'The Vampire Diaries' recap: Poorly executed awesome ideas

tvd-dinner-dead.jpgI absolutely adore the flashback episodes of "The Vampire Diaries," because I think that they're the ones that really showcase the show's greatest strength: the relationship between Stefan and Damon.

You can 'ship until you're blue in the face, but at the end of the day, the relationship between the brothers Salvatore is undeniably the most complex one in the series. It's a centuries-old rivalry driven, firstly, by the inherent blood-borne love anyone has for his family. When it's easier to hate someone, loving them is a giant pain in the ass, because you can't just shake it and you can't walk away from it.

Seeing the way Damon and Stefan related to each other just after they turned, when they were essentially all each other had in the world, is absolutely heartbreaking. I rarely feel the urge to give Damon a hug... tonight I did. "The Dinner Party" was the most fun I've had watching TV in ages. Let's get started...

Previously on the Vampire Diaries: Elena found some vampire diaries! Yay!

8:01: I'm never going to be able to hear the name "Honoria" without laughing, but moving on... yay, flashback!. "I saw the vampire who killed me," John Gilbert writes in his diary. How very Lindsay Lohan of him!

I absolutely love Paul Wesley when Stefan goes to extremes. I don't care if he's extremely sad, extremely angry, extremely bloodthirsty... anything but extremely earnest and trustworthy. That gets boring after a while. The aesthetics of crazy vamped out Stefan are awesome -- he is so perfect looking as Stefan now, never a hair out of place, so seeing him bloody and ugly and dark is thrilling all by itself.

The fact that Stefan and Elena are still at the lake house is impressive. The fight they had last night was pretty deep, and most high school girls would demand to be taken home right that instant. It says something that they're having problems, but they're sticking it out and dealing with them. It's a mature relationship at this point, or at least it will be once they find a way to work together to solve their ginormous Klaus problem.

8:04: I knew that Caroline wasn't going to be in this episode, so I didn't have high hopes for the Tyler fall-out, and I'm not surprised that the whole (traumatic) thing is being brushed under the rug with a few quick explanatory lines about him running away from home and his mom panicking. Still kind of bums me out. I miss him and his dumb henleys.

"Thus ending our werewolf chapter, bringing us to..." "Killing Elijah."

Heh. At least they acknowledge the sort of clunky "okay, now that we're done with werewolves, we're onto the next thing!" storytelling. I don't mind it in particular, but it isn't how real life works. You don't neatly wrap up one problem just in time to address the next.

8:04 - Jenna looks like Adventure Barbie here, but Elijah still dresses in his Classy Gentleman finery as they trek through the woods..

There's a bit of information/exposition overload happening here, so I'll sum it up for you guys as best I can: The people who boast about being Mystic Falls' founding family members weren't really the first to settle here. Initially, it was a sort of refuge for those Massachusetts families persecuted for rumors of witchcraft. Those witches are about to be relevant in some way or another.

Also notable in this scene... Jenna called Alaric her friend. Huh? I realize that the timeline on this show is completely jacked up (the last month's worth of episodes happened in four days) but haven't they been together long enough to, you know... move past the "It's complicated" Facebook status?

It's sweet that Elena included Alaric on her list of people Elijah has to keep safe. Also, in case I didn't before, I really love Elijah now. "It's a joke, Rick. Lighten up." Marry me.

8:06 - In the midst of all of this vampire-on-vampire warfare and his sister's impending death and all that ugliness... Jeremy has some puppy love that needs to be addressed, damn it! Steven R. McQueen is 22 years old, but he plays 16-and-crushing brilliantly. It's adorable.

Bonnie, on the other hand, is cold! She's so casual about last night. Boo. Also, Luka shows up and says some stuff. Sorry you got witch-roofied, Luka. Okay, not really sorry, because you suck. Can we get back to Jeremy making tragic heart-eyes at Bonnie now?

8:07 - Total geek moment, but I am going to go out and buy myself a giant leather diary immediately. Those things are so cool. Then my ancestors can find it in 100 years and read all about my fascinating life. Like my obsession with Pacey Witter and my growing collection of '90s rock band hoodies and my addiction to sparkly nail polish.

