‘The Vampire Diaries’ recap: ‘Growing Pains’

So, for those of you who may have forgotten and the rest of you who have tried to blot out the unhappy memory of it, when last we saw poor Elena (Nina Dobrev) she was fixing to turn into a vampire. While you’d think hanging out with vampires, especially ones as hot as Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan (Peter Wesley) would make the whole vampire thing look pretty appealing, Elena does not want to be a vampire. I don’t even think she’d wear the plastic fangs for Halloween or read the “Twilight” books; that’s how much she doesn’t want to be a vampire.

No, she wants to have a normal life and grow up, have kids, get old… well, I’m not sure why that last part is appealing, but Elena doesn’t want to be eternally young and hot, as the price of this is drinking human blood. I’d tell Elena that there are some “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” who’d do that and more just to lose the bags under their eyes, but I do understand why she doesn’t want to go through this. Stefan has always driven home the point that immortality isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and Elena’s had enough big upsets in her life. If anyone deserves to just be normal, it’s her, though it’s never seemed like a likely outcome. At least, not as long as she lives in Mystic Falls.

We begin the season premiere with Elena waking ti see Stefan and Damon watching over her. Damon forces his brother to deliver the bad news, as he’s still pissed at Stefan for saving Matt and thus letting Elena die. While Stefan has the weak excuse that it was only at Elena’s request, I have to admit that Stefan might have been allowed to make an executive decision to save the girl he loved over the expendable character who seems to exist for the sole purpose of being a mortal sidekick. 

Damon is his gloriously snarky self, which is  to say he’s a big, wet blanket when Stefan suggests Bonnie might be able to reverse Elena’s vampirism. Once the brothers leave Elena alone to let her rest, they continue arguing about the Elena vs. Matt conundrum. Ah, I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed these brotherly dust-ups. Sometimes I’m amazed they haven’t managed to turn each other into big piles of dust in all these hundreds of years.

Elsewhere, Bonnie and Tyler, (who is really Klaus) have a not-so-friendly chat. He wants his body back, so Bonnie needs to get on it, chop-chop. Bonnie politely tries to explain that she has her hands rather full trying to do what has never been done — keep Elena human. Tyler (who is really Klaus) does not care about Elena — at least not until Bonnie points out that Elena returning to human form means an endless supply of hybrids for him. Carry on, then, Tyler (who is really Klaus) says. It’s not as charming without the English accent, I will say. 

Meanwhile, Elena is feeling her teeth and squashing lightbulbs and generally feeling pretty crappy. Jeremy stops by to tell her he’s there for her, but he’d really prefer she didn’t become a vampire. Yes, that’s exactly what Elena’s been saying, and she’s a very good older sister for managing not to roll her eyes and mutter “DUH” under her breath. But Jeremy is a good brother to have on hand, as he’s been through the change process before and he’s willing to support Elena through hers, even if that does hold the risk of being very close to someone who is suddenly wildly attracted to your blood supply.

Unfortunately, Elena’s bad day is only going to get worse — and not just for her, but for everyone who doesn’t have a pulse in Mystic Falls. Pastor Young drops by the hospital to inform Dr. Fell he’s going to be upping the security surrounding the hospital blood supply. “Who gave you that authority?” she asks. The Mystic Falls council, of course. This seems truly outside of their jurisdiction, if you ask me, but I guess this is Mystic Falls and if we’ve already suspended our disbelief about vampires, werewolves, hybrids and the rest, we can imagine a town council is able to shake things up at the hospital pretty easily. Alaric, it turns out, has kindly ratted our Dr. Fell, so her job is at risk. I’m not looking forward to seeing new, awful Alaric again anytime soon, but clearly, his bad vibe can be felt whether he’s on screen or not. [Was just reminded Alaric is way dead. Now I’m sad about that all over again. That was an awfully deadly season last year, wasn’t it?].

The hospital is only Pastor Young’s first stop, by the way. Next, he arrests the mayor and takes the sheriff’s badge. Liz, who is Caroline’s mom and the sheriff, is not thrilled about this, but Pastor Young tells her he’s on the warpath — he’s taken all of the town’s vervain, and he’s making his move. I am assuming this move is all about taking down the vampires, which does not seem so smart to me, but I guess the vervain supply is a good start. 

