That was…not what I expected after a three week break, to say the very, very least. I had to watch this episode again to get a title, or a bead on how this whole murder thing finally got resolved, or really any information that didn’t directly relate to Sepia Damon’s lack of contractions, Present-Day Damon’s haircut (VICTORY) and Matt Donovan’s heavage. Word to the producers: please, please, please no more info-dump episodes after hiatuses, especially when half the episode will be people sitting around talking in present day instead of actually acting in the past.
Since it’s been awhile, I’ll bring you back up to speed: Damon, after noticing Stefan’s covert efforts to drag himself back on the wagon, officially became the Bad Brother again by turning Bonnie’s mother, Abby, in order to break Esther’s bondage curse (less dirty than it sounds). Elena does not watch her own show and is still vaguely resentful about his actions; Bonnie is rightfully resentful about always losing this ongoing game of Who Got Screwed and refuses to see Elena, with Caroline playing the role of go between. Tyler and Jeremy are still in exile (self-imposed and forced, respectively) and, oh, yeah, ALARIC GOT SHOT.
Tonight was another instance of the A and B plots intertwining, but they stayed mostly separate until the end since about 5% of this cast of thousands got any action tonight. On the one hand, we got a meaty new installment of Team Salvatore: A History that further confirms what this season has done its best to prove all along – that this “good brother/bad brother” dichotomy is constantly evolving right along with time and fashion. In this episode alone, we saw Damon shove Stefan off the wagon twice, with very different consequences – and both times the act served to illustrate their opposing approaches to control. “1912”’s chief purpose was to introduce audiences to Sage, Damon’ s own personal anti-Lexi, the hooker (maybe not, but the ladies of Downton would not approve of that slip situation) with the heart of gold that cultivated his palate and helped him shake off his oh-so-fin-de-siecle sense of propriety. It’s basically Titanic in reverse, except Damon becomes the iceberg that guts Stefan’s ship of sobriety (metaphors are tricky, just stay with me). His tempting Stefan is more about revenge for his condition than any actual bonding, and the price of such antics is witnessing Stefan’s complete loss of composure after the first shared “drink” of their new life (I really thought for a minute he was going to suck all the blood out of that poor Lockwood girl’s detached head. My worry is as awful as it sounds).
The present day this story is told in finds Damon ready to force Stefan back on blood again, but for more altruistic purposes. Put plainly, cold turkey just seems to make Stefan coldhearted (and awesomely twitchy – Paul Wesley makes a fantastic junkie), and his brother is doing his best to remind him moderation beats extremes every time. This seems hypocritical coming from Damon, Mr. Murder-and-Promiscuity-Solves-All-Woes, but remember the year he’s had, and his involvement with the creation of Stefan’s Ripper persona – after a century of living on the edge, subsisting on emotion and hard liquor, Damon has achieved a measure of perspective that he’s ready to share. I’m interested to see how Sage’s expected return will muddle that clarity, especially after Rebecca drops in on the reminiscing with the revelation that Damon’s sultry sensei had a thing for her brother Finn (yes, the self-loathing one.) Beyond fact that no character on this show can be a romantic island, I wonder how that will alter group dynamics when the other half of the cast (hopefully) returns from hiatus next week. In the meantime, we can relish in a storyline that was a true return to form (Ravens! Fog! Jumping defenseless women in the street to make a point!) as well as a graceful way to further shade Stefan’s perceived “recovery” process – he couldn’t have looked any guiltier being caught by Elena if he’d had a heroin needle hanging out of his arm, a fact Damon notes and tries to distract him from in an attempt to make up for shirking brotherly duties in the past. For now, their focus is on one another, and I am 100% okay with that.
“1912”’s other family matter was also of the criminal variety, as Alaric woke up in jail, setting some sort of record for the victim-to-victimizer transformation. Elena, and previously, Damon, insisted on his innocence, while the other Founding Families (in the form of Mayor Lockwood, Sheriff Forbes, and Dr. Fell) continued to build a case against him. It appears the Council is not as open to newcomers as it seems – the mayor wants answers, no matter who gets hauled in for questioning, and the sheriff is a little too willing to take Meredith at her word in the face of the extenuating circumstances the gang suffers under on a regular basis. Yes, Alaric’s been shady since he showed up, but the people closest to him have seen him in action, plus he has no reason to be The Killer, while Meredith is the doctor that heals patients with vampire blood (a nice way to pivot out of that point-blank shot requiring some supernatural ‘splainin, but also – SHADY). Elena’s pursuit of The Truth can’t be accomplished without an accomplice, so Matt (the one person available to talk to her this week) decides to be his usual awesome self and pitch in with her investigation. This leads to breaking-and-entering and hiding in closets and the writers making me all fuzzy and confused by repeated evidence of the awesomeness normal teenage quarterbacks can bring to supernatural shenanigans. Goodness knows Elena was feeling the same way by the final scene – not only has she lost all her usual confidants but now Matt’s at her kitchen table, perfectly tousled, retrieving essential family journals. I like that the writers are using his character as this symbol of all the lovely ordinariness these characters have left behind, and love that Matt is himself aware of that fact.
The journal turns out to be more than just a symbol of Matt’s eye for detail. As a family record, it gives Elena great insight into the plights of previous ring owners, and tonight the tale of one Samantha Gilbert is standing out. Now, Meredith is under the impression that Alaric suffers from blackouts a la Once Upon a Time, but the gaps in his memory have less to do with being from Fairy Tale Land than they do with the fact that humans aren’t supposed to die and come back, which is a description of Ric’s typical Tuesday. The journal corroborates the theory, the fandom reels, and I lose all faith in my ability to predict anything that happens on this show anymore.
Next week: This is late, so you know what’s coming – another recap! I had to get caught up eventually.