Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2011 The CW Network Photo: Elena Has a Heartfelt Message for Damon in The Vampire Diaries Season 3, Episode 10: "The New Deal"

With the Big Bad Hybrid known as Klaus (Joseph Morgan) out of the picture, you’d think Elena (Nina Dobrev) and Co. could finally relax. Or at least that’s what we thought when The Vampire Diaries left us for an eight-week punishment hiatus. But it turns out the only thing worse than surviving what Damon (Ian Somerhalder) calls “Klaus-ageddon” is not knowing where the evilest Original is or when he could pop up. The paranoia that not knowing causes is nerve-wracking — which explains why, when our favorite show returns, Elena and Co. all have a major case of the jitters.

Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2011 The CW Network Photo: Jeremy Gets His Crossbow On in The Vampire Diaries Season 3, Episode 10: "The New Deal"

“The New Deal” opens with Bonnie (Kat Graham) dream-walking through the house that was built on the spot where 100 witches burned to a crisp. She sees four coffins, one containing a sleeping Klaus, and immediately assumes her paranoia is out of control.

Meanwhile, Elena is jogging through her neighborhood. When she stops to catch her breath she sees a hooded hottie running behind her. She picks up her pace. He matches it, and the next thing you know her peaceful morning jog has turned into a creepy run-for-your-life sprint. Just as Elena reaches her limit, the jogger dude seems to disappear, only to suddenly bump into her. “Excuse me,” he says. “I should have watched where I was going.” Elena gets this look on her face like she thinks maybe it’s just in her mind. (No, Elena-girl, you’re not crazy. He really is following you!)

While Elena’s having the Vervain scared out of her, Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) is out in the woods palling around with Tyler (Michael Trevino), and Damon’s at The Grill trying to talk Alaric (Matt Davis) into joining him in a liquid brunch.

Fortunately for all their psyches (though perhaps not their physical health), the Mystic Falls crew doesn’t have to wonder about the whereabouts of Klaus for long. The O.V. shows up — as everyone in Mystic Falls tends to do — at The Grill. When they see him, Damon and ‘Ric get riled up, but Klaus tells them to simmer down. “My sister seems to be missing,” he says. “I need to sort that out.”

Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2011 The CW Network Photo: Damon Confronts Klaus in The Vampire Diaries Season 3, Episode 10: "The New Deal"

Long story short: Klaus and his hybrid minion Tony (a.k.a. Elena’s jogger-stalker dude) are in town not to kill Elena and Co., but to find Stefan (Paul Wesley) and retrieve the property the younger Salvatore dared to steal from Klaus — the four coffins filled with the O.V.’s daggered family. And, as you might have guessed, Stefan has no intention of giving them back. In fact, the Formerly Good Guy Salvatore is hiding out in the very same house Bonnie dreamed about, trying to figure out how to take down Klaus. He turns to Bonnie for help, and while Klaus tries to coerce Elena and Damon into hunting Stefan down, Stefan is busy convincing Bonnie to magically hide the coffins in plain sight.

Klaus drama-aside, Elena and Alaric are not happy to learn that Jeremy has been fired from his job. When Jer finally comes home later that day, they try to get him to stay in so they can all “have a meal together like a typical atypical family” (Alaric’s words). But Jeremy says he can’t because Tyler’s waiting for him outside. When they hear Jeremy’s hanging with one of Klaus’s newest hybrids, they grow even more worried. And then things take a turn for the awkward when young Gilbert spitefully invites Ty — who’s now blindly devoted to Klaus — to stay for dinner.

Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2011 The CW Network Photo: Tyler Looks Worried in The Vampire Diaries Season 3, Episode 10: "The New Deal"

Alaric and Elena grill Tyler about his unwavering sire-bond, which Alaric dubs “weird cult logic.” With the zeal of a true believer, Tyler tries to justify it, saying, “Klaus released me from a curse that was ruining my life. I owe him for that.” He goes on to claim that being sired by Klaus does not prevent him from acting independently. But when Elena asks Ty what he would do if Klaus told him to kill himself, it’s clear the teen wolf cannot rebel against his new master’s wishes.

Speaking of Klaus, after setting up house in a mansion that rivals the Lockwood’s, the O.V. invites himself in for drinks at Casa Salvatore. Damon is not thrilled. But he’s not stupid either, so he doesn’t protest. “We can bond over our mutual loathing of my brother,” he jokes, but it’s a little too close to the truth. Minutes earlier Damon had gone to visit his little brother to ask for his help and to find out why Stefan saved Klaus in the first place. Stefan refused to play along, so Damon stabbed him in the gut — and twisted. “I did it to save you!” Stefan finally yells. Damon’s not exactly grateful.

Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2011 The CW Network Photo: Klaus Looks Feisty in The Vampire Diaries Season 3, Episode 10: "The New Deal"

Alone with Damon, the Original takes the opportunity to, once again, threaten to hurt Elena or someone she loves if Damon does not help him find Stefan. To prove that he’s not kidding, Klaus makes a phone call. Jeremy picks up on the other end, and before Elena and Alaric even realize what’s happening Jer takes off his live-forever ring and walks out into the street just as a black SUV barrels down the road. Alaric pushes Jeremy out of the way in the nick of time — but our favorite history teacher ends up square in the path of the oncoming vehicle. ‘Ric slams into the windshield of the SUV and rolls off down the street, battered and bloody. The driver pauses next to ‘Ric’s body and rolls the window down. It’s Klaus’s minion, Tony. “There I go again, bumping into people,” Tony says creepily. Then he drives off, also creepily. It’s his M.O.

Apparently Klaus used Tyler to get Jeremy off Vervain. When the young hybrid learns this, he seems shocked. “I didn’t think that we’d actually have to kill anyone,” Tyler says. Klaus is amused, replying, “Tyler, mate, what you’re feeling is the remnant of a guilty conscious, and I need you to get over it. End of the day, human life is just a means to an end. Our means. Our end. You’ll do well to remember that.”

That bit of truth hurts, but it’s nothing compared to the pain in Ty’s eyes when Jeremy confronts him in the woods over the betrayal. It also pales in comparison to the agony on Alaric’s face when he comes back to life on the Gilbert’s couch. Something, it seems, is wrong with ‘Ric’s live-forever ring. He’s alive but his injuries have not healed. He keels over and spits out blood, so Elena calls the paramedics, who come right away. (This is Mystic Falls, after all.) But just as they are about to take Alaric to the hospital, Hybrid Tony arrives and compels them to go on without their patient.

Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2011 The CW Network Photo: Jeremy and Tyler Bro Down in The Vampire Diaries Season 3, Episode 10: "The New Deal"

Tony tries to barter with Elena, offering to use his blood to save Alaric if she invites him into the house. But she’s no fool. Neither is Jeremy. Home from his not-so-friendly visit with Tyler, Jer shoots Tony with the crossbow. “He’s not dead yet!” Jer yells as he dashes into the house, grabs a meat cleaver, then returns and beheads the dude on the front porch. “Now he’s dead,” he says. (Boy, the neighbors got a great show!)

Now that they’ve killed yet another Klaus minion, the Mystic Falls gang is back to square one. Elena takes Alaric to the hospital, where Damon somehow manages to slip him some of his blood; the teacher — who’s suffering from a concussion, three broken ribs, and internal hemorrhaging — heals before night’s end. While Alaric’s recovery baffles his new doctor, Dr. Fell (Torrey DeVitto, Paul Wesley’s real-life wife), Elena heads over to the Salvatore manse to meet Klaus and trade him Rebekah’s (guest star Claire Holt) body for Jeremy’s safety.

The Rebekah exchange solves one Jeremy problem, but Elena’s still worried about his mental well-being. So the next day Elena and Alaric not only grant Jeremy his wish to leave Mystic Falls, they ask Damon to — once again — compel Jeremy. This time, Damon sends Jeremy off to live in Denver with a family friend. Damon tells him to meet nice human girls and live a perfectly normal human life. “You’re going to leave Mystic Falls behind and never think twice about it,” he says. “You’re going to have a better life, Jeremy.”

Afterwards, standing in the doorway on the porch where Jeremy beheaded a man a few hours earlier, Damon consoles Elena over her decision to have him compel Jeremy again. She thanks him. “I don’t know what I would do if you were not here,” she says. In return Damon tells Elena that Stefan saved Klaus to save him. Then he rambles on about feeling guilty over that and “for wanting what I want.” Realizing he’s said too much, Damon starts to leave... but then he turns back and adds, “If I’m going to feel guilty about something, I’m going to feel guilty about this.” He grabs Elena and kisses her — and she does not push him away. (Let’s be real: No one would.)

There you have it, lovers of all things TVD: Delena is official.

Credit: You Tube Photo: Watch Damon and Elena Kiss in Vampire Diaries Season 3, Episode 10, "The New Deal"
Credit: CW Photo: Vampire Diaries Promo for Season 3, Episode 11, ''Our Town'': How to Beat a Villain