Uh-oh, Stefan's about to drop some honesty. When he says that he was a monster, he's not kidding. "We were angry at the founding families, for what they did to Katherine. We wanted revenge," he says, but it doesn't seem like there's much of a "we" in the situation.

As for his new vampire urge to for blood and sex and adrenaline? "I relished in it. I took it to the darkest place I could," he says. The flashbacks are pretty disgusting, but they remind me a lot of Damon's dancing scene with Vicki in "Lost Girls." Not a care in the world, just sloppy, lustful, and reckless.

Damon's general goodness in this scene is unsettling. Somerhadler never seems comfortable playing flashback Damon, to me. I think he has to abandon a lot of the nuances that define the character for him -- flashback Damon doesn't do that "eye thing" -- and it probably feels like working an under-used muscle.

It's interesting to note that while Stefan is grieving for Katherine here (albeit in all the wrong ways), Damon knows she's in the tomb. Damon has that one shred of hope to hang onto - all Stefan has to hang onto is Damon, which becomes gut-wrenchingly evident the moment Stefan thinks he might lose his brother. "You hate me, I know," he begs, and he's just so gorgeously desperate. It's tragic to watch these two guys who are the only people who can possibly understand each other be torn apart. It's no wonder Stefan learned to flip that switch and turn off his emotions even before Damon did. tvd-dinner-lexi.jpg

"It sounds like you were Damon," Elena says. "I was worse," Stefan replies.

8:11 - Ugh, I hate watching Damon and Andie. I wish we knew a little more about compulsion, because right now, it seems so creepy, like she's sleep-walking and he's... sleeping with her. Gross.

Come on, Jenna, communicate with Alaric and tell him that you're pissed instead of just dumping him back into the friend category.

8:13 - Yuck, Katherine is decidedly unsexy right now. Making Nina Dobrev look that gross must take hours of makeup and lots of CGI. "You're almost pretty again," Damon snarls once she's done blood-guzzling.

She's allied with John, which we have to remember... I'm not sure what his angle is, but I'm guessing we'll find out at dinner. Katherine promises that if Damon gets her out of the tomb, she won't hit the road. She's much less threatening now. I know she wants to kill Elena to get Klaus off her back, but the Mystic Falls kids have outsmarted Katherine once. I'm pretty sure they can do it again.

8:17 - "The thing about wartime..." is there anything grosser than drinking the blood of dying soldiers in a battlefield? Stefan is grimy.

I'm so glad that we're seeing more of Lexi. She should've lived for longer than an episode in Season 1, but even in that one episode she was such a well-drawn character that we all already feel an emotional connection to her. I really hope she continues to pop up in flashbacks throughout the series. I will not rest until I've seen that Bon Jovi concert.

"My god. You're a ripper," she tells Stefan. He embodies all the bad, dangerous, dark parts of being a vampire. My one disappointment is that he wasn't bad longer. The way Damon talks about all the bad things Stefan has done, it seemed like he had a decade or so of debauchery under his belt. This makes it seem like Lexi swooped in after a couple weeks and turned him into the brave little soldier we know now. Did he have relapses over the years? Dear god, I hope so.

Back in real life, Stefan is getting all emotional over his dead BFF. Paul Wesley is perfect in this scene -- he's not weepy enough to be annoying, but the pain of losing his friend is all over his face. Her death is something huge that Stefan has somehow managed to forgive Damon for. That's very powerful. "Talking about her brings up things that I'd rather forget," Stefan says. Like how his big brother staked her to impress the sheriff?

8:21 - "I really like him. It's more than like and I want it to work," Jenna says of Alaric. It feels like this relationship should've progressed past the "more than like" thing by this point. Are they twelve years old?

Damon and Alaric are so good together. I just want to watch full episodes of them being adorably antagonistic. "There's no such thing as a bad idea, just poorly executed awesome ones." Alaric is so protective of Jenna, which I appreciate, but at this point, it seems like the best way to keep her safe would be to be honest with her.

I like how, while Stefan and Elena have been out of town, Damon has suddenly built a whole imaginary relationship with Andie. Elena's head is going to spin when she gets back and suddenly Damon and Andie are moving in together and picking out china.

