Given that the title of tonight’s episode, “Our Town,” is an obvious salute to the Thornton Wilder play, we can expect an evening full of transition and loss, which sounds about right given the recent direction of “The Vampire Diaries.” Most high school kids find themselves feeling nostalgia as they move closer to graduation, but most of them are looking back at the innocence of childhood when they still have a little bit of innocence left (if they’re lucky). For our beleaguered Mystic Falls residents, the past is more painful. As recently as last season, Caroline still clung to the typical teen rites of passage, even when her determination to have a “normal” life was a little jarring. Just as Emily realizes that trying to hold on to life in “Our Town” is simply too painful, finally, so does Caroline. It’s a transition that seems inevitable, but I can’t say I won’t miss her bubbly, let’s-go-to-the-school-dance enthusiasm.
But before we address what is to be Caroline’s existential crisis, there’s some business to be addressed. And, well, we don’t want to overlook Damon’s showering scene. Unfortunately, it’s intercut with Elena working out on a punching bag. Damon has no regrets about kissing Elena, but it’s as if that liplock only succeeded in easing his mind and troubling hers. She feels guilty and confused and maybe a little angry, and I wish she didn’t. I’m not sure how Stefan would react to Elena and Damon diving head first into a relationship, but I’m not sure if he’d be in any position to complain.
Stefan and a freshly showered Damon head over to the witches’ house to meet Bonnie, who still can’t open that damn coffin. She’s interrupted by the sound of someone snooping around, and lo and behold, a hybrid confronts Stefan outside the house. Damon rips his heart out without breaking a sweat, but the message is clear — they’ve got to do something about the hybrids before they accidentally sniff out Klaus’ family. Stefan declares that he’s going to call Klaus’ bluff, which wasn’t exactly the solution Damon was looking for. He suspects that Klaus will simply respond with a rash of killings. Not that Stefan cares. As many glimmers of humanity as we’ve seen in Stefan, he’s steadfastly sticking to his story that he’s a bad guy now, whether anyone likes it or not.
At school, Elena decorates Caroline’s locker for her birthday. As tortured as she seemed beating the crap out of a punching bag, she’s all sweetness and light at school, as if she knows someone needs to be in a good mood — and it probably won’t be Caroline.
Bonnie shows up to aid in the locker decorations, which seems like a good time for Elena to tell her about Jeremy — and about how she had Damon compel him to go to Denver. It’s pretty clear this isn’t cool with Bonnie, but I can’t imagine why not. Yes, Elena deprived her brother of free will, but it’s just as clear this may be the only way to save his life. Bonnie made a questionable decision to save Jeremy’s life herself, so you’d think at the very least she’d be sympathetic.
And it seems maybe she is — or at least she’s conflicted about what to do, as she says good-bye to Jeremy without telling him about the compulsion, though she does drop a telling hint that makes Jeremy’s antennae go up.
Caroline arrives at school and immediately spots Tyler. He wants her to know he understands why she can’t be with him. He’s sorry he can’t put her first because of his loyalty to Klaus, and he’s sorry. She’s sorry, too. It’s a sad moment, and I have to wonder if the writers will really be able to keep Tyler and Caroline apart for long. Tyler gives Caroline a charm bracelet for her birthday, the kind of gift you give someone so that they’re always reminded of you — a gift that must be especially poignant for Caroline given their circumstances.
Despite Damon’s misgivings, Stefan decides to confront Klaus. Stefan wants the hybrids to leave town, to which Klaus responds that he doesn’t. Stefan says he’ll kill the hybrids, Klaus says he’ll kill Stefan’s friends. Stefan doesn’t care. And to drive home the point that he wants the hybrids gone, he quickly kills Mindy, the hybrid standing next to them. The bluff has been called, and it’s now Klaus’ move. Don’t think for a moment that he won’t make that move, either.
Caroline skips school and heads home, where Elena, Bonnie and Matt wait to throw her a surprise party. Campfire at the falls, just like when they were kids! Except now with tequila! But Caroline isn’t feeling it. She isn’t really having a birthday, after all. She’s seventeen forever, stuck in a filler year.
Klaus makes his move, as expected, but it doesn’t go so well. He informs Tyler that he wants him to bite Caroline. Tyler refuses. Klaus insists, and Tyler sticks to his guns. Huh, didn’t know he could do that. Even more surprisingly, Klaus backs off. He’ll do something else to get back at Stefan. I don’t trust that this is true, but Tyler seems absolutely thrilled to discover that he can say no to the boss.
Ric and Damon go to the council meeting, which is also a fundraiser to restore the Wicker Bridge. I’m not sure why anyone wants to sink money into this thing, as it’s the place where Jeremy and Elena’s parents died. Apparently Jeremy and Elena aren’t the only people who dislike it, either. Ric bumps into Dr. Fell again, who reveals she’s not only a founder well aware of “the vampire problem,” but she hates the bridge because her high school boyfriend dumped her there. Oh, and one more thing — she notes that a guy with a British accent is promising to match every dollar raised during the fundraiser. Ric knows exactly who that is — Klaus.
Elena gives up on the campfire idea and drags Caroline to a mausoleum. She thinks what Caroline needs is not a birthday party but a funeral, a chance to say good-bye to the life she had so that she can begin her new one. It’s not the most seamless transition, as Elena and Bonnie offer an upbeat eulogy before lighting candles on a cake (funeral cake?) while Elena says, “Amen or cheers or whatever.” Still, Caroline seems happy enough, so maybe a funeral-birthday was the right idea.
