'The Vampire Diaries' recap: The monster's heart is the worst part

tvd-bonnie-mom.jpgThis week's episode of "The Vampire Diaries" showcased some characters that have been backburnered lately -- specifically, Bonnie and Tyler. It's no secret that I don't love the way Bonnie is written on this show. Kat Graham is fantastic, but the writing for Bonnie is uneven and the emotional consequences of her stories tend to be swept aside in favor of using her as a plot device.

This episode went a long way toward giving her some history and some depth, though, which was a relief. It was also nice to see her and Elena spend some time focusing on human emotion and what those emotions mean outside the realm of their supernatural civil war.

We also saw some definite movement when it comes to the central love triangle of the show. Most importantly, there was finally some clear acknowledgement that it is a triangle, in a powerful and heartbreaking scene between Stefan and Elena.

Hit play, let's discuss!

Previously on The Vampire Diaries: Caroline and Klaus shared a moving, powerful moment that we are going to completely ignore for the next hour.

8:00 - Bonnie dream sequences used to be my least favorite way to start an episode, and then they brought along the double dream sequence. I know they had to bring her mom into it somehow, but I wish it wasn't all "it came to me in a dream!" I wish, instead, they'd had Bonnie do some research or some investigation and come to the conclusion herself. The writing for Bonnie always seems to be less than inspired.

8:02 - At least she does take some initiative -- she finally lets Elena in on the big coffin secret. I'd figured that it would be Damon, but I'm very glad it's not. I appreciate the growing trust between Stefan and Damon, even in Stefan's crazy-pants state, and I'm hoping Damon delivers on his promise of keeping Elena in the dark. (It's not really a betrayal of Elena, either -- by keeping her out of it, he's keeping her safe.)

Bonnie reveals that she needs her mom to open the casket, and then shows off the most adorable baby photo that has ever existed in the entire world.

Back at Elena's place, they go over all of the Abby Bennetts that have ever lived, and we learn that Bonnie's mom bailed on her when she was 2 or 3. It's Damon, though, who remembers that they have the benefit of compulsion and thus, research is irrelevant. Bonnie's mom's last name is "Wilson" now (I'm a little confused about the surname situation in this family).

"What's going on with you two?" Bonnie asks.

What is she, new? She should get a tumblr.

8:05 - Tyler shows up at Caroline's to apologize, but I'm not seeing a giant bucket of diamonds anywhere, so clearly his apology is inadequate. Bringing the dad who tortured her into it wouldn't exactly make me swoon, but apparently Caroline is swayed. I love that Bill Forbes is basically using Tyler to get back into Caroline's good graces. "He made a mistake, and now he wants to make good, and I understand that," Bill says.

I want to draw a thought bubble above Caroline's head. The thought bubble says, "Why is the psycho murderer Original hybrid the only guy who says how he feels with diamonds?!"

8:06 - Meredith admits she's an angry drunk. But like, angry enough to drive a stake into your prom date's heart for kicks? Apparently, Alaric thinks angry drunks are sexy. I'm loving the Alaric-centric storylines lately, by the way. He's so underused in this show -- I'm still bitter about all the "I'm a vampire hunter!!!!!!!! ...But I'll stay home while you guys go hunt vampires," business from last season.

Gotta love Damon for reminding Alaric that all of his exes are dead. Damon is a true pal.

8:08 - Stefan's genius revenge plan is to keep Klaus's coffins for a few years in exchange for Klaus leaving town? Wow, Stefan. Way to stick it to him. A few years is nothing to a guy who has been alive for a thousand of them.

I love the Klaus and Stefan hate-love-friendship-desperation relationship so much. They need each other in the most twisted ways. Klaus is still hung up on their BFFness from the 1920s, and if Klaus wasn't around, Stefan wouldn't have anyone to pin all of his problems on or to focus his rage on and he'd slowly go nuts.

