Two weeks can feel like an eternity when you're waiting for TVD to come back. But tonight's episode does not disappoint. It has murder, backstabbing, an engagement, and a long-awaited answer to who "she" is NOT. So, let's get on with this!
IN THE FUTURE
Damon is chained and vervain-ed to a chair. He mumbles something about "big hair and being a horrible president." (Do things get so bad in the future that Donald Trump is elected? If so, I'm blaming him for Steroline's breakup.) We hear a voice — one I don't recognize — before "she" comes into frame.
It's Lily. I love how TVD uses this structure to invert our expectations. In the last episode, she teamed up with the brothers Salvatore to take down Julian — now, three years later, she's the one hunting them down. I think she's got some explaining to do …
THE IRONY AND THE ECSTASY
"Dear Elena, I'm pregnant." (Caroline has some explaining to do too, it seems.) Through her diary, Caroline tries to rely on her sort-of departed friend to figure out what it means to carry Alaric's babies while she's with Stefan and technically departed herself. As she fails to figure anything out, Matt calls. He invites her to track down the people Julian was holding hostage, who have suddenly disappeared. After revealing her pregnancy, Matt, who has no chill about this whatsoever, asks only one question: "What did Stefan say?"
Nothing. Stefan has said nothing because Stefan doesn't know yet. The minute he opens the door and sees Caroline, it's obvious that they've been avoiding each other. Stefan, because they still haven't processed their "I lost a baby I didn't even know I had" conversation. Caroline, because the "I'm having two babies I didn't think it was possible to have" conversation is so ironic a person could faint.
Valerie comes to the rescue (love you, girl) and suggests that she and Damon head off to kill Julian, as planned, while Stefan stays behind so they can have the Talk. Which they have, and to which Stefan reacts badly. "I don't think there are any words," he says, while I literally shout all the words in the English language and some in Spanish and French that he could possibly say to comfort his terrified girlfriend. Instead, he bails. He has an almost-stepdad to kill. Priorities, man.
"We'll talk when I get back," he says, totally confident that he'll return from his latest attempt to off a sociopathic vampire. (I mean, to his credit, they're pretty good at it, but … presumptuous much?)
Thankfully, he survives the fray, then goes to a surprising source for advice: his mother. And even more surprisingly, she gives him exactly what he needs. "Tell her you love her," she says. In return, Stefan offers Lily what she wants most: his forgiveness. "You still have me," he says, and the chemistry between Paul Wesley and Annie Wersching in this scene is lovely. Stefan once said those words to Elena, if you'll remember right after Alaric died (for the first time). He's the guy who survives the fray, who's there even when no one else can be. He's not sure when Damon will come around, but has high hopes that with time — and with Julian out of the way — they can mend fences.
So, he bravely mends fences with Caroline as well. "I love you," he says, which is exactly what she needs to hear. "And no matter how weird this gets, I'm here for you. We'll get through this together." If he plays his cards right, this could be an opportunity for him to co-parent these kids with Alaric. He could be the father he was deprived of becoming all those years ago.
But he's lying, of course. Three years from now, they have certainly NOT made it through this together. Fine. Minus 1,000.
Let's move from one soon-to-be doomed couple to another that shouldn't get together in the first place. Enzo runs into (a.k.a. stalks) Lily at the bookstore. She's trying to find a present for Mary Louise and Nora's anniversary. When Lily says she's looking for a poem Mary Louise used to recite, "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd," well, let's just say Enzo lays it on thick. I'm really trying to see what he sees in her. I suppose he wants to save her from Julian — and from herself — but why? Because she saved him? Does everyone on this show have a hero complex? (Everyone except Katherine. God, I miss her.)
Enzo's poetics seem to do the trick for Lily, because the next thing you know, they're kissing. And that brings me to my next question: The leap from Lily to Bonnie, three years in the future, is … significant. If he's such a wounded puppy for Lily, how does that happen?
I partially get an answer when Lily rejects Enzo's request to run away with him — she wants to see Julian's death to the end. So, he does what every dude does when he doesn't get the girl. He gets another girl. When Sheriff Matt runs into Enzo at the grill, though, he's not kissing this one. He's feeding on her. Matt tries stuff a normal cop would do to stop such behavior. "You've brought a knife to a gunfight, and it's going to be the death of you," Enzo warns him. He's not wrong: Matt's human presence has been essential to the show's core characters retaining their humanity … but Matt himself can only stick around these creatures for so long before he realizes he's trying to beat a stacked deck.
