'The Vampire Diaries' Season 4 gets an extra episode as the love triangle gets bloody

vampire-diaries-season-3-twenties-trio.jpgFirst of all, "Vampire Diaries" fans, allow us to give you some great news: Zap2it has learned that an extra episode has been added to the show's Season 4 order, bringing it to a total of 23 episodes this year, as compared to last year's 22. The first episode will premiere Thursday, Oct. 11 at 8 p.m. EST. (For the record, "Supernatural" also has a 23-episode order; all other returning CW series, aside from "Gossip Girl," are producing 22 episodes.)

When the season begins, all of our Mystic Falls monsters and friends are in precarious situations, but none more so than Elena ( Nina Dobrev), who will begin her transition into a vampire in the first episode. She and Stefan are, for all intents and purposes, back together, but this time, their reunion is even more complicated.

It's safe to say that vampire Elena won't be on the Stefan Salvatore bunny diet right away -- and given Stefan's ripper history, her consumption of human blood definitely troubles him. "He's not going to have an easy time with it," executive producer Julie Plec confirms. "This is a guy who can't really get too close to human blood for too long without losing his mind, so it's like he's a guy who just got sober, and his girlfriend just turned 21 and wants to party. There are going to be some complications in their relationship as far as that."

Paul Wesley has never been shy about the fact that he loves playing Stefan as a dynamic, dark character, as opposed to a martyr who cries on a regular basis. "I feel like Stefan had a Season 3 ride of darkness, and I think Season 4 is going to be a little more of a gray zone, which is nice, too," he told us at Comic-Con. He speculates that Elena's transformation will create some distance between them. "Maybe he won't be attracted to her as much, because it'll remind him of himself... Men like the opposites. He hates himself because he's a vampire, right? So, I don't know; maybe he's going to project."

The way it plays out could bring about some of Stefan's darker side. "I can't say we'll ever be back to 'good' Stefan for good," Plec says. "I don't think 'good' Stefan is 'real' Stefan. I think Stefan is very damaged, and he's got some deep darkness and, within that, a beautiful soul with what humanity he can muster. I think until the end of the series, the darker Stefan will always be the truthful Stefan."

We're all very much looking forward to Elena remembering the two moments that Damon ( Ian Somerhalder) compelled her to forget -- both of which were actually very sweet, positive scenes between the two characters.

The memories will come back to her in the first episode in a very interesting way; in a sense, she'll experience them as if they're happening anew. She'll have a conversation with Damon about that right away. Don't expect those things to have an immediate, drastic impact on her feelings for him, though. When we asked Plec whether the moments would have a profound impact on Elena's view of Damon, she said it would be more subtle.

"It's more just a bonus of being a vampire. For Elena to turn around and be like, 'Oh, I changed my mind now that I have all the information!' would be insane. She's not that literal, and that would be really sad for Stefan," Plec says.

What it does is help Elena to have a more complete, more accurate view of her friend. Fans who want Damon and Elena to get together have been frustrated by her continued underestimation of his character throughout last season, and the new memories of his sweet moments may lead to a positive turn in that department.

"If you look at the marathon of the Damon/Elena friendship and relationship, so much of their conflict is predicated on the fact that she still believes that he's more selfish than he actually is, and more hateful than he actually is, and more self-destructive than he actually is," Plec agrees. "These memories get added to her lexicon of Damon knowledge, and given how close they are, at this point it's important that she knows everything about him."

As always, Damon and Elena's relationship will evolve this season -- that slow burn is, of course, what makes it so interesting to watch. In the meantime, Damon will need a new friend to share his bourbon with at the Mystic Grill -- and, despite the rumors, it definitely won't be Tyler.

Plec confirms that Meredith ( Torrey DeVitto) will be a significant part of the fourth season. Though not a love interest, Meredith might be a stabilizing force for Damon. "Damon is minus a drinking buddy and minus a friend," Plec says. "We've already established Meredith as a day-drinker, so if I was going to pick somebody out of a hat, to be Damon's new drinking buddy, it would be Meredith. The question is whether she's down with that. Is she okay with being his vampire-human partner in crime? I don't think she's going to be as easy to sway as Alaric was, but there's going to be a buddy bond that forms between them, which will be fun."

Though there's no word on how many episodes DeVitto will appear in this season, she's long been a part of "The Vampire Diaries" family and that's not changing any time soon. "We always say we didn't cast her in this role because she's married to Paul, and that is a thousand percent true, but because she is married to Paul at least we know that she's not going to turn around and say 'I hate this show; I never want to come back,'" Plec jokes. "We have the best of both worlds in that she's very willing to come play with us, and she's able to still do her great work on 'Pretty Little Liars,' too. Until some new show comes and snatches her up, we'll continue to play with her, without having to make any painful decisions."

Photo/Video credit: The CW