Michael Malarkey (left), Ian Somerhalder/The CW
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On the surface, this episode was everything I’ve been waiting for: the characters all interacted with each other; Damon was in the same room with both Enzo and Alaric; and there was a good amount of drinking, snarking, and violence. It even featured perhaps the most monumental moment on the show since season three when Elena takes the cure and becomes human again. Yet despite all of these positives—including a return appearance by everyone’s favorite evil witch trapped in a prison world—the episode itself was strangely staid. One thing is certain: This is turning out to be some kind of weird season of The Vampire Diaries.

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By far, the biggest thing that happens here is Elena’s decision to take the cure. As soon as it was introduced there was really no other way this was going to go, so I applaud the writers for doing it so quickly once she finds out about its existence. Elena wanting to be human is totally consistent with who she is as a character, so the real story the show wants to tell around Elena taking the cure is what the cure means for her relationship with Damon. What’s good about that story here is that they have an actual, honest conversation about what taking the cure means for their relationship, and they both come out of that conversation wanting to live a life together as human. It puts them on the same page, just in time for everything to fall apart. Because when Elena takes the cure, all of the memories Alaric compelled away come rushing back, and Elena remembers something very important—that she and Damon have had this conversation before, and Damon definitely didn’t want to become human.

Where the writers then lose me is with what happens next. Last week, it seemed as if Damon deciding to take the cure and become human with Elena signaled a deepening of his ability to be fully connected to another person, so connected he was willing to give up something he loved as much as he loves being a vampire. Throughout this entire episode everyone around Damon told him he shouldn’t become human, and he steadfastly disagreed. Then, Elena takes the cure and magically now agrees with them, and tells Damon she basically won’t even allow him to take the cure because she knows he doesn’t want it. Stories where people tell other people how they feel are some of my least favorite, and this one feels particularly insulting for some reason. Of course, we know that Damon can’t take the cure and become human, because he’s staying on the show and Elena is leaving. But that’s outside knowledge informing our understanding of a story; the story should be able to stand on its own without this knowledge, and right now it just isn’t. At least not yet.

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While Damon is dealing with Elena and the cure, Stefan is busy dealing with their mother and her descent into Ripper-dom. Stefan knows now that everything Lily said to him to get him to turn his humanity switch on was just her parroting Damon’s words, and although he isn’t happy about it, he’s still very committed to helping her calm her Ripper tendencies and learn to live a controlled vampire life like he does. For some reason, although Paul Wesley does his best to sell it the connection between Lily and Stefan isn’t nearly as palpable as the connection between Damon and Lily was, and that makes their scenes lose a bit of their sparkle. The highlight of the story is honestly Lily’s interaction with a newly-human Elena, when Elena is forced to defend herself and Old Kickass Elena makes a roaring comeback, stabbing Lily in the eye with a pin and making a quick getaway. Damon and Stefan finally manage to subdue Lily long enough to get her locked away in the dungeon, but her threat still hangs over the season in the form of her “family,” trapped in a prison world with Kai and ready to spring themselves on Mystic Falls when the plot deems it prudent.

As for Kai, yes, he’s still in the picture, and it is revealed he has more reason than ever to want to get back to the real world: Jo is pregnant with twins, twins who can eventually merge and strip Kai of all his power. As much as Bonnie wants to keep Kai locked up, there is no doubt now that he is getting out. The question now is if he will get out before or after Alaric and Jo flee and go into hiding in order to save the lives of their unborn babies. Who had season six in the “weddings and supernatural babies in danger” pool?

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Stray observations:

  • Is Elena remembering the season four cure story the most unintentionally meta moment the show has ever had?
  • Stefan is terrible at lying. Has he always been this terrible at lying or is he just going through a rough patch?
  • I love how Bonnie immediately stepped in between Jo and Lily and then flat-out refused to ever help Lily get her family back from the prison world. Sure, it earned her a receipt spindle in the jugular, but way to stick up for your beliefs, Bon Bon.
  • Enzo’s befuddlement over the Jell-O shot was the most I’ve liked Enzo all season.
  • I enjoy Kai’s campfire cornbread and Collective Soul aesthetic.
  • Damon talked to Enzo! Damon talked to Alaric! They talked about important things, like the cure! It’s nice to see characters actually interacting again like they’re friends, considering they’re supposed to be friends!
  • One nice thing was that Caroline wasn’t forgotten even though she was absent in this episode. Characters often get swept under the rug when they’re off screen on this show, so it was nice to see her at least get acknowledged.
  • This week, in Matt Donovan Is The Best: Let’s break down this Matt thing, because Matt is finally getting a defining personality trait and it interests me. Matt hating vampires is probably the most relatable story anyone on this show has ever gotten. I am very hopeful that this is setting him up as some kind of antagonist for Stefan and Damon next season, as Mystic Falls could use anything to make it feel like an actual place again. Matt on the police force working against Stefan and Damon seems like a decent way to jump off that story.
  • Damon: “I wasn’t going to leave it in the soap dish.”
  • “All my friends are killers, except you.” Matt, I think you died so many times your memory is failing you. Tyler is definitely a killer. (Note: As Sara pointed out in the comments, this definitely was said to Alaric. Thankfully Alaric has also killed people so Matt still needs a memory check.)

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