The Vampire Diaries “One Way or Another” Review (Season 7 Episode 18)

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On the latest episode of “The Vampire Diaries,” the clock was ticking on Stefan to be reunited with his actual body “One Way or Another”- or else die for good within his human host, Marty (Ryan Dorsey, “Justified”). Would Damon make it happen in time, or would he lose his brother once and for all?

I think we all knew the answer to that, but it was entertaining enough getting there, including the opportunity for some reconnecting- or lack thereof- between old pals, Damon and Alaric and some semblance of an explanation for what that whole unfortunate Benzo thing, which I remain unconvinced is actually a good idea. But more on that later.

First, we began with Marty in a really bad way, unable to keep food down and coughing up blood to boot, necessitating an assist from some compelled paramedics who Damon left with Stefan/Marty while he went after the serial killer Ambrose that was currently occupying his body and in Memphis, Tennessee.

Alaric met up with Damon, somewhat begrudgingly, and filled Damon in on what he and Valerie had found out about Ambrose: he had a penchant for killing mass groups by compelling them to kill one another and a thing in particular for arson. This made his current location- at a local Memphis frat house, especially troubling, for obvious reasons.

Meanwhile, in Asheville, North Carolina, the long-unseen-save-in-brief-glances Bonnie was residing in a mental institution, and from her thinly-veiled conversation with her therapy group, it was obvious who landed her there. If you guessed Damon, you win a prize! (Although, to be fair, it was a bit of a fake-out, but only sort of, as her pain, I’m guessing, was very much real.)

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Of course, this would have been that much more effective if they hadn’t opted to change course and made them into a couple like most everyone expected, but what can we do about it now? Think about it: Damon and Bonnie, after a long-simmering bonding stint, part of which was in Kai’s alternaverse, finally go for it and hook up in the heat of the moment after Damon has lost Elena and both are still reeling, and THEN Damon takes off out of nowhere and commits himself to a coffin until Bonnie dies and Elena is reborn.

I don’t know about you, but that would have been much more satisfying, on so many levels. Indeed, not doing so is yet another example of how off the writing has been the last few seasons and this one in particular, especially since it would have made perfect sense within this crazy flash-forward narrative they’ve already committed themselves to that Bonnie would have done something as insane as hook up with Enzo in the meantime, instead of doing it because her “feelings were hurt,” which is exactly how this reads.

Hell, even Bonnie says it within the narrative herself when a fellow patient asks her about who she was talking about in group and what they meant to one another: “I don’t know what we were.” Neither, apparently, do the writers, which is what makes this whole Bonnie subplot such a train wreck. It’s no wonder Kat Graham announced she was leaving the show after next season, even before word came out that they were likely going to end the show anyway. Hell, I wouldn’t have blamed her at all for quitting after THIS one.

Alaric, of course, says nothing about all of this to Damon when he finally asks about how Bonnie is holding up- even the writers must have just decided there was no way to spin it without sounding ridiculous. Granted, Damon being so wrapped up in his family drama that he just plain forgot to ask about her until then is in keeping with his essentially selfish nature, so they at least got that part of it right, except for the fact that, despite all his claims to the contrary, Damon does care more than he lets on- hence his asking in the first place.

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I feel like the writer’s room on the show is a house divided against itself: on one side, you have writers well-versed in the characters and their various back-stories to reference old-school stuff they know longtime fans will appreciate, a la last week’s heartbreaking phone call with Damon and Stefan, in which Damon brought up the fact that he used to suffer abuse at the hands of his father to keep Stefan from having to; meanwhile, on the other side, you have newer writers that could care one whit about such things and only want to “shake things up” for the characters, continuity be damned.

It’s frustrating as hell, not in the least because there’s a good show still lurking in there somewhere. Indeed, I feel like Graham and Somerhalder both announcing they would be leaving after next season was meant as much as a wake-up call to the behind-the-scenes people that this just wasn’t working anymore than anything else, so that they could get it together over the hiatus and re-boot and rally for a strong finale, so the show can at least go out on a high note, hopefully.

Back to the narrative…we see in a flashback that Stefan’s mind has continued to be on Caroline, who he has been sending heartfelt letters to while on the road with Valerie, which she apparently has not been reading, much less replying to. As we find out later on, this has not gone unnoticed by Valerie. Current day Stefan, fearing his time is limited, decides to take one more stab at it, asking the paramedics for a pen and paper.

Damon arrives at the Memphis frat house, but can’t get in because of the whole not-being-invited thing. Before he can get Alaric to do it for him, Damon gets a call from Ambrose to make a deal instead: if Damon will help him track down Rayna and kill her so she stops coming after him, and arranges for Valerie to do a body-swapping spell to put him in a vampire’s body, rather than Marty’s human one, he’ll agree to go with Damon willingly to do so instead of hanging around in Memphis letting the clock run out on Marty’s body, thus killing Stefan in the process.

