BABY I MISSED YOU SO MUCH YOU GOT SO *BIG*.

Previously on The Vampire Diaries: Elena finally chose between Damon and Stefan, going with the Littlest Salvatore, unaware that--by the rules of First Boy Wins, and thanks to a timely use of the whammy--she'd actually met Damon first, on the night her parents died. Evil Alaric tromped around town, finally finding a daggered Klaus and taking him out; Klaus managed to survive by nestling deep inside Tyler, which, given Klaus's love for Caroline, should not be weird at ALL. Rebekah, mad with grief over Klaus's "death", ran Matt and Elena off the road; Stefan managed to rescue Matt, but Elena drowned (also killing Evil Alaric, whose lifespan was tied to the Doppelganger's, in the process). ...except that because Meredith had given Elena vampire blood to recover from her almost-bled-to-death-thanks-Klaus trauma the episode before, so now SURPRISE! Elena Gilbert is the newest vampire in Mystic Falls.

1) Voiceover hard reboot! I don't think we'll need it every week--I think the previouslys do just fine on their own--but I like that it's a sign that we're four years in, and shit just went down.

2) I really, really like that Elena's constantly hearing everything: the buzzing of the light bulb, street noises six blocks away. Sometimes you can forget that vampires are like Sentinels, just constantly jacked up to eleven 'til they figure out how to make it not be awful.

3) FOR THE RECORD: Meredith used Damon's blood to heal Elena. Not that that's a surprise to anyone, honestly, but if we're following bloodlines it's good to keep track.

4) "It's your choice, Elena. As always." Burn! ...and the truth, because Damon Salvatore only lies if he doesn't know you. Damon's whole thing has always been personal responsibility (as long as he's not whammying you, anyway): if you make a choice, you live with it. He doesn't always live by that code--see: every time Elena's involved, ever--but he's big on it nonetheless. And he's especially big on it this time, since it's the biggest one. The one that ruined his life, back in 1864.

Also, for real, that's a burn, because God knows Elena Gilbert does not always make great decisions. NONE OF YOU DO.

5) So basically, for Stefan this is Damon all over again: "I didn't save your life, so you died and now you are a vampire! THIS IS ALL MY FAULT." Uh, no; it's Klaus's for making Elena need medical attention, Meredith's for giving her Damon's blood, and Rebekah for running Matt and Elena off the road. THAT'S IT. It's not yours or Damon's or anyone else's. I am not a hundred percent that it's Meredith's, frankly, but here we are.

6) "I need my sister back, not another one of them." Uh, Jeremy, that would still be your sister. Just with a weird new medical condition. Does no one remember that Caroline is still freaking Caroline? GAH you people.

7) "Elena's dead, and no longer my concern." Holy shit you guys Klaus just sounded like Scorpius. Also, I legit forgot that Bonnie was the one who put Klaus in Tyler. Huh. That was a busy season finale, wasn't it?

8) OH SHITFUCK THE COUNCIL. Like--I am not even remotely surprised that it's the Pastor leading the charge, and not even from a "I am not particularly religious" place; 1864 was really religious, and this is the supernatural, so this is not my surprised face. I am...sort of horrified that Carol and Liz left quite that much proof that they are conspiring with vampires against the Council lying around, but that might be because I am paranoid. Also, I am not currently complicit in a supernatural conspiracy laden with small town politics. BUT STILL.

I am also startled that the Council, if given a chance, can be effective. What the hell? I've been watching this show since the pilot, y'all; at no point were you ever this effective. Like, EVER. Even with Zach's vervain grow room. Also-also, where the hell did half of you come from? This is like how near the end of last season, suddenly there were ten people in Council meetings. There are only so many Founding Families and People Who Need to Know! The shit is this?

9) Every time Trevino tries to sound British, he sounds ridiculous. It's great.

10) I sort of side with Damon on this (I know, you're surprised). BUT: there have been vampires for a thousand years, and witches for even longer. Witches hate vampires. I am pretty sure if there was a way to keep people from becoming vampires via witchcraft--short of being witches themselves--they would have found it by now. No. What's done is done; now you live with it.

11) Elena's laughing-to-crying-in-ten seconds is just painful. Vampire emotions, everyone! They are terrible.

12) I really, really like the "Elena seeing recovered memories as a third person observer" trick. Nice one, guys.

13) You don't realize it 'til you see them and remember just how many there are, but oh my God, how fucked up is it that Damon made Elena forget a bunch of times when he was good? Like--seriously, Salvatores: family therapy, look for a group rate.

14) "Does Matt even *have* automobile insurance?" Hahahahahahah oh fuck he probably doesn't.

15) And then the Council--doing more than they have in three seasons of this show--shoots and captures Rebekah, Stefan, Elena, and Caroline, arrests Carol, and fires Liz and Meredith. You guys have fucking awful timing as far as getting shit done is concerned. John Gilbert is horrified right now, somewhere.

16) JAILBREAK! Shut up, Klaus just straight-up engineering that was great. Less great: abandoning Rebekah to save Caroline. I'm not surprised--I don't even necessarily disagree, though Pastor Whatshisface knowing about the white ash stake is just...way to be a dick from beyond the grave, Evil Alaric--but I am really sad for Rebekah. Which is saying a lot, because I do not like that girl.

17) "The mayor and the sheriff never had a back-up plan?" Sing it, Salvatore. Though NEITHER DID YOU.

18) The Gilberts advocating an emergency plan = Grayson and Miranda, or Grayson and John? Because I could see John doing it, and I'd rather not think of Elena and Jeremy's parents as anti-vampire assholes.

19) I do give Klaus a tiny bit of credit for telling Caroline it was him before there could be sex. Tiny bit of credit. Not enough to get a Snickers.

