If I Am Going to Feel Guilty About Something, I’m Going to Feel Guilty About This

Happy New Year, everybody! “Stelena” fans might see this week’s episode as further proof of 2012 as Year of the Apocalypse, but me and my Team Salvatore (Where Everybody Wins!) t-shirt are choosing to see it as a perfect ending to the Twelve Days of Christmas. “Epiphany” indeed.

Since Shady and I didn’t get to confab until after the fireworks (and next week’s preview) had faded, this week is gonna be solely the bullet-point rundown, as we explore the the intricacies of “The New Deal”.

The Originals – The ever-delicious Viking Hybrid in Virginia has decided to funnel his fresh loss of family into any immortal’s two favorite things: screwing with enemies and investing in real-estate. Klaus wants his coffins back, or his recent affinity for Mystic Falls will force the Gilberts back to their vampire-battling roots permanently – and without a lot of success, considering the ease with which he manipulates their well-being (Katherine really did learn from the best)and sirlings like Tyler, who used to be their friend. By the end of the episode he walks away with the epitome of “consolation prize” as Rebecca’s retrieval is shadowed by the fact that her un-staking is dangerous for him now that she knows The Truth about their mother.

The Gilberts – Elena and Alaric are discovering that Bringing Up Baby Gilbert is no easy task. Jeremy’s attitude has followed his hairdo straight back to season one-level shenanigans: flunking school, abusing substances, and hanging out with Tyler Lockwood, with the added bonus of losing his job at the Grille (Who’s gonna help poor Matt bus those tables now?). Though I’d wished for a renewal of this friendship since the beginning of the season, it seems Tyler’s interest in Jeremy has less to do with commiserating over their newly-single status (seriously, this show is a shipper free-for-all right now, with no one attached and almost everyone mad at each other) and more to do with this supremely-aggravating siring thing where he has orders to get Jeremy off vervain and primed for compulsion. His efforts are successful – Jeremy puts himself in the way of a speeding hybrid (ha) – but poor Alaric and the Gilbert Family Ring mythology take a hit, and Tyler is left questioning his new master’s intentions.

Mini Rant: HE SHOULD BE. Siring is an insanely annoying plot contrivance that would be fine if we knew anything about werewolf pack mentality (my chosen source for its inspiration) or if this was freaking True Blood, which I’m usually thanking God it isn’t. For some unseen reason the writers decided that Tyler needed to be in this turncoat position by this point, even though he was already in this position last year, and so burned through a perfectly good arc about his relationship with Caroline in like sixty seconds to dump us here. It’s sloppy, and it robs us of a good ship, and wastes the opportunity for him to make this deal with the devil because he wants to (and I get why he would, I really do) and not because he was literally the only werewolf in neck-snapping distance on Senior Prank Night. This is like the only time Julie Plec and I have been out of sync on a major issue since the show began and it’s uncomfortable.

Anyway, this episode puts Jeremy in position to finally assume the vampire-slaying role I wanted for him since the beginning of last year, and it is…everything I could’ve wanted. When the very same hybrid compels the paramedics away and taunts Elena with lifesaving blood, Baby Brick House takes him out, first with a crossbow shot to the back, and then, awesomely, a giant knife across the neck. It is literally the sexiest thing the character has done in his entire run on the series, so of course we are now sending him away for it: after an intensely couple-y conference with Damon, Elena makes another executive decision concerning her brother’s memories. Jeremy will go to Colorado and have a normal adolescence with family friends (that evidently haven’t received news of the Gilbert children’s utter lack of relatives or we should have heard of them by now), while the audience mourns the loss of his newly-rediscovered swag (so inconsistent, so satisfying when it’s on). There is also stuff about Alaric’s uncanny ability to walk away from attempted vehicular manslaughter being noticed by a doctor whose name is both Meredith and Fell, but I’ll save my energy for the moment when unraveling that book/show fustercluck when it’s relevant. I’m sure I won’t have to wait long.

In other drama, Elena’s keeping up her training regimen, but can’t shake her paranoia as she tries making sense of a Post-Save-Stefan universe. This works for me – I choose to believe her giving Rebecca back to remove her family from the current cycle of recrimination was smart, and won’t come back to bite too hard –  except that her heart didn’t quite catch up with her brain over the break. When she confronts Stefan about the missing Originals, she pleads with him as Damon accused her of pleading with him last year (expecting her requests to be granted because she’s doing the asking). She seems to forget that this isn’t Stefan, or even Damon she’s begging here. It’s Stef(angelus), and he frankly doesn’t give a damn because, duh, no soul, and also revenge is being taken right now, and he’s coerced her best friend into helping him. He’s busy.

The Salvatores –  Stefan’s busy ruining Klaus’ life, and Bonnie is the first to figure out how. She’s been having dreams about Originals, in coffins in the old Witchy House, but her life has become so ridiculous she thinks it’s just a stress nightmare and not a skewed vision of actual events, even though the initial stirrings of her magic manifested as, well, skewed visions of actual events. Her first visit to the Witchy House garners a meet with Stefan but no coffins, though she later sees that for the illusion it is.

Damon will be the one to get it first. After Elena stomps out, he super-speeds in to minimalize sun damage (the witches are messing with his daylight ring in case he forgot they hated him) and confront his brother. There is another scene to add to this year’s series of “Remember When Damon Used To Torture Stefan? Ha, REVERSAL” before we head outside for some truth. Stef(angelus) didn’t take the coffins because he has a death wish; now that Mikael isn’t around to scare Klaus, his fear of eternal loneliness is all the leverage they have left, and Stefan thinks they can kill him with it. It’s Saint-Stefan-as-Devil-Damon move, and Damon is chagrined when he’s told the Mikael plot was scrapped to save him. He gets family as a weak point – he just doesn’t relish being the one in the box, protected without knowing he’s in danger. His vow to help carry out vengeance grants him both sun-screened re-entry to the Witchy House and a look behind the veil – at the coffins and life with Stef(angelus) from here on out.

This new information leads to The Part of the Episode Where I Am Exceedingly Proud of Damon Salvatore. He returns to a Gilbert home post-crisis (having stopped to heal Alaric at some point along the way?) and instantly slides into Competent Salvatore BF mode, a role Stefan has perfected. He is concerned about Elena’s separate peace with Klaus, but lets it ride (what’s done is done, and when are they not waiting for the other shoe to drop with those crazies anyway?) before heading upstairs to deal with his oddest and somehow most appropriate task on the show- restructuring Jeremy’s memories. Damon and Baby Brick House have always had an oddly open relationship despite the mutual loathing and attempted murders, and I appreciate the writers for acknowledging that in spite of the recent surplus of people that could do this task. When that’s over he and Elena head out to the Gilbert family porch, and I begin rising out of my seat in anticipation. If Elena’s bedroom is a minefield – all volatile emotion and constant frustration – the porch is the DMZ, where conflict is acknowledged but temporarily suspended. He is comforting, she is dismayed, but softly so. They confess without confessing that the thing between them is growing and mutual and impossible, then he chivalrously breaks the moment and lets her off the hook, then he realizes that’s stupid and utters the title of this recap. And when he kisses her the best part is that absolutely nothing happens. The sky doesn’t fall, nobody blows up, no one opens any doors or pulls up in any cars or utters any disapproval. Damon just goes home, and Elena stands on her ridiculously idyllic, perfectly-lit porch, knowing she has a decision to make.

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