If it seemed like last week was all about setting us up for a lot of drama this season, tonight’s episode confirmed it. Even as our woeful Mystic Falls residents grappled with feelings of loss and grief, it’s all mental housecleaning that needs to be done so that they can prepare for the war ahead. Although I’m still not entirely sure what Pastor Young intended by blowing up not only himself but twelve members of the town council, it seems that crazypants act may have served some purpose. Whether or not it was the true intention, the explosion served as a smoke signal to a vampire hunter. Unlike Buffy, this guy seems to have zero interest in getting in on the lovey-dovey action of this show.
We start off with our beloved brothers Stefan and Damon bickering, per usual. This time, they’re fighting about Elena’s diet. Stefan wants to maintain her innocence (animals only), while, Damon being Damon, he wants to lure her to the dark side (delicious humans). “Her compassion is her Achilles’ heel!” Stefan barks.
“You better hope she’s not a fan of ‘Bambi’!” Damon snarks. Of course, they’re not really fighting about Elena’s iron intake as much as they’re fighting about which one of them loves her more, and I don’t see that being resolved this week.
At the moment, Elena seems to be more taken with Stefan’s kinder, gentler, more human-friendly approach. He takes her into the woods, helps her drain a pretty little deer (not kill, mind you, so I guess she really does like “Bambi”), and she suddenly discovers the upside of this whole vampire thing. Hot sex! Really, really, really hot sex! Because all your senses are heightened when you’re a vampire! There’s much rending of clothing and making out, right up until the moment Elena pukes. Which is not as hot. It seems this whole blood drinking thing isn’t working so well. In fact, it’s not working at all.
But because Elena is a good girlfriend, and Stefan just seems so excited about her new life as a kinder, gentler vampire, she can’t tell him bunnies and deer and other furry Disney-friendly creatures make her vomit. Maybe it’s the high sugar content. Anyway, the guy breaks out a bottle of bubbly to celebrate that she’s alive-ish (his word, even). She can’t let him down, so she turns to Damon for help.
I’m not sure what she thinks help is, because she doesn’t want to risk — and when Damon gives her a juice pack (his cute little turn of phrase For Damon, this is more than gloating told-you-so rights. It’s a chance to let Elena feed off him, an intimate act that in some ways makes the almost-sex in the woods look crass and ridiculous. As Elena moans, Damon strokes her hair, and it’s as close as he may ever get to being with the woman he loves. Ironically, the guy who wants Elena to experience bloodlust so that she can control it pretends to be wallowing in vice, but is really the perfect instructor for Elena if she wants to deny her impulses. He’s exercised impressive self-control when it comes to wanting her.
But Elena’s struggle between giving into bloodlust with an eye to controlling it versus denying it completely isn’t her real problem this week. Connor Jordan (if that is his real name), aka Mister Busy Body Guy (to Damon) has popped into town, snooping around and eagerly shaking hands with anyone he can find. This isn’t because he’s friendly; he wears a handy glove that rousts out vampires, giving him an excuse to shoot them with wooden bullets. After poking at the sheriff he heads over to Mayor Lockwood’s house and, shortly after determining Tyler is a vampire, blows him away. Well, only for a minute. That hybrid upgrade is awfully handy.
But now the news is out that there’s a vampire hunter in town, and this guy’s not screwing around. After pulling the bullets out of Tyler’s chest, Stefan drops by Bonnie’s to see if she can bother herself to tell him what’s engraved on the bullets. Sure, she’s really upset about what happened with Grams last week, and she doesn’t seem too thrilled to be everyone’s go-to resource for spells, but Bonnie is too nice to tell Stefan to bugger off. She still isn’t much help, though, and Stefan leaves Bonnie to her depression. I really wish someone would get her a gift certificate for a massage or maybe a mani-pedi or something, because this girl has sacrificed a hell of a lot for her friends and they just keep coming back for more.
Jeremy is listening to Matt whine about how Elena is a vampire because of him (message to Matt: know your audience) when he spots April. April is back in town because she’s out of boarding school because her father just died — that father being Pastor Young, if you’re wondering. Poor April is now an orphan, which means no one’s footing the bill for boarding school, but what she’s really worried about is what she’s going to say at the memorial for her dad and the twelve people he killed. What if no one has anything nice to say? That is a valid concern, but no one knows this was Pastor Young’s doing at this point, so she may want to relax a bit.
