'The Vampire Diaries' recap: The longest night

tvd-tyler-transform.pngI usually go into writing my "Vampire Diaries" recaps with a snarky and silly attitude, but right now I'm feeling more nervous than anything!

It's no secret that "By The Light of the Moon" is Tyler's ( Michael Trevino) big transformation episode, and judging by the clips we saw of Mason's first turn, it's going to be a hell of a night.

There's plenty going on in Mystic Falls that doesn't involve Tyler. Stefan is trapped in the tomb, Elena is still on a suicide mission, and Jeremy and Bonnie and Luka are part of the most lopsided love triangle ever.

I spent a few days with the cast of "The Vampire Diaries" on their set in Atlanta this week and got some fun insight into the shooting of this episode, which is definitely my most anticipated episode yet. Can they pull off this wolf-out? Let's see.

8:00 p.m. -
When Trevino and I spoke this week, he told me that he made a point to be on set when Taylor Kinney shot his transformation scenes, even though he wasn't working that day. I can't wait to see how he makes it his own.

Watching Tyler beg Mason for help is rough. It's almost like he'd be better off knowing Mason is dead than assuming that Mason is prioritizing surfing or Florida or yoga over Tyler.

Hello, Jules! Michaela McManus' "One Tree Hill" character could not have been more boring, but she's a good actress -- and totally hot, obviously -- so here's hoping that Jules can do what Rose couldn't. We need an antagonistic, badass girl in town.

(By the way, Tyler's computer background is pretty boring. He's so the type to have some Maxim girl up there. Or maybe Matt's mom.)

8:03 - "I'm taking Stefan's side with this one. We're not going to let you get used in some creepy sacrifice ritual." Does Bonnie know that it's not only Elena that would be included in the sacrifice, but also Tyler, Caroline, and Bonnie herself? That was a pretty major plot point, but it hasn't been mentioned since. Everyone is so focused on saving Elena that they've forgotten that half of the characters on the show might go into the doppelganger blood stew, too.

No awkwardness between Bonnie and Jeremy after last week's almost kiss? (By the way, fun fact -- Steven R. McQueen tells me that he improvised that tension-filled moment. I'm so glad he did. It felt like a natural direction for the scene, and I liked that Jeremy was a little bit over-eager and made his move too soon. It felt true to his character.)

8:04 - So now Jeremy and Bonnie are scheming up plots to trap Elena in lies? It's so bizarre to me that everyone is allowed to be actively involved in this situation except for Elena herself, who is expected to sit quietly and catch up on "90210" while everyone around her gets their hands dirty and their necks bitten and all that fun stuff.

Ha! Jeremy's self-satisfied smirk when Elena walks into the door is priceless. They've become friends this season, but at the root of it all, they're still siblings who give each other a hard time. Nina Dobrev and McQueen were perfectly cast as siblings - adopted or not - because they've got a sense of ease with each other that comes through even when they're giving each other a hard time.

I love the way the door barrier looked on screen - that must have been the cleanest pane of glass ever.

8:05 - Ah, so it was Damon's idea! That makes much more sense. I love that Damon brings lanterns. Because a good old flashlight and some extra batteries would just mess with the aesthetic.

Stefan seems so relaxed down there. Ever since Katherine returned, she's rarely been able to unnerve Stefan. Sometimes he looks amused by her, sometimes annoyed, but she never just flat-out pisses him off unless she's threatening Elena. I'm surprised he refuses the blood. Isn't sharing with Katherine better than turning into a mummy?

Damon and Stefan have shown each other more trust and compassion in the handful of minutes they've spent together since Stefan got stuck in the tomb than they've shown each other all season. Stefan isn't worried about Damon moving in on Elena -- and Damon isn't even considering it. It's a relief. I'd hate for Elena to be able to come between them that easily when they've made so much progress.

8:06 - The dynamic between Tyler and his mom has changed a lot since his dad died. He's always acted out, but Carol and Richard seemed to keep him on a pretty short leash in Season 1 - keeping an eye on who he was hanging out with, making sure he was living up to Lockwood expectations. Now he seems to come and go as he pleases.

I think I like Jules. She doesn't waste any time.

