Vampire Diaries: Plan B

“She won. Katherine won.”

Elizabeth Craft and Sarah Fain have worked on some great shows, but I never loved their episodes on Angel or Dollhouse. (I don’t remember which Shield episodes they wrote.) So I was both nervous and excited when I saw that this was their first VD episode. And then I forgot all about both nerves and excitement, as I was too busy hooting with merriment and then, at the end, gasping a “No they didn’t!” at the unanswering TV screen. And then doing it again, five minutes later.

Just like any other VD episode, there was so much going on here that I’m not sure it will all fit on the internet. Damon and Stefan at the masquerade party set-up were hilarious, slapping each other and giving perfectly over-the-top disgusted looks. They even kept slapping after Damon killed Mason. (Their interactions were the source of most of my hoots. Admit it, you hooted too.) Alaric, Damon, and Jeremy (Jeremy?!) teaming up to research werewolves was... well, it was sort of weird. Why does Jeremy want to help Damon? Just to keep his hand in? To make Elena angry? (Am I forgetting something?)

Stefan and Mason had a great interaction at the party, too, with each of them speaking in polite code. Damon and Mason, on the other hand, got a bit violent. Damon really went all the way with those pokers, didn’t he? He killed Mason for vengeance, but I think he might have been hedging his bets, too: if Mason was telling the truth about the seriousness of his relationship with “Kathy,” then Damon could do her considerable harm by hurting the man she loves.

Instead, of course, he just wound up getting Jenna hurt. The revelation that Katherine was using Jenna as a spy was disturbing. Watching Jenna stab herself was even more disturbing. During the commercial break, I started to wonder if they were pulling a Whedon and killing of a character who has finally found a nice mate. Lucky for Alaric: no, she’ll live. But how will the gang explain to her how, and why, she stabbed herself with bread knife? PCP?

Damon looked anguished when he confronted Elena to apologize for Katherine’s retribution for him killing Mason (oh my, that sentence is complex). Yes, he did always seem to like Jenna, and they had that brief flirtation. But Damon is also upset that his actions caused Katherine to up her game, which caused Stefan and Elena to break up. For real. I wasn’t too taken with the break-up scene the first time around, perhaps because I was still reeling from the Jenna-stabbing. But when I watched the episode a second time, it really did me in. Stefan, poor Stefan, with the tears and the furrowed brow.

In other news: Caroline’s conversations with her mother were just as touching, in a different way. Part of it was just the pure Carolineness of some of her lines, like when she talked about Stefan being trapped in a well but then moved on to her friendship with Bonnie, or when she described being turned into a vampire as life handing her lemons, out of which she can make undead lemonade. Despite their connection, Caroline chose to compel her mother not to protect herself, but to reinstate her mother’s trust in the Salvatores, especially Damon.

This season started off dark, with the killing and the scary. But this episode felt lighthearted at first, as it switched from Elena/Stefan to Katherine/Mason. Even though we got two compulsions towards the end (Caroline/Liz, Katherine/Matt), the parallel structure got completely lost—and it should be. Our heroes can’t be as scary as Katherine. They can’t match her, or outwit her. They can only hope to defend themselves, catch a lucky break, or kill her.

And that’s what we’re left with: Damon in even more anguish. Jenna with a knife in her belly. Caroline and her mother back to snafu. Matt, compelled by Katherine to work himself to death. And Stefan and Elena, actually broken up.

Thank You, Writers (a new category that I may or may not continue as needed):

• When Bonnie got a flash of “Elena” kissing Mason, she told Stefan. A lesser show could have gotten a two- or three-episode arc out of that misunderstanding, with Stefan worried that Elena would cheat, Elena finding out why and being angry at Bonnie, and everyone finally making up in time for November sweeps. But VD took about 30 second to resolve this crisis, which speaks to the writers’ understanding of Stefan and Elena’s relationship, as well as the constant push to up the stakes. Stefan's trust, of course, also made their break-up more heart-wrenching.

• If you liked tonight’s episode as much as I did, you might be excited to learn that the writers have just been offered a deal with the CW for a new TV show based on L.J. Smith’s other series of books, about a teenaged witch. More info here, where it shares space with some weird Michelle Trachtenberg news.

