Sorry this recap is a little late, but my dog died unexpectedly this evening. Of course, watching "The Vampire Diaries" makes me really wish there was a magical ring or some vampire blood that worked on the canine set, but this episode does, oddly enough, grapple with some of the very human issues that rarely get tackled on a show about werewolves and vampires and hybrids, oh my -- the end of life and the natural order of things. This show may be one of the more effective in deglamorizing the dark, bloody world of the undead and suggesting that, though finite, being human isn' t so bad after all -- or at least that's what Elena might actually be coming to believe. 

As we know from last week's episode Elijah is back and, of course, he's none too happy with Klaus. The Originals beatdown begins! But Klaus being Klaus, he's able to push all the right buttons to make his brother see things from his admittedly twisted point of view. He's been protecting Elijah from some important secrets he's now ready to reveal (I'm guessing full disclosure about killing their mother is at least part of it). He also suggests that they must work together to destroy Stefan, who is the one barrier keeping him from reuniting the entire family. I'm inclined to think this is one big lie, as Klaus has plenty of reasons not to reunite the family that have nothing to do with Stefan, but Elijah appears to be listening. But if that's not enough to swing Elijah back to Klaus' side, he points out that Elijah did make a blood oath of loyalty, after all. Elijah is not without flaws, but he has always seemed to have an innate sense of right and wrong, and I'm not surprised Klaus' reminder about a blood oath resonates with him. 
 
At Elena's house, Ric wakes up with a hangover, but he's about to feel much worse. Sheriff Forbes drops by to talk to Elena about the murder of the medical examiner. It seems a stake was driven through his heart -- and the stake was one from Elena's lake house. And the prints on it? Hers. Luckily, Sheriff Forbes doesn't suspect Elena, but that doesn't mean there's no reason to panic. Someone is bumping off council members and setting up Elena to be a fall girl -- plus, this person seems to have lucked into Ric's secret stashes hidden all over town. 
 
Elena calls Damon for advice, and of course he has his own theory as to who's snatching Ric's daggers -- Meredith. Neither Ric nor Elena think that's probable, in part because it's just too tragic to think that Ric really has such lousy luck with women. Fortunately, Damon is willing to entertain other ideas as to who the killer might be, such as Klaus or Stefan. Not that he has much time to think about it -- he has a meeting with Elijah. 
 
Damon wants to check in with Elijah and make sure that his reunion with Klaus, brutal as it may have been, didn't really show us Elijah falling sway to his brother. Damon unstaked him, and he's expecting a loyalty oath of his own. 
 
Meanwhile, Stefan takes Bonnie and her mom Abby to the closed coffin. He expects the two of them to open it up as soon as possible -- because if they don't, Klaus' hybrids will likely find them and kill not only them but everyone else who've tried to keep the coffin out of Klaus' grip. 
 
Caroline goes to pick up her dad at the hospital and, while she's there, gets a read on Meredith for Elena's benefit (the verdict? Intense, but okay). The only problem is that Caroline can't collect her dad, as Meredith says he checked out the night before. But then, Caroline hears his cell phone ringing in a closed room -- and finds him stabbed, slashed, and left for dead. Caroline is horrified -- but Elena is quick to point out that he isn't really dead. Meredith healed him with vampire blood. Oh, irony of ironies, vampire hater Mr. Forbes is about to transition into a vampire!
 
Damon recruits Stefan to sit down for a negotiation with Klaus and Elijah. Damon is happy to strike a truce, as he has every intention of breaking it -- it's just a ploy to buy the witches more time to unlock that damn sealed coffin. Stefan and Damon bicker about whether or not freeing Elijah was a good or bad idea, and then, suddenly, they're talking about Damon's kiss with Elena. To his credit, Damon isn't going to feel guilty about that -- if Stefan hadn't become such a jerk, it never would have happened. 
 
While the rest of the episode deals with our two Originals, Stefan and Damon trying to push one another toward betrayal or compromise, another, sadder plotline also emerges. Mr. Forbes refuses to drink blood, which means he'd rather die than be a vampire. For Caroline, there are so many layers to this above and beyond simple grief. Her father would rather die than become what she is. She also knows that she can save him, but to do so would be against his will. She also sees her mother and father together, for the last time, something she hasn't seen since she was a kid. It's a lot to deal with, but then, when is anything ever easy in Mystic Falls?
 
Ric, who had been so adamantly against the idea that Meredith could be the murderer, starts piecing together weapons with Meredith's whereabouts. Eventually, even Ric can't ignore the fact she looks guilty. It seems a little convenient that Meredith has suddenly gone on a murder spree, and I'm not inclined to believe it. Besides the medical examiner ex-boyfriend, would she really need to kill a former patient (Mr. Forbes)? 
 
