Best Starting Point: ''Growing Pains'' (401) — A lot changed in last season's lead-up. It's probably best not to miss this season opener, which shows…

Even in 1864, Damon was a smartass. Just one of the many things that made this flashback episode the best Vampire Diaries yet. See also: the rampant shirtlessness and the hear this, CW censors? sound effect for Damon snapping Vicki’s neck.

We picked up with Elena confronting Stefan, and to the show’s credit, they didn’t waste time with him denying it: “I’m a vampire,” he said in a way that made you believe there might actually be hope for him not to lose this show to Damon. (It’s like he’s been holding back more than that secret. We want to feel some of that power, that presence.) Elena wasn’t ready to have that conversation, and she left. Stefan met her in her bedroom where she was doing some classic tortured-teen bed flopping, pacing, and hair pulling. “You can hate me, but I need you to trust me,” he said, telling her that she needs to keep his secret and that he’d never hurt her. “If you mean me no harm, then you’ll go,” she said. “I never wanted this,” he responded as he left. He never wanted what? Her to find out the truth? Not what a woman wants to hear. Or for him to fall in love again and risk feeling the kind of pain he was about to face?

The next day, Elena met Stefan for coffee and established that he can eat garlic, he’s not affected by crucifixes or holy water, he sees his reflection in mirrors, his ring protects him in daylight, and he survives on animal blood, which makes him weaker than Damon, who feeds on humans and uses mind compulsion to make those he doesn’t kill forget about it. (Got that, new viewers?) Stefan asked for a day to answer any question she has, and then she could choose for herself whether to keep quiet. They headed off to the site of his former home, and we found out that the brothers met Katherine in 1864 when Stefan was 17. She was a flirt and fond of being chased. Damon went off to war, but couldn’t stay away: “I was simply having too much fun to return to battle,” he explained with that trademark smirk. Which brother would Katherine have escort her to the Founder’s Ball? Stefan thought she chose him, but he said she was with them both that night. (Ewww. And yet, you go, girl. Kidding. Maybe.) As Stefan and Katherine were about to make love — and he told her he’d love her forever (oh, Stefan) — she bit him. Why was I surprised that she was the maker? The next morning, she glamoured him. She controlled both brothers’ minds so that neither would know about the other; she wanted to keep the three of them together forever, Stefan told Elena. Maybe we shouldn’t hate Katherine — I’d be evil, too, if I had to wear a corset — but I do. Here’s what’s great though: As Damon later hinted to Elena at her house (after he graciously cut to the chase and told her he wasn’t going to kill her “right now”), there’s more to this story than we’ve been told. We still don’t know which brother was turned first and how, how they each decided whether to feed on human blood or die, how they found out about Katherine’s threesome, how she ended up dead, or why Damon blames Stefan. Stefan can’t be as innocent as he seems, right?

While all this drama was happening, Damon was being his usual loose cannon self. According to co-executive producer Julie Plec’s Twitter page, it was EP Kevin Williamson who came up with Damon’s “I’m at the Sizzler” line for when Stefan asked him where he was — and he was burning the bodies of the stoners he’d devoured in the graveyard. I’m not gonna pretend that I wanted Vicki to survive. In fact, my reaction was pretty much like Damon’s: “You just don’t want to die, do ya?” But if she HAD to stay on the show, then having Damon turn her into a vamp simply because he was bored hanging out in the mansion all day sans ring was the best possible option. I wonder how many people he’s turned, and if he waited impatiently with his head resting on theirs as they drank from him for all of them…

Let’s skip over the fact that Vicki was not at all concerned that she was in a tank top and panties only when she came down stairs from her shower, and go right to the scene in which she and Damon danced the day away after taking a hit off each other’s blood. (I wanted that moment to be more sexual than it was. You?) I didn’t think it was going to get any better than Damon standing on the balcony gyrating with his shirt hanging open, but that cut from him finding the picture of Katherine to him slowdancing with a weeping Vicki while she told her sob story, which I still didn’t care enough about to take notes on, was awesome. She has no self-esteem, he told her. “I think I know what can help you…. Death.” AND SNAP! He broke her neck. Cut to commercial.

It would have been genius, one of TV’s great deaths, if she’d stayed dead, but as Damon explained: She drank his blood, he killed her, now all she has to do is feed. What we didn’t find out until she went to Jeremy’s to raid his fridge and Stefan diagnosed her as mid-transformation, is that she either had to feed on human blood or die for good. That’s the choice Vicki started to become aware of as she kissed Jeremy’s neck and felt the urge to bite. She fled the house and ended up at the cemetery. Stefan tracked her, and, for the first time, I felt something other than annoyed by Vicki. After Stefan explained her options, she asked “Is it better?… Is it better? Will I be better?” She was sobbing, and maybe because it wasn’t in front of a man who she was using or was letting use her, I just felt how damaged, defeated, and alone she was. Stefan didn’t answer her question, which I take as a no. I wonder if when Vicki asked him to take her home, she meant so she’d die there. As he stood, Logan the newscaster, who’d done some vampire tracking of his own with the pocketwatch, shot Stefan with a wooden bullet. He was about to stake him when Damon, who’d learned Stefan was looking for Vicki from Elena, swooped in and stopped him. “If anyone’s gonna kill you, it’s gonna be me,” he said. Especially when he still needed to get his ring back. While Stefan handed it over (otherwise Damon would hurt Elena), Vicki fed off Logan. “I’m sorry,” she told Stefan, then ran away. Damon and Stefan now know that someone is on to vamps being back in town if Logan was packing wooden bullets. At least Damon picked up the pocketwatch so they can’t be tracked. Or will he find some way to use that against Stefan?

Stefan returned to Elena’s house and explained that he “lost” Vicki, but promised that he’d find her and show her how to live like he does on animal blood. I guess Elena wanted Vicki to choose death, too, because she seemed pissed that she was going to have to think up a lie to tell Jeremy and Matt to cover for Vicki now. She said she’d keep Stefan’s secret, but she couldn’t be with him, even though she believes he wouldn’t hurt her (and even though he’d told her about the vervain always protecting her free will). Personally, I think if my world had just blown up, I’d want to stay close to the hot, sweet, vampire who wants to protect me. But I love where “the breakup” takes us storywise. We get to reset the sexual tension and look forward to Stefan winning her back. We get to see how Damon reacts to Stefan being miserable and Elena being single.

What did you think of the episode? Are you happy or sad that Vicki is now a vamp? What do you want to see happen next in the Stefan-Elena-Damon saga?

As always, if you’re going to reference the book series in your comment, please begin with the word BOOK so others can avoid spoilers if they choose to.

Photo credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW

Episode Recaps

Best Starting Point: ''Growing Pains'' (401) — A lot changed in last season's lead-up. It's probably best not to miss this season opener, which shows…
The Vampire Diaries

Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev, and Paul Wesley star in the CW’s romance-infused vampire soap opera.

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