Damon teaches Stefan a lesson in moderation, we learn Alaric is screwed

By Mandi Bierly
Updated March 16, 2012 at 06:30 AM EDT
Bob Mahoney/The CW

After a month’s wait, I’d say a flashback-filled hour with arguably the best brother-bonding moment to date was a solid return. What about you? Let’s dig in.

We began in Mystic Falls, 1912, when a “Mr. Salvatore” didn’t accept a police escort home from a male “Sheriff Forbes” after a Council member was killed. Mr. Salvatore was stabbed in the dirt street.

In modern-day Mystic Falls, the current Sheriff Forbes took Mayor Lockwood — women power! — to the jail to see who was being held on suspicion of being the town’s current serial killer. Alaric behind bars would have been a lot more shocking had we not seen it in the promo. As is, I was most shocked by how light his hair looked. Doing time agrees with him! Dr. Fell had shot Alaric and healed him with vampire blood, but Liz said Meredith believes he’s the killer and that his own stab wound was self-inflicted, so he’s being detained. (Liz later told Alaric that Meredith said he witnessed her fight with her medical examiner ex and knew that Caroline’s father had threatened to report her for giving him vampire blood, so he had motive — however weak.) Damon was there to tell Liz how ridiculous this all sounded, but Liz threatened to put Damon in the cell with Alaric if he didn’t simmer down. Please, Liz. Do it!

Meanwhile, a very bundled up Elena was running with Matt, who told her he’d talked to Bonnie. She’s at her mom’s house, where Caroline is helping Abby complete the transition and learn to control herself as a new vampire. Translation: We will not be seeing them this episode. Elena got called to the police station where she didn’t even bother visiting Alaric after she ran into Damon. He only seemed to want to help Alaric by feeding Meredith’s tongue to squirrels, and he hadn’t expressed enough remorse for turning Bonnie’s mother into a vamp. Damon said he’s mean and Elena hates him, so the Earth was back on its axis. Elena said if Damon keeps pushing people away, he’ll end up alone.

Did Elena really think Damon wouldn’t help Alaric? Please. He went home and found a twitchy Stefan apparently suffering writer’s block while journaling. “Dear diary, a chipmunk asked me my name today. I told him it was Joe. That lie will haunt me forever,” Damon said. Ha. Damon was trying to remember what year they attended the funeral of Zachariah, that relative we saw die in the opening. Stefan told him it was 1912, and Damon handed Stefan his journal from that year. Let the flashback begin again…

Stefan learned from Mariana Lockwood and Samantha Gilbert that his “Uncle” wasn’t the first founding family member killed. Damon showed up, in a bowler hat, and we learned that Stefan has always had the better hair and, more importantly, that the brothers hadn’t seen each other in nearly 50 years. “Have you been eating the relatives again?” Damon asked him. Nothing like a you-killed-our-dad joke to break the ice. Damon was still pissed at Stefan for essentially forcing him to become a vampire and walk the world alone drinking human blood. With that reminder out-of-the-way, a smiling Stefan admitted he’d missed his brother and asked him to grab a drink to catch up. Cut to modern-day Damon asking Stefan to go grab a drink and help him solves the murders.

Naturally, they went to the Grill, where Rebekah was meeting with the Mayor to ask her where she might find that white oak tree we heard about last episode. It’s not in the records, so the Mayor assumes it was cut down and used when the town was built up in the 1900s. The Salvatores owned all the logging mills back then, which meant Rebekah and Damon did more than just give each other bedroom eyes as he and Stefan headed to the bar. She joined them there as Damon was wondering why the current killer wasn’t targeting A-list Council members like a Salvatore. (Because then we wouldn’t have a show?) Rebekah worked the logging mills into conversation because it was around the same time when their relative — their father’s illegitimate son with a maid – was murdered. But the Salvatores thought the segue was strange (like the time I said “Fine. So Heather Locklear—” to Scott Baio strange). Damon assumed she was just pretending to be interested in the town’s history because she wanted more sex, which he told her to just ask for. “Oh come on, it was too good for you to be this hostile,” he said when she told him there wasn’t enough liquor in the world. Stefan grabbed the bottle of bourbon and moved to the other side of Damon so he wouldn’t be caught in the middle of all that sexual tension. They’d blamed the 1912 murders on a vampire, but the brothers didn’t buy it. There was only one other vampire circulating back then besides them — Sage. “Speaking of great sex,” Damon said…

