I was all set to hate "Miss Mystic Falls" when I realized what it was about. There's a multitude of crises taking place and Elayna takes time out to enter a beauty pageant? Are you kidding me? Luckily my worries were unfounded for once. This episode actually turned out to be pretty decent. And there was much rejoicing!
It turns out Elayna entered the pageant--a Founders Day tradition--a while back. So long, in fact, she'd forgotten all about it. But since it was her mother who'd wanted her to enter, she feels obligated to go ahead with it. Unfortunately, Caroline is also a contestant, so we're forced to endure far too much of her whining, jealousy, self-involvement--all things Caroline ('wah Elayna's going to win because she's got the sympathy card, but I'm the one who really deserves it!' Ugh). Surprisingly, there's nothing to dislike about the actual pageant itself (except maybe the horrid evening gowns the girls choose to wear). There's an amusing montage of contestant interviews, and nifty dance scenes (rehearsal and performance). The waltz between Elayna and Damon was, well, kind of mesmerizing. They have far, far better chemistry than Elayna has with Stefan (actually, Damon seems to have amazing chemistry with all the women. They chose well when they cast his character). More importantly, the pageant serves as the focus of Stefan's downward spiral.
Before I get into that, though, I should probably touch on the lesser storylines going on.
Bonnie's back, at last, and none too happy about seeing Elayna again. She feels her gram's death was for nothing since the spell failed and the vampires got out of the tomb anyway. Not only that, but she blames Damon and Stefan for all of it. She doesn't want to put Elayna in the middle so she decides to make the choice for both of them. By the end of the episode she tells Elayna outright to leave her alone (despite having just helped Stefan, unasked). But they're BFF's! I'm sure it'll all work out in the end.
Speaking of the tomb vampires, Anna pays a visit to Damon to apologize on Pearl's behalf for what happened to Stefan (when Frederick kidnapped and tortured him). He's not interested, particularly in light of the company Pearl is keeping. But Anna claims all the vampires have abandoned Pearl and left town. Only Pearl, Anna, and Harper are left. I'm not too pleased about this. Weren't the escaped vampires supposed to make the town theirs? Wasn't that the big fear about them getting out of the tomb in the first place? And now they just decide to leave quietly? How convenient. I hope this is simply a diversionary tactic meant to throw the Salvatores off their trail. Otherwise: lame.
John Gilbert pays Damon a visit too, asking him about a mysterious invention of the original Johnathon Gilbert's that was supposed to have been buried with the vampires. He wants Damon's help because Damon knows said vampires. John then asks him if he knows of one named Pearl. That was just what Damon was waiting for. He'd only been going along with John because he'd been promised that John and Isobel could take him to Katherine. But now Damon realizes that if they knew Katherine they would also know that Pearl was her best friend. Busted. John threatens to out Damon to the Council, but Damon couldn't care less. If John says anything he'll just kill the entire Council before cutting off John's ring hand and killing him too. Well, all right, then. Apparently you don't live for 150 years without learning how to deal with blackmailing douchebags like John Gilbert.
Later, at the pre-pageant gathering, Damon asks Anna (who looks gorgeous all dressed up) about the invention and tells her about John's interest in it. Nothing's resolved at that time, but later still Pearl shows up and gives Damon the artifact, telling him to consider it an apology. It doesn't look like much, so it's impossible to tell what it might do. Pearl also tells him that all she and Anna want now is to stay in town.
Jeremy also catches up with Anna at the gathering. She's still angry that he was using her to turn him so he could go off and be with vampire Vicky, but then he reminds her that she used him for his blood to revive her mother. That shuts her up. Then he tells her about Elayna's diary. He's not as angry as I would have expected. In fact, he doesn't seem very angry at all. He says he was glad in a way that his memory was altered, because he wouldn't have wanted to remember Vicky as someone who wanted to hurt him. Anna responds that as they spent time together, her feelings for Jeremy changed. She claims she would never do anything to hurt him. That, at least, is believable--unlike Pearl's claim that she just wants to live a quiet life in town. While all this has been going on, John's been keeping an eye on his nephew. Eventually he asks Jenna who Anna is and finds out her mother is Pearl. I really hope this ends up getting him killed, but I think so does everyone in Mystic Falls, as well. I wonder what he did to piss off everyone in town. Maybe it's just his delightful personality.
Also, since he and Isobel are so close, I have to wonder if he's Elayna's biological dad.
So, back to Stefan's downfall...
Last time I was complaining that Stefan's "overwhelming" need for human blood was actually pretty tame. Ooh--Stefan's losing control and compelling people. Wow. Intense. This week the junkie really comes out. Of course he starts out cool and collected, telling Elayna the worst is behind him and he's fine now. Really fine. It doesn't take us long to see how fine he is. Besides his collection of plasma bags in the trunk of his car and the ones filling a fridge at home, he nearly loses it at the sight of a student's skinned knee, lies to Elayna and Damon, and generally acts twitchy. He goes downhill from there.
