Wondering what this Vampire Diaries thing is and why you should care? Well…I can answer one of those, at least. Here’s the first in a series of some undetermined number of “primer” recaps that may manage to get you up to speed on the series (and will at least feature entertaining screen caps and the occasional pithy observation on the cast’s general state of undress).
We open to a VO of a woman saying “My sweet Cassie, I didn’t want you to have this life, but destiny’s not easy to run from.”
A girl is driving a car down a dark road. She’s grooving out to some music when suddenly a car passes her on the wrong side of the road, honking like crazy. A second later her tire blows and she skids out. When she gets out of the car to check the damage, she sees the car that honked at her, stopped dead in the road a little way ahead. She tries to wave down the driver, but the car suddenly takes off.
The girl calls her mother, who is cooking dinner. “Where are you?” the mother asks. “Are you OK? Did you call AAA?”
“I know how to change a tire, mom,” the girl says, a little amused.
“Oh good idea. Take your car. Oh wait – it has a flat.”
As they’re talking, the car that sped by Cassie before her tire blew pulls up outside the mother’s house.
Suddenly the line goes static-y. Not just static-y; it sounds like running water.
Outside the house, a man gets out of the car. We see that he is slowly emptying a water bottle into the street as he walks; the sound matches the sound on the phone line.
As the man drops the bottle, the mother’s kitchen faucet suddenly starts spraying water all over the room.
The mother runs to turn off the water. The man outside strikes a match.
The pan on the stove catches fire.
The mother turns off the burner, but the man lights another match and a different pan goes up in flames. There is water spraying everywhere and the entire stove is on fire. The man light more matches; the kitchen goes up. The mother slips on the wet floor and falls, hitting her head hard. For a moment she’s unconscious, then her eyes fly open.
“Cassie,” she says.
She tries to get out of the house, but the man outside lights more matches and she is surrounded by flames. He lights the rest of the pack and throws it to the ground and the house explodes.
The man slowly walks away.
Title card. Creepy singing. Blackbirds.
One month later. Cassie is standing outside her car, crying a little and staring at the view. She gets back into her car and drives on, past a sign that says Welcome to Chance Harbor, Washington.
Chance Harbor turns out to be a sleepy little lake town. Cassie drives through the main strip, which seems to consist entirely of quaint little antique shops, to a pretty, tree-lined neighborhood where she parks in front of a big house. She pulls out her suitcase and walks toward the door, looking determined. She’s wearing a weird shirt here. It’s like a baseball shirt, only with…lace? It’s not right, that shirt.
An older woman comes out to greet her, giving her a big hug.
“Hey, grandma,” Cassie says.
“I am really glad you’re here,” the grandmother says, hugging her again. She doesn’t mention the shirt, but you know she’s thinking it.
Inside the house, Cassie looks around like she’s never seen the place before. Turns out, she hasn’t. “So this is where my mom grew up,” she says, musingly.
Grandma shows her to her room, which was her mother’s old room. It’s exactly the way her mom left it, which – I assume – was well before Cassie was born. Cassie looks around, seeming a bit overwhelmed. “How come she never came home?” Cassie asks.
“What did she tell you?” Grandma responds, seeming a little cagey.
“Not much, just the headlines.”
“You’d just been born when your dad had his accident,” Grandma says. “It was hard for her here. I think she wanted to start over.”
Cassie nods. “Yeah. That’s pretty much what she said.”
Starting over is one thing, but not visiting your mother for sixteen years? Although, Cassie seems to know her grandmother, so maybe grandma came out and visited the two of them. There certainly doesn’t seem to be any bad blood.
Later, as Cassie’s getting ready for bed, she glances through her bedroom window to see that it’s directly across from the one in the neighboring house, where a shirtless teenage guy looks over at her. He doesn’t seem inclined to look away, so Cassie makes a face and firmly shuts her curtains. When she turns around to change, she catches sight of the window’s reflection in the mirror – and the curtains are wide open again. She turns with a gasp, but there isn’t anyone in the opposite window this time. She shuts the curtains again, looking upset and confused.
As she gets ready for bed, she hums the song her mother was humming, the same song from the creepy creepy title sequence. “Your mom used to hum that,” Grandma says from the door.
“All the time. I stole it from her,” Cassie says. Or from the title sequence. Either way: creepy.
“If you have trouble sleeping,” Grandma says, “your mom used to count the stars.”
