So there might have been an ACC basketball game that just had to be broadcast on two different networks, and one of those networks might have been the CW, so I might have been forced to pirate this episode at four in the morning after a late screening of 50/50 and two episodes of US Shameless. I say all of this to explain my reaction towards this episode: I always appreciate when the show has like fifty things going on, because I get to see everybody and feel involved in their ongoing fictional lives, but there is such a thing as too much information delivered weirdly, which is what “The Ties That Bind” left me with. Thus the title is not the “line of the night” but simply the one I can best remember, and I will be recapping via a list of confused quibbles, as follows:
Bill Forbes is not only alive, but helpful? I count on this show to kill people I don’t like, which since the end of season one has been pretty much anyone outside the main cast (and the Originals). In a season that I have venerated for addressing long-standing character issues, one majorly botched job has been the relationship between Caroline and her dad. I mean, her werewolf boyfriend’s mom calls her dad in to basically merc her, but he then proceeds to torture her instead, and is somehow allowed to get away with his life and her love for him intact? Damon’s ripped out hearts for a heck of a lot less, and I’ll never understand how Uncle Mason died after five episodes and Bill Forbes is still breathing. His plot in the episode only further epitomizes my confusion. Tyler realized his sire bond is scary (duh) and wants help weakening it (yay!) so he can regain his freedom (entry to Caroline’s pants – yay!). Perfectly awesome, except for the part where Bill Forbes is helping him (I want an explanation for this “no-compulsion” thing. Like, STAT.) with similar techniques to THAT TIME HE TORTURED HIS DAUGHTER. Why the attack with tools? Why didn’t they use the usual chains? Why is he supposedly ok with getting bitten repeatedly by a werewolf that really couldn’t seem to help attacking people before a thousand-year-old werepire started ordering him around? Why do I think Tyler’s gonna catch hell from Caroline for biting Bill when it’s literally the expected result of transformation? “Blind spot” does not begin to cover this confusing father-daughter relationship.
How can Alaric possibly be upset with Damon for investigating someone so obviously shady? I’ve been avoiding this Meredith Fell thing since she showed up because 1) I find myself still mourning Jenna more than a little bit; 2) There is book stuff with a girl named Meredith and Alaric (I think) that I don’t feel like Wikipedia-ing because it’s been quite some time since that stuff had any bearing on show mythology; 3) the actress that plays her (Torrey Devito) is probably a lovely person (Paul Wesley did marry her, after all) but either plays crazy (Nanny Carrie – One Tree Hill) or has a blind spot for crazy (Melissa Hastings – Pretty Little Liars) so my obsession with teen dramas has already prejudiced me against her. Maybe Damon’s has too, because he immediately starts thinking about how weird it is that the newly-dead medical examiner was Dr. Fell’s boyfriend right around the time Dr. Fell decides to stop thinking about how weird Alaric’s recovery was and just see if his best friend is a vampire. She traps Damon and steals his blood – because she uses vampire blood to save patients sometimes, except we’ve never seen her do that before, because we’ve never met her before a couple of episodes ago. And where was she when the other hundred and sixty people got maimed in Mystic Falls in the last year? “Finishing residency” is a fine excuse, but I’m gonna need to hear it from her. I guess her curiosity about Alaric comes from the fact that his beating heart rules out “vampire” and she might be too new to the council to assume “werewolf”, but either way when Alaric felt guilty for kissing her in Jenna’s effing house I was like “You should be. And stop giving her power-ring info unsolicited, that’s how people lose their fingers.”
So what’s the deal with the coffins now? First, after dreaming she was trapped in one, Bonnie spilled the beans to Elena about the location of the coffins because of course. “Don’t tell anyone” translates for girls into “don’t tell the person that I’m trying to hide this from” which in this case is Klaus, not “everybody” as the Salvatores seem to think. Stef(angelus)’ cold anger over this obvious invocation of Girl Code leads Elena to invoke the Ex-Code (“what I do is no longer your business”) and lie to him when she and Bonnie go in search of the latter’s mom, because Friend Code says that “meeting the mom who abandoned you” is not the place for soulless vampires that neither of you are currently dating. Especially when Girl Code stipulates that you must discuss the title of this recap (and the fact that it means Elena and Damon are totally, awesomely, non-dating). When things go doubly pear-shaped (more on that in a minute) Bonnie has to warn Damon to move the coffins, which is good because the Witchy House witches become total snitches when one of their living numbers is threatened and pull off their cloak of invisibility for Klaus. When we see the coffins, it appears Damon failed; when we count only three – and the un-open-able one is nowhere in sight – we applaud the elder Salvatore for being his crafty self and prioritizing. And when one of the remaining coffins pops open to reveal Elijah (complete with signature heart-ripping move) we jump for effing joy. It’s been way too long.
