By Kelsea Stahler, Hollywood.com Staff
Last week, The Vampire Diaries ramped up the action by revealing the Five and raising the stakes of Connor's presence in Mystic Falls. Add to that the fact that Elena is slowly creeping into darker (Damon) territory whether she likes it or not, and this week's killer twist, and our show may be on track to reaching the darkest depths its reached before.
The darkness starts with Connor who's working with Bonnie's Professor Hottie. He sent Connor to Mystic Falls so he could fill up his tattoo by killing vampires; he says he'll help a suddenly sullen and conflicted Connor to figure out the history of his tattoo and his instincts towards vampires. Never one to take things in stride, Connor figures out a way to nab lots of vampires at once: kidnap Jeremy, April, and Matt and hold them hostage until their vampire friends come to save them. He texts everyone from Jeremy's phone and they quickly assemble to rescue their mortal friends.
But they're not exactly united. Stefan has been ignoring calls from both Damon and Elena and they're starting to get suspicious. The normally straight-shooting vampire has made a deal with Klaus to secure Connor alive and have him lead them to the supposed vampire cure. If Stefan shares that information with anyone, even Elena or Damon, the deal is off. His dealings also give Stefan inside information: Connor has werewolf venom and since Klaus is out of the country digging up Rebekah's old boyfriend and his vampire hunter sword, anyone affected by it will certainly die.
Stefan manages to keep everyone off his scent, but he's not a natural liar and the cracks in his story start to peek through. First, he secures a hybrid, Dean, to help enter the Mystic Grill/hostage parlor so that he and the other vampires can enter safely. Then, he keeps insisting that Connor has the venom. Damon is smart (though it's taken him far too long to notice that Stefan is acting strangely) and he challenges his brother aggressively, probably a little excessively on account of their Elena fight. Stefan, however, is committed to finding a cure for the flailing Elena, even if it means scaring her and lying to her. He hits Damon with a vervain needle and takes his sunlight ring, forcing him to stay back from the fray.
Of course, in order for the plan to work, Stefan is depending on Klaus' hybrid to trip Connor up. After all, hybrids can take a beating, but won't go down unless they're decapitated or their hearts are ripped out. Unfortunately, Connor learned that last week and when Dean comes in as bait, he's struck with make-shift bomb at the door and Connor blasts his heart right out of his chest with one of his latest gadgets. Stefan gets Matt and April out safely, but the explosion tells him it's go time. Unfortunately, Jeremy has stepped onto one of the triggers for yet another wolf venom bomb and if he moves, it will likely kill him.
And then Elena grows a pair. She heard the explosion and since Damon can't go out in the sun and is still recovering from the vervain, she's the one who enters the Grill, armed with the fact that Connor doesn't know she's a vampire. It only helps for a second, but Connor is still determined to ferret Stefan out of his hiding spot and he threatens to shoot Jeremy. When Stefan acquiesces, Elena attacks Connor as he's shooting, injuring Jeremy. The bomb goes off, but Stefan's quick to block the damage with a table while Elena tries in vain to derail Connor. Finally, Stefan grabs him and they disappear while Elena heals Jeremy.
But it gets darker. In the tunnel under the Grill, Stefan runs into Damon who clawed his way down there. Damon susses out that Stefan is saving Connor because he made a deal with Klaus and his rage boils over. It's an intense moment that the dueling siblings have been building to all season: with insurmountable rage in his eyes, Damon reaches into Stefan's chest and grabs his heart (dear writers, the literal heart-wrenching moments are why I still refuse to rewatch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom). Despite my squeamishness, the grab is effective and Stefan confesses his secret to Damon: he's doing it "for her," he thinks Klaus can find the vampire cure. Damon is on board (though extremely skeptical), but it's unfortunate that the ticket to the unlocking the curse scampered away during the brothers' spat.
In fact, Connor scampers right into the path of an enraged Elena. She's just found out that Connor has been stealing time with Jeremy, grooming him to be a vampire hunter, just moments after she witnessed how little regard Connor has for Jeremy's life. Her brother is all that's left of her family, and it makes her livid (not Elena level livid, but vampire level livid). She feeds on Connor and brings him to his knees, but when she hesitates, he reaches a reserve stake in his boot and stabs her... in the stomach. It's the little push she needed to snap his neck like a twig. Just like that, Elena has completely yet another stage of the vampire development process: her first kill.
