The battle for Tyler's loyalty gets bloody, as Caroline's tortured and she, Damon, and Stefan have to be saved by... Jonas?
Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW
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 twist-loving Vampire Diaries writers like to think of every episode as a Sweeps episode… so they must’ve just gotten lucky to be able to start February off with an hour that involved Damon taking both a shower and a bath, some serious carnage, a severed friendship, and a slumber party. Curiously missing from these 60 minutes was the abundance of hot Henleys that usually clothe the men of Mystic Falls. I hope my recurring commentary hasn’t made the costume department self-conscious about its fashion choices. I did that once unintentionally to Michael Bolton by asking him during a Stupid Questions interview if his ability to always know exactly how many buttons to undo on his shirt for maximum hotness was formula or instinct. (Maybe conferencing in my mother for that portion of the conversation was too much…)

A popular theme this episode, as usual, was people popping up unannounced. Tyler showed up at Caroline’s door, the site of their kiss last week, looking smokin’ hot and kinda pissed. She thought he wanted to talk about where things stood between them, and she told him that Matt was still in the picture so they can’t “go there.” Tyler was fine with that because he really wanted to talk about how long she’s known that Damon and Stefan were vampires and his uncle Mason was dead. She wanted to explain, but he didn’t give her a chance. He shoved her against her car (note: not hot), and with wolf eyes blazing yelled about how he’d trusted her. Cut to the show’s logo dripping blood, and then to Damon’s rain shower. I had a tough day, so I happily accepted those shots of Ian Somerhalder wet and then wrapping the towel around his waist as the local TV news reporter Andie Star (Dawn Olivieri) delivered an update on the deaths at the Booster Club BBQ, which were believed to be drug-related. The towel hung deliciously low at first, but was magically raised, and the scene was over far too quickly. I thought I was going to have to take comfort in wine and cupcakes, but luckily, after Damon blew off Andie when Jenna introduced them at the Grill and spent all day trying to be “the better man” Elena wanted him to be, he invited Andie over for a bubble bath.

I hope she sticks around for a while because I think Damon having someone he can speak honestly to, then presumably compel to forget it, makes perfect sense right now. He wants to be close to someone again, but he doesn’t want anyone to know that about him. I love how freely he’ll admit his feelings for Elena now. “I’m in love with a woman I can never have,” he told Andie. And when I say he’s being honest, I mean it. “I’m bad, Andie. I do things. I kill people,” he told her. She got appropriately uncomfortable from his tone, and he compelled her to not be afraid. I guess we’re supposed to think that as a reporter, she’s a natural at both listening and asking the right questions. She wanted to know why he killed. He said he likes it, it’s in his nature. “Then I have to stay together to protect her, and she wants me to be the better man, which means I can’t be who I am,” he said, the frustration and pain bringing tears to his eyes. Andie tried to tell him that maybe the better man is who he is now — love changes us. “Just stop talking. Just kiss me. Be my distraction,” he said. And we all yelled “yes!” at our TVs.

Damon kissed Andie’s neck, then smiled and bit it. It was a gentle bite, but it clearly hurt. As we watched the blood drip down her back, the look on her face seemed to turn from sharp pain to peaceful pleasure. That’s something we’ve never really explored on this show — how it feels for a human when the vampire isn’t drinking to kill. I don’t think Andie’s gonna be the Sookie to Damon’s Bill, but I hope she gets some bang for the bucks she’ll have to spend on scarves if she becomes his new (albeit compelled) “special friend.”

NEXT: Stefan makes empathy sexy.

The only thing that was unfortunate about that bath scene, aside from the bubble’s obstructing our view of Damon’s chest, was its timing in the episode: I literally just got done thinking that this was the first episode I found Stefan more appealing than Damon when they cut to that. They couldn’t just let the good guy go this week unchallenged. Seriously, how sweet was it when Stefan arranged for Elena and Bonnie to sleepover at Caroline’s house, or “slumber it” as Elena said, because he knew she really shouldn’t be alone after all she’d been through that day (which I get into next). Caroline cried when the girls hugged her, and I totally teared up. It could have been cheesy — slumber party! — but it wasn’t. It was about the three of them getting back to the friendship they used to have when they were just three normal high school students and remembering that there’s more than one way to save someone: You can show up during the battle, or you can show up afterward when they’re fighting to pick up the pieces. Elena mouthed “I love you” to Stefan, and I felt that way, too. (It was a combination of his empathy, his smile, and his hair, which was looking extra heroic this episode.) He mouthed it back to her, and I felt guilty for letting myself think there could have been some sexual tension brewing between Stefan and Caroline earlier when he walked her to her door. I thought that look on his face was admiration when he agreed that she could handle herself. In hindsight, it was just him thinking he needed a Plan B (“backup”).

