A Very Merry Christmas from your friends at Augustine!
Seasons Greetings, Fangbangers! In this month of fat men slithering down small chimneys and giving you presents, while stealing your cookies and milk . . . a time when elves (I believe the appropriate term now is “little people”), work tirelessly, without the benefit of vacation time or a health care plan, to build Little Janey her iPad or Kindle Fire, much discussion will inevitably be had over the concept of “Naughty or Nice.”
Were you a good girl or boy, this year?
How exactly is something like that measured? Does “Santa” take an average of all of our deeds, and draw up some complex mathematical computation, where the difference between good or evil is merely a hundredth of a decimal point? Is it merely enough that you’ve been well behaved, this week? This month? That even if you’ve been naughty in the past, you promised to do better next time, and really meant it?
Or are there actions in this world that are considered to be so evil, that they will land us irredeemably on the Naughty List for life, no matter how hard we try to repent?
Vampire series (and, really, shows starring antiheroes as the main protagonist, in general) grapple with this issue all the time. How far can a writer push the misdeeds of her main character, before fans find themselves simply unable to empathize with him or her? Let’s see, over the course of TVD’s five season history, we’ve seen . . .
Damon murder Jeremy, because Elena rejected his romantic advances . . .
Katherine feed Jeremy to Silas, just so that she could steal the cure to immortality and use it as a bargaining tool with Klaus. (Poor Jeremy, are we noticing a pattern here?)
We’ve seen Klaus murder an entire line of hybrids he, himself, sired, stake his siblings countless times just because they were kind of mean to him, kill Useless Aunt Jenna, Tyler’s mom, and that annoying female werewolf whose name I no longer remember . . .
And we’ve watched Stefan eat his own father and murder thousands of innocent humans as the Ripper of Monterrey.
And yet, season after season, we forgive these monstrous vampires. We invite them into our homes. (A very bad idea, as vampire lore will tell you.) We root for them to fall in love, get the girl, vanquish their enemies, and live Happily Ever After.
But if these were our real family and friends, could we be so forgiving? If those were our relatives who they bludgeoned? Our lovers who they remorselessly slew?
Maybe . . . but probably not.
“Fifty Shades of Grayson” delves into that concept wholeheartedly . . . the idea of being completely and utterly beyond redemption. And by the end of the episode, some of our favorite characters find themselves stuck on the much-despised Naughty List (Do not Pass Go. Do not collect a MacBook Air.) possibly for . . . ALL ETERNITY.
Let’s review, shall we?
Damon . . . SMASH!
True story. When I was about 9 years old, I was cast as the Wicked Queen in my day camp production of Snow White. During the scene where (SPOILER ALERT), the Queen learns from her Magic Mirror that the Huntsman didn’t really kill Snow White, and her Highness is still not the prettiest girl at the party, I had to say the line, “I’ve been cheated!”
In our first rehearsal, I lent all my energy to this single line. I stamped my foot. I clenched my fist. I scrunched up my face like I was constipated. I jumped up and down like a raving loony.
The whole cast cracked up laughing. The problem, of course, was that it wasn’t supposed to be a funny scene. “The Wicked Queen wouldn’t act like that,” my Drama Teacher lectured me. “She’s mature, dignified, and cunning. She’s . . .”
Well . . . she’s Regina from Once Upon a Time, basically.
But try as I might, I just couldn’t say the line “I’ve been cheated,” without sounding like a nine-year old who just had her Barbie doll taken away from her, because that’s what I was! Eventually, the Drama Teacher gave up on me entirely. So, on the day of the performance, I huffed, and I puffed, and I stamped, and I screamed, and I gave the temper tantrumiest “I”VE BEEN CHEATED,” of my VERY, VERY short-lived acting career.
(The next summer, in our camp production of Grease, I was given the role of the school custodian. I stood in the back of two scenes with a mop. I had no lines. Not sure why . . . )
So, why am I telling you this? Because that’s what Damon reminds me of, whenever he gets angry and starts taking out his aggression on harmless pieces of furniture . . . You guys all remember the Soap Dish Incident, right?
“I’VE BEEN CHEATED!”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not denigrating Ian Somerhalder’s acting in any way. Crazy Temper Tantrum Damon is super hot, while still being kind of hilarious! And my Drama Teacher was totally off base about my interpretation of the Wicked Queen . . . just saying.