Cassie looks confused, but when she turns off the light she sees that the ceiling is covered in glow-in-the-dark star stickers. I guess that’s better than opening the curtains again. She looks at them for a while, smiling, but her smile slowly fades. She picks up her cell phone and looks at pictures of her mother.
Morning. Cassie’s first day at Chance Harbor High School. The principal is welcoming Cassie to the school, saying she used to know Cassie’s mother. “I guess she didn’t talk about me much,” Principal Chamberlin says.
Cassie makes noises about how her mom didn’t talk much about her old life at all, but the principal is all smiles: “Your mother was very special to me,” she says, in a way that seems ever slightly off. “If there’s anything I can do to help you transition here, you let me know.” Is Cassie going to be ‘very special’ to her too? Just how ‘special’ are we talking? And if they were such ‘special friends,’ how come they haven’t spoken in 16 years?
At the lockers, the boy from the window is approached by the boy from Heroes who everyone thought was gay but totally wasn’t, except that he was. “Hey, have you seen her yet?” he asks.
“She got in yesterday,” Window Boy replies.
Window Boy shrugs. “She got in yesterday.” No mention of the fun with curtains?
Window Boy walks away and the other boy catches sight of Cassie in the hall, looking lost and a little overwhelmed. She sees him looking at her, but also sees her locker, which is probably more useful on the first day of school than a strange boy giving you the eye. She struggles with her combination lock, but when she looks up he meets her gaze again, like he can’t look away. At some point he seems to realize this is somewhat stalker-ish behavior and high-tails it to class.
Cassie’s still struggling with her lock when two pretty girls come bopping up. “So you’re the new girl,” the more striking of the two says. “You’re very pretty.” She manages to make it sound like a threat, which is especially impressive seeing as she smiles widely through it. Cassie doesn’t know what to say. The girl glances down at the lock. “Try it again,” she says, as she and her friend breeze off.
Cassie pulls on the lock and it opens in her hand.
“That’s Faye,” says another girl. “Resident bad girl.”
“She’s convincing,” Cassie says.
The new girl introduces herself as Diana, mentioning that she (and presumably everyone else) already knows who Cassie is: “I know your grandmother. It’s a really small town.” She invites Cassie to a place called The Boathouse after school, where everyone hangs out. Diana says she’ll show Cassie around if she stops by. They’re all very friendly in Chance Harbor, aren’t they?
The Boathouse is a grill on the waterfront. It looks a little run-down, but maybe I’m confusing run-down with rustic. Inside there are some kids sitting at tables with sodas, but none of them are Diana. Someone notices Cassie right away, though: a man, who says “You’re Amelia’s girl.” He says he can tell just by looking at her. He seems oddly intense. He apologizes shakily about her mother’s accident, like it hurts him to talk about it.
“You knew my mom?”
The man goes to the bar, pours himself a drink. “You bet I did. I loved your mother. Very much.”
Cassie seems to be suppressing a smile. “And how did my father feel about that?”
The man laughs. “He didn’t like it,” he says, taking a drink. “But I was no threat. Your mother chose him.”
To Cassie’s bemusement he goes on to say that he and Cassie’s mother were destined for each other. “Our families are written in the stars,” he says.
“Dad, what are you doing?” says a boy, appearing behind the bar. It’s the same boy who had been giving Cassie the eye from the lockers, but now he’s a little more concerned with his dad: “No drinking before dinner,” he says, taking the (now empty) glass away from him. “A deal’s a deal.”
“This is Cassie, Amelia’s girl,” he tells his son, grinning a dopey grin. “She’s beautiful, isn’t she?” He walks off and Cassie gives him an incredulous look as he goes.
“I’m Adam,” the boy behind the bar says. He seems embarrassed about his dad’s behavior, but not surprised.
“So this is your dad’s place?”
It is. Adam works there. I like that he’s working. Like, actually working, not just lurking around the restaurant as a plot device. Cassie finds a seat and Adam comes right over with a water, a menu and a too-interested stare. “You know, I saw you at school today,” he says. Yes, Adam, I think she noticed that. “How was your first day?”
“It’s not over yet,” Cassie says. “I’ll get back to you.”
Her eyes trail him as he leaves, but she’s snapped back to the here and now when Resident Bad Girl and her sidekick slide into the booth across from her. “Adam’s a hottie,” Faye says. “You should make a play, you’re totally his type.”
“Stop it, Faye,” the friend says. She introduces herself as Melissa.