Granted, this is not an occasion for celebrating for Miss Gilbert. It destroys her. And to top it off, she's destroyed because she feels betrayed by the two people she loves most. Stefan said he'd protect Jeremy, but it turns out he was lying to her the whole time. Even Damon's support of Stefan can't cure her anger over that. And that's because she's furious that Damon encouraged her to go after Connor and kill him. This is all undermined by her realization that her anger had driven her to kill someone, even if it was someone who had been trying to kill everyone she cares about and train her brother to hunt her. It's an emotional derailment we've yet to experience so fully on this series, despite looking back on Stefan and Damon's past regrets in previous seasons.
Next: Is this Vampire Diaries or the Temple of Doom?[PAGEBREAK]While Elena insists on being alone, where she's having visions of blood and the word "killer" written on her mirror, Stefan is enlisting Damon to help him find the cure for Elena. Damon agrees, now that the Kali Ma moment has brought them back together, but he wants to know why Stefan wants it so badly. Stefan says he loves Elena, but that she's becoming someone different than the girl he fell in love with. And she is. She's doing what she's been doing all season, becoming more and more suitable for Damon. And for once, it isn't just the bad girl fantasy that makes us want Delena to take a drive for at least a little while.
Elena truly appears to be better suited for Damon in her new state. Set aside the circumstances, like the fact that Damon actually met her first, and she still leans that way. Take for example, the small scene this episode in which Elena tackles and straddles Damon after he points a stake gun at her. Take for greater example the fierceness and viciousness she showed to Connor once she thought he was threatening someone she loves. Both Salvatores get violent when they need to, but her eyes were all Damon. In that moment, she was revelling in it. Afterwards, the waves of Stefan-esque guilt came and then she folded into utter self-loathing as only Elena could muster.
The final piece to this puzzle, of course, is the comment that made our hearts flutter: Damon responds to Stefan's comment about what Elena's becoming by saying he would want her either way. That's the basis of true love: rolling with the punches, whatever they may be. This distinction brings the rosy little relationship between Elena and Stefan into question, and this time, it's not just because Elena secretly has a thing for bad boys. This time, it's because Damon might actually be better for her.
Of course, there are other characters on the show too. Jeremy, whose storyline is getting darker as his sister's goes into the shadows, takes on Connor's hunter mark as soon as Connor's neck is snapped. April is acting strangely, and it's sure to crop up later, though we're not sure how her father's scary stories and her strange bracelet are connected to anything. As for Tyler and Caroline, they've narrowly avoided a relationship meltdown, and entered a world of potential hurt: he didn't cheat on her with Hailey (though they certainly milked that jealousy all episode), he let Klaus think that so that he and Hailey could start teaching other hybrids how to break the sire bond without Klaus knowing. (Every cheating boyfriend is wishing they had an excuse that solid right about now.)
Finally, off in her own little world, is Bonnie. She's fallen into Prof. Hottie's little safe-haven, since he's decided she needs to be saved from Connor's wrath. He spends the entire day hypnotizing her (yes, actually) and convincing her to quell her fear of magic and get back in the game. She does, with a room full of candles. Well, it looks like Bonnie might be wooed by the dark side once again. (And I'm talking taste in men, not hocus pocus.)
Things are getting darker in Mystic Falls, but it's actually making for a very interesting fourth season. That is, as long as no ridiculous (even for TVD) twists come barrelling our way anytime soon.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler
[Photo Credit: CW]
'Vampire Diaries' Post-Mortem: Julie Plec on The Five, the First Kill and More!
'Vampire Diaries' Recap: The First Cut is the Deepest
'Vampire Diaries' Recap: Growing Pains
From Our Partners:Lady Gaga Dons Strapless Bikini Top, Waves to Fans in Brazil (PHOTOS)
Leonardo DiCaprio Lists $23M Malibu Beachfront Mansion: Take a Peek Inside (PHOTOS)