Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/ The CW

Forced to wait for what seemed like forever before we could see The Vampire Diaries gang again, we found ourselves reflecting on the times that wowed us. In the remaining days before October 11 (the Season 4 premiere), we’ll dole out five fantastic scenes, so keep checking back as we count down to the top 5.

Here are the fruits of our labor — the best moments of Elena (Nina Dobrev) and co.’s increasingly complicated lives.

25) Elena officially meets Stefan (Paul Wesley) for the first time
Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”
It was one of those you’ve-got-to-be-kidding moments. Elena had gone to the cemetery to visit her parents’ graves and write in her journal — alone, on a foggy day. Suddenly she hears something. A crow lands on statue nearby. She shoos it. But it comes back. Only time it caws at her eerily. Out of the corner of her eye, Elena spots someone behind a nearby grave. She freaks and runs. But not like the fighter Elena we know now, pre-Stefan E runs like a scared high school girl. (Which, she was.) And of course she trips. But just as she reaches the road — and safety — there he is. “You okay?” Stefan asks. We answered: She is now.

24) The Salvatore Brothers’ first brawl
Season 1, Episode 1, “Pilot”
Stefan pushed his brother out of a second-story window and tried to crush him in the fall. Remember that? They fought in a way that only centuries-old brothers could  — dirty: full of low blows and hateful sayings. But we learned a lot from Damon (Ian Somerhalder) and Stefan’s first fang-filled fisticuffs — namely the mystery behind Elena’s allure, their family history and the roles each would play. Basically, that one rumble foreshadowed the seasons of drama to come.

23) Alaric (Matt Davis) outs Caroline (Candice Accola) and Tyler (Michael Trevino)
Season 3, Episode 21, “Before Sunset”
When he called an emergency meeting of the town council, Vampire ‘Ric did not mince words. “The Sheriff, the woman we elected to keep our families safe and town secure, has a vampire for a daughter,” he said. “And our lovely mayor has a son who is half vampire and half werewolf.” It was a bold move we should hate him for. But we couldn’t. It was the evil, vamp-hating side that made him do it! In one move, Alaric did what no other adult dared do in Mystic Falls: He outed the town’s dark, not-so-secret secret and dared the council to do something about it. “These women are hypocrites,” he said. “They claim to spearhead our defense against the supernatural presence then cover up the violent attacks committed by their children.”

22) Katherine (Nina Dobrev) and Damon reunite
Season 2, Episode 1, “The Return”
“Kiss me. Or kill me. Which one will it be?” Katherine asked Damon. After spending a century and a half searching for the woman who’d inducted him into the vampire life, the choice for the elder Salvatore was easy. Damon let Katherine knock him to the floor, before he tossed her onto the fireplace mantle. What followed was the kind of furniture-breaking foreplay that leaves bruises — and major property damage. It was practically NC-17 hot!

21) …And break up in the same night
Season 1, Episode 1, “The Return”
But you know things go on TVD: Nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Right before Damon, ahem, consummated his reunion with Katherine, he paused. “I have a question,” he said. “Answer it right and I’ll forget the last 145 years I’ve been missing you. I’ll forget how much I loved you.” Before he could pose his query, Kat cut Damon in a way we would have never seen coming. “The truth is, I’ve never loved you,” she said. “It was always Stefan.” Ouch!

Credit: CW

20) Tyler’s first metamorphosis
Season 2, Episode 11, “By the Light of the Moon”
Tyler’s first werewolf transformation was the stuff nightmares on Elm Street are made of. Chained up in the old Lockwood mansion, Ty writhed in unimaginable pain as his bones broke, one by one, and reshaped him into a four-legged beast. The Change took hours. During which time the über jock cried like a baby — one that was being tortured within an inch of its life. Not that we blame him!

19) Katherine says Hello
Season 1, Episode 22, “Founder’s Day”
The evil that is Lady Kat showed up, pretended to be Elena, then cut off Uncle John’s finger. “Hello, John”, she said. Then she pulled what would become one of her trademark moves: She stabbed John in the gut. “Good-bye, John.”

18) Bonnie (Kat Graham) tries to fry Damon
Episode 2:2, Brave New World
It was the night of yet another Mystic Falls fair. Neophyte necklibber Caroline had just made her first kill, and Elena was trying to clean up the crime scene. Before she could do so, Bonnie turned the corner and discovered the mess. “Caroline? No, you’re not. You can’t be,” Bon-Bon said. She needed only to touch her friend to confirm. Bonnie immediately turned her hatred on Damon. “I told you what would happen if anyone else got hurt,” she growled. Then she telekinetically knocked Damon down and doused the ground with gasoline. Elena pleaded with her to stop. But Bonnie was not having it. Fueled by rage, the witch let her anger spark and watched as flames rushed toward the vampire.

