The Vampire Diaries “I Went to the Woods” Review (Season 7 Episode 17)

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On the latest episode of “The Vampire Diaries,” we more or less picked up where we left off last week with Stefan being released from the Phoenix stone nearly as soon as he went into it- only not as Stefan, but rather as some rando named Marty, a bus driver who was just in a horrific wreck, in “I Went to the Woods.”

Not unlike what happened with Jo, it seems that Stefan was driven out of the stone and into the nearest dead body, which just so happened to be Marty’s. The only problem was that so was one of the other vampires trapped within the Phoenix stone, and right into Stefan’s actual body.

So, you had the real Stefan in someone else’s body and someone else in Stefan’s real body. You know, like “Freaky Friday”! (Which really should have been the title, come to think of it, or something punny, like “Freaky Fangday” or what have you.)

But the fun didn’t stop there. Later on, Alaric and Valerie- who join forces, albeit warily- chain down Rayna and question her about what just went down with Stefan, and she says that when the Phoenix stone broke, it actually released ALL of the vampire souls within.

Apparently, some of them are nasty little buggers, not in the least the one currently occupying Stefan’s host body, who is a former serial killer-turned-vampire that was notorious for killing people en masse on college campuses. And guess where we left him at the end of the episode?

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Of course, before we got to all that, we had Stefan stumbling around confused, at first thinking he was a hero who saved some kids from a burning bus- oh, the irony, given where his actual body later ends up- only to find out he was actually being accused of causing the wreck itself by the police on the scene, who try to arrest him for it.

Convinced it was the stone messing with him and he was in some weird Hell of his own making, he takes off in handcuffs into the woods, with the cops giving chase, but not for long, as the weather is mighty nasty at the time, and only getting worse. Convinced he will crop up dead and frozen eventually, they hold off for the time being, going back to headquarters to coordinate.

Damon, who senses his brother is still out there, suggests to Valerie they do a locator spell to find Rayna for info on what actually happened. She agrees, but swiftly does an invisibility spell to leave Damon in the dust and do it herself. Valerie catches up to Rayna using the phone to call Matt, attempting to warn him of the impending vampocalypse, but before she can get the message through, Valerie knocks her out and absconds with her, taking her over to Alaric’s.

Meanwhile, Damon hits the road, thinking that Valerie took Stefan’s body with her until he sees Stefan himself walking down the road and picks him up. He seems wildly disoriented and somewhat at a loss as to who Damon is- or who he is, for that matter. But he knows one thing: he’s famished and needs to feed.

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Matt calls Alaric, who’s mad at him for putting Caroline in danger, but Matt insists it was a necessary evil and tells him someone is headed his way and he won’t like it, but he needs to help her. Matt thinks it’s Rayna, of course, but it’s actually Valerie, with Rayna in tow. They chain her down to a chair and she tells them that they need to hunt down and kill as many of these vamps on the loose ASAP, as they are the absolute worst. She also says that the likelihood that Stefan is actually in his own body is minimal at best, which is naturally right on the money.

As such, when Damon eventually calls to say that he found Stefan and he seems off somehow, Alaric fills him in on the score, but says he needs to keep up with Stefan’s body, as the real one can only survive for about three days if he’s in a human body, if Jo’s experience was any indication. As he does so, Stefan snacks down on everyone in a local bar/restaurant in sight, cleaning the place out.

Meanwhile, the real Stefan comes across a cabin in the woods, but there are no Evil Dead here and the place is abandoned, powerless and boarded up. However, Stefan finds a generator outside and starts it up, and gets the power up and running, shortly thereafter finding out who he really is, courtesy of a mirror and a report about the bus wreck on TV.

It turns out that Marty is also a known addict, which would explain why he’s getting the tremors all of the sudden, and not just from the cold weather. Alaric sees the same report and puts two and two together, realizing that Marty must be Stefan, with an assist from Valerie, who does a spell on Rayna to find Stefan and gets some flashes of what’s going on with him.

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Stefan finds a truck on the premises and manages to get it started and leaves, headed back to town, while fake Stefan tries to act like the real one after taking a look at Stefan’s diary for clues. It might have worked, but Damon already knew what was up and calls him on it, which was probably a bad idea, as faux Stefan says “Deuces”! and leaps out of the moving car, disappearing into thin air in the process.

Damon calls Alaric, tells them to go after the fake Stefan while he handles the real one, pointing them towards Memphis, which he had mentioned at one point as wanting to go to. This tidbit of information tips off Rayna, who thinks she knows exactly who he is, and refers to him as a “serial killer” before breaking out of her chains and knocking out Valerie and taking off after him.

Stefan tries to get help from a girl on the side of the road, asking to use her phone, but she hears a news report on the radio and freaks out, knocking him down and taking off, but leaving her phone behind by accident, having been in the process of giving it to him. Damon meanwhile poses as a cop and not just any cop- in a hilarious touch, he says he’s Matt Donovan, who he refers to as “the bravest cop in all the land” and compels the other cops to believe it.

