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Thursday, 25 of February of 2021

The Vampire Diaries – “The Ties That Bind”

Couldn't agree more.

So, if you read these reviewcaps regularly and  you’ve already watched this week’s episode of The Vampire Diaries, you will not be surprised to hear that I am a super happy viewer right now.  Finally!  I’ve been very, very patient, enduring countless inferior Originals, and now, at long last, a genuinely awesome character has returned.  Oh, TVD, sometimes I just love you SO much!

As far as theme this week, I guess I’d say that this episode was about characters in search of their humanity and their power [note: those two things may likely be related.]  The title is actually quite evocative—we have family ties, love ties, gratitude ties, debt ties, revenge ties—all sorts.  And many characters are desperately trying to break these ties.

The show’s handling of Tyler’s storyline has always walked a fine line between his arrogance and his vulnerability.  Tyler can be a dick, and he sometimes does terrible things, but his curse is just SO AWFUL (every bone in his body breaks every single time he turns?  No thank you) that you forgive him no matter what.  They’ve given this character depth through pain, and I am not sure I want him ever to lose the pain since it makes him more human.  Then again, Tyler is out of control, and he knows it.  Watching him try to regain his power could make him an ever better man.

Bonnie’s search this week is pretty simple—she is looking not only for her mother but also for an answer to why her mother not only left her but also NEVER CONTACTED HER. Not even a Christmas card, Abby?  I hope they let these characters work through their enormous issues [redoubled by this week’s events, I imagine.] Anyone who watches Secret Circle may admire one thing about Abby—she’s (seemingly) not a psycho  bent on getting back her magic no matter what the cost. She sure was willing to sacrifice her daughter for someone else, though, so jury is still out.  Instead of the cartoons over on Secret Circle, this show seems to want to explore a character who had a choice, and whose choice was to live her life without all this supernatural craziness.  Echoes of Jeremy here, though choice wasn’t part of his story. But the show is dancing around inevitable and painful questions–how long can one sustain a life with supernatural partners and friends?  Are the costs too much?

This could connect to Elena and Stefan, since TVD seems to be building a case that Stefan wants Elena to live her life away from all supernaturals, including himself [this isn’t a spoiler–it is my assessment of the situation based on current, albeit vague, evidence.  There aren’t a whole lot of options for the ending of the show—Elena becomes supernatural or she walks away/dies.  She can’t live like this forever (for many, many reasons).] But of more immediate interest, the show is having  a lot of fun with Stefan’s ambiguity this season.  Has he tapped back into his humanity since Klaus released him?  Is this all an elaborate ruse?  And as Damon keeps asking, how far is Stefan willing to take it?  His conversation with Elena at the end of this episode was a model of controlled, careful acting.  What did he reveal?  How should we read it?  I imagine this scene will play differently when we find out the truth of Stefan’s situation, but even without greater context, evil Stefan continues to be WAY more interesting that noble, lover-boy Stefan.

We open with Bonnie having another dream.  This time she is walking amongst the graves of all her witch relatives.  She approaches a coffin—it is THE coffin, the one she can’t open.  Klaus appears and says he thinks he knows how to open it. Then he attacks her, and she awakens trapped inside the coffin.  She has the presence of mind to do a spell, which doesn’t open the coffin.  [Note: Bonnie’s face looks super terrified and she’s screaming a lot—this scene is scary.]  Then a woman opens the coffin, and the dream ends.

After the first commercial break, Bonnie brings Elena to the witch house and shows her the coffins.  Bonnie needs Elena’s help to find the woman she saw in her dream—drum roll–her mother [the reveal that the woman was her mother is no shocker considering this has been in the spoilers for a while, but just what is their relationship is something that remains unknown and intriguing]. Bonnie says she couldn’t place her face at first, which means she hasn’t seen her mom in a really long time.  That’s sad, no?

