You'll need the two-month hiatus to process all the plot twists

By Mandi Bierly
Updated January 14, 2020 at 08:04 PM EST
Vampire Diaries
Credit: Quantrell Colbert/The CW

I’m always flattered when someone tells me that he or she (okay, always she) didn’t fully understand all that went down on a particularly twisty episode of The Vampire Diaries until reading my recap. Well, if you correct me in the comments section this week, be kind! Let’s dig in and hope for the best.

Operation Lure Klaus Back commenced with Stefan making the call to inform Klaus, who was busy making hybrids in the Portland woods, that Mikael had been daggered. We flashed back to the planning process, which I had to rewind multiple times because I was distracted by how good Stefan looked in his V-neck and how much of a waste it was to dress Damon in a crewneck. Seriously, never do that again, wardrobe department. You’re better than that. Stefan would tell Klaus that Mikael had followed Elena into the study to nab her and use her as bait to smoke Klaus out. Stefan and Damon vervained Mikael (because that’s believable) and discovered he was carrying a dagger that he planned to use on Rebekah. They drove it through his heart. Mikael jumped in at this point and said he’d play dead, because Klaus would need proof. I thought he meant, like, texting him a photo, but compelled Stefan needed to be able to honestly tell Klaus that he saw Mikael daggered with his own eyes. Since a vampire can’t stake an Original without dying, Elena would have to do the honors. Mikael had an insurance policy so she would wake him up: Only he knew where he was keeping a stake fashioned out of the ancient oak tree that would kill Klaus. Klaus ultimately asked to speak to Rebekah, and she confirmed Mikael’s run-in with a dagger as well. She told Klaus she was miserable and wanted to see him. He told her he’d be home soon. Game on!

Elena removed the stake from Mikael, and it took him awhile to come to. Rebekah, who’d clearly already done her hair (which looked great this episode), passed the time painting her toenails while resting her foot on a leather ottoman. She’s such a bad girl! This was not a happy reunion. Rebekah accused Mikael of wanting to use the dagger on her. Mikael said he was never after her; he was only after Klaus. Klaus had killed her mother and blinded her to it. Rebekah said she knew Klaus would pay for that with his life, but it was Mikael who destroyed their family when he turned them into vampires and made them killers — not Klaus.

It was time to pick out homecoming outfits. Bonnie and Elena took a moment to have a conversation that semi-explained why we wouldn’t be seeing Alaric and Jeremy this hour. Alaric would be staying home to analyze the cave drawings, and Jeremy, well, I guess he knew Caroline would want Bonnie at the dance and since they’re still not talking, the right thing for him to do would be not to show up and eat up screentime. The conversation also explained why it itself had to be brief — Bonnie didn’t want to talk to Elena about Jeremy. As his sister, Elena couldn’t be as mad at Jeremy as Bonnie was, and she shouldn’t have to be. He’ll always be in Elena’s life, so she has to forgive him. Bonnie can hold a grudge.

Elena was next seen helping Damon prep wolfsbane grenades. I’m so glad he was doing that in his bathroom. I love that set. Stefan interrupted their talk about not being able to trust Rebekah and Damon’s secret contingency plan to ask to borrow a tie. Bad Stefan has better fashion sense than Nice Stefan. He also has thicker eyebrows, right? Elena suggested that Stefan simply not go to homecoming, but he knows that Elena tends to get herself into mortal danger at school dances, so he had to go since he’s compelled to protect her. (Shouldn’t he, like Damon, have been worried about her trying to load a grenade then?) Elena worried that Stefan would blow the plan with a bad answer to a question from Klaus, but Stefan made another good point: Their epic plans usually fail because someone’s humanity gets in the way, so odds are, it won’t be him this time. At that moment, we should have guessed that it WOULD be him, but we didn’t have time to think. There was no cut to commercial. We had to get sucked into a conversation about Rebekah the evil blood slut while Tyler and Caroline redecorated the ’60s Decade Dance hippie van. (What exactly was the homecoming dance theme going to be?)

