Spoilers for the latest episode of The Vampire Diaries past this point.
Christmas may be a beloved holiday for religious and secular folks alike, but it can also go very wrong. For example, nobody loves Christmas traffic or last-minute shopping. Family gatherings can often devolve into slights, nursed grudges, and simmering resentments. Also, sometimes your host will get murdered with a Christmas ornament and sent directly to Hell for most of the night. Few things ruin a Christmas party more than an unexpected trip to Hell, and that point was thoughtfully illustrated by this week's episode of The Vampire Diaries!
"The Next Time I Hurt Somebody, It Could Be You" was a dark, but eventful midseason finale (the last one ever!) that still managed to tease out some heartwarming moments. Also a major character got their heart ripped out and placed on a public bench. Heart-rippings are the reason for the season! Let's talk about it.
We began with a flashback to a shanty village at Christmastime in 1917, and the moment "Monterey" popped up onscreen we knew this would not end well.
A couple of children were roused from their sleep with the promise of gifts from a jolly, bearded friend. Unfortunately, only the bearded part was right.
It was Stefan (Paul Wesley)! He had come to eat everybody! We knew he'd pulled some pretty grim Ripper shenanigans back in the day, but this glimpse was pretty brutal. For example, this was the last Christmas those kids would ever see. Your romantic lead, everybody!
Stefan was feeling much more chill in modern times, as he'd apparently awakened early on Christmas Eve morning to dress every square inch of his home in tinsel and garlands. It was honestly so much that if Martha Stewart had wandered in she'd be like, "Relax." But this was, after all, Stefan's final day before serving Cade and he wanted it to be right. Most importantly, Caroline (Candice King) was very into it!
Speaking of whom, Caroline was having a bittersweet day of her own, as this was the last time she'd see her kids before Alaric (Matt Davis) whisked them away to some allegedly safe place where they wouldn't be pestered by supernatural creatures anymore. (Sure.) But there was one problem: The girls missed Seline (Kristen Gutoskie), their evil Siren babysitter! Alaric frowned so hard about this.
I gotta hand it to this show, sometimes it just gives zero f---s. Like, last week's episode ended with Damon (Ian Somerhalder)'s on-screen DEATH, but this week he simply walked through the front door and his death was barely addressed. Something about how he can't die while serving Cade. It was a pretty cavalier way to break probably the most important vampire rule on this show, but at least this episode didn't waste our time with an explanation. All we needed to know was Damon and Sybil (Nathalie Kelley) were here to get their egg nog on!
At this point Bonnie (Kat Graham) and Enzo (Michael Malarkey) took a quick pause from doing tons of sex so that they could exchange Christmas gifts. Enzo got Bonnie a trip to Paris! In return, Bonnie gave Enzo a couple of t-shirts. She was slightly embarrassed about the disparity there, but sometimes I think you just have to accept that immortal vampires have unlimited resources and you're just an unemployed witch orphan with neither magic nor money. It was a fair exchange.
I really loved when Sybil attempted to help Caroline prepare dinner and she "carved" the turkey by ripping it apart with her bare hands. For a show that features a constant stream of gruesome, simulated violence, the sight of an actual roasted turkey getting torn apart was weirdly disturbing! Credit where credit's due.
So the centerpiece plotline kicked off when Damon snatched a Christmas star down from the tree and impaled Stefan with it! Stefan promptly died, but by this point everyone knew he wouldn't stay dead forever, so nobody was too stressed about it.
Personally that sounded great to me. Temporary death? Sign me up for a few weeks at least!
Caroline handled this unfortunate turn of events like many of us would: By getting real trashed. Relatable!
So, do you want to know what Hell is like? First of all, it uses all the same sets the characters usually hang around in. Which meant that Stefan took a gauzy tour through his own home, then that Monterey campground, and then even Mystic Falls High! I love that this show constantly whisks us to alternate dimensions but they always look the same as what we've already seen. In other words, Hell is very economical. Anyway, Cade wanted Stefan to remember the time he ate a campsite on Christmas (loved the severed head in the grape barrel), but Stefan refused to believe he could have done this. Massacre a campsite? Sure. But never on Christmas!