The truce negotiation between Klaus, Elijah, Stefan and Damon starts out not-so-well, as Klaus insists they eat dinner, or he'll pull out their insides. After telling a little story about how Elijah and Klaus both pined for a girl named Tatia (and ultimately realized family was more important), it's time to get down to business. Damon suggests a compromise -- Klaus gets his coffin back, and all of the Originals leave Mystic Falls. For Klaus, that's no-go. He has no need for Damon or Stefan, but Elena is his hybrid maker -- and no way is he leaving her behind. What does Klaus have to put on the table? The suggestion that he can give Elena happiness, something the Salvatore brothers simply can't do. He'll let her marry a human, he'll keep her safe (and yes, I guess he'll bleed her every once in a while) -- but Damon and Stefan are likely to either get her killed or turn her into a vampire. I hate to say it, but Klaus is actually sounding pretty logical. Elena's been miserable for quite a while, dealing with blood and murder and even having to kick her poor brother out of town to keep him safe from all the drama that goes on in Mystic Falls. It's hard not to think that Elena, after all she's been through, might start thinking a normal life, sans vampires and hybrids and werewolves, oh my, is looking pretty good. 
 
As if to drive home that point, Matt shows up as Caroline and Elena sit outside Caroline's house, waiting for Mr. Forbes to die. Matt walks Elena home, where they come upon a gruesome scene. There are bloody handprints on the walls, blood on the floor -- and Ric almost dead, slumped against a wall. Ric gasps that Elena has to kill him. Matt is horrified, but Elena admits that Ric's right -- if he dies a supernatural death, he'll come back. And as a doppleganger, she can provide exactly that. Elena grimaces and does the deed, and to Matt's credit, he doesn't run out of the house screaming. 
 
Caroline and her father have a poignant scene as he finally says all the things we wished he'd said instead of trying to deprogram his daughter and starve the vampire right out of her. He tells her he's proud of her, that she's become exactly the person he and her mother hoped she would be, and that his death is really the natural order of things -- parents aren't supposed to outlive their children. Sheriff Forbes watches with watery eyes, and Caroline and her dad manage to find some closure. 
 
A mother and daughter who can't seem to get any closure, however, are Abby and Bonnie. When their attempts at unsealing the coffin go nowhere, Bonnie flogs Abby (yet again) about her Worst Mother of the Year status. This argument has been going on for a while and it doesn't seem to be getting anywhere, as Bonnie won't trust or forgive and Abby has run out of ways to say she's sorry. But finally, Bonnie demands that Abby try harder to make up for abandoning her -- and just after Bonnie leaves the cave to get cell reception, the coffin opens up. 
 
Even though Klaus does make a pretty compelling offer -- Elena's happiness and safety -- Stefan refuses to take it. I'm not even sure he's thinking about Elena, as he still seems to be so angry at Klaus that his rage is clouding his rational thoughts. So, Klaus decides to speed things along by grabbing Stefan, sticking his hand into the fireplace, and telling Damon and Elijah to go get him his coffin or Stefan dies. Well, that was easy enough. Instead, Damon and Elijah return -- with Kol and Finn, Klaus' two other brothers. Oh, and Rebekah. And guess what? None of them are happy with Klaus. Go figure. Being staked and stuck in a box will do that to a person. 
 
With their work done, Stefan and Damon leave the Originals to fight over who gets to stab Klaus first, and as they walk together in the woods, Stefan and Damon both admit to each other that they love Elena. What they don't admit is what they're willing to do for her. Do they love her enough to let her be happy with someone else? Or do they take the risk that Klaus is right, and possibly turn her into a vampire or get her killed? It would take an act of great selflessness to, in a sense, kick Elena to the curb -- something Stefan has already tried to do but which he doesn't seem able to stick with. After all, once she moved on to his brother, his true feelings came bubbling to the surface pretty quickly. Would he be able to sit idly by if Elena moved on (or really, back) to, say, Matt? 
 
It's almost the end of the episode, so that means it's time for our slightly unexpected twist. Klaus' sibling are going to ditch him -- well, right after Rebekah kills "that doppleganger bitch" i.e. Elena. Klaus is crushed and heartbroken -- but when Mom walks into the room (yes, she was the one in that fourth coffin), he's genuinely scared. All of Klaus' chickens have come home to roost, so to speak.
 
But surprise, surprise -- Mom isn't going to kill Klaus. Instead, she's going to forgive him. In fact, she wants her whole family reunited. I can only imagine this won't be good for Mystic Falls, and I'm not sure how Mom will react to Klaus' whole hybrid army, but there's plenty of time to find out.
 
Do you think Mr. Forbes made the right decision? Were you surprised that Elijah turned on Klaus? Do you think Stefan and Damon should free Elena to live a normal life?