17) Elena chooses Stefan
Season 3, Episode 22, “The Departed”
“Damon’s 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.” And the decision wouldn’t have been harder if it had been Sophie’s. But Elena made it by dialing ten digits — she called Damon as she raced back to his brother. “No matter what I feel for you, I never unfall for him,” she said. “Maybe if I had met you first…” We didn’t want to see either Salvatore crushed, but after three seasons, both deserved an answer.  

16) Alaric goes redrum
Season 3, Episode 17, “Break on Through”
“Do you ever feel remorse,” Alaric asked Meredith (Torrey DeVitto). His words were frightening. But his look was even scarier. And the change was fast. In the time it took for the doctor to pour creamer into his coffee, Mystic Falls’ hottest history teacher went from man to serial-killing maniac.  He picked up a butcher’s knife and, spouting crazy talk about how the founding families had failed to protect Mystic Falls, Ric lunged at his doctor girlfriend. Fortunately the MD had a few street fighting skills. She scalded him with the coffee and brawled her way up the stairs into the bathroom. She closed one door and locked it. But Alaric barged in before she could shut the other. So, the doctor did what she had to do: She stabbed Ric with bang sheers.

15) Elena realizes Stefan is a vampire
Season 1, Episode 5, “You’re Undead to Me”
“It’s not possible. I’m not a believer. I can’t be,” Elena says. She didn’t want to do the math. But a lot of the weird things about her boyfriend just started to add up: The way Stefan’s eyes went all veiny that time she cut herself, the fact that his name appears in one of the town’s old ledgers, the mysterious deaths, Vicki Donovan’s (Kayla Ewell) claim that she’d been attacked by a vampire, Tiki’s grandad recognizing Stefan from back in the day, the disappearing wound on his hand… “How can I deny what’s right in front of me?” Elena asked. Answer: You can’t (unless you use compulsion).

14) Stefan admits that it’s true
Season 1, Episode 6, “Lost Girls”
When Elena demanded the truth, Stefan didn’t hesitate to reply: “I’m a vampire.” One day later he spilled the beans, giving up almost his entire backstory. “I’ve been 17 years old since 1864,” he said. Dang. Talk about teen angst.

13) Caroline becomes a vampire
Season 2, Episode 1, “The Return”
Poor Blondie. Anything that could happen to her, did. First, Damon compelled her to forget the months he spent using her as a sippy cup. Then her car broke down in the middle of a killer thunderstorm, and while running home through the woods (not a choice we would have made), she stumbled over the decaying body of her new boyfriend Matt’s long-lost sister, Vicki. Next she was seriously injured in a car accident, only to be healed by vampire blood. Finally, just when we thought the head cheerleader was in the clear, Katherine waltzed into her hospital room and smothered Caroline to death. Thanks to the Type Damon negative in her veins, Caroline woke up dead — a pawn in a game she didn’t know was being played.

12) Bonnie gets used by Esther
Season 3, Episode 20, “Do Not Go Gentle”
After yet another tough day, Original witch Esther appeared to Bonnie in a dream. Elena’s BFF found herself marching barefoot in a trance through the cemetery to the Salvatores’ crypt. There, she stabbed her palm and pressed her bleeding hand to Evil Alaric’s lips. He drank. Greedily. Then he vamped out and went for Bonnie’s jugular. Seconds later Alaric stood and dropped the witch’s body. Crossed by another witch. That’s cold.

11) Damon makes Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen) forget — again
Season 3, Episode 10, “The New Deal”
Jeremy had already lost so much — both parents, two girlfriends, and his aunt. To keep him from losing his mind, not to mention any chance at a normal life, Elena asked Damon to make her little brother forget the only home he’d ever known. Damon complied (and compelled). While Elena and Alaric watched, the vampire looked deep into Jeremy’s eyes and told him a story that would become his new life in Denver. “You’re going to leave Mystic Falls behind and never think twice about it,” D said. “You’re going to have a better life.”

10) Elijah (Daniel Gillies) makes a killer impression
Season 2, Episode 10, “The Sacrifice”
Nobody makes a bloody good entrance like this Original vampire. A week after Damon staked him, Elijah used the witch Jonas to suss out Elena’s location, then he immediately vamped over. He found Elena and co. under attack. So he did what any OV would do: He offed one bloodsucker just for blocking the door. Next, he simultaneously ripped the hearts out of two others — all without breaking a sweat. Just when we thought he would grab E and kill Damon on principle, Elijah gave our girl the once over and simply left. Turns out Elijah just wanted to check up on Elena. That’s all.

9) Bonnie and Jeremy hook up
Season 2, Episode 14, “Crying Wolf”
“You’re Elena’s little brother. I’ve known you forever,” Bon-Bon said. And we’ve gotta say, Bonnie truly tried to deny the romantic tension had been building for months. But, well, you know how it is. “Overnight you’ve turned into this hot guy who’s really sweet,” she said. Jeremy was quick to reply, “You think I’m hot?” And, before Bonnie could stop blushing, Lil’ Jer planted a big kiss on the witch, taking her breath away. “Wow,” Bonnie said. Wow indeed.