NEXT: Enter Sage

Back to the brothers boozing in 1912. We met Sage in a boxing ring, where she knocked a guy out, offered $100 to any man who could beat her, and winked at Damon. Stefan chose that moment to tell Damon he could teach him how to survive without human blood, but Damon said Stefan didn’t get to lecture him. Damon met Sage, pretending to play hard to get. Or so we thought he was just pretending. She put a $100 bill down his pants — which I’m choosing to think of as a dollar for every time Ian Somerhalder has stripped on the show. Was it Sage who was killing back then? Rebekah, who knew Sage once and didn’t like her, clearly thought she was capable of it. Eventually, Rebekah tried to steer the conversation back to the Salvatore relatives, and Damon grabbed a second bottle of bourbon and told her it was boys’ night and she wasn’t invited. Did you notice how Stefan did some eyebrow acting, too, as he grabbed the glasses and followed Damon? #TeamSalvatore!

Elena was off accosting Meredith in the hospital parking lot, and I’d have to give this round to Meredith. She sounded convincing when she said Alaric was a borderline alcoholic vampire hunter who had been arrested four times for fighting before the age of 21, and had two restraining orders filed against him at Duke by his future wife, Isobel. (I hope all that is explained at some point.) Meredith said Elena just accepted Alaric into her life without doing any kind of research. Though, in Elena’s defense, one would hope that her school would have done a background check on Alaric before hiring him as a teacher. Then again, we’ve seen how bad security is at that school… Next we saw Elena, she and her new partner in crime, Matt, broke into Meredith’s apartment to look for the evidence she hadn’t turned over to Sheriff Forbes. Knowing all founding family members have skeletons in the closet, they found Meredith’s hiding place in her actual closet and uncovered a box of files on all the victims, including Alaric.

Everyone was now debating whether Meredith could be the killer. Back at the Grill, Damon decided a woman wasn’t strong enough to kill a man. That’s sexist, Rebekah pointed out, interrupting his game of darts. She traded barbs with Stefan, and when she asked why he was so grumpy, Damon told her about Stefan’s master cleanse and brought back out the diary to read more of Stefan’s musings from 1912. This flashback showed Damon draining a woman but his heart wasn’t into it. He was hungry, so he ate. Sage was watching and told him women aren’t just for food, they’re for pleasure. But Damon said he didn’t need a woman for pleasure because he’s spoken for. That’s kinda sweet, right? He was saving himself for Katherine. Sage grabbed Damon (what was her hand doing out of frame?) and told him they’re all spoken for in some way. But what good is being a vampire if you’re not going to relish in the pleasure of it? She took him back inside the tent and told him to look at the women watching the fight. Not the ones who were baring their shoulders. They wanted the attention. The fun ones were the buttoned up ladies (like Mariana and Samantha) who secretly craved being seduced. They’ll put up a fight but the game is winning them over and making them beg for it. And if they don’t, you take it anyway. That sounded like Sage, present-day Rebekah said. She confirmed what guest star Cassidy Freeman had already told us: Sage was involved with Finn over 900 years ago. (Rebekah said “obsessed” with Finn, and Freeman called him Sage’s “one true love” — very different meanings…) Stefan was experiencing serious withdrawal and bolted the Grill after Damon forced him to admit he was ready to eat the entire wait staff.

