We've been told The Vampire Diaries would feel like a new show this year as Elena and Caroline went to college and Silas and the mysterious Nadia wreaked havoc in Mystic Falls. And it does. But it also feels like old TVD, which is even better. I didn't have to rewind a scene to follow the additions to the mythology, and even though heavy things are still happening, there's not the weight of sadness emanating from our TVs (let's keep Elena happy and close to Caroline). Also, as much as I love my Originals, I didn't miss them here. And doesn't it feel like we're getting the Scrappy Gang back (how I referred to the show's ensemble in the early days -- a nod to Buffy's Scooby Gang)? Let's dig in.
We opened with a montage showing us how everyone was spending their last days of summer: Elena and Damon were having fun between the sheets. Caroline was multi-tasking by packing for college while assuring Tyler via phone that he'd be able to join her and Elena at Whitmore once he's done helping some werewolf pack in Tennessee. And ohmygod, Matt was having a threesome with Rebekah in Prague. Zach Roerig makes the best faces, and his satisfied smirk drinking champagne in bed as Rebekah and the woman we'd come to know as Nadia kissed is Top 5. Jeremy's life kinda sucks, if you ask me. He's been texting to Elena as Bonnie, who's supposedly traveling with her mother, and walking in on his sister straddling Damon on the couch. Katherine has not been enjoying human life, but even though she's into wearing ball caps now she's still rockin' stilettos. Oh, and when Elena's taking bubble baths in Damon's tub as he walks around in a towel (let's just get our first lengthy shirtless Somerhalder shot out of the way early), she's thinking something bad is about to happen (safe bet) and that she should check on Stefan. That was a nice fade -- her dipping under the water in the tub to Stefan coming to in the water-logged safe and drowning all over again. Nightmare.
Now that school is about to start, Jeremy has to explain why he's alive when his classmates already had a memorial for him. He's going to say he was looking for attention and accidentally burned down his house and faked his own death. No one would buy that, but okay. Damon told Elena she had to go to Whitmore, which is just a few hours away, and he'd take care of Jeremy. Elena opening the door again to give Damon a quick kiss after they shared a longer "I love you" kiss goodbye? So sweet. As was Damon's smile when he shut the door. Jeremy can't bring himself to watch the two of them makeout, but he seemed to appreciate the genuine look of love on Damon's face. Quickly, it passed. Damon told Jeremy to get to school.
At Whitmore, we learned it's Caroline who's been encouraging Elena not to call Stefan. She doesn't think he needs to hear how happy she was shacking up with Damon until Elena realizes she's made a horrible but reversible mistake. He'll car Elena when he's ready, Caroline said. (Doesn't Caroline think he'd have phoned her over the summer though?) Liz's "Hello, mom ears. Still here," was a nice, real moment. The girls really are at college. "We actually made it. We're here," Caroline said. Ghost Bonnie's "We're all here together" made me laugh. THEY CAN'T SEE YOU. YOU ARE NOT THERE TOGETHER. In their ridiculously large open-beam dorm room, Liz said a tender goodbye to both girls. She told Elena this is where her father fell in love with medicine, and he would be proud of her. Knowing that Whitmore College has a history of supernatural secrets, I wonder if we'll learn that Elena's father explored them when he was younger... Caroline and Elena wanted to toast to being functional vampires entering the next chapter of their lives -- with blood bags -- but there was a knock at the door. I'd thought that room was big enough for Liz to just stay. It is a triple. Meet their new roommate Megan. [Record scratch!]
NEXT: Jeremy is still badass, which is bad