By this point, they know Stefan, aka Marty, has been at the cabin and has left, but apparently don’t know about his taking the truck and think he’s on foot again and is doomed in the weather, which is only getting worse by the minute. As Stefan is getting so loopy he thinks he’s seeing Damon, they’re not entirely wrong, especially when Stefan pulls over to throw up and borderline passes out in the snow.

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The girl from the road comes in and Damon questions her, finding out where Stefan is and feeding the cops fake directions, before compelling the girl to forget what just happened when she starts to object. She then mentions her phone and Damon gets her number and calls it, getting Stefan on the line and telling him to hang in there, help is on the way.

Stefan calls Damon on all his crap lately, not just the failure of his most recent plan to save him, but his cowardly retreat into the coffin after things got too tough without Elena. Stefan points out that his first instinct after waking up from the Phoenix stone was to save some kids in danger, while Damon’s was to kill people.

Damon admits he’s always been a selfish prick who only cares about himself and dares Stefan to get up and come get him and do something about it, trying to antagonize him into keeping moving, knowing that if he continues to lay there, he’ll freeze to death. Stefan does, but is dubious Damon will even make it on time to save him.

Alaric is likewise dubious about helping Valerie out, but she aggs him on by pointing out that if Stefan dies, his competition will be gone, as he and Caroline are together now. Valerie says she’s certainly rooting for them, as Caroline is her own worst competition. We all know Alaric is one of the good ones, so naturally he rises to the occasion and agrees to help Valerie in spite of himself- and the potential consequences.

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Damon admits that he used to cover for Stefan as a kid because he knew Stefan could never stand up for himself- or to his father, who was abusive. But somewhere along the way, the tables had turned and ever since, it was Stefan who was always looking out for him, not the other way around. At some point, Stefan passes out finally, but thankfully, Damon finds him shortly thereafter and rescues him.

Back in a warm car, Stefan recovers somewhat, even more so when Damon offers him doughnuts he nabbed from the cops earlier. Stefan says the thing he missed most about being human was the way food really tastes, but he can’t keep it down, unfortunately, as he is having withdrawal symptoms, thanks to his host body. Damon informs him that they only have about 48 hours to track down the “real” Stefan before his host body will give out, if that.

Alaric remembers that Rayna mentioned that Memphis-bound Stefan was a former serial killer and thinks he knows who he is. If it’s who he thinks it is, then he almost certainly headed to a college campus, where he was notorious in his former life for killing a bunch of people at once by locking them inside places and setting the area on fire.

Sure enough, we see Memphis Stefan being invited into a frat house party after offering up beer and then promptly locking the exits off, raising his hands in the air like he just doesn’t care… whether they live or they die. Which you know, he probably doesn’t. Good thing for them Rayna moves fast. But will she get there in time to save the frat from certain destruction? Tune in next week- same vamp time, same vamp channel!

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This was a decent enough episode, if not quite as action-packed as last week’s. Yes, it traveled over well-tread areas of the show we know all too well- Stefan is a self-sacrificing hero who makes up for past transgressions with good deeds; Damon is prone to self-destructive actions and has a tendency to only think of himself over others; etc. But still, at least they didn’t drag out whether or not Stefan was going to be okay after the whole Phoenix stone thing.

I mean, technically he’s still in the balance, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if they had dragged out finding out where he was and what have you. But they didn’t, instead keeping things moving by establishing where we were now and what needed to happen and why, and doing so in a manner that added up with what we knew thus far.

I liked how it tied back in with Alaric and his experiences with Jo, and his pairing off with Valerie was unexpectedly entertaining. Sometimes the best thing a show can do that’s a bit, ahem, long in the tooth, is pair people off that you wouldn’t expect to be together- and I don’t mean romantically, show-runners, so don’t misunderstand me.

The difference is, when you hook up characters romantically with no precedence for it, it only ticks fans off, especially if you set it up for them to be with someone else and suddenly change your minds and go another way with it at the last minute. Now THAT’S a recipe for disaster, but simply letting characters interact that don’t normally can be fun, and that’s what the scenario with Rayna, Valerie and Alaric was- a crazy grouping that actually worked like gangbusters.


Now if we could only rectify this insane Bonnie/Enzo nonsense by the end of the season (especially with rumors that Kat Graham will be leaving the show after next season- and who can blame her?- she deserves better), maybe we’d really be getting somewhere. I’m not holding my breath, but you never know. Maybe part of the reason they took an oddly-timed hiatus for a month so close to the end of the season was to retool things so that they were, you know, better than before- especially now that they know a new season is on the horizon. Here’s hoping.

Whatever the case, I don’t mind the idea of the gang facing off after a host of crazy vampire killers implanted into various people’s bodies and wreaking havoc wherever they are. That sounds like it could be fun, and make for some action-packed episodes, if they play it right. Once again, fingers crossed they don’t screw the pooch with this new direction. Nice set-up- now let’s see if you can stick the landing, “TVD.”

What did you think about the latest episode of “The Vampire Diaries”? Are you happy about the new direction the show is headed in? Do you foresee the gang actually eventually teaming up with Rayna to work together to snuff out the new vampire threat? Or will they continue to be at odds with one another? Will Stefan get to his real body in time before his new one runs out of steam? (Duh- of course.) What year are we in again? Sound off on this and more down below and see you next week!