But it turns out April should never relax for any reason, because guess who comes to the memorial? Connor Jordan, Vampire Hunter! He almost corners Elena, who is busily puking in a downstairs bathroom, but Damon comes to the rescue with non-bloody clothing. Connor tries to shake his hand, but Damon is a germaphobe or, also possible, already doesn’t have a good feeling about our friendly Mr. Busy Body.
And he has a great idea — he stabs April, ties her up, and lets her blood leak from the balcony onto the floor so all the vampires in the audience will turn around. Since he’s up in the balcony with the bloody lump that is April, training a gun on the crowd, it will be like picking off ducks at the county fair! But easier!
Damon knows a trap when he smells one, so neither he, Stefan, Tyler or Caroline turn around. But Elena… oh, she really, really wants to. She’s HUNGRY. Nothing she’s sucked up has been staying down — as Damon rather meanly informs his brother when their whole battle over the subject of Elena’s diet rears up yet again. Really, I’ve never seen this much vomiting in an hour of television that wasn’t a Very Special Episode about bulimia.
When April doesn’t show up to speak, being busy bleeding to death upstairs, Elena decides to do a good deed and take the podium herself — which puts that big, ugly blood stain right within her field of vision. She’s about to turn when Stefan sweeps in, guides her back to her seat — and Matt offers her his neck so she won’t lose her mind and reveal her vampire self. It’s a nice turn, in that Matt gets to alleviate some of his guilt about her current state, and amazingly, Connor doesn’t figure it out. But Tyler then takes the podium, and Connor, who has already shot the guy a few times, figures, hey, what the hell? And shoots him again. I would think, given that it didn’t work the first time, he may not want to waste anymore bullets on Tyler, but whatever.
As chaos breaks out, Elena dashes upstairs to help April — then thinks better of it and considers eating her instead. Caroline is the one who steps in, reminds her April isn’t a burger, then convinces her to compel April to think that everything’s okay, even though they really need to get her a change of clothes before she believes that. It’s nice to see that neither Stefan or Damon, who are using her struggle to play out their own, are the ones who help Elena find her inner strength. What was really keeping her from feeding “straight from the vein” of a human was fear, fear that she couldn’t control herself. But as we saw, she didn’t eat Matt alive — and didn’t even seem to register that she’s better at this whole vampire thing than she thought. I’m not sure Stefan is entirely the right person for her as she goes through this transition, as he has so much of his own agenda wrapped up in keeping her away from human blood.
Crisis averted, Stefan decides it’s time for a drink and a confrontation. Why did she lie to him? Why did she cheat on him with his brother? Not really cheat-cheat, but close enough. This gives Elena an excuse to complain about her life. “My life is like a never-ending funeral!” she moans. Everyone around her dies! All she does is cry! Stop being mean, Stefan!
Stefan takes this to heart and calls the Scooby gang together for a memorial of paper lanterns. Damon thinks this is entirely stupid, as there’s a vampire hunter around and they have more important things to do. But it turns out, our bedraggled, tired soldiers need a break before they hunt down Connor. Because let’s face it, there’s always a Connor or a Klaus or a big bad that has to be dealt with, and they’re justifiably sad. They all know not just one or two dead people, but lots of dead people. Close dead people. There aren’t enough lanterns, really, for all this grief. But Damon wants no part of it. He’s too tough for all this feeling crap.
So what does he do? He visits Alaric’s grave, of course, and chats with his old friend. “Japanese lanterns are a symbol of letting go of the past,” he snorts, calling his friends “stupid, delusional, exasperating little children.” They just don’t understand that symbols aren’t going to do a darn thing to fill the hole that was left where that person used to be. It’s a poignant moment, especially since they brought Matt Davis for a cameo, and reminds us that, as good as Damon is at taking care of business, he’s still a little more human than he wants anyone to believe he could ever be.
Let’s just hope Connor doesn’t find that out. He sits at a table and reads the letter Pastor Young left for April, which talks about the many sacrifices that need to be made for the war ahead, and how he was just one of the necessary losses. I’m not sure I see what blowing up himself and the town council achieved, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough.
What did you think of the vampire hunter? Do you think Elena’s a good vampire? What did you think of the memorial?