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The Vampire Diaries “The Birthday” 

Photo Credit: Annette Brown/The CW

And, we’re back! Not as breakneck as I was expecting, but still some delicious twists and turns! Let’s get started, shall we?

First up, Stefan is taking his work release program way too seriously. He and Klaus butcher a couple of werewolf accomplice gals in Tennessee, alerting Damon and Andie, who’ve been tracking the vampire duo’s spree across the country in search of a mysterious something that might indicate vampire activity.

Back home, Elena’s morning begins with her waking up alone in her own bed on her 18th birthday, missing Stefan. She gets Jeremy up for work at the Grill and finds Alaric downstairs resetting the sofa from his sleep on it the night before and we learn that this has been their new normal since the events of the finale. Jeremy is still seeing Vickie and Anna and lets that little bit of info slip to Matt when the two commiserate over a little bit of maryjo later that night at Elena’s party.

Caroline and Tyler have been not-dating all summer, but both admit that their hormones are off the chart because of their new identities. While the rest of us are going “FWB! FWB!,” Tyler brings a date to the party and Caroline send her home. Tyler finally tells Caroline to put up or shut up, and they make with the smoochies and commence to Tyler’s bedroom (yay!), only to have Mrs. Lockwood tranquilizer her when she tries to shamewalk out of there afterward (BOOO!). If Caroline is in a cage next week, so help me.

Klaus gets word that Damon is tracking Stefan, which sends Stefan home to warn Damon off, and he kills Andie in front of Damon to make his point. We think Stefan’s finally bendered, but at the end of a very long day of torturing 7th Heaven’s David Gallagher (who’s playing a werewolf) via wolfsbane darts (seriously gross), before Klaus turns and kills him, he retreats outside away from Klaus, where he caves and calls Elena and tearfully and wordlessly listens as she tells him he’ll get through this, that she loves him, and that’s what he should hold onto (there was also another line of dialogue in the captions where she told him he could survive this, which was disappointingly dropped from the audio).

Photo Credit: Annette Brown/The CW

Elena’s faithfulness is surprising because at the end of her party, Damon was finally outed for his summer of Stefan-tracking and when she confronted him about it, he dropped the bomb on her that yes, Stefan is alive, but he’s also the ripper again and he’s not coming home in her lifetime. Before that blowout, they tangoed a bit around the fact that she deathbed-kissed him, and he parades in front of her fresh from the bath and shy of clothes and she’s appropriately discombobulated. In a brief moment of quiet reality, he returns her pendant to her before the party starts, and then escorts her downstairs, where she’s horrified to find that Caroline’s small birthday gathering is actually a pretty raging kegger. Sidebar: I had to laugh that all the kids were boozing but they had Matt and Jeremy pass a joint back and forth without ever inhaling, although Jeremy did later.

Alaric finally nuts up and realizes it’s fairly inappropriate to be shacked up with two of his students so he kicks himself out, leaving Elena to process that she’s finally legally old enough to deal with all her sh-t on her own. She had asked him to talk to Jeremy about the dope but we never saw that he did. As for Bonnie, she’s relegated to a cell phone chat appearance as she talks with Jeremy and he begs off that anything weird is going on even though the lights flicker around him and she clearly sees that on the other end of their call. And that’s pretty much it!

One musical note about “A Drop in the Ocean” by Ron Pope that was used over the closing montage. I totally thought it was a C&W song but Google corrected me. The song’s a few years old, so TPTB did him a great kindness playing almost the whole thing here; the lyrics definitely suited the episode.

I really liked that the premiere was a little bit slower and not just crazy with the moments of Huh? Wha-!?

We have the setup for whatever Caroline and Tyler might be–I was disappointed that she bolted on him after their hookup, because, um, cuddling?, but I choose to think of that as a plot device to get her wrangled by Mrs. Lockwood, who sneakily did something to her purse that made Caroline spark when she touched it and then she just unloaded a dart gun into her.

Jeremy’s visions are complicated now that he’s told Matt because Matt’s still so unresolved about losing his sister. Vickie finally whispers, “help me,” but Jeremy doesn’t tell Matt that, and Anna stays mum. I wish we’d seen the Alaric chat with him, or Elena confront him.

As for the Klaus and Stefan roadshow, I’m not looking forward to extended torture porn sequences like we had tonight (I know there’s ill will in the world about 7H, but come on!) to make the point that Klaus is a badass. I was glad we saw Stefan in turmoil about what he’d been doing semi-willingly.

Photo Credit: Annette Brown/The CW

It’ll be interesting to see what the Alaric dynamic is when school starts up–he’s a bit lost without Stefan, I think, because his tie to Damon is usually co-conspirator. He needs something of his own to ground him and he’s essentially grief-stricken about losing Isobel and Jenna at the same time. He tells Elena he can pull it together for school but admits it’s the offseason and real life where he loses his compass.

I liked that Damon was faced with a turnabout he didn’t expect and got as good as he gave when it came to inflicting pain on his brother. He’s still a stressball about Elena, committed to protecting Stefan (he torches the Tennessee crime scene), and now grieving a woman he was essentially assaulting but for whom he realizes too late he did feel something.

Lots of threads and we’re just getting started. It was so strange to have the show back already tonight, but dusk has been coming earlier here, and when it got dark at about the 40-minute mark, it felt like we were right on time.

Welcome back. See you next week!

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