Our favorite guest stars came and went
Steven R McQueen
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…

Was this my favorite episode of season 3? No. I liked the concept a lot — ghosts with unfinished business return and make the things that we’ve been waiting to see happen, happen: Bonnie broke up with Jeremy, Alaric forgave Damon for killing him (again), Stefan is now in (temporary?) Ripper Detox, and Mama Lockwood has a reason to like Caroline. But something felt off to me. The dialogue seemed a bit ho-hum at times (though Elena’s final talk with Stefan was top-notch), and shots that should have been monumental looked almost cheesy (e.g. Bonnie’s spell and Alaric’s discovery of the Lockwood cave drawings, though Anna’s reunion with her mother had me SOBBING). It was like watching Charmed more than The Vampire Diaries in some scenes. Maybe I’m just used to every moment of an episode being intense and this one, for all that had to be crammed into the hour, had a lot of whoomp, there the ghost is downtime. We were getting a lot of cuts to different scenes, but the scenes themselves were slow. Did that make any sense? Maybe I should just stick to talking about torsos. Did you notice how hairy Alaric’s heavage looked this episode? And where was Tyler? Even if Carol Lockwood isn’t like Revenge‘s Victoria Grayson (Madeleine Stowe) who insists her children attend the events she hosts, wouldn’t Caroline have forced Tyler into volunteering to hang lanterns for the Night of Illumination? That’s probably a beautiful event (if there’s no dead man hanging in a tree), but I’m still gonna have to vote Gilmore Girls‘ Festival of Living Art as the most picturesque town affair. Let’s dig in.

So Damon woke up chained and skewered in the same seated position he once tortured Mason Lockwood. Still, Damon thought it was a twisted Ripper game that Stefan was playing until the blinds were opened and, without his ring on, Damon started to burn. So are we to assume Stefan saved him or that Mason did that himself because he didn’t really want Damon to die? Regardless, Damon got in his convertible and found Bonnie so he could tell her to fix this ghost problem because he doesn’t have time for it. “When I kill someone, they’re supposed to stay dead.” Bonnie dropped her grimoire (Charmed-like, right?), which magically turned to a page with a manifestation spell used to reveal veiled matter, meaning ghosts. “Okay, please tell me that’s a recipe for witch cookies,” Caroline said. Okay, that was snappy.

Bonnie and Caroline went back to former Witch Central, where Jeremy had been brought back to life. Candles were lit, the spell was chanted, we saw the magic wind through the cobwebs, and it worked: Caroline could see Grams standing there, holding Bonnie’s hands. Alaric could see Mason Lockwood at the bar as he slammed his glass into Damon’s forehead. Stefan could see Lexi, who slammed his face into a car window and knocked him out. Elena could see Anna finishing kissing Jeremy. Grams explained that when Bonnie did the spell to block the magic giving Vicki a foothold in this world, the old witch on the other side wedged a door wide open giving a free pass to anybody with unfinished business. (Sure, why not.) They need to close that door. The Original Witch’s talisman, Elena’s necklace, allows her to draw power from this side. Bonnie needed to destroy it.

The catch, of course, is that if Bonnie destroyed the necklace and revoked the ghosts’ all-access pass, whatever good they were doing here in this world would also end. And, it turns out, most of them were doing good. Let’s continue with Mason. Damon told him to cut to the chase: “I killed you. You want revenge. Get in line.” (Great delivery by Ian Somerhalder.) Mason said he didn’t want revenge, he wanted an apology. Alaric laughed, but things turned serious when Mason said he’d help Damon find a weapon to kill Klaus if he apologized. Damon admitted he didn’t have to kill Mason. He does a lot of things he doesn’t have to do. How is that at all an apology? I guess he was trying to say he does idiot things? But it was good enough for Mason. He told Damon to meet him at the old Lockwood cellar and to come alone.

NEXT: Goonies reference

The question was whether Mason could be trusted — and if there’s ever been a prettier closeup on this show than Mason and Damon peering into the cave. Mason knew about Mikael, and said there wasn’t much to do on the other side than sit around and watch other people screw things up. (So does that mean he knows that Mikael chowed down on Katherine, or did he cross over to this side and start tailing Damon before that happened? I’m still confused about who all the ghosts were visible to once Bonnie did the spell. But if the storyline is over, I’m okay not knowing the rule.) Mason also knew that Damon would do anything to save Stefan from Klaus, just like he would do anything to save hybrid minion Tyler from his sire. As long as they had that in common, they could work together.

