Damon and Elena share a moment, while Stefan's off becoming the interesting one
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…

Most series building to a sacrifice ritual would have thought a bloodbath would make a fine season finale. How happy are we that The Vampire Diaries didn’t stop there? By going a step further, the producers ended the season with every character (that survived) being more compelling than they were just last week. Until Damon took to his deathbed and time slowed for his heart-to-heart with Elena, the episode did feel somewhat choppy. But that’s just because there was so much to set up for next season, which we’ll enter with the satisfying feeling that no character on the show is so underutilized that she’d be better off dead (RIP, Aunt Jenna). Exec producer Julie Plec offered some post-show color commentary for us. Here’s our standard play-by-play.

I’m curious: Did anyone else think, just for a second, that Elena somehow walked in on a sleeping Elijah when she peeked into Jeremy’s bedroom? It would have made no sense, obviously, but Steven R. McQueen looked like Daniel Gillies from that distance, and now that my mind has gone there, what do you think Elijah sleeps in? A fitted wife-beater and a pair of silk pants? (Shorts would seem undignified.) Anyway, after Elena surveyed Jenna’s empty bedroom, she found the house wasn’t as empty as she thought: Damon was there to ask her to forgive him for feeding her his blood. It was the sweetest, softest voice we’d ever heard Damon use — up to that point. Elena said she needed time, maybe a lot of it. We knew Damon didn’t have that; he didn’t even have enough energy to raise his eyebrows.

Back at the Salvatore mansion, Damon went for the good bottle of bourbon in the back of the liquor cabinet and stood in front of a stained glass window. It was peaceful, like he was in church. He dropped his ring and started to let himself burn. Stefan tackled him and told Damon he wouldn’t be dying today. He locked Damon in the cell in the basement. Damon wanted Stefan to just say goodbye. As Damon lay coughing up blood, Stefan told him to conserve his strength. Stefan phoned Alaric, who, naturally, was hitting the bottle at The Grill. That was a great conversation, wasn’t it?

Alaric: I’m sorry, you’ve reached somebody who’s currently not operating.

Stefan: I need your help.

Alaric: Well, you must have me confused with somebody else. See, I’m not allowed to help, just idly sit by while my girlfriend gets sacrificed on an altar of blood.

That’s how you remind viewers what happened last week! When Stefan told him Damon was dying, and Alaric said, “What do you need?” I swooned. That Alaric-Damon bromance is still one of my favorite relationships on the show. Apparently, Stefan needed Alaric to take over Suicide Watch 2011 so the following could happen: Damon could maybe kinda sorta apologize to Alaric for his role in Jenna’s death (Alaric didn’t blame him for that) and for turning his wife into a vampire. “Okay, give me your glass. Neither one of us is drunk enough for this conversation,” Alaric said, having brought a bottle down with him. Damon grabbed Alaric by the throat and begged him to do what Damon had done to Rose: “Kill me. Please,” he said. “Screw you,” Alaric answered, and stabbed him with vervain. “Elena?” Damon said as he hit the dirt. I wasn’t sure if he was having another hallucination (at one point, we saw him imagine entering Katherine’s bedroom in 1864 to fix her corset strings before heading off to war and Elena appearing to tell him Katherine was just toying with him — he had a choice); if he was calling out her name because he wanted Alaric to know he needed to see her; or if she was simply the only thing on his mind. Alaric said she wasn’t there. But she was on her way…

NEXT: Klaus (temporarily) killing Elijah is the worst thing he’s done so far.