'"Crazy Stefan. How's that working out for you? Any friends left?" Zing.

8:09 - "He kissed me; it's not going to happen again," Elena says. She doesn't even sound convinced of that herself. As weak as I feel Bonnie's character is (because of the writing, not Kat Graham) I do love her scenes with Elena when there's a glimmer of how they used to relate to each other in Season 1. In the car, they're focusing on the human part of their lives. Elena kissed a boy she shouldn't have kissed. Bonnie is about to go meet her MIA mommy. They're not worrying about the vampire stuff and the witch stuff, just the true emotion of it. I like that.

8:10 - Klaus calls his Backstreet hybrid, who has been banished from Mystic Falls. He's all, "I miss you, baby, my new policeman friend isn't half as fun as you," and Nick Carter is like, "You say the nicest things to me, what are you wearing?" It's basically really awkward.

Wow. They cast Abby brilliantly. I've never seen Persia White in anything before, so I hadn't realized how much she looks like Graham.

8:14 - When Bonnie rings the doorbell to her mom's house, I thought to myself, "Ding-dong, the witch is dead!" I'm telling you guys this because I want you to imagine watching the rest of the episode with the "We represent the lollipop kids!" song stuck in your head. Because that's what I did.

Enter hot guy Bonnie-bait, who apparently lives in Abby's house and knows where she keeps all of her fruit juice. We learn that Abby took Jamie in when he was a kid, raised him, loved him -- and my heart breaks for Bonnie, learning that her mother didn't reject being a mother. She just rejected Bonnie.

That's about when Abby gets home from... what, burying a Backstreet Boy? "I'm Bonnie, your daughter." Welp. This is awkward.

8:17 - "Help cure me of my sire bond, Mister!" says the Lockwood hottie. "Sure, just remove your shirt real quick and let me chain you to this wall," says Bill Forbes. I like how he thinks. I mean, he might as well have something pretty to look at while he tortures the kid.

I know I say this all the time, but Michael Trevino is wildly underrated. "When I turn I break every bone in my body," Tyler says. Ugh, I'm not looking forward to watching this. As awesome as his transformation scenes are, they're hard for me to watch, because his pain comes off so real.

8:18 - How much do I love the way that Abby fits in with our characters' mythology? SO much. I think I read a lot of people guessing that Bonnie's mom put Mikael away when we first met him, so this works quite nicely. I'm particularly intrigued by the added factor of Abby knowing Elena's mom, Miranda -- and the fact that they both knew, so long ago, that Elena was a doppelganger and what that meant. It does sort of bother me that the Gilberts knew Elena was vampire-bait all her life and didn't bother to prepare her for it before she was 16.

In order to give Bonnie some alone time with her mom, Elena goes a-wandering on her own,  which is always a really good life choice for her. It works out really well, usually. She's never kidnapped or anything.

Hello, Stefan. I love that now, when he shows up, the ominous music swells. The hero has become the villain and it's seamless and perfect and amazing, thanks to fantastic writing and a flawless performance.

8:20 - Back in Mystic Falls, Damon pays Meredith a visit, which probably violates like 3 Bro-Code bylaws. Turns out the medical examiner's death was classified as an animal attack. That doesn't make a ton of sense to me, because it was definitely a murder, and just because there was a relation to vampires doesn't mean it should be kept under wraps. They have crazy cases like this on "Law & Order" all the time.

Damon isn't really there for info about the murder, though; let's be honest. He's c-blocking Alaric because he's jealous that Alaric might enter a grown-up relationship while he's chasing a high school girl.  "Ric likes you, and if you're a psychopath, that would really suck for him."

Damon loooves Ric. And I looove Meredith. She vervains him like a boss. (I know, she's kind of a bad guy, but still. It's fun to watch a girl take down The Damon Salvatore once in a while.)

8:26 - Wow... she dosed him, strapped him down, and is now stealing his blood. I'm waiting for her to tell him that she's going to use him to steal Jamie Scott from Naley.

