Last night The Vampire Diaries returned from its holiday hiatus with an episode directed by Paul Wesley. The actor once again proved that he’s multitalented and definitely has a future on both sides of the camera. As for the episode itself, “Woke Up with a Monster” moved at a fast-pace and packed a lot into 42 minutes of television. Unfortunately, it featured one of the most overdone plotlines in the show’s repertoire: everyone stop what you’re doing and risk your life to save Elena.
In general, I’m a big fan of when shows give the majority of the cast a reason to work together to pull off a heist-like plan (or a rescue mission in this case). The Originals has staged several of these this season and I could not love them more for it. But how many times have we seen this particular one? Elena is one of the main characters so I won’t begrudge the show for wanting to focus on her, but enough with the damsel in distress scenarios. At least they allowed Elena to get the upper hand for a half a second when she set herself on fire so she could torch Kai.
As for the rest of the episode, we got plenty of the Parker siblings (who are still no Mikaelson family, but I do enjoy them), some super heavy moments with Sheriff Forbes and her incurable cancer (why, writers, why???) and some movement on two potential romances (or one potential rekindled romance). So let’s talk about it.
5. (Dis) Honorable Mentions
The cast of this show is too large, especially when we add in the recurring guest stars. I’m going to regret saying this because it might come back to bite me if I lose some of my favorites, but they need to trim down the cast or find a way to better include people in the main stories. We didn’t even get to see Bonnie in this episode so I’ll just assume she’s still miserable since she’s trapped in 1994 (FIX IT, SHOW). Tyler and Alaric are both supporting players to guest stars and don’t get me wrong, I really like Liv and Jo, but shouldn’t the series regulars be the ones driving the story as opposed to the guest stars? I might not be fans of Matt and Jeremy, but both of them seemed randomly shoved into stories that easily could have carried on without them. [SPOILER] leaving is a step in the right direction, but the writers need to find something for everyone else to do or give them excuses to leave town as well. Speaking of needing a storyline…
Okay, I know better than to generalize so it’s possible some fans care about this plot. For me, it’s already as stale as Elena being kidnaped and tortured so a man can vamp speed to the rescue. Enzo’s grudge against Stefan was weak to start with, but why does it still exist when Damon is back? Enzo was super jealous of their bond, yet we haven’t actually seen him trying to hang out with Damon or help him rescue Bonnie or Elena or even so much as a text message. Instead, Enzo is stalking Stefan to learn his big secret. Stefan came right out and told him the secret last night and Enzo pretended to leave it alone. I expected Enzo to approach the actual Sarah Salvatore (currently going by Sarah Nelson), but all we got was Enzo explaining his plan to some random person running the gallery.
This is a waste of all of our time. The audience didn’t need the exposition. Enzo’s intentions to ruin Stefan’s life have been stated many times. After seeing how proud Stefan is of his niece, it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist for the audience to guess that Enzo approaching her would probably be for something of the Cruel Intentions (or Dangerous Liaisons if you want to go old school) variety. So please stop dragging it out and let them meet so we can see if they have chemistry (please, please have chemistry).
3. Liv vs. Luke
Liv and Jo have taken over the Salvatore mansion for witch training and it’s not going well. My favorite part about these scenes was Stefan and Damon’s reactions to them. I love that no one bothered to tell Stefan they’d be using their living room and I also love that both brothers were nonchalant about the chaos like this kind of thing happens all of the time (because it pretty much does). Liv was recruited for Operation Elena and then Luke snatched her away (this family loves their invisibility cloaks). Their father wanted them to come home and Liv finally broke down and pointed out to Luke that she would lose the merge because Luke managed to overpower her twice: first when she was doing the spell to bring everyone back from the Other Side and then with the invisibility cloak she couldn’t escape.
I have to give the show credit here because I just assumed Liv would win since she’s the one who’s had more screen time and personal relationships. But Luke has been stronger all along and I didn’t even notice. He changed his mind about following Papa Parker’s orders because he loves Liv and doesn’t want her to die (aw). We also got a great Liv and Tyler moment that went from a fight to a forehead touch (which basically means true love on TV).
2. Caroline is desperate to save Liz
This story hurts just as much as I knew it would. Caroline and Stefan headed on a road trip so she could talk to a doctor about her mother’s case. The doctor didn’t think there was much hope, but she mentioned another patient who was in similar condition. Caroline decided to use that patient as a ‘can vampire blood cure cancer?’ test subject. Obviously this was going to be a disaster, but I still wanted to have hope because 1) I don’t want Liz to die and 2) I don’t want Caroline to lose her mother. Her speech about selfishly wanting Liz to live longer for her was beautiful and heartbreaking. It was made even more so when we saw the patient Caroline “saved” succumb to death that much faster with the vampire blood in his system just as Caroline was giving Liz hers and effectively signing her death warrant (seriously, show? It wasn’t bad enough you were killing her, but now to manipulate it to be Caroline’s fault? That’s beyond harsh).
(Now is the time to turn away from the shipper bias). On the bright side, Stefan and Caroline were back to being Stefan and Caroline. I love that he was there to set things up at the house for Liz’s homecoming (why didn’t you just move the chair?) and that he didn’t hesitate to join her on the road trip. Caroline asking Stefan to let her have hope broke my heart because he knew better, but he did what she asked because that’s what friends do for friends. Their friendship is one of my favorites and I’m happy it’s back on track. I’m also happy he told her the truth about Sarah. And then there was the handholding on the porch. The look on Caroline’s face when he grabbed her hand…the look on Stefan’s face when he watched her walk away…I’m just over here with heart eyes (and I’ll stop gushing there).
1. Damon rescues Elena from Kai
(Note: it’s not so much this is my favorite moment as it’s the biggest part of the episode so it gets the number one spot). First, credit where credit is due: Kai is still awesome. I was cracking up when he explained to Elena how he tried to reason with the Mystic Falls manager about the unconscious hostage and how he accidentally killed him with magic and just when Elena couldn’t get any more horrified, he undid the invisibility cloak so she could see the guy’s body on the table. I just hope the show doesn’t make the mistake of trying to redeem Kai. He’s made it pretty clear he doesn’t care about anyone or anything. So eventually, they’re going to have to kill him or lock him up in a witch prison that he can escape from at a later date if they want to bring him back (I believe there’s one in New Orleans that could work).
Other good things about this plot included Jo managing to do the invisibility shield, even if it was only temporary. The thing I love about Jo is that she’s always trying to get better and work harder, even though the odds are stacked against her at every turn (I also really liked Damon and Alaric discussing this, mostly because I will always love their bromance and I’m glad Ric seems less mad at Damon). Of course Jo’s shield didn’t hold and then Kai tried to kill them, which resulted in Damon accidentally staking Elena and Jeremy and Ric arriving to take out Kai (temporarily) with Jeremy’s crossbow.
Now, can we talk about Elena pretending there was still a piece of stake in her heart while Damon freaked out and tried to save her? That was a really weird joke to play on someone. But afterward, the two planned to have dinner together, assuming Damon doesn’t get sent to a supernatural prison world or that Elena doesn’t get kidnapped by another super powered witch. We’ll see if that dinner actually works out because I don’t think Kai’s going to remain bound and unconscious for long. But the preview did have a little something special for shippers.