By Mandi Bierly
Updated April 30, 2010 at 12:35 PM EDT

Image Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CWI have a new favorite episode of The Vampire Diaries. This was the most fulfilling hour of what has been a consistently satisfying first season. And it shows no sign of stopping with the arrival of Isobel. I’m seriously sitting here wondering if my arms could fit around my TV, because I’d like to hug it.

Let’s begin with the story of how the Salvatore Brothers were turned. As Stefan detoxed/starved himself, he flashed back to the night that Katherine and the other vampires were captured and supposedly burned in the church. He and Damon found the vampire paddy wagon, created a distraction, and tried to free Katherine. Damon was shot, then Stefan. Both died. How did they become undead then? Well, Katherine had Emily make the brothers rings to protect them, and she’d been using compulsion to make Stefan drink from her for weeks. He died with her blood in his system, as did Damon, who we already knew drank from her willingly. Ever since we saw Vicki have to make the choice of whether to feed on human blood to complete the transformation or starve to death, I wondered how each brother made that decision. The guilt of choosing immortality is what made Stefan want to go hungry now. “No more. After what I’ve done, it has to end,” he told Elena. “I just want it over.”

Back to 1864…. He went to see his father to say goodbye, and his father revealed that he was the one who shot and killed his sons — they were dead to him the moment they sided with the vampires. Stefan tried to explain that he was going to let himself die, but his dad lunged at him with a makeshift stake. Stefan threw him and he impaled himself as he hit the wall. Stefan pulled out the stake and the blood on it overpowered him. He licked his fingers. Then, as his father lay dying, he touched the wound to get more blood and his fangs came in. Kudos to the director for knowing when to stop: Stefan licking his a-hole father’s blood off his fingers = creepy. Stefan’s face buried in his father’s wound or neck = too creepy.

Elena is proving herself to be THE best vampire/addict girlfriend ever. Not only had she entered Stefan’s dungeon (who didn’t see that coming?), she wanted Stefan to keep talking after she heard all that. She gave him back his ring and told him to come upstairs when he was ready to finish the story. Damon came home and found Elena stretched out on the couch. Watching him lift her feet so he could sit down, then place them on his lap was about as hot as watching him dance with his shirt open. So sweet. You totally have a friend, Damon. Anyway, Elena tried to lay a guilt-trip on Damon for making Stefan feel guilty for getting Katherine caught. How was Stefan not supposed to be suicidal when Damon made it his mission to make Stefan miserable? Damon asked if Stefan had finished the story, and Elena made Damon tell her the rest.

Damon was prepared to die — he’d only wanted to be a vampire to be with Katherine, and Emily had not yet told him that her little tomb under the church had worked. He was near death when Stefan arrived with a tasty young lady under compulsion. Stefan said he wouldn’t let Damon die, he wanted them to spend eternity together. If Damon would only drink, his pain would be gone. Stefan took a bite of the girl to draw blood, and Damon gave in. When Damon was finished, he told Stefan he got what he wanted — they’d spend eternity together, but he would make it miserable for him. Even then, we still thought it was because he’d gotten Katherine captured, but as Damon would eventually tell Stefan, it was because Katherine had turned him, too. It was just supposed to be Damon.

Having it go down like that was brilliant for multiple reasons. For starters, it made Stefan’s brooding warranted. In a way, he was responsible for everyone who’s been killed because Damon became a vampire (even if Damon told him he owns his own actions and Stefan isn’t allowed to feel the guilt Damon would feel if he let himself). It also puts another check in the “good guy” column for Damon — or at least erases one from the “bad boy” side. Granted, Damon would have been raising hell as a vampire with Katherine, but wanting to end his life without her proved he really was just doing it for love, not because he was evil. That’s something.

Apparently, in the Vampire Diaries world, your behavior as a vampire is determined by how you acted as a human. Emily told Stefan he was still pure of heart, and that would be his curse. That’s why he ultimately left his ring in the dungeon, went to the spot where he forced Damon to feed, and prepared to meet the sunlight because he was afraid he’d relapse. Elena found him and told him about the night her parents died: She’d blown off family night to go to a party, got stranded, and they had to pick her up. That’s why they were in the car and on the bridge. Her actions set their deaths in motion, she said, and she has to live with that. He could burn, or he could put on the ring and continue to fight everyday like she does. In the end, he did the latter. I thought for sure the camera would pull back from their kiss and we’d see Damon standing nearby, listening to Stefan’s regret. But we didn’t. Stefan went back to the house to thank Damon for helping Elena take care of him, and that’s when Damon revealed his real motive for hating his brother. For a while, I wondered if Stefan had ever said he’s sorry to Damon for turning him. But I guess that wouldn’t matter to Damon if he’s most pissed about Katherine turning Stefan. Damon didn’t have his super vamp hearing when Emily told Stefan that Katherine had been making him drink from her. Still, why isn’t Damon pissed at Katherine? She’s the one who lied to him.