"John. Surprise. Leave." Oh, Damon. You're such a badass.

8:23 - Oh, Jeremy! He did not! With the candles! Candles after one kiss! I'm dying. "Oh, god. This is a date." "It's more of a hey I kissed you and I thought you liked it hang thing."

Whatever. If she really thought she was going over to Jeremy's house to hang out and not make out, she is dumb and also crazy.

8:24 - Okay, really, why is Elijah even at the dinner party? Is he lonely? Does he think Jenna's hot? Does he have a secret crush on Alaric? It just seems like he'd have better thigns to do than break bread with people who he clearly considers to be so far beneath him. It's like he wants to play the game.

8:27 - It's kind of hilarious that after seventeen thousand Founders' events, the Founders turn out not to be Founders. They're just a bunch of people crowing about how special they are.

So there's something important about the location of where the true founders, the witches, were tied to stakes and burned. Does the big sacrifice have to occur where the witch massacre happened, or is that also where the witches are buried? Maybe a witch was buried with something that Elijah needs?

8:29 - The original John Gilbert's obsession with vampires led to a bit of a spiral, it seems, as he dove deeper into the research. "The wood from one tree and one tree alone, an ancient white oak, would bring death to an original vampire," Elena reads. We already know this so of course, there's a twist. "It must be brandished by humans alone or it will bring death to all demons who wield it."

Oh. My. God.

John is trying to kill two birds with one stone when it comes to Damon and Elijah, and he's damn close to pulling it off. I wonder if Katherine knew that Damon would die if he killed Elijah? If she did, she didn't bother to mention it.

8:32 - My favorite thing is when Stefan has to save Damon! Even if it's just with a phone call. I like to be reminded that they still like each other, okay?

8:32 - I'm intrigued by the whole twisted thing happening with Jenna, Alaric, John, and Isobel. Jenna is parenting Isobel's daughter and dating Isobel's ex-husband. John is all twisted up in there too, as he does have a history with Jenna, however sordid, and he's starting to show more interest in Elena, too. If Jenna were to find out that Isobel is alive... that'd seriously screw with her psyche. And, knowing Isobel, she'd have a blast toying with Jenna.

Go save the day, Alaric!

Seriously, what is up with the witch burial ground!? So many questions! Not enough answers! I love Elijah's line here: "There's a funny thing about books. Before they existed, people actually had memories."

Is Elijah older than books??? I wonder how he feels about the iPad...

Damon and Alaric's speaking-without-speaking was brilliant. Their bromance is slowly making its way to forever epic status. Damon can't kill Elijah, now, so if it's going to happen tonight, it's got to be Alaric, John, or... compelled Andie? Hmm.

tvd-dinner-note.jpgHa! Elena's endangered species list, I like that. Some nonsense about Andie's Serious Journalist notebook gets her and Alaric out of the room, which leaves room for Damon, Elijah, and Uncle John to hate each other so hard the walls quiver. Elijah explains that he's simply being courteous to Elena by allowing her to carry on with her life without his constant interference, but he's not above snapping her up and taking her out of town if her freedom becomes an inconvenience to him.

8:34 - Whoa! Elijah is skewered! I have to say, I was kind of hoping that Elena would be the one to ultimately kill Elijah (I figured he'd last longer than this episode!) but I'm glad Rick finally had a role in the fight that involved something other than hatching failed plans at the Grill.

Once again, we get to see Damon's "I'm impressed" face. It's one of my favorite Damon faces.

8:38 - The conversation we're seeing here between Stefan and Elena was a very, very long time coming. Their relationship wasn't going anywhere as long as Stefan and Damon were plotting to protect her and she was plotting to protect them. All the plotting was just canceling itself out. They couldn't really be good for each other if he was treating her like a porcelain doll. She's capable, and she's strong, and over the last few episodes it's become increasingly clear that she will be the greatest asset in... well, saving her own ass. Until Stefan lets her live up to that potential, he was doing a disservice to them both.

That's not to say she wasn't at fault, too, but it's important to remember that this stuff is all new to her. If I'm right about the timeline, she hasn't even known about the existence of vampires for a full year yet. I can see how she'd want to make the cleanest break when it comes to keeping her friends alive.

