It's all about choice, and Damon is left with a big one

By Mandi Bierly
Updated December 07, 2012 at 05:05 AM EST
Bob Mahoney/The CW

The Vampire Diaries

S4 E8
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This is poetic: Elena always loved Stefan because he respected her choice. It’s why we thought they were great together. Now, in order to do what’s “right” — and break the rare vampire sire bond Elena feels for Damon — Damon has to go against her wishes and set her free by telling her not to care about him. Judging from the promo for next week’s midseason finale, he won’t be able to do it — yet. So the question is: Does that mean he loves her as much as Stefan does, or did he just accidentally abuse the sire bond again to get her to beg him not to let her go? Let’s dig in.

Damon woke up happy in his bed shirtless, and Elena quickly joined him wearing his shirt. Just like last week’s hot sex scene was cooled by cuts to Caroline and Stefan discussing the sire bond, so was this morning delight. Caroline told Stefan, who’d slept on her couch, that Elena’s one desire now is to make Damon happy. Maybe it wouldn’t affect her the same way the hybrid sire bond affects Tyler. Well, I don’t recall seeing Tyler and Klaus kiss each other’s torso as foreplay. Though, Tyler probably would like to make Klaus bleed — just not by scratching his back during sex. (For the record, I’d watch that show, too.)

Damon wanted to wait a day to tell Stefan about them being a couple, and Elena, of course, eventually agreed. Stefan showed up as she was leaving Salvatore Mansion, and she and Damon looked pretty guilty, but Stefan ever brought it up. Once alone with Damon, Stefan told him about the sire bond theory, and though Damon said it was ridiculous, he agreed to tell Elena it was okay to drink from a blood bag and see if she was able to stomach it. Damon later showed up at school — because Mystic Falls High still has the worst security ever — and told her he thought a blood bag might work this time, and it did. She hugged and kissed him; he went home to prep for a flashback.

It turns out this one in a million thing has happened to Damon twice. Back in 1942, he turned a girl named Charlotte who adored him. When he went to arrange for a musician to be her next victim, he told her to not show mercy if anyone tried to touch his drink. A poor sailor spilled his drink, and she snapped his neck. He had to break the bond, so he found a witch named Valerie La Marche, who said she could do it. It was convenient that the boys headed to New Orleans to find her (or an ancestor) since Elena had organized a girls night so Caroline could try and fail to not be judgmental, Bonnie could introduce us to Shane’s “spirit tea” that allegedly allows her to do natural magic without accessing the spirits, and Elena could drink from a blood bag before moving on to the brothers’ Dom Perignon.

In New Orleans, we learned that Stefan had served in WWII but Damon hadn’t, supposedly because he preferred to tend to the lady folk who’d been left behind. After Stefan argued that the sire bond may not alter Elena’s feelings for Damon but it does hinder her ability to acknowledge how wrong Damon is for her, he apologized. Cut back to 1942, when Lexi had Stefan practicing apologizing to Damon for blaming him for his blood lust and becoming a ripper.

This is the best flashback hair we’ve ever seen, right? Right. Stefan, who’d spent 20 years turning his life around, told Damon he wanted to bury the hatchet, and Damon, god bless him, immediately shook Stefan’s hand. Turns out Damon did want to go to Egypt and drive an ambulance with Stefan on the front line if it meant spending time with his brother, but Lexi told Damon not to go. After Charlotte arrived to bring Damon human take out and shaky Stefan got the victim’s blood on his hands, the duos parted ways. Back to present day: Maybe the guys should’ve called ahead before making the trip to New Orleans. Not knowing where to find the witch, Stefan suggested they look for Charlotte. The last time Damon saw her, he’d told her to count every brick in every building in New Orleans and he’d meet her in the morning on this one corner — then he left town. Stefan wanted to see if she was still on that corner.

She wasn’t, so the brothers had time to fight over whether or not to tell Elena about the sire bond. Damon didn’t want to, obviously. He thinks Stefan just wants to break it so Elena will be Team Stefan again. “Hunt me down if you stop being a d—,” Damon said, as he walked off for a drink. Stefan heard him attacked… by Charlotte… with kisses. She said she knew he’d return, and she must have counted literally every brick on every building in New Orleans. That was my first clue that the witch hadn’t broken the bond.

Charlotte insisted she’d lived a full life. But maybe not. Just like you listen to a song that reminds you of someone when it’s been long enough that it brings back good memories not bad, she’s been counting bricks to remember the good times with Damon for decades, she said. “That’s a really long time. Stop listening to the same song,” Stefan deadpanned. At least that means she knows New Orleans better than anyone.

NEXT: Damon killed 12 people, then made us cry

Back at Salvatore Mansion, the girls were having a dance party. Should Bonnie REALLY be taking videos of Elena doing vamp speed on her phone. NOOOOOO. They ended up in Damon’s bathroom, with Elena sitting in the tub. For a second, I was worried Elena would be naked in there taking an actual bath — but this isn’t an episode of Girls. Caroline took the opportunity to diss Damon again and call him a man slut whose tub would be filled with cooties. Elena admitted she’d slept with Damon and said she’d asked the girls there that night to tell them how happy she is. Oh, Caroline is gonna tell her about the sire bond, I thought.