Moving on, we got another installment of the Damon and Alaric Show, and I’m really not happy that it could be our last one now that Isobel is back and, according to next week’s promo, ready to resume boinking Damon. Alaric had an old friend run a check on Uncle John and found out that he’d been making calls to the number Elena had dialed to reach Isobel, which is now disconnected, and a new number. He’d gotten an address for it, and Damon wanted to check it out himself. Favorite exchange of the night:

Damon: I’m not goin’ with you, you tried to kill me.

Alaric: Yeah, well, you did kill me.

They went to the apartment together (short-term rentals and hotels are gray areas when it comes to invitations, Damon said) and found one of the tomb vamps, a seemingly nice guy named Henry. He said Uncle John was helping him into the 21st century — cars, computers, match.com. In exchange, he was just supposed to keep tabs on the other tomb vampires who are still out for revenge. All was going well until John called Henry’s cell. Henry got suspicious when Damon wouldn’t talk to John, who he’d said was a friend, and I don’t blame him for going after them. Even though Alaric had asked Damon not to kill anyone that night, Alaric had to put Henry down and I was a little sad. But, it led to another great scene: Damon found Alaric a beer behind the blood in the fringe, and they talked about when it was time to give up the hunt for a woman who said you weren’t enough. Alaric had reached his limit after two years (healthy compared to his 145 and counting, Damon noted), and decided he was done looking for answers he didn’t deep down want to hear. Naturally, that’s the night Isobel appears, finding him drinking alone at the bar. “Hello, Rick,” she said. It looks like she’s going to use Alaric to request a meeting with Elena. Presumably, she beds Damon hoping to get him to give her old Johnathan Gilbert’s device. We know Damon has a soft spot for her (since he didn’t want to kill her before). If she liked the game then, she’s gonna love playing with him now.

Speaking of games, how badly did you want to kick Uncle John in the nuts for what he did to Pearl? He asked to meet her for a drink, and she agreed. He said she had a weakness for Johnathan Gilberts, and he was hoping to charm her into giving him the device. What that meant was, she’d hand it over and he’d let her live her normal life. I don’t believe he would have upheld his end of that bargain for a second. He told Pearl that Johnathan expressed regret for what he did to her — she was the love of his life. When Pearl looked moved, he laughed and said Johnathan’s only regret was that he didn’t put a stake in her himself. KICK! She told him she’d given the device to Damon — he should ask him for it and then go to hell. I guess that meant Pearl was no longer of use to John. We saw her packing to leave Mystic Falls — she knew it was no longer safe — and as she and Harper opened the door to go load the car, she got a stake in the stomach. John Gilbert must die. He not only ended Pearl — who was decent enough to tell Anna she could make her own decision about leaving, and who we knew I was hoping would get it on with Damon — but he also killed sweet Harper. That’s bulls—.

Anna arrived home from saying goodbye to a sleeping Jeremy to find them on the floor. I presume they’re really gone. What does this mean for Anna? Will she know it was Uncle John and turn on Jeremy? I don’t think so. I think she believes Jeremy is on her side. Especially after they celebrated her enrolling in high school to be with him by getting busy in his bedroom. (He looked so good that it made me do an age check — 21, according to IMDB. Whew.) How do you think this will play out? My hope: she’ll go to Jeremy, and he’ll finally come clean to Elena about knowing what’s going on so they can all work together against Uncle John. I can’t see Damon actually siding with Isobel and John, so he best just be using Isobel for sex and a reason to be shown zipping his pants. Like I said, I want John to go down, and I think they’ll need Damon to do it. I love that Elena didn’t cower when John surprised her in her room, ready to stop pretending that they didn’t know what each other was up to.

John: What do you think your mother would say if she knew you were dating a vampire?

Elena: Which mother?

Your turn. Did you love the episode as much as I did? What are your theories? What animal do you think Stefan likes the blood of most? (Golden retriever puppies, Damon? Funny, but it hit a little too close to home.)

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