Back at Elena’s house, the girls are looking through random IDs that Elena got from the Sheriff to find the right Abby Bennett.  Bonnie is grateful for Elena’s help—she knows the Jeremy thing has made their relationship a bit strained.  Elena doesn’t understand why Bonnie is getting involved in all of this, so Bonnie reminds her, “The coffin is spelled shut.  That makes it a witch problem.”  Damon walks in with the location of Bonnie’s mother, cause he’s awesome. Or rather, because he cheats: “a little compulsion helps to speed up the research process.”  “Road trip,” Damon announces, “I call shotgun.”  Elena shuts him down.  She says Bonnie hasn’t seen her mother in over 15 years and they don’t need his snarky commentary narrating the experience.  When Damon gives her the cutest lost puppy dog look, Bonnie notices the flirting and asks, pointedly, “what’s going on with you two?”  Damon replies with nary a moment’s pause, “We kissed. Now it’s weird.” [That was great—a character just said what is on his mind, with no hedging or other silly ways to delay a reveal. Nice.] Elena doesn’t think it is so nice.

Tyler wants to apologize to Awesome Vampire Caroline, who will have none of it: “You bit me.  I could have died.  I think we are a bit past apologies.” But Tyler is determined—he has accepted that the situation is untenable, so he called in reinforcements to help him get back control over his own actions.  In the first of the great character returns, we see Awesome Daddy Forbes walk into the room.  He explains to his daughter his willingness to help Tyler  by saying that he understands making a mistake and wanting to make good. [So apparently, all is now well between Caroline and her Dad.  Didn’t he torture her when last we saw him?  When she had to save his life by beating the crap out of Damon (ah, memories). Bygones.]

Ric and Dr Fell are enjoying an adult-beverage-free lunch.  She is going to work and can’t drink.  He comments that this depends on what kind of drinker she may be, to which Dr. Fell replies that she’s an angry drunk.  [At this point, they are making it so clear that she’s an awful person that she must be a good person.  As someone protective of Ric, I remain suspicious.  But the actress is the wife of Paul Wesley, so maybe she’ll stick around?]  The lunch date goes so well that Ric suggests their courtship graduate to dinner.

Damon enters The Grill and sees Dr. Fell walk out. “What’s her damage?” Damon asks cynically. Ric protests, but Damon assures him, “Girl that hot? That smart? Damage.”  Ric is a bit concerned, sharing that her ex did say she was psycho.  Damon gives her a break on this one, arguing that if it comes from her ex, it doesn’t count. [Aren’t you desperate to meet some of Damon’s exes?  I mean, the ones he slept with after becoming a vampire.  Guy this hot and angry?  He must have some awesome, awful exes.]  They darkly joke about Ric’s exes all being dead, and Ric mentions that her ex is the medical examiner.  Damon has to tell Ric that Dr. Fell’s ex is not “dead adjacent. He’s just dead. Murdered”  [Best line of the night.]  Ric is now concerned, musing that Meredith didn’t say anything about that.  “Red flag #2,” Damon helpfully notes.

Klaus is at the Salvatore mansion to see his old buddy Stefan.  He’s upset that his hybrids have left town yet he remains alone in the world.  He wants to know what Stefan wants, but Stefan assures him, “I’m not negotiating.”  In fact, Stefan wants Klaus to leave Mystic Falls for a few years, and then maybe they can talk.  Klaus points out that this demand is a tad bit unreasonable, but Stefan is nonplussed.  Stefan is about to threaten Klaus, when the latter starts laughing.  “That’s right, crazy Stefan. How’s that working out for you?  Any friends left?” [Not sure how we are to read this, but basically this episode plays with the question of whether Stefan has a soul or not.  No answer is forthcoming, but the individual exchanges are interesting.]

Bonnie and Elena, driving, are having some girl time.  Elena learns that Bonnie’s mother has never called or written—harsh.  The topic gets Bonnie agitated, so she quickly diverts to a topic that makes Elena agitated—she asks about Damon.  “Was it good?” she asks.  “Doesn’t matter,” Elena grumpily replies.  “That means it was,” Bonnie suggests.  Luckily for Elena, the phone rings and interrupts the conversation.  Wait, not so lucky, it is Stefan.  Elena doesn’t want Bonnie to answer because she’s trying to make this as stress-free as a visit to your long lost mother who abandoned you as a child can be.  Bonnie reminds Elena that Stefan will simply keep calling, so Elena answers. Stefan isn’t happy that they left him behind.  “We need a night off from your insanity,” Elena harshly comments.  Stefan won’t be put off: “Klaus knows that we’re stalling.  We need to move faster.”  When the camera pulls away from Stefan, we see that he is in Elena’s house, holding the address of Bonnie’s mother.