And… she did. Elena eventually told them she thought she was falling in love with Damon, and Caroline blurted out that it wasn’t love, it was a sire bond. Once Elena heard that Caroline had been talking to Stefan about this, she asked Caroline and Bonnie to leave. When she opened the door, Kim and Adrian were there. Who are they? They are the two hybrids Tyler had pissed off earlier at the Grill. We’d found out Hayley is going to deliver Professor Shane 12 unsired hybrids in exchange for information on her biological parents. Adrian, Klaus’ new righthand hybrid, wasn’t up to the challenge of shifting until it didn’t hurt, so Kim had called it quits for the day. Hayley needed Adrian to be broken or Shane would use Tyler, so she’d convinced Tyler to show Kim was the alpha at the Grill. Kim and Adrian were supposed to be going home to rest. Instead, they went to kidnap Caroline to pick a fight with Tyler. Bonnie tried to stop them and made some lightbulbs break — her magic is back (balloon drop) — but Kim reminded Bonnie that one bite from a hybrid and Caroline was dead. So yeah, Bonnie did nothing.

Back to New Orleans. Damon and Stefan went to a witchy shop and asked for Giles a spell that could break a vampire sire bond. Turns out Nandi, my cousin who works there, was the great-granddaughter of Val, whose grimoire had supposedly had a spell. Nandi said she doesn’t practice at all, and all her grandmother’s grimoires were lost during Hurricane Katrina. Damon knew Nandi was lying — she was a daughter, not a granddaughter, and since she doesn’t look her age, she’s practicing all right. She was ready to kill Damon with a severe headache until Stefan stepped in and got her talking. That spell Val had told Damon about — the one that required the sacrifice of 12 human souls in exchange for breaking a vampire sire bond — doesn’t exist. Her mother had just wanted access to that dark magic that you pay for with human sacrifice — witches call it “expression” — and Damon gave it to her when he killed 12 people. Nandi said a vampire only develops a sire bond with her maker if the feelings were there when she was human. Vampirism only heightens those emotions. The bond can’t be broken with magic. The only way is for him to set her free — to tell her to live her life without him, to never think of him again, and to stop caring for him — and then leave her be.

Back to Tyler, he took Elena with him to find Caroline and had time to tell her that the sire bond doesn’t change your feelings, just your actions. So I took that as Stefan being right: Elena’s feelings for Damon are real, but without the sire bond, she may not have chosen to act on them. I think of it as fancying a married man. You may really care for him, but you won’t let yourself go there because you know it’s wrong. The sire bond strips away those inhibitions — for better or for worse. They found Caroline, and Kim was ready to make her power play in front of the unsired pack. She was about to stake Caroline when Elena said to torture her instead since Klaus wants so badly to keep her alive. Kim moved toward Elena, and Tyler broke free and threatened to rip her heart out. With his hand in her body, he told her and the pack that they have to work together if they want to live freely or they’d all die. Kim apologized and the rest of the pack joined her in kneeling before Tyler, who is officially the alpha. That reminded me of the pack kneeling before Alcide on True Blood. But werewolves do love to kneel.

Returning to Damon, he set a teary-eyed Charlotte free as nicely as he could. Stefan worried that Damon wouldn’t be selfless enough to release Elena. Flashback to a moment that made me tear up. Damon was there that day in uniform at the train station, ready to leave with Stefan. Lexi knew he’d just killed 12 innocent people. She said Stefan serving in the war was meant to be his penance for his Ripper days, but if he found out that Damon killed and lived with the guilt, Stefan would ask how he did it and become a Ripper again. Damon told her he’d basically been on his own since 1912, so he might need his little brother now. She told him joining Stefan might be good for him, but he needed to think about what was best for Stefan and let him go. That got me. I imagined what it would be like if someone kept me from my sister, who I don’t get to see often enough. “Good luck, brother,” Damon said to himself. Stefan had never known that part of the story. He assured Damon that he wanted Elena to have her free will back, whether or not her feelings ever return for him. Choice is the “dreaded C word,” Damon said.

At Salvatore Mansion, Caroline and Elena hugged it out, and Bonnie told them — and us, incase we hadn’t connected the dots — that Shane is teaching her “expression.” Elena told Caroline she’d tell Stefan about her having slept with Damon, but she just needed to figure out some stuff first. Good luck with that. Meanwhile, Hayley reported to Shane that Adrian had broken the sire bond, so he’s got his dozen souls. Shane told her that her parents are dead, but said that doesn’t mean that she can’t see them again: “This is far from over, Hayley. We are the beginning.” Theories?

Stefan updated Caroline and told her that he feels sorry for Damon. Caroline wondered how he can trust Damon to break the sire bond, and Stefan said it’s because he thinks Damon loves Elena as much as he does, so he can’t be selfish with her. Not anymore. Damon was prepared to do it, too, when he got home, but Elena somehow knew he was about to set her free and asked him not to. She’s happy, she said. That’s when he said what would make him happy is knowing that all this time he was in love with her, it was real. He wasn’t going to give up: He knows he’s not the good guy, he’s the selfish one who lies to his brother, falls in love with his girl, and doesn’t do the right thing — but, he said, he has to do the right thing by her. She put his hand on her heart and asked if it felt wrong. She touched his face and asked if it felt wrong. He didn’t answer, but again, the promo for next week leads us to believe that he thinks that all feels right. So yes, the question is: If Elena’s feelings are genuine, does it matter if the sire bond is making her act on them? Since Damon isn’t a married man, I’d say no. But the problem is really Elena having to take everything Damon says so literally. He’d never be able to share his opinion again for fear of coloring hers. What kind of relationship is that?

Episode Recaps

Your turn. Sound off below. And bonus, check out our video naming the Top 10 reasons to get shirtless on The Vampire Diaries in 2012 (this was cut before Damon and Elena got it on, but obviously “to have sex” was already on the list), and our Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes) interview with supervising producer Chris Grismer on how they filmed Elena’s drowning scenes in the season 3 finale. (Nina Dobrev asked for one more take and improvised the “I love you” to her father. Tears.)

The Vampire Diaries

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