“And I’m Faye Chamberlin,” Faye tells her.
“Yeah, we met,” Cassie says.
“Now it’s official,” Faye says, grinning sunnily.
Melissa says she’s sorry to hear about Cassie’s mom, and Faye asks a question about Cassie’s father, which earns her another dirty look from Melissa. Faye mentions that her father’s dead, too, and that it’s just her and her mother, Principal Very Special To Me: “Do not let her smile fool you,” Faye says, smiling wide. “She can be bitchy.”
Cassie does not look as though she needs to be convinced of this. She also does not look as though she’s got any question about who Faye’s really talking about.
Despite a warning look from Melissa, Faye persists: “Adam’s cute, don’t you think? And he really does go for the sad, delicate types.”
Cassie’s had enough. “I’m not feeling all that delicate now, so I think I’m going to go.”
Faye and Melissa watch as Cassie goes to her car. “I don’t think she knows,” Melissa says.
“I think she needs a nudge,” Faye responds.
As Cassie tries to start her car, smoke begins to pour from the hood. The locks engage and she can’t get out. Suddenly the whole car bursts into flames.
“Come on, Cassie,” Faye says intensely. Beside her, Melissa looks alarmed. “Put it out.”
Cassie – whose mother just died in a fire, let’s not forget – is not putting it out. She’s screaming and beating on the door. Way to make friends, Resident Bad Girl!
Luckily, Prince Written In The Stars is there to save the day. He runs to Cassie’s car and stares at the flames until they go out. Then he pulls open Cassie’s door and carries her off into the sunset – er, away from the charred remains of her vehicle. She coughs and chokes and gazes at him adoringly.
Cassie and Adam sit in the back of Adam’s Jeep while Cassie tries to make sense of what happened. “Thanks for saving me,” she says matter-of-factly. Adam just smiles at her.
Their moment is interrupted by Diana, who comes running up, wanting to know what happened. “I think her engine blew,” Adam says, enunciating carefully.
Diana looks around and sees Faye and Melissa coming out of the Boathouse.
Cassie says she’s going to call her grandmother, and both Adam and Diana quickly tell her not to. “Adam, why don’t you take Cassie home,” Diana says. When Cassie tries to demur, Diana misunderstands her reticence, “No, it’s okay. This is my boyfriend, by the way – he’s cool.” Oh, Diana.
Diana and Adam kiss and Cassie’s face contracts momentarily, but she pulls herself together right away.
Outside her house, Adam and Cassie talk more about what happened to her car. “Maybe it was ready to go kaput. I did just drive it a thousand miles.”
“Yeah, I’m sure that’s it,” Adam says.
“But, the doors wouldn’t open.”
“Maybe you panicked and you locked them when you meant to unlock them,” Adam says.
“No, the lock’s pretty straightforward, it only does two things.” Neither one of them really believes what they’re saying at this point. “And how did the fire go out?”
Cassie gives Adam a look. “If you say so.”
He laughs a little, and suddenly he has a hard time looking at her. “So how was your first day?” he asks again.
A grin spreads across Cassie’s face. They both start laughing. She nods a little, and their smiles fade as they stare at each other. “So how long have you and Diana been together?” Cassie asks carefully.
“Three years now,” Adam says.
Cassie says Diana seems nice. Adam agrees: very nice. It does not change the look they’re giving each other, although Cassie tries to exit gracefully. Adam stops her: “I heard what my dad told you, about him and your mom and the stars -” he rolls his eyes at the word stars. His dad drinks too much, Adam starts to explain.
“He’s sweet,” Cassie says firmly. “From where I sit, that’s a good thing.”
Adam smiles at her. She gets out of the Jeep and heads into the house. At the gate she stops and looks back; Adam’s still watching her. They wave at each other and she goes inside. She doesn’t see the way Adam lets out his breath once she’s out of sight, like he’s had to hold something back the entire time he’s been looking at her.
Later that night, Diana knocks on Faye’s door. Her mother answers. Faye, coming to the door behind her, sees Diana and says “I’m not here,” but comes outside anyway.
“What did you do to Cassie’s car?” Diana asks right away.
Faye tries to play innocent, but it clearly doesn’t fly and she cuts right to the chase: “I was testing her. We all want to know, Diana.”
Diana makes noises about how Cassie could have been hurt, and Faye says that the car going up in flames was all Cassie, not her. Their energy connected. “Everything you said about the circle is true,” Faye says excitedly. “With her here we have real power now.”