NEXT: Legitimate Buffy reference

So Tyler asked Caroline if they could take a snack break. He didn’t want her thermos of blood, he wanted to go feed on fangbangers Rebekah told him about who actually like vamps to drink from them. Caroline told him she wasn’t going to risk her improved status with Mama Lockwood by getting caught in a vampire threesome (ha!), and that he had to quit hanging out with Rebekah (the evil blood slut). Tyler thought that was a good moment to mention that Matt had agreed to take Rebekah to the dance because even though she’s a vampire, she’s hot, he didn’t have a date, and she can’t bite him since he drinks vervain. Sure. Okay. That’s a good idea, Tyler. We know Katherine always found Matt yummy; so would Rebekah. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

How great was that scene between Elena and Rebekah? Putting on the red dress Elena had picked out for her last week hours early because she wanted everything for her first high school dance to be perfect, Rebekah was never more likable. No matter how you feel about Klaus, you had to feel for Rebekah when she fought back tears telling Elena that even though she loved and hated her brother equally, she never thought she’d be the one to help drive a stake through his heart. She wanted to leave the dirty work to Damon and Mikael and focus on the dance. She looked beautiful, which Elena told her before noting that she was missing one thing: her mother’s necklace. I got chills when Elena put it on her and Rebekah’s eyes continued to well up. “Thank you,” Rebekah said, looking at herself in the mirror.

Elena stabbed her in the back with the dagger. It wasn’t as gut-wrenching as Buffy telling Angel to close his eyes and putting a sword through his chest to send him to a hell dimension, but it was powerful. “I’m so sorry,” Elena told Rebekah as she collapsed. “I can’t leave anything to chance either.” That’s what this show does so well: It always gets you to care about someone before (temporarily) offing him or her. Well, except for Mikael. Maybe the fact that he only drank vampire blood because the blood lust wasn’t something he anticipated or condoned when he helped make vampires was supposed to redeem him, but it still didn’t make me weep for him when he was ultimately staked and set ablaze.

Elena felt guilty but knew Rebekah had to be sidelined because they couldn’t trust her to not go Elijah on them at the crucial moment. “Hey, I’m not judging you,” Damon said. “It’s very Katherine of you.” That didn’t make her feel better. “It was a compliment. Sort of,” he assured her. Elena worried that Stefan was right about someone’s humanity getting in the way, and since she felt bad for stabbing someone in the back (literally), she worried she was the weak link. If they didn’t trust Mikael or compelled Stefan, they needed a better plan.

Damon said he knew what to do, but Elena had to trust him, which meant she couldn’t have any part of said plan when things were set in motion. Look how far we’ve come: Damon is the most trustworthy man in her life! Here, we should have guessed that Damon was thinking of using Katherine as Elena, but a) we haven’t seen Katherine since Mikael drank her dry in his tomb in Charlotte and b) if we’re benching people who can’t be trusted, are we really going to call up Katherine? But in hindsight, she really was Damon’s best option. And also, Elena wouldn’t have taken the time to do her hair (and Katherine’s hair has much more body than Elena’s this season).

NEXT: I again question the security at Mystic Falls High

Finally, we get to the dance… which had to be moved to Tyler’s house because the gym was flooded. Mystic Falls High has the worst security EVER, though at least this time, we can assume Tyler compelled the guards. (Maybe Caroline did that on senior prank night, too?) Matt showed up at Salvatore Mansion to pick up Rebekah, and Elena told him there was a little problem with his date, but she had a backup. Cut to Caroline freaking out because Tyler had planned a better party than her. In her defense, Klaus probably compelled My Morning Jacket to play Mikael’s “wake.” Matt and “Elena” arrived, and we thought he meant it was weird for them to be there together because they’re exes, not because he was actually escorting Katherine when he broke up with Caroline for being a vampire. Katherine finally got some alone time with Matt! I’m oddly happy for her. Caroline told them that Tyler threw the party on Klaus’ behalf, and “Elena” went off to find Bonnie while Matt needed a drink. I’m against underage drinking, but when your date is the vampire doppelgänger of your ex, and you have to keep that a secret from your other ex because she could let it slip to her hybrid boyfriend, knock yourself out.