The reason Rayna has such a hard-on for Ambrose is that he intentionally framed her for several of his massacres over the years, meaning that she understandably wasn’t going to let this one go anytime soon, hence her taking off after him so quickly in the last episode.

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However, Enzo gets wind of her whereabouts first and puts up a fake roadblock to get her driver to stop, then tranquilizes her and compels her Uber driver to literally stay put where he is, as in parked in the middle of the road. Perhaps needless to say, this doesn’t make much sense, save for the plot contrivance of allowing Damon to find the driver, as he does later, and find out it was Enzo that took Rayna.

I did, however, just to be fair, like the amusing touch that Rayna called a freaking Uber to help her in her quest to find Ambrose- see what I mean about how divided the writers are? For every good/amusing idea, there’s an equally terrible one to contradict it! You just can’t win with these people. Ugh.

Back in Asheville, a fellow patient of Bonnie’s threateningly takes her to task for stealing her meds and Bonnie says she did so that the patient could think more clearly. I didn’t catch her name, so we’ll just call her “Exposition,” because that’s about the only purpose she serves, anyway.

Anyway, Exposition suddenly does a complete 360 and hugs her, thanking her profusely for doing what she was just moments ago glaring at her for. Not sure if that was just a dubious acting choice or the writers again, but I’m willing to err on the side of the actress and say they made her play it that way to manufacture some unnecessary tension, because, why not?

We discover that Exposition is the sister of Alex St. John, who you’ll recall said her only living relation was Enzo previously. Turns out this was a lie and is the real reason Bonnie is there- the mental breakdown thing was somewhat of an act- though that story she told about Damon in group was most certainly not.

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Bonnie is, however, genuinely sick from the pills Enzo gave her, which we now know is what was killing Mary, ultimately leading to her suicide, so not all of her illness is faking, either. On the other hand, and on the plus side, the pills were also what kept the Armory from being able to find her for all this time.

Exposition informs Bonnie that the Armory has been hunting Bonnie for years, as only a Bennett witch can open up a secret vault hidden within the Armory’s basement. She says she objected to their opening the vault at all because of what was inside, so Exposition was glad they never found Bonnie. Unfortunately for her, this didn’t go over well with her sister, Alex, so she had Exposition committed against her will and drugged up into incoherence to keep her quiet.

Bonnie promises to take Exposition with her when she leaves, saying that she knows someone that can get them out of there at a moment’s notice. But this sets Exposition off, as she realizes that Bonnie aims to potentially help them open the vault and unleash whatever it is -could it be J.J. Abrams’ much-talked about “Mystery Box”? One can only hope there’s a better pitch for next season in there- but more than likely it’s next season’s Big Bad, one would assume.

Either way, Exposition flips out and tries to kill Bonnie to stop her, causing the institution’s guards to come in and wrestle her to the ground as she rants and raves about everything, sounding completely worthy of being locked up. This conveniently saves Bonnie the trouble of having to prove who she really is and allay Exposition’s suspicions, as she couldn’t do magic anyway because of the pills.

Damon calls Enzo to find out what he wants with Rayna, assuming he’s taking her back to the Armory. Enzo says that has nothing to do with it, and that he’s taken her for Bonnie’s sake, but won’t say why that is and refuses to help Damon with the Stefan situation, regardless. Alaric finally relents a little on the Bonnie thing and tells Damon that Enzo and she are a couple now, having gotten close in light of his absence, which he is as taken aback by as we all are.

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Damon returns to the frat house to find most everyone dead, which was admittedly pretty horrific. Ambrose calls Damon and he tells him about the Rayna snafu, but Ambrose refuses to give Damon an extension and hangs up on him. Damon realizes that Ambrose almost certainly went after Stefan’s body to eliminate him from the process altogether, and Damon calls the paramedics to re-route them directly to Valerie so that she can help protect him.

Alas, Ambrose has already caught up with them- how he managed to find Stefan/Marty, we are never told- and promptly crashes into the ambulance. Ambrose kills off the paramedics and then turns his attention to Stefan/Marty, who has made a break for it.

Wisely, he heads for the nearest house and breaks in, knowing that he can as a human, but that Ambrose cannot, as a vampire, having not been invited. What comes around goes around! (Interestingly the whole “not being invited in” thing would also factor into the plot of “The Originals” later on.)

Unfortunately, Ambrose quickly realizes his favorite pastime comes in handy for smoking out his current prey- or burning them up altogether. He tosses an open propane tank into the house, grabs a nearby torch and lights it and prepares to toss it in and blow Stefan/Marty up, but Damon intervenes at the last minute, snuffing out the torch and tossing it out of harm’s way. Then Alaric takes Ambrose out shortly thereafter, putting an end to his sordid scheme. Tag Team Damaric FTW!

