Big stuff goes down in Mystic Falls this week as our beloved “Vampire Diaries” leaves us with a doozy before going on hiatus (again!) until March. And while the “Will Elena turn into a vampire?” plot gets dropped with the quickness, it’s replaced with witchy happenings and emotional gestures and surprising turns galore, including the very best scene Katerina Graham’s been given all season. Read on!

[Full recap of Thursday's (Feb. 11) "The Vampire Diaries," titled "Fool Me Once," after the break...]

Elena wakes up in a strange bed in a strange hotel room. She tries to slowly sneak out, tiptoeing in her Chuck Taylors past her evil captor Ben, who’s sleeping on a chair directly between her and the door. Just as Elena turns the lock, Ben pops up right behind her and vampire-compels her not to leave – only he doesn’t know she drinks vervain! (He’s kind of a n00b at this vampire thing.) She almost escapes but runs into Anna, who traps her in the bathroom…where Bonnie is lying unconscious in the bathtub!

Meanwhile, Stefan is frantic. He’s been looking for Elena all over Mystic Falls, to no avail. Damon is less concerned, studying the mystery journal for clues while ignoring Stefan’s pleas for help. Stefan knows Damon blames him for losing Katherine, and is so desperate for help that he tells Damon he’s sorry for the first time in 145 years. Damon accepts his apology, but he’s still not helping; he’d be perfectly tickled if Elena – who could still have his vampire blood in her system – died and joined their bloodsuckers club.

Back inside their Ho Jo prison, Bonnie wakes up. She and Elena have a tearful reunion; they’re BFFs, after all! Bonnie has finally realized that Ben’s a vampire, but had no idea that he and Anna are plotting to unlock the tomb with Emily’s grimoire. Elena’s got worse news; she tells Bonnie that Anna and Ben also need a witch to help break the spell – a witch whose name rhymes with “Schmonnie.” Ben busts in and grabs Elena to coerce Bonnie into helping them. Anna arrives and introduces herself to Elena, revealing that she’s Jeremy study buddy. Elena is horrified.

At the Mystic Grill, Tyler’s finally shown up again. He exchanges witty repartee with Jeremy, who in turn runs into Caroline. She invites him to a party later where a COLLEGE student is going to totally have beer on hand! Matt shows up and she flies to his side so they can have the “So, what happens next?” talk after kissing the other week. She offers him an easy out of their whatever-almost-sorta-relationship. To Caroline’s not-so-secret delight, Matt declines to back out.

Damon shows up at Bonnie’s house and talks to her grandma, who knows everything about him and is accordingly hostile. When she won’t cooperate, he menaces her -- but Grams is more powerful than she looks, and she uses her witchy powers to give Damon a headache this big![-----------------------]

As all villains are wont to do, Anna explains some back story to Elena. She wants in to the tomb because Pearl, her mom, is trapped in there. Elena is genuinely sorry to hear about it, but before they can become new BFFs Anna moves on to business: she’s going to use Elena to make Stefan give her the grimoire. “Compulsion won’t work; just use violence,” Anna warns Ben, before leaving to meet Damon. But rookie vampire Ben is still learning; Bonnie is able to magically set him on fire with a glass of tap water and makes a run for it, but comes back when Ben threatens to hurt Elena. Downside: Elena and Bonnie are still captive. Upside: Bonnie has powers again. The witch is back!

Outside the Mystic Grill, Jeremy sees Anna and makes a beeline for her. She’s distracted with her evil vampire-kidnapping plan, until Jeremy shocks her (and us) by finally asking her out! She seems pleasantly surprised to be asked out, especially when she finds out he’s inviting her to the college kid’s party. In the cemetery. Next to the church. Since it totally fits into her tomb-infiltrating schedule, Anna agrees to meet Jeremy at the party.

Damon shows up to negotiate with Anna. She has the witch, he has the book she needs. He still doesn’t want to work with anyone, but she threatens to kill Elena if she doesn’t get the spell book. Damon reluctantly agrees to meet Anna at sundown at the old burned down church for the exchange.

