The Originals take the back seat this week as much of the episode is focused on the Mystic Falls serial killer. Alaric, who was shot at the end of 'All My Children', awakens locked up in jail (having recovered thanks to Meredith's vampire blood) and finds himself as the prime suspect. He appears to have been framed by Meredith.
Elena and Matt team up to uncover the truth about Meredith (Torrey DeVitto) and get Alaric freed, and they end up breaking into the doctor's apartment.
It was obvious from pretty early on that there was more to Meredith than meets the eye, but the investigating - not just from Elena, but also from Damon - opens up an intriguing debate on whether it's a sure thing that Meredith is indeed the killer.
On one hand, Elena finds Meredith's hidden box which includes an old Gilbert journal as well a document that hints she may have fixed the medical examiner's death to frame Alaric. On the other, Damon ponders if it's possible for a woman to overpower three grown men (though Rebekah points out that anyone can kill anyone with the right motivation). Things take an unusual turn when Meredith presents evidence to the sheriff that clears Alaric's name.
Damon is reminded of a similar string of murders back in 1912 - and we flash back several times to the early 20th century, when Damon and Stefan meet for the first time in 50 years to mourn their nephew Zachariah Salvatore. Things are tense between the pair as Stefan is surviving without human blood.
Barring a couple of flashbacks, some of these scenes appear to be little more than filler particularly in the middle. A redhead vampire Sage (Cassidy Freeman) is introduced but she serves little purpose and is undeveloped as a character - at least in this episode. However, there's opportunity to bring her into the present which could shake things up a bit.
The flashbacks do have a pretty shocking payoff. In the present, Damon manages to tempt Stefan to drink human blood, but Stefan almost loses control and has to be stopped by his brother (rather inconvenient timing, too, when Elena comes across the scene with human blood dripping from Stefan's mouth).
Stefan can't understand why Damon is trying so hard to help him control himself and be able to drink in moderation. What follows is a wonderful heart-to-heart between the brothers - Damon reveals that a similar thing happened in 1912. Stefan feeds on a woman, but losing control, he accidentally rips her head off. Devastated, he runs away.
Damon admits that he regrets not going after Stefan and being there for him. But that will change now. He's here to pull Stefan back whenever he goes too far. "Because right now, you're all I've got." Amazing scene - it's lovely to see the brothers bond.
Just when you think the episode can't outdo itself, it can. Meredith turns up at Alaric's and reveals that she was protecting him in getting his name deliberately cleared. Why? Because - major shocker - Alaric is the killer!
Blackouts, loss in time - the ring that Alaric wears and that constantly brings him back to life seems to have poisoned him into doing things he's not aware of.
Elena says it makes sense after reading the Gilbert journal. The same thing happened back in 1912. Founding member Samantha Gilbert was the one who stabbed Zachariah at the beginning of the episode. She, too, was wearing a ring. It was her journal, and she wrote that she was going crazy: "I don't feel like myself... I'm losing time."
The final several minutes absolutely delivered in typical Vampire Diaries style. It's remarkable how the show can maintain such a high level of quality, and as we approach the season finale, I'm excited to see what's in store for the Mystic Falls residents next.
• The Originals generally had little screen time, but Rebekah was on the case trying to find out more about the white oak tree.
• Rebekah even knows Sage: "Trashy little thing."
• Elena telling Damon, "If you keep pushing people away, you're going to end up alone," makes the vampire's moment with Stefan more poignant and genuine.
• The episode did a great job of making Meredith unlikeable and hiding her true intentions until the end: "You date vampires, Elena. It shouldn't come as a shock to learn that your guardian is a murderer."
• Elena has a lovely conversation with Matt about her love for Stefan and Damon. She admits to feeling "safe" with Stefan at the beginning, partly because he would never die. And talking about Damon: "[He] just sort of snuck up on me. He got under my skin and not matter what I do, I can't shake it."
• Bonnie's mother Abby will transform into a vampire. It's not an enviable fate at all, so it will be interesting to see if Bonnie and Elena's friendship is fractured as a result.
What did you think of the episode? Leave your comments below!