Let me start by saying: Called it, Vampire Diaries! Well, sort of. I called the idea that Rick would kick the bucket soon, but I didn’t take into account the fact that dead doesn’t necessarily mean dead on this show. Heck, even if Esther hadn’t turned Elena’s pseudo-guardian into a Super Vampire, he probably would have come back as a ghost. Because, apparently, Jeremy is a medium now. While Rick’s semi-demise wasn’t as shocking as the marketing wanted us to believe, it did deliver grounds for a truly emotional climax – something that’s been missing for a few episodes. (The Damon makeout was hot, but let’s be honest: It eschewed real emotion for sexual tension.)
Still, despite the nonstop storyline acrobatics, something about the episode feels disjointed or unfinished. I felt like I pulled an Alaric and blacked out in the middle of the episode and somehow landed in bizarro world by episode’s end. That off-kilter feeling certainly keeps us hanging on for fear of losing our balance as we head towards the finale, but I don’t exactly appreciate being jostled like this, TVD. We love you. The least you could do is handle us with a little more care.
We’re dropped right into Esther/Rebekah’s evil plotting. Still inhabiting the body of her daughter, Esther gives Klaus a decoy White Oak stake to burn and he takes the bait like a mouse in a snap trap. His next move is whisking Elena away to some faraway land and putting the clusterf**k that is Mystic Falls in his rearview. Luckily, Rebekah/Esther convinces Klaus to stay for one last hurrah at the decade dance. Game, set, match.
Next step: get her own body back now that she’s tricked Klaus. She has Alaric dagger Rebekah’s body and Esther’s body comes back to life. Now for part one of her evil (muah-ha-HA) plan: bind the magic in Rick’s ring to the white oak stake so it’s indestructible and can be used on multiple Originals — “the ultimate weapon for the ultimate hunter.” Obviously, none of the characters on this show can walk around with a complete working knowledge of all this hocus pocus, but how is it possible that in an entire season of scheming and research, none of the good guys thought of trying to bind that magic to the stake before? It is slightly obnoxious when the game changes this often and this erratically. Get it together, Salvatores.
Suddenly, we’re at the dance and reminded that most of our characters are in fact still in high school. (Which kind of sheds a little creepy light on that motel makeout and excursion with an almost 200-year-old vampire, Elena.) While Elena and Caroline giggle over Bonnie bringing Jamie to the dance, she does the super best friend thing and convinces Elena to ask Stefan to be her date, using the all-powerful excuse for potentially kissing two Salvatores in the span of a week: Her love life is like The Bachelor and it’s Stefan’s turn for a coveted one-on-one. (You would, Caroline. You would.) When Elena does call Stefan and offer him a shot to win her heart so he’ll have the chance to propose to her on a mountain top in Switzerland or Zimbabwe or whatever exotic locale Vampire Bachelorette chose this cycle, he’s so happy he brings back Season 1’s puppy dog smile. Oh, how I missed that.
And it gets even more heartbreakingly adorable when Stefan picks Elena up and she reminds him of what he said last time they were happy: It may be an Original vampire, undying witch-infested world out there, but they’ve got to live their lives. When Stefan and Elena arrive at the dance with pixie dust and stars in their eyes, they’re forced into (see: jump at hungrily) a slow dance together and Elena tries to tell him about Denver. But Stefan has finally returned to being the perfect super undead-man he was when we first met him and tells her he doesn’t want to know, he’s just grateful to be her date. (And my teen drama-loving spirit swooned so hard, I dropped my glass of red wine.) But nothing that cute can last and Damon interrupts with bad news: Rick’s off his meds (or magical, evil alter ego hindering herbs). He thinks Rick will go after Elena and that they should kill him. When Jeremy overhears and storms off, Elena follows him and gets scooped up by Esther because Doppelgänger blood is apparently the simple syrup necessary for every super natural cocktail.
Enter part two of Esther’s evil plot to destroy the (vampire) world: Make Rick another Original vampire so he can hunt her children like her husband Michael did and eradicate the entire vampire race. His alter ego is so hateful towards vampires that he’ll be a pure vampire killing machine. Against her will, Elena’s blood is used to complete the ritual and just like that, Rick is in transition.
NEXT: Klaus and Caroline k-i-s-s-i-n-g?
