I need to get a thesaurus, because the phrase “another amazing episode” is going to get tired this season. But Smells Like Teen Spirit was another amazing episode. As the seniors (and Jer) returned to Mystic Falls High and reflected on how different their lives were one short year ago, we were treated to a number of callbacks to season 1 to share in that feeling of how simple things used to be. But thank the TVD gods that things have become so damn complicated.
Unquiet Spirits: After drowning himself to talk to Vicki last episode, we know how desperate Matt is to see Vicki and not feel so lonely, a feeling Vicki shares. It makes them easy marks for the Original Witch to target. By using magic on both sides of the living/dead divide (Matt performing a spell in his garage, and the witch doing juju on the Other Side), Vicki was made more corporeal. She could manipulate objects, appear wherever she wants without assistance, and though no one but Matt and Jer could see her, she could feel. Which led to that touching sibling hug — before the bonk on Matt’s head with the wrench. Way to taint a precious moment, Vick. Vicki agreed to a deal with the Original Witch: she can be freed from the near-total isolation of ghost existence, if she kills Elena thereby cutting off Klaus from his ability to create more hybrids. It’s a price Vicki’s willing to pay (and let’s be honest, Vicki was never a big fan of Elena’s), but Matt realizes that having her back is “wrong” (his version of “the balance of nature is upset”) and he certainly won’t stand for her killing anyone in order to assuage their loneliness. Though Vicki has been sent back by Matt when Bonnie cuts off the magic that’s pushed her into the living side, at the end of the episode Anna touches Jeremy and they both feel it. It’s as though the magic that was done to allow Vicki greater access to the living world affected the unquiet spirits in the greater Mystic Falls area. Was that a deliberate act by the Original Witch, or a side effect to messing with the balance of nature?
In his truck at the beginning of the episode, Vicki tells Matt that he was always better at being a part of “this” than she was, but Matt is far more isolated now than he was last year. In the past two episodes, we’ve seen Matt and Bonnie hang out (if you can call panicked save-your-friend’s-life magic sessions “hang outs”); could a closer friendship between these two be on the horizon? Her romance with Jeremy crowded by the spirits of his dead girlfriends, Bonnie is frustrated by Jeremy’s lack of understanding of how it feels for her and by his lack of communication skills. With Jer and Anna’s handholding at the end of the episode and confession that they can’t stop thinking about each other, it seems like Bonnie and Jeremy’s romance may soon come to an end.
The Return of the Obnoxious: Caroline had a d-bag vampire boyfriend this time last year, who used compulsion without subtlety and was on the wrong side of the fight. And Tyler’s first day back at MFHS is troubling for Care, who sees in him the return of the pre-werewolf personality. In all the excitement of Tyler becoming a hybrid, I had forgotten that the same “heightened personality” issues would affect him as they do everyone who is turned vampire. But with Tyler, it’s more complicated than merely an exercise in self-control. He’s been sired, and though Tyler doesn’t want to be anyone’s “freaky hybrid slave minion,” we don’t yet know how powerful the hold that Klaus’s blood has over him in guiding his decision-making. Does he give in and feed on Rebekah’s gift because she tells him Klaus would want him to, or because he’s a baby vampire and there is an open neck wound in front of him?
I love how Rebekah has decided that since she’s stuck in Mystic Falls, she may as well have a little fun while she’s here — and she’s going to play the part of the usurping new girl who takes Caroline’s popularity, status on the cheerleading squad, and boyfriend. Just as she tells Stefan, it’ll never be a fair fight between Caroline and Rebekah — with age comes strength and experience; and we’ve already been told she has a mean streak and impeccable instincts about people. But what she lacks is Caroline’s heart and the determination that gives her. Curious to see how this develops, especially after Tyler’s midnight snack.
Klaus’s other left-behind minion — the bodyguard of a human blood-bag — is almost bested in Smells Like Teen Spirit but is nonetheless impressive in his villainy. I have to say, as awful as Stefan is (and playing Twister with your breakfast is pretty … twisted), it’s a ton of fun to watch. Paul Wesley seems like he is having a grand old time being the obnoxious Salvatore brother, playing the tormentor, bully, and enforcer. And it’s making the love triangle even more fascinating: Stefan watches Elena watching Damon get his “flirt on” with Rebekah and comments on her jealousy, knowing that Damon would love that it bothered her to see them together (even though it was her idea). And though Stefan and Elena share a meaningful look (or a look that looks meaningful? this show…) when he catches her, Elena has her share of moments with Damon too — when he shows her the way to a vampire’s heart (oooh) and when he unnecessarily dabs some ointment on her cheek, which is totally just an excuse to be in close proximity and stare at each other. Both brothers have also made oaths where Elena is concerned: both Ripper and Regular Stefan will always protect her, and Damon has sworn to never leave her and, in this episode, says he’ll do whatever she needs him to. For those of you with strong feelings about Elena’s romantic destiny, is this torture? Because for me, it’s an absolute delight. The messier, the better.
Warrior Princess: As it’s been since season 1, Elena’s humanity is her strength. Without giving up hope that Stefan will once again find his own humanity, she’s determined to be her own bodyguard and learn to defend herself. Despite living with vampires, werewolves, and witches for a year now and often being their target, Elena has never felt unsafe in this way: Stefan, the person she loves, attacked and fed on her and would likely have killed her, had Klaus not needed her alive to be his blood bag. So in Smells Like Teen Spirit we see sleepless Elena drag her butt out of bed in the wee hours of the morning to train with Alaric in the forest (amazing), and her resolve extends straight through the whole episode. She trains, she follows Alaric’s advice to put some meat on her bones, and she comes up with a plan to trap Stefan until Mikael can kill Klaus. (And it would’ve worked if it weren’t for that murderous stoner ghost.)