Damon finds Klaus talking to Carol at the fundraiser, and soon finds out Klaus’ clever little plan. He strikes a deal with Carol to protect Tyler and the town — just as long as Stefan behaves himself. Carol informs Damon it’s up to him to keep his brother under control or know that he’ll “face the consequences.” Even Liz approaches Damon and tells him to make Stefan stand down. I have to hand it to Klaus — peer pressure as a tactic seems a little subtle for him, but it’s a nice change from stabbing and hybrid-izing.
The funeral/birthday merriment continues, at least until Caroline texts Tyler. Elena tells her to stop, and a slightly inebriated Bonnie tells Elena to stop being controlling. Finally, Bonnie tells Elena straight up that she thinks compelling Jeremy to leave town was wrong. An argument ensues, which ends when Matt admits he’s not having fun anymore and Bonnie decides it’s time for her to go. Happy birthday, Caroline!
Speaking of spoiling the party, Dr. Fell is having a fight with her senior prom date, Brian. Brian calls her a psycho, and Ric steps in. I would suggest that Ric is seeing a big, red flag being raised in his face, but Meredith is quite pretty so I’m not sure he cares. She explains that even if Brian is a jerk, she has to work with him — he’s the medical examiner.
Upstairs, Stefan finds a hybrid and stabs him, but before he can lop off his head, Damon steps in. He wants Stefan to think before he acts, but Stefan insists the way to beat Klaus is to be a better villain. They banter back and forth, but Stefan is too bullheaded (and inhuman) to see any logic in Damon’s more measured approach.
Before the funeral/birthday party can completely disintegrate, Tyler drops in. He needs to tell Caroline his good news — he can stand up to Klaus! Caroline, not convinced, tells Tyler that maybe they both just need to move on. But he won’t move on — he loves her. Making out ensues, and so does the bite that Tyler was so sure he wouldn’t give her. Yes, it seems Klaus is just a iittle smarter than Tyler gave him credit for being.
As if this isn’t enough, Stefan also crashes the party to knock out Matt and kidnap Elena. He tosses her in the car and starts speeding. She demands that he let her go, then demands that he slow down. Stefan could not give less of a crap about what Elena wants. He has a plan to make Klaus blink, and caring about Elena does not figure into it.
Damon tries to talk sense to Klaus. Klaus is sure Stefan is bluffing, but Damon doesn’t have a clue as to how far his brother might go. He tells Klaus to blink, because Stefan has gone crazy. Whether or not he believes this, he’s awfully convincing.
Next, Klaus receives the call from Stefan, who informs him he’ going to drive his “blood source” (read: Elena) off the Wickery Bridge. He also informs him he just made Elena drink his blood (which he did). Klaus listens to Elena’s increasingly frantic screams, and finally… he blinks. Stefan stops the car.
Elena is, of course, incredibly pissed off. Her parents died at Wickery Bridge, and he was threatening to drive off of it? He tells her he had to do that. Now that he knows Klaus has a weakness, he can destroy him. Elena can’t believe that’s all he cares about. Stefan says that destroying Klaus is all he has left. Elena points out that he had her. Stefan doesn’t react — other than to say she just didn’t realize she’d lost him when he left town so long ago. He doesn’t care what she thinks about him anymore, he tells her, then gets in his car and drives away by himself to make the point abundantly clear.
Matt gets Caroline home, and it’s pretty clear to both him and Liz that she’s dying. Lucky them, Klaus shows up to “help” Caroline, and with a dearth of options, Liz lets him in.
The scene between Klaus and Caroline is, oddly, very sweet. He tells her that there’s a whole world out there waiting for her, great cities and art and music… and genuine beauty. And she can have all of it. All she has to do is ask. She doesn’t want to die, so she drinks.
Elena gets Damon to pick her up. As angry as she is, Damon tells her Stefan won this round for them today. But that’s not the real issue. There they are together on the doorstep, close enough to touch. Not that Elena will let that happen this time. “It’s not right,” she insists, even as she stares at Damon’s lips. Damon disagrees. “It’s right,” he says. “It’s just not right now.” He leaves without laying a hand on Elena, but leaving her more tortured than ever.
Next, it’s time for Jeremy’s good-bye. Bonnie visits one last time — and just wishes him well. It seems she has finally accepted that he needs to go, and accepted how Elena had to do it.
Caroline, healed, wakes up that morning and finds a velvet box next to her bed. It’s a gift from Klaus — a bracelet that puts Tyler’s gift to shame. Maybe the moment the two of them shared earlier had a little more meaning for him that I would have guessed.
Elena asks Matt to meet her on the bridge. It seems Caroline wasn’t the only one who needed a funeral. Elena feels stuck. Has she disappointed her parents, the girl she used to be? Matt tells her she’s doing a lot better than she thinks. He gives an impromptu eulogy for Elena, then tosses some flowers over the bridge. While this moment feels tacked on, it’s a nice echo to Caroline’s transition. If only Elena really could move on from another phase — loyalty to Stefan — so that she could stop torturing herself
We rap things up with a quick scene between Ric and Meredith (sparks are a-flyin’) followed by a grim crime scene. The good doctor’s ex-boyfriend? Murdered. Uh-oh.
Were you sad to see Jeremy go? What do you think about Caroline and Klaus? And were you surprised by Stefan’s tactics to make Klaus blink?