How do you even go about recapping an episode like "Homecoming," The Vampire Diaries' midseason finale? We could be here all night just listing all the scenes where someone stabs someone else in the back. All the reversals, all the betrayals, all the twists.
It would be easier to list everything that doesn't happen in the episode: Klaus and Stefan don't suddenly start making out. Neither do Katharine and Elena. Nobody has a date for Homecoming. There are no monster truck rallies. Umm... what else? No zombies, no nuclear explosions, and no spaceships. Nobody goes to work as a supermarket bagger.
What actually does happen? Spoilers ahead...
Honestly, I really did think about turning this recap into just a list of all the times in the episode that someone gets stabbed in the back or otherwise betrayed. There are about 500 betrayals in the episode, and yet, it somehow doesn't feel too cluttered.
Instead, let's start at the end and work our way backwards. Stefan is still a total dick at the end of the episode, and he's still being manipulated — but now he's a much more interesting dick, and he's being manipulated by Katherine, not Klaus. And Katherine, of all people, wants Stefan to reconnect with his humanity and turn his feelings back on — as if she was some kind of expert on the benefits of giving in to your weakness.
Katherine woke Stefan up after Mikael drained him of blood, and gave him a bloodbag to bring him back to the land of the (sort of) living, so that Stefan could stop Mikael from killing Klaus. Because Katharine believes Klaus when he says that his hybrids will kill Damon if anything happens to him, and she claims she still loves Damon. (More likely, there's some other nefarious Katharine thing going on, where she's decided it's better to blackmail Klaus.) In the end, Katherine puts Stefan up to stealing all of Klaus' daggered, inert relatives.
It's worth pausing a sec just to contemplate how fascinating Stefan's journey has been this season in terms of his relationship with Klaus — from guilty, tormented sidekick to emotionless, blood-crazed thrall , to a total dick who wants "revenge." The show managed to cover an insane amount of ground with Stefan's character in just nine episodes. (And now we know the answer to the question I asked Joseph Morgan over at Comic Con: How long it would take for Klaus to become Stefan's bitch.)
And as a result, we've gotten a much clearer picture of what, exactly, The Vampire Diaries is saying about "humanity." It's sort of a cliche for every science fiction show about aliens or robots to say it's making a statement about the nature of humanity, and what it means to be human. Meanwhile, TVD is just chugging along, giving us these formerly human creatures who struggle to suppress their human instincts. And the thing that distinguishes vampires from humans, we've been told over and over lately, is that vampires are "predators." There's a sort of dichotomy being set up, between the predatory vampire nature and the soft, caring human nature — except that when Stefan starts to reconnect with his humanity, the first thing he does it to get angry and vengeful.
Leave it to Katherine to toss the ruling paradigm of vampire and human nature on its head, all for the sake of a fun scheme.
So Stefan has escaped from Klaus' thrall, but meanwhile Tyler is kind of coming to terms that he's Klaus' bitch forever, and he doesn't actually want to be free. Tyler makes a really good point to Caroline, one we hadn't really heard about before: for a werewolf, becoming a hybrid is awesome, because you no longer have to change at the Full Moon or lose control of your actions for two nights. If, instead, you have to be Klaus' bitch occasionally, that's probably okay. And Tyler makes the same argument to Caroline that she made to her dad a while back: this is who he is, it's in his nature, he can't change anything.
Tyler, of course, injected Caroline with vervaine to get her out of harm's way during the whole Homecoming Massacre, and then had Matt take her home — probably just like old times, Matt taking a passed-out Caroline home after a party. Matt, meanwhile, seems kind of befuddled by all the proceedings, including the fact that his date for the night is unavailable because Elena stabbed her in the back with a magic dagger.
Was anybody sort of hoping that Damon would actually kill Tyler, by the way? I love Tyler, but it would have simplified a lot of things. And you just know that Tyler is going to be a major pain in the ass from here on out. Sadly, Bonnie stopped Damon at the last minute — the only proactive thing Bonnie has done in ages, really.
So thanks to Stefan, the big plan to kill Klaus totally fails. It comes pretty close: Mikael uses Katherine as a decoy Elena and threatens to kill her, then actually does so in front of Klaus. Then, while Klaus is shocked, Damon comes up behind Klaus and — what else? — stabs him. Damon is about to administer the killing blow to Klaus when Stefan intervenes. (It occurs to me that Stefan is, as usual, an idiot — even if he's saving Damon from being killed by Klaus' hybrids, what does he think Klaus will do to Damon if Damon tries to kill him and fails?)
And that's perhaps the most interesting irony of all, in an episode that's crammed with ironic twists. Stefan spends an entire scene taunting Elena that her humanity is most likely going to be what screws up the Master Plan. And then, in the end, it's his humanity, not hers, that wrecks their one and only chance to kill Klaus once and for all.