Episode 3.01 TVD – “The Birthday” or “Boyz II Men!” (09/22/2011)

…and, we’re back.  With a bang.  The Vampire Diaries has finally returned with yet another outstanding episode.  The boys are back, and they’re all grown up – especially Jeremy.  Tyler, Matt and Jeremy have gone from boys to men, and it’s probably couldn’t come at a better time, now that there will be hybrids to deal with.

The other thing I noticed is that there’s a lot of testosterone around.  Even Mrs. Lockwood’s packing a punch.  But wait….I’ll get to that later.  My point is that Elena and Caroline did the female heavy lifting in this episode.  Bonnie made only a brief appearance by phone, and Andie made her final appearance.  Other than that, it’s the boys’ show all the way.

I left Season 2 with “choices” and started Season 3 by saying we’d see where those choices are leading.  So here’s what I’m seeing so far:

Jeremy – As I said, Jeremy left Season 2 a boy and came back a man.  He’s still seeing the ghosts of Vicki and Anna, but so far, he’s choosing not to share that with anyone except Matt, who doesn’t want to believe him.  To escape, he’s apparently regressing by smoking weed.  He may look like a man, but he’s returning to where he was way back in early Season 1.

Matt – he’s still feeling the pain of his life (and apparently dulling it by joining Jeremy for a smoke) but at least he’s not isolating himself.  He came to Elena’s party, and he even talked to Caroline, sort of.  And he’s talking to Jeremy – albeit under the influence.  It’s a start.

Tyler – he’s remained in Mystic Falls, and he’s not getting any!  Confessing that problem to Caroline gets him some, but there’s a price for that.

Caroline – I love how Caroline is still true to her original persona (super party-organizer) and yet is coming to terms with her new vampire traits very quickly.  She continues to persevere, and she’s going to enjoy herself.  She also has the absolute best lines in this episode, including this classic.

“Just because I tell you things doesn’t mean you’re allowed to know them”.

She compels Tyler’s party date to leave and then they have their way with each other – but that has some unfortunate consequences.  Mrs. Lockwood shoots Caroline – our dear, sweet, “Vampire Barbie”!  How does Carol Lockwood know Caroline is a vampire?  Who told her? And what does she know about Tyler, if anything?

Alaric – he remains in Mystic Falls but he’s not feeling great about being the adult in the Gilbert household, so he chooses to leave.  To me, Alaric is the third Musketeer with Damon and Stefan, so I am hoping he winds up at Chez Salvatore.  Damon needs his buddy.  Alaric remains a loyal friend, if not a great role model.

Elena – abandoned by Alaric, she’s in charge of her own life now.  She’s trying to track down Stefan, refusing to believe that he will completely abandon her and give himself over to his darker side.  She continues to endure by holding on to her love for Stefan, and refusing to believe Damon’s statement.  “Stefan is gone and he’s not coming back.  Not in your lifetime.”

Damon – he gives us the greatest reveal of the night.  And now we know he’s known the depths of his brother’s depravity all along.  It is a terrible burden to carry.  Stefan, as “the Ripper” apparently feeds on his victims, and the blood lust drives him to literally rip them into pieces.  Once his thirst is satisfied, he feels remorse and attempts to put them back together again.

Didn’t work with Humpty Dumpty – won’t work here.  The scene of this reveal – the head falling of the first victim’s body after Damon describes the process to Alaric – is chilling.  I don’t know anyone except Alaric who could listen to it and see it and not be shocked senseless.

Damon, seeing the evidence of his brother’s relapse into his darker side – and probably feeling guilty at being the cause of it – returns to the Salvatore mansion and starts to tear Stefan’s room apart.  He stops after a few seconds, probably realizing it will do no good.

Stefan – I have formerly confessed I am not a Stefan fan.  Some people may like Stefan as a bad boy this season, but that final scene between Stefan and Elena sent me right back to “the breakup” and the Stefan of the quivering lip.  Romantic Stefan.

Bah!  My opinion is that Stefan leads with his head.  It is Damon who leads with his heart.  Note the look on Damon’s face at the death of his “toy” Andie.  This is a man who – despite the act he puts on – CARES about people. He just doesn’t want to show it.

In contrast, Stefan is bone-chillingly cold in this scene.  He knows Andie. He was contemptuous of his brother’s treatment of Andie.  Now, he treats her far worse than Damon ever did.  He doesn’t rip Andie apart – he doesn’t even bite her.  He compels her to walk off a 30 foot ledge in front of his brother – because he KNOWS that Damon cares about her, and Stefan is sending a message.

“Leave me alone.”

Stefan’s RIPPAH persona works for me because only someone who leads with the head would be able to fake out on such a bad-ass as Klaus.   Stefan and Katherine have that in common.  They lead with the head – they “don’t let love get in the way”.

So while Elena’s entreaty in their final scene touched me, Stefan’s response felt disingenuous.  I don’t think he should have called Elena at all.  But when he called he should have hung up as soon as Elena answered.  He’d have heard her voice and that would be just enough.

Damon, on the other hand, allows love – and his other emotions – to drive him.  But he won’t let his emotions compromise his values.  Yes, Damon loves Elena, but I think viewers who are “Delena shippers” will be disappointed because Damon also loves his brother and he won’t compromise his integrity – or the love that Elena and Stefan have for each other – to fulfill his own selfish desires.  Damon will be Elena’s protector – not her lover.  Especially since he knows the sacrifice his brother has made to save him.

Don’t get me wrong.  I understand that Stefan’s behavior – especially towards his brother, but also towards Elena – is motivated by love.  He wants to protect them both.  So he wants to keep them distant from him – because he is with Klaus, and Klaus is still a danger.

I just think it’s not necessary to get soft or sentimental in order to make that point.

With Damon, no matter how bloody or cruel his kills, I always felt his sarcasm was a mask and that he was redeemable because he felt something underneath it all.  Now that Stefan is the “bad” brother, I find him much less sympathetic – but much more frightening, because he’s less emotional and more rational than his brother.  I am really looking forward to seeing how I will feel as the story advances.

Last but not least….

Klaus – he’s decided to create his werepire/vampwolf army, starting with…..Simon – from Seventh Heaven?  Simon apparently spent too much time with Happy!   Nice to see him again, even if he’s a werewolf now, but I have a feeling it may not be for long.

We still don’t know what Klaus’ true motives are, or why they involve Stefan and his particular “talents” but I am looking forward to the next episode and seeing where the story goes in Season 3.

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