Season 3, Episode 6 (“Smells Like Teen Spirit”)
This episode is appropriate titled “Smells Like Teen Spirit” because it has a lot of teen elements that the show often forgets about, but also still has some good supernatural drama. This is like the good version of “Friday Night Bites”, the early teen-centric episode in Season 1 that was one of the worst episodes of the show for leaning too much into teen TV stereotypes. In this episode, you have Tyler and Caroline at football and cheerleading practice respectively. Though I don’t know that we ever actually see Caroline doing any cheerleading ever again. Rebekah decides to enroll in school for the fun of it and is basically just a mean girl to Caroline.
This episode features the back-to-school bonfire which they had in the first episode of the series, marking exactly one year passing in the show since it began. There are not a lot of indication of exactly how time is passing in this show other than when new school years start. I do think more teen shows should adopt the strategy of having less time pass in the show than in real life (i.e. one season doesn’t necessarily equate to one year) since the transition to college is often a mess. Pretty Little Liars basically said screw linear time and had two years of high school stretch over 6 and a half seasons (though they did have multiple holiday episodes within a single “school year”). Even if it doesn’t make much logical sense, it saves the show from having to deal with the post high school years too quickly. Not that school is all that important in this show.
The bonfire is also a great setting for a scheme. With Stefan’s humanity off, Elena decides she needs to learn to defend herself against Evil Stefan who is hanging around her all of the time now as her bodyguard. She hatches a plan with Damon, Alaric, and Caroline to lock him up. This is definitely a more low key, fun plan in the sense that it is not overly complicated and the moves are very teen. Elena pretends to be drunk so that Stefan will get concerned for her safety while Damon distracts Rebekah by flirting with her. The plan mostly works until Vicki comes back and throws a wrench in it.
Matt brings Vicki back from the other side, but quickly learns the consequences of messing with nature. Vicki made a deal that she would restore the balance by killing Elena so that Klaus couldn’t make more hybrids (which are also a perversion of nature). This leads Matt to the realization that once people are dead they should remain that way, so he sends Vicki back with Bonnie’s help. This idea of the balance of nature being disturbed by bringing people back from the dead is a common theme throughout the series. We have already seen Jeremy die and come back to life, and that had consequences. Bonnie lost her connection to the dead witches and now Jeremy is able to see ghosts on the other side. There will be several more instances of characters dying and coming back through various magical means but there is always a price to pay for it. A witch’s job is to be a servant of nature, not to use magic to go against it.
In this episode we also learn what it means for Tyler to be a hybrid. He is sired to Klaus meaning that he is obligated to obey him, even if he doesn’t want to. Klaus now has another loyal servant. Also as a vampire his personality is heightened meaning that his aggressive/arrogant side comes out even more. He is showing off a lot by compelling the football coach to let them out of practice early. He is also not being very careful with blood/hiding is identity. However when Caroline calls him out on it, he apologizes saying he doesn’t want to go back to being the guy he was before he became a werewolf. Even though being a werewolf was torture for him, it did change him for the better making him much more humble and vulnerable.
This is a really fun episode even if it is a bit lighter on plot. It is an example of when the show can strike the right balance between teen and supernatural drama. This time the teen stuff is much more enjoyable because it comes from who these characters are and what we have learned about them over the course of the series. In “Friday Night Bites” everyone was super unlikeable because the show hadn’t really defined their characters yet and just made them all assholes. Some plot is set up for future episodes with Michael the vampire hunter being awoken by Katherine and another ghost, Mason Lockwood, showing up to torture Damon.
Episode Grade: A-
- I had some fashion thoughts on this episode. Bonnie’s back to school outfit is pretty terrible, as is Caroline’s purple dress that she wears to the bonfire. Also Rebekah has a feather in her hair, was that still a cool thing to do in 2011?
- Event of the Episode: Back to school bonfire!
- Damon’s nickname of the episode: He calls Rebekah “Barbie Klaus”
- Sexual Tension: There are multiple parts in this episode, Damon teaching Elena human anatomy to explain to her the best way to kill a vampire. Also Damon applying first aid which consisted of wiping her cuts with a q-tip (something she could very easily do herself).
- Elena/Alaric: “So then preoccupy her with your charm” “Might have better luck finding the dagger”
- Caroline/Damon: “So how do I fix him?” “Get a new boyfriend”
- Body Count: 2? There are two girls who look very dead on the stairwell in the Salvatore house when Stefan is having his ripper party.