Since the show began, the Stefan/Elena/Damon triangle has been at the heart of “The Vampire Diaries.” For three years, Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Elena’s (Nina Dobrev) romance has been center stage while Elena and Damon’s (Ian Somerhalder) attraction simmered. Then, this season, when Elena became a vampire, she found that Damon accepted and even liked the changes in her personality while Stefan missed the human she used to be. It seemed like they would finally explore their feelings. The ending to this week’s episode altered the context of every single thing that has happened to Elena this season. If it is what it appears to be — and that is a big if, given the show’s penchant for red herrings and unexpected twists on unexpected twists — it has the potential to be a massive cop out that angers every single one of the show’s multitude of fanbases.
The episode starts with Stefan attempting to get over being dumped by Elena by doing push-ups in the woods — as you do. Caroline (Candice Accola) freaks when Stefan tells her that Elena has feelings for Damon. Caroline has plenty of reasons to hate Damon, given the way he used and abused her when she was human, but I think her extreme Team Stefan attitude this episode has more to do with the obvious parallels between Stefan/Elena/Damon and Tyler/Caroline/Klaus. Stefan tells Damon that he and Elena broke up. Damon is the supportive brother, offering to take him drinking and suggesting they pick up a couple of sorority sisters. Stefan says, “Let’s not pretend this isn’t the best day of your life.” Oh, snap. Yes, Stefan has gone into dark mode.
Stefan heads to the hospital. Conveniently, a convicted murderer is being treated. He compels the police officer who is guarding his room to leave, then turns him.
Meanwhile, it’s the return of the Miss Mystic Falls pageant! Gabby Douglas, Olympic gymnast, and big time TVD fan, has a cameo as a contestant. Professor Shane is one of the pageant judges. Elena is suspicious of his sudden omnipresence. Damon shows up while she and Caroline are helping April get ready to compete. Damon also offers up the strong opinion that April should wear a red dress, and Elena agrees with him, even though she previously advised April to go with a conservative look. Elena realizes that Damon doesn’t know why she broke up with Stefan. She admits that it’s because of him. They share a downright smoldering silent moment, but are interrupted by professor Shane. Damon asks the Professor about his relationship with the Pastor, accusing him of convincing the man to blow up his cabin.
Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) is reveling in his new Slayer Strength. He shows Matt (Zach Roerig) that he can now lift one full keg in each hand. Matt warns that he could turn into Connor and kill Elena. Jeremy, in fact, has a nightmare about strangling her. He wakes up with the hunter’s stake in his hand. Matt warns that if Jeremy doesn’t tell Elena about his vampire murder lust, he will. Jeremy gets a text from Stefan telling him to meet him at the Lockwood cellar. He has the murderer turned vampire chained up. He tells Jeremy to kill him, because he is a violent person who deserves to die, so they can find the cure for Elena. This convicted murderer has probably killed fewer people than Stefan, so that’s some interesting morality he’s using. When the murderer lunges at him, Jeremy instinctively stakes him again and again.
Klaus (Joseph Morgan) reminds Caroline that she promised him a date and wants to be her escort to Miss Mystic Falls. Caroline has to go along with it since she has faked a break up with Tyler. Hayley (Pheobe Tonkin) helps a hybrid break her sire bond by repeatedly turning into a wolf. Hayley persuades Tyler to go with her to the pageant, though I’m not sure how she got an invite since she’s not really a Mystic Falls resident. At the pageant, Caroline rants to Klaus about how Elena has changed. Klaus looks at her knowingly and implies that one day she will understand. She asks Klaus if he would take the cure. He has no interest in giving up his powers. They drink champagne. Tyler looks on jealously. Klaus finds Caroline’s Miss Mystic Falls application and mocks it. She can’t help laughing. He admits he fantasized about being a human once when he saw a humming bird in the Andes and marveled at how hard it worked to stay alive. Tyler listens in on their conversation and tells Hayley that have to get rid of Klaus.
Matt tells Elena that Jeremy’s fantasizing about killing her. Jeremy is a no show, so Matt steps in as April’s escort. She wears the red dress that Damon likes. Damon volunteers to find Jeremy since Elena is concerned. He phones Stefan, who admits what he is doing with Jeremy. The tattoo grows to cover Jeremy’s hand. He refuses to draw it for Stefan because he doesn’t trust him. Stefan tries to compel him. It doesn’t work. Jeremy stakes him in the stomach.
Damon tells Tyler he is suspicious of Shane. Hayley reveals to Tyler that she was adopted. Her parents kicked her out the first time she turned. She killed someone in a boating accident.
Jeremy arms himself with stakes and shows up at the pageant. He tells April her dad and the rest of the council died as heroes. Shane tells Damon he doesn’t know any other hunters. When Damon threatens to kill him, he warns him that even if he gets the map only a Bennett witch can use the spell that is needed to use the cure.
April is named Miss Mystic Falls. Damon can add Pageant Consultant to his list of talents. Elena follows Jeremy inside the Lockwood house and finds him holding the stake. He tells her that Connor was right. All he can think about is killing vampires and he is fighting the urge to hurt her. She tells him she would never do anything to hurt him. She notices that his hand is covered with blood, and must fight her own temptation. He ends up stabbing her in the neck. Matt tells him not to hurt her but is not strong enough to stop him. Fortunately Stefan arrives, gets Jeremy out of there and removes the stake from her neck. Stefan admits that he is the one who has been pushing Jeremy to be a Slayer. Elena calls him out on wanting to fix her because he doesn’t like the vampire version of her. She advises him to forget about the old Elena, who died when her car went over the bridge. Of course Damon overhears.
Elena moves out of her house and asks Matt to move in with Jeremy for both of their protection. She shows up at Casa Salvatore. Stefan leaves, because the giant mansion isn’t big enough for the three of them.
Tyler texts Hayley that the hybrid has broken her bond. Hayley is with Shane! The professor tells her that they’ll talk about their next step after the last hybrid sire bond is broken.
Damon and Elena celebrate becoming roommates by drinking. Elena thinks she is lousy at being a vampire. Damon doesn’t think he’s ever seen her more alive. She admits she wanted to dance with him today. So they slow dance. It’s very sexy. Then it all goes to hell. They are intercut with Stefan and Caroline talking. Caroline tells him not to give up. There is something wrong with Elena. She has an epiphany, realizing that Damon has been the solution to every problem Elena has had since she was turned, and that Elena always agrees with him, even down to what dress April should wear. Caroline wonders if Elena is sired to Damon. If they go this route, it makes Elena and Damon’s relationship fake, reduces her to a victim, and also hurts the Stelena pairing because it means that none of the interesting problems they were having were real. The only way I will accept it is if Damon has no idea. We have seen time and time again that he wants her to truly love him, to choose him over Stefan. On the other hand, this is just Caroline’s theory, because she, like Stefan, misses the old Elena, and because she doesn’t want to admit that she’s attracted to Klaus.
Damon and Elena finally have sex. It would be an incredibly hot payoff to three and a half years of waiting if it weren’t intercut with voiceovers from Stefan and Caroline about Elena’s alleged sire bond.