And that’s precisely where we find Damon in the cold open of “Fifty Shades of Grayson,” hulking out on his poor defenseless Augustine Vampire cage . . .
Eventually, he manages to break a piece of rock off the wall. He uses that rock to “chisel,” Aaron’s forgotten vampire bullet from the previous episode into the lock on his cage door, busting it open . . .
The idea is so clever in its simplicity that it kind of makes you wonder why neither Damon nor Enzo bothered to think of it at any time during the many, many, many nights they sat together in their cell with nothing to do but await their daily dose of torture and STARE AT WALLS. I mean, think about it, we saw two Escape from
Alcatraz Augustine plans in action here. The first one involved HANGING OUT FOR A YEAR, and then being faced with hundreds of party people, any of whom could possibly kill you dead (or light you on fire), as you tried to escape. The second one involved, five minutes of wall punching that might hurt your fingers a little bit . . .
Which would YOU choose?
Anywhoo . . . Damon escapes Chez Augustine with both his humanity and his pretty face still refreshingly intact. Huzzah!
The Morning After Bitter Pill
I’m not going to lie. Katherine’s post coital wake up scene may very well have been my favorite one of the entire episode, which is odd considering it was also probably the least tangential to the ongoing plot.
There’s a scene in Bridget Jones Diary where Bridget wakes up after a night of earth shatteringly brilliant sex with Darcy, only to be faced with the harsh reality, that being in a real relationship means that your boyfriend will eventually have to see what you look like in the morning naked . . . There she is staring at herself in the mirror, as she really is . . . without all the makeup, the hair product, the perfume, the cute clothes, and the spanx to hide her “wobbly bits” . . . without the benefit of a liquor-induced haze, or the moonlight, or the passion that drives us human animals to screw first, and think later. She sees her image, and is terrified that when Darcy sees the Real Her, he’ll fall instantly out of love.
We’ve all experienced this type of insecurity at one time or another. But Katherine Pierce never had. She always had the perfect figure, was disarmingly sexy, perpetually youthful, in stellar shape, and the object of every man’s desire. And on the rare occasion when a man she coveted didn’t willingly throw himself into her bed, Katherine had the power to snatch his free will and make him do it, anyway.
For the first time in 500-some odd years, Katherine is finding herself in the rest of our shoes. She wakes up in the morning next to Stefan Salvatore and is positively thrilled with her good fortune, that someone like him, a vampire, young, strong, hard in every sense of the word, would want HER, a mere human. But all that happiness comes crashing down, when she finds a grey hair on her pillow. Suddenly, she’s Bridget Jones . . . petrified that Stefan will see her in her grey-haired vulnerability, and discard her, not because she’s selfish, manipulative, and kind of evil (That, she could handle.), but because she’s OLD!
Cue the usually graceful Katherine merely falling over herself, as she drapes herself in a comforter, and tumbles out of the room, like a child dressed up as a ghost for Halloween . . .
It’s little moments like these that remind me why I first fell in love with this show . . .
At the door, Damon runs into the fleeing Katherine, and feigns nausea over the fact that she just boned his brother. But we all know Damon would (and has) totally hit that . . .
The Bride of Damon-stein
Speaking of girls who look like Nina Dobrev, Elena’s morning after is far more bitter and far less sweet than Katherine’s. She awakens strapped to a gurney to find Dr. Death, draining all the blood out of her body while babbling on about it into that annoying dictaphone of his.
You know as Big Bads, the Augustine Folks were pretty decent . . . locking up vampires . . . torturing them . . . turning them on one another as weapons of mass destruction? Scary.
But as Mad Scientists? These guys kind of suck . . .
Before Elena passes out again, Dr. Death proudly informs her that he’s been performing the exact same experiments on her that her father performed on vampires, back when she was a little girl, and that Dr. Whitmore performed on Damon back in the 50’s. 70 years of experimentation . . . and they are still repeating the exact same experiments over and over and over again.
Take blood from a vampire, see how long it takes for them to pass out . . . OOOH!
Electrocute a vampire, see how loud he screams . . . AAAH!
Cut a vampire, watch that vampire heal . . . YAY!
And all of this to discover what teenyboppers who read Twilight figured out on page 10. Vampire blood can heal human ailments . . . pretty much all of them.