When Mason told Damon to go down one tunnel and he got pinned by three booby-trap stakes (like a dark Goonies), you thought he had lied. But no, his motives were pure. He’d just abandoned Damon to go fetch the shovel they’d use to make their way into the cave to free him. It’s not revenge Mason wants, he said, it’s redemption. He’s alone on the other side, too. You watch the people you left behind and regret your decisions. He can’t change the mistakes he made, but he can help correct Tyler’s course. The two continued on until Damon got stopped by an invisible force field. Mason had found something…which he was looking at when Bonnie sent the ghosts bye-bye. In my mind, Mason had peace. He’d found something that could help Tyler.

He’d also helped bring Alaric and Damon back together. Damon had to call Alaric to get him to see what Mason had discovered. Next to Elena, Alaric is the only human he trusts, Damon said. AH. Damon issued the same “crapass” non-apology — “Well, sometimes I do things I don’t have to do” — only this time, he meant it. Meant what? He’s acknowledging that he needn’t have faux-killed Alaric because Alaric will always do right by him? (And that maybe he didn’t have to kill Mason because he was, or could have been, a decent guy?)

Now, let’s move onto Anna. I know it was cheating, but Jeremy holding her hand at the Night of the Illumination pre-festivities was so sweet. It was as normal as their strange courtship would get, her cracking jokes about the event celebrating the newfound prosperity of the founding fathers after the Civil War AND AFTER THEY STOLE FROM VAMPIRES. The townsfolk had hung lanterns over their doors so that their neighbors knew they were safe to come outside AND SAFE FROM VAMPIRES. Elena had been reading Stefan’s journal and remembering how Lexi had always brought back his humanity when he went off the rails. She wanted Jeremy to try to contact Lexi and ask her how she did it, but Jeremy wasn’t sure he could. He had no connection to her, and Anna wasn’t sure that all supernatural beings end up where she was — some may find peace. Jeremy left the conversation he was having with Elena and Alaric when Anna told him not to tell Elena that she was there. He took her to the Grill bathroom — always romantic! — and asked her why she’d wanted him to lie. It was just because Elena’s Bonnie’s best friend, she said. She promised she wasn’t a danger to him or to anyone.

Jeremy was torn. He had the power to send her away, Anna said. She was almost begging him to do it because when you’re that alone, the only power you think you have is to make yourself feel even worse. He said he doesn’t know why this is happening to them or when it will stop, and before it does, he had something he had to do. And that was kiss her as the music swelled! I rewound, but only once. Okay, twice. Jeremy makes me wish I was a teen again. The crush I would have on him…

NEXT: “This Woman’s Work” gets me every time, but especially this time

As previously mentioned, Elena walked in on Jeremy and Anna after Bonnie’s manifestation spell worked. She said she’d let Jeremy tell Bonnie about the kiss after they got the necklace back from Damon, destroyed it, and sent the ghosts away. But instead, Elena told Caroline, who told Bonnie. Caroline and Bonnie were looking for the necklace, which wasn’t where Damon said it would be. Elena told Caroline to hold off on destroying it anyway, because Lexi was there to try to help Stefan. Caroline said they’d find the necklace, then choose which boyfriend ghost drama to solve. Bonnie overhead the use of plural “dramas” on the call, and Caroline came clean about the kiss. They kept looking for the necklace. I loved that Caroline looked in the soap dish. Smart. We know Damon used it before!

The need to find the necklace took on a new urgency when Frederick and the other tomb vampires appeared in the town square to settle their unfinished business with the founding families. How very appropriate for the Night of Illumination. When the lanterns were lit, someone noticed Alaric’s boss, Tobias Fell, had been brutally killed and displayed in a tree. Jeremy tried to call Bonnie to tell her to get a move on, but she wasn’t about to answer her phone, so Caroline did. She told him since they couldn’t find the necklace, someone must have taken it — Anna. Anna denied it. Eventually, Elena and Jeremy had it out, and he admitted that he loved Anna. Elena asked him if he was going to be in love with a ghost for the rest of his life. (YOU ARE ELENA, I wrote in my notes. Turn that tough love on yourself!) Elena told Anna that Jeremy was at the beginning of his life, and she was just holding him back.

Anna had taken the necklace. But she had a good reason: With the tomb vampires materialized, she thought she might be able to find her mother, Pearl. She didn’t want to be alone anymore. She cried, and Jeremy hugged her and promised he wouldn’t let that happen. The 13-year-old in me swooned. He would so be plastered all over the inside of my junior high locker. Jeremy was supposed to bring the necklace to Bonnie at former Witch Central. On Bonnie’s drive there, she and Caroline saw Mrs. Lockwood’s car wrecked and Frederick and other tomb vamps closing in on her. Caroline told Bonnie she was getting out to save her boyfriend’s mother, and Bonnie was to do the spell to send the ghosts away. Caroline’s vamp face going into the fray — awesome. Mrs. Lockwood coming to, and hopefully having caught the sight of Caroline kicking major (albeit invisible) ghost vamp ass for her — even better. Jeremy got the necklace to Bonnie, who was not happy to see him.

