While last week's episode was focused largely on the show's central love triangle, 'All My Children' pulled much more from the mythology of the series - it was all about the revelation that Esther was planning to kill her sons and daughter.
The hints of guilt Elena felt by betraying Elijah really came to the fore, much to the scorn of Stefan and Damon, who want to kill the Originals in any way possible. And actually, the guilt does not serve Elena well - she spills the beans to Elijah, only for him to kidnap her and leave her in the charge of Rebekah.
We already know that things aren't exactly warm between Rebekah and Elena, and Elena's discovery that Rebekah spent the night with Damon isn't helping the tenseness of the situation (amplified, as The Vampire Diaries does brilliantly, by the gloomy setting of the tunnels where Elena is being held hostage).
Elijah has discovered that Esther is channelling the Bennett bloodline, and Abby and Bonnie in particular. So he gives Damon and Stefan an ultimatum - stop Bonnie and Abby (in other words, kill them), or Rebekah will be given the order to slay Elena. And let's add a sense of urgency - it's a full moon tonight, so that's when Esther will murder her family. The clock is ticking...
Damon and Stefan are understandably reluctant to kill Bonnie - it wouldn't exactly endear Elena to them. They try to dagger Kol to kill the rest of the Originals as well, and it does work initially - enough for Elena to run from Rebekah as far as the vampire-proof cave. But Klaus realises that something is wrong and pulls the dagger from Kol in the nick of time.
There's no other option - Damon and Stefan have to stop the Bennetts. So they toss a coin to decide who will be the one to do the deed (and then, of course, be hated by Elena). We're not privy to the result, but we enter the witch house - Stefan distracts Bonnie, while Damon turns Abby into a vampire. Job done, and Elena can be released.
That's the bare bones, but of course there was so much more to the episode than that. We got a flicker of the burgeoning relationship between Caroline and Klaus, though their scene only came as Caroline was distracting Klaus so that Kol could be daggered. Still, any scene between the two is sizzling at the moment.
We also saw regret from Elijah - before Esther realises that her plans have been thwarted, she tells him that he thinks he is so moral and yet he will murder and maim if he deems it necessary. The words seem to have a real effect on Elijah, who writes a beautiful note of apology to Elena and tells Rebekah that their mother didn't make them monsters - they did that to themselves.
The relationship between Damon and Stefan also continues to be fascinating, especially as we learn that Stefan has not drunk human blood since he threatened to drive Elena off the bridge. And we find out that Damon won the toss... but turned Abby so that Stefan wouldn't have to.
There's a great sadness to Damon as he admits that he thought he could win Elena "fair and square"... but she doesn't want him. His stiff upper lip as he murmurs, "I'm better being the bad guy anyway" is heartbreaking.
There's also a horribly sad moment for Elena, as Bonnie refuses to see her, devastated that her reunion with her mother has come to this. As Caroline says, everything that happened was to save Elena... and Bonnie's always the one that ends up getting hurt. It's awful, but another interesting exploration of the girls' friendship.
And all of that without mentioning the double cliffhangers - from the cave paintings Rebekah saw, there's another tree out there which could kill the Originals (there must have been a sapling from the first tree, which the Originals destroyed.) I don't suppose it'll be long before Elena and the Salvatores discover this...
That would be enough, but there's more to come in the saga of Alaric and Meredith. Waking up in her apartment, he seems to find the knife that's been used in the recent spate of stabbings... just as Meredith returns. "You weren't supposed to see that," she snarls. And then shoots him. Alaric! Surely he can't die... right? I can't wait to find out!
- I liked the opening sequence, as Elena calls Stefan (who doesn't pick up) and then Damon (who brushes her off). The supernatural she can handle - matters of the heart, on the other hand...
- Speaking of which, Elena's face when she realised that Rebekah and Damon had slept together - ouch. And their following tense argument was great, too.
- "Why do you look like someone just shot a panda bear?"
- A bunch of the Originals have made a run for it, but I hope we see them again. I especially like the dynamic between Rebekah and Kol ("This house has enough men rolling around in it." "Just like you, Bekah!")
- Also: Kol called Rebekah a "strumpet". Excellent word choice.
- I liked the little scene as Bonnie practised the privacy spell (especially as it meant we got exasperated Caroline).
- "I can hear your heartbeat." Gulp.
- "Be careful what you wish for."
- Damon drawing his finger across his neck to indicate that Elijah wanted them to kill Bonnie was brilliant.
- I loved everything with Rebekah and Elena, who are great to watch. "Do you think I want to spend what could be the last few hours of my life in idle chit chat with the girl who literally stabbed me in the back?"
- Speaking of which, the scene where Rebekah threatens to set Elena alight was really well done - especially the thrilling moment as Elena stands up for herself and says Rebekah just wants to get revenge because Elena hurt her feelings by pretending to like her. They're a sensitive bunch, the Originals.
- "Pot kettle, brother."
- Klaus was burning his drawings of Caroline... what does that mean?