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The Vampire Diaries “Dangerous Liaisons” 

Photo Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert/The CW

“Dangerous Liaisons” marks this year’s fancy dress episode, and from a standpoint of bringing the pretty, it succeeded. From the standpoint of bringing the story forward, not so much. But there were a few gem moments.

Note: No Bonnie at the ball, or Liz, or Alaric. Boo. No Liz, either. And we only heard Tyler on a voicemail to Caroline pleading forgiveness and offering consolation.

Beginning immediately after last week’s speedfest of plot, Matt and Elena sequester (an unseen) Alaric at the hospital and head home. Elena’s stopped in the parking lot, first by Rebekah, and then by Elijah, who intervenes and sends Rebekah on her way. He and Elena then have a very civil catching up where he clues her in on Esther’s return. I so like their dynamic together. Like I said last week, I’m sort of amazed that after Elijah was potentially a big bad, now he’s part of the tribe (sort of).

Elena updates the Salvatores on Esther’s arrival and then receives a handwritten invitation to attend a ball at Klaus’s swanky new abode and have an audience with Esther. She thinks it’s a good idea to go. Stefan agrees. Damon doesn’t. We also learn that the Originals’ surname is Mikaelson (get it?).

Klaus invites Caroline, and sweetens the proposition with a stunning dress. She marches over to the Grill and breaks down the “how dare he?” with Elena, where they also clear the air that Bonnie clued Caroline in on the Damon smooch. The girls have to smooth that out as it’s a BFF faux pas that Caroline didn’t hear it firsthand, and Caroline reminds Elena that she was the very first person Elena told when Matt kissed her the first time (which now seems a scoche awkward). They table that when Rebekah marches in and invites Matt to the ball.

The Mikaelson children primp and prep for the party and don’t get any real explanation when they second guess their mother’s generosity. We quickly segue to the party, full of tuxes and ball gowns. The betuxed and dashing Salvatores are each hilariously staking out a corner in wait when Elena arrives on her own in a fairly stunning gown (and a sweeping entrance straight out of Disney). The boys hem and haw about her for a bit before Damon asks her to dance and it’s considerably less hot that the Miss Mystic Falls dance last season.

Caroline gets a late start as she evaluates everything in her closet as a fail before resigning herself to wearing Klaus’s (also stunning) dress. She sweeps in and he’s happy to see her and she’s perfectly Caroline about it, finding the whole thing to be preposterous. When he tells her he fancies her, she tells him she’s spoken for. But she dances with him anyway and spends a little time actually talking to him and they descend back on the topic of him offering her a worldly education (not like that!). The night ends on a harsher note when she puts him in his place about the way he manipulates everyone and goes home.

Photo Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert/The CW

Elena is taken aside by Kol, who we will learn later is the brash, impetuous youngest Mikaelson son, and he tells her she won’t be allowed to see Esther if she’s not alone. She tells him she will be. So she ropes Stefan into sidelining Damon and goes upstairs to meet her. Esther tells her she’s smudged the room so they can speak freely, and Elena starts with the basics, wondering how she is alive.

Esther explains the Bennett legacy and the ancestor witches and then cuts to the chase that the kumbaya of it all is a big fat ruse and she’s back to finish her children off once and for all, and all she needs is one teeny, tiny drop of Elena’s blood. The kicker is that this will activate a spell that binds all of the children so that if one goes, they all go. No more super Klaus.

Elena agrees to help and then has to stand elbow to elbow with Elijah while he drinks to his mother’s deadly toast. Sidebar: I find it hard to believe, from a production standpoint, that they’d all get dropped at the same time in the third season, so the suspension of disbelief required here is pretty huge, but it’s a nice move on the chess board even if I don’t buy it.

Rebekah toys with the idea, with Kol’s help, of killing Matt, and then changes her mind when he offers her his coat even though she can’t physically be cold. Kol’s response is to later slink up on Matt and nearly break his hand, a move that gets him tossed off the balcony by Damon and chastised by his mother.

Later at the Gilbert house, Stefan and Damon get caught up on Esther’s plan and don’t understand why Elena is troubled by the idea of seeing them all dead and gone. Damon snits off and Elena attempts another heart to heart with Stefan, hoping he’ll give a little bit, but she gets nothing. Earlier in the episode, after he agrees to detain Damon, she thanks him for trusting her decisions, as he had when they were together.

Damon shows up at the Grill and is half in the bag when he witnesses Matt shooting Rebekah down with the news that her idiot brother (only, thanks to Damon) crushed his hand and he has no insurance and he’d like her to leave him alone. Damon chides her a bit for fully embracing the adolescent angst of being torpedoed by the captain of the football team and then tells her Matt probably couldn’t handle her any way. He suggests that he can, and fairly soon, he does so in a grappling that’s weirdly blocked because they sort of speed-slam each other around Damon’s bedroom while they tear off each other’s clothes.

Caroline arrives home and finds a drawing from Klaus with a thank you for being honest. Back at Mikaelson Manor, Esther confers with Finn (the eldest son, I think), who’s apparently looped on his momma’s doomsday plan. She writes each of her children’s names on a scroll and then chants her curse and the names thread together in the branches of a tree as she seals their bond to each other. And with that, it’s done.

I had such high hopes for this episode, but some reason I didn’t feel a lot of it. I liked that Caroline was all sorts of spun up about Klaus and he knew that, but then she got the upper hand on him.

The reveal that Esther is actually back for major, major revenge was a bit of a surprise that I think would have had more impact after we’d had a few weeks of her wrapping her children up in her faux reunion scheme. To happen now seems too early, but that may be a production timing thing. There are only eight episodes left this season, after all.

I felt the most punch about her plan as it related to Elijah, and I felt like Esther’s castoff remark that he was too moral was true, but how would she know? Has she been ethereally observing her children’s’ behaviors over the last millennium? We just got Daniel Gillies back so I’m not ready to bid him adieu (but I do realize he’s shooting another show in Canada, so short of cloning him, we’re limited in how much of him we get).

What wasn’t surprising was Rebekah going straight into revenge mode against Elena and then changing her mind when she saw Matt as more than a meal and a way to hurt Elena. I didn’t have any real takeaway from her strip/tussle/grudge-hate sex with Damon at the end of the episode, other than that it was a disappointing development in the same episode where Damon told Elena he loved her–to her face, no dancing around it. We sort of two-steps-backed it there when he just loaded up and got laid because the evening didn’t go his way.

Elena running after Stefan on her porch to AGAIN try to make him feel something felt desperate and too late and I didn’t want that for her. I was glad Stefan didn’t cave.

I was surprised we didn’t have anyone else in the Council turning up dead. I guess Alaric’s survival caused whoever’s behind that to regroup.

We certainly have an interesting situation for the back eight episodes of the season. I just hope the payoff is more engaging than the setup.

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