Bonnie threw the necklace into the fire and started chanting, along with Grams. Grams’ hand slipped out of Bonnie’s after she told her, “You are stronger than all of this. I’m so proud of you” — right as the lyrics “Make it go away” were sung in “This Woman’s Work.” That montage was also when Frederick disappeared, Mason went poof, and Lexi got gone (more on her shortly). That song, originally performed by Kate Bush, has the ability to make me tear up anytime it wants to thanks to She’s Having a Baby. But when Anna, walking alone, saw her mother on the empty street and said, “Mama?” I wept. Not to get too serious here, but I lost my father on Sept. 22 after a six-year illness. I’d actually been doing okay this week (meaning I finally learned not to try to listen to “The Final Bell” from Rocky, a song that reminds me of him and his fight, on public transportation), but that just blindsided me. It was the silent, heaving kind of cry where tears don’t run down your cheeks, they puddle under your eyes. I’m sharing this incase any of you have recently lost a parent, or someone close to you, and had a similarly strong reaction. You’re not alone. We got to see Anna and Pearl embrace before they disappeared. What a comforting exit for Anna. That was done perfectly.

I will not cry again. I will not cry again.

NEXT: Elena says she won’t wait for Stefan forever, and the cool thing is, I believe her

In the end, Jeremy wanted to explain to Bonnie what happened with Anna, but she wouldn’t let him. She’s pissed because Matt was able to let go of Vicki, his sister, before Jeremy was able to let go of Anna. Truth: Bonnie is pissing me off right now. I get that she feels betrayed — which makes for beautiful Kat Graham tears — but let’s not forget that Anna was ripped away from Jeremy less than a year ago. I think he’s allowed to take a beat, especially since he wasn’t under the gun like Matt was. Anna wasn’t in the process of killing Elena as Vicki had been. Am I wrong? With Bonnie and Jeremy done (I presume), could this open the door for Bonnie and Matt? Have we seen the last of the ghosts? Why did the necklace/talisman resume its shape in the fire? I’d like to think that was to symbolize hope for Stefan, but I’m thinking it means something bad.

Speaking of Stefan, he was all set to attend the Night of Illumination because he looks out for Elena, who was going, and, as he told her and Alaric, “Besides, there’s gonna be people everywhere tonight, so there’s gonna be lots to eat. I’m kidding. I’m kidding. Loosen up.” Lexi nabbed him on the street and chained him up in the city jail. She found Elena in the Grill and told her to come with her for Ripper Detox 101. The plan is to starve away the bloodlust and strip away the temptation. I didn’t know what kind of mind compulsion Lexi was doing at first, but apparently, she was making him hallucinate so he’d feel like he’d gone months, no years, without blood. Like any addict, he tried to prey on Elena’s feelings. He was hurting, he loved her, she had to make it stop. Lexi made her hold strong, and Stefan snapped back to his Bad Stefan self. Once he’s weak enough, Lexi said, you have to cause him pain, make him feel things — anger, rage, anything. You have to make him see past the blood. In short, she staked him a bunch. I guess her detox regimen makes sense: Klaus had to wait until Stefan was weakened so he could force him to turn off his humanity. Stefan needs to be that weak again so it can be reversed.

When it was Lexi’s turn to get gone, she told Elena that Stefan’s still in there. She just has to break through. Elena told her she knew what to do now. Lexi could be free. Elena, meanwhile, was getting ready to leave Stefan unattended (is that smart, Elena?) and do what else she had to do — take care of Jeremy, be there for Bonnie, probably some homework. Stefan thought she was finally giving up on him. Lexi had shown her what her future would be, and she was bailing. Elena said she hadn’t given up hope, but there was nothing she can do until Stefan gets his back. He needs to fight to feel something. “Because if you don’t, you’re gonna lose me forever,” she told him. “I won’t love a ghost for the rest of my life.” So she had listened to herself lecture Jeremy! To me, that was the best scene of the episode. That’s Elena being strong.

Your turn. What did you think of the episode? Are you happy with how the ghost story line panned out? What do you think Tyler and Rebekah were doing that whole time? How excited are you to see what story the cave drawings tell about the Originals? (Hi, Elijah!) And just how Indiana Jones (or Richard Castle pretending he’s Indiana Jones) should Alaric go next week?


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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