At the dance, Caroline warns Matt to back off from Elena because she’s spoken for — double time (Sorry, Matt. You have to be undead to be on Elena’s season of The Bachelorette) — and those who fall for her often get hurt. As if she didn’t have enough problems, Tyler shows up, risking being caught by Klaus, because he’s insanely jealous of the Original’s little crush. Ten points to the writers for finally injecting some senior in high school language into a script: Klaus is looking to “mack all over” Tyler’s girl.
Like clockwork, Klaus shows up and cuts in on Caroline and Tyler. In order to avoid suspicion, Tyler acts like he’s still sired (which also means we have no idea if he actually broke the bond or if he’s still chained to Klaus like a werepuppy). As Tyler seethes watching his girl get “backed on,” Klaus tells her he’s leaving town, but he knows that someday she’ll come knocking when she tires of her “small town boy.” Later, she tells Tyler he has nothing to worry about when he says he’d rather let Klaus die (and by default, himself) if that means Klaus stays out of Caroline’s life. But is that it? She loves Tyler more than she loves planning over-the-top, unrealistic high school dances and Klaus has no chance? They never even accidentally kissed! Why, Vampire Diaries? Why?
Bonnie and her new beau Jamie have a little alone time, and for a split second Bonnie gets to be happy, but Damon, the Great Interrupter, storms in and demands her help: Esther has put a boundary spell on the gym, trapping all supernatural beings inside. She agrees to help reluctantly, and mostly because she’s worried about Tyler and Caroline, but Bonnie does take the opportunity to make the Salvatores feel the pain for turning her mother into a vampire. In a matter of seconds and without much struggle at all, Bonnie breaks the super witch’s spell and goes home to cuddle happily with Jamie, who’s surprisingly okay with her ridiculous, supernatural lifestyle.
Back at the tomb, Esther tries to convince Elena that a world without vampires is the right kind of world just as Matt and Jeremy show up to save Elena, but Esther tries to force them to kill each other. Luckily, nice Rick has returned and he kills her. Convenient? Yes. But we needed to move onto the sad part and Esther was getting out of hand, okay? Rick decides that he’s too dangerous to make the transition to vampire and that he’s going to die instead. Suddenly, everyone is outside the tomb with a candle light vigil in his honor. It’s a little disjointed, contrived, and a slightly creepy rip-off of the final scene from Return of the Jedi, except they’re not ghosts and Rick’s the one dying. But it makes for an emotional (almost) exit.
In an inevitable turn of events, Klaus and Stefan agree on how to handle Esther, so they bond for a second over the few good times they had together in the ‘20s. Damon is jealous, but Klaus mentions that when Elena chooses one brother over the other, that bond will be shaken. How many people is Damon going to have to fight over? But how delicious is Stefan teaming up with his mortal frenemy once more? It’s coming, people. In the meantime, Klaus finds Rebekah and undaggers her, convinced that he’s bested his mother. But is her undying spirit still bound to Rebekah? Will the vampiress awaken with her evil mother still inside her? Either way, this is not all wrapped up with a bow, and Klaus has no idea that the super white oak dagger is in Rick’s possession.
Meanwhile, Elena has lost (or so she thinks) another person she loves. In a tender moment that we’ve been waiting all season for, Stefan pulls her into the gym and reminds her about the time Klaus had him turn his emotions off. His tender speech evokes the one she delivered to him approximately 1,000 times this season: emotions are what make us human, whether they’re good or bad. She never gave up on him, and now, she needs to take her own advice. Tell me you didn’t gasp to the point of lightheadedness when she said, “I don’t have anyone anymore” and Stefan responded “You have me.” Yes, Vampire Diaries. That’s what we’re waiting for.
Back at the tomb, Damon is keeping Rick company as he passes away, so they share a bottle of scotch in a final moment of drinking buddy bonding. But, it’s not that simple, duh. Bonnie has a dream about Esther telling her to finish what she started, but she wakes up next to Jamie and smiles. Just when think for once Bonnie’s dream doesn’t spell certain doom, she shows up at the tomb possessed by Esther and she feeds Rick her blood, completing his transition. Hello, super vamp. And you can bet Nice Rick has no part of this new Original Vampire killing machine. That’s certainly one way to up the ante as we fly towards the finale like a vamp on a shifty run through the forest.
Who do you think Elena will choose? It’s certainly looking like Stefan. Will you howl at the moon if she chooses herself? (I will.) What’s going to happen with Rick the Vampire? Is he really evil enough to eradicate an entire race of supernatural beings? Will he still have his good side? Is Bonnie permanently possessed by Esther or was that just a quickie? Can you even wait until next week? (I can’t!)
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.