So essentially, The Travelers and the witches were two sects that broke apart and have each wanted control of magic for their own purposes since back in the days of Silas and Qetsiyah. Now Markos, their leader, has returned from the dead, leaving tumult on The Other Side which was mysteriously indicated when Matt briefly died in this episode (more on that later). Since they've manipulated the grand scheme so that Elena and Stefan are the only two doppelgängers left, the Travelers have a lot of power to gain if they can reunite Stelena, and hence Markos gifts the pair with visions of what their lives might have been like in a dreamy alt-universe where they are both human and none of their loved ones are dead. This is intended to draw the two together, but by the time Stefan and Elena do meet up at the end of the episode, Markos has withdrawn the visions as a sign of good faith to the scoobies, as he tells Damon. Given that Markos must be pretty intent on getting what he wants from the Doppelgängers, and since Stefan and Elena probably aren't going to volunteer as blood banks, this seemed a bit too easy and probably a false indication of peace. And, you know, since the Travelers were hella evil throughout the episode as they possessed various townsfolk (no! Liz! Glad she's okay)....and now one of them is in Tyler's body...yeah, Markos (not an especially impressive villain, incidentally) is hardly on the real. Shocker.
Onto the more fascinating part of the episode: the visions and their fallouts. Almost everyone had something to say about this whole state of affairs. Caroline, clearly a bit awkward and miffed given her recent closeness to Stefan, quickly moved to figure out what was going on by notifying Damon of the situation (it's funny to see Caroline and Damon have something in common, such as wanting to end these dream sequences, stat). I love the friendship between Caroline and Stefan, and enjoyed their exchange about habitually calling each other to reconfirm one another's sanity.
Enzo had a long talk with Damon about the difficulty of this situation and how Damon's attempt to remain at arm's length with Elena is clearly a losing battle. While his words were often hilariously cruel, ultimately, Enzo's inability to stop harping on this theme made him sound like a Delena shipper, which later branched into his insightful running commentary about them to Caroline. While he's essentially just there to drop funny one-liners and give voice to the viewer's more obvious thoughts, Enzo is a great addition to the show because he brings a spirit of fun. Between his friendship with Damon and his developing frenemyship with Caroline, Enzo was again quite entertaining and likable this week. I'm interested to see how Maggie may play into his story in future episodes.
Every time Damon and Elena were in the same room together, the chemistry between them, and their inability to suppress their love, was overwhelming. They cannot be together without wanting to be together with the utmost fervor, and this could not have been more beautifully portrayed through Nina Dobrev and Ian Somerhalder's performances, which were particularly moving in this episode. But then, that other issue...
Damon: "So, sex dreams about my brother."
Elena: "That’s one way to change the subject."
Damon: "Well, figured I’d skip the uncomfortable parts."
Wow. What was so amazing about this episode was that while we were still in the thick of the most desperately yearning, painful break-up between Damon and Elena, with all of that emotional cost still so apparent, the story brought up all of this other unresolved matter between Stefan and Elena. One of the leftover pieces of Stelena baggage is surely the issue of what might have happened between them had Elena not become a vampire. And though the dreams didn't address that so much as the idea of their both being human (an impossibility), it did feel somewhat addressed by their chat later in the episode. Sure, those dream sequences were hard to watch from a few perspectives. From the standpoint of the unattainable happiness they represented. Because in the middle of Delena fever, it was hardly desirable to flip back to Stelenas-ville. But it was all well worth it for the touching revelations that came to light in the wake of these glimpses of a life never lived.
The sadness of experiencing that blissful existence, basically problem free, and marked by elusive aspects such as marriage and children, left Elena and Stefan exhausted and a bit bereft afterwards. Star Trek fans will get my reference here when I say this episode brought the Nexus to mind rather acutely. These types of paradise may be tempting, seductive, even addictive. But guess what? It's not real. Elena was able to observe the truth of this even while she was still besieged by the visions, in that wonderful scene on the front steps when she gently touched Damon's face and assured him that she understands the difference between an idealized, false existence and a real one that, while fraught with pain, shouldn't be traded in for the other.
This exchange between Stefan and Elena by the fireside was priceless:
Stefan: "I'll always love you, Elena."
Elena: "I'll always love you, too."
That was a tearjerker for sure, one of a few this week. Stefan is so remarkably wise, and possesses such clarity over the matter that he just blew me away with his observations on how he and Elena fell in love on their own, and grew apart on their own through the natural flow of life, and that everything that ever made up their relationship is real on a level no dream could rival. Even the pain. In addition to doing a terrific job directing this episode, Paul Wesley was completely excellent acting-wise, especially in this scene.
This brought us perfectly to Elena's question, could she ever feel this type of resolution, of friendship and a different, but meaningful, special kind of love with Damon that she has come to feel with Stefan? And Stefan dropped some more wisdom bombs of epic proportions by stating that basically, one can either be in love with someone, or be friends with them and just let go of that romantic love. You can't have both. This was an important point for Elena to understand. Her relationship with Stefan is completely unlike her relationship with Damon in so many ways, but perhaps most of all for the simple fact of her inability to fall out of love with Damon enough to attain the kind of bond she now shares comfortably with Stefan. It's just not possible.
Where does this leave Damon and Elena? Ironically, for all the beauty of this bittersweet moment of truth, it drops them in a painful place indeed. When Damon returned to find Elena in his room, he remarked that if he wasn't allowed to drive her home, she shouldn't be allowed to show up like this in his living quarters at night. It just stirs it all back up. And even though Elena looked like she was ready to leap back into Damon's arms at the tiniest move on his part, Damon either didn't see that or couldn't handle the emotional risk again, because he reaffirmed the old "we're bad for each other" speech and told her he doesn't want to be friends or even see her anymore.
Luckily, that's just not how things work on The Vampire Diaries. How long can Damon and Elena stay out of each other's way, no matter how hard they may try? How well has that ever worked out for them?
Elsewhere in the episode, Bon Bon, Jer, and Matty Boo had issues and adventures of their own. Where I'm at with Jeremy is that he needs to show Bonnie more reasons to continue trusting him, and I was really proud of her for continually stating this and making it clear to him in no uncertain terms. I liked that Anna came up in the conversation, but also that they were able to get past it without overemphasizing that reason for their previous split. As in the Anna situation, I can sympathize with Jeremy's reasons for screwing things up with Bonnie, but he needs to handle it all better this time than he did then. I'm glad they are back on the same page for the most part. Liv is getting just annoying, by the way, and I much prefer Luke out of the twinsies.
Thanks to a possessed Liz, Matt took a little trip to the Other Side, where he encountered Kol (be still my heart. Also, I'm always up for a random and unexpected Mikaelson cameo!). The acerbic Brit spirit informed Matt that something weird was going on in the supernatural ether, with certain dead individuals able to communicate with one another in a way they usually could not. Matt went looking for Vicki, whom he found in a sad scene that ended in her being ripped from him and reclaimed by the realm of death as he returned to life. I'm always excited to see Vicki again, and I suspect many of us would be happy to see her come back to the show more regularly (along with a few other favorite "too soon gone" characters...Alaric anyone? Okay, tangent, but still!).
So in terms of Markos' game-plan, the possessed Tyler was a strategic choice for whatever reason, and we'll see how that unfolds in the next episode.
What did you think of "Resident Evil"? Share your thoughts in the comments!