‘Vampire Diaries’ Recap: Mystic Falls’ Serial Killer is (Spoiler!)

Damon 1912 Vampire DiariesS3E16:: Fans of the contentious love triangle on the CW’s Vampire Diaries were probably a little disappointed with this episode, but fans of a good old fashioned murder mystery (with some blood-thirsty vampires thrown in) were in luck. “1912” is all about solving the mystery of the Mystic Falls serial killer and patching up that brotherly love between Damon and Stefan.

While it certainly feels like punishment to have absolutely no movement forward in the Stelena story line – just one giant step back – it’s one thing that’s actually really great about the series. While the love triangle is the obvious hook, this episode proved that it’s got more going on than a pair of lovesick vampires.

“If you’re gonna slaughter council members, at least go a-list.” -Damon

After staring down the barrel of Meredith’s gun last week, Alaric is accused of being the killer after Meredith seems to twist the story. She healed him with vampire blood and says that he came after her with the knife from his file. And when non of Alaric’s alibis check out – he was always drunk or “sleeping” which are pretty flimsy excuses – Rick is starting to look really guilty.

And while Damon says he’s going to stay out of it, but he goes home and uses Stefan’s diaries to dig through the year 1912, when Mystic Falls last had a serial killer going after the council members. His and Stefan’s nephew, Zachariah Salvatore, was one of the victims. This somehow connects to the time he met another vampire named Sage, who taught him to stop pining over Katherine and “enjoy” women: and we’re back to Vampires 101. The art of feeding as seduction, it’s all just a little Bram Stoker, but how could the series delve into that time period and not pay homage to the classics? (It was written in 1897, so not too far off.)

“How could you do this to him? He didn’t kill anyone and you know it.” -Elena

“You date vampires, Elena. It shouldn’t come as a shock to you that your guardian is a murderer.” -Meredith

When Elena confronts her, Meredith is insistent that Rick has a pattern, along with a history of violence and alcoholism, which indicates the probability of his guilt. Determined to stop her, Elena and Matt break into Meredith’s place and find her secret cubby with files on all the victims as well as a Gilbert family journal. They find a letter from the coroner’s office saying the medical examiner’s death was at a different time than Meredith claimed, but before they can do anything about it she comes home and catches them in the closet. In that brief moment, Elena and Matt have an almost intimate silent exchange – which only prolongs her inevitable return to Stefan. Why, writers, why?

Meredith catches them and takes them to the police station, where Sheriff Forbes lets them go but tells them that Meredith turned in the letter earlier that day and she apologized for accusing Rick. And we’re at a turning point: we want to believe Meredith is the bad guy, but she doesn’t press charges and she turned in the letter. We need these factors to start believing her story.

“After my parents died, there was something about being with Stefan that felt safe.” -Elena

Though there was no forward movement for Elena’s journey back to her chosen Salvatore, there was one giant step back. Stefan is craving human blood badly after abstaining for so long, and Damon is determined to fix his cold turkey spell, convinced that moderation is the only way Stefan can be normal again. He and Rebekah threaten to kill an innocent girl unless Stefan feeds on her. He finally gives in, and Elena walks by and sees Stefan with blood all over his face. Of course, she’s completely crushed.

Matt, stealer of break-in-and-hide-in-the-closet moments doesn’t understand how she ever became so connected to a vampire, and she says he was the perfect comfort after her parents died: he can’t die on her, it felt safe. At Paleyfest, creator Julie Plec said that we’d be going back to that night when Stefan saved Elena and her parents died, so while this feels like a step back, it could in reality serve as the factor that propels that latent emotion forward.

“Before you know it, you’ll be the king of moderation.” -Damon

Now that Elena has spurned him, Damon is burning every bridge he’s got. Even the sexual one between him and Rebekah. He lets her come along and play with the big boys for a while, but as soon as Stefan finally sinks his teeth into that poor girl, Damon tells Rebekah to scram like some sort of alley cat.

With no one left, he’s ready to give all his attention to Stefan and he’s certain Stefan is making progress. And when Stefan says he doesn’t need Damon’s help, we learn the last time he said that was 1912, when Damon convinced him to drink human blood. That time, he turned into a ripper almost immediately and Damon did nothing. Damon says he did nothing because he didn’t want to something, but he wants to now. He’s certainly going off the deep end in the wake of Elena’s heartbreaking response, but not the way he did when we first met him. He may be freewheeling it a bit, but he’s putting his relationship with his brother above all else. He’s good-bad Damon.

“I’m the one that’s supposed to look after you, even though I suck at it.” -Alaric

But the big mystery this episode is whether or not Meredith is right about Rick. She’s seeming more credible and the evidence suddenly piles up. Elena reads Jonathan Gilbert’s granddaughter Samantha’s journal, and it seems insanity runs in her family. But there’s more to it.

Damon also discovers that Samantha testified about the murders, but she was deemed insane and was sent to a mental hospital. There’s just one gaping hole in this story: Damon killed her before the testimony took place. She was a Gilbert, and she had the Gilberts’ protective ring – the same one Alaric wears – and the strain of dying and coming back to life so many times started to make her crazy, literally.

Meredith comes to Elena’s house saying she cleared Alaric’s name and she wants to help him, and this time, we want to believe her. She’s redeemed herself a bit and Elena has read further in Samantha’s diary and realizes that what happened to Samantha is happening to Rick: he’s the serial killer, he just doesn’t know it. Cut to a flashback of Samantha stabbing Zachariah and our worst fears have been realized: Rick really is guilty. But how does one go about fixing a mental disorder caused by a magical ring? That’s a tall order, but a mystery worth postponing the series’ romantic hook for just a bit longer.

Did you think there was any way Alaric could have been the killer? Do you trust Meredith now, or is there more to her? Let us know in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KelseaStahler