Watching Caroline’s kidnapping and torture didn’t make me hide my head behind a pillow like Tyler’s full moon transformation did, but it was so much more disturbing. After her confrontation with Tyler, Caroline asked Stefan to talk to Tyler before he — or Damon — did something stupid. Stefan surprised Tyler at his home, sometime shortly after Jules had paid Tyler a visit to try to convince him that wolves and vampires are natural enemies and he should leave Mystic Falls with her so she can teach him how to survive. (It’d be her duty and honor, because lycanthropes live by a code of loyalty and take care of one another.) Tyler looked a bit weirded out by Jules’ cult speak, but he wasn’t anymore eager to be alone with Stefan. Stefan had to shove him against the wall at one point — another popular move on this show — and I wanted it to be kinda hot, but it wasn’t. Caroline was right: Stefan always knows exactly what to say. He told Tyler that Caroline was someone he wanted on his side: “She’s your friend, so stop being a dick to her.” Right when Stefan was hitting the heart of his message — they have the same friends, and a secret to keep, they could make this work — Jules phoned Tyler, and he was able to yell “Help! Help!” before Stefan could get his cell away from him. (Anyone else think Tyler barked at first? I had to rewind.) Stefan was pissed: he’d been trying to save Tyler’s life. He knew things were about to get messy.

NEXT: If you want to hurt Caroline again, you’ll have to go through us, Brady.

Unbeknownst to Caroline and the Salvatores, Jules’ reinforcements had arrived. We met Brady (Stephen Arnell), Jules’ chisel-jawed, flannel-wearing hunk of a mate who drove his RV up from Florida hell-bent on avenging Mason’s death. In his mind, you attack one wolf, you attack them all. That he’s so handsome is just cruel, because you can’t like him: he’s got a sadistic streak when it comes to vampires. Jules knew Stefan had Tyler, which meant she and Brady (who I want to call Wanker Wolf, for some reason) needed to nab Caroline so they could make a trade (or a trap). We saw Caroline walking to her car at night, and you were just waiting for someone to pop up. Psych! It was Matt, and they decided she’d come by the Grill at closing so they could talk. Then, Jules showed up. She asked Caroline where Tyler was, and, assuming she was serious, revealed that wolves can sniff out a lie. Caroline tried to show her one of her tricks — vamp face! — but Jules sprayed her with vervain as if it was pepper spray. When Caroline turned back for another try, BRADY RAISED A GUN AND SHOT HER IN THE FOREHEAD. I was taking a drink of iced tea at that moment and nearly choked. That’s right up there in shock value with Damon breaking the necks of Vicki and Jeremy, only this seemed worse. Probably because Brady has zero redeeming qualities. (Translation: I didn’t even feel heat when he kissed Jules earlier.)

Caroline woke up in a cage, and cried out in pain as she PULLED OUT THE BULLET. Eventually, she realized Brady was sitting there all relaxed, watching her. “I see you got the bullet out. That was… nasty,” he said. “I got lots of wooden bullets. A lot of toys. It’s gonna be a long night, sweet pea.” Then he raised his gun again and shot her on the right side of her chest. Oh hell no. As I started imagining Elijah ripping this guy’s heart out through his back, Jules called Stefan on Caroline’s cell. Jules told Brady that Stefan needed proof Caroline was still alive, and he shot Caroline in her left arm so Stefan could hear the scream. Stefan was to bring Tyler to the woods in 20 minutes, or Caroline would die. The next time we saw Caroline, Brady was asking her how many other vampires there were in town. She didn’t answer, so he switched to a squirt gun loaded with vervain. Then, he blew wooden darts into her neck. “Why are you doing this to me?” she asked. “You’re a vampire. Why not,” he said. As Caroline cried “Let me out!” he just kept asking her to repeat it. He wanted to hear her beg. Bravo to Arnell, but seriously, dude, I would wear a cup when walking in public on Friday if I were you. Someone is gonna wanna knee you square in the nuts.

Stefan showed up with Tyler, and Damon joined them shortly thereafter. He was willing to let Stefan try for a peaceful resolution before he made things bloody. It wasn’t going to be a fair fight with no full moon, he told Jules. She whistled, and out came men carrying stakes and flame-throwers to surround them. Damon told Tyler to walk to Jules (did he know Tyler would reluctantly free Caroline once the fight broke out?), and then Brady asked which one of the brothers had killed Mason. Damon took the credit, and Brady told his pack, “Boys, make sure that one suffers.” While Damon made a run for Jules (and she did some gymnastics move off the trailer), Stefan grabbed a guy holding a flame-thrower and turned it on the wolves. Some guy jumped down off the trailer at Damon, and Damon essentially caught him by the heart, which he ripped out and threw to the ground. A) He learned that move from Elijah. (Or not. That’s a reference to Mason’s final moment.) And B) AWESOME!

