This season of The Vampire Diaries is teaching me an interesting lesson: Sometimes there are arcs that you can appreciate from a storytelling perspective, but if they make you not like the central character of a show -- the one everyone is fighting to save and you've always related to -- you may not enjoy those arcs, however clever, as much as you thought you would as a viewer. It happened with Elena's sire bond to Damon, which, when you think about it, is a great way to complicate that love triangle -- Elena can leave Stefan for Damon, but it's not entirely her own doing, so the Stelena fans can't hate her. The Delena fans get what they want, but they still have something to root for because the question remains whether she would ever have allowed herself to act on her feelings to that degree without the sire bond. I can see how poetic it is: Stefan used to let Elena make her own calls, while Damon always assumed he knew what was best for her. The rub: Knowing she was being manipulated took some of the enjoyment out of watching her have sex with Damon and made her seem weak.
The sire bond has grown on me because it both divided the Salvatore brothers and forced them to work together, and it gave Damon the power to have Elena turn off her humanity (which we know she definitely wouldn't have done on her own). Those plot points have produced some of the season's best moments. But now, the flipping of Elena's switch comes with its own poetic twist: You want Elena to get her free will back and own being a vampire in a way that didn't involve a cheesy motorcycle shot? You got it, but now she'll do whatever she damn well pleases -- and that includes trying to kill Caroline. You can see what it's all building to: Now Elena doesn't care how bad Damon is, so he'll have to decide if he does like her best this way. (I think not: He wants to know she really loves him, and "I don't care how bad you are" is different from "I accept you for who you are.") Moments like Elena letting Caroline fall during the cheerleading stunt and trying to stake Caroline in the woods are cool, but it's tough to watch our Elena being a Mean Girl. Bottom line: No Humanity Elena may just want to have fun, but really, the stuff she's doing is serious. I should be sitting right next to Caroline when Stefan says we have to remember this isn't the real Elena and we can't give up on her. (Or maybe I need to stop thinking about the old Elena entirely so I can enjoy the new one properly?)
With the therapy session out of the way, let's dig in. I suppose my frustration at not being able to reach Elena means Nina Dobrev is doing a great job making her seem distant. That's our Elena, right there, but we can't shake sense into her. It must be tricky to play both dead in the eyes and someone looking for a party. How many of us said to ourselves, "That's Damon's trick!" when she played injured in the middle of the road? I liked how they set that up: Letting us think that before showing that Damon was there, hoping to show her a little fun. A woman stopped her car to see if Elena was okay and asked if she felt any pain. "I don’t feel anything," Elena said. Eventually, she fed on her, and Damon had to ask her to show a little restraint. They'd agreed no killing. Elena reluctantly walked away with a blood-soaked chin. There was a lot of that this episode.
Hayley made her grand return that same night at a truck stop. She was about to get bitten by a vampire when Klaus arrived to save her. He bit the vamp, and it seemed to fly away. Or was that just a quick, giant leap? Hayley is now just a loose end that Katherine needs rid of, so Hayley did the smart thing and called Klaus, the person Katherine is afraid Hayley will help find her. So Klaus agreed to protect Hayley in exchange for the chance to get her to talk.
The next morning at the Salvatore Mansion, we learned that house has the only vervain-free water supply thanks to their fancy filter, so Caroline had come over to shower. Can she please just move in, I thought. While Elena showered, Caroline, Damon, and Stefan made their game plan: Damon would work on finding Katherine; Stefan would go talk to Sheriff Forbes, who needed to tell him that the hospital's blood supply and reserve was stolen (we all knew it was Silas); and Caroline would take Elena to school for some normalcy. "Sounds like fun," Elena said, not yet wearing the towel she had with it. "What, it’s nothing you guys haven’t seen before," she said to the brothers. She was fine with the school plan because she had nothing else to do. They all assumed the sire bond was working and trusted that she wouldn't feed there because Damon asked her not to.
Maybe don't leave the feeling-less vampire alone. She didn't even wince at the flier on the billboard for Jeremy's memorial service. She was more interested in the one announcing a cheerleading competition. Caroline, meanwhile, left another unreturned message for Tyler before Matt walked up and asked her about Bonnie (still recovery = you won't be seeing her this episode). Elena then asked Caroline if she could get her back on the cheerleading squad. Caroline's the captain, so she said yes. (Would the girls REALLY have allowed that? Then again, Elena's brother had just died, so perhaps they'd be that kind.) Caroline thought this was Elena having fun, a feeling that may encourage her to turn her feelings back on. Man, she was wrong.
NEXT: Bye-bye, sire bond