Klaus chats with a hybrid, whom he has apparently sent to kill Bonnie’s mom, because the hybrid pulls up to a red house that, I don’t know, looks like a witchy house.  The hybrid is worried about Klaus’ welfare, but he assures him that he’s made friends with a police deputy, so he’s good. [This casual aside is never mentioned again in this episode, but I’d like to think that if he is compelling one of Sheriff Forbes’ deputies, she’ll figure that out and do something about it. Otherwise, it is sort of a dumb way for the show to cover Klaus’ security issues. So far, these hybrids have not only been ineffectual but also completely personality-free.  If we’re going to have a bunch of random hybrids walking around, at least make them interesting]

Elena and Bonnie arrive—and yes, it is the same house at which the hybrid had arrived in the scene prior.  [But as there’s no evidence of the hybrid, guess what that means, people? If you are thinking Elena and Bonnie are walking in to a trap, you’d be right.]

They ring the bell, but find no one home.  A random dude (African-American, hot) walks up from outside the house.  Of course, I think, “Bonnie has a brother!” [but I was wrong—if he’s her brother, she can’t later have a relationship with him, natch.]  Bonnie tells him, simply, “Abby’s my mom.”  “Oh,” he says. [That’s it—a little “oh” to process the information and we get no other reaction.  That’s odd, right? Elena and Bonnie don’t seem to notice the oddity, though.] “I’m Jamie,” he introduces himself.  “Are we related?” Bonnie asks, and when he says “no,” I start desperately hoping her mom is shacking up with a kid the same age as her daughter [cause I’m perverse like that.] Nope, Jamie is the son of Abby’s former boyfriend.  She lost the man, but took in the kid. [That is awfully generous for a woman who HASN’T SPOKEN TO HER DAUGHTER IN YEARS. Oh, she put him through school, too.  Bonnie didn’t get a freakin’ yearly birthday present. The writers better keep the tension up between these two, but Abby is kind of a bitch, no matter what she may be like now.]

Abby walks in the house to find Elena and Bonnie sitting at the table.  Poor Bonnie has to introduce herself–to her own mother.  “I’m Bonnie.  Your daughter.” “Hello, Bonnie,” her mom says with some emotion.

Tyler, Awesome Vampire Caroline, and her daddy are talking about how to break the sire bond between Klaus and Tyler so Tyler won’t try to kill his ex-girlfriend again.  Daddy explains, “the brain is like a muscle.  More you use it.  More you can do… The sire bond is about one thing—gratitude…To break the sire bond, you have to make yourself turn. Own your pain, then you’ll owe Klaus nothing and you’ll be free.”  [Sounds simple, right?]  Tyler tries to explain the enormity of what Daddy Forbes is asking of him—noting in particular that turning means he must break every bone in his body, one by one.  Daddy seems unimpressed, “How badly do you want your freedom?” he asks, basically daring Tyler to be a big ol’ wuss by backing down.  So Tyler tries to change of his own will—it is working. He looks at AVC and screams. [For reals, being a werewolf SUCKS.]

Elena keeps checking in on how Bonnie is doing, but Bonnie is all business: “I’m not here to get my mom back.  I’m just here to get her help.”  Abby mentions Elena’s mom, and they learn Miranda was Abby’s best friend.  This annoys Bonnie, who angrily questions, “So you had  a daughter and a best friend and and you still left?”  Abby tries to explain, “My best friend is why I left.  Fifteen years ago, a vampire came to town looking for you, Elena, the doppleganger.” We find out that it was Michael, and it was Abby that trapped him in that tomb.  Unfortunately, trapping Michael almost killed her.  “I recovered, but my  magic didn’t.  My powers never came back.”  “And neither did you,” Bonnie comments with bitterness. “This is a mistake.  She has no magic.  She can’t help us.” Bonnie tries to leave, but her mother asks her to stay.  Elena leaves them alone, and finds Stefan outside waiting for her.

