It’s been a long summer without The Vampire Diaries, especially since most of us didn’t spend it shacking up with a beautiful vampire, sending postcards from the Other Side, or having champagne-fueled threesomes (I presume…), and season five kicked off with a fresh and fun episode. Fresh and fun but also, you know, full of suffering, torment, violence, near deaths, and actual deaths. It is, after all, The Vampire Diaries.
This is a tricky moment for any television series populated by teenagers (whether mortal or immortal): when high school ends, and there’s no longer that one convenient place to bring all the characters together. But even though the gang is all over the map (underwater, on the Other Side, in the Mountains of Appalachia…), the episode wasn’t. Across each storyline was the desire to hold on to some form of normality, to try to be functional no matter the circumstances. For Caroline and Elena, that means not outing themselves as vampires on their first day as freshmen at Whitmore College. These two as roomies is so far incredibly entertaining, and with Caroline’s hilarious and sweet turn in this premiere, it feels like maybe we’ll have a more Caroline-heavy, and nuanced, season for the character than we did last year. While she still has her Tyler drama — is Michael Trevino fated to another season of leaving Very Important Voicemails? — Caroline is all panini presses, imagining Megan-is-a-hunter scenarios, and ready to get into kidnap mode in the most awesomely Caroline way. Pair that neurotic control freakiness with the perfect mix of emotion Candice Accola gives us as Caroline lies in bed, crying at the news that Tyler won’t be joining them at college but grateful to have Elena, there at her side, charting the unknown together. Could be a good year for Caroline fans. And Elena fans.
Remember back in season one when Elena said she used to be fun? Well, gloomy graveyard girl is on hiatus in I Know What You Did Last Summer. Bonnie is right: Elena does look happy at Whitmore — and she’s had a pretty decent summer of lovin’ too. The little shoulder shrug smirk move, in response to Caroline’s question of what a normal freshmen-y thing to do might be, has totally rocketed into my top 5 Elena moments of all time. Of course, their attempt to be normal, functional college kids is doomed from the start . . . along with Megan. What at first seemed just like a touching moment may turn out to be a clue in the Whitmore Mystery: Liz tells Elena that her father fell in love with medicine at Whitmore College, and by episode’s end Elena has found a photo of her dad on the dead girl’s cell. What the heck is up? (And many more questions, below.) We don’t know much about the good doctor Grayson Gilbert, but it looks like this will be the season we find out.
Whether a few hours away at Whitmore College or back home in Mystic Falls, the normality that seems to have lasted since graduation comes to a brutal and bloody end. A college party (with super hot flyer guys…stick around and try not to get killed, Jesse) takes a turn for the grim when Megan goes sailing through a window, killed by a vampire. Meanwhile, Silas puts his favorite knife to work on the leaders of Mystic Falls, first compelling Sheriff Forbes and slicing her wrist, before in a truly horrifying moment, slitting the Mayor’s throat while the entire town watches, compelled into stillness and silence. A pleasant town event, a normal college party, a supernatural-twist-free threesome — those are not experiences the TVD gang gets to have. Even Jeremy manages to get expelled on his first day back at school, picked on for being the freak who faked his own death and reacting as if he was battling a supernatural creature and not a run-of-the-mill human jerk. Jeremy’s not yet used to his Hunter strength and agility, or the necessary secrecy that goes along with being mystically endowed, but his new roomie, Mr. Damon Salvatore, will teach him the ropes. This new pairing is also just the best. These two have so much tense history — and, awesomely, Jer is not shy to bring up the whole ‘you killed me’ thing — and the dynamic between the two is nice and complicated with Elena away at college, but still very much present in their lives. Damon is keen to keep the darkness away from her; he withholds the truth about Katherine, about Silas and Stefan, about Jer’s expulsion and near death, so that she can go on enjoying her new college life. It’s as close to being a normal supportive boyfriend as Damon is capable of, given the circumstances. And it’s pretty endearing…though likely to blow up in his face at some point down the road.
