'The Vampire Diaries' goes back in time
Five reasons "Lost Girls" was the best episode yet:
1. "I'm at the Sizzler. I had the buffet."
Just when we thought Damon couldn't get any darker, he makes an appearance burning the bodies of some slaughtered teenagers while sauntering through the carnage like he's just up to a little idle mischief.
As Damon becomes more menacing, he also grows more magnetic. Ian Somerhalder really outdid himself this time. Damon's apathetic, almost restless attitude as he coaxed Vicki to drink his blood, beginning the irreversible process of turning her into a vampire, was absolutely perfect. (As were his abs as they later danced, shirtless and giddy, through the Salvatore boarding house. That was definitely worth a rewind.)
Somehow, one of the most revealing Damon moments Thursday night was when he stood at the window and plunged his hand into the beam of light spilling from between the heavy curtains. He knows exactly how his skin reacts to sunlight when he's unprotected by his ring. He didn't make this move out of curiosity, but out of pure boredom-fueled masochism. It's becoming more and more clear that Damon Salvatore's greatest enemy isn't his brother; it's himself.
2. "Damon and I were both born here. The Salvatore brothers: best friends."
The 1864 scenes were one of the highlights of this episode for me. Director Marcos Siega's gorgeous, sun-flooded flashbacks made the the dark, panicked present-day moments seem even more tense and claustrophobic. "I've been 17 since 1864," Stefan told Elena, and we were whisked back in time.
It was fantastic to get a chance to see Damon and Stefan before they turned against each other. In an early episode, Stefan said that Damon wouldn't hurt Elena, because Damon ultimately didn't want to lose Stefan. This hinted that they once shared a strong bond, and we finally got to witness it! Watching Damon start to teach Stefan to play rugby in the backyard made me a little sad for how far they've fallen. They're both so completely alone now, when they could've had each other to rely on all this time.
Their old camaraderie made the present-day moment when Damon pulled a wooden bullet out of Stefan's chest all the more powerful. "If anyone's gonna kill you," Damon hissed, saving his brother's life, "it's going to be me." It's a vamped-out version of your everyday sibling rivalry. I mean, I can tease my little sisters until I run out of words, but I'd be furious if anyone else did it. Stefan gave Damon back the ring despite it becoming increasingly clear that killing Damon is the only way to end his reign of terror. Beneath 145 years of animosity, the Salvatores still remember what it's like to be brothers. I think that'll become even more important in the upcoming episodes.
3. "The smart and kind Salvatore brothers both coming to my rescue. How will I ever choose?"
Finally, we met Katherine Pierce, the woman who drove the first stake into the brothers' relationship. While I much prefer Nina Dobrev as Elena (we'll get to that in a moment), her performance as Katherine was impressive, too. Katherine is more carefree than Elena, with good reason -- she's a vampire. Almost nothing can hurt her.
I haven't read "The Vampire Diaries" books, so I was unprepared when Katherine's face went suddenly demonic and she sank her teeth into Stefan's neck. I should've guessed that she was the one to turn the brothers! I can't wait to hear more about how she got them to drink her blood and how she ultimately died in that burning church.
Her unrepentant manipulation of both brothers made it easy to understand why they've turned against each other. "You have no idea of the future I have planned for us," she tells Stefan. "You, me and Damon. No rules." Her selfish, wanton life philosophy mirrors Damon's own. It seems he's learned from the master.
4. "You let him get involved with Caroline? He was hurting her!"
Once again, Elena is a rock star. She demands an explanation from Stefan for why he lets his brother get away with so much. I'm so impressed by her bravery. When she finds out that the Salvatores are vampires, she's more angry than she is scared. Writers Kevin Williamson and Julie Plec continue to write Elena as a strong, admirable teenager. Even more than the good-looking, ultra-charming vampires, Elena's relatability is what keeps me invested in the show.
Damon's relationship with Caroline has been by far one of the most disturbing story lines in the show. He compels her to consent to whatever he wants -- be it sex, obedience or allowing him to feast on her blood whenever he pleases. The longer Stefan lets him get away with it, the more I doubt Stefan's benevolence. I'm glad Elena feels the same way. She's always stood up for Caroline and I hope she continues to do so!
She really ran through a roller-coaster of emotions in this episode: disbelief, anger, curiosity, fear. Dobrev played them all quite convincingly. She has come a long way since her "Degrassi" days.
5. "I just want to go home."
While I'm at it, a round of applause for Kayla Ewell, who plays the newest member of the vampire nest, Vicki Donovan. I have to say, I raised my eyebrows while she was dancing around in her underwear after drinking Damon's blood. Still, I think her manic, over-the-top performance worked for the scene -- it was meant to make the viewer uncomfortable and unsettled, and it certainly did that.
As Damon explained in an earlier episode, becoming a vampire is a three-step process. First, you have to drink a vampire's blood. Then, you have to die. Finally, you have to feed on human blood; if you don't, you'll die before you vamp out. As Vicki comes down from her vampire-blood-induced euphoria, she sobs into Damon's shoulder about her family problems and her troubled love life. Damon, in a show of unrivaled compassion, snaps her neck.
When Stefan and Elena figure out what's going on, Stefan tries to convince Vicki that her best option is to not feed. Sadly, it seems that death is the lesser of two evils. As she begins to understand what's happening to her, Vicki starts to cry. "I don't want this," she wails. "I want to go home. Will you take me home?"
It's by far Ewell's best moment yet in the series. Her ugly sobs seemed so sincere that they were hard to watch. My heart genuinely broke for Vicki; she's definitely a problematic kid, but she was never hopeless until this moment.
Of course, there are still plenty of questions left unanswered! First of all -- where is Bonnie? I'm hoping that she and Matt get more scenes together. Both of them are so endearing and I'd like to see more of them. What's going to happen with Caroline and Damon's gem? And for God's sake, why are Katherine and Elena identical? Is Elena a descendant of the Pierce vampires herself? I can't wait to find out.
What were your favorite moments in this episode? What do you think of Damon "turning" Vicki? How did you like Elena's reaction to Stefan's shocking revelations? Did you love the flashbacks as much as I did? Do you think I'm giving Kayla Ewell undeserved praise?
Let's hash it out in the comments below. Don't forget to check back here next week!
-- Carina MacKenzie (follow me on Twitter @cadlymack)
Photos: (top) Paul Wesley as Stefan and Ian Somerhalder as Damon. Credit: The CW