NEXT: Tyler’s a lone wolf.

Stefan was pretty badass during this fight, snapping a guy’s neck and catching a stake fired at him from a crossbow and throwing it back at the werewolf’s neck. I wonder if Paul Wesley was wearing a boot for his injured ankle this episode, and if those cool shots were happy accidents from him not being able to run. (Kinda like Harrison Ford having diarrhea when he was supposed to film a fight scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark –so he just pulled out that gun to end it quickly.) Stefan eventually got staked in the back (by a wolf with bad aim, apparently), and though Damon took Brady to the mat with some WWE move, Jules shot Damon before he could kill him. Caroline walked out of the trailer, and Jules shoved her against it. Caroline just looked at Tyler, whimpering, her bloodied hand leaving a tiny streak on the trailer. Right as Brady was about to stake Damon, he collapsed in pain. So did Jules and the other wolves (save Tyler). Out from the darkness walked Jonas with his hands held out like some kind of divine figure. I was hoping Elijah would show up, but I had no problem doing a happy dance for Jonas (who Elena asked for help at the Grill?). “Elijah made a promise to Elena. I’m here to see it’s upheld. You need to go,” he told the vamps. “Get out of here now.” The three walked away, and Jonas told Tyler, “When your friends awaken, give them a message. They need to get the hell out of this town.”

Tyler eventually showed up at Caroline’s to check on her as she was sitting at her vanity and pulling out splinters from her neck (that reminded me of early Buffy, when Angel watched her break down in front of the mirror). Caroline was an Ice Queen. “Do you know what they did to me?” she asked, fighting back tears. The more he apologized for being confused and not knowing who to trust or what to do, the stronger and angrier she got. She said she lied to him to protect her friends, including him. He just stood there as they were about to get killed — his apology is too late. They are no longer friends, she said. She told him to tell his pack that what happened to her that night would never happen again — after he got the hell out of her house. (Technically, he was just on the porch, which is definitely no longer their special place.) I’m all for strong, badass Caroline, but I hope when she’s had time to calm down and process the night’s events, she’ll remember that Tyler DID free her from her cage — which was a fairly quick turnaround for him — and understand that it’s possible he didn’t know how to help her and the Salvatores or how to fight as a wolf in human form. I get her frustration with him not giving her the benefit of the doubt after she risked her life during his full moon transformation, but he was trying to man up, apologize, and talk it out, and she turned him away.

He went back to Brady’s trailer, apologized for any wolves dying, and asked them if this is what life as a werewolf was always like. “No, man. You’re living in vampire country. That’s all. It’s way better than this,” Brady said. Brady and Jules wondered why Mason stayed in Mystic Falls after Tyler’s father’s funeral, and Tyler told them he was looking for the moonstone. They knew what it was and seemed disappointed that Tyler didn’t know who had it now. So I’m guessing those two will want to break the curse so they can choose to turn whenever they want — which would be often. The question is: Will Tyler want to help them break the curse so he can choose when to turn — which would be never. No matter if you’re a vampire or a werewolf, the ritual is the same — which means Elena would need to be sacrificed. I can’t see Tyler going there. Can you?

NEXT: Uncle John gives Damon a big answer, and raises a big question when he visits Katherine.

Speaking of Elena… She wore her hair up in a ponytail this episode, which made her look like a teenager again. Perfect since her dad, Uncle John, is still in town. Apparently Jeremy, Aunt Jenna, and Alaric slept through his arrival, so we got to see Jenna’s reaction when she saw him in the kitchen. (“What the hell?”) He said he plans on staying for a little while — yay! — and when Jenna protested, he revealed that he’s Elena’s biological dad. So I guess that means he can be a houseguest whenever he likes? Damon was not happy with this situation either. As he told his brother, “We’re not that desperate, Stefan. The guy tried to barbecue me.” Stefan knows they are, actually, that desperate: He assumes if Luka and Jonas are working for Elijah, the moonstone wasn’t destroyed. Elena’s choosing to trust Elijah. And they have no idea how to kill an Original. John knew about the sacrifice through Isobel, and he also knew a way to keep Elena safe — he just wasn’t sharing this info. until he was convinced he could trust Elena, Stefan, and Damon. Elena and Damon both think John is lying about just being there to protect her because she’s “family.” The two of them went to find John at the Grill for some answers, and that’s when Elena started using the “be the better man” line on Damon, who maybe sorta kinda threatened to kill ring-less John in his sleep if he didn’t spill what he knows. (“You need to stop doing that, assuming I’ll play the good guy because it’s you who’s asking,” Damon told Elena.)