8:27 - Poor Tyler. This transformation feels much slower and more painful than the last one we saw. Caroline is watching, but he begs her to leave. He's not doing this to impress her or to get her sympathy -- he's genuinely doing it to keep her safe.

And then... Bill Forbes pulls out an axe. That's normal. "Your bond to Klaus is putting my daughter in danger and only I am allowed to put my daughter in danger . Either you turn, or I kill you, right here, right now." Tyler's such a brave soldier.

8:29 - Abby is still trying to explain abandoning her kid to the kid she abandoned, and her excuses are flimsy at best. "I had a chance to be somebody else. To be Abby Wilson, the woman, not Abby Bennett, the witch," she says. "I'm not proud of what I did, Bonnie. I ran. I know I ran, but you had your dad and your Grams."

Aw, I just felt a pang of sympathy for Abby -- she didn't know her mother was dead. All this just makes me wonder about Bonnie's dad and what kind of man he is. I feel like we should've met him before the mom so that we could better understand how things happened so many years ago.

8:31 - Elena is unimpressed with Stefan's "out-villain the villain" plan, but it's still working for me. Jamie, having been compelled, comes in and shoots Stefan -- the hybrids don't think Stefan is a factor in this particular equation. Back at the house, Abby uses something -- it looks like Splenda -- to knock Bonnie out cold. Artificial sweeteners are very bad for you.

8:34 - So basically, Alaric continues to pay the rent on his loft so that it can be used as a gym for everyone in town? Can't he move his weights to Jeremy's room and let Matt live in his loft? Matt needs a home, y'all. (Speaking of which -- it's 34 minutes in and I just realized he's not in this episode. That might be a record.)

Let's just take a moment to appreciate Alaric's biceps, because he so rarely puts them on display. You good? Need another second? It's fine, I'm not judging. Moving on...

Damon tells Ric that Meredith "blood-jacked" him, and Ric looks concerned, but like he still wants to see her naked. This will end well.

8:36 - Okay, give me a minute, I'm just going to sing Trevino's praises one more time. Can you imagine the awkwardness of shooting these scenes? Obviously, he and Candice Accola have done this before, but having to be half-naked, screaming, crying, grunting, and straining in front of an actor you haven't worked with much -- that's scary. Tyler's vulnerability is so raw, and you can really tell that Trevino leaves his heart on the floor in these scenes.

Plus... look at that vein in his forehead. He may actually cause himself brain damage every time he does these things. You see what he does for you, fans?

"You need to leave," he tells Bill, swinging chains around. And then... attack! So nice of him to tell Bill to run after he'd already broken his bonds. (Not gonna lie, though... I think Bill totally deserved to be puppy chow.)

tvd-elena-bonnie-2.jpg 8:37 - Things become slightly more clear as we learn that Abby was compelled by Nick Carter; she's not just straight-up the worst mother ever. (Okay, she is a little bit.) Bonnie's magic is muted, and Jamie has been compelled to kill himself if Abby can't get the location of the coffins out of Bonnie.

I have to say, I'm impressed that Klaus even knew Bonnie was involved in the coffin situation.

I don't understand Bonnie's reasoning here. Actually, the fact that any of them -- including Damon -- are buying into Stefan's big coffin-stealing plan isn't working for me. Klaus has generally been on his best behavior the last few weeks. For Bonnie to prioritize Stefan's crazy vengeance over a human life (even the life of the boy who stole her mommy) is not like Bonnie at all. Remember when she hated vampires and their stupid vampire faces? Klaus has gotten rid of the hybrids, and now he wants a home in Mystic Falls -- meaning he can't terrorize the town anymore because he needs the authorities on his side. I mean, I wouldn't invite him to my birthday party any time soon, but Stefan is just poking the bear.

Again, I feel like they're writing Bonnie as dumber than she used to be. Why couldn't she come up with the idea to warn her friends on her own?