Turns out Matt is a step ahead of us. While we haven't seen him onscreen much lately, he's been making "friends." The kind of friends who roll in with vervain darts, shoot Enzo, and drag him into an armored car. Who knows where they're taking him, but it doesn't look good — not for Enzo, and definitely not for Matt's humanity. Is he going to take the vamps out one by one?
THE SPLINTERED HEART
And finally, we reach the main event. The heretics are in celebration mode for Mary Louise and Nora's anniversary, except for Lily, who wakes up next to Julian with the same expression I make when my alarm rings in the morning after a late-night Netflix binge: WTF did I do? Determined to win the other heretics to her side so they will unlink her and Julian — and as Damon says, "get rid of this Julian Mama Drama forever" — Lily plays it nice even when the "kids" accuse her of being no fun.
Julian throws Mary Louise and Nora an epic anniversary shindig, chock-full of snacks — and by snacks, I mean the people he's force-fed, hooked up to an IV drip. Beau even looks happy to be there, which makes me incredibly nervous. Julian gets the girls riled up and they feed on one of the guests. Lily promptly pooh-poohs the feeding, but then realizes that if she wants to get the girls on her side, she has to meet them halfway.
But halfway is not enough for Julian. Like a bad bartender to an alcoholic, Julian seduces Lily into bringing out her inner ripper to play to the tune of Beau's operatic singing. (It's another lovely tease of Beau's backstory!) And then, Damon walks through the door. When Lily tries to explain, he isn't having it. "I'd have left you in that damn prison world so I didn't have to see your face again." Damon has always been good at holding a grudge.
Meanwhile, Mary Louise pulls Julian aside and shows him the ring she plans to give Nora. Julian seems supportive — does it surprise anyone else that this all-around-terrible person is automatically cool with the ladylove? — but then, he insults Mary Louise's ring and tells her to use the massive one dangling from his pinky finger instead. Julian, here's a fun fact: Diamonds lose half their value the minute they leave the store, like you do, each day you're still alive.
Nevertheless, Nora seems to like it. She gushes when Mary Louise proposes — until Valerie crashes their lakeside moment and shares her story with the entire family (minus Julian, who is upstairs feeding like it's the day after a juice cleanse). Nora and Beau instantly believe her, but Mary Louise is skeptical. After Valerie has lied about so many things, how can they trust her now?
Answer: Because she just told you that Julian beat her until her baby died, you idiot.
It's that skepticism that leads Nora to break up with Mary Louise, giving back Julian's ring of manipulation. Her heartbreak sends Mary Louise to rescue him from Stefan and Damon's clutches after they brought him down and subdued him, which also injured Lily due to their magical life link. "And that, Mary Louise, is why you've always been my favorite!" Yuck.
Julian lays out his plan. To stop the dissent within their family and to make Lily prove her loyalty, she has to kill either Valerie or Damon. Finally, we see that Lily still has some humanity in her — she apologizes to both of them and stakes herself, believing she would also kill Julian.
Except Mary Louise had already unlinked them.
And so Lily ends up on her deathbed with splinters in her heart. (It's a lovely metaphor for the kind of person she has become.) While Nora and Stefan say goodbye, Damon swigs bourbon in the corner. He's trying to figure out what his final words should be to his dying mother. And those words are: "You made your bed. Have a nice nap."
That sentiment is definitely going to come back to bite Damon. Later, we learn his mother is somehow the one seeking revenge on him in the future. Wait, WHAT?
BACK TO THE FUTURE
Damon is still chained up to that chair, and Lily is … not taunting him, but trying to figure out a way to save him? "You've been poisoned with werewolf toxin," she tells him. If they don't get a cure soon, he'll die. (A cure? The only one with the cure happens to be pretty busy in New Orleans right now. Are they setting us up for an Originals crossover?)
Damon has almost died from werewolf toxin before, so as he did then, he takes this opportunity to say what's in his heart: "I'm sorry," he tells his mother, for condemning her moments before her death.
For a moment, Lily looks serene — until her face changes. With a few words, we learn the truth: "Your mother's been dead for years." Damon has been hallucinating. "She" kicks Damon in the face with the heel of her boot, knocking him out.
The plot thickens! Lily is indeed dead, which means the identity of the mysterious "she" is still up for grabs, and operation Kill Julian has hit yet another snag.
Until next week's holiday episode, I'll be listening to Beau's opera and wondering if we'll ever learn the truth behind his scar on Twitter at @Talkativetara.