Vampire Diaries: Yellow Ledbetter

“An old tongue-twister Eddie turned Top 40.”

I’m sure there are some fans out there who disliked this episode, given the passivity of our main characters, the relationship reset, and the Bonnie/Damon situation. But I absolutely loved it, because...

I am now reviewing a show about time-traveling vampires.

I really couldn’t be happier. And, sure, the Mystic Falls version of Purgatory is a bit of a Lost ripoff, a bit of Groundhog Day ripoff, and probably a few other things that aren’t occurring to me right now. I don’t care, because Damon and Bonnie were hilarious together, the 1994 jokes were delightful, and the end was really creepy.

Damon and Bonnie both commented on being stuck in hell with a person they did not like, but over the course of four months (of the same day) they grew to understand one another and achieve an interpersonal rhythm. Facilitated by pancakes and crosswords, of course.

As well as a bevy of in-jokes for those of us who lived through 1994. Once they realized they were in 1994, most of Bonnie’s clothes contained some element of flannel. Mid-nineties music was a major theme, from Salt n’ Pepa’s “Whatta Man” to the best comic moment Vampire Diaries has ever done: Damon putting a CD into the player, hoping it would turn out “for better or for worse,” then Bonnie realizing it was The Spin Doctors’ horrible “Little Miss Can't Be Wrong” and immediately shutting it off. Then—as Damon realized they were likely stuck where they were—just putting it back on again.

Those little jokes were cute, but the emphasis on music neatly tied into the creepy reveal that Damon and Bonnie were trapped in a snapshot of May 10, 1994 with a something. We know it’s creepy, we know it probably has something to do with what’s going on, and we know it can’t stand unfinished crosswords about Pearl Jam songs. I hope we learn more next week.

I’m glad we got to enjoy an episode of Damon and Bonnie existing in a supernatural sitcom, but their actions were oddly passive. Bonnie is researching, but there’s not much they can do besides eat pancakes and nag. Ditto for the other plots: Caroline was dragged into a confrontation by Enzo, against her will, and provoked into an emotional breakdown. Even Elena’s decision to “supernaturally rewir[e] three years” is about removing the past rather than moving forward.

It does make sense, though; it’s similar to her decision to turn off her humanity after Jeremy’s death. But it’s also quite sad, as so much of the Delena relationship has been defined by the supernatural: the sire bond, her vampirism, and now this. I’m curious to see what happens to the two of them if/when Damon returns to Mystic Falls. Will they reconnect despite Elena’s rewiring?

Touching as the flashbacks were, for me the saddest part of Elena’s mindwipe was Alaric’s reaction. Alaric just removed Damon from the brain of one of the people who loved him as much as Alaric did. With Stefan gone, Alaric has no one to really share his mourning. After all, he should be sharing it with Damon. That’s one of the ways their friendship works. Ric’s face when Elena finally forgot Damon was heartbreaking.

Caroline crying was equally depressing. I had sort of forgotten about Enzo, but was happy enough to see him back. His snark is fun, and he’s an interesting wildcard: when he went back into Stefan’s house to beat him up for making Caroline cry, I thought it was cute…until Enzo killed Stefan’s girlfriend. Yikes.

Enzo also told Stefan that he is a bad brother for not looking for Damon. In the world of the show, that idea makes sense. But in the real world, not so much. As Stefan said, he “had to move on.” Stefan, especially now that he’s not dating Elena, is a relatively undramatic character. Enzo telling him not to give up is basically Enzo telling him that being well-adjusted makes him a bad guy.

I mentioned last week that the premiere episode seemed to be flirting with the idea that the lives of Team Mystic Falls are overwrought to the point of absurdity: should these people just move on? Stefan has, and of course he will eventually be drawn back into the madness. But should we want that for him? Of course, Damon and Bonnie should get rescued. But should we want our characters to continue to live these lives of unending death and misery? I’m not sure.

Having said that, I sort of hope that our characters do jump back into the insanity, because this was a four out of four neck-people episode. Vampire Diaries is off to an excellent start this season.

Bites and Pieces:

• Damon: “Maybe it’s the sound of existential despair. I heard that’s what hell sounds like.”

• This is the second episode of TV I watched this week that featured “Whatta Man.”

• If they’re trapped in 1994, and Bonnie is a college-age student, why would her house have her favorite toy? She was probably born around 1994.

• So Tripp is a Fell. That’s mildly funny.

• “Yellow Ledbetter” is one of my favorite songs of all time. Here you go:




Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, True Detective, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

14 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I am now reviewing a show about time-traveling vampires. Laugh out loud.

I loved it, too. Why May 10, 1994? There must be a reason.

TheShadowKnows said...

