Things seemed rather simple when we first arrived in Mystic Falls. The new school year had just begun and 17-year-old ex-cheerleader Elena Gilbert was returning to Mystic Falls High shortly after her parents had died in a tragic car accident. Elena’s Aunt Jenna moved in to take care of her and her younger brother Jeremy. Even though Elena had been through the mill, things remained relatively unchanged within her group of friends: Bonnie was still her bestie, Caroline was still her frenemy, and ex-boyfriend Matt still carried a torch for her. There was, however, one thing different — the new guy at school, Stefan Salvatore. He was mysterious and alluring with an air about him that made him seem like the oldest high school student ever. Naturally, Elena fell for him. And of course he turns out to be a vegan vampire with an older brother (Damon) who is stronger, naughtier, and much less....vegan. Damon’s bad boy antics were an instant draw for us, and of course Elena was drawn to him too (even though she wouldn’t openly admit it).

In the nine months that passed between the first day of class and the Founder’s Day fiasco (more on that in a sec), a series of crazy events helped Elena learn that not only do vampires exist, but that the town’s big wigs have been hunting them for generations. They’d even imprisoned a bunch of them in a tomb in the woods. Elena also discovered that she was adopted, that her birth mother is now a vampire, the man she thought was her Uncle John was really her father, and that her late dad was the doctor who presided over her birth. (Talk about drama! The Maury Povich Show could do an entire week on her alone.) Oh, and the biggest ah-ha moment of all? Elena found out that she looks exactly like the woman who sired the Salvatore brothers — and that’s a big part of why they’re so drawn to her. What’s worse? That woman (Katherine Pierce) might want to kill her. Awesome.
While we’re on the subject of killing — remember how we mentioned that Founder’s Day fiasco? Well, Elena’s Uncle John used that event and the town’s citizenry as bait for to catch all the bloodsuckers in town, including many who’d escaped from the tomb. During the fireworks he set off some weird sort of  vampire-paralyzing device. Then he and his evil henchmen poisoned the vamps, locked them in an old building and set it on fire. Damon and Anna (Jeremy’s love interest) were captured during the raid along with (gasp!) the town’s mayor and his son, Tyler. Stefan miraculously managed to escape the device with Elena’s help. Then, with Bonnie’s assistance (remember, she’s a witch!), Stefan was able to save his big bro from the blaze. Sadly, the mayor and Anna were toast, pardon the pun.

When Jer found out his boo went bye-bye (the second girlfriend he’d lost in less than a year), he washed down a handful of sleeping pills with a vial of her blood and climbed into bed. He wasn’t the only Gilbert about to face the dark side though. Downstairs in the kitchen, a celebratory Uncle John exchanged words with a girl he thought was his niece/daughter Elena. But then suddenly he realized that it wasn’t actually Elena. And as he began to utter “Katherine,” Elena’s vamp doppelganger stabbed (and killed) him. Before leaving, Katherine shared a steamy smooch with Damon, who thought Elena had finally chosen him. Little did he know he was actually kissing Kat…