“Which is why we need to be careful,” Diana says, and Faye says that they need to tell her. Diana tells her they agreed to take it slow. “No, you said to take it slow and we all nodded,” Faye tells her. Hee. “I never agreed to anything.”
“We are doing this my way, Faye,” Diana says, trying to sound forceful, but Faye just stalks around her like a big cat.
“Do you want to try that again, because I didn’t quite buy it. Did you?” She goes inside without waiting for an answer.
In her room, Cassie turns out the light and stares at the stars again, but this time they swirl and shine like shifting planets. Cassie gasps and turns on the light but the stars are just stickers again.
The next morning Cassie comes downstairs to find Grandma gone for the day. She goes into town looking for her, but runs – literally – into a man. The same man who made mommy dearest go all explodey, although Cassie doesn’t know that. The guy introduces himself as Charles, and creepily offers his sympathies for what happened to Cassie’s mother, who he says was his good friend. Curiouser and curiouser. He is joined by Diana, who chirps “I see you’ve met my dad.”
“You girls have fun,” he says, going on his way. Creepy guy is creepy.
Diana falls into step next to Cassie. She’s trying to get Cassie to open up to her, but having absolutely no luck. Finally she tells Cassie that she thinks she can help. Way to do exactly what Faye wanted you to do in the first place, Diana.
In the meantime, Grandma starts talking to Principal Chamberlin, asking questions about Cassie’s accident. She seems to remember a similar sort of thing happening when the principal (Grandma calls her Dawn) was in high school. We “Are the children practicing?” Grandma asks.
“No, they can’t be. They don’t know anything,” Dawn says.
“They’re teenagers. You better than anyone should know how resourceful they can be.”
Dawn swears none of the kids are practicing, and that she’ll tell Grandma if she finds out any differently. “We can’t let it happen again,” Grandma tells her significantly.
Help from Diana apparently involves luring Cassie into the woods so they can break in to a huge, creepy abandoned Victorian. Inside, Cassie is alarmed to see Faye, Melissa, Nick (“Also known as the guy in the window”) and Adam. “Okay, what are all of you doing here? What’s going on?” Cassie asks, beginning to seriously freak out.
“We want to explain,” Adam says. For a little hobbit-looking person, he has a very deep voice.
“Look, Cassie, I know this is going to sound crazy,” Diana begins, but Faye cuts her off.
“You’re a witch,” she says. “You’re a full-blooded, hundred-percent witch. We all are.” She looks satisfied. “There,” she flings at Diana. “Done.”
Cassie is not done. Cassie wants to get out of the crazy house. Not even Adam’s throaty explanation of how all of them have witch ancestors dating back to 1692 can make her any less creeped out by the Wiccan cult initiation stuff. Diana pulls out a spell book that belonged to her family – “which explains her air of superiority,” Faye says from the shadows, since Diana’s book is the only one any of them has found – which contains thousands of spells. Melissa explains that even though they’ve been practicing, without a full circle they don’t have any real power and can only do lame spells, like opening curtains or unlocking locks.
“Or setting cars on fire,” Cassie realizes.
Faye apologizes insincerely: “I got carried away,” she says.
“A complete circle is six,” Adam says, trying to diffuse what could have been a perfectly entertaining girl fight. “One from each of the six families.”
“You’re the sixth,” Diana clarifies, in case Cassie is stupid. “You complete the circle.” She explains that there is a ritual that will bind them all together now to control their power so that things like people’s cars getting set on fire (for example, not that anyone would do that, Faye) don’t happen at random.
“You are seriously messed up,” Cassie says. This is a pretty sane reaction. She turns to leave, but Faye blocks her way. Of course. The others beg her to stay and also oh hey can you not tell anyone at all ever? Cassie pretends to reconsider, but fakes Faye out and then takes off running.
“Nicely done, Diana,” Faye says, even though the whole telling Cassie thing had been her idea in the first place.
They all go running after Cassie, but Adam’s the one who finds her, wandering lost in the woods. He tells her they’re not crazy, that their parents all had a circle too, which just freaks Cassie out more. “My mother was not a witch, I would have known,” she says. He tells her that it was all covered up; something went wrong and people were killed, so they abolished witchcraft. “You’re not the only one who’s lost a parent, Cassie.” All the others in the circle have; both of Nick’s parents died.
“There’s no such thing as witches and magic,” Cassie says, doubtful now. “I don’t believe it.”