Back at the hotel, Ben taunts Elena and Bonnie. Witches can die, can’t they? he teases. But the tables are turned when Stefan bursts through the door, exposing Ben’s tender, vampy skin to the burning rays of the sun. As Elena and Bonnie run out, Stefan tells Ben to leave town, or else he’ll kill him.

Safe at home, Bonnie asks Grams how she knew where they were. Witches boost their power under duress – channeling feelings like anxiety and anger – so she just cast a Locator Spell and told Stefan where to find the girls! Stefan and Elena arrive and Stefan warns Grams and Bonnie to stay inside their house, where they’ll be safe; otherwise he might not be able to protect them. But Grams is spunky; she can take care of her own, she says! As the gang deliberates, Elena thinks they have no choice but to let Anna and Damon have Katherine back. Grandma complains that witches always get pulled down by vampire drama before agreeing to open the tomb as long as every vampire other than Katherine is burned and destroyed. But Elena points out that after they betrayed Damon in the last episode, he no longer trusts them. She comes up with an idea.

Hilarious scene alert: Anna walks back into the busted open hotel room to find Ben, hoody scrunched around his head, cowering under the bed avoiding the sunlight. He explains that he lost the girls because of Stefan, but Anna doesn’t want to hear any excuses; realizing that she no longer has any leverage to use to get the grimoire – but that Damon will get the tomb open on his own – she plans on being at the church waiting in the wings when he frees Katherine.

At the Salvatore mansion, Elena finds Damon on his way out with the grimoire. She and Damon have real talk, since she realizes that they’ve both just been trying to do the same thing: protect the people they love. She wants for them to work together again, but he doesn’t trust her anymore. She asks him why he didn’t vampire-mojo her when they were on their road trip to Atlanta, when she didn’t have her vervain protection on. She knows he didn’t try to compel her because they have a Special Friendship Bond, and she’s totally sorry she lied to him. She promises to help him get Katherine back and takes off her vervain to prove that she’s telling the truth. But instead of administering his vampire lie detector test, Damon tenderly helps put her vervain necklace back on, acknowledging that their excellent Hotlanta adventure did establish a real connection between them. He tells her that he’s going to trust her. Squee moment of the night!

College kid party time! In the woods by the cemetery, Damon and Elena stroll through by on their way to the church, where they cross paths with Matt and Caroline. Caroline instinctively grabs Matt’s hand to show that they’re TOTALLY together, which weirds Matt out. Nice guy Matt introduces himself to Damon, who rebuffs the gesture and pulls Elena along toward their Cool Kids’ Party full of spell-casting and vampire-raising.

Over at the church, Stefan’s been busy doing yard work at the church ruins in anticipation of their magic party. He’s even brought along his arsonist tools to burn the place down! Stefan and Elena arrive and join Bonnie and Grams, and the gang gets started.

Meanwhile, at the cemetery party, Tyler’s chugging brewskis with the other kids. (Which reminds us: remember before the hiatus, when we started to think Tyler was going to go all Jacob Black on us? Is it a full moon tonight, perhaps? We hope so.) Jeremy is walking around looking for Anna when Tyler stops him… to ask if he’s got any weed. But Jeremy’s SO not like that anymore; he doesn’t “party” these days. In fact, Jeremy is now a party-pooper. As he wonders if he is indeed the loneliest boy in the world, Anna pops up out of thin air and cheers him up. By taking him on a walk. Toward the church.

Grams starts the Katherine-freeing spell with an incantation straight outta “Captain Planet.” “Air! Earth! Fire! Water!” It’s actually way simpler than Elena (and we) thought; apparently the ancient art of witchcraft can be practiced with your normal everyday household ingredients! Damon’s brought along an IV bag of blood for Katherine to snack on after she’s awakened. What thoughtful vampire boyfriends these Salvatore brothers are! With the spell about to begin, Stefan and Damon exchange some all-too premature goodbyes, which tells us this may not quite be the end.

