The main question surrounding The Vampire Diaries' heartbreaking episode "Stand By Me" was not would you cry, it was when. Did your eyes well when Matt, confused and shocked, hugged Elena after hearing the news? Did Bonnie bursting into tears cause you to do the same? Was your breaking point when Elena pulled back the blanket from her brother's face and finally realized what had happened? Or were you somehow able to make it until Elena's devastating monologue about all the people she'd lost as she doused her house in lighter fluid? Maybe, if you had nerves of steel, you lasted until Matt sobbed alone in his truck (you heartless bastard).
Regardless, if "Stand By Me" didn't leave you in a puddle of emotion by the end, you probably weren't paying enough attention. Put down the iPad and try watching again.
Nina Dobrev gave her most powerful performance yet as an in-denial Elena who refused to accept the fact that Jeremy was for real dead, decomposing flesh and all. It took more than half of the episode — and Bonnie spouting nonsense — to realize that her little brother, and her last surviving family member, was gone. And it only happened when poor innocent April called. "Jeremy can't come to the phone right now ... he's dead." That's one way to tell someone about their friend's death.
It was blunt, but it finally got Elena to snap out of it. She ran upstairs and saw her brother's lifeless face, finally realizing that he would never come back. Her unhinged monologue about all the loved ones she'd lost — told as she doused her living room in lighter fluid and bourbon (pouring one out for her homie, Alaric) — was the finest work Dobrev's done on the show, and watching her face as Damon told her to turn off her humanity was chilling. Elena's gone, y'all, and she's taking her house down with her.
Aside from Elena's tragic arc, watching Matt grieve his friend's death was the saddest part of the episode. Seeing someone privately grieve is one of the most intimate things you can experience, and watching Matt cry alone in his car was one of the human moments we've ever seen on the show. On a series with so much death, we don't often see the characters weigh the impact of loss. We see the aftermath, but we don't see their sadness. But this situation was different — we needed to see their sadness to realize the gravity of it all.
Speaking of upsetting, Bonnie's total delusion that she can not only bring Jeremy back but that she can lift the veil and eliminate the realm of the other side is just 100 percent bonkers. Why, after all this, would she trust Shane enough to do some weird spiritual triangle with him and Silas? She broke down in tears when she found out that Jeremy was dead. It was totally Shane's fault for leading them all on the hunt to the island, yet she still thought it was a great idea to facilitate Silas doing some weird body-jumping thing into Shane's body so he can brainwash Bonnie into some murdering.
Now, the question: Is Shane dead? Is Bonnie taking orders from Silas? Or did Bonnie get brainwashed into killing Shane, thinking it was Silas? There's a lot of explaining to do in the next episode.
Although Elena and Matt were the MVPs of the night, Caroline definitely deserves an honorable mention for being so supportive of Elena (and so sad as she relayed the situation to Tyler via voicemail). Plus, she straight-up told Bonnie that she was bananas. Second honorable mentions go to Damon and Stefan, who both tried to help Elena grieve in their own ways while respecting each other's feelings.
But back to the Gilbert house in flames: The house being destroyed marks yet another new beginning for the show, which has evolved incredibly over the past nearly four years. We'll have a two-week hiatus to come to terms with Jeremy's loss (RIP Little Gilbert's arms, too) before we get a look at a turned-off Elena. (She kind of looks like fun, at least for an episode or two.) Hopefully we'll also watch how everyone else deals with Jeremy's death (and Elena's loss too, in a way), instead of just watching them worry about how to keep Elena safe/sane/happy/etc.
Your turn: What did you think of this heart-wrenching hour? How long did you last before bursting into tears? How long do you think it'll take to get used to the fact that Jeremy's gone? On an exciting note, Elena's journey throughout the rest of the season looks very different and extremely interesting, right?
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[PHOTO CREDIT: Bob Mahoney/The CW]