Damon decides to meet Dr. Fell, cause he’s looking out for his bro. Meredith recognizes him as Ric’s friend, and asks what bring him to the hospital.  “Strolling the halls.  You know, I like to wave at newborns through the window,” Damon offers.  He’s here to test her, though, and quickly bring up the dead boyfriend and how, despite the death certificate’s claim that it was an animal attack, it most definitely was not.  “Oh wait, you signed the death certificate” he issues pointedly.   She wants to know why Damon cares about his death.  “Because Ric likes you. And if you are a psychopath, that would really suck for him…  I think psychopaths are really high maintenance.”  Here thing’s get tricky.  She says, “if you care about your friend, go figure out how Alaric came into the ICU on his deathbed, then walked out an hour later without a scratch.”  Damon smiles and says, “fair enough.”  [I thought she was suggesting that she knew Damon helped Ric, and maybe she was–to show Damon she is aware that he’s a vampire.  But now that we know her special treatment methods, was she also suggesting she helped Ric survive?]  When Damon turns away, Dr. Fell doses him with a verveine syringe.  Damon starts to wake up while Meredith is taking his blood, so she gets out of there quickly.

Tyler is suffering.  He can’t do it.  Awesome Vampire Caroline is also suffering, cause she’s just that nice—can’t handle seeing the dick who tried to kill her in pain.  Both Tyler and Daddy Forbes tell her to leave, so she does.  Daddy decides to man up Tyler and starts hitting him with an ax [for real, he is as awesome as Caroline].  “Get angry.   It’s in you.  You know it is.  Your bond to Klaus is putting my daughter in danger.  Either you turn, or I kill you right now.”  So Tyler turns.

Bonnie’s mom is trying to play nice, as if that is going to help this awful situation.  “You’ve grown into such a beautiful woman, Bonnie.” [Yeah, without any of your help, lady.]  Bonnie gets to the heart of things: “I just want to know the truth. Why didn’t you come home?”  Abby’s answer is seemingly honest: “I had a chance to be somebody else.  To be Abby Wilson the woman, not Abby Bennett the witch.  I’m not proud of what I did, Bonnie.  I ran.  I know I ran.  But you had your dad.  And your Grams.”  Bonnie realizes her mother doesn’t know that her own mother is dead.  She describes how Grams died, “We were doing a rough spell. And we both exhausted ourselves.  Her more than me.”  [It hurts Bonnie to say all of this—it is nicely acted.] Abby acknowledges Bonnie’s pain, “Well, she raised you right.  I’m sure she would have been very proud of you.”  Abby wants to know why Bonnie has come to her.  ”It was a dream, actually.  I thought you were supposed to help us. But if you don’t have any magic..” Abby explains she can’t do spells, but she can use herbs and such.  She wants to help.

Stefan is annoyed.  “This is exactly why I didn’t want you in the loop.”  Elena rejoins, “Yeah, because now you can’t do whatever you want.”  Stefan kicks something and Jamie interrupts their fight.  Jamie won’t leave.  Stefan compels him, angering Elena, “I don’t think you realize how bad you’ve gotten.”  Jamie won’t go away, “You’re not supposed to be here,” he says to Stefan.  Lightbulb:  “Elena, he’s compelled,” and there is urgency in his voice.  Jamie shoots Stefan, and inside the house, Witch Mommy doses her daughter with herbs, sending Bonnie down for the count.

Damon walks into Ric’s place while Ric is pumping iron.  He pokes his head in a pot on the oven: “Looking for a bunny” [For those of you that are way too young, he’s referencing a movie us old fogey’s watched in our youth, Fatal Attraction.]  Damon continues, “Do ten more of those. You’re gonna wanna buff up if you’re start dating this one.  Self defense and all…Your doctor verveined me. Then she bloodjacked me.”  Ric asks when he saw her, and Damon admits, “When I went to the hospital to accuse her of killing her ex-boyfriend.  Which, by the way, very sensitive subject.  Damon is proud of himself, “I proved your theory—diagnosed psycho case.  You’re welcome.”

Stefan is lying on the ground, seriously wounded. Bonnie, unconscious, is being packed into the back of a car by her loving mother.

Tyler is STILL changing [being a werewolf SUCKS], but now he is breaking his chains. He tries to warn Daddy Forbes to run, but there isn’t time. Tyler eats Daddy.