Stefan interrupted Jeremy, Caroline, and Elena preparing for an escapist evening in the town square watching Gone With the Wind to tell Elena about Damon’s werewolf bite. That was a standup thing to do, Stefan: He wanted to give Elena time to say her goodbyes to Damon, if it came to that. Feeling guilty that he forced Damon to become a vampire in the first place, Stefan had Bonnie channel Emily at Witch Central so he could ask her if she knew of a cure. The witches thought Bonnie was abusing her power, and they didn’t want to play. Stefan tried to reason with Emily that by not helping Damon, she wasn’t keeping the balance in nature, she was just punishing him. Still nothing. Luckily, Bonnie heard Emily say a name — Klaus. I was thinking Klaus would have to bite Damon and somehow change him into a hybrid, so then we’d see Damon, who’d spent two seasons trying to regain his humanity, having to deal with being the most vicious creature on the planet. Wrong! Stefan told Elena he had to find Klaus. Klaus could’ve killed him on the night of the sacrifice and hadn’t. He could negotiate.

Klaus’ entrance in this episode was shirtless. Welcome to the fold, Joseph Morgan! He’d woken up naked in the woods after two days as a werewolf. Elijah was there with clothes. I love the way he pulled down Klaus’ jacket. Appearance/fit is important to Elijah, isn’t it? Klaus revealed that he could change at will and that he remembers every kill. He told Elijah no one could kill him now, not even him, and thank you. “All is forgiven,” Klaus said. What was forgiven? The fact that Elijah had just tried to kill him, or whatever Elijah had done back in the day to piss him off? (Do we think that it’s not finding Katherine after she escaped or something even juicier?) Elijah wanted to discuss the deal Klaus had made — he said he’d reunite Elijah with his family. “You need to lighten up,” Klaus said. “I’ll bring them to you soon enough.” If we’d only known…

The half brothers went back to Alaric’s place to find Stefan there. He’d come to ask Katherine for her help in finding Klaus since she obviously knew he hadn’t been killed because she was still captive. Elijah tried to make nice with Stefan. Stefan coming to Klaus means he understands how important family is. Elijah betrayed their plan to kill Klaus because Klaus had given him his word that he would reunite him with his own family, Elijah said. “And so I shall,” Klaus said — and stabbed him with the dagger. “Shhhh,” Klaus said, as Elijah turned gray and fell to the floor (and I wrote, “I HATE YOU, KLAUS” in my notes). I should have suspected that would happen when Daniel Gillies said in a recent interview with EW that he personally loves characters “when they f— up.” I just didn’t think Klaus would turn on him so quickly. I guess Elijah should have been more careful when he made that verbal pact with Klaus (“So you’ll take me to them, resurrect them, and let us all live?”), but then, when you have your hand in your brother’s chest, ready to rip out his heart, you’re not thinking of the fine print.

Staying with Stefan, the next time we saw him, he was getting repeatedly stabbed by Klaus as Katherine watched. Stefan told him if he helped Damon, he’d do whatever Klaus wanted. Klaus said Stefan was practically useless the way he was, and again, I wasn’t sure what he meant by that: Was it because Stefan was showing the kind of love for Damon that Klaus thinks is a vampire’s greatest weakness? Not exactly. It was because Stefan wasn’t the same vampire Klaus had heard about — the crazy bloke who was on and off the wagon for decades, the one who was “magnificent” in 1917 when he wiped out an entire village, a “true ripper.” That’s the kind of talent that would be useful to Klaus when he left Mystic Falls. Klaus called Katherine to him and bit her. (Can you imagine if Katherine had gone out as quickly as Elijah? Too crazy, even for this show!) He then force fed her some of his blood and the wound healed. His blood was the cure. If Stefan wanted it for Damon, he’d have to become Klaus’ wingman for a decadelong bender. Klaus asked Stefan to join him for a drink. Then he forced him to drink blood bag after blood bag until he looked like a dog you walk in on devouring your entire stash of Pup-Peronis. (Shoutout to my parent’s dachshund Charles.) Klaus was smart with the blanket wording of his deal with Stefan: “You do everything I say, and I save your brother.”

We know Stefan had been drinking a bit of Elena’s blood everyday to build up his tolerance of human blood, but Klaus’ binge was too much. Once Klaus believed Stefan was on the road to the dark side, he told Katherine to take his blood to Damon and come right back. Stefan knew, of course, that Katherine was on vervain. So did Klaus, it turns out. He didn’t care whether she delivered it or fled.