In other words, Augustine is basically the scientific equivalent of a cat chasing its tail, and a hamster running on that infernal wheel . . . mental midgets with mean streaks, wearing lab coats.
No wonder Damon wanted to fry all their asses . . .
But poor Elena! Her gene pool just keeps getting murkier and murkier, doesn’t it? Now, it seems like her Adoptive Father (actual Uncle?) may have sucked as a human being just as badly as her actual father did . . . torturing vampires in a basement for years, all in the name of pseudo science. At this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised if, by Season 8, we learned that Elena is somehow related to Hitler too . . .
In which Katherine Pierce endures the HORRORS of exercise . . .
Speaking of mean people distantly related to Elena, Katherine has decided that the cure to sickness and inevitable death is not medicine or science, but drinking Kale and exercising! (Since when did Katherine Pierce become a Scientologist?)
Once again, Katherine’s mortality brings a refreshing dose of comedy to the hour, as Personal Trainer Matt wryly (but politely, as always) gets personal pleasure out of Katherine’s workout pain and general lack of physical fitness. To add insult to injury, Matt even calls Katherine’s “long lost” daughter, i.e. the person responsible for getting Matt temporarily possessed by the dude who sounded like the bad guy from Rocky and Bullwinkle to slap Mommy Dearest around a bit for trying to kill herself, without even bothering to send her baby vampire girl a Hallmark card.
But fear not, Doppelganger Lovers! Mini-Katherine has a plan! If Katherine’s own body is dying, why not simply “borrow” someone else’s? It worked for Rocky and Bullwinkle Villain guy, right? I mean, he lasted an entire two extra episodes before someone killed him again, didn’t he?
This sounds like a truly excellent, fail safe plan, right?
Katherine’s not quite buying into the possession idea, either. She likes looking like Nina Dobrev, dammit! Even if it’s “old” Nina Dobrev with a bit of grey food coloring in her hair! And if the choice is between (1) dying a horrible painful death, and (2) living, but looking slightly less attractive while doing it, we all know which option Katherine’s going to choose.
. . . but only if survival = looking pretty and f*&king Stefan . . .
Besides, Katherine just started boning Stefan again! She’s not going to let a little thing like her impending demise keep her from getting a few more rides on that Wild Stallion . . . No sir.
“Nice knowing you, Mini-Me,” Katherine says, more or less. “See you in Hell!”
Hostage Aaron Hangs with Hungry Vampires . . . Hilarity Ensues
Having left baby bro Stefan in the dark for 70 years about the whole “Augustine” thing, Damon is forced to be a bit cagey with his brother regarding the missing Elena’s whereabouts. Fortunately for Damon, Stefan and his hero hair are always suckers for a damsel in distress, and are willing to come along for the ride with pretty much no questions asked.
You know how I know Aaron is going to fit in just fine on this show? Because literally a few hours ago, the character learned that he (1) comes from a long line of vampire torturing mad scientists; (2) that a vampire has been systematically killing everyone related to him; and (3) that pretty much all the friends he met at college are either vampires or were murdered by vampires (sometimes both). He also just shot a vampire, who he presumed to be dead. That’s a lot of information for any normal human being to absorb. And yet, when Damon and Stefan find Aaron he’s . . . chilling out listening to some tunes and reading his Chemistry textbook, like its just another boring day on campus.
“Um, do you think you could wait about two minutes before you kill me? I was listening to a really good song.”
Even when it becomes pretty clear that Salvatore Squared are holding him hostage, so that Dr. Death will turn over Elena. And they will very likely kill him whether Dr. Death complies with this request or not, Aaron just takes it all in stride. “I thought I killed you. Why aren’t you dead?” Aaron asks boredly of the murderous vampire who he shot in the head with a bullet.
“You shot me in the head. You should have aimed for the heart. Aim for the heart, next time,” Damon scolds, playfully wacking his would-be murderer on the noggin.
Aaron just shrugs off his botched attempted murder of the guy who brutally savaged both his parents. “Oops.”
I want to learn what kind of anti-anxiety / anti-depressant medication this kid is on . . . and I want a prescription.
Dr. Death agrees to make a trade of Aaron for Elena in some abandoned classroom. But when the threesome arrive there, they find no Dr. Death, and no Elena. (The trouble with having no personality and being emotionally vacant, Aaron, is that it makes people who supposedly love you kind of ambivalent about saving your life . . .)