John didn’t trust Damon after that, naturally. He was also concerned the brothers could be compelled by Elijah, but Damon said Elijah was only able to do that to Katherine because she had no more vervain in her system. Both Salvatore brothers are now drinking it. Smart, boys! John later interrupted Elena as she told Damon about Stefan and Tyler. She was begging him not to kill Tyler, just to get Caroline back. Damon told John his first act as father was to keep Elena at the Grill, and I guess we’re supposed to believe that was enough to make John realize that Damon and Stefan would both do whatever it takes to keep Elena safe. At least that’s how he played it with Damon after the fight, when he showed up bearing presents. He gave Damon the tutorial Isobel gave him on how to kill an Original: You dip this dagger into the ash from some oak tree that dates back to the genesis of the Originals and then plunge it into his heart. Damon spoke the question we’ve all been asking: Where is Isobel? All John said was, “If she accomplishes what she’s attempting, Klaus will never step foot in Mystic Falls.” He said as far as Elena’s concerned, they’re all on the same side.

John went back to Elena’s house and tried to make peace with her. (As a reader pointed out, it was a nice reference to the season 1 finale, when John tried to have a heart-to-heart with Elena in the kitchen but was met by Katherine instead.) He gave her a bracelet that her mother, the one who raised her, had worn when she was young. (If she’s smart, she’ll have that checked out to make sure there’s nothing special added to it, like a LoJack.) Elena cried as John apologized for the mistakes he’d made and assured her that he’d just lost his way after his brother’s death. He’s not Mr. Hatred anymore, and he’s going to do everything he can to protect the family he has left. Elena told Stefan she still didn’t believe him. Good girl. John showed up at the tomb to visit Katherine, who’d been hoping to see Isobel instead. John told her Isobel had gotten her message, via Stefan, but was so busy, she sent him instead. No one knew he was at the tomb. It’s just between him, Isobel, and Katherine. Katherine said she wanted out of there, and John said he was already working on it. What do you think is going on here? Are Isobel and John working with Katherine to keep Klaus away because it’s best for Elena (and Katherine)? OR, could Isobel and John be double-crossing Katherine by working on a plan to turn her back into a human so SHE can be the sacrifice? That feels a little too hokey for this show, but if a vampire can be altered to walk in the sun by breaking the curse, maybe Isobel thinks there’s a way to bring a vamp back to life. Then she could do it to herself, too. We know she regrets turning into a vampire. All this talk about a vampire’s humanity on the show, and that idea never occurred to me before.

NEXT: Jeremy and Bonnie are looking cozy.

As for other story lines, Matt called Caroline when she never showed up at the Grill, and he knows she was lying about hanging with Bonnie because he was looking at Bonnie hanging with Jeremy. I guess those two are on now, huh? At the memorial for the BBQ victims, Jeremy valiantly came to Bonnie’s side when he saw her talking with Jonas, who was trying to assure her Elijah is a man of his word and that he’s looking out for Elena and her friends. “Is there a problem here?” Jeremy said. So cute. Jeremy and Bonnie walked off with their arms around each other. Did they, like, hook up offscreen last week? What did we miss?! I’m ready to dive back into that love story, please. At the memorial, Jeremy also tried to give his ring back to John, assuming that’s what he returned for if it wasn’t to start back up with his anti-vampire crap. John refused it. John also talked to Mrs. Lockwood and found out that Damon is now running the Council (the town’s secret vampire hunters). Poor Alaric is still on Aunt Jenna Watch, so he’s missing all the action. Jenna’s pissed that Elena kept the secret about her birth parents from her for so long. (Insert Alaric cringing because he’s yet to tell her that Elena’s birth mother, his “dead wife,” is now a vampire.)

Your turn. What did you think of the episode? We’d been warned the show was getting darker and that this episode (and next week’s) were written like an R-rated movie. Too much violence for you, or just the right amount? Did you get enough looks at John’s bad hand? Did you think Stefan seemed to take almost too much joy in rubbing Damon’s grief for Rose in his brother’s face? “It means I care, Stefan. It means I’m changing and evolving into a man capable of greatness. You better watch your back. ‘Cause I may just have to go get a hero hairdo of my own and steal your thunder,” Damon said in a solid comeback. How glad are you that Damon isn’t steering clear of women right now (even if it would be in the best interest of women everywhere)? And what the heck makes Stefan and Elena decide to take a romantic getaway next week? I’m secretly hoping there’s a Bodyguard homage in there somewhere. From the promo, we see that Brady tries to get Tyler to put a bullet in Stefan. I love Tyler now, but a move like that, and he could backslide into season 1 douche status again. Think carefully, Tyler. And please, wear a Henley.

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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