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…

I suppose this isn’t a surprising statement, but I love it when shows actually give you some answers. And this episode was like Jeopardy!.

So we picked up with Damon swooping in to save Elena from the mysterious/freaky figure she’d hit with her car after fleeing Stefan’s house in a post-coital rage when she found a picture of Katherine and realized that she resembles her. I was sorta hoping we’d have found out that Damon had licked her head wound or something when she woke up on their drive to Georgia, but it was more of a scratch than a gash, so I guess he was able to resist (or, maybe he was just full). Pity. Elena wanted to turn around, of course — “Oh, you were so much more fun when you were asleep,” Damon quipped — but she agreed to take a “timeout from her life” and trust Damon not to use his mind compulsion trick on her now that she was sans necklace. And on they went to a bar where Gina Torres from Firefly was the bartender, Bree.

Upon seeing Torres, I wrote “Don’t let her die!” in my notes because she plays strong women and occasionally, you like to see them make it. Well, at least Damon punching his fist through her stomach was an interesting death… At first, they played nicely. She raised a toast to him: “Here’s to the man that broke my heart, crushed my soul, destroyed my life, and ruined any and all chances of happiness. Drink up!” She told Elena that she’d fallen for Damon when she was a freshman in college and learning his secret allowed her to reveal hers — she’s a witch. Damon was now visiting to ask (again) for her help in opening the tomb that houses Katherine and the other vampires Mystic Falls had tried to burn. Without Emily’s crystal, there was no way, she said. She, however, changed her tune when Damon got a little pissy after he realized Bree had set him up. She’d phoned a friend (standing by the blender so Damon couldn’t overhear — smart!) to tell him that Damon was in the bar. That friend — the boyfriend of Stefan’s vampire pal Lexie, who Damon killed — used Elena as bait to lure Damon outside. He beat Damon, who’s a lightweight when it comes to alcohol as opposed to Elena, with a baseball bat, then doused him with kerosene. I find it hard to believe that Elena’s little “Lexie was good, so you’re good, be better than Damon” speech actually stopped him from dropping the match, but it did. And now Elena can play the “I saved your life” card whenever she wants. Damon confronted Bree, who was a friend of Lexie’s. She tried to save herself by telling Damon he could free Katherine if he found Emily’s spell book — it would tell him how she closed the tomb and give the reversal spell. Only problem: she didn’t know where the book was, so she was of no further use. Punch!

In addition to revealing that Damon considers Elena not the worst company in the world, and that Elena is one of those loud, jumpy drunk girls you hate unless you know her, the trip also served to give Elena some insight into Katherine. Damon told her that vampires can’t have children (“but we’d love to try”), so the only way she could be related to Katherine is if Katherine had a daughter before she was turned. Presumably, that is exactly what happened. BIG REVEAL! Elena went straight to see Stefan when she got home to ask him who she was to him, was she just Katherine 2.0? Stefan — who, had I written this episode, would have just unbuttoned his shirt because he was getting ready for bed when she barged in — said she’s the opposite of Katherine. He knew it from before they met. Gasp! Turns out, he was on one of his occasional visits to town last spring when Elena’s parents’ car went off the bridge. He was in the woods nearby and got to the accident quickly, but not before the car was submerged. He was able to reach her father who was still conscious, but he wouldn’t let Stefan help him until he saved Elena. I totally teared up at that and had to pause the DVR, I’m not gonna lie. Stefan rescued Elena, and went back for her parents, but it was too late. He noticed her resemblance to Katherine, obviously, and spent the next few months watching her to make sure she wasn’t Katherine.

So why do they look alike? BIGGER REVEAL! Stefan poked around and found out that while Elena’s birth certificate says she’s a Gilbert, there’s no record of her mother ever having been pregnant at that time. So she’s adopted! She must be a Pierce like Katherine. Elena wanted to know more, but Stefan said asking around about Katherine would raise suspicions. The only identification she needs anyway, in his eyes, is The Woman Stefan Loves. They kissed and made up. Elena went back to her house to useless Aunt Jenna, who said Elena’s parents never wanted her to know. I guess we have to keep Jenna around so Alaric can use her, but she’s just a waste of screentime in this episode.

Speaking of Alaric, let’s hand it to Matthew Davis, who proved he’s already mastered The CW Close-Up of Smokin’ Hot Pain. He earned his stripes when Damon came into the bar Alaric was grading papers at, and Alaric flashed back to walking in on Damon feeding on his wife. I’m assuming Damon killed her, though at first, it kinda looked like she was drinking from him, so maybe he changed her… Not sure why Alaric has what I assume is a vampire ring on if he’s not a vampire. (Could it have been his wife’s?) We know from his journaling voiceover (groan) that Logan was the first vampire he knowingly came across after years of research and study. Note: Just because your show title has the word “Diaries” in it doesn’t mean everyone needs to journal. Anyway, I bought Davis’ Angry Hand Shaking close-up less. Curious to see what he does next.

Jeremy and Anna (Malese Jow), the home-schooled friend he had a meet-cute/scary with in the library, are going to go into super sleuth mode, which should be fun. I already like Anna tons more than I did Vicki. She appreciates Jeremy for his mind rather than his mind-altering drugs, and thought his Dawson’s Creek-level of difficulty explanation of how a country at war doesn’t want realism, it wants fantasy, and that’s why the vampire folklore was popular in Mystic Falls in the 1860s, was brilliant. She also has an ancestor who kept a journal filled with vampire tales, and a mind of her own — she Googled and found a string of “animal attacks” periodically in and around town for the past 75 years. So looking forward to watching Jeremy and Anna pal around. She asked him if he wanted to have a Fright Night of vampire flicks, which she has seen none of apparently. Jeremy told her he was just getting over someone, and it was too soon to be dating. She backtracked and said she meant “as friends” (which, of course, she didn’t). So smart to introduce that tension. If Elena and Stefan are officially back together, we’d be lacking that kind of teen angst. But now, we have it. I, for one, really am that easy. Jeremy is totally crush-worthy when he’s not high and fighting for the love of a girl I can’t stand.

Lastly, we get to the future love triangle that is Stefan, Bonnie, and her grandmother. What? Maybe Paul Wesley’s mysterious, soft eyes could look adoringly at any woman, but I detected chemistry with both Bonnie and Sheila, who we found out met Stefan in 1969 when he attended her anti-war sit-in rally. He went to see Sheila after Bonnie lost her powers and couldn’t help him get a read on Elena through her necklace. Gran told Bonnie she had to clear her mind of whatever was scaring her for her powers to return, so Stefan knew Bonnie had gone to the site of the old church, where Damon had attacked her after Emily took over her body and destroyed the crystal. She fell through the ground and saw the door of the tomb. Stefan swooped in and saved her by telling her to close her eyes, then holding her close to him and leaping to the surface. Totally effing hot. Bonnie said she heard the vampires in the tomb, and Stefan promised they wouldn’t get out. She was safe. He returned her to Gran, and we found out about their (platonic, boo) history. Gran made it clear that like those in her family before her, she would keep Stefan’s secret, but she protects her own first, so if she has to sell him out to keep the existence of witches secret, she’ll do it. How many episodes until that happens?

Your turn. What did you think of Damon and Elena’s most excellent adventure? How do you feel about Alaric and the new duo of Jeremy and Anna? Is there any woman Paul Wesley couldn’t charm?

Photo credit: Guy D’Alema/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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