Elayna's blissfully clueless about what's going on, but Damon is worried. After confirming with Anna that none of the tomb vampires are stealing plasma, he realizes that Stefan's in serious trouble. I'm not entirely sure why he has to tell Elayna about it right as the pageant ceremonies are about to begin but his timing kind of sucks. Then again, he's worried that Stefan might snap at any moment, having spent so much time avoiding human blood instead of learning to control it. As Damon tells Elayna, a month ago he would have rejoiced at Stefan embracing his inner monster, but now... it's a different story. The Founders Council is aware there's a vampire in town stealing blood, and they're not about to let it slide (really, though--would they prefer it if the vampire just killed people? Angry mobs are such a pain...)
Elayna and Damon confront Stefan (also right before the ceremonies begin), not believing for a second his repeated assurances that he's fine. Shooed out of the room by one of the pageant organizers, Stefan has a fit of rage in a powder room, smashing the mirror. Unfortunately for her, one of the other contestants chooses to open the door right at that moment and finds herself face-to-face with uber vamp. Instead of dark eyes, Stefan's eyes have gone completely black. He's extra veiny too, and clearly not thinking rationally. We don't find out right away what happens next--just that the girl, Amber, and Stefan are nowhere to be found (which is why Damon steps in as Elayna's escort and dance partner). I was sure Amber was a dead girl, but then we see her and Stefan in the parking lot, and she's been compelled.
My first thought was again with the compelling. Yawn. But I'm glad to say it didn't end there. Stefan's fighting himself: he wants her blood, he wants to kill her, but he knows he shouldn't. If he does there's no going back. Just a little taste. No, he can't. But he has to have just one taste. Far from being satisfied with his initial drink, he compels the girl to run in terror in order to get her away from him. But then he changes his mind.
Elayna and Damon interrupt his second feed, as does Bonnie, who realized something was up and tagged along. For the first time on this show we get a look at a truly monstrous vampire. Stefan appears deranged, blood dripping from his mouth, eyes black. Damon tries to calm him down but he gets thrown against a tree for his trouble. Stefan turns hungrily to the girls as Damon recovers and prepares for a fight. Suddenly Stefan's clutching at his head. Bonnie's learned some kind of new mojo. She gets Stefan calm and back in his right mind. He looks at them all, horrified, before running off.
The episode ends with Stefan at home, looking tortured (quick--somebody get him a guitar!) Elayna suddenly shows up and they have a debate about whether he's really evil. The more Elayna insists that this isn't really him, and that she won't leave him, the angrier he gets. Finally he pushes her hard against the wall and screams for her to stop. Then he apologizes all stricken while Elayna assures him it's okay.
This part really annoyed me. No, it is not okay. It is not okay for your boyfriend to physically assault you. Pretty much all abusers follow their attacks with supposedly heartfelt apologies, like that somehow makes up for it. And so many girls and women believe them and stick around. So it's definitely not okay. Fortunately, it turned out there was a valid reason for Elayna's response. As she's reassuring him, we see her other hand holding a syringe. She injects its contents (likely vervain) into Stefan and he drops. Then Damon enters the room and asks if she's sure she wants to do this.
They end up locking Stefan in the basement, in what looks like the former vervain grow-op room (where Damon was so "successfully" kept back in episode 4 "Family Ties.") Damon initially wants to head back upstairs but Elayna settles in to wait, so he joins her.
My one real complaint about this episode: the lighting. In some scenes, characters looked about 20 years older than they actually are. Compare Damon in the scene at the beginning in the Founders Hall when he smiles at John, to the outdoor scene when he's dancing with Elayna. Night and day. Considering that Damon and Stefan are supposed to be teenagers/early twenties, unflattering lighting is not a good thing. I'm just glad I wasn't watching it in HD.
Now we're left to wonder: will Stefan overcome his affliction? Will he and Elayna ever be happy again? I do like the way the addiction storyline is being handled at the moment, but I'm pretty sure it won't last. I'm not too concerned about it, though; I'm far more interested in a potential relationship between Elayna and Damon. I know, I know--talk about abusive boyfriends. But as I mentioned, the chemistry is just too good to ignore. Of course, love triangles are far more interesting to watch (gotta love that tension), so maybe things are fine left as is. But the show seems to be getting consistently better, and that is a good thing indeed.
Oh, and by the way--Caroline won Miss Mystic Falls. Her life finally has meaning.
Appearance: Dark eyes, prominent facial veins. Subtle fangs with small points.
Strengths: Super speed, strength, hearing. Ability to compel (hypnotize) humans.
Weaknesses: Vervain, perky teenage girls.
Mythology: A vampire who avoids human blood for too long won't be able to control himself once he starts drinking human blood again. Some vampires have magically charged rings that allow them to tolerate sunlight.
John: Hey, partner.
Damon: What do you want?
John: You haven't been returning my calls.
Damon: Most people take that as a hint.
Damon: In the running for Miss Mystic Falls?
Anna: Sometimes you have to wear uncomfortable heels to blend in.
Amber: Do you want to hurt me?
Stefan: I want to kill you. I want to rip into your skin and drink your blood.
Anna: We need to talk.
Damon: I'm not in the mood. Today's been a no-good, very bad day.
The Vampire Diaries, Season 1 Episode 19 "Miss Mystic Falls." Written by Bryan Oh and Caroline Dries. Directed by Marcos Siega. From The CW.