20) So Bonnie's plan: die, go to the other side (where, apparently, witches are basically gods - THAT WON'T ALSO END POORLY), get Elena, bring her back to life. Wh--Bonnie, you are no longer in charge of plans. Also, why do all of your plans involve "Step 1: die"? That is awful! Work on that, Bennett!

21) You know, I want to like Rebekah (mostly for onlymystory's benefit = Mikaelson fans, represent!), but oh my GOD. You know what's a dick move? Gloating that the girl you tried to kill, who's dying before she can fully transition into a vampire, is going to die before your eyes. This is why no one asked your ass to homecoming, Mikaelson.

22) Sheila! Yay Sheila! ...boo Sheila for keeping Bonnie from saving Elena! It legitimately seemed to be going okay for the three seconds she was allowed to do anything.

23) You know, in all the confusion about Bonnie using black magic and whether or not she should (uh, no), I think we all forgot to ask one very important question: Who the fuck is teaching Bonnie black magic? THAT'S NOT GOOD.

24) Aaaaaaand then Klaus threatens to rip out Tyler's heart and jump to, say, Jeremy if Bonnie doesn't transfer him RIGHT NOW. This is why no one asked your ass to prom, Mikaelson.

25) "That's why Matt and I were on the bridge. I was heading back to save you. I had to choose, and I picked you. Because I love you."

I--look, I am still firmly on Team Elena, because the Salvatores are basically really awesome serial killers, but for real: if I have to pick, I'm going Team Stelena. (I'm also going Team No Pairing Names, because UGH PORTMANEAUS.)

26) I honestly love that Damon's Plan B is always "fuck up some shit".

27) "We just need bait." BAM! bites Matt in the throat. Come on, Matt's not dumb. He saw that shit coming. (Possibly literally, as we'll see.)

28) And then Bonnie transfers Klaus back, and Sheila GETS DESTROYED FOREVER. BY BLACK MAGIC. Like--seriously, this is awful. Witches are sort of all assholes, and black magic murders awesome dead people. Do we have a third option? Can we get one?

29) TEAMWORK: Rebekah and Stefan kill a guard so Elena can feed. It's a nice, quiet little moment: Elena, pale and dying (again), has to strain to reach the pool of blood and touch it to her mouth. Michael Suby gets a lot of the credit, by the way. When are we getting a score soundtrack again? Do we know?

30) I love that the first thing Elena does as a vampire is threaten Damon to protect Matt. Elena Gilbert: World's Best Final Girl. Still the best.

31) "Stop saving me!" Oh, ow. Ow ow ow. I really...I've never been in Matt's position, thank God, but I can't even imagine: the girl you used to love--who you still love, as a friend--dies because of you and is now a vampire, and you blame yourself.

(Also, that kick Damon gave him was brutal. Way to sell it, foley guys.)

32) "You don't *have* to live with that, you *get* to live with that." Quit dropping truth, Salvatore, it's freaking me out.

33) Aaaaand that's the difference, right there: Stefan did what Elena wanted, and now she's a vampire. Damon would have made sure she *got* what she wanted, and was able to grow up and live her life. And I think part of that is--look, I'm not saying Stefan's happy being a vampire; Stefan, on human blood, is a coked-up serial killer who dabbles in dismemberment and has a Closet of Shame. But he's accepted what he is, even if he hates it. He's made some kind of peace with it. I don't think Damon has. I don't think Damon ever will. Damon acts like he's okay with it, but deep down he'd kill himself tomorrow if it didn't mean leaving Stefan and Elena.

I am telling you: GROUP RATE ON THERAPY.

34) So Rebekah, realizing Klaus doesn't love her--which: fucked up, Klaus, that girl has always been in your corner--destroys his supply of doppelganger blood and gets excommunicated from the family. You know who's gonna have something to say about that? ELIJAH. ...when he comes back, anyway. (Come back soon.)

35) See, here's my problem with people being like, "Oh no, ____________'s a vampire!" I mean, yes, bad, he or she might eat people, but they're not fundamentally a different person. Stefan sort of changed overnight, but Stefan's always been a high achiever; Damon was sort of the same 'til he met Evil Lexi. Pretty much every vampire we've seen is different than how they used to be, but only in hindsight; Caroline's the same person. Abby seemed the same, the whole ten minutes we've seen her as a vampire. Vicki--okay, fine, Vicki went nuts, but that's a personal power thing. Vicki didn't have people. Caroline has people. Now Elena does, too.

So Stefan and Elena on the roof of the boardinghouse--that's not an ending. That's a beginning. Yeah, she has a wacky new medical condition; her diet's changed, and she's gonna be all over the place emotionally for a while. (Forever, in theory, but you do eventually get the hang of it.) She's also not going to age. She'll be young and beautiful forever. She can see the world! She can do whatever she wants--be a writer, be a clockmaker, be Batman. She can kiss boys; she can kiss girls; she can get an alpaca farm. She can live in Virginia and Canada and Scotland and Australia and Antarctica. She can adopt a dozen children, or be an aunt to Bonnie's kickass children--or Jeremy's, or Matt's, or whoever's. She can get ten degrees. She can take a lifetime off. The world is a big place, and she has time for it now.

It's not an ending. It's a beginning.

36)...less so for Pastor Whatshisface and the Council, who promptly lock themselves in a farmhouse as he turns up the gas and blows them all up, ominously intoning "We are the beginning." WHAT. THAT'S NOT GOOD, YOU GUYS, JESUS CHRIST.

Season Four: it's gonna be a good one, y'all.

Next week: shit goes down at (what I'm assuming is) Alaric's memorial. Elena's having vampire sex! Elena might eat a guy! Ten bucks says Alaric's watching from four feet away, going "CALLED IT!" "Memorial", next Thursday, 8 PM EST.
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