And how many times have Elena and Stefan broken up at this point? One of the pear-shaped things was Stefan showing up at Bonnie’s mom’s house because Elena’s newfound awesome did not include training in “hiding the evidence”. They have one of those ex-reunions that usually ends in restraining orders, but in this instance ends with Stefan getting buckshot to the chest and Elena tied to a pole, because theirs was never a relationship of regular circumstances. Jaime, the kid Bonnie’s mom liked better than her (I’m getting there, I promise) was compelled to shoot Stefan, but not harm Elena, which she brilliantly uses to both free herself and disarm him. Stef(angelus) appreciates this newfound Buffy-ness as Elena is forced to switch to Sookie-mode (if not Sookie’s methods) to dig the wood chips out of his chest. This nice moment slides into another where Stefan ditches the (angelus) mask for a minute and admits that he took things way too far last week, as well as subtly hinting that he’s still totally awesome under all the glare and growl. The fact that this apology only comes after Elena admits to making out with his brother is aggravating – it is totally within his character to say it without any impetus, plus it just seems majorly unnecessary on her part. Why tell him? I mean, obviously if she was dating or sleeping with his brother, he’d have a right to know, but they aren’t really a “thing” quite yet – she only told her best friend about the kiss after Damon forced her, and it just seemed weird for her to sorta dangle it like that. Regardless, they are officially done, and the Salvatores have officially broken one of their longest truces ever, if Stefan’s episode-ending punch was any indication. Way to stir the pot, Gilbert.
After all this time, I expected more from Bonnie’s mom This is obviously not a question, because I have a few aspects of this conclusion to explore:
1) Casting – Persia White is, as her name would attest, the lightest cast member from Girlfriends. This does not make her the appropriate choice to play Bonnie’s mom, no matter what the “paper bag test” they put witches through on this show says. She looks nothing like her – in fact Robert Ri’chard, who plays Jaime, looks more like Kat Graham – plus she does not look old enough to have a “teenager”(y’know, a twentysomething- looking-one), a letdown on a show stocked with decently credible parents.
2) Story – I’ve probably said this before, but I’ll reiterate in more detail: Bonnie, story-wise, gets shafted constantly. The show has struggled with making her an inexperienced witch that is somehow just powerful enough to accomplish small jobs but still get yelled at for failing at things well outside her pay grade. Her only credible source of support died for the cause and was never replaced, while Stefan had Lexi, Damon has booze and love/hate for Stefan, Caroline had Stefan, Tyler had Caroline (after Damon killed his uncle), and Jeremy and Elena had some assortment of everybody. The writers never really developed her rapport with any visiting witches last season, and gave no down time in her relationship with Jeremy, when they showed it at all. We have literally never been home with her in two and a half seasons.
This makes the story of her missing mother pretty significant, because it explores a relationship we’ve seen with everyone else (both parent/child and mentor/student). And the excuse for her mom never coming home is both totally rushed and kinda unbelievable. Supposedly Abby Bennett Wilson and Elena’s mother (I suppose we mean Miranda Gilbert, and not Isobel Fleming? Hard to tell) were high-school friends, and when Mikael (RIP, VVS) came hunting for the baby doppelganger Abby led him away and trapped him in North Carolina, which drained all her powers. This is a perfectly fine way to weave her into the mythology, and provides nice symmetry to the current generation, but her reason for staying gone – magic-less, in a new city, she decides to start over as someone new – don’t quite ring true. Just deciding to abandon her daughter (because motherhood was harder than being a witch, or what?) would make her the worst mother on the show besides Matt’s, and that’s before we understand that Jaime is not biological hers. She just chose to raise someone else’s kid and never checked in on her own? This woman is totally misinterpreting the episode’s title – and Abby’s surprise at Grandma Sheila’s death also raises a question I’ve had for a while about “Bennett witches”. If the “witchy” gene is female, then why is Bonnie’s last name Bennett? Did it skip a generation? My point is, was Sheila Abby’s mother, or mother-in-law? Either way, just expecting your daughter’s grandmother to take care of things is weird.
The actual plot that occurs once all that backstory’s out of the way only does so much to dispel my disappointment. As always, the enemy beat our side to the punch (these kids should seriously never enter the houses of strangers, it’s almost always a trap) and a hybrid has compelled Jaime to kill himself if Abby can’t get the coffin location out of Bonnie. Bonnie is understandably not moved by this at first – the secrecy of the coffin location is paramount, and people she doesn’t really know (and sometimes people she does) die in terrible fashion all the time – but Abby’s compromise (“warn your friends” is another beautiful display of this show’s firm placement in the twenty-first century) reassures her that letting it slip won’t spell disaster, and her mother’s subsequent plea to help her, magic or no magic, was sweet. Bonnie and I are still wondering exactly what she’s gonna bring to the table, but after all this time I’m at least willing to see how long it takes Abby to give Damon a migraine. Those are always satisfying.
Overall, “The Ties That Bind” left everyone’s relationships knottier than before, but I like my Mystic Falls crew at loose ends. It leaves me better prepared for the inevitable twists.
Next time: Elijah and Klaus versus Stefan and Damon, which is awesome because both sets of brothers aren’t exactly swimming in fraternal love right now…