8:38 - Lexi's Lessons in Love! I can't imagine a Stefan who can walk through row after row of wounded, agonized soldiers without feeling anything, but here he is. Lexi recognized the goodness in him when it was as buried as its ever been. This episode is just reminding me of how angry I am at Damon for killing her, but I guess that's kind of the point. If Stefan can be forgiven for his horrible misdeeds, Damon can, too, eventually.

That doesn't mean it's okay that Damon killed his brother's best friend. Thus far, Stefan's kills have been the Civil War versions of Thing 1 and Thing 2, who died at the Masquerade. Damon killed someone Stefan loved, and if anything, that's a knife in Stefan's gut.

I wonder if there was some jealousy in that kill? We're now learning that Lexi was able to do something for Stefan that Damon tried to do but couldn't. Damon lost his brother and couldn't bring him back, but he did come back for Lexi. Maybe Damon resented that.

"Once you can hurt, you can love. Love, Stefan, that's the point. Everything is intensified when you're a vampire. When we hurt, we really hurt. When we love..."

I wonder if Lexi and Stefan ever had a thing. They would've been hot together.

8:40 - "I am your friend, damn it. And you don't have any friends. So no more lying." Glad that's clear.

8:41 - "Originals believed in truth and honor. It was forbidden for a vampire to kill another vampire, so the dagger would kill both vampires." That's so cool. It also explains why Elijah goes out of his way to keep his word, and why he chooses his words so carefully. It makes me wonder if there's a connection there to the witches, too -- it's been implied over this season that when a witch owes a debt to a vampire, they must repay it. That could be tied to the honor code.

"As long as the dagger stays in place, the Original is for all intents and purposes, dead." Oh, crap. Now Elijah's mad, and he's going directly for Elena. All promises are off. This episode is fantastic.

8:46 - Back to Bonnie and Jeremy's twisted study sesh! There has to be something broken in this girl's brain to keep from jumping him. Look at him, thinking he's all sly with his "I'm an element, Bonnie, feel up on me!" lines.

This is hot. Jeremy might not be able to hold her hands and make the leaves spin like a beautiful vortex of autumn around her like Luka can, but he can let her grope him in his living room. That works, too.

Go away, Dr. ManWitch! You're interrupting some weird magic thing that will probably lead to sex! Ugh.

Did he just take away her powers? He said it was for her own good. If her powers are gone, does that mean she's not a witch, and thus can't be used for the sacrifice? Dr. ManWitch wouldn't want to do that, though, because it doesn't leave a lot of options when it comes to available witches in Mystic Falls. Luka's not an unlikely candidate.

8:49 - Oh, no! The lake house is so pretty, I don't want Elijah to make it explode with some tiny rocks.

Okay, actually, that rock-throwing thing wasn't nearly as impressive as the dime-bomb from "Katerina." The lake house remains intact.

Here we go again, with Elena being a badass rockstar HBIC. I complained a lot during the first half of the season that Elena's character seemed weaker. At first I thought it was because in comparison to Katherine, anyone seems like a wimp, but it carried on, with Elena constantly tripping from jeopardy to jeopardy. Seems like the writers recognized that, too, because ever since we returned from winter hiatus, Elena has been proving that she can be brave, and reckless, and smart at the same time.

Up until now, I'd say that the moment from "The Return," when Damon snapped Jeremy's neck, was the best scene from this series. It was brave, and terrifying, and changed the way we saw a beloved character. It set the course for the season.

This scene changes who Elena is. She takes charge, here, and she does it in a brilliant way. She never once loses the upper hand and she manages to turn a gazillion year old vampire who is older than books into a scared, begging, disaster.

I'm impressed by Stefan here, too. It must've tortured him to wait there, hiding while Elena bled. Hell, he couldn't even watch Katherine snack on Jeremy without swooping in like a hero, so to see Elena literally bleeding to death in front of him while the seconds ticked by must have given him a stroke.

"Little tip," Damon says. "Don't pull the dagger out." Funny how, if the three of them had put their heads together and done their research before acting rashly, Elena wouldn't have had to gut herself on the front porch of her parents' house?