It’s been difficult to watch Elena’s singular focus on Stefan in the early part of this season: she knows he’s leaving a trail of bodies but she doesn’t seem to react to the horror of that reality; she just wanted him to come home so she could draw out his old self. In The Reckoning she witnessed him kill firsthand, and in a great moment got angry with him, telling him that he owed it to her to fight against Klaus’s compulsion. Her unwavering need to remember what happened has sparked that Petrova fire. She’s going to fight to protect herself from being his or Klaus’s victim again and she’s going to fight to bring back the Stefan she knows. The final exchange with Stefan in this episode was classic: the cruelty of his closely whispered insult, calling her pathetic, and instead of breaking down, Elena finds the strength she didn’t have that morning when she was staking the dummy. Don’t underestimate Ms. Gilbert; she’s the strongest person Alaric knows.
For Elena to ask Alaric to train her in vampire hunting was a smart move — she can learn a ton from Ric, and not just about the nitty-gritty of fighting. He has experience in having a loved one turn into a ruthless vampire, and uniquely understands the pain Elena is in and the drive that it’s giving her. And it also gives him a purpose (beyond teaching a motley supernatural crew about American history). He continues to watch out for Elena, hovering around her interactions with Damon to make sure those lingering glances don’t linger too long or too meaningfully.
Though Klaus was AWOL this episode, he was still very much in control of the characters, a situation that soon may be upset should Mikael follow through on his statement to Katherine that not only can he kill Klaus, but he will.
But until then, there’s a pesky ghost infestation problem in Mystic Falls and Mason’s ruining the Salvatore mansion décor…
Compelling Moment: Not-sober Elena! Her half-faked, half-real unhinged on the bleachers act was entertaining, charming, and heartbreaking, and I loved how it forced the misbehaving Stefan to turn straight-edge. And that tantalizing moment between them when he catches her … and then is shot in the back.
The Rules: When Tyler expresses his staunch Team Klaus support, Damon suggests that it’s a result of being sired — a rare phenomenon where a new vampire (or, in this case, vampire-werewolf) feels loyalty to the vampire whose blood created him. Mikael reveals that he does not feed on living things: he feeds on vampires.
- Did Elena really not tell Alaric about the whole Stefan-is-her-bodyguard thing until Stefan showed up at school? Alaric and Elena live together. I know the writers need these moments of exposition to remind the audience of just what the hell is going on, but the lack of communication among this tight-knit gang is bonkers. Be more like, Damon, y’all — he called Elena post-haste after Rebekah took up residence.
IfWhen something weird happens, activate the phone tree.
- Was the bonfire party on school property? It seems really weird to have a raging party with a keg in plain view and drunken teenagers at an event held by the “Spirit Squad” promoted with posters in the school. But whatever, it’s Mystic Falls; I guess they don’t have to keep teen drinking on the DL anymore. Go Timberwolves!
- Who invited Rebekah into the Lockwood mansion? Off-camera invite from Mayor Lockwood? (For those wondering about how Rebekah got into the Salvatore house, there is no living owner; any vampire can wander in, like Katherine did in the season 2 finale. Elena died in the sacrifice and the whole deed-signing thing was rendered useless.)
Other thoughts & questions to ponder before Ghost World (307):
- The Buffy reference was so worth the wait and perfectly timed with Alaric and Elena’s forest training session playing out so very Giles-Buffy. (And the Damon-Elena “this is the way to a vampire’s heart” moment reminded me of the Angel-Cordelia training scene in Angel.)
- By draining the blood of other vampires, isn’t Mikael kind of just drinking human blood by proxy? Like a baby bird getting regurgitated food from its mama bird? Not the highest of moral high ground — unless something terrible happens to the vampires he drinks from. Which brings me to my next question…
- What happens to a vampire who is fed on and drained of blood? Are they left desiccated but still alive? If feeding doesn’t kill a vampire, does Mikael finish them off with a stake or beheading? Is our girl Katherine going to be the new occupant of that tomb in Charlotte, North Carolina? Or is her intel on Klaus enough to make her a necessary ally for Mikael?
- (Clearly I am fascinated by this vampire-blood-sustained vampire…) Could a regular vampire survive on the blood of other vampires, or is Mikael special in some way?
- Did Rebekah drop a big old clue to the Original family’s history when she asked Mr. Saltzman about the Vikings?
- Have we seen the last of Vicki?
- Mason made his cliffhanger surprise appearance, beating up Damon for a little revenge fun. Which other spirits are now more corporeal in Mystic Falls? Will they be visible to those who have died and been resurrected in some way (a.k.a. 99% of the MF population)?
What did you think of Smells Like Teen Spirit? Sound off below with your likes/dislikes, theories, and predictions!
Crissy Calhoun is the author of Love You to Death: The Unofficial Companion to The Vampire Diaries and Love You to Death — Season 2. When not obsessively re-watching CW shows, she works as managing editor at ECW Press in Toronto. She blogs at crissycalhoun.com and tweets @crissycalhoun.
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