The rendezvous is not a total bust, though. At least it gives Damon the opportunity to “reconnect” with blast from the past, Enzo.
Ill-Conceived and Ultimately Ineffective Revenge
Good ole, Enzo! When we last met him in flashback land, he was jolly, hopeful, and downright bromantic. He loved Damon in the way a dude loves the only other dude he gets to speak to in 70 plus years, who isn’t repeatedly cutting him open on an operating table and electrocuting him for sh*ts and giggles. He was also pretty darn easy on the eyes, as is the requirement of every male with a speaking part on this show . . .
Personally, I liked that the Enzo we met in present day, was a bit less charming, and a bit more unhinged. Unlike his fellow guest star, Aaron, this guy is seriously PISSED OFF at the sucky hand he’s been dealt. And it’s totally understandable. I mean, who wouldn’t be a little wackadoodle after spending almost a century as a mad scientists life-sized version of the game Operation?
They have pretty much the same haircut. But Enzo has much better abs . . .
It’s Enzo who finally fills in both Stefan and Aaron into the specifics of Damon’s betrayal at the Augustine compound, while standing at the podium of the otherwise abandoned classroom, like a frustrated professor whose students just don’t give two craps about his lecture. Poor Enzo! He doesn’t realize he’s rehashing the exact same flashback we all saw last week on The Vampire Diaries. Dr. Death should really considering getting ole Enzie a cable hookup in his cell. Problems like this could be avoided.
“This class sucks. I’m totally dropping it next semester.”
Having given up on educating his “students,” Enzo dismisses both Stefan and Aaron to go back to Aaron’s dorm room in search of information that might be helpful in locating Elena. Damon, however, is given detention! No Save Elena Games for him! Not today. It’s time for the Elder Salvatore to accept his punishment for being such a sh*tty friend to a fellow hot person . . .
You see, when Dr. Death set Enzo free, it was with a pretty significant catch. He injected the vampire with a dessication agent. So, Enzo was dying and could only get healthy if he returned to the compound to get the antidote. And he could only get the antidote if he killed Damon.
Sucks for you, Enzo! Damon’s the main character on this show! It looks like you’ve been set up for failure. (See, a little TV viewing would have gone a long way in this instance. Damon has just enough time to kindly inform Enzo he’s “just not that into him,” before the sexy broody vamp goes all stiff and veiny.
Elsewhere on Campus . . .
Aaron is having slightly better luck at weaseling his way into the heart of a Salvatore Brother. When Stefan gets the idea, that Aaron has dishonestly lured the younger Salvatore Bro back to his dorm room, just to break free from his clutches, Stefan pulls the ole homoerotic Slam the Other Hot Boy Against the Wall trick that all the teen shows are trying these days.
“Just kill me,” Aaron challenges. “I’m basically already dead. Damon has been murdering my whole family. And, assuming I don’t have another long lost relative out there somewhere to carry on the Whitmore name, he’s probably going to kill me too. So, do it first, and don’t give him the satisfaction.”
Clever boy, that Emotionally Empty Aaron! He somehow intuited that Stefan Salvatore is a sucker for the pathetic and suicidal. And that little piece of psychoanalytics ended up saving his life. “We aren’t all like my brother,” Vampire Civil Rights Activist Stefan explained before removing his hands from around Aaron’s neck.
How very Season 1 of True Blood, Bill Compton, of him!
As it turns out, Aaron wasn’t lying about having information in his “diaries” that will save Elena. And so Savior Stefan runs off to the evil lab to rescue his princess.
And just in time too (maybe). You see, Dr. Death had just stabbed Elena with an elixir that would basically turn her into a Ripper for Vampire Blood, rendering her an instant danger to pretty much her entire Scooby Gang. Elena then knocks Dr. Death unconscious, moments before Stefan saves her. But as she leaves, she stupidly grabs her father’s medical diaries instead of the syringe itself, so we have no way of knowing whether she ingested enough of the vampire eating drug for it to have an impact on her.
To add further insult to injury Enzo too, may or may not have been turned into a Ripper for Vamp Blood when Damon “rescued” him by stabbing him with every syringe in Dr. Death’s office, until one of them woke him up. (You would think an anal retentive guy like Dr. Death would have a better labeling system for his vampire pharmaceuticals.
