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'The Vampire Diaries' recap: Baring and burying Damon's humanity

January 27, 2011 | 11:09 pm

VD212b_0364b After last year's werewolf heavy mid-season finale, my attention was on Tyler (Michael Trevino) and his growing relationship with Caroline (Candice Accola). But I think “The Descent” really belonged to Rose (Lauren Cohan) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder) as each struggled with and confronted their humanity. Rose's descent into madness, in particular, gave way to an almost philosophical like exploration into humanity. Fittingly, Rose is one of the most human vampires I think we've seen on the show so far. She embraces and longs for that part of her past. She doesn't like to take human lives. And she connects with Damon on a human level, not a vampire level, which made their scenes in this episode so fantastic. Even though they've slept together, there's not so much a sexual or even romantic chemistry between the characters. They connect on a much deeper level as friends. She sees the real Damon, the nice guy, even when he insists he likes being mean. If she had lived, I imagine Rose and Damon would have come to have the kind of bond that she and Trevor (Trent Ford) did.

When Rose's escalating insanity from the wolf bite wasn't tricking her into thinking Elena was Katherine (Nina Dobrev) and trying to kill her, her insight also got to Elena, who represents a beacon of humanity, “a do-gooder” as Damon puts it. “You really are determined to die, aren't you? At least I ran. You're not even trying,” Rose said. Is Elena giving up too easily? Should she be trying harder to find a way out instead of making a deal with Elijah (Daniel Gillies)? It's hard to imagine being able to outrun Klaus. In the end, he either kills you or you die trying to outrun him as Rose and Trevor did. But then Rose basically admits that she wishes she hadn't run away from life. “So much time wasted. I wish I hadn't been so afraid,” she said. Hmm, could she also be talking about Elena's feelings for Damon?

Meanwhile, Damon was in denial about being upset over Rose. “Death happens. We come, we go,” he said flippantly to Elena. “The sooner she dies, the better.” But Damon revealed his true feelings as he tended to Rose. He used his powers to transport a sleeping Rose to her favorite place – a grassy pasture with roaming horses. Damon was there too in his modern, black clothes as Rose ran around in a 1400s dress and long hair in the warm sun. In the dream, Rose told him she misses being human and having the sort of life and relationships he's built, whether he meant to or not. “I'm not afraid anymore,” she declared finally. Back in the real world, Damon cradled a sleeping Rose and staked her, putting her out of her pain, as tears ran down his face. The juxtaposition of modern and ancient, the glow of sunlight and wide open spaces, Damon and Rose's touching dream conversation, that tearful end – this has to be one of my favorite scenes the show has ever done. R.I.P. Rose, yet another strong, female vampire to meet her end in Mystic Falls. I, for one, will miss you.

Rose's death seemed to finally crack Damon. “I feel! And it sucks!” he yelled at Elena. Not only does he feel, he feels guilty because Jules (Michaela McManus) meant to attack him. He ended up drowning his sorrows in alcohol as he lay in the middle of the road. A concerned, pretty young driver, of course, pulled over. Damon compelled her not to move and then unloaded on her like she was his therapist: “I can't be what other people want me to be, what she wants me to be. This is who I am. I'm not human. And I miss it. I miss it more than anything in the world. That is my secret.” (Somerhalder filmed this episode while sick. Really? Maybe he should be sick for every episode.) It's the most honest, I think, we've ever seen Damon be with himself. But after he admitted to his humanity, he tried to bury it again. Just when it looked like he was going to let the girl go unharmed, he bit her.

There was plenty of other stuff going on in Mystic Falls too:

– Stefan spent most of the episode trying to track down Isobel (Mia Kirshner), who knows Klaus, leaving Damon and Elena to tend to Rose and grow even closer. He didn't find Isobel, but he brought home the next best worst thing: Uncle John (David Anders).

– Hungry hungry Jules woke up naked in the woods and discovered that she had eaten an entire camp party. Later, she told Tyler that Mason (Taylor Kinney) was killed by Caroline – lie! – who she can sniff out, and that there's other vampires in town. Although Tyler deserved to know the truth, I don't trust Jules as far as I can throw her, especially after she said other wolves were coming.

– Caroline was back to her school activity self, organizing a booster event (aka Rose's feeding farm), and juggling two boys. First, Matt (Zach Roerig) laid a kiss on her, but Caroline pushed him away. “I feel like I love you,” she admitted, but that wasn't enough to make things right. “What are you keeping from me, Care?” Matt begged. (I love that he calls her “Care.”) Then when Caroline arrived at home, she found Tyler waiting for her. He wanted to know why she would risk her life for him. He could have killed her with one bite. “I don't understand you,” he said. “I cared,” she replied. Sadly, it was probably the first time Tyler has heard that in his life. It's no wonder that he kissed her after that. Caroline seemed pretty into to it, but then pulled away and exclaimed in perfect, flustered Caroline fashion, “Everybody just needs to stop kissing me!”

I am just as conflicted as Caroline when it comes to Tyler vs. Matt. I adored Caroline and Matt in Season 1, but tonight's episode really showcased how clueless Matt is in comparison to Tyler, who was able to have a whole vampire/werewolf conversation with Caroline at school. I fear if they keep going down this path, Matt is going to start to look really stupid or become pointless. So far, he hasn't reached that point for me yet, but he's nearing dangerously close. While he's stopped growing as a character, Tyler has only blossomed and deepened.

Readers, where do side in the Matt vs. Tyler debate? Is Matt still relevant? Do you think Jules' intentions are good or bad? What did you think of Rose and Damon's descents into humanity? Do you think the experience will bring Damon and Elena closer – she said she was his friend, it should be noted – or is Damon back to his old ways? And are you sad or happy to see Rose go?

-- Vlada Gelman (follow my TV musings on Twitter at @stayingin)

RELATED:
'The Vampire Diaries': Tyler is in a 'tug of war' between vampires and werewolves, says Michael Trevino
'The Vampire Diaries': Nina Dobrev on juggling good and evil
Complete "The Vampire Diaries" coverage on Show Tracker

Photo: Damon (Ian Somerhalder) tends to Rose (Lauren Cohan). Credit: Bob Mahoney / The CW.
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