Damon's humanity switch was still VERY switched off, so he decided it was a good time to murder somebody at the dinner table. Because Matt (Zach Roerig) had brought his dad for some reason, it was pretty clear it was gonna be him. But Damon went through the formality of making everyone list all their transgressions so that he could decide who most deserved it. This seems like a fun game to play at any Christmas Eve dinner, we should all try it!
Bonnie and Enzo wanted to find that magic tuning fork and they ended up tracking down Seline, who had it in her possession. But she was feeling bad about the abduction thing and wanted to make it up to Alaric, so that's when she tipped him off that she had brainwashed his kids sorta, and if he wanted, she could undo it. But Alaric had had ENOUGH of this siren junk and told her to F off basically. Alaric had a real temper sometimes!
Speaking of Seline, we were then given another reminder of just how small the paranormal monster world was. Like, hey remember when Stefan ate that campsite back in 1917? Seline was there! She saw it happen and was very ready to whisk this evil creature to Hell. But then she touched his face and found out he was a pretty good guy. Both of my eyes rolled so hard they fell out of my head, but I put them back in just in time to witness this great splitscreen action:
So yes, this show was trying to tell us that despite his many massacres and the many hundreds of lives Stefan had brutally ended, he wasn't a bad guy. OK? But that, if anything, made him even worse in Cade's eyes. Good people gone temporarily bad were exactly what Cade wanted for his Hell. I was honestly a little confused about all this, but whatever.
Then Damon very nearly murdered Matt's dad, because come on. This show can never resist killing off new characters.
But he didn't! Matt was not going to lose an estranged parent this day.
I liked when Cade brought Stefan back to Mystic Falls High in order to remind him that he'd ruined Elena's life. Which, uh, I think we've learned by now that she had her own supernatural sh-- going on before Stefan even entered the picture. Something tells me her life would have been just as nightmarish without him, if not more so. So cool it with the unsupported claims, Devil.
The main conclusion of all this, however, was that Cade reaaaally wanted Stefan to go into Ripper mode again, and Stefan agreed to do it for ONE YEAR as long as he and Damon would be set free afterward. I'm not sure why the Devil would agree to this, but he did. So there. Now the boys only had to serve for one year! Which in vampire years is like, oh, a few weeks. Not too shabby!
At this point Damon gifted a necklace to Sybil (which Caroline had given him) and it was Elena's old vervain necklace! Sybil tried it on, and for some reason it really ticked Damon off to see her wearing it, so he did what any rational vampire would: HE RIPPED HER HEART OUT.
Also he did it in plain sight of passersby, so I loved that he set her down on the bench like she'd simply gotten blackout drunk on egg nog or something, and then set the heart right next to her. It was a very cute moment. But bye, Sybil! (Just kidding: SPOILERS... The preview for next month shows Sybil back in the mix. This show!)
Stefan let Caroline know that he was going away for a while, but didn't tell her what exactly he'd be doing. She obviously had a sense that he going to get up to some intense sh--, but he just kissed her under the mistletoe and told her it would all be all right. But between this and not seeing her kids anymore, this was not Caroline's favorite Christmas Eve.
Speaking of Caroline's kids, eventually Alaric relented and allowed Seline to unbrainwash them. Seline had wanted to prove she wasn't evil trash, so this was what counted as a heartwarming holiday moment. The girls were no longer brainwashed and Seline had semi-sorta-redeemed herself. A Christmas miracle!
In the end, it came down to the two Salvatores, riding a muscle car into the horizon. But Damon knew that if they were gonna be hardcore soul collectors, Stefan was going to have to turn off that pesky humanity switch. So he did!
And we were left with a couple of bloodthirsty bros careening toward oblivion. Happy holidays, everyone!
The Vampire Diaries can be real dark on holidays (remember the time Klaus killed Tyler's mom during the Christmas-in-February festival?) and "The Next Time I Hurt Somebody, It Could Be You" was no exception. But it still set the table for an exciting end run of episodes and I can't wait to see how it all goes down. You know?
--How many more campsites will Stefan eat now?
--Where will Alaric take the twins?
--Does Hell seem kinda boring?
--Have you ever had your heart literally torn out on Christmas Eve?
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