Did Vampire Diaries really earn that Buffy reference?

The Vampire Diaries had the audacity to namecheck Buffy the Vampire Slayer, not to mention what might have been a nod to Xena Warrior Princess, in last night's episode. Can we forgive such gall, from a show where the main female character is kind of a victim-y doormat?

Yes. Yes we can. Spoilers ahead...

Actually, last night's Vampire Diaries saw Elena making several huge steps forward, into the realm of actual heroine as opposed to just "sympathetic protagonist." It's been a long time since Elena was just a passive victim — last season, she pretty much took charge of all the planning when it came to dealing with Klaus and his floppy-haired brother Elijah. She was the one who took Elijah by surprise and stabbed him with the magic dagger, and later she was the one who decided to pull the magic dagger out. She put a stop to the whole "sacrificing Bonnie to kill Klaus" nonsense. Elena's been increasingly strong for ages now.

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But it was still a pleasant surprise to see her getting her Arnie on last night. She's obviously feeling totally crushed and vulnerable at the start of the episode — something that we don't get jammed down our throats. Instead, we just get hints, like her fingering the bitemarks on her neck. She goes to meet Mr. Sexypants, I mean Alaric, who's doing Vampire Slayer training, and he tells her brutally that she's not strong enough to hit vampires sufficiently hard to trigger the deadly spike launchers on her wrist gadget. But then Alaric adds that she found a way to get out of bed this morning, which means that in all the ways that matter, she's the strongest person he knows, and she can do anything. She nods.

And this leads to:
1) Elena lifting weights and getting creepy/seductive vampire-killing advice from Damon, in the clip above.
2) Elena hatching a plan to lock Stefan up until Klaus is out of the way, so he can detox from all the human blood.

Because Stefan, meanwhile, has decided to stalk Elena at school as part of his "protecting the human blood bag" thing. In keeping with Vampire Diaries' theme of not running anything into the ground, we get about three or four scenes of Stefan being a horrible stalker, followed by a few scenes of Elena giving as good as she gets. Elena totally zings Stefan with the whole "I'm not going to let a bloodaholic tell me how to drink." Elena proves that even if Stefan is evil now, he's still not all that smart, and she can still play him like a mandolin.

(And meanwhile, Tyler is being a hybrid douche and Rebekah is trying to steal Caroline's life, and Bonnie is being a jealous twit over Jeremy seeing ghosts, and Jeremy is kind of stuck on ghost Anna, and Katherine finds out first-hand why it's not a great idea to wake the vampire/vampire-hunter.)

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Unfortunately, the Original Witch is trying to use Ghost Vicki kill Elena so her blood can't be used to sire any more vampire/werewolf hybrids — so Elena turns out to need Stefan's protection after all. But Elena still shows that she's gotten stronger by the end of this episode than she was at the beginning of it — by getting Stefan right in the breadbasket with the wrist gadget, and hitting him hard enough to trigger the spikes.

That, boys and girls, is called character development. And it's why we can allow the Buffy reference.

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