Life saved or no life saved, Enzo is still not quite ready to forgive and forget Damon’s humanity free abandonment of his ass back in the 50’s. “You will always be a monster,” says the vampire who killed Elena’s adorable guest star roommate with glasses.
Well, ain’t that the pot calling the kettle a fanger?
In which Damon once again decides Elena is “too pure” for him (Shower, Rinse, Repeat) . . .
Here we go again . . . back at La Casa de Rich and Awesome, Elena excitedly tells Damon that, even though her father was a sadistic vampire torturer, he wasn’t so bad because, at least according to his diaries, he used vampire blood to save Elena’s roommate from immediate death, as a result of congenital heart failure. (Instead, she suffered horrifically painful, eaten alive, and subsequently tossed out window death, by Enzo the Hungry Vampire, eight years later. HOORAY!)
(I kind of see a resemblance? Same name too . . .)
Damon thinks Elena is being a pain in the ass Pollyanna, because she consistently sees the good in all people, even when they do things that make them irredeemably sh*tty. And so for the 85,000 time since the series started, Damon dumps Elena “for her own good,” because “he’s a bad person, who is incapable of redemption,” and “he’s tired of her having to make excuses for him,” and “fate says she should be with Saint Stefan, blah de blah blah.”
OK, OK . . . now, I know I sound like I’m just being sour grapes, because I’m a Delena fan, and I’m pissed that the writers went and sank my ship. But that’s not it, really! You see, the thing is, I loved Damon’s “you’re too good for me” speech, back when he said it in Season 2, and compelled Elena to forget it shortly thereafter . . .
And when he said it again, at the end of Season 2, when he was dying and Elena was caring for him in what she truly believed would be his final hours on Earth. . .
Or in Season 4, where Elena FINALLY chooses Damon, not because of some creepy sire bond, but because she loves HIM, in spite of all the crappy things he said about himself just moments before she excitedly and romantically raped his face with her tongue . . .
I loved all of these scenes. And I suspect I would have loved this one too, in spite its inherent sadness, in spite of it spelling the death knell for my ship, if I hadn’t seen it in its different (arguably better) iterations, at least three times before.
Yes, we get it, Damon is a “Bad Guy.” He’s done “Bad Things.” He believes himself to be “Bad for Elena,” despite the fact that he loves her wholeheartedly, and has, pretty much, since the middle of Season 1 of this series. We know this.
What I don’t understand is what is it about Damon’s recalling that he screwed over Enzo, of all the millions of bad things he’s done (and Stefan has done too, mind you) that made him decide to break things off with Elena, despite the fact that the plot dictated that it was “Stefan’s turn” to have her. What did the season finale change fundamentally about Damon’s relationship with Elena?
Nothing! There’s no longer any sire bond. Damon and Elena both currently have their humanity in tact. Neither of them is dying, or racing for the cure, or running from Klaus. So, basically, Damon dumped Elena because . . . what? He is tired of her justifying his bad behavior . . . just like she justified the bad behavior of her father . . . just like she justifies the bad behavior of Stefan and everyone else on this show . . . just like all the fans of this show (myself especially) do, every week?
It just seems like a pretty crappy reason to break up with someone you supposedly love more than life itself. But that’s just me . . .
But hey, maybe I’m being too harsh. Maybe I should trust that the writers know what’s right for this ship . . . for these characters . . . for this show . . . in the long run . . .
Why the Dying Should NEVER Wear High Heels on Steep Staircases . . .
In other rejection news, despite her fantasies to the contrary, Katherine’s impending Date with Death is not enough to make Stefan forgive her for breaking his heart, pretty much ruining his relationship with his brother for 100 plus years, and being the series’ Big Bad for a Season and a half. “I’m sorry you’re dying,” Stefan tells an increasingly grey-haired Katherine, as he holds her hand like it’s a consolation prize.
Yikes. Talk about “He’s just not that into you.”
When not even IMPENDING DEATH garners you an ounce of sympathy from your crush, you just know wedding bells are out of the question. And so Katherine decides that a little body swapping might not be such a bad idea . . . She calls her Mini-Me to tell her the good news.
Annnnnnnnnnd then she has a heart attack (?) and tumbles down the steps . . .
Here’s hoping her next body owns at least one pair of sensible shoes.
Until next time, Fangbangers!