Bites:

• Damon: “Your search for life’s purpose is as obvious as it is tragic.” And, the writers’ search for Jeremy’s purpose is just as obvious, although not as tragic.

• Damon: “Mason Lockwood? Werewolf thing aside, the guy’s a surfer.”

• Tyler: “She’s an insecure, neurotic, bitchy little twit. But, hey, the girl’s got heart.”

• Damon: “You, witch, are going to get over yourself and help us.”
Stefan: “Yeah, he meant that as question, with a please on the end.”

• Caroline: “On a healthy diet, I can control it. I’m getting better at it. I’m better that Stefan. He’s a bit of a problem drinker. A bloodoholic.”

• I suspect there are more quotes, but I got so caught up in watching (even the second time) that I didn’t get a chance to write them down. The delivery was, as always, perfect.

And Pieces:

• “Plan B” will always make me think of the morning-after pill.

• Jenna’s dress was great. Too bad she ruined it.

• Caroline’s sweater, on the other hand, would have benefited from a good hari kari.

• Have we seen the Salvatore library before? And how cool was it that Damon laid down a sheet to protect the rug?

• Alaric fed Jenna a bit of carrot. Alaric, you can feed me bits of carrot any day.

• Okay, so I haven’t said anything about the well. There’s really no need: the well, while exciting and full of snakes and vervain, was just bizarre mid-episode filler. It reminded me of Lassie (oh, no, Stefan’s down the bloody well!), Buffy (because that last parentheses is a paraphrase of a Spike line), and Indiana Jones. I am deducting one-tenth of a point, though.

3.9 out of four slap-happy vampires.

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

9 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Any episode that makes me gasp out loud that many times should get four stars. :) Poor Mason. And poor Caroline! Although she gets props for vampire solidarity.

Paul Kelly said...

So good. Sooooo good! That is all.

Mark Greig said...

What Paul said.

Kelly said...

What I was wondering during the well part at first was whether it was actually another setup on Bonnie's part, since earlier in the episode she was still so obviously anti-vampire. It was her that 'saw' the stone's location from touching Mason, and at first she says she'll go alone, and then suddenly changes her mind and says Caroline can come with her. Yeah, it would have been harsh to do all that and plan to hurt her former friend or Elena's boyfriend, but she didn't seem so concerned about that before either.

It was soon cleared up that it was all Mason's doing, the vervain in the well, but I think that doubt towards Bonnie was part of the point of that bit of storyline.

Just my two cents. It was a good episode. I continue to be pleasantly surprised by this show. Like Josie mentioned, I liked the writers having Stefan immediately figure out it was Katherine, not Elena, Mason was kissing. Not only do they not waste time with little dumb storylines like that, they allow their characters to be intelligent as well as trusting.

Harry said...

SOOOOOO GOOD! Hahaha I can't believe no one mentioned poor Matty! Gulp. No! He can't die! But then again I didn't think they'd kill Mason either. So when Jenna stabbed herself I really thought she might die. Oh, VD is so clever these days, I love it.

Patryk said...

I think Jeremy just wants to do everything Uncle John wouldn't. He is saying no to the Gilbert legacy that took his girfriend. :)

Doc said...

Josie,

I hope the site has a robot to tell you about new posts on old reviews!

Last week I binge-watched all Game of Thrones and read your reviews after each episode. In one of them, you mentioned VD as doing great world-building and being very compelling after the first seven episodes. Based on my appreciation of all your other reviews I read, I started watching VD after finishing GoT season four. I'm totally digging the show--and your reviews. I'm very glad you saw fit to mention this show in that GoT review, because I probably never would have given it a chance otherwise.

Regarding this particular episode, it seems to me that Caroline screwed up the compulsion; she didn't tell her mother to forget that Damon and Stefan were vampires.

And I, too, was excited to see that Craft and Fain had signed on. That's three people associated with "The Shield" working on the show!

Thanks again for your awesome reviews.

Josie Kafka said...

Thanks for your great comment, Doc!

Marianna said...

One thing: Katherine gave Jenna instructions over the phone. Doesn't compulsion (or as I call is vampire mind warp) only work in person?