NEXT: I spent way too much time admiring the blood spatter from Jeremy.

Before we get to Katherine’s decision, we need to back up. Mrs. Mayor, recovered from her “fall,” had threatened to replace Sheriff Forbes if she couldn’t keep the town safe. It was time for Liz to make her move. She went to the Salvatore mansion to see Damon and took Elena into custody outside the house on Elena’s walk from her Ford to the door. Liz and her team went inside, and Alaric tried to tell her now was not the right time to talk to Damon, but she opened the cell door, got thrown against the wall, and out Damon went. Everyone knew Damon would head to the square to find Elena, and Bonnie wanted Jeremy to hang back. I like that he stood up to her and said he was going to find his sister. Damon’s hallucinations continued as he arrived at the town square and thought he saw Katherine. Jeremy found Damon first and took him to The Grill so he could call for reinforcements.

We should have known the moment that Liz told Elena vampires are all killers that SHE would be the one who took a life that night. She got word where Damon was and went into The Grill after him. She took her shot, Damon moved, and she nailed Jeremy in the chest. (I’m choosing to believe the werewolf bite clouded Damon’s judgment about the consequences of his move for Jeremy.) That blood splatter was perfection. Because Liz was human, Jeremy’s ring wouldn’t work. Caroline arrived and tried to feed Jeremy some of her blood, but it was too late. That would have been too simple, right? Bonnie and Alaric took Jeremy’s body to Witch Central — there was a spell that could bring Jeremy back.

The witches were pissy with Bonnie for returning and didn’t want to help her. There would be consequences, they told her. “He’s just a kid. Tell them to shut up,” Alaric said. Ha. “Emily. Emily. I know you’re there. Please help me,” Bonnie cried, holding Jeremy’s head in her lap. “I love him.” Ooh, I just got chills typing that! Kat Graham was great in that scene. I loved how she let the blood from her nose discolor her teeth. It wasn’t pretty, and it wasn’t supposed to be. It would have been funny-sad had Bonnie survived trying to kill Klaus but died bringing back Jeremy. She didn’t. The candles flickered off, and you thought maybe it hadn’t worked. But you kinda suspected it did. He awoke.

After Damon escaped Liz’s bullet, he went back to the square and found Elena. As Atlanta burned on the big screen, Damon sweated as the fever — and hallucinations — overtook him. He was looking at Elena but seeing himself with Katherine in 1864. He’d wanted to know why Katherine always ran from him, and she said it was because she knew he would chase her. Damon wanted to be with her forever, so he asked her to feed him her blood and not tell Stefan. She wouldn’t. He’d have to take it. It was his choice. Elena is lucky 1864-human Damon was gentle, because as he put his lips to Katherine’s neck in the hallucination/memory, he sunk his teeth into Elena in real life. She kept telling him he was hurting her, and finally, he snapped out of it. They collapsed to their knees and Elena held Damon.

NEXT: Damon finally gets Elena in his bed.

Even after that, when they got Damon home and into bed and he asked Elena to leave him, Elena told him she wouldn’t. (Really, Elena? You forgot what happened when you were alone with Rose?) She held him, and you couldn’t help but think back to Damon and Rose being in that same position. He told Elena he realized he’d made his own choice to love Katherine. He asked her to tell Stefan he was sorry. He said he’d made a lot of wrong choices that had led him to where he was, and he deserved to die. Laying side by side with Elena now, he told her that was okay — because if he’d chosen differently, he wouldn’t have met her. He apologized for all the things he’d done to hurt her. “I forgive you,” she said. She knew what he needed to hear.