Mommy brings Bonnie to the hybrid [Parents SUCK on this show, don’t they?] She has to admit that Bonnie didn’t have time to tell her where are the coffins before Stefan arrived.  The hybrid has little patience for this.  A few feet away from him, Abby cautions Bonnie that the herbs have muted her magic [gee, thanks, Mom—put me in mortal danger at half power].  There is urgency in Abby’s voice, “I need your help.  I need you to tell me where those coffins are. Because if you don’t, that man compelled Jamie to kill himself,” she explains.  Bonnie replies with her usual self-righteous rightness, “I can’t. This goes beyond you and me.”  Abby begs, “All you need to do is tell me where they are.  Then we’ll have held up our end of the bargain.”  She slips Bonnie her phone, and the idiot hybrid notices none of it [Do they lose brain power when they become hybrids?  Tyler sure has seemed to drop a few IQ points.]  The text on the phone urges Bonnie to warn your friends.

Elena realizes that Stefan has been shot with wooden buckshot [that’s gotta hurt].  Jamie explains that he’s supposed to shoot himself if they don’t find the coffins.  Elena asks about herself and learns that Jamie isn’t supposed to hurt her.  [I guess dissembling wasn’t part of the compulsion?] Elena demonstrates how clever a human can be, drawing Jamie near by saying she’s in pain and then hitting him with her now freed hands.  She immediately rushes to help Stefan (Lord knows why), and she has to pull each piece of buckshot out, one at a time.  With her fingers.  In his bloody chest.  [Ew!]

Damon is in the witch house and hears Klaus arrive.  Klaus is amused, “Hiding behind your witchy friends, and in squalor, no less.  The witches don’t like this disparaging comment and use their juju to give Klaus a brain freeze.  Damon is happy to see the witches hurt someone else for a change, but he commiserates with Klaus, saying he was foolish enough to insult them once, himself.  Klaus gets an idea, though.  Noting that witches care about their own, he shouts about how happy he will be to kill each and every descendent of these dead witches, starting with the Bennetts.  The witches stop hurting him [saps], and then when he demands they show him the coffins, they do! [Witches are weak.].  Ah, but one coffin is missing.  Klaus yells at the witches, but Damon is happy to inform him that they can’t show him the fourth, special, coffin: “Here’s the thing. They can’t.  It’s not here. Bonnie gave me the head’s up.  I didn’t have time to get all four, but I did have time to get one.”  Klaus is put out, and issues one of his usual BIG HUGE ANGRY speeches (that usually results in nary a bit of action): “I will tear you limb from limb. And only then, when you are a writing mass of blood and flesh, will I rip your heart from your chest.” [At least his threats are descriptive–guy has imagination, if not chutzpah.] Damon knows he is bluffing: “I know you want your family back, but something tells me you want what is in that coffin a lot more.”

Ric goes to the hospital and demands to know what Dr. Fell is up to.  “I’m not crazy, Ric.”  She invites him to stick around as Daddy Forbes, all torn up, is brought in on a stretcher.

Elena gets the last of the buckshot out.  Stefan has been watching her. “You’ve changed.  Something is different about you.  You’re stronger.  Tougher.” He seems impressed.  “You’re not the only one who changed, Stefan.  We all had to.” Stefan is mollified, “That’s good, though.”   This mild rapport is short term.  “There’s something I have to tell you,” Elena begins, “and it’s not because I feel guilty that it happened. It’s just that I feel guilty that you don’t know.  I kissed Damon.”   Stefan looks…I’m not sure. He doesn’t speak.  At all.  For a long time.  He looks down. And he seems surprised. And sad.  Elena doesn’t know how to read his reaction, either. Then she tells him the buckshot is all gone, and Stefan walks away.

Hey!  Dr. Fell is shocked—Daddy Forbes has come in to the hospital due to an actual animal attack—for once, her report won’t be a lie.  But poor Daddy Forbes has bite marks all over his body.  So guess what the clever doctor does—she gives him Damon’s blood to save him. “You wanted to know my secret?” she asks Ric, “I cheat.”  [Ric seems to think this is totally awesome. He looks at her with wonder.  Um, hello?  These patients are walking around with vampire blood—if they die anytime soon, they are undead.  That seems a strange responsibility for a doctor to take on—she could accidentally be creating vampires.  I’m not sold on Dr. Fell just yet.]