Back at Meredith’s place, Matt discovered both a Gilbert journal in her stash and that the coroner’s time of death for the medical examiner didn’t match the 1 a.m. to 3 a.m. range we’d been hearing about. Just then, Meredith came home — short surgery — and Elena and Matt hid in the closet. She put her finger to his mouth to shush him and we were supposed to feel some sexual tension… but it was nowhere near Salvatore level. Elena opened the door after we thought Meredith had left again and Meredith was standing there. That surprise worked. Meredith might be on the up and up after all: She called the cops instead of shooting them. Sheriff Forbes later informed them that Meredith herself had given her the coroner’s report adjusting the time of death hours earlier and apologized for accusing Alaric. Alaric would be free as soon as the report was authenticated.

Damon and Rebekah followed Stefan out of the Grill, and the next scene in the alley was pretty brilliant: Just like Stefan had coerced Damon into drinking a pre-bitten woman when Damon was in transition in 1864, Damon bit a woman and told Stefan if he didn’t drink from her (and prove to himself that moderation was a better recovery plan than going cold turkey), he’d let Rebekah have her and the woman would certainly die. Rebekah’s fangs were out when Stefan stepped in. I couldn’t tell whether he looked protective or like a dog guarding his bag of treats. Let’s hand it to Paul Wesley, who managed to portray Stefan fighting the intense urge to feed in a way that didn’t make us laugh. (Take notes, Robert Pattinson in the first Twilight film!) He finally gave in and fed, and incase you were enthralled by his slurping sounds, Damon told Rebekah to scram and she called him an ass.

Damon had to separate Stefan from the woman before he killed her, and Stefan wasn’t happy to let go. Just then, Elena and Matt arrived as Damon fed the woman his blood to save her. Stefan turned around to face Elena with blood covering his mouth and chin. Damon told Elena it was just an experiment and not to make it more dramatic than it needed to be. Matt ushered Elena away, and Stefan turned to face Damon with tears in his eyes and even more blood dripping down his chin. I do love a teary Paul Wesley. “So… that’s gonna take a little time,” Damon said, and Stefan waked away looking distraught but still hot. (I’m sorry, but it’s true.)

NEXT: Let’s go crazy

Back at Elena’s, Matt told her he just doesn’t get her thing with the Salvatores. What Elena said made perfect sense: After her parents’ death, Stefan felt safe — as a vampire, he would never die, never stop loving her. And Damon? She said he snuck up on her and she can’t shake him. I can’t wait to hear how Delena and Stelena fans read into that: Does that mean her love for Damon is somehow more pure because she wasn’t as vulnerable and needy when it started? Probably not. I think she said that bit about Damon just so Matt could drop his bomb: “Once you fall in love with someone, I don’t know if you can ever shake ‘em,” he said. There was awkward silence as they both realized he was saying his feeling for her could easily resurface. She asked if it was weird for her to talk to him about them, and he said no, not really. I actually believed him. We know he truly cared for Caroline. I don’t think Matt is PINING for Elena. I think we’re just seeing what we all know to be true in real life: Timing is everything. If you did love someone, and the timing is ever right again, the feelings are there to resurface. But you’ve also learned to live without that person, so you can easily keep them dormant.

Matt had another surprise for Elena: While Meredith and the deputy were questioning Elena, he managed to steal her family journal back. That’s the advantage of being a human in a town of vampires — you’re practically invisible, he said. Okay, this time I felt some heat coming from Matt as they stared at each other, but all I got from Elena was recognition in her face that yes, that confirms Matt is definitely saying he’d get with me if I want to go there.

Alaric came home at that moment and he and Elena embraced. At first, I thought it was a little creepy how they focused on his hand in the small of her back, but then I realized we were supposed to focus on the ring on his hand. It means he won’t leave her either — unless, of course, he dies a non-supernatural death, but still. That’s why she let herself get so attached to him.