Back at the barn, Elena has a moment of action-hero awesomeness. And she's not even wearing a ponytail.

8:40 - Klaus and Damon meet at the witch house, so obviously, Bonnie spilled the beans. Finally.

8:45 - The hundred dead witches aren't making things easy on Klaus, just as they don't make things easy on Damon, but Klaus has an advantage -- he's way meaner than Damon is. By threatening to kill everyone ever in the world, starting with Bonnie (she has to die, she drives a Prius and this is a Ford town), he gets the witches to let up.

Damon gives Klaus the coffins containing Elijah and the two other brothers, Finn and Kol. He managed to get the mystery coffin out of there in time, though. Is it just me, or is Damon seriously giving Klaus the sex-eyes here? Something about Ian Somerhalder's face makes it seem like he's always in seduction mode. I wouldn't mind it. I've said it before, I'll say it again: If these dudes have been alive for centuries and have never made out with another guy, I'm bored.

8:47 - Alaric pays a visit to Meredith at the hospital. He's trying to play it up like he's investigating the whole drugging Damon situation, but let's be real. He probably watches "Grey's Anatomy" and has his fingers crossed for a quickie in the on-call room.

They wheel Bill Forbes in -- an actual "animal" attack. Mmhmm. A likely story.

8:47 - In the barn, Elena's doing some clumsy surgery, trying to get the wooden bullets out of Stefan. He seems impressed by the fact that she's not like, "Ew, blood, icky!"

"You're stronger, tougher," he says. (Translation: It's pretty hot that you have your fingers all up in my gooey internal organs.) She tells him that as he changed, she changed, too. (Translation: You damaged the hell out of me, psycho.)

"It's good though," he says, and since Paul Wesley is absolutely perfect, you can read a sort of hope all over his face. Like he's thinking that the old Elena couldn't be with Stefan as he is now -- but maybe this new, stronger, tougher, jaded Elena could.

Here we go. She literally has her hands on his heart as she tells him that she kissed Damon. She doesn't say "Damon kissed me." She doesn't even say "I let Damon kiss me." She takes ownership for it, acknowledging that the kiss was as much hers as it was his. She also makes it very clear that she doesn't feel guilty about it -- only that she feels guilty that Stefan is in the dark. It's as if now that he knows, she's giving herself permission to explore what's going on with Damon.

She pulls the last shard of wood out of his chest... and he just rolls up and walks away. He cares, you guys.

8:52 - This is the scene in which Meredith won me over forever and ever. I don't even care if she did murder her ex-boyfriend. He had terrible hair.

"I cheat," she says, curing Bill Forbes' fatal wounds with a syringe of Damon's blood. "I'm a doctor and I hate when people die. So when I have the ability to do something about it, I do." It's actually a wonder no one on the council has come up with this idea. Maybe they could provide the vampires in town with a supply of O-neg from the blood bank if the vampires make the occasional blood donation to the hospital for wounds that would otherwise be incurable.

I love her. And Alaric does too.

8:52 - The conversation between Elena and Stefan in this scene is fantastic. I expected yet another "I don't care what you do" speech from Stefan, but that's not where it goes. There are no accusations of betrayal from Stefan -- more than anyone, he knows that he's beyond that point. He doesn't make the Damon/Elena kiss about him at all. He doesn't express his own feelings.

He simply admits that he pushed her too far on the bridge. She doesn't mention that the kiss happened before that. "You're better than him, Elena," he says. "You're better than both of us." Well, I can agree with that.

Bonnie and her mom have a halfway heart-to-heart. I appreciate the fact that Abby is treating Bonnie like an adult, laying the facts out on the table even though she knows they hurt.