8:07 - Oh, cool, so Aunt Jenna let some random into her house. Can someone please just fill her in so that she can stop doing dumb things that she doesn't even know are dumb?

Caroline is always at the Grill. Do they serve blood on tap?

Also, Tyler kind of sucks at sneaking around. He's got "I've got sketchy stuff in my duffel bag and I'm about to go do sketchy things with it" written all over his face right now. Guilty, guilty, guilty.

Why is Alaric giving them the hairy eyeball? Is he actually going to have a purpose in this episode?

8:08 - Here's the big moment. Damon is in Elena's house, Stefan is locked in a tomb with little hope of escape... is Damon going to make his move? Judging by the look on Elena's face, he'd have to be monumentally stupid to do so.

Honestly, I think it's a very good thing that Damon didn't pursue Elena just because Stefan is temporarily out of commission. He's better than that now.

I love the way that Damon is running this whole operation. He's got a mini-army of various supernatural creatures monitoring the town's various supernatural problems. (Also, his referring to Caroline as Vampire Barbie is magical.) The problem with Damon's plan is Jules -- getting busted for sloppily removing Mason Lockwood's heart isn't part of the Save Elena Or Bust detail.

And more adorable-little-brother stuff from Jeremy. Most suicidal siblings ever?

8:09 - I can't quite tell what kind of car Caroline drives, can someone remind me?

Just kidding. This is a great soundtrack junkie moment - and according to music supervisor Chris Mollere, it's "This Time Next Year" by Goldhawks. Unfortunately, it's not available for download anywhere. Yet.

8:10 - Meanwhile, back at the Lockwood mansion, Jules has the audacity to drive a Toyota! Are those even allowed within 100 miles of Mystic Falls?  It appears that Jules is in cahoots with... some mysterious stranger on the other end of a cell phone call.

The saddest thing about Mason's death - other than the way we won't get to see him come in from a run all sweaty and grinning ever again - is that he died even before Tyler triggered the curse. He'd have wanted to help Tyler through it. I almost find myself hoping that Jules will be able to do that somehow - even though Caroline can understand Tyler on some level, it seems like being a vampire is pretty easy in comparison.

8:13 - MATT! And he doesn't even get a line.

8:14 - While I was in Atlanta this week I got to look around in the cellar set where Tyler transformed. Even on the stages, it looks completely creepy - you get the feeling that nothing good goes on in there.

"What should I wear? I don't think it's like 'The Hulk' where I get to keep my pants," Tyler says. At least he's got some semblance of his sense of humor left. I like that Caroline, who spent a good portion of Season 1 as Damon's chewtoy, gets anxious at the sight of Tyler taking off his shirt. (Yes, I suppose there's a possibility that Damon compelled her to sleep with him... but I'm going to hope that's not the case, because gross.)

8:16 - Ugh, Luka. I almost liked him for a moment there when he was standing up to Bonnie, and then he did that whole you're-so-pretty-I-forgive-you thing, and I had to roll my eyes. Whatever this guy's angle is, I don't like it.

If Dr. ManWitch is collecting grimoires from all over the place, he's probably got an extraordinary amount of power and knowledge. Run, Bonnie. Run for your life.

8:18 - Yay, drunk Alaric! Or fake drunk Alaric, as the case may be. I've missed watching him and Damon team up against their common enemies. They are, as Ian Somerhalder told me, "the oddest of bedfellows," but their dynamic works and feels really fresh because we don't get to see it often.

Jules, however, isn't buying into it - and I don't blame her, because Damon isn't too convincing as the swooping-in-to-save-the-damsel-in-distress type.

8:18 - Back in the tomb... I think it's genius that Stefan and Katherine got locked up together because their chemistry is phenomenal. even if it is an obvious dream sequence. I have to admit, when I saw the promo for this episode, I hoped that the cave sex was the real deal. But in order for it to be genuine, it'd have to happen after ages and ages of Katherine manipulating Stefan into believing that Damon and Elena were up to no good above ground. There's no way he'd give in this easily. Even though I totally want him to.

8:20 - Oh, Aunt Jenna.

8:25 - Fantastic. So now Elijah is in the house, and Elena can't get out of the house. Great plan, Damon.