And Bonnie Bennett has just the same motivation. She refuses to let go of her “I’m still alive” ruse, forcing Jeremy to keep her loved ones duped, a lie that will no doubt be revealed one day soon with the way these TVD writers like to blaze through storylines. (Side note: love how quickly the That-Ain’t-Stefan reveal happened.) Bonnie’s putting on a happy face in the first half of the episode: she tells Jer she feels lucky to be able to talk to her best friends from beyond the grave, she wants Elena and Caroline to have their happiness, and when she stands beside them at college, unseen, it’s the most bittersweet moment. She’s there, and they have no idea. No idea that she won’t ever be joining at them at Whitmore and taking up that now vacant third roommate spot. As the episode progresses, we start to see Bonnie hitting the limits of her ghostly status: she can’t help Jer convince Damon that Silas is back, she can’t help Jeremy when he lies dying in the road after the car collides with a telephone pole, and most heartbreaking of all she can’t do anything to stop Silas from murdering her father in cold blood.
Though she’s (basically) alone on the Other Side, Bonnie has found ways to still be a presence in her loved ones’ lives, even after death, and in an inverse of that situation, Stefan finds a way to keep his loved ones with him, even as he is alone and suffering. Stefan’s living a nightmare; the horror of being trapped for months in a coffin-like prison, drowning, dying, and then doing it all over again with only your own tormented thoughts for company is a little too much for anyone’s brain to handle. So Stefan basically mind-whammies himself: he hallucinates his home — open space and daylight and sustenance — and, in the shape of his brother, Stefan tells himself to give up and turn off his emotions. While he’d still be in pain, as he drowns and drowns again, he would lose all the other emotional torment if he flipped his switch. And he very nearly does. As much as Stefan has a literal, external shadow self in Silas, he also has splits within: the conflicting voices in his head arguing for one course of action or another, which he personifies as Damon — urging him to give into impulse — and Elena. Stefan seems surprised by her appearance in the hallucination at the end (though it’s his own imagination that has conjured her), and he draws the strength to hold onto his humanity, just as he did back at the beginning of season two in their brief phone call on the night of her 18th birthday. While Graduation had Lexi urging Stefan to let go, here he chooses to hold on — to his humanity, to what his love for Elena inspires in him. It’s a poignant reminder that the people you love are with you even when you’re alone.
But what if you’ve spent 500 years deceiving, using, cheating, killing, making enemies, and running from them? Enter Katherine Pierce, Human Edition. What I love-love-loved about this Katherine (and we’ve met a lot of variations of this woman over the course of the series) is how little she’s changed. Sure, she now understands how much work mere mortals put in to look even 1% as good as she normally does, but where it truly matters she is still so very Katherine. Like the girl who hung herself to escape Klaus and Rose and Trevor, Katherine solicits help from Damon but as soon as she realizes she’s reached the limit of his goodwill, she scrambles to save herself. The scene in the car with Jeremy is great: Jeremy is giving her the silent treatment — he’s been commanded to protect the person who fed him to Silas, left him for dead, and unleashed all kinds of hell of earth — but when he turns that car around, she kicks into high gear, negotiating for her life with all she’s got. When her pleas fall on deaf ears, Katherine Pierce doesn’t accept her fate: she changes it. Crafty and quick thinking, she crashes that car and leaves Jer for dead — again. I love that the human Katherine has great importance to Silas’s plan (for reasons yet to be revealed), and our girl is back on the lam. Bruised and bloody, in a bathrobe and bare feet, no less. TVD may have lost a villain we loved to root for when Klaus left to be King of New Orleans, but Queen Katherine is proving more than capable of re-filling that role on this series. Long may she reign.
With Katherine as willing as ever to kill off Jeremy to serve her own interest, Damon is given a chance to show just how much his feelings about Little Gilbert have changed since Damon first came back to Mystic Falls at the beginning of the series. There were a few choice callbacks to earlier seasons, tweaked for the new era that is season five, but none so poignant as Damon saving Jeremy and giving him a little hug, as he came back to life — now his caretaker, not his murderer. It’s a good thing that Damon is in Hero Mode, because with his brother trapped in the quarry, Bonnie dead, Matt brain-zapped by mysterious/sexy foreigners, and the college co-eds out of town, he’s leading the charge against the impressively villainous Silas.