Klaus reconnected with Stefan as the extras danced poorly, and we found out that Klaus intended to reunite his family once he had proof that Mikael was really daggered. So Klaus had daggered his siblings because he hadn’t wanted them to hear from Mikael that it was him who’d killed their mother, and then abandon him? Because the homecoming queen was still alive, Klaus knew Rebekah must not be at the party. Ha. He asked Stefan where she was. Because Elena and Damon kept Stefan out of that part of the plan, he could honestly say he had no idea. Stefan tried to get Klaus to leave with him to see Mikael’s body, but Klaus said he wanted Stefan to bring Mikael’s body to him. Stefan said he would, if it meant getting his freedom back. Klaus said he’d be happy to release Stefan from his compulsion once Mikael was confirmed dead and his weapon was destroyed.

Again, we should have known that promise would come back into play, but when Stefan went back to Salvatore Mansion to tell Mikael and Damon of Klaus’ demand, Mikael, you know, DRAINED HIM. They couldn’t trust Stefan either, so he had to be benched. I was busy moderating our live viEWer commentary, so I missed Damon saying that Katherine had told him Mikael’s drink was vampire on the rocks the first time around. Had I, I definitely would have suspected that it was Katherine acting all nervous around Klaus later at the party when he thought he was telling “Elena” that he’d always be one step ahead of her. Elena, even with her doubts, seems too strong now to show that much vulnerability to Klaus.

With Stefan away from the party, Klaus had time to catch up with Tyler. I appreciate that Klaus addressed the fact that we’ve never met half the people there. Unlike with Elena’s birthday party, there was a good reason: Klaus had invited a few dozen personality-less hybrids to have his back if anyone tried to make a move on him. There was Mindy from Kansas, Tony from North Dakota, and the contingent from Seattle. Like Tyler, they were loyal to Klaus. Klaus told Tyler to feel free to warn his friends.

Tyler confronted Caroline, who honestly didn’t know anything about the plan to take Klaus out. We thought Tyler vervained her in the neck (brutal) because he didn’t believe her and wanted to stop the assault on Klaus. I was ready to turn on him and forget how good he looks in a chenille blanket. Fortunately, he later explained to Matt that since he can’t stop himself from being on Team Klaus, he had to get Caroline out of the house before he and the other hybrids had to jump to Klaus’ defense. If he really can’t fight the pack loyalty and stop himself from protecting Klaus against anyone, that was the most decent thing he could do. He asked Matt to take Caroline home.

NEXT: Ba boom!

Damon finally showed up at the party and was told it was “invite only, vampire.” “Here’s my RSVP, hybrid” he said, ripping out the guy’s heart. I do enjoy it when he does that, I’m not gonna lie. Damon ran into Tyler, presumably on Damon’s way back from washing that hybrid bouncer’s blood off his hands. Though Tyler tried to tell Damon to abort whatever mission he was on because Klaus knew he was coming and would kill everyone at that party if he had to, Damon wasn’t in the mood for talking. He had his hands around Tyler’s neck, and Tyler tried to bite him (again). Damon was about to stake him when Bonnie arrived to give them each a “witchy migraine.” She was supposed to just incapacitate Tyler, but then Damon wasn’t supposed to try to kill Tyler with Mikael’s Klaus-killing stake. Why did Damon have it? Because he had an invitation into the house — Mikael didn’t.

Mindy, the world’s most boring hybrid, interrupted Klaus’ beer pong game to tell him that he had a visitor who called himself Mikael. Klaus told her to take the hybrids out back — Tony knew what to do. He met Mikael at the front door. Mikael couldn’t come in, so Klaus was safe as long as he didn’t go out. Klaus thought he had the upper hand when he revealed he’d compelled his hybrids to attack Mikael when he snapped his fingers. They couldn’t kill Mikael, but they could do damage while Klaus escaped. Mikael reminded Klaus that hybrids are still part vampire, and therefore, they could be compelled by an Original. Mindy brought Mikael “Elena.” If Klaus didn’t come outside and face him, Mikael would kill Elena and Klaus’ chance to make more hybrids. This was one of Joseph Morgan’s best scenes to date. He had tears in his eyes listening to his father figure cut him down again and play on his worst fear — being alone. With single tears streaming down his face from both eyes, he called Mikael’s bluff. If he killed Elena, Mikael lost his leverage. Mikael didn’t care. He stabbed “Elena,” and she dropped. Mikael laughed as Damon sped in behind Klaus and staked him. But Klaus turned as Damon struck, so Damon missed his heart. Mikael hadn’t known it was Katherine with him.

