Credit: The CW

You gotta hand it to Katherine Pierce. That girl is one heck of an actress. The 100th episode of The Vampire Diaries (Season 5, Episode 11 — “500 Years of Solitude”) was packed with emotions — from the sheer joy of seeing old faces return, to the excitement of scandalous new hookups, and the utter shock at the realization that some people, especially Katherine, never change. But, what “500 Years of Solitude” accomplished most of all was bringing back the show we fell in love with. The dramatic hour was a return to form for TVD — and here’s hoping it keeps up the momentum.

The episode begins with a flashback to Bulgaria in 1490 — the moment Katherine gave birth to Nadia. The scene is intercut with present-day Katherine in the E.R., trying to be revived after her heartattack. Needless to say, our Katherine isn’t doing too well. In fact, she’s dying, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Stefan compelled the doctors to let him take her back to the Salvatore mansion, so she’s more comfortable, but Nadia is not having any of it. She refuses to believe her mother, the Survivor, is dying.

But, while Nadia grieves, the Mystic Falls gang is celebrating Katherine’s demise. They recall all the terrible things Katherine has ever done to them — and turn it into a fun drinking game. (We’re totally playing this next week!) If Mystic Falls were like Mean Girls, Katherine would so be Regina George — “Rumor has it, she burned down the entire city of Elena once.” Stefan, on the other hand, refuses to participate in the game. So instead, he bends the rules, and praises Katherine for her survival skills. “For 500 years, she lied and manipulated and did whatever she needed to survive, and that’s what she did. She’s a survivor.” We have to agree with Stefan on this one. Our girl Katherine has great instincts.

Credit: The CW

Meanwhile, Nadia is on a survival mission of her own. She knocks out Matt at the Mystic Grills for leverage. She buried Matt inside the safe Stefan spent his summer in — and took his Gilbert ring. Damn, Nadia. We have to give you credit for that brilliant, albeit ruthless, plan. Then, it gets even more intriguing: Nadia plans to transplant Katherine’s spirit into her body… or at least that’s what she tells Stefan and Elena, who accompany Nadia on her mission in the hopes Matt will be returned safely.

However, Nadia has different plans for them. She locks them in a lodge with a bunch of mumbling Travelers — and they want Elena’s blood. After seeing how Nadia screwed over Stefan and Elena, we don’t need a DNA test to prove she’s Katherine’s daughter.

Back at the Salvatore mansion, Damon tries to suffocate Katherine in her sleep, but he’s stopped by Sheriff Forbes, who somehow ended up in the Salvatore mansion. When someone goes missing in Mystic Falls, Sheriff Forbes in on the call — especially when that someone is one of the few surviving humans.

Clearly, Katherine still has power over Damon, but we see where his anger is coming from: Katherine is the one who turned Damon into a monster, and he hates her — and himself — for it. So he drugs her up and invades her hallucinations. She goes back to that grisly scene in 1490, when her entire family was slaughtered by Klaus, and Damon tells her it was all her fault. And at that moment, our hearts broke for Katherine. (And is it just us, or was Damon doing the exact thing Klaus was so hellbent on doing to Katherine before he got distracted by Caroline? Gloating in someone’s anguish is not a good look on you, Damon.)

As a bit of payback, Katherine then dreams about her first trip to Mystic Falls, back in 1864, when she first set her sights on Stefan Salvatore and fell in love. She tells Damon: “The moment that I saw Stefan… it sounded like fate to me.” Now, we’re not entirely sure whether this confirms that the doppelganger prophecy is true, or if Katherine was just trying to taunt Damon, but it seemed convincing. If Stefan and Elena’s romance is fate, then Damon is going to have to work a hell of a lot harder at getting her back.

Credit: The CW

Meanwhile, on the search for Matt’s location, Caroline runs into KLAUS in the woods. “Hello Caroline,” he says in his sexy British accent. SWOON. It turns out Damon informed Klaus that Katherine had taken a turn for the worse, and that’s what sent the big bad hybrid back to Mystic Falls, but he wasn’t alone. Rebekah also returned to Mystic Falls, and it’s a good thing she did. She was able to save Matt from his dirty confinement. Cue the most adorable reunion ever.

But back to Klaroline, Klaus wants her confession. Would Caroline have given Klaus the same ultimatum as Tyler? And once and for all, how does she really feel about him? “As soon as we’re done here, I’m going to walk away, and I’m never coming back… I will be gone, and you will be free.” Caroline kisses Klaus and they proceed to have hot, hybrid sex.

Now, as diehard Klaroline fans, this moment was bittersweet. On one hand, our OTP finally kissed (and then some!), but Klaus made it very clear that he would never return to Mystic Falls or bother Caroline ever again. This makes us sad. Clearly, the TVD Powers That Be wanted to wrap up this Klaroline plot, but by seeing how Caroline really feels about Klaus, it gave us the tiniest bit of hope that maybe she’ll find herself taking a roadtrip to New Orleans in the near future. Hey, if your man isn’t going to come to you, you gotta go get your man!

Back at the mansion, Katherine hallucinates everyone she’s wronged — Aunt Jenna, Uncle John, and Elijah (!!!) — but her visions are interrupted when Nadia walks in and breaks Damon’s neck. Nadia tells Katherine about her plan to save her, but Katherine doesn’t want to live. She tells her daughter that she fought for everything and now it time to stop fighting and give in. “I had a long, full life, and I got to know my beautiful daughter.” (The tears. Why won’t they stop coming?!) Katherine doesn’t take the news well and barges out, while Damon overhears the entire exchange.

Credit: The CW

Now, this seems like a beautiful, bittersweet moment between mother and daughter, but seeing how their ACTUAL plan was to actually use Elena as the transplant for Katherine’s spirit. That’s right, in the final minutes of the episode, Elena (being Elena) goes to Katherine’s death bed to tell her doppelganger that she forgives her for all the terrible things she had to do to survive. What could have been a heartbreaking moment turned into a shocking twist when Katherine recited the Traveler spell and snapped Elena’s neck. One quick phone call to Nadia, and the deal was done — Katherine had possessed Elena. Sure, this seemed so obvious from the start, but seeing it play out in the final moments of the episode was a total shock.

After Katherine’s talk with Stefan, in which she spent her “final moments” erasing the memories of her slaughtered family from her brain. After Stefan made them all disappear, she was with her newborn daughter Nadia. And then, silence. We thought Katherine was a goner (and it truly would have been a beautiful send-off), but it turns out she and Nadia really are quite the devious pair. Honestly, we’re excited to see this mother-daughter pair in action.  

Another one of our favorite moments from the episode? When Bonnie sees Vicki and Alaric and everything is so perfect and nothing hurts. We miss you, Alaric. (NEVER FORGET.)

$#*! Vampires Say

“If a girl’s gotta go, I may as well be glamorous, right?”

“You’re dying. I think I can muster up a little bit of compassion.”

“Scandalous sex! Even better!”

“Put the pillow down, Damon.”

“Every awful thing I’ve ever done is linked to her.”

“Hello Caroline.”

“Dying sucks as much as it is. There’s no reason to rub anyone’s nose in it.”

“I’m gone not three months and look at the trouble you’re in.”

“Damon keeps pushing you away because he hates himself.”

“Letting my father rip you out of my arms was the biggest regret of my life.”

“Goodbye Katherine.”

“Wow. You really don’t want to die, do you?”

“I’ll save it for the funeral that we probably won’t have for you.”

Catch the next episode of The Vampire Diaries on Thursday, January 30 at 8 p.m. ET on the CW.

Crystal Bell is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident fangirl for all things The Vampire Diaries. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!