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The Vampire Diaries - I Went to the Woods - Review

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Wow, everything in this episode was a cut above most of what we have been treated to in the solidly entertaining, if slightly uneven, seventh season of The Vampire Diaries.  Truly an episode for the "Defan" diehards, "I Went to the Woods" was focused, moody, atmospheric, emotional, gritty, and surprising in some terrific ways.

Picking up the pieces.  After Damon and Valerie couldn't quite get the transfer spell done before Rayna stabbed Stefan with the Phoenix sword, one would have thought all was lost, with Stefan presumably plunged back into the harrowing hell world.  On the other hand, once "Thelma and Mary Louise" (haha) torched the sword amidst their fiery demise, all seemed even more bleak for poor Stefan.  A shocked and enraged Valerie informed an aghast and grief-riddled Damon that Stefan's soul was most likely gone forever.  But Damon, fiercely unwilling to accept that this was his brother's fate, cast aside Valerie's ever "Debbie Downer" attitude and announced his determination to find Stefan's soul, wherever it might reside.  Valerie basically stole Damon's idea to do a location spell for Stefan's body and apparated, which was pretty annoying.  But I loved that right from the get-go, we could see Damon's firm resolve to save Stefan even in the face of that task being absolutely impossible.

Rayna made a panicked phone call to Matt, "the only one she can trust," one of the few leaps in this awesome episode.  Basically, the writers needed someone convenient for Rayna to drop some major revelations on, and boy, did she ever. Guess what, the souls in the Phoenix stone were not destroyed; rather, they now wander free, given their liberation once the sword was gone.  Even more damning both for Stefan and Rayna, in different ways, is the fact that the souls from the stone were all tossed into whatever recently-dead body they happened to land in when they were freed.  

It's hard on Rayna to know that her many years of hunting down awful, murderous vampires was all for naught, and her victims are now on the loose and hidden in other bodies.  But it was worse for Stefan to realize that he was in someone else's body.  And how in the world would Damon and Valerie find the body that held Stefan's soul?  Not challenging enough for our heroes?  As we remember from that time Alaric tried to bring Jo back to life but accidentally revived another soul in her body, a human body playing host to a soul not its own will die within a short period of time.  Hence, not only did we have an exciting new twist on the Phoenix stone mythology, but now we had Damon on the world's most excruciating time crunch to save his brother -- and his own soul, in terms of his redemption in both his own and Stefan's eyes.  I loved everything about the set-up of this episode!

"Even heroes can't save them all."  Stefan awoke, convinced that he must be back in the hell world, but found to his shock that his soul was trapped in the body of an alcoholic who had just caused a horrible car wreck.  After escaping the cops, Stefan struggled to survive against the odds, in a body that was falling apart in more ways than one, and with a huge blizzard on the way.  Without allies and with his hope disintegrating, Stefan couldn't help acknowledging the cruel irony that he was in the body of an addict.  Everything we saw Stefan go through, stumbling from an abandoned cabin and vehicle to the middle of a snowy road as the end loomed near, contained some of Paul Wesley's best work on the show to date.  I really enjoyed how much deep material he got to play out in this episode, as well as the thoughtful and evocative musical choices and the grim beauty of the snow.

Bait and switch.  Damon was lucky enough to find Stefan's body wandering around haplessly, but the new occupant of the body was a quick learner, and a formidable foe himself.  With all of the other complicated content of the episode, I was impressed that the writers also found time to fit in a creepy new villain.  After some absolutely hilarious scenes wherein Damon tried to cure his brother's presumed amnesia by giving him Stefan's dour, Damon-hating journal,  Damon realized it wasn't really Stefan.  Then all the stalling and witty repartee in the world wasn't enough to prevent the new tenant in Stefan's body from fleeing and holding onto his new lease on life.  

Alaric, having been brought into the loop by Valerie, put two and two together based on Rayna's hints that Stefan's body hijacker was on his way to Memphis, realizing that it must be the soul of a vampire serial killer who preyed on sororities and fraternities, making the college students kill one another.  So, that's going to be a bit of a problem!

All the Defan feels.  Damon finally tracked down the area where Stefan, in the body of the alcoholic, Marty, was quickly succumbing to the elements and withdrawal.  Desperately combing the treacherously snowy and icy roads, Damon miraculously got Stefan on the phone and the two brothers had a complex and fascinating conversation.  Among enough dry one-liners to remind us again why we love these guys, Stefan and Damon also canvassed the most painful problems that plague their relationship.  It really seems to break Stefan's heart that Damon never felt compelled to do right by him or anyone else until his love for Elena began to show him another way to live.  As Damon admitted in a fantastic scene,

"Damon: You want me to say what we both already know? Fine. I’m selfish. I’m angry. I’m impatient. And yes, until I met Elena, I wasn’t interested in doing the right thing for anybody.
Stefan: Your brother included.
Damon: My brother included."

Damon urged Stefan to use the anger brought on by this issue to fuel him onward and help him survive.  Stefan managed to begin walking, reminiscing about the brothers' time as children playing hide and go seek.  Damon explained that unlike Stefan's assumption that he had stayed out of their father's office when Stefan hid there to protect himself, he did it out of fear for Stefan's safety.  And this reveal, combined with the flashbacks we saw earlier this season of the boys' childhood with their abusive father, confirmed that there is a depth and sincerity to Damon's love for Stefan that goes back many years.
Stefan seemed so sadly detached when he predicted that Damon wouldn't be there to save him this time that the moment was heartbreaking.  Even though I knew Stefan was wrong, it's understandable that he would feel this way after everything Damon has done.  However, it was powerful and satisfying to see Damon's best side on full show in this episode, and he did arrive in time to rescue Stefan...for the time being.

Of course, the brothers still have to find a way to reunite Stefan's soul and body before Marty's body dies.  And the killer that calls Stefan's body his new home just showed up to a Memphis frat party looking gleeful as hell.  Eep!

Elsewhere in the episode...Damon pretending to be "Matt Donovan" to fool a group of cops was one of the funniest jokes on the show ever, especially when the captain made a comment like, "It's okay everyone, Matt Donovan's taking care of it."  The sheer number of "lols" in that moment alone was pure gold.
Ric put Matt in his place for his ridiculously traitorous behavior, and predictably enough, Officer Whines-a-lot had no excuse other than to vaguely complain about bad things that had happened.  Even though this was the second episode in a row with -- gasp -- no Bonnie and no Caroline, it was wonderful to finally get some more scenes featuring Alaric.  He seems, sigh, still rather melancholy in general, confiding to Valerie that he proposed to Caroline because he had fallen in love with her, and she accepted because it made sense due to the children.  Poor Ric, painfully aware that Caroline still has feelings for Stefan.  I really hope that before the show ends, we get to see Alaric find true happiness, though I am so glad that the twins survived, and maybe that is enough of a miracle. 

What did you think of this episode?  Share your thoughts in the comments, and be sure to catch an all-new The Vampire Diaries, Friday at 8/7c on the CW.

About the Author - Virginia Mae Fontana
Virginia is happy to be reviewing The Vampire Diaries and Beauty and the Beast for Spoiler TV. She enjoys obsessing over films and pop music - in addition to tv shows, of course! You can find her blog, SugarRushed, at and her Twitter handle is @VMaeFontana
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