Credit: The CW © 2012 The CW Network, LLC. Photo: Alaric in the Storage Unit in Season 3, Episode 22: “The Departed”

We love those moments on The Vampire Diaries that make us gasp, pause, and rewind — and the third season finale, “The Departed,” was chock full of them. Here are the scenes that left our jaws agape.

6. Stefan saves Matt and Elena
History repeated itself in the waters beneath the old Wickerly Bridge. A minute after Matt’s truck crashed into the water, Stefan dove in. He found the cabin completely filled with water just like it had been three years earlier with Elena and her parents. He ripped the door off its hinges and leaned over Matt. But Elena refused to leave. Doing what her father had done for her, Elena gestured for Stefan to save her friend first. Always willing to give Elena what she wants, Stefan took Matt to the surface. When he returned for his love, it was too late.

5. Alaric stakes Klaus
It was almost too easy. Vampire Alaric caught up with Damon and Rebekah as they tried to roll the coffin carrying Klaus out of the storage facility. The pair tried to fight. But ‘Ric shut them down as if they were kids. Human kids. Then, as Rebekah screamed feeble protests, ‘Ric turned to the coffin and opened the lid. Klaus stared up at the latest monster his mother created. Bound and desiccated, the Original was helpless. ‘Ric pulled out the white oak dagger and buried it in his chest. A second later flames erupted from Klaus — and just like that, an evil being that had lived since the dawn of time was wiped off the face of the earth. Or so we thought. (See OMG No. 3.)

4. Damon and Elena meet for the first time
It was the night of the bonfire. Damon was hunting, by passively laying in the road outside of Mystic Falls when he heard Elena approach. She had just broken up with Matt and was on the phone with her mother as she walked up the darkened lane. Damon vamped over to her. “Katherine,” he said. But she wasn’t Katherine. Unsuspecting, and a bit weirded out by the hot guy who appeared out of nowhere, Elena introduced herself. She and Damon chatted — flirted even. The vampire gave the cheerleader some relationship advice. “You want a love that consumes you,” he said. “You want passion and adventure. And even a little danger.” Then, as her parents drove up, Damon compelled Elena to forget.

Credit: The CW © 2012 The CW Network, LLC. Photo: Elena in Uniform in Season 3, Episode 22: “The Departed”

3. Klaus possesses Tyler
Caroline sobbed as she told Tyler about his sire’s demise. The former quarterback was brave. “You’re going to be fine, Caroline,” he told his girlfriend. “Tell my mother I left town like I was supposed to.” Then he turned. It was ugly and violent. We thought it was the end. But after Caroline left, Bonnie arrived. “I know you’re here,” she said as she entered the candlelit dungeon beneath the old Lockwood mansion. A beat later, Tyler stepped out of the shadows. When he opened his mouth to speak the words of an Original came out. “I must say you really did that spell brilliantly,” Klaus said. “I didn’t think you had it in you.”

2. Elena choses Stefan
The verdict we’d all been waiting for was Elena’s second big decision of the night. Elena had been kidnapped by Matt (for her own good) when she got the call about Klaus. They were on the road, racing away from Mystic Falls. “Damon’s a 100 miles outside of town,” Matt said. “I can keep driving to him or I can turn around and go back to Stefan. It’s your choice.” We discover who Elena chose when she calls Damon while on her way back to town — to Stefan as well as Caroline and Tyler. Or so she claimed. Damon refused to let Elena play the numbers game. “If it was just down to him and me and you had to make a choice who got the goodbye, who would it be?” he asked. Elena’s answer was brutally honest. “I love him, Damon,” she said. “He came into my life at a time when I needed someone and I fell for him instantly. No matter what I feel for you. I never unfall for him.” Saddened, Damon replied, “Yeah, I get it. Stefan. It’s always gonna be Stefan.” Elena tried to console him, offering, “Maybe if I had met you first…” Little did she know, she did.

1. Elena wakes up dead (possibly)
Elena laid on a metal table in the morgue. Stefan sat beside her in the dark, stoically crying. Outside in the hallway, Meredith explained to Damon that she had lied — how, earlier that day when Elena had arrived at the hospital, she’d been suffering from a serious cerebral hemorrhage. Not a slight concussion. The M.D. had given her vampire blood. As the weight of that settled on Damon, inside the morgue Elena gasped back to life.