Bonnie does the same. "I don't trust you," she says bluntly; I'm impressed by that. Abby tells Bonnie that the witches took her magic after she abandoned her child -- likely because a mother ditching her daughter is so not part of that "balance of nature" that witches are so obsessed with. She's willing to get her magic back for Bonnie, though. Am I the only one thinking it's way too late? After all this, it's not going to be Abby Bennett who rids Mystic Falls of Klaus, so this whole thing is pretty dumb.

8:55 - Tyler shows up at the hospital. Can you imagine if Awesome Meredith hadn't been around to save Bill Forbes? He would have killed Caroline's dad. Oy vey. Bill tells Tyler that he has to keep turning, every day, until it doesn't hurt him anymore. I don't know if Tyler can do that. His best option might actually be to hit the road, but we're left with an ambiguous ending. Read/watch my interview with Michael Trevino for a little more insight into Tyler this week.

8:56 - Alaric shows off his vampire hunting stuff. ("Hey girl, I'm a vampire hunter who is terrible at being a vampire hunter. Want to make out?") She's still pushing to find out why he healed back at the hospital. Um, didn't that become really obvious to her once she realized he and Damon are heterosexual lifemates, seeing as how she knows exactly what vampire blood does?

He tells her about his ring, which probably isn't the smartest move ever, but I can understand why he's being so upfront. When he was married, Isobel kept all of the vampire stuff from him and their relationship was clouded by secrecy. When he was with Jenna, he was the one keeping secrets, and that ended spectacularly. He probably feels incredibly relieved at the prospect of a relationship where everything's out in the open. Except for her possible homicidal tendencies.

How awkward that Elena then shows up wearing a tiny skirt and knee socks like every pervy teacher's dream. Elena and Alaric have really great chemistry. Not gonna lie, they'd be hot together. In like, Season 8, when the shark has been jumped and then re-jumped.

In the meantime, though, I like who he is for her. He's a safe place to come home to. He treats her as an equal and respects her and given the fact that she has no family, she needs him. How poignant, too, that in the most indirect, convoluted way, he ended up having a child with Isobel after all.

"Jenna's gone, and you're allowed to move on," Elena says. Maybe she's giving herself some permissions here, too.

8:58 - Damon tells Stefan that Klaus got three out of the four coffins. Man, Stefan's having a bad night. It's not until Damon brings up Elena, though, that things get rough.

Stefan punches Damon. (Translation: I am super pissed at you for stealing my ex-girlfriend while I was completely broken, but I understand that I don't have a whole lot of ground to stand on here, and I probably should have seen it coming. Also, I hope that my fist really hurts your face.) Damon lets him, and changes the subject. (Translation: We are men and this is a man conversation and now it is over.)

Damon deserved the punch, because in the end, that's his little brother. But he also deserves for that punch to be it. Stefan doesn't get to hold a grudge or seek revenge. He got his shot in, and that should be the end of it. It probably won't be, but in the end, Damon betrayed the Stefan who was driven by humanity. That Stefan is gone.

Moving on to more important things, Damon holds up a dagger. Whaaa?

8:59 - "So, Niklaus. What'd I miss?" Finally, Elijah is back! I can not wait to see the way he reacts to what's gone on over the last few months -- between Rebekah and Stefan and oh, yeah, the revelation that Klaus killed his mommy.

Next week: There is no new episode. But on February 2... dinner parties in Mystic Falls always go well.

MVP this week goes to Paul Wesley, easily, for the look on his face during the scene where Elena 'fessed up to the kiss. Not a single flaw, ever.

By the way -- if it seems like I haven't been giving Somerhalder props as much this season, it's not because I don't absolutely love watching him on screen. I think that they've dialed back the Damon drama over the last few months, which is actually nice. Last year Somerhalder's talents were showcased in a lot of devastating scenes for Damon, but Damon's in a better place now -- things are less tragic. This isn't a bad thing, because I prefer a strong, confident Damon to a sloppy, crying-in-the-road Damon any day.

Drop a line in the comments below and let me know what your favorite (and least favorite) parts of the episode were!


Photo/Video credit: The CW