Anna and Jeremy talk outside the cemetery party; he’s warming up to his new stalker-vampire-friend, but places like this remind him of someone he used to know: Vampire Vicki! She did like to hang out among the tombstones, after all. Jeremy seems glad to have Anna around now; he feels more and more alienated from his classmates, so it’s nice to have Anna in his “non-scene.” She’d love to be Jeremy’s only friend in this sad little lonely world, but Anna tells him she’s leaving town soon with her mom. Anna prepares to say goodbye to Jeremy, and they kiss – but Anna’s vampire face begins to show, and when she tries to brush it off, Ben comes out of nowhere to knock Jeremy the f*** out! They drag him off to the church, where Anna plans on introducing Jeremy to Pearl – once she comes out of the tomb with the other reanimated vampires, that is.

Tyler finds Matt moping against a tree, and asks what’s up with Caroline. Matt’s not totally feeling her clinginess, which is obvious from the way she wanted to hold his hand. Tyler exits as Caroline comes over to apologize for the awkward PDA; she’d just been trying to show Damon how totally over him she is. Matt forgives her for her COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE show of affection.

Over at the church, it’s incantation time! Bonnie and Grams recite magical gibberish as the camera swirls mystically around them. How do we know it’s working? Because the torches around them light up supernaturally and the door to the tomb creaks open. Stefan leaves to fetch the gasoline, having had no presence of mind to bring his arson tools down with him beforehand… but as soon as he leaves, Damon grabs Elena as insurance so that the witches won’t just trap him inside the tomb to die. Grams and Damon bicker over it, but Elena understands Damon’s need for leverage and goes willingly. Inside the catacombs, the spirits of the trapped vampires echo inside the halls; they can sense Elena. And she feels tasty! Damon runs off with the torch to find Katherine, leaving Elena alone in the dark.

Topside, Stefan finds Ben standing over an unconscious Jeremy. Anna gives Stefan a choice; he can either stay above and stop Ben from eating Elena’s little brother, or he can stop her from going into the tomb to save her mother. He chooses to stop Ben.

Meanwhile, Anna arrives to find the door to the tombs guarded by the Bennett witches. Grams tells Bonnie to stand aside and Anna runs in. Bonnie asks why Grams just let the evil pixie vampire girl waltz in. She answers: “Because she’s not coming out, baby. None of them are.”

Stefan tries to reason with Ben, telling him that Anna is just using him and that she doesn’t really care about him. Ben doesn’t seem to mind much; he’s already got what he wants. He loves being a vampire! It’s like being the captain of the high school football team… for forever! Ben’s also not threatened by Stefan; he knows Stefan’s a vegetarian vampire, and therefore not as strong as one who feeds on human blood. He charges at Stefan. But in his hundred or so years on earth, Stefan appears to have picked up some judo skills; he deftly sidesteps Ben’s attack and grabs his flamethrower, setting Ben on fire. (So long, Sean Faris!)

About 100 feet below, Elena searches desperately in the dark for Damon. In the pitch black catacombs, Elena runs into unseen objects, freaking out exponentially as she stumbles over the desiccated bodies of the vampires. As she falls to the ground, one of the vampires opens its creepy, bloodshot eyes, and as Elena jumps to her feet with a scream she runs into Anna.

After dealing with Ben, Stefan comes back downstairs. He’s all, what did I miss? Grams stops him from running inside after Elena, warning that the spell only opened the door; it didn’t break the seal, which is designed to keep vampires from coming out and is still intact. Human Elena can still leave the ruins, but no vampire that’s gone inside can leave, including Anna, Katherine – and Damon. Stefan seems a tad sad at the thought of his brother being trapped inside forever.

Inside, Anna explains to Elena how Stefan and Jonathan Gilbert were responsible for her mother’s imprisonment. In a stroke of poetic justice, Anna has decided that it will be Gilbert family blood that brings her mother back to life; Jeremy was her number one choice, but Elena will do just fine. Anna bites Elena’s wrist and feeds her blood to the shriveled up Pearl, who begins to look halfway like Kelly Hu in a matter of seconds. Outside, Stefan hears Elena scream and rushes in after her without a second thought. Grandma restrains Bonnie, who feels bad leaving good vamp Stefan trapped inside for all of eternity when he only went in to save her BFF. She implores Grams to help her find a way to lift the vampire seal so that Stefan can come back out.