The hybrids, still having the uncontrollable urge to protect Klaus even if under Mikael’s compulsion, moved slowly toward the house (their internal struggle kept them from using vamp speed, I guess). Katherine threw the wolfsbane grenades on them and ba boom! Bad special effects. It’s a shame that a show that does fast-vamp fight scenes so well can’t make these grenades look realistic. Not that I’ve seen what an exploding liquid-based grenade looks like. I suppose it would be hard to do liquid and flames at the same time.

Anyway, Damon withdrew the stake and was about to drive it into Klaus properly when Stefan knocked it out of his hand and pinned him down. Klaus grabbed the stake and lunged across the threshold and put it in Mikael’s chest. The stake went up in flames and engulfed Mikael’s body. “What the hell did you do?” Damon asked Stefan. “He’s earned his freedom,” Klaus said, as the music swelled. “Thank you, my friend,” Klaus told a teary-eyed Stefan. “You no longer have to do as I say. You’re free.” Stefan looked down at Damon, but his brother was already gone.

NEXT: “I’m sorry I stabbed you”

Caroline woke up, and Tyler was ready with the line every girl wants to hear: “I’m sorry I stabbed you.” It’d been the only thing he could think to do to get her out of there, he said. “Oh yeah. Not, ‘Oh, hey, Caroline. Um, I’m worried about what might happen this evening, so maybe you should just go home and watch Dancing With the Stars,‘” she cracked. Again, I’m gonna side with Tyler here: No way would Caroline have left if he told her that her friends were moving against Klaus, and when she didn’t, he’d HAVE to do something to her. So he had to stop her before she made a move.

Tyler explained more: In his mind, if Klaus can’t be killed and he himself can’t be fixed, he has to learn to live with being a hybrid. To do that, he focuses on the fact that he no longer has to go through the pain of turning into a werewolf because he only has to change if and when he wants to. He’s willing to be sired to Klaus if it means he’s no longer controlled by the full moon. We’ve seen him go through that pain. It’s excruciating. His decision is understandable, but yes, it’s still weak to align yourself with the bad guy who wants to use your friend as a human blood bag so you don’t physically suffer. I get that. I think Tyler handled this impromptu situation the best he could, but now he and Caroline have to think of how they’ll handle the next conflict. Caroline was right to walk away. To stay with Tyler means she has to desert her friends in their hour of need and stand by as he tries to kill them if they’re coming after Klaus. She can’t live with herself if she does that.

Speaking of not being able to live with oneself, I feared for how Damon would react to his failure to kill Klaus. Tossing something into the fire beats murdering an innocent woman on the road. They had thought of everything — Klaus having a hybrid army and Mikael turning on them and killing Elena (which is why they brought in Katherine). Well, maybe they didn’t. Damon could have taken the time to chain Stefan up after Mikael drained him so he couldn’t reenter the game. It sounded like Damon didn’t because they were counting on Stefan wanting Klaus dead so he could have his freedom (they didn’t know about his Kill Mikael side deal) — but isn’t their lack of faith in Stefan why they let Mikael knock him out in the first place? Of course, even if they did chain Stefan up, Katherine still could’ve freed him of said chains when she gave him a blood bag to get him up to save Damon…

But back to Damon and Elena. Now it was Elena who calmed Damon down and asked him to trust her: They’d survive this, she said, holding his face in her hands. They always do. Part of me wanted them to kiss, but it was totally the wrong time. Too early. If they wait, it will mean more. He told her she had to know they were never getting Stefan back now. “Then we’ll let him go,” she said, still holding him. “Okay? We’ll have to let him go.” Damon’s phone rang, and it was Katherine. She told him he’d had a good plan, which was high praise coming from her, and that she was going back into hiding. Damon told her to take care of herself, and it was a nice moment: They sounded like they’d genuinely been on the same side. Like any enemies who work together against a common foe, when it was over, they went their separate ways.

NEXT: My longest Vampire Diaries recap ever ends!

They had been on the same side. Something told me Stefan would be in the car with Katherine. “He doesn’t know where it all went wrong,” she said, and glanced over at him in the passenger seat. I thought maybe Free But Still Bloodthirsty Stefan was going to hit the road with her for fun, but she stopped the car and made it sound like she was dropping him off somewhere. We flashed back to her waking him up on the floor. My question: Where was Elena then? She must have been out of the house hiding from Mikael until he and Damon left, but she’d leave Stefan unwatched once Mikael and Damon were gone? That doesn’t seem smart.

