. You could watch this scene on mute and see how much he's hurting -- for her, at first, and then for himself. Stefan is the one who made the first choice, to be with Elena. He's the one who "had to know her," and he's the one who couldn't walk away. I'm pretty floored that these two are actually breaking up. I'm not sure it will last long - I doubt it - but that doesn't erase the impact of this scene. What a wrecking ball Katherine is.

8:57 - Damon says that he screwed up by baiting Katherine, and maybe he did. Stefan begged him not to, after all. But the reality is, it's not his fault, and I'm glad that Elena doesn't just allow him to shoulder the burden of what's happened. She could blame him, and that might be easier on her, but instead, she's waving the white flag. Elena Gibert has officially given in, and it's hard to see.

8:59 - "I'm going to go after Tyler Lockwood, and I'm not going to stop until he kills me," Matt says.

Have I mentioned I love this show?

Two of my favorite characters took hits tonight: Mason and Matt. I'm not actually worried about Matt. If he were really going to be Tyler's kill, it wouldn't have been spelled out like that. This creates for some great dramatic tension over the next few episodes, but these writers aren't the type to give away the punchline a month in advance. As far as I'm concerned, Matt has never been safer than he was the moment he announced his compulsion-induced death wish.

As for Mason, I know he had to go sometime, and I know that "The Vampire Diaries" has never let a character wear out his or her welcome. (Except, maybe, for Uncle John. Good riddance.) Still, it was hard to see it pan out like that, without a significant scene between Mason and Tyler in the entire episode. I guess that's realistic, but it's adding to the sting.

Of course, I can't let you all go without handing out the MVP Award. I really, really wanted it to go to Kinney, for all that moaning and groaning and swearing that he loves Katherine. It could also be Accola's, because the way she said "your selfish little daughter, who loves you, no matter what" made me want to call my mommy.

But really, it's all Wesley's. That break-up was so well-played by him that I could practically see Stefan tearing apart at the seams on screen. Bravo.

Okay, your turn, guys. I've never wanted to discuss an episode more than this one! Write me a comment below and let me know what you agreed or disagreed on. Which was your favorite scene? Who would you give MVP to? Which "twist" surprised you most? Lay it all on me; let's chat.

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Photos: CW