“Am I dead?” Elena (Nina Dobrev) asks Stefan (Paul Wesley). We’re aching to know the answer too. Is she? Deceased, that is?

The answer to that question is, well, not yet. But let us not get ahead of ourselves.

After what felt like the longest summer hiatus in the history of TV, The Vampire Diaries’ fourth season premiere picks up the morning after Matt (Zach Roerig) and Elena went careening off the Wickery Bridge. This is the second time the young Miss Gilbert has survived a car crash into those murky waters (aka, the river that took her parents’ lives.) When she wakes, she’s at home in her bed with both of the Salvatore brothers at her side. And, yes we are a bit jealous.

But then we see that Elena is a little loopy and her hearing is amped. In short, she’s experiencing the growing pains that mark the start of a human’s transition from the land of the living to that of the bloodsucking dead. “I don’t want to be. I can’t be a vampire!” she cries. But Damon (Ian Somerhalder) sums her situation up best: “There is no way out of it,” he says. “We all know the drill. You feed or you die. There is no door number three.”

Impractical Magic

Not that Stefan or Elena’s brother Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) will give up hope. Jeremy tells her that Bonnie (Kat Graham) begged the spirits to bring him back when he died, and they did. So maybe they can hook a sister witch up again. 

After he assures Elena that Matt is alive and well, the youngest Salvatore joins his high school boo in wishing/hoping/praying that her former cheer squad BFF can summon enough witch power to fix this. 

Damon is doubtful Bonnie can help. On top of that, he’s heartbroken, angry, and brooding. He hates that Elena chose Stefan — again. He hates that Stefan heeded Elena’s request to save Matt first. But most of all Damon now hates Matt with a capital H.

But Bonnie’s not yet privy to any of this. Always down for Team Elena, she immediately started gathering candles. But, first the witch of Mystic Falls has to deal with the problem named Klaus (Joseph Morgan). The Original vampire forced her to help him hijack Tyler’s (Michael Trevino) body. Now he wants her to stop working on Elena’s issue to figure out a way to return him to his nearly burned to a crisp corpse. Bon-Bon tries to reason with him. “If I can keep Elena human you’ll still have an endless blood supply to make your hybrids,” she says. “Isn’t that what you really want?”

Before the OV can confirm, the ep sends us over to Mystic Falls General Hospital where town council elder Pastor Young marches in with an armed guard, takes over the blood bank and flat out fires Doc Meredith (Torrey DeVitto). “Alaric Saltzman told us everything,” he says. “It’s probably time to start looking for a new job.”

Killing Them Softly

The town’s new security chief doesn’t pause to discuss severance packages. He’s too busy working on a vampire genocide plan. His goons start by heading over to the Sheriff’s house, where they dart Caroline (Candice Accola) on the porch and toss her into a van. From there, they go to Casa Klaus. They don’t find the Big Bad. But his sister is home. And it sucks to be her.

Back at the Gilbert house, it’s déjà vu. Elena’s erased memories are coming back, and she’s remember the time Damon told her he loved her but didn’t deserve her — but that Stefan does. 

Distraught over what she thinks is the loss of her brother, Rebekah (Claire Holt) sweeps everything off of Klaus’s desk in a mourning rage. She’s so upset that she almost doesn’t hear Damon walk up with vengeance in his gorgeous blue eyes. Armed with the White Oak dagger he lunges for Bex. But she vamps out of reach. Older, she is definitely faster — but not fast enough to dodge the stakes fired by Pastor Young and his slayer posse outside. They toss her into the van with Caroline.

Meanwhile, Rebekah’s big bro Klaus is across town, hiding out inside the Original Family’s cave. He’s still wearing Tyler’s body and still moping about it when Mayor Lockwood calls Tyler’s cell for the umpteenth time. “Incessant woman,” he snarls as he answers the phone. Mama Lockwood has something serious to say. Her message: The Council is looking for Tyler, and they’ve already taken Caroline.

Blond Ambitions

“Caroline” and “taken.” Those are the only two words Klaus needs to hear. Minutes later, he has klepto’ed a police squad car and is using it to T-sec the van. He rips open the rear door and pulls a shocked Caroline out of the car. When Rebekah asks, “What about me?” Klaus turns to look at her and he reveals his true identity “Keep ’em busy, little sister,” he says before leaving Bex to fend for herself.

Across town, Pastor Young and co. are busy taking more hostages. This time they stormed the Gilbert house and took Elena and Stefan. They drove them out to a farm on the edge of town where the Rev. revealed his master plan. “I know that wherever you go, Salvatore vampires seem to follow,” he said, before explaining that Elena and Rebekah were bait. E would be used to capture Damon and Bex would bring in the Original family. Once all were captured, the padre planned to use the White Oak dagger to eradicate vampire kind.

Elena sees the pastor’s lips moving. But she’s not hearing the words coming out of his mouth. She’s too busy freaking out over the sound of his blood racing through his jugular, the din of the clock ticking, the teakettle whistling on the stove. You know, super-sensitive vampire stuff. Unable to think straight, she runs out into the sun that has become her enemy. Next thing you know, she’s imprisoned in a vervain-mist filled barn with the other neck nibblers. Rebekah’s in the cell across from her, while Stefan is a few cages down.

