'The Vampire Diaries': We've got a Stefan situation in our Delena dilemma

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tvd-gallery-trio.jpg Note: This is an opinion piece. If you have a severe allergy to opinions, click away! Debate is more than welcome in the comments section below; meanness is not.

"Vampire Diaries" fans, I fear we have found ourselves in a bit of a conundrum when it comes to the core love triangle of the show. Don't get me wrong -- Season 3 has showcased the entire cast in an incredibly satisfying way. I'm so enamored by the new characters like Rebekah, Klaus, and Mikael, I love a good Matt moment, and I was practically swooning over Bonnie's triumph last week.

But just for the purposes of this article, let's return to the original focus of the show: Damon ( Ian Somerhalder), Elena ( Nina Dobrev), and Stefan ( Paul Wesley).

As far as the troublesome trio goes, this season has been fantastic for two reasons. Number one, being, quite obviously, Stefan's descent into darkness. And number two? Damon and Elena's more tangible connection.

tvd-stefan-mean-vertical.jpgLet's talk about Stefan's awesomeness for a moment. In the first few episodes of the season, we saw him slowly losing his tether on humanity. He was feeding on humans to a gruesome degree, he coldly killed his brother's "girlfriend" to make a point, and he basically told Elena to buzz off because he was beyond saving. We started to see a sparkle in his eye (if a somewhat forced one) as he cavorted with Klaus and Rebekah.

But, in order for him to actually stop loving Elena, it took more than bloodlust: it took compulsion.

Now that Stefan is at full-ripper status, he's more fun to watch than ever. Before "Vampire Diaries," Wesley's resume was stuffed with bad-boy roles, and it's clear in his new on-screen swagger that he's now in his element as a colder, cockier version of Stefan. This new version of Stefan is more fun to watch, more unpredictable, and, to be frank, much sexier. (This is The CW. That matters.)

To be blunt... I want Stefan to stay bad as long as possible. It's clear that the compulsion doesn't erase all emotion, so I assume that he can still have character arcs without going back to that kicked-puppy Stefan of yesteryear.

Which brings me to the problem: I want Damon and Elena to hook up. But I don't want Damon and Elena to hook up until Stefan gets his humanity back.

Wait, hear me out.

The tension between Damon and Elena has been downright sizzling this season. For the first time, it's very clear that the attraction is mutual. These two made a lesson in vampire murder look like pure sex a couple of episodes back. Elena is making smart, adult decisions (like prioritizing Damon's safety over a futile attempt to get Stefan back in episode 2), proving that she's ready for the challenges that would come with embarking on a relationship with someone as reckless as Damon.

For his part, Damon's feelings for Elena have progressed from dangerous and slightly predatory to reliable, protective, and tender. The Damon we see on screen this season may flirt and tease, but he would never kiss Elena when she didn't want to be kissed and he wouldn't cross boundaries if he knew she was uncomfortable.

tvd-season-3-damon-elena-necklace.jpgIt feels like Damon and Elena are hurtling toward an inevitable hook-up -- and, dare I say it, maybe even a real, solid relationship. But in order for that relationship to feel genuine, it has to happen when Stefan isn't compelled to be a jerk.

Right now, Elena can not choose Damon over Stefan, because essentially, Stefan doesn't exist. The guy who lives in Stefan's body isn't really Stefan as long as he's compelled by Klaus. If Elena and Damon hooked up now, Damon would feel like a consolation prize. "Well, Stefan is under a vampire spell and forced to be a big meanie-pants, so the other Salvatore will have to do."

In order for Damon and Elena to have a genuine relationship, I need to see Elena first fall out of love with real, non-compelled Stefan. Don't get me wrong -- he doesn't need to go back to feeding on bunnies and writing in his diary about all of his impure thoughts. The ripper side does exist in the real Stefan. But if Damon and Elena get together before Stefan's compulsion is lifted and his blood-junkie thirst is abated at least a little bit, the "Delena" hook-up will never feel real to the audience, or, most importantly, to Damon.

Not to mention, can we talk about how refreshing it would be to see Stefan come back with his love for Elena intact, only to have Elena decide for herself that he's not who she wants to be with? She keeps talking about having "hope" that Stefan's humanity will come back, and it's beginning to feel naive and almost childish. The true mature decision would be for her to understand that despite all of her hope, all of that pure intention, the man who spent his summer killing people isn't the guy who should be on her arm at senior prom.

So, the question is, what do we want more? Fun, snarky, sexy compelled Stefan? Or the genuine Damon/Elena kiss that we've quite clearly been building toward? Because as far as I can tell, we can't have both at the same time.

"The Vampire Diaries" is on tonight at 8 p.m. EST on The CW. Until then, let's talk triangle in the comments section below. Where do you think this is headed?
Photo/Video credit: The CW