8) Damon and Elena meet for the first time
Season 3, Episode 22, “The Departed”
It turns out Stefan wasn’t the first. Months before Elena laid eyes on the Good Guy Salvatore, she’d crossed paths with his big brother. It was the night of the bonfire. E had just broken up with Matt. She was walking alone down a dark country road while she called her mother to come pick her up. A few blocks up the street, Damon was passively hunting by laying in the lane and feeding on passersby who stopped to help. Elena was almost one of those good Samaritans. “Katherine?” D gasped when he saw her. But Elena wasn’t Katherine. Nor was she comfortable with the strange hot guy who showed up out of nowhere. Still, she chatted with Damon — flirted even. And as he compelled her to forget their encounter, vampire Damon gave cheerleader Elena some advice. “You want a love that consumes you,” he said. “You want passion and adventure. And even a little danger.”

7) Damon gets his heart broken, twice
Season 2, Episode 1, “The Return”
After the love of his life admitted that she’d cared only for Stefan, a drunken Damon sought comfort in the presence of Elena — aka, his lil’ bro’s boo. No, it didn’t make sense to us, either. When she found Damon in her room, he joked that he was “just doing [his] part in the neighborhood watch.” Then he accused her of harboring romantic feelings for him. “I care about you. I do,” Elena responded. “But I love Stefan. It’s always going to be Stefan.” Gulp. Twice in one night. Our hearts broke for him.

6) Damon kills Jeremy
Season 2, Episode 1, “The Return”
But not for long. Enraged that Elena had turned him down using the exact words Katherine had uttered earlier that evening, Damon turned on Jeremy. When Lil’ Jer came to his sister’s defense, the vampire grabbed him by the neck and pushed him up against the wall. “You want to shut out the pain?” he asked Jeremy. “It’s the easiest thing in the world. The part of you that cares just goes away. All you have to do is flip the switch and —“ Ignoring Elena’s screams, Damon snapped Jeremy’s neck and dropped him on the floor.

5) Jeremy beheads Tony
Season 3, Episode 10, “The New Deal”
There’s only so much a dude can take. Jeremy had already lost two girlfriends, an aunt, a job, and possibly his best friend. So, when the high schooler returned home and found one of Klaus’s hybrids on the front porch threatening his sister, he didn’t hesitate to shoot him with a crossbow. “He’s not dead yet!” Jer yelled to Elena as he jumped over Tony’s body. Little Gilbert ran inside, grabbed a meat cleaver, and proceeded to saw Tony’s head off. “Now he’s dead.”

4) Elena breaks up with Stefan
Season 2, Episode 6, “Plan B”
Much like dudes, a girl can only take so much. So a couple of hours after Katherine compelled Aunt Jenna (Sara Canning) to stab herself in the gut, Elena turned to her vampire boyfriend and said, “It’s over Stefan. It has to be.” His response shocked us: The centurion looked in her eyes and boo-hooed. We’re talking a snot-filled, red-eyed, teary bawl. Or maybe that was just us?

3) Elena kisses Damon goodbye
Season 2, Episode 22, “As I Lay Dying”
In our girl’s defense: Elena thought Damon, who’d been bitten by a werewolf, was one minute from dead when she snuggled up next to him. Apparently he did too. “I love you. You should know that,” the sweaty-yet-sexy Salvatore confessed. “You should have met me in 1864. You would have liked me.” Ever-gentle Elena replied, “I like you now. Just the way you are.” Then she granted his unspoken wish and leaned in for a kiss.

2) Klaus kills Aunt Jenna
Season 2, Episode 21, “The Sun Also Rises”
It happened — as so many things in Mystic Falls do — in the woods. Surrounded by a circle of fire, newly sired Jenna attacked the witch Greta to save Elena’s life. She bit her in the jugular and she was winning the fight! But then Klaus arrived. He grabbed Aunt Jenna, stabbed her in the side, and dropped her on the alter. The pain was mind-blowing. The fear was overwhelming. “Just turn it off. Turn it off. The you won’t be scared anymore,” Elena told her aunt. Before Jenna could flip the switch, Klaus grabbed her, removed the knife from her side, and rammed it into her chest.

1) Elena wakes up dead
Season 3, Episode 22, “The Departed”
Elena lay on a table in the morgue. Cold. Stefan sat beside her, crying. Outside in the hallway, Doc Meredith rambled on about how she’d used vampire blood to cure Elena following a cerebral-damage-inducing blow to the head, courtesy of Klaus. As Meredith explained this to Damon, Elena gasped back to life.

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