I'd have to rewatch the episode to be sure, but I think the Spin Doctors song was actually "Little Miss Can't Be Wrong". Not that it makes any difference to your main point.

- Little Mr. Can't Be Wrong

Josie Kafka said...

TheShadowKnows, I think you're right. It's just as awfully annoying, so I've replaced the song title in my review but don't need to change my description.

And now, thanks to this show, both Spin Doctors songs are stuck in my head. I thought I'd left such misery behind in the previous millennium.

TheShadowKnows said...

Maybe Hootie and the Blowfish in the next episode?

Josie Kafka said...

The possibilities are endless:

http://www.bobborst.com/popculture/top-100-songs-of-the-year/?year=1994

I'm holding out for Lisa Loeb's "Stay" or Crash Test Dummies "Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm Mmmm."

The Fearless Freak said...

Every episode, I ask myself why I keep watching this show. Watching the previously on of the last episode almost made me turn it off for good. This has been the first episode in a while that I actually enjoyed. Damon singing Whatta Man about killed me. The soundtrack was great, overall. I'm interested to find out who or what is with them and why 1994.

My issue is the time line with the bear. She said said about having it when she was 9, which would make her close to 30, instead of 19 or 20, since she should have been born around 1994. Maybe, the date is significant because of something that happened when was a baby. I'd say the day she was born, but I feel like she would recognize her own birthday.

Anonymous said...

The writers better have a spectacular reason for the 20 year jump back because it just doesn't work for me. Damon even eliminated the possibility that maybe the series isn't in present 2014 time when he commented on the age of the cars. College sophomores are typically 19-20 years old so Elena would've been too young to play with the many toys scattered around the Gilbert yard. All I could think about for the rest of the episode was "why 1994?" because it made no sense. Of course my snarky side thinks maybe they were all held back a year because of too much underage drinking and skipping school.

Josie Kafka said...

According to the VD wiki, both Bonnie and Elena were born in 1992 (neither on May 10th). So Bonnie would have been alive.

I guess she could have had the bear from age 2 to age 9 (when it got lost), but I do wish we'd gotten a clearer marker of the fact that, if she went to her old house and saw the bear, she also saw, for instance, her crib or first bed or something.

I wonder if the eclipse has something to do with it--that is, if the eclipse has significance beyond cluing Damon and Bonnie in to the fact that they're repeating the same day. We did have that comet in the first season, so mystical astronomy has happened before.

(Maybe the bear completed the crossword.)

Anonymous said...

Elena has turned into such a selfish bitch that she is blinded by everything happening around her and all she can focus on is her stupid love life. I am extremely dissapointed that the Stefan and Elena relationship seems to have evaporated like it never happened, it's like the writers want to shove Delena down our throats. All the flashbacks were a little annoying; and Elena whining on is so over and done with. She is right about one this though, Katherine is smarter than her. Can we have her back please? I don't know how much longer I am going to be able to watch a show where I hate the lead as much as I hate Elena. Poor Caroline! She puts herself together for everyone around her and nobody, including Elena - her so called best friend, bothered to ask her how she was doing in all of this. Caroline is one of the very few redeeming factors about this show. The other thing I liked in this episode surprisingly was Damon and Bonnie. They're actually hilarious and cute together. I also feel I'd rather have Bamon than YET another season of Delena favoring.

I hope I don't have to give up on this show, unfortunately it just seems like such a hit and miss.

Billie Doux said...

TVD is probably nearing the end of its shelf life. I'm still enjoying it a lot, though, and I can tell because it never sits on the DVR.

May 10, 1994 feels like someone's birthday. If it's not Elena's or Bonnie's, is it Jeremy's, maybe? Probably not because Bonnie would know Jeremy's birthday. I'm sure we'll find out.

Amalie said...

Thank you, Anonymous. I thought I was the only one who felt that way. The declining quality of TVD has been obvious since the sirebond disaster back in season 4 where the writers started catering to the D/E fans. And now they've started retconning events of the previous seasons as well. Did Stefan/Elena ever happen or did I just imagine it? Was Elena ever likable? (oh yeah, she was, before the writers destroyed her character in order for her to be with Damon).

And this season is probably going to be more of the same thing. So not here for that. I've had enough of the Delena Diaries.

Anonymous said...

Also worth noting is that Yellow Ledbetter was the B side to Pearl Jam's big hit... Jeremy... (coincidence...? I think not...) ;)

Swoooze said...

That's a fantastic observation there Anonymous! God I love things like that in TV shows.

Marianna said...

Why couldn't Alaric compel Elena to move on from Damon like Isobel compelled him to do? That seems a lot neater and less invasive than changing memories.