So the dilemma now, of course, is this: as long as that dagger is in Elijah, it's not in Klaus. Will they find another dagger to use on Klaus when the time comes, or will they have to wake Elijah up for the big kill? There could also be another murder method -- maybe something to do with the witch burial ground, since Elijah was so dead-set on finding it.

8:53 - All due respect to the taller half of my new favorite bromance, but I really don't care about Alaric right now! I want to see Damon and Elena and Stefan time! Okay, blah blah blah, Jenna wants answers, Alaric won't give them to her, etc. etc. and so on and so forth. The one redeeming thing about this scene is that Sara Canning finally gets to act. She's good. I can't wait until Jenna is really in the mix so we can see Canning do more than just nod and smile and look the other way at convenient moments. tvd-dinner-damon-stefan.jpg

8:55 - John! Leave! You're so annoying with the lurking and the spiky hair. I have a bad feeling about Alaric giving up that ring so easily. I'm pretty sure he's dead meat by the end of this season.

8:57 - Now Damon has the moonstone. Can't these people get a vault or something? Drop it into the ocean? Something? That stupid rock has caused so many problems.

I like this scene. Elena is as capable as Stefan and Damon are, if not more capable, and it's time for them to work as a team.

8:57 - Now, back to Lexi. It feels very real to me that talking about her has brought up a lot of hurt for Stefan. When Damon first killed Lexi, Stefan felt mostly anger. He was furious with his brother. Now, Stefan is feeling the hurt of it, and the sting of the betrayal, that his brother would just kill one of a very small number of people that Stefan loves and trusts. The looks on their faces here slay me. Its' some of their best work, if only because words are so unnecessary. You can feel Stefan's sadness, and you can feel that Damon really is sorry about what he did.

He'll never say it, of course, but he feels it, especially after Rose. And you also get the impression, somehow, that Stefan actually knows Damon feels remorse.

8:59 - "We're at irreparable odds," Damon says to Lexi back in 1864, explaining the burned bridges between him and Stefan. He looks so young in this scene.

And Lexi - who was always wiser than her taste in music suggested - read Damon like a book, laying his future out for him like it was already written. "You know the hate you're feeling, towards Stefan, towards everyone? You think you have it under control, but you don't. It will get the best of you."

9:00 - Katherine is stunning - and there's that shower Dobrev was dying for! How priceless is Damon's face in this scene? Here's my question: John wanted to kill Damon by leading Damon to kill Elijah, and Katherine and John are definitely in cahoots in one way or another. Was Katherine on board with John's plan to do away with Damon? Did she care that he'd be collateral damage?

Obviously this is a soundtrack junkie moment: "Happiness is Overrated" by Airborne Toxic Event. If you're not following music supervisor Chris Mollere on Twitter, you're missing out big time.

This was my favorite episode of "The Vampire Diaries" thus far, which is saying something, because I was too riveted to even miss Tyler and Caroline. The episode had everything: mythology, history, romance, hot Jeremy, comedy, and most importantly, a heroine we can cheer for.

Paul and Nina can share MVP this week. I loved Stefan's Damon moments and I'm so glad Paul got the chance to showcase his dark side, but Elena's brave-little-soldier moment and Katherine's sexy scheming simply can't be ignored.

I have a special treat for you guys this week, thanks to my friends at Vampire Support! In case you didn't know, Vampire Support is a fan-run group that raises funds and awareness for several causes, including, of course, the Ian Somerhalder Foundation. They sell t-shirts and other merchandise, as well as hold raffles and e-bay auctions for fun vampire-related goodies.

By commenting below before midnight PST on Feb. 24, 2011, you can enter to win an awesome Vampire Support t-shirt. Just make sure to let me know either your favorite or least favorite part of the episode, and fill in your email address so that I can contact you if you win. I'll get in touch with the winner about the size and we'll send you the t-shirt. You can wear it with pride and help raise awareness for Ian's Foundation and other great causes.

If you're interested in donating to Vampire Support, click here! If you can't donate, it'd be amazing if you can spread the word -- tweet it, facebook it, write a song about it, vandalize a bathroom wall with it... whatever.
Photo/Video credit: CW