Why is Elena knocking on Jeremy's door at a time like this? If there was ever a time to throw caution to the wind and bust in without knocking, it's when an unkillable vampire who wants to sacrifice you is hanging out downstairs making nice with your aunt.

8:27 - It's hard to care what's going on elsewhere in this episode knowing that Tyler is about to turn and that Caroline is down in that tomb with him. When we first met Tyler, he was easily the most flat character on the show. Unreasonable bully with a misogynistic streak, the product of crappy parenting. Boring. Somewhere along the way, though, viewers really started to feel for him.

Though we still don't know what makes him tick, necessarily, we do see his vulnerability. Watching him pace and hearing the chains drag across the floor is unsettling. The noises he makes as he chokes down the wolfsbane are downright disturbing.

I like that he apologizes to Caroline for his outburst, even though she knew what she was in for, to some degree. The old Tyler probably wouldn't have apologized at all. Their connection and chemistry is fantastic. She's really shown up for him in ways no one else has before.

8:29 - Daniel Gillies as Elijah was a great casting move. His undeterminable accent and sharp, Damon-esque way of delivering dialogue make him scary, but his casual posturing keep him oddly relatable. He confesses that he doesn't care about breaking the vampire spell - and why should he? He's got a daylight savings ring and werewolves aren't exactly an imminent threat to the vampire race when there are so few of them left.

What he does want is to draw Klaus out of hiding. I dig his honesty here. "I'm a man of my word, Elena. I make a deal, I keep a deal." Of course, you'd better be damn sure you don't leave any loopholes in your dealmaking, as we saw with Rose and Trevor.

Elena is pretty ballsy to try to negotiate with terrorists, but I've got to hand it to her for trying. She may be locked up, but she's not willing to sit idly by.

8:31 - Ugh, Luka.

Once again, it seems like Bonnie is overestimating her own ability. Call me crazy, but a spell that encompasses all werewolves and vampires at the very essence of their curses should be more difficult than a spell that essentially locks a door, right? Why does Bonnie think they can do this after everything?

Also, magic must be orgasmic, literally. The look on Bonnie's face every time she and Luka do anything magical makes me feel like I should look away.

8:32 - Tyler's voice and the desperate breaths he's taking are literally making my stomach churn. I've said it before - portraying all-encompassing pain can't be easy for an actor because there aren't a lot of reference points for it. Trevino is making me nauseous here... which is a good thing.

Guys cry on this show all the time, but it's rare to see them actually sob, so I'm glad they went there here. It reminds me a little of when Stefan first went blood-crazy last season, because all vanity for the actor is out the window. It's an ugly process and they don't sacrifice authenticity in favor of making it look "cool."

Caroline is so brave in this scene, I can't even stand it. Best character development ever.

Props to the visual effects team - and the sound effects guys, for that matter - because Tyler's arm breaking and twisting was almost unwatchable... in a good way.

This scene definitely isn't about the CGI, though. Tyler's "It hurts, it hurts" is what really got me. (Yeah, I'm crying, shut up.)

This is pretty much the most necessary commercial break in the history of television. I need to walk it off.

8:37 - Jules is a great addition. She gives us the opportunity to see the other side of being a werewolf. Obviously her transformation is much quicker, since she's still in the bar while Tyler looks like something out of the exorcist. She also implies that she's got some control over what she does as a wolf, since she's threatening Damon specifically. I like that werewolves have a hyper sense of smell, too - that could come in handy... especially because if Tyler knows what a vampire smells like because of Caroline, he might catch on to Damon and Stefan.

8:38 - Speaking of Tyler... can this just end already? Trevino's performance is blowing my expectations out of the water (which is saying something, because my expectations were pretty high to begin with) but I don't want to see any more of it. It's scaring me.

8:39 - Aw, Alaric. Protecting Damon from the Big Bad Wolf... and Damon actually listening.

8:40 - How awesome is it that when Tyler begs Caroline to get out, she just holds him closer?

Matt who?

Wow, Tyler is freaking scary as he reaches the end of his transformation. With vampires, there's still such a human element of control - they can be calculated and graceful in their kills. With werewolves, the person is reduced to their animal instincts... and apparently vampires taste delicious.