“I know you love Stefan. And it will always be Stefan. But I love you. You should know that,” Damon said. Maybe it was because he knew the show’s death theme was playing for him, but I loved that Damon was able to say that and make us believe he had no agenda. “I do,” Elena said, calmly and quietly holding back tears. It wasn’t “I love you, too,” but it was the next best thing, and again, what he needed to hear. Elena believed he cared for her, believed him capable of caring for her. “You should have met me in 1864. You would have liked me,” he said. “I like you now. Just the way you are,” she said. Damon’s eyes were closed, and Elena gave him a soft, sweet, innocent kiss on the lips. “Thank you,” he said. “You’re welcome,” she answered. Did you catch Damon’s little smile? I thought that scene was lovely. I don’t think fans who want Stefan and Elena together forever could be angry with her for how she handled that. Am I wrong? How many times did you Delena fans rewind? Who holds the record, I wonder?

“Well it’s me you should be thanking,” Katherine said, breaking the silence. She had come to give Damon the cure because she owed him one for sneaking her the vervain. Elena asked about Stefan (“Are you sure you care?”), and Katherine told her he was paying for the cure, that he’d given himself over to Klaus and sacrificed everything — including Elena — to save Damon. “It’s a good thing you have Damon to keep you company,” Katherine said, enjoying the situation Elena found herself in now that Damon would live and Stefan’s gone bad. “Oh, it’s okay to love them both,” she added. “I did.” So Damon was only 90 percent the fool he thought he was with Katherine? That information was a nice parting gift. You know Katherine is headed out of town.

Klaus intends to catch Katherine, with Stefan’s help, of course. Last we saw those two, they were in some sort of warehouse, closing the lid on Elijah’s coffin and reuniting him with his family. Stefan wanted to know what Klaus really plans to do with him. All will be explained in time, Klaus said. (Theories? Maybe he wants Stefan to train the new vampolfs he’ll create?) I thought Stefan asking if they were ready to leave town now was the good in him shining through — he wanted to get Klaus as far away from Elena as possible. Perhaps Klaus suspected that, too. He needed to make sure Stefan would do whatever he said, like kill the human gift Klaus brought him. That Klaus could’ve compelled the girl to “behave” (or not be afraid) and didn’t was truly cruel. Real rippers enjoy the hunt, Klaus said. He took a bite from her and Stefan finished her off. It had to remind you of Stefan bringing a young woman for Damon to drink during his transition in 1864. Let’s not forget that even though Damon willingly drank Katherine’s blood (which we already knew), he decided against becoming a vampire when he thought Katherine was dead. Stefan is right to feel at least partly responsible for Damon being a vampire. Seeing the change in Stefan’s eyes when he killed the woman, Klaus said now they were ready to go. What a great final shot of them, blood dripping down both their mouths. (Go off and be Spike and Angel, pre-soul, boys.)

Perhaps the only happy ending in the episode was Caroline’s. When she gave her mother the news that Jeremy was alive, she also told her she wasn’t going to be afraid of her anymore and she didn’t want Liz to be afraid of her. She’s still her little girl. They hugged it out. Hooray! I love how that could pit Sheriff Forbes against Mama Lockwood next season, giving them both a meatier story line. Jeremy’s ending was… well… I’m not sure what that was, other than awesome. He told Bonnie over a goodnight video chat that he felt different/weird. She reminded him he’d been dead so that was to be expected. He thanked her, and she said he could thank her tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that. Alaric using the same line on Jeremy when Jeremy thanked him for helping Bonnie save him — hilarious. Alaric was going to leave the Gilbert house, but then decided to stay on the couch when he realized Jeremy would be alone. I hope he moves in permanently. They need a guardian, and he needs not to go back to his old apartment. That would also bring him into the story more, which I’d love.

The episode ended with Jeremy walking downstairs and seeing both Vicki and Anna. WHAT?! Is that what those witches meant by consequences: Because it was love that made Bonnie want to bring Jeremy back to life, they brought the ghosts of his two previous girlfriends with him? Will he see all dead people, or just them? (I assume it’s their spirits and not something impersonal like The First Evil we saw on Buffy.)

Your turn. Were you satisfied with the finale? Do you like how Elena handled Damon’s deathbed confession, or do you think she betrayed Stefan? How psyched are you for bad Stefan to come out and play with Klaus? Where do Damon and Elena go from here? (FIND ELIJAH!)

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.

  • TV Show