We've known for a while that the Original family would be coming back, but last week's Elijah reveal was still a squeal-worthy surprise, and this episode thankfully didn't squander it.
We were kept in the dark slightly - had Elijah genuinely sided with Damon, or did he mean it when he toasted Klaus and promised: "Family first?" The supernatural world lives by honour, so there was always the sneaking suspicion that Elijah could turn on the Salvatores at any moment.
It all revolved around a dinner party held by Klaus. Dinner parties are tense at the best of times - add in Original vampires, warring brothers and negotiations about the future of Mystic Falls, and it reaches another level entirely. It was wonderfully tense, and Joseph Morgan was magnificent as the deliciously cold Klaus ("We can sit and eat, or I can reach down your throats and pull out your insides. The choice is yours.")
The party is meant to distract Klaus while Bonnie and Abby figure out how to open the mysterious coffin (what makes The Vampire Diaries special is that this tied seamlessly into Bonnie's unresolved feelings about her mother's abandonment - the moment when she said it was easier to think Abby was dead was chilling.)
But that's not to say the party didn't provide any other purpose - actually, it allowed us to examine the Salvatore rivalry over Elena, and Klaus revealed that he and Elijah had a similar fight over the original Petrova, Tatia (surely we'll meet her soon?)
The climax comes when Stefan rejects Klaus's offer. Klaus wants to ensure the safety of Elena for the sake of his hybrids... but this means keeping her from Damon and Stefan. Here, we really don't know who to trust - Klaus thrusts Stefan's hand into the fire, while Elijah pins Damon against the wall.
But Damon and Elijah refuse to follow Klaus's orders to collect the hidden coffin - instead, they return with company! Klaus's siblings have been awoken, and to say they're annoyed with him is an understatement.
So Stefan and Damon are free, and have an awkward brotherly chat where they admit that they both love Elena. It's fabulous, particularly as it reminds us that Stefan does still care, despite everything that's happened lately. They head to the coffin, only to discover that it's open and empty.
Back with Klaus, it seems Damon and Stefan might regret waking the Originals... Rebekah wants to kill Elena to strip Klaus of his ability to make hybrids, and then they'll leave him alone. Klaus is defiant but Rebekah retorts that she'll find the coffin.
Of course, we know it's already open... and who's this? Jaw-droppingly, it's Klaus's mother, and for the first time we see real terror in his eyes. But she forgives him and announces she wants the Originals to be a family again. When you think The Vampire Diaries is going to do something, it always goes in a more inventive direction.
That would be enough plot for an episode of any show, but this is The Vampire Diaries, so we had a whole other storyline, filled with mystery, death, and heartwrenching emotion.
Remember the murder of the medical examiner? He was staked with one of Alaric's weapons. And soon Caroline and Elena find Bill Forbes stabbed with another one. What's worse is that because Meredith saved Bill with vampire blood, he's going to turn.
All he needs to do to complete the transition is feed - but he refuses, standing by his beliefs that cheating death is unnatural. This entire plot is wonderful - full of genuine emotion as Caroline desperately tries to force her father to change his mind.
She even asks how Bill can hate who she is, but the highlight comes when Bill takes his daughter in his arms and murmurs: "Parents aren't supposed to outlive their children... This is life. This is what it means to be human."
It was also wonderful to see Caroline asking Elena about how she felt when her own father died - it was such a touching scene, and reminded me of how great it is when we see the girls' friendship. And I'm pleased Elena's grief has been explored more lately - things like the recent bridge scene are what The Vampire Diaries does best.
But we get even more action as Alaric gets stabbed - Elena, as a supernatural doppelganger, is forced to kill him so that his ring can bring him back to life. Seeing her raise the dagger and plunge it into his chest was breathtaking... as were Elena's tears as she sobs that she can't lose any more family.
Alaric wakes up, but though he had suspected Meredith (who had access to and knowledge of the weapons), she's got a strong alibi. So who's behind the recent attacks on council members? And who'll be next? There's so much going on in The Vampire Diaries - my only complaint is the long, long wait until the next episode...
- Hiding the coffin in the caves allowed Bonnie to mention the drawings to Abby - they're about "a mother who loved her children so much she couldn't bear to lose them". It's to The Vampire Diaries' credit that it didn't overegg the pudding, here - it's a quiet moment, but Bonnie's voice was tinged with bitterness.
- Joseph Morgan continues to be a revelation - in this episode we had everything from chilling evil to wonderful, shouting defiance, to genuine fear for the first time when his mother arrived - he could barely look at her. Brilliant.
- I continue to maintain that the Damon-Elena-Stefan storyline is far more than just a love triangle. And Klaus summed that up when he spoke about how Elena will only ever truly be safe when she's free of them; she'll only be happy if she marries a human and has a normal life. But, of course, it's far more complicated than that.
- Elena and Matt returning to a dark house - prior to the discovery of Alaric - was genuinely quite creepy. Sure, torches and darkness and blood on the walls are a bit of a cliché, but there's no denying that it was pull-a-blanket-over-you television.
- Speaking of Elena and Matt, their scene as Matt comforted her was brilliant. I love that we've seen the touching relationship between them lately.
- Elijah and Klaus's brotherly fisticuffs were a bit amazing.
- Klaus tells Elijah that Stefan holds the one thing keeping him from freeing the Originals - "There are things you don't know about our past, our mother's death, things I never wanted you to know." What on Earth could this mean? Is it just Klaus trying to manipulate his brother, or are there serious things going on we'll find out about?
- "You're on speakerphone, d**k."
- Elena is forced to ask Stefan if he was behind the medical examiner's murder. It's a superb scene - when Stefan replies: "Did you ask Damon if he killed anybody lately?" you can practically hear the hearts breaking across the land.
- "It almost makes me nostalgic for the time Stefan was a bunny-snacking pacifist."
- I should mention that Paul Wesley was also awesome in the dinner party scenes. He's been consistently great this season.
- "Stefan, remember when you killed our dad? Maybe dial down the judgement until dessert."
- Elijah asking Stefan about Elena and Klaus mischievously giggling was fantastic. ("Sorry, you missed so much.")
- "The worst thing for Elena Gilbert is the two of you."
- Even with all their rivalry for Elena, Damon can't let Stefan die. The scene in the woods was fab.
- Who do you think is behind the attacks? Meredith? Caroline's suspect Tyler? Or someone else?
- All of the Originals (bar Mikael) are back! SQUEAL.