Damon tortures information about the Augustine vampire out of Dr. Maxfield, leading to a revelation about Damon’s own past. Meanwhile, Elena and Caroline throw a welcome back party for Bonnie. Here is a recap and review of “Dead Man On Campus.”
Jesse enjoys his IV drip of Augustine blood. Only one problem. His physical strength is enhanced, so he breaks free from the shackles and chows down on Wes on his way out the door. Bonnie, leaving giddy Caroline and Elena to set up for the massive welcome back party, darts off to “register for classes,” i.e. make out with Jeremy. During so, she spots a ghost and rushes off to let the woman painfully pass through her.
Caroline gets a frantic call from Jesse, who needs help before his roommate, who happens to be Aaron, returns. Too late. Caroline arrives just in time to rip Jesse off a still living Aaron. While he tells Caroline about the experiments, Elena brings over their stash of blood, leading Caroline to show Jesse the ropes.
At the Grill, Katherine makes a deal with Matt: she’ll translate his Czech video for more drinks. Katherine realizes that Nadia knows some dude named Kristof, who activated Matt’s human parasite. She wanders off and bumps into Stefan; they each drop every bomb they have. Nadia interrupts and leads them to Matt. She calls forth Gregor, who finally admits that the Travelers want Katherine dead. Katherine kills him with Matt’s special knife, the only thing capable of killing a passenger. Matt’s fine.
Per Elena’s orders, Damon questions Wes, tying him up and rummaging through his freezer to discover syringes of diseases. First up, flesh-eating bacteria. Wes gives no good answers. Next up, rabies. Now, Wes reveals he turned Jesse into a new kind of vampire. Time for Ebola. Wes changed the new vampire’s food source so he’s not a threat to humans, only other vampires.
Party time. Upon spotting the ghost from earlier, Bonnie slips over to the Other Side to be thanked for the woman’s pain going away. Jeremy brings Bonnie back, wanting her to “register for more classes,” and he learns that he’s worth the pain of anchor life. When Elena learns that Aaron’s parents were killed by “bears” and that Wes is his legal guardian, she ensures that Damon doesn’t kill him. Caroline and Jesse dance, closely, until Jesse bites her and runs off. Saving Damon from an attack, Elena stakes Jesse. He dies in Caroline’s arms. P.S. Caroline is furious and still hates Damon.
Katherine finds Stefan completely freaking out and coaches him back in control of himself. Later on, Stefan comes across a note from Katherine to Nadia apologizing for killing Gregor and herself and tracks Katherine to a clocktower ledge. After some hesitation, she jumps, only to land in Stefan’s embrace. He tells her to suck it up – she’s Katherine Pierce.
Back in Wes’ lab, Damon finds labeled blood bags and flashes back to his own time as an Augustine vampire sixty years ago. What!?! Wes frees himself, activates the vervain mist, and locks Damon in his old dungeon to have PTSD flashbacks like Stefan.
How do you top last week’s episode that generally succeeded as the quarter season finale? You go in a completely new direction. And that’s exactly what “Dead Man On Campus” did. Pivoting away from the big bad forces of the immortal community’s original drama, this episode was more focused on the struggles of the main characters, and that created an impressive hour of The Vampire Diaries.
Elena’s newfound lease on life has been one of the most pleasant surprises of this season. In the past, I’ve personally found her to be a difficult character to stand behind as the story’s protagonist because of her frequent dreariness, so this change is much appreciated. Hearing her say that the first rule of being a vampire is realizing how awesome you are was a statement meant as much to inform Jesse as it was to remind her. On a different note, her bonding moment with Aaron about the loss of all of their parents was subtle enough not to feel like they were using Elena’s background as a crutch. It was a genuine moment of understanding between the two. But given Wes’ involvement in all things related to vampires, Aaron’s apparent lack of knowledge about the topic is strange, and Wes not having Aaron on a secret vervain diet is equally so.
Damon in this episode had two interesting storylines. First, his torture of Wes via random diseases was such a clever spin on the way that characters are usually tied down and interrogated on this show, and also came completely organically out of their location in the lab. Although it was less overtly violent than physical harm, it demonstrated Damon’s darker side, which has been fairly latent as of lately. Second, Damon remembering that he was an Augustine vampire was a shocking twist because it came out of nowhere. While that’s good for the sake of surprising the audience, it also comes with concerns that it may turn out as just a ploy for surprising the audience. Regardless, I’m interested to see where this storyline leads and how someone can be weaned into and out of being the Augustine vampire.
It was nice to see Caroline remain upbeat after her breakup with Tyler and consider moving on with someone. However, the ending of this storyline with Caroline bashing Elena’s judgment was less appealing. In the past, Caroline has been vocal about her dislike of Damon, but this episode seemed to spring that back after a significant time of the opinion being dormant. The fact that all of a sudden, she’s back to hating on Damon when something doesn’t go her way, didn’t ring true to her character. Remember when Caroline was dying in front of Klaus mid-way through last season and she told him that anybody capable of love is capable of being saved? Why does this now not ring true for Damon, who obviously loves Elena?
Bonnie’s brief trip to the Other Side was accompanied with a distinct change in the look of the scene. It was fitting to see everything turn dull and gray and have the brightness become slightly blown out to create the tone of the Other Side. Her ability to float between worlds is fascinating and holds great potential for interesting drama. The budding relationship between Bonnie and Jeremy has finally taken off and I, for one, hope it keeps going positively since everything else in Bonnie’s life has lately gone awry.
Katherine has remained an enjoyable character all season, but this episode, she, like Caroline, took a move not befitting of her character. Not only did her suicide attempt not make sense given that she has fought so hard this season to survive as a human, but it was also completely unmotivated in the moment. Katherine Pierce has never acted without a solid reason (another spat with Nadia is not quite strong enough to send her over this ledge), so why now?
There’s not all that much to say about Stefan’s solo arc in this episode because his drama centered on the traumatizing flashbacks he continues to have; however, his interaction with Katherine was wonderful and is seemingly leading to a reunion between the two former lovebirds. Perhaps they truly are the two doppelgangers fated to be together instead of Stefan and Elena.
Making his grand return after weeks of being MIA, Matt was finally freed from that witchy traveler who we still know so little about. Although we learned that Gregor planned to redirect his efforts of murder towards Katherine since Silas is now dead, there were no indications as to why. The most reasonable guess at this point is that the travelers are out to destroy all of the doppelgangers, but for whatever reason, that seems too simple in this world. If answers or explanations are not revealed soon, this slow-burning plotline may completely loose its interesting nature. New forces in play are innately something to become invested in, but after a certain point, they loose the sense of novelty and the audience moves on.