I like that a lot of the transformation is in shadow, so there's not much CGI needed. It's better to show too little than to show too much and in this case, they've got a great performance to rely on, which makes the effects a nice bonus, but not necessary to have the right impact.

Caroline crying outside the doors is one of the best parts of this, too. She's crying because she's scared for herself and for Tyler.

8:48 - Oh, look, Rose is back. Zzzzzz. I'm not sure why I'm so uninterested in her character. I prefer my vampires with a motive and a purpose as opposed to just... kind of lost and wandering.

That werewolf attack scene would've been great - I love that they used an actual wolf in some shots - but after Tyler's cries of pain, Rose's endless scream just sounds kind of bored.

Two seconds ago Damon was telling Rose to hit the road, and now he's holding her and soothing her as she recovers from a wound that's... basically gone already? I don't get it.

8:50 - Oh, Luka isn't too pleased with being his father's little minion, is he? He's got an attitude.

8:51 - Back in the tomb, Katherine and Stefan are having the same conversation that they always have. "Prove to me that there's something inside of you that's actually worth trusting," Stefan says. But what, exactly, is she supposed to do? They're locked up underground. Frankly, I don't really want to see the human side of Katherine. As Elena learns to manipulate people for the sake of her own survival, she's becoming more like Katherine -- we don't need Katherine to become more like Elena, too.

It's interesting that Katherine says Isobel found her... but Isobel says that it was Katherine who did the finding. "Genetic curiosity," I believe it was.

8:52 - "Good evening Katerina. Thank you for having the good sense to be frightened." Oh, I freaking love Elijah. Love.

So Stefan's out of the tomb. I can't help but feel like a great story opportunity was kind of wasted - I would have liked to see much more of Stefan and Katherine's manipulative mind games while he was trapped with her. She brings out a slightly darker side of him that's really interesting.

8:56 - Caroline is in the forest in fog with crows. Anyone else getting pilot flashbacks?

Thankfully, the night is over. Soundtrack junkie moment: Howie Day's "Longest Night" is highly appropriate, I think.

Tyler's broken voice when he says Caroline's name KILLS me. "You're okay" she says. "No," he says. "I'm not." More tears from me. He's supposed to go through this every month? I'm guessing we're going to see another Mystic Falls resident with a death wish. Yikes.

8:58 - What a great moment, where Elena sees Stefan's reflection in her window! It's another callback to the pilot, where she saw him through the window at the end of the night. His smile is adorable, too -- Paul Wesley has been looking extra good lately.

I'm not sure their reunion is quite due yet, because everything that was unresolved when they broke up is still resolved... but I'm glad to see them smile for once. They've got enough to brood over without missing each other, too. Close your blinds, Elena! Dang.

9:00 - Damon and Rose... okay, okay, there's definitely chemistry here. Then again, Damon would have chemistry with a garage door, so we'll see where this goes... especially since her shoulder seems to have been infected with flesh-eating werewolf bacteria. Gross.

It's interesting that they chose to end the mid-season finale without a cliffhanger. Unless you consider Rose possibly dying a cliffhanger, which I don't, because I don't think anyone's too invested in her living at this point. If it had been Caroline with the werewolf bite, maybe, but I'm not too worried about Rose's life on the line.

Overall, this is one of my favorite episodes of the season. I like when the focus is taken off of the "triangle" a little bit -- they can get exhausting with their back-and-forth. Even so, it's nice to see Stefan and Elena back together, and Damon is showing his softer side more than ever now.

I do wish we'd seen some follow up on the great moment between Matt, Caroline, and Tyler, but I realize that this wasn't the place. Poor Matt - now that Caroline and Tyler have been through this hell together, he doesn't stand a chance.

I knew Trevino would land the MVP for this episode, but I didn't think it'd be this good. That'll teach me to underestimate people! He's been arguably the most compelling cast member to watch this season, since last year we didn't know Tyler much at all. Tonight's episode only proved that he's got plenty more where that came from, especially when it comes to working with Candice Accola. Holy chemistry.

Your turn, vamp fans! I want to know your thoughts on EVERYTHING, so drop me a comment below. 

Photo/Video credit: CW