Stefan arrives in the nick of time and saves Elena, telling her to make a run for the door. He tells her he’s right behind her, even though we know that he knows there’s no way he’ll be able to get out! Stefan and Anna prepare to face off, but Pearl comes to and calls for her daughter.

Elena comes running back out and Bonnie tries to tell her about the seal. Stefan creeps warily to the doorway as Bonnie assures him that she and Grams will fix the seal as soon as they’re able to break it to free him. Elena realizes that her beloved Stefan may have trapped himself in the tomb just to save her, and also remembers her promise to help Damon. Stefan goes back to find his brother while Bonnie and her grandma open the seal, and Anna exits with the weak Pearl, promising Elena that Jeremy will be fine; she really only wanted her mommy back.

Damon, meanwhile, can’t find Katherine. Like, anywhere! He throws his blood snack pack against the wall in frustration. Stefan urges him to hurry so they can get out before the seal closes, but Damon can’t understand why Katherine’s body would be missing. Elena runs in to beg Stefan and Damon to leave already, and Damon relents. The threesome get out moments before Bonnie and Grams run out of steam, closing the seal for good.

But enough supernatural stuff. Back to the high school drama! Matt and Caroline chat more about their budding relationship; she really wants it to work but she’s worried he’ll change his mind. He, shockingly, also wants it to work. They lean their foreheads against one another’s like two adorable kids in love. Problem solved!

Stefan and Elena rush to find Jeremy, who’s totally fine. Elena tries to comfort Damon, who’s in a state of shock. She hugs Damon as Stefan looks on. Back at home, Bonnie notices that her grandma’s hobbling a little, her energy spent from the spell. “I’ll be fine,” Grams reassures her. Which of course means, she won’t be.

Elena tends next to her brother, who has a killer headache from being knocked out but conveniently can’t remember a thing. We’re gonna love the day Jeremy actually remembers/learns about all of this vampire business! Elena heads out to check on Bonnie, leaving Jeremy under the not-so-watchful eye of Aunt Jenna, who’s been completely absent from this episode. But before going to bed Jeremy goes to his computer and “bings” (not Googles!) the word “vampires.” Maybe Jeremy isn’t so brain damaged, after all…

Anna walks her ailing mother back inside her hotel, where they’re surprised by a waiting Damon. He accuses Anna of knowing the whole time that Katherine wasn’t in the tomb, and Anna admits that she lied to get Damon to help her. Enraged, he grabs Pearl by the throat and threatens to kill her, demanding to know why Anna should get her loved one back while he doesn’t. Pearl chimes in to explain: Back in 1864, Katherine had mesmerized the guard tasked with locking the vampires in the church, and had promised to turn him in exchange for her freedom. He let her go way back then, and she’s been walking free ever since. Anna last saw Katherine in 1983 in Chicago. (Wait a sec, when was Elena born again?) Anna reluctantly breaks it to Damon that Katherine knew where he was the whole time, she just didn’t care to find him.

A worried Stefan sits with Damon at home while he stares into the fireplace. Elsewhere, Bonnie comes to check on Grams, who’s lying in bed. But Grams has passed away in her sleep, and as Bonnie cries over her body the world’s loveliest, heartstring-pulling cover of Snow Patrol’s “Run” plays in the background. If you’re not at least thinking about crying now, there’s something wrong with you. As Elena dials 911, Bonnie desperately grabs the grimoire looking for a spell to bring Grams back, but collapses in a heap of tears, and KATERINA GRAHAM FINALLY GETS HER MOMENT TO SHINE!
But wait, there’s more!

Back at the tomb, the blood bag Damon threw against the wall has fallen conveniently within arm’s reach of one of the imprisoned vampires, who feeds on its contents and slowly makes his way outside. He exits the tomb and turns his face toward the sky!

Next week: There will be no “Vampire Diaries.” But tune in March 25, when “Vampire Diaries” returns promising the following: Passion! Romance! Mystery! Heat! Love! Danger! (Seriously, what’s with all these hiatuses? We need more VD, stat!)