Stefan was home at Salvatore Mansion, brooding in front of the fire. Damon arrived to tell him Alaric was free, and that it may not seem like it, but he’d done well that night drinking and not killing that woman. He’d become the king of moderation if he followed Damon’s road to recovery. Stefan couldn’t understand why Damon wanted to bond and didn’t buy that Damon was genuinely trying to help him. Stefan said he didn’t need Damon’s help, and Damon asked if he remembered what happened the last time he said that to him — the last time Damon convinced Stefan to drink human blood. We cut to Sage in the ring and Damon telling Stefan they’d both forgotten how good it feels to drink but Sage reminded him. Damon told him to go for Mariana, have a drink with him. We watched Stefan feed on her and ignore Damon when he told him not to be so greedy. Stefan bit her so hard he decapitated her. He knelt to grab her head and just repeated “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.” He yelled at Damon, wanting to know what Damon had done to him. Damon was relatively calm and told him he just needed to learn when to stop and he could help him. Stefan said he didn’t need his help and ran away then. Decades later, he’d earned the nickname the Ripper of Monterey.

In present day, Damon told Stefan he let him walk away and did nothing to stop him as he saw him go over the edge. He didn’t want to help him then, but he wants to help him now: “Whenever you go too far, I will be there to pull you back. Every second, every day, till you don’t need me.” I was already getting chills and a little misty. “Why?” Stefan asked. “Because right now, you’re all I’ve got,” Damon answered. #TeamSalvatore! This is what Paul Wesley meant when he said “I think [the episode] reminds the audience that these two guys are also an integral part of the triangle. It’s not just them both being in love with Elena. It’s that they love each other as well.”

Back at Elena’s house, she was reading the Gilbert journal when Alaric came downstairs to tell her that while he appreciates her efforts, he doesn’t want her getting into trouble for him. They agreed to take care of each other. (Nothing to look at there in terms of sexual tension, people! Just keep going!) Elena said the journal wasn’t Jonathan Gilbert’s after all. It turned out to be his granddaughter Samantha’s, and she went as crazy as he did. Great genes, indeed, Elena. Pleasant dreams!

Over at the Salvatores, Stefan — no longer mad at Damon and still looking sane and sexy in a Henley — was feeling helpful and dug into the old family archives from the 1900s. They never arrested anyone for the murders in 1912, but 10 years later, they got a confession from Samantha Gilbert. They assumed she was crazy and locked her up in an asylum. That’s strange, Damon said, because he’s pretty sure he’d already killed her by then…

Meredith showed up at Alaric’s door and he was, understandably, not friendly. She said she forged the coroner’s report to clear his name, so the authorities wouldn’t consider him a suspect again. But that doesn’t mean he’s innocent. Damon and Stefan realized that Samantha Gilbert must have had a family ring to survive Damon killing her — like the one Jeremy and ALARIC wear. (I had the end twist spoiled for me by someone who saw the episode at PaleyFest. I wish I hadn’t. I’ll never know at what point I would’ve pieced it together. I’d like to think there.) Elena read in Samantha’s journal about her feeling like she was losing time and going mad. Meredith reiterated that the murder weapons were all Alaric’s and that his wound could have been self-inflicted. He’s been experiencing blackouts (which he thought was just from drinking). How many times can you die before it changes you? Meredith said she thinks Alaric’s going mad and she wants to help him. Elena came downstairs and said she thinks Meredith’s right. I don’t know who I feel more sorry for: Alaric or Elena. The very thing that she thought would keep Alaric with her is what’s taking his mind away. But on the bright side, ALARIC GETS A STORYLINE! We all know Matt Davis has been cast in a CW pilot, but they’ve said he’ll be able to recur on Vampire Diaries if it gets picked up. I know the producers and cast love him, but do we think he’ll make it out of season 3 alive? How do you reverse this? Is this how they’ll bring Jeremy back, to monitor him? (Have you missed him?) Read what EP Julie Plec had to say about the twist here.

Your turn. What did you think of the episode? Do you want Matt to complicate the central love triangle? Did you tear up over Damon and Stefan’s heart-to-heart? Are you feeling confident that Stefan can reclaim his humanity and retain his season 3 hotness? I hope they drag out his recovery a bit. I’m digging this limbo now. It’s the best of both worlds: He wants to be good, but there’s always the chance of him going momentarily bad.

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