The Vampire Diaries” is a show largely fueled by secrets. Vampires passing as mortals, Originals with long and detailed secret histories, stolen kisses and bloodlettings. Sometimes secrets can be compelled out of mind or, after a minor squabble, be forgiven. But tonight, they kind of mess up everything in such nightmarish terms that the truth, complicated and ugly though it might be, is looking pretty darn appealing to almost everyone for a variety of reasons. Well, not everyone. But we'll get to that in a moment.

With both Connor and Elena having gotten angrier and more volatile by the week, it seems that they might be on the verge of blowing up in some spectacular and permanent fashion. So it's no surprise when Connor bursts into the Mystic Grill, kidnaps Jeremy (and, soon after, Matt and April) and sends a text to Tyler, Damon and Stefan letting them know they'd better come to the rescue before their mortal friends eat it. For all Connor's rage against the vampire machine, he seems to have an inherent understanding of how much they care about their human buddies. It kind of flies in the face of his "all vampires suck" platform, but he doesn't have time for logic, dammit!

Of course, on cue Stefan, Damon and Tyler get together to plot out exactly how to save their unlucky mortal pals. Neither Damon nor Tyler (nor Elena nor anyone else) knows that Stefan has a deal with Klaus to keep Connor (and thus his tattoo) alive. This would be Bad Secret to Keep #1. Stefan had even asked Klaus if he could just tell Damon about their deal, but Klaus won't budge. No one can know -- and there will be consequences if he tattles, Klaus informs him in his smooth Euro-accented purr. Klaus doesn't realize that being a control freak is going to trip him up yet again, but that's just a lesson he has a few hundred more years to learn, I guess.

Stefan cajoles a reluctant Damon ("That where you been all morning? Out buying bossy pants?") and Tyler to go along with a plan he has that requires hybrids and underground tunnels. Elena wants to help, of course, but as usual Stefan and Damon don't want her to risk life and limb. After Elena pins Damon to the bed and aims a crossbow at his heart, she makes a compelling case for her own abilities, so eventually Damon tells her just one thing -- since Connor doesn't know she's a vampire, she should get as close to him as she can, then kill him. This, while not a secret, qualifies as Bad Suggestion #1. 

Stefan really does seem to have thought of everything in approaching this very dangerous mission. Damon asks too many questions? Pump him full of vervain and leave him behind. Need some heavies to go in and take some heat from werewolf venom-doctored weaponry? Hybrids! Elena wants to help? Ask her very nicely to stay back and let the big boys do the work. Oh, that last part? Doesn't really work so well.

The hybrids aren't quite as impossible to kill as Stefan thinks, either. Tyler, not being fully on board with Stefan's game plan, tries to talk Hybrid Dean out of going on Stefan's suicide mission. Of course, Tyler soon has other things to worry about, because when he's not looking Caroline and Hayley meet. It's all news to Caroline that Hayley's been bunking with Tyler (Bad Secret to Keep #2), and she flexes her claws in Hayley's general direction. Hayley, however, isn't biting, so to speak. "Yeah," she says in a long, bored drawl. "I don't do teen drama. Take it up with Ty."

When Caroline finally confronts Tyler about Hayley, it turns out to be a secret wrapped up in another secret, sort of like a bacon-wrapped scallop marinated in lies. He wants Klaus to think he and Hayley had a torrid affair -- because what they were really doing was finding a way to help Tyler break his sire bond with Klaus. (Good Secret to Keep #1). Their goal is to help other hybrids break free of their lonely, cruel master -- but if Klaus were to find out, he'd kill them all.

Back at the Grill, Connor seems awfully chummy with Jeremy, telling him all about his werewolf toxin bombs and giving him catchy little sayings to remember like, "Vampire's like a loaded gun. Eventually, it's gonna go off." It seems particularly delusional of Connor, until Jeremy learns that he spent the entire previous day with Connor -- and doesn't remember it. He was compelled, but by whom?  

At first, it seems Stefan's little rescue plan might go off with only minimal carnage. Hybrid Dean, of course, gets slaughtered in a bomb and bullet frenzy, while Stefan manages to free April and Matt through the underground tunnel. It's only when he tries to free Jeremy that things get sticky. Elena pops in to plead for her brother's life, but Jeremy ends up getting shot (nothing a little bit of Elena's blood can't fix, granted). Still, Stefan's done the important work of capturing Connor without killing him. All's well, right?

Not exactly. In the underground tunnel, Stefan bumps into Damon, who wants to kill Connor and can't understand what's wrong with his stupid brother. Stefan, having no other choice, frees Connor so he can get away from Damon. Damon, none too thrilled about this, reaches into Stefan's chest and demands the truth -- and the story of the cure and Klaus possibly being the man to get it tumbles out. There, that wasn't so hard, was it? It's nothing Damon could have imagined, and the look of shock that registers on his face makes it clear just how much this could change the game. That is, if Connor survives. 

Connor is only free for a moment before he bumps into Elena. Elena, who has no clue as to why Stefan wants to keep Connor alive. Elena, who has no idea that killing Connor will cost her a shot at becoming mortal. And so, Elena kills Connor by snapping his neck -- not something that can be rectified with a quick vampire blood transfusion, I suppose. It's horrible for a variety of reasons. Yes, Elena has screwed up her shot at mortality, but more than that, she's killed someone -- the girl who can hardly bring herself to feed off of willing friends. But mess with her brother and you're taking your life into your own hands, and Elena is too close to the edge already to consider the consequences.

When Damon and Stefan find Elena, she's sobbing and freaking out as she tries to bury her first kill. At the beginning of the episode, we were subjected to Elena and Stefan reading dueling diary entries in something that felt like a bad TV movie version of "Little Women" or some pages torn from the vampire version of "Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret." But, as lame as they might have been, they did accomplish one important thing in making it abundantly clear how difficult it is for Elena to be a vampire. She just doesn't have it in her, which makes losing the opportunity to become mortal (which she doesn't even know she's lost) even more tragic. Looking at Damon and Stefan watch her meltdown, her chin covered in dried blood, it almost seems worse to them (well, Stefan at least) that Elena is alive and a vampire than mortal and dead. They can't stand to see her in so much pain, and it's clear Elena is holding on by a very slim thread.

At the very end of the episode, Elena sees blood splattered all over her room and her bathroom and it seems like she's truly cracked under the pressure of being a blood sucker. But it may just be the aftereffect of killing a vampire hunter. As if Elena's overwhelming guilt wasn't punishment enough.

Though she's kept out of the mix very effectively by Professor Shane, Bonnie has the relatively serene task of using hypnotism to restore her ability to do magic. I suspect Professor Shane is probably implanting all kinds of crazy thoughts and ideas in Bonnie's head while she's under. I'm waiting patiently for "The Manchurian Candidate"/"Buffy the Vampire Slayer" mash-up. 

You would think that after all of these wretched secrets (another Bad Secret to Keep? Elena not telling Stefan about her dirty, cracked-out post-feed dance with Damon) would have everyone puking up the truth like competitive eaters with food poisoning. But no, we have another secret -- after Connor dies, Jeremy discovers the tattoo on his own arm. But this may be one secret worth keeping -- especially from Klaus.

What did you think of Elena's meltdown? Do you think Jeremy will become a hunter? What do you think Klaus will do to Stefan?