Katherine had snuck out of the party to come get Stefan because we hadn’t heard her entire conversation with Klaus when he thought she was Elena. He’d told her that his hybrids had orders to kill Damon if he died. So I guess the werewolf-side hybrid loyalty doesn’t end when the sire dies, unlike the vampire-side compulsion? Interesting. The beauty of making up your own mythology is putting in those caveats when you need them. So the wolf side is stronger than the vampire side in death, but the vampire side is stronger than the wolf side in life if Mikael’s compulsion was able to work on the hybrids? Does the compulsion by an Original on a hybrid work fully but only for a certain amount of time (and that’s why the hybrids started moving when Klaus was attacked)? Or does it help them block the werewolf side only partially but until the vampire ends the compulsion himself or dies (which I theorized earlier is why they moved slowly)?

Katherine had told Stefan she was going through with Damon’s plan either way. She wanted to save Damon, but the only way that would happen is if Stefan cared enough to stop him from staking Klaus (and letting Klaus stake Mikael so they didn’t have to face his wrath). Now granted, in either scenario — Klaus or Mikael dying — Stefan had secured his freedom, so you could argue he wasn’t necessarily helping her because he wanted to save Damon. Maybe he just trusted himself more to play his role successfully than he did Damon. But I’m choosing to believe he did it because he cared about Damon, just like I’ve decided to finally believe Katherine when she said she loved Damon as well as Stefan. You could try to argue that when she heard how prepared Klaus was, she simply deduced that she was better off changing the target and running from someone she evaded for 500 years than leaving Mikael, who seems a more skilled tracker and likes to feed on her, alive to chase her. But Katherine told Stefan she switched targets because she wanted to save Damon and him. She liked the old Stefan better. Humanity is a vamp’s greatest weakness and no matter how easy it is to shut off, she said, it always tries to creep back in. Even she sometimes lets it. Perhaps the most telling line was Stefan saying he couldn’t let it ALL back in — meaning he had let some in, enough to save Damon. He doesn’t know how he’d live with himself after all he’s done at Klaus’ side.

Katherine said she needed Stefan to feel, so he could do what she needed him to do next: GET MAD. Klaus left Rebekah, still staked and in the Salvatore basement, a message asking where she was. With daddy dead, it was time for a family reunion. Stefan called him then. You almost felt bad for Klaus. He was so happy. We know he has a soft spot for Stefan. I think he was actually hoping that Stefan was missing him. Instead, Stefan had phoned to thank him for his freedom. The only problem, he said, was that it came at too high a price. Klaus had taken everything from Stefan. Klaus encouraged him to let bygones be bygones, but it was too late. Klaus opened up the door to his roving coffin carrier and his siblings were gone. Stefan had taken them for revenge — and maybe so he had leverage against Klaus, who, of course, threatened to kill Stefan and everyone who’d just plotted his death. “You do that, and you will never see your family again,” Stefan said. “I wonder, Klaus, as someone who’s been one step ahead for a thousand years, were you prepared for this?” Stefan asked. Klaus hung up on him. We’ll take that as a no.

The next new episode isn’t until January 5, which means we have nearly two months to debate why Katherine “needed” Stefan to get mad and steal Klaus’ family. Does she merely want to distract Klaus so she can put some miles between her and him? Is she afraid he’ll have better luck tracking her if he raises his family? Or is she still trying to save Stefan and Damon and knew that was the only way for them to get leverage, protect Damon, and continue Stefan’s “feeling” recovery program?

Other questions to ponder: How do you feel about Tyler and Caroline’s split? Are you ready to see more Jeremy? (Did he maybe road trip to Charlotte to revive Katherine in the tomb or did Damon do that? I assume someone had to feed her blood to get her going again, and Mikael appeared surprised to see her, so I doubt he took her with him to Mystic Falls.) How excited are you for the second half of the season, which looks to be more about Klaus’ revenge than Stefan’s? Which Original do you want unstaked first: Elijah or Rebekah? Go!


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The Vampire Diaries

Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev, and Paul Wesley star in the CW’s romance-infused vampire soap opera.

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