Liz tries to call Caroline to give her a heads-up about Pastor Young’s plan, but she’s too late — Caroline is grabbed by a mysterious someone (who is unmysteriously working for Pastor Young) and pumped full of vervain. 

Elena tries to eat a sandwich and almost throws up. She just wants blood, not a cheese sandwich. She tries to assure Stefan he did the right thing by saving Matt, but both of them are feeling pretty tortured, albeit for different reasons. They wonder what they’re going to do, and Elena laughs, then cries, and is clearly starting to freak out a bit. Stefan tries to reassure her, but I’m not sure there’s much you can do for someone when they have to physically die, then be reborn. Maybe a nice card or something. 

Part of turning into a vampire is having flashbacks (not the PTSD kind, just memories). Elena walks upstairs and remembers Damon telling her he loves her — something he had compelled her to forget. It’s a shame there’s no one to talk to about this (Bonnie’s a little busy, and Caroline’s probably being dragged off somewhere), as I think she probably needs to process. I know, I know, she loves Stefan, but you can’t tell me having a moment like that with Damon wasn’t hard to shake.

Speaking of Damon, he visits Rebekah for a chat… well, not really. He tries to stab her with one of the stakes that can do the job, but of course Rebekah unhands him pretty easily — until someone else shoots her in the back and (is it possible?) an arrow comes at her from another direction, causing her face to crinkle up and turn blue. I’m guessing Pastor Young’s minions are on the loose. 

I know Pastor Young himself didn’t have a hand in bringing down Rebekah, because at that moment he and some other minions are too busy training a gun on Stefan. 

Mayor Lockwood calls Tyler (who is really Klaus) and tells him about Caroline being taken by the council to parts unknown. Tyler (who is really Klaus) jumps into action. Using his super Spidey hybrid sense, he tracks down the van carrying Caroline and Rebekah (who are handily tied up with vervain-soaked ropes), tosses it off the road, rips off the back door and rescues… just Caroline. He leaves Rebekah to the council — and tells her, as a parting gift, “Keep ’em busy, little sister.” No matter how he’s gift wrapped, Rebekah knows her brother when she hears him, and I’m sure she’s not all that surprised he picks a girl over her. 

The Scooby gang of Damon, Matt, Dr. Fell and Liz try to sort out where Caroline, Elena and Stefan could be. Matt realizes they’re penned in on Pastor Young’s ranch, so guess where Damon and Matt are headed? Yes, right into a great, big trap. 

Of course, Pastor Young doesn’t realize Elena is about to become a vampire, so he brings her inside the ranch to eat bloody steaks in front of her and tell her his plan to hold Stefan until Damon comes searching for the two of them, then use Rebekah to lure her siblings to the ranch, at which point they’ll exterminate all vampires. Easy peasy, right? Elena tries to run away, but gets a rifle butt to the face, so things are looking a little bleak, even if Pastor Young seems royally overconfident. 

Tyler (who’s really Klaus) discovers that a freshly rescued Caroline is all kinds of frisky as they romp through the woods together and make out, ripping off their clothes. “All signs point to hot hybrid vampire sex,” Caroline says, ready to rumble, even as Klaus demurs — he wants to do it with her, but in the right body. But it’s only when Tyler (who is really Klaus) calls Caroline “love” that she figures out that he’s really Klaus (disguised as Tyler). She’s furious, and the moment is pretty much ruined. So much for hot hybrid vampire sex. 

Trying to save Elena, Bonnie chants things in Latin with lots of candles burning. When that doesn’t work, she tells Jeremy she’s going to plan B — she just has to stop her heart, go to “the other side,” find Elena and bring her back from the dead. No problem! Jeremy is NOT a fan of this idea, because it seems fairly likely that dying could be permanent. But Bonnie has to save Elena from vampirism! I always admire Bonnie’s devotion to her friends, but even I have to think this is a bit much. No, Elena doesn’t want to be a vampire — but Elena doesn’t want Bonnie to die even more, I’d guess, especially not at her expense. Bonnie gets a serious bloody nose while Jeremy tells her to cut it out, then collapses in a lifeless heap.  

When she wakes up, she’s in the animal pen that Elena’s confined in, trying to pull her dead self (just the dead part — she’s not actually dead yet; it’s a vampire thing) back to the land of the living. But then Grams has to show up and ruin everything. Grams says, pretty logically, that Bonnie needs to mind her own business, as trying to bring Elena back is going to bring some ugly consequences for her, while Elena will be off frolicking with Stefan and Damon without a care in the world. She doesn’t ask Bonnie if Elena jumped off a building if she would jump, too, but she might as well. Bonnie doesn’t want to listen to Grams, but Grams is stronger and shoos her back to the land of the living — without Elena. 