Enzo tells Rayna about the pills that stifle witches’ magic that are made from her blood, and asks her if the effect can be reversed. Rayna says that it cannot be-once her blood is in someone’s system, it’s in there for life and the process is irreversible, which isn’t good news for Bonnie. Rayna realizes that Enzo must have given the pills to Bonnie and tells him she’s basically screwed- there’s nothing he can do, so holding her hostage is pointless.

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Damon and Alaric take Ambrose and Marty/Stefan to Valerie at a nearby hotel and she begins the spell to put them back where they belong. While doing so, Stefan gets a vision of Valerie in his mind, as she tries to calm him through the transition. Stefan says that he wants to stay with Valerie, not go back to Caroline or go back to Mystic Falls- there is no going back at this point, anyway, with Matt’s coup of the city, anyway.

When exactly did Matt become so indestructible and intimidating, even to the “Originals,” no less? Just last week, Finn had the perfect opportunity to get his revenge on the man that killed him and ended up teaming up with him instead! Maybe this iffy writing thing is catching up to TVD’s sister show, too, lol. Let’s hope not, because I’m enjoying that show a lot for the most part this season.

Valerie asks Stefan what his true feelings for her are, but it’s clear something is off, which even Stefan realizes. It turns out that doing this and the spell at the same time are taking its toll on Valerie, who is starting to be overwhelmed, to the point her nose is bleeding profusely and she’s about to pass out, before completing the main spell at hand. Stefan asks Valerie to stop, while Damon demands that she continue in the hotel room.

Valerie opts to continue, and manages to finish the spell by stopping the thing with Stefan and focusing on the task at hand instead. Stefan is indeed restored to his real body, and one assumes, Ambrose is deposited in Marty’s and left there to wake up none too happy about his circumstances, though we never see one way or another. (See what I did there?)

You couldn’t have had a quick cut-away later on to Ambrose going “Dammit!” or what have you, TVD? Geez, way to waste a fun character having an amusing send-off. You know how they say, put up or shut up? Or those who don’t do, critique? Hey, I’m available, TVD, and I promise I could do better than this, guys. Although it may be too late for anyone to do anything at this point, so maybe we’re just screwed, period. I certainly hope not, but sometimes I wonder.

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A relieved Damon thanks Alaric for all his help, even if it wasn’t entirely in his best interest, given the whole Caroline thing, and apologizes for taking off on him. Alaric says it’s a little too little, a little too late for all that, and has no desire to go back to the way they were- he was better off without him. Ouch. However, he does do Damon a solid by telling him where Bonnie is, saying that maybe she can forgive him instead.

Valerie tells Stefan she knew about his letters to Caroline and that his heart really lies with her now. She points out that Stefan was more worried about Valerie sacrificing herself for his sake than he was about losing her, period. She tells Stefan he deserves to be happy, and wishes him the best, but that their time is over- he’ll never love her the way he does Caroline, and she only has herself to blame for a lot of that. With that, she leaves, much to her haters’ relief, no doubt.

Enzo and Bonnie reunite and kiss passionately, before she tells him what she found out about the Armory from Alex’s sister. Enzo tells her the bad news about the pills and how she is going to have to stop taking them, or else die even sooner that she already was going to in the first place, though dying is apparently inevitable now.

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Bonnie isn’t thrilled, but poor Kat Graham is all like, “Oh, they’re going to kill me off yet again? What else is new? I’m SO out of here,” and tells her bosses to suck it. Enzo swears to save her, whatever it takes, and Damon arrives, flowers in hand and apology at the ready. Bonnie takes one look at him, grumbles and shuts the door in his face. (Wouldn’t a punch have been a little more effective? Just saying, writers.)

So, this was an alright episode, despite my very valid bitches. Honestly, it’s a testament to the likeability of the cast (Paul Wesley positively killed it as Ambrose, for instance) and the durability of the characters that I’m willing to put up with so much and keep watching, and that I almost certainly will to the bitter end.

Though this season is already a bit of a wash, I’m hoping against hope that they pull it together in the end, and I get the feeling that the cast wants that too and will steer them in the right direction to ensure it.

On the plus side, next week’s episode is clearly a Bonnie and Damon together again, kicking ass and taking names episode, which sounds like a near can’t-miss to me, so that’s good news. Please don’t screw it up, TVD, because we long-suffering Bamon fans NEED this at this point. Am I right?

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What did you think of the latest episode of “The Vampire Diaries”? Do you agree with my assessment, or did you like it more than I did? Did you at least see my points, or are am I being too hard on the show? Am I expecting too much of the writers? Or should they hire me, stat? 🙂 (Actually, I’d prefer to work for “The Originals” if I’m being honest, lol.) Sound off down below, and see you next week!