Of course, we met Silas last season, wearing all manner of disguises, but in I Know What You Did Last Summer we finally get a taste of his personality. He’s snarky, he’s all-knowing, he hits where it hurts. And not just when it comes to dishing out the physical violence. He casually reminds Damon that Stefan has historically been the Chosen One when it comes to their shared lady loves; he points out to Katherine just how vulnerable and weak she is; even poor Liz Forbes gets a dig (“Eating your feelings?”) before being sliced into — he really is that psychic. Silas is clearly experimenting with the limits of his abilities — chugging blood all summer — and a few new rules are established and mythology details given (see below), but the biggest question isn’t how many people he can dupe in one go. It’s the one he flat-out refuses to answer: what is his plan? What does he want with Katherine? As the one who consumed the cure, she’s got very special blood running through her veins — both laced with the cure and with her Petrova doppelgänger blood. And judging by their little tub-side flirtation, the two baddie doppelgängers onscreen together again, for some nefarious plan or another, would be a delight. The possibilities are endless with such an exciting start to the new season, and new era, of the show. Is it Thursday yet?
Compelling Moment: Silas murdering the Mayor, in front of the unmoving townsfolk with Bonnie’s screams the only sound. Absolutely chilling.
The Rules: Lots of refreshers on the rules in this episode! Bonnie can communicate with Jer, but they can’t feel each other and no one else can see her. She is also now without her witchy powers, so she can’t do a thing when Silas cuts her father’s throat. Speaking of Silas… He unloads a lot of important fun facts regarding just what he is and what he’s capable of. First of all, do not call him a vampire. He’s an immortal; vampires are just perverse knock-offs of him. He is unkillable, he needs to drink human blood in order to sustain himself, he does not have super speed, but he does have super psychic abilities — mind control, mind reading — and the more blood he drinks, the greater his ability. (R.I.P. Mayor #3.) He also has speedy healing abilities, like a vamp. When Silas touches Jeremy (or presumably any other Hunter), Jer gets a chill where his Hunter’s mark used to be — akin to the way a witch can tell someone’s a vampire by touch.
Foggy Moments: Back in The Five, Elena and Damon were able to waltz right into a party at Whitmore College, a flyer the only invite they had, but here Elena and Caroline are barred from entry because they haven’t been invited in by the homeowner, even though they have the invite from Jesse and a flyer. So, only some frat houses at Whitmore have people living in them? The comment about someone owning the house doesn’t quite jive with the established invitation rule.
Other thoughts & questions before True Lies (EP502):
- Some random awesome things that must be mentioned: Matt Donovan and Rebekah Mikaelson. Katherine’s terrible/awesome hair. That amazing transition from Elena dunking underwater in the tub to Stefan trapped in the water-filled safe. The music — perfect song choices, every one of them. “Damian.” “Damon.” And once again: this.
- Does Silas have fangs, or did those come with the vampire upgrade too? In The Walking Dead, the victim we saw in the hospital, drained of blood by Silas, had his wrists slashed, and Silas gives Liz a slice at the block party in this episode. Is that just how the guy likes to drink, or is he without the chompers to bite right in?
- The mystery of poor Megan! How did she end up as the girls’ roomie #3? Did she know they were vampires, or did someone give her that vervain-laced “protein water” to protect her from her roommates? Who killed her and why?
- When was that photo taken of Megan and Elena’s dad? Before May 2009 when Grayson Gilbert died? Is Elena’s (adopted) dad somehow alive? Does he have a doppelgänger too?
- What did Nadia’s sneaky friend to do Matt? (My guess: nothing good.) What do freaky black eyes signify — possession? Demonic something-or-other? What language was the guy speaking in? Are Nadia and her friend witches or something else? Did she know what the Gilbert ring was when she stole it? (Will she be returning Rebekah’s earrings as well?)
- Resurrected Jeremy is still a Hunter, Silas still lives… Does that mean there are still four other Hunters (or Hunter potentials) out there?
- Could Katherine become a vampire again, or would she stay dead if killed with vampire blood in her system?
Which do you think is more miserable for Katherine: being on the run in blister-causing heels, or being on the run in bare feet and a bathrobe?
What did you think of I Know What You Did Last Summer? Sound off below!
Crissy Calhoun is the co-author, with Heather Vee, of Love You to Death – Season 4: The Unofficial Companion to The Vampire Diaries and the author of the three previous volumes in the series (LoveYoutoDeathTVD.com). She tweets @CrissyCalhoun (often) and blogs at CrissyCalhoun.com (sporadically).
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