On the other side of the woods, Caroline is going buck wild on the man she thinks is Tyler. “I never thought I’d see you again. I don’t get it,” she says as she smothers him with kisses. “How are you alive?” It’s a good question that she doesn’t let him answer. Instead, Car rips of Ty’s clothes. She kisses him passionately and gives him bark burn as she rams him up against the tree. Inside Tyler, Klaus is overwhelmed. “Easy, love. Wrong time. Wrong place. Wrong equipment,” he says. Caroline keeps smooching. But then 30 seconds later it hits her: “Did you just call me ‘love’?”

Blondie’s grossest fears are realized when she learns that Klaus has possessed the love of her life. She slaps him. The OV responds by pointing out that he did just save her. But Car’s not having it. “You do one semi-decent thing and now you’re my hero?” she says. “Ugh. I need to go sanitize my mouth.”

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

Bonnie needs a little sanitizing of her own. Across town, she sits in the darkened basement above the spot where 100 witches died. She’s surrounded by candles, chanting. When “the spirits” refuse her request, she tells Jeremy that she plans to kill herself (temporarily) so that she can go to the other side and bring Elena back. The way she explains it, her so-called passing would be just like the time she adiosed Jer to kill Klaus then brought Jeremy back to life. Lil Gilbert may be young, but even he sees that this is not a good plan. And we’re with him. But Bonnie’s mind is made up. She does her incantation thing. She works so hard that her nose bleeds and black magic veins creep up her arms and face before she passes out.

Bonnie wakes on the other side, which just happens to be in the barn with a weak and sweating Elena. The problem: Our girl E can’t see her. Elena can feel Bonnie — sort of. Bonnie grabs Elena’s hands and tells her “We’re going home.”  But just when it looks like the witch is going to walk Elena back to the human side, Grams (Jasmine Guy) appears and tells Bon-Bon to steer clear of this sort of darkness. “She is not your problem to solve. Now go before they keep you here,” Grams warns.

Back in the barn, Elena’s end is near. She’s pale and wheezing. Stefan panics and calls the guards in hopes of luring a human close enough for Elena to feed. On the first attempt, all he succeeds in doing is getting himself shot — twice. (Now that’s love.) Fueled by guilt, he tries again. This time Bex helps. She seems to have been moved by Elena’s story: She tells Stefan the only reason she was on the bridge the night before was because she’d chosen him over Damon. 

The OV sister lunges at the guard who comes to investigate Stefan’s cries. The dude jumps back against the bars of Stefan’s cage, giving the youngest Salvatore ample opportunity to bash his head in and drop the corpse on the floor so it can bleed near Elena.

The man does not fall close enough. But with her last human breath, Elena squeezes through the bars with her arm outstretched. She cries a single tear when her fingers reach the blood and she brings them to her mouth.

Klaus is not so easily satisfied. Jilted by Caroline, he finds Bonnie to demand that she return him to his original body. When she refuses, he whips his claws out and threatens to kill Tyler and jump into Jeremy’s body. Panicked, pressured, Bonnie complies. She holds Klaus/Tyler’s head while she chants and taps into the dark magic to push Klaus back into his body. Before she can finish, her grandmother appears again, upset that the witch didn’t heed her warning. Grams grabs Bonnie’s hands. “You made your choice,” she said. “Now they’re taking it out on me!” Grams starts to scream, blackened veins bulging, grasping Bonnie’s hands. There’s nothing the junior Wiccan can do to stop it. Jeremy and Caroline watch helplessly as Bonnie screams at empty space, apologizes, then collapses.

While Elena feeds for the first time, Damon and Matt approach the farm. Matt has agreed to come to prove that he is worthy of Elena’s sacrifice. Little does he know, Damon plans a little sacrifice of his own. When Matt asks for more details on the plan to free Elena and Stefan, D gets a case of vamp eye and rips a chunk of out Matt’s neck. Damon then yells for the pastor to come outside. The pastor does. But only to tell Damon to get off his property. The elder Salvatore retaliates by easily taking out the pastor’s security force. He then kicks Matt, places a well-shod foot on the teen’s neck, and starts pressing.

Before Damon can merge Matt’s windpipe with his esophagus, a newly freed Elena vamps over and knocks D to the ground. “Leave him alone!” She growls, her eyes red and veiny, her neophyte fangs bared. Later she will ask Damon to take out his frustrations on her and not Matt or Stefan. She will tell Damon that, during her transition, she remembered everything he compelled her to forget.

Too bad Elena won’t be able to erase Bonnie’s memory of watching her grandmother die a second time. But her friend’s dark spell works. And, back in his body, Klaus packs the last of Elena’s hybrid-making blood and prepares to leave. Before he does, Rebekah asks him why he planned to abandon her again. Enraged, she grabs the bags of blood and crushes them. In turn, Klaus disowns his little sister and breaks her neck before leaving town.

Back at the farm, a (compelled?) Pastor Young passes out vervain to the rest of the Founder’s Council members. He locks the door and opens the gas valve on the stove. “Friends, we are the beginning,” he says. Then, before the council members figure out his suicidal tendencies, Pastor Young takes out his lighter, flips the lid, and blows a quarter of the Mystic Falls’ adult population off the map.

Need your daily Vampire Diaries fix? Like us on our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter!