These are not happy times in a Mystic Falls. Vampire Diaries Season 4, Episode 2, “Memorial,” opens a few days after Pastor Young detached the gas line and blew up 12 members of the town’s most exclusive club. The populace is in mourning. Bonnie (Kat Graham) is darn-near catatonic over Grams; Matt’s (Zach Roerig) bent over with guilt; newly fanged Elena (Nina Dobrev) is jonesing to tap a vein. And Damon (Ian Somerhalder)? Well, the thrice-jilted Salvatore has got a serious case of the Angries. Oh, and there’s also a new slayer in town.

Not that Stefan (Paul Wesley) knows this when he decides to take Elena hunting for her first kill. The Nice-Guy Salvatore has a plan: Get E used to animal blood so that she won’t binge on her neighbors, feel guilty about it, then flip her humanity switch. Damon disagrees with this approach. “She can’t learn to control the bloodlust if she’s never actually experienced the bloodlust,” he says. “It’s a cheat. It’s like giving a kid a calculator before they know math.”

Even though it scares us, we kind of agree. But Stefan does not. So he and Elena waste no time heading over the river and through the woods where our girl dines on a deer.

The first time hurts the most

Unfortunately, Elena can’t keep Bambi down. She discovers this just as she and Stef are about to enjoy a First Feed dessert of steamy, up-against-a tree vampire sex.

While Elena upchucks her prey just outside of town, new-hunter-on-the-block, Connor Jordan, goes over the crime scene out at the Young family farm. Apparently, when the Pastor detonated the gas line, the ensuing fire torched everyone and everything inside the house — everything, that is, except for a pristine paper note that the good reverend left for his daughter inside the stove.

Connor grabs the letter and heads into the heart of Mystic Falls to question Sheriff Liz. He finds her at the Grill, where she has just accused Damon of masterminding the town council’s demise. “Don’t look at me,” the vampire says. “If I was going to kill a bunch of people I wouldn’t blow them up. I’d have a dinner party.” Good point.

Turns out Damon did not compel the pastor to adios himself and 12 others. Not that anyone believes him. Or has time to care. The rest of the gang is busy preparing for the memorial service. The student council made paper Japanese lanterns for people to release afterwards and someone has foolishly asked Pastor Young’s daughter, April, to speak during. “What am I supposed to say? ‘I’m sorry my dad didn’t fix the gasoline?’” she asks Elena.

The big bad’s bullets
“Am I wearing my I-blew-up-the-Founder’s-Council T-shirt?Damon asks this when Elena suspects him of doing just that. She doesn’t really seem to believe him. But she lets it go because she needs his help with her “adjustment issues.” But turning to the Bad Boy Salvatore for advice is never a good idea. First Damon suggests Elena dine on the Grill’s patrons. When she refuses he takes her into the bathroom and feeds her from his hand. It’s a TV-MA kind of moment — one that Tyler (Michael Trevino)and Caroline (Candice Accola) try to outdo at the Lockwood Manse. “This is wrong. A bunch of people died and we’re having sex,” Caroline says as she pushes Ty away. “Grief sex” her boyfriend counters. “It’s healthy.”

Before Ty can fully, ahem, grieve, someone knocks at the door. It’s Connor. After quickly introducing himself, the hunter forces his way inside and accuses Mayor Lockwood of covering up the Founder’s Council murders. Tyler comes downstairs to check on his mother. Once again, Connor extends his gloved hand. Only this time, when Tyler shakes it, the teen’s flesh starts to sizzle. The slayer doesn’t hesitate, pulls his gun, and fires five rounds into the hybrid’s chest. Mayor Lockwood screams and, while Connor reloads, Tyler jumps out of the window and runs to the Salvatores.

“If you were a normal vampire, you’d be dead,” Stefan says as he removes the bullets. The plugs are custom made: Wood, vervain-dipped. Lethal. Thanks to some creepy writing inked on them, Stefan thinks they may have been spelled. And, even though Bon-Bon’s in a bad way — literally laying in fetal position on her couch — Stefan bothers her to examine the bullets. “It’s not magical writing,” she confirms.

Meanwhile, Elena joins Matt in setting up for the memorial service at the church. While they’re distributing programs, she spots April, whom she used to babysit. She goes to comfort the girl she hasn’t seen since her parents’ funeral. When Elena touches April’s arm, however, the sensation of the girl’s pulse makes her run off to the basement bathroom to puke. It is not a cute scene, and it ends with Elena’s dress and the room being covered with blood. She calls Damon to bring her a change of clothes.

D does as asked — immediately. But when he shows up with the change of clothes, he finds Connor sitting just outside the bathroom in the lounge. “So what brings you to Mystic Falls: Bible salesman?” he asks after he hands Elena the clothes. “No, actually I’m in environmental clean-up,” Connor replies. “I heard you had a bit of a pollution problem.”