Stefan is too quiet, and Elena is trying to figure him out. “Say something.  Please.”  He responds, “I shouldn’t have kidnapped you. The car.  The bridge. It was too far…But you shouldn’t have lied to me today.  You can’t go off and do things like that, Elena.  Not while Klaus is still alive.”  [Stefan is not happy with this Damon news, and it seems he is realizing that he’s been pushing Elena away rather too much.]  “I didn’t plan on kissing him,” she apologizes.  “You’re better than him, Elena…You’re better than both of us.”  [This is fascinating, I gotta say.  And I’m enjoying Paul Wesley’s performance because I can’t quite get a read on him.  Clearly, he’s bothered by Elena and Damon, but he doesn’t seem hurt so much as troubled.  It is interesting.]

Bonnie is saying goodbye to her mom, who is worried about fall out.  Bonnie assures her, “You kept your end of the bargain.  Klaus usually keeps his.”  Bonnie has to ask, “you’re willing to do all this for him.  And he’s not even family.”  To explain her behavior, Abby offers, “He is my family, Bonnie.  I know that might be hard for you to hear, but he is.  It doesn’t mean I don’t care about you.” [Somehow this is supposed to make it okay that she dosed her own daughter? Clearly, Mother of the Year here.]  She continues, “When I put Michael down.  My magic didn’t just leave me.  It drifted away.  The longer I stayed away from you, the weaker it got.  I think nature was punishing me for abandoning you.  Maybe you can help me get my magic back.” [Cause Bonnie really owes you some help, lady.  Seriously. Don’t walk, Bonnie, run.]  Then Worst Mother Ever turns it around and says that she will try to get her magic back to help Bonnie: “If it was something you wanted, I would do that for you,” Abby promises.

Tyler visits Daddy Forbes, whom he just ate as a light snack.  Bill is angry because he knows what Dr. Fell must have done [good, someone is aware of the dangers of giving vampire blood to people who don’t have a say about it.] Tyler feels pretty badly—twice in one week he tried to kill members of the Forbes family.  “I didn’t mean to hurt you.  I lost control.  Again.” [Understatement of the year.] Bill, cause he’s cool, isn’t upset: “I knew the risks when I decided to help you.”  That said, though, Bill isn’t done.  He tells Tyler that turning has to be painless to break the sire bond, so Tyler has to keep turning and keep turning and keep turning.  He’s not sure he can do it, but Bill won’t hear it: “you will.  Because until you are capable of acting on your own free will, I’m not going to let you anywhere near my daughter.” [Poor Daddy Forbes, turns out Tyler is the least of his problems, what with Klaus sniffing around Caroline.  She must have a really pleasing smell for hybrids, sort of like Bella and Edward in Twilight.  The guys just can’t help themselves.]

Ric is so hapy that Dr. Fell isn’t crazy, that he gets a bit crazy and shows her all his toys.  She’s quick, “You’re a vampire hunter.”  “Semi-retired,” he acknowledgs.  Dr. Fell makes a joke, “You’re trying to get out of taking me to dinner?” Then Ric gets really nutty and show her his ring. She tries to take it off, but he stops her. “Are you worried I’m a supernatural being?” [I am!  I’m worried!  And so is Damon, and he’s the smartest character on the show.]  “One can never be too careful,” Ric reminds her.

Elena walks in as Ric kisses Dr. Fell, and the poor guy is so embarrassed.  They have a lovely heart to heart: “The minute that you slept on that couch, [this house] became your place too.  We needed you, and you stayed.  So thank you for that.  I know it’s hard, but Jenna’s gone.  And you’re allowed to move on.” [Echoes of her feelings for Damon here, anyone?]

Stefan gets home and Damon tells him that he managed to get out only one coffin–the locked one.  Stefan begrudgingly admits that Damon picked the right one. “Is Elena okay?” Damon asks, and Stefan punches him. Damon is not surprised, “I take it you two had a heart to heart?  And I take it you don’t want to talk about it.  Noted.” [And that’s it. That is all we get of this for now. Harumph.] Damon continues, “So why don’t we talk about this,” and he holds up an ashy dagger. [Wait a second, what DID he do? Oh my god…]

Klaus is at home chatting with a hybrid, when someone rips out the hybrid’s heart.  Suddenly we see…..Elijah!!  [And his hair still looks perfect, if a bit flat.] “So, Nicklaus, what did I miss?” he asks.

About fucking time.




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