This is the episode I’ve been waiting for all season. This is the episode that finally incorporates all the things The Vampire Diaries does best, and manages to throw in a good dose of crazy at the end. There are a few moments that don’t quite land and a few characters that still aren’t quite working as well as the show needs them to, but overall it was the most satisfying episode of the season so far.

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“Best Served Cold” works because it features the hallmark of every good TVD story: Dangerous people with opposing objectives facing off against each other in some sort of battle. The fight here is the Salvatore brothers versus Lily and Julian, which is the quintessential type of TVD feud because it involves a good dose of shared history between the characters. The feud is made even more interesting because each part of the quadrangle has their own separate motivations for wanting to destroy the other (or wanting them to not be destroyed, in Lily’s case). Stefan wants Julian dead for killing his unborn child. Damon wants Lily dead for giving Kai the idea to take Elena away from him. Julian wants… well, we aren’t quite sure what Julian wants yet but none of it looks like the desires of an upstanding citizen. And Lily? Lily just wants Julian to accept her new, non-violent lifestyle and for everyone to live happily ever, very much alive.

How does Lily try to get everyone to get along? By throwing a big party, of course. While Lily invites Stefan, Damon, and their gang to broker peace, Stefan and Damon are there to cause trouble. The first hiccup in their plan is that Stefan and Damon are on completely different pages about how they should go about ruining their mother’s life. Stefan wants to kill Julian immediately, but Damon wants to wait and let Lily get good and happy, then take all that happiness away. These cross-purposes—along with Stefan’s reluctance to tell Damon exactly why he is so insistent on killing Julian—lead to a fun (if slightly unnecessary) sequence where Stefan takes Damon out of the equation and tries to take care of Julian himself.

Stefan’s attempt to kill Julian doesn’t even come close to working, but it does lead to a great Salvatore brothers scene where he finally tells Damon all about what Julian did, and they then bond over the children they’ll never have. This scene is emblematic of why the episode works: It features core characters who are actually in the same place, in the same story, and actually carrying on conversations with each other. The foregrounding of Lily and the Heretics was like an anchor around the neck of the show for most of the season, but for the most part they’re used in just the right way here: As color, with the core characters in the foreground.

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The other main story of the episode also featured core characters, as Alaric tries to figure out why Jo’s new vampire occupant seems to be suddenly rejecting its new occupant. It isn’t until Caroline and Valerie show up and Valerie points out that the stone is supposed to reunite vampires with their own bodies, not with human bodies, that they figure out Jo’s body is essentially rejecting its host and she’s going to die. Jo’s death lets the show do two important things: Alaric gets to say a final, emotional goodbye to Jo (even if it isn’t actually Jo in her body at the time), and the show gets to do something absolutely insane with the plot.

When I say insane, I mean truly nuts: Jo’s and Alaric’s unborn twins were not only saved by the Gemini Coven somehow, but they are now somehow residing in Caroline’s uterus. I think. Probably? There are about 500 reasons this plot twist makes no sense whatsoever, but because it involves magic that might not matter because magic is the ultimate hand-wave. Still, there are questions: How did they even get in there? Can vampires carry a fetus to term? Can they grow placenta? Did The Vampire Diaries just invent the most lucrative surrogacy strategy of all time? It might be dumb and it might make no sense, but it’s certainly interesting. And interesting is something this season can certainly use.

Stray observations:

  • Caroline’s future fiancé is Alaric. Alaric?! This show has officially gone crazy, but I look forward to seeing how they get there.
  • Matt and Bonnie found what boils down to a farm of compelled humans in the high school, and there’s no way Julian isn’t behind that whole thing. How long until Lily just kills him herself? Also, I enjoy Matt and Bonnie investigating things together, more of this, please.
  • I really need Nora and Mary Louise to get distinct personalities other than “in a relationship, mostly angsty about it for no reason.” They are not working.
  • Julian and Beau fencing brought back a lot of Spartacus feelings. It’s nice to see Todd Lasance getting a nice, juicy role in Julian.
  • Bonnie and Enzo as a couple in the future still freaks me out a bit, but their chemistry is definitely pretty decent. I enjoyed their fake date.
  • This Week, In Matt Donovan Is The Best: “Why would a group of vampires hang around an abandoned town with nothing to eat?”; Matt tricking Damon into drinking vervain then sedating him with a needle to the neck; Matt in a suit. (Matt got a press photo and everything this week! Good job, Matt!)
  • “Here I thought she slept standing up like a horse.”

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