Whatever problems the town has, Connor plans to make them worse. After Damon drops a poor-taste funeral pun, the slayer sneaks up into the balcony where April is practicing her speech. He startles her. And, when she does the total girl thing of apologizing even though she didn’t do anything wrong, Connor stabs her, ties her up and sits her on the floor, bleeding. He then loads his weapons and waits for the service to start.

Outside the church, Damon gives Elena a bag of human blood. She gulps greedily but can’t stomach that either. “What’s happening?” she asks. Damon hypothesizes that’s it’s her doppelganger blood and that she needs to drink from the vein. Stefan approaches just as she heads inside and he is not pleased to see Damon with the bag of blood. Once again, he explains his plan. Once again Damon disagrees. “Your four-legged protein shake was a bust,” he says. “The juice box is a no go. She can’t even keep my blood down.” Stefan pauses. “She drank from you?” he growls. Ever wicked, D counters, “Oops. Did I say that out loud?

Death at a funeral

Before the memorial mass starts, the Mayor invites April to speak. When the girl doesn’t approach the podium (because she’s busy bleeding in the balcony), the Mayor opens the floor to anyone else who wants to say a few words. The audience is filled with family members of the dead. Yet Elena is the only one who stands up. As she starts to speak, Elena smells April’s blood. She starts to sweat. And, just as her eyes go veiny, Stefan takes her away from the podium.

All the vampires smell the blood now. But even worse, they smell a trap. Speaking in low tones, they use their vamp hearing to communicate the message: Don’t look for the source of the o-negative scent. But Matt grows concerned when Elena starts to tremble in the pew next to him. “Feed from me,” he offers. And, while the choir sings, Elena discreetly taps his vein. Dinner at last.

Connor watches from the balcony. It looks like Elena’s crying into Matt’s shoulder. But, before he can figure it out, Tyler rushes to the podium and literally takes one for the team. And, before Ty can say two nice things about Pastor Young, the slayer shoots him with vampire buckshot — aka a large vervain-dipped bullet.

Damon goes after Connor, catching up with him in the parking lot. He rips the door off Connor’s truck. But Mr. Buffy is fast and, for the second time today, he fires a bunch of wooden bullets into a vampire. Damon falls. But only briefly. They wrestle. Connor ends up on top. He’s about to stake our boy when he hears Stefan coming. Figuring he’ll be outnumbered, the slayer runs.

Stefan does not follow. He pauses, then sucker punches his brother rather than help him up. “What the hell was that for?” Damon asks. “You know what,” Stefan says. Then he walks off.

Meanwhile, Elena runs up the balcony to help April. The minute she sees her friend sitting in a pool of blood, however, her fangs pop out and she goes in for the kill. Fortunately, just before Elena turns her former charge into lunch, Caroline vamps over and stops her. Blondie force-feeds April her blood. Then she turns it all into a teaching moment and tells Elena to compel April to forget that a guy stabbed her and her babysitter tired to eat her at her dad’s funeral. 

Elena hesitates before doing as she’s told. Only, she makes a rookie error: Elena plants a memory in April’s head of a beautiful funeral service that no one will be talking about the next day because all the headlines will be about, what Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) called “ the attempted assassination of the mayor’s son.”

It seems like half the town heads over to the Grill to talk about the service. Connor’s there, too. He asks Matt about the bandage on his neck. “Girlfriend went a little overboard,” Matt replies. Connor’s about to push the subject, when he’s distracted by Jeremy, who compliments his tattoo — a mystical-looking sleeve that, apparently, no regular human can see. Uh-oh.

Rather than follow Jeremy home, Connor heads back to his trailer to read the pastor’s note. Much like his last words, it’s a bunch of cryptic mumbo jumbo about how his death was the first of many to come that will save Mystic Falls.

He’ll drink to that

For the second time today, Stefan gets Elena to drink some liquor. “It helps with the cravings,” he says. Stefan goes on to confront Elena about turning to Damon for help. When Elena starts to cry, Stefan basically blames it on vampire PMS. “Your emotions are heightened,” he says.

“I feel like I’ve been crying since my parents died,” Elena responds. “It’s like my life is a never-ending funeral.” 

After she says she feels everyone’s grief, Stefan rallies the troops. He has the gang meet him in the park. His solution is to have them all release the Japanese lanterns and officially mourn the people they’ve lost. It’s a tender idea — one Damon will have no part of. 

While everyone else lists the people they’ve lost, he heads over to Alaric’s (Matt Davis) grave to have a drink with his dear friend. “Japanese lanterns are a symbol of letting go of the past. Well, here’s a news flash: We’re not Japanese,” he says. The saddened Salvatore then goes on to confess to Alaric’s headstone that he feels like Alaric left him to fight with his brother and take care of the Scooby gang. “Thanks for leaving me here to babysit,” he says. Sitting beside Damon, unbeknownst to him, Ric’s ghost replies, “I miss you too, buddy.” 

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