Nina Dobrev, Marco James Nina Dobrev, Marco James

The Vampire Diaries' Elena Gilbert might be distraught after losing the love of her life, but she's certainly got a funny way of showing it.

Gone is the girl we saw sobbing over the loss of Damon (Ian Somerhalder) when the "Other Side" crumbled at the end of Season 5. Instead, get ready for an upbeat, albeit somewhat delusional Elena (Nina Dobrev) burying her head in her studies while nursing a new hallucinatory spell problem on the side.

"When we were starting this season, I was like, this is going to be such a downer. How can we reinvigorate the show without it being so heavy? So this was our solution -- to have Elena being in this happy, alternate reality," executive producer Caroline Dries says.

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But as the reality of the disappearances of Damon and Bonnie (Kat Graham) settles in and a magic-less Mystic Falls becomes inescapable, it's not long before Elena must face the truth. Will she turn to her friends for support? Or will she dissociate herself further? Check out Dobrev's six teases for the new season!

1. Denial ain't just a river for Elena 
We've seen Elena shut off her humanity in the wake of death, but this time around she's in flat-out denial. In fact, the opening scene of the premiere features a strangely upbeat voiceover. And did we mention her hallucinations? "She's not coping in the healthiest way," Dobrev tells us. "She misses both [Bonnie and Damon] and is incredibly heartbroken and lost without them, but it's so much for her to handle that she can't allow herself to let all those feelings overwhelm her."

2. Caroline is her No. 1 frenemy 
Elena and Caroline have a history of butting heads, although the tension this season will be less physical. "There are a lot of things that are straining their relationship," Dobrev says. "The fact that they can't go to Mystic Falls, the fact that Elena is in denial, but there's also [Caroline's] friendship with Stefan straining things." (Remember this nugget about those three we revealed?) Plus: Expect Caroline to make a shocking discovery about her BFF by the end of the premiere that further complicates things. Still, there's hope just yet for the pair. "At the end of the day, they do care about each other so they're trying to pull each other out of their conflict." she says. 

3. Paging Dr. Gilbert 
Elena's never been what we'd call a scholar, but after five seasons she's finally taken interest in her studies. And spoiler alert: She's a smart cookie. "She tries to immerse herself in school and create a new life [there] with new friends," she says. "I haven't really had to do any class scenes... so I'm having to learn and familiarize myself with a lot of terms and concepts and doctor-type verbiage." Make sure to keep an eye on those "new friends" of Elena's, though, because one of them, recurring guest star Marco James, will be cozying up with her in short order.

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4. A relationship born out of guilt 
Seems strange that Luke, whose actions prevented Damon's return in the finale, is Elena's new buddy. "She talks to Luke a lot and he's one of the people who helps her cope with her loss, which brings out dangerous side effects for Elena," Dobrev says. "But that's why Luke is helping her. He feels guilty and she reminds him frequently of the situation caused by his decision."

5. Alaric 
Sure, he's got his own issues to deal with now that he's back to life and a vampire, but with his drinking partner gone, Elena and Alaric need each other more than ever. "They're going to be leaning on each other for support in a lot of situations," she says. "Matt and I have been working together a lot in the last couple of months and it's been great for the show to have him back and me personally." Let's just hope Davis is over that whole Elena-Alaric sexual tension thing.

6. Goodbye, Salvatores! 
For the first time, viewers will see what Elena is like sans any Salvatores in her life. "I'm excited to see her start this new life in college and see how she copes without the Salvatores and how long that lasts and if it makes her realize that being away from them is good or bad," Dobrev says. "It's interesting to see her become her own independent person."

The Vampire Diaries returns on Thursday at 8/7c on The CW. Make sure to check back after the premiere for a postmortem with executive producer Caroline Dries!

Watch our interview with Dobrev about the Season 5 finale:

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