The promos for this week’s episode of “The Vampire Diaries” featured a big, saliva-inducing tease: the much anticipated first meeting of human Elena and her vampire doppelganger Katherine. The image alone raised expectations for a classic showdown akin to the fight between Olivia and alt-universe Bolivia on the last season of “Fringe,” or all of the highly entertaining shenanigans featured between Willow and Vamp Willow in the fun “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” episode “Dopplegangland.” Instead of the knock-down drag-out girlfights of our dreams, however, this episode delivered a conversation. A short one. Perhaps my own externally raised expectations are at fault, but color me disappointed.

[Full recap of Thursday's (Sept. 30) "The Vampire Diaries" after the break...]

As a whole, “Memory Lane” was a significant step back in action from the first three episodes of the season so far, focusing more on story and mythology more than suspense, cliffhangers and chases through the woods. This in itself is not a bad thing – every show needs a breather episode now and then to give the budget a break and set up future storylines – but having Elena and Katherine’s big confrontation take the tone of this subdued installment seems like a bit of a misstep. That’s not to say there aren’t great and juicy Katherine/Elena shenanigans to come, because there surely are: it’s simply that the introduction of their relationship seemed a bit more like two acquaintances passing in the street than the mortal enemy smackdown it could have been.

The episode revolved heavily around flashbacks of Katherine’s relationship with both Stefan and Damon, and her encounters with Lockwood ancestor and werewolf George Lockwood. Plenty of backstory was revealed, including the revelation that Katherine helped George arrange for the vampire-burning massacre in exchange for him helping her fake her death. The most interesting part of this bit of information was Stefan learning that he and Damon didn’t need to help rescue Katherine, and therefore their deaths (and subsequent transformation into vampires) were completely unnecessary. The focus of the flashbacks, however, was to show that Katherine seemingly truly loved Stefan.

In the present, the flashbacks are brought about by Katherine telling stories to Stefan while he chains and tortures her in his mansion. He is searching for the true reason she’s returned to Mystic Falls, which she insists is because she loves him. She then proceeds to spend her time convincing him that he once loved her to, and in fact still does. From everything the show has presented, in particular illustrated by the final shot of a love struck-looking Katherine to end the episode, she appears to be telling the truth. She even uses Caroline to attempt to get between Stefan and Elena, without much success.

 The question is – is there a chance the audience could get invested in a Stefan/Katherine romance? Despite Nina Dobrev doing a good job distinguishing between the two characters, Stefan in love is just Stefan in love and it would be strange to have him be in love, but with that other girl who looks exactly like the one he was in love with a few episodes ago. If that makes any sense. (Doppelganger writing coherency is hard.) As the show has acquitted itself to things of this nature nicely in the past, I’m willing to go on this ride and see where it goes. I must admit, though, no one is rooting for Katherine to have an ulterior motive more than me. For now, this isn’t a concern as Stefan and Elena have hatched a plan to get Katherine off their backs, but it’s only a matter of time before she finds out what they are doing.

On the werewolf side of town, now that Tyler knows of Mason’s little wolf secret he can’t help but grill Mason about his true nature. Mason assures Tyler that he won’t change because he’ll never reach the “trigger point,” which he later reveals to be murder. Considering Tyler’s hot temper, this moment might be closer than Mason thinks. And who did Mason kill to make him change? I doubt it was someone random, because nothing is random in Mystic Falls. Tyler also has possession of the mysterious moonstone Mason is after, which we learn in flashback was given to George Lockwood by Katherine herself. Is this another one of Emily Bennett’s magical creations?

Mason has other troubles, as Damon is determined to finger Mason as a werewolf. Damon uses a very convenient barbecue at Jenna’s house to get close to him, and throws out some pretty lame wolf puns in casual conversation in order to get a rise out of Mason. All it does is let Mason know Damon is on to him, and they call a truce just long enough for Damon to attempt to kill Mason using a giant silver knife. The silver legend is just a myth, however, and now Mason and Damon are mortal enemies. It’s a lot less interesting than it sounds, although seeing Damon play Pictionary wasn’t terrible. Again, this story seemed more to set things up for a showdown next week than accomplish anything tonight.

After her breakup with Matt last week (which astute commenter Jen pointed out was completely orchestrated so she doesn’t put him in danger, something I somehow completely missed), Caroline spends the episode as Katherine’s pawn and not much more. Her adjustment arc is one that remains interesting, and I hope future episodes will reflect this. To my recollection, a vampire show hasn’t successfully and fully explored the conflicting emotions someone must feel when they first realize their life as they know it is irreparably changed. “True Blood” has tried with Jessica, but we all know what a mess of over-plotting that story became this season and poor little Jess was lost in the shuffle. Here’s hoping Caroline can get her due in the weeks to come.

Odds & Ends:

*** If Katherine is impervious to vervain, why did it seem to “sizzle” when it touched her skin? Does it still affect her but she knows how to handle it when ingested?

*** Seriously, I would watch an entire episode of Damon drawing Pictionary clues. I have a feeling he has a serious competitive streak 

*** For the first time, there weren’t many memorable lines. For an episode that was 99% talking, that seems like a problem.

What did you guys think? Was the first Katherine/Elena encounter everything you wanted it to be? Is Katherine really in Mystic Falls for Stefan, or does she have an ulterior motive?