Unfortunately, Tyler (who’s really Klaus) is there, too. He wants out of Tyler’s body pronto, even though Bonnie’s realistically too weak to do the job. Caroline yells at Tyler (who’s really Klaus) to just calm down and wait a day or two, but Klaus wants what he wants when he wants it (damn Original) and starts ripping out Tyler’s heart with his bare hands. Bonnie has no choice except to try a spell — or have Tyler’s death on her head. So, Elena’s about to die and Bonnie’s about to die. This is not a slow warm-up to the season, I’ll say. 

Shut away in the horrible animal pens, Stefan and Elena are side by side — but can’t see one another. Rebekah, penned in across from them, can see them both — and watch the sad scene that plays out. Elena, who needs to feed by the end of the day or die, hasn’t been close to another human for hours. Though Rebekah did initially delight in seeing Elena die, it’s hard to be smug watching Stefan and Elena apologize to one another and vow their love to one another, knowing she might not make it. 

Damon and Matt, sans the rest of the Scooby gang, arrive at the ranch, ready to take down Pastor Young and his minions. “What do we do?” Matt asks, right before Damon bites him. I would say Damon has a plan. 

Bonnie doesn’t die, but it’s not all good news. Her spell brings Tyler back, but Grams shows up again to chastise Bonnie for doing black magic. There will be consequences! And the consequences? The spirits are torturing Grams, which is more than Bonnie can handle.

Rebekah, always a sucker for a romantic story, tries to bribe a guard, pretending to be weak — then booting him across the hall to Stefan, who bashes his head against the rails until he collapses. Elena, near death, finds just enough energy to stick a finger in his blood and lick it up. She’s saved, if you consider being undead saved, which I’m not sure she does. 

Damon takes out some of Pastor Young’s minions, then turns to the business of killing Matt. He hates the guy for being alive when his death would have saved Elena from becoming a vampire — and Matt feels so guilty about it he doesn’t seem all that interested in fighting to stay alive. So it’s Elena, who has somehow escaped from her animal pen (I’m guessing the guard who got his head smashed in had keys) comes to Matt’s rescue, yanking Damon aside and showing off her scary vampire face. 

Matt’s saved, but he doesn’t feel good about it. Stefan tells Matt to man up — yes, Elena’s a vampire, but she saved his life, so he’d better not waste it. 

Elena, having pried Damon off of Matt, takes this opportunity for quiet reflection to have a moment with Damon. She remembers how he compelled her to forget everything. He asks her if that changes everything — but it doesn’t. She still loves Stefan. Damon admits he would have let Matt die — he’s selfish that way, because he really wanted her to have the life she deserved. It’s a sad moment, and in a just and fair fictional universe, Damon and Elena would end the scene with a kiss, but Damon just skulks off on his own, alone again, naturally. 

Elsewhere, Rebekah finds Klaus, who has returned to his normal, non-Tyler self. She is furious with him for saving Caroline and abandoning her, so she gets even by ruining the last of the doppelganger blood. Klaus’ face actually crumbles — his army of hybrids, his self-made family is lost forever. He tells her she’s no longer his sister, then tosses her aside. I don’t really see that she’s losing that much, but maybe this time the message that she’s on her own will sink in. 

Stefan tells Elena he wishes he could tell her everything will be okay, but he can’t. She tells him she’ll be with him forever, if she wants to. He gives her the daylight ring Bonnie made for her yesterday, “just in case.” They snuggle. It’s a sweet moment, and a sad moment, and yes, romantic in its way. 

But because that’s way too gentle of a note on which “The Vampire Diaries” to end, we Pastor Young locking himself and his small flock in a house, turning on the gas, and blowing all of them up, including himself. Why Pastor Young chooses to go out in a ball of flame I don’t quite get, as that seems like giving up a bit too easy after a day or so of battle, but I’m not convinced he’s out of the picture. After all, as we learned in this episode, sometimes death is a whole new beginning.

What do you think of Elena as a vampire? What do you think is next for Klaus and Rebekah? What do you think Alaric’s next move will be?