“Let me show you,” Adam says huskily. Adam says everything huskily. He places a water-covered leaf in her hand and tells her to concentrate on the leaf and repeat the words “A drop of water, as light as air.” Cassie dutifully repeats the words, but nothing happens.
Adam puts his hands around hers. “Feel that? That tingling where my hand is touching yours? That’s your energy connecting with mine.” Um. That’s not – well, maybe it is, but the look on Cassie’s face suggests that she’s not exactly thinking about energy. “Now try again.”
They chant the words together, and when they open their eyes a droplet of water is floating between them. Adam smiles.
“Are you doing this?” Cassie whispers.
Adam’s grin fades as he looks around. “We are,” he says, and the grin comes back as they both realize they’re surrounded by floating droplets of water from every leaf in the forest. “This has never happened before,” Adam whispers. Their eyes meet. OH MY GOD THEY’RE TOTALLY GOING TO KISS. Suddenly I ship them like crazy. Adam leans in. Cassie leans in.
Then Cassie pulls away and runs off, and the water falls around them like rain.
Back at the Witch Flophouse, Adam is explaining to a pissed-off Diana that he’d just been trying to help by showing Cassie what she was capable of. His face doesn’t say ‘helping,’ though. I’m also pretty sure he left out bit where he was totally going to make out with her. It was just magic! And tingling! And floating water!
“How romantic,” Faye drawls. You’re not helping either, Faye.
“I lost control,” Adam says.
“Sounds like it,” Faye says.
“I lost control of the magic,” Adam clarifies. Dig the hole a little deeper, Adam. “With Cassie here our power is magnified a hundred times over.”
That’s all Faye needs to hear: “We have real power now. The last thing I want to do is control it.”
For her part, Cassie has gone to find Adam’s dad to get some more information on her mother. He’s getting his drink on at the Boathouse. “Hello, Amelia’s girl,” he says without looking up. Then he does look up, and smiles. He seems ridiculously delighted to see her, or that she’s there at all. It’s sort of heartbreaking, that he could have loved her mother so much that even the fact of Cassie’s existence makes him that happy.
“Why did my mom leave here?” she asks. She wants to know about her father. Instead, he tells her again that he and Amelia were meant for each other. This time he goes on to say that Cassie and Adam are meant for each other, too.
“You don’t want to mess with fate,” he says. Cassie doesn’t want to talk about Adam, but begs him to tell her more about her family. Finally, he says “Your father was a bad man.”
“Hello, Ethan,” says Charles, coming up behind Cassie. “Is he bothering you?”
Both Ethan and Cassie insist that they were talking, but Adam comes over too, and Charles tells him his father’s had too much to drink again. When she sees Adam, Cassie takes off.
Outside, Faye is stalking down the pier, blowing out the lights on the boats as she passes, a wicked grin on her face. When she gets to the end she tells the sky to give her a sign. Lightning flashes. Faye smiles delightedly, drunk on power. Pretty sure this is why Diana is so keen to do the binding thing she keeps talking about. Faye with power is bad news.
Diana finds Cassie, who doesn’t want anything to do with her. “I can’t deal with any more of this right now,” she says, her voice choked. “What happened to our parents? Why won’t anyone tell me anything?”
“There was an accident,” Diana tells her. A fire, sixteen years ago. The people who died were all members of the last circle, including Cassie’s father. But Diana doesn’t think it was an accident; she thinks something went wrong and that the ones who survived are trying to keep it from them. She thinks the new circle can use their powers for great things. I think this is an ideal time to check in with Faye, who is using her powers to do great things with the weather.
“Please, sky, rain down on me,” she says. Rain starts to fall. “More!” shouts Faye, and a monsoon-like downpour begins.
Diana and Cassie, stuck in the sudden downpour, see Faye at the end of the dock. Diana runs out to her. “You can’t make it rain just because you want to,” she yells.
“Yes we can!” Faye responds. Obviously. And why shouldn’t she do things just because she can?
Just then lightning strikes and Diana is knocked down. Faye runs over to her, startled out of her power trip. “You have to stop it!” she cries.
Faye tries, but whatever ability she was channelling when she started the storm has deserted her.
Cassie comes striding down the dock. She stops, looks up at the sky, and says “Make it stop.” She says it again. And again.
The storm ends. The girls stare at her.
“You did it. You’re one of us,” Faye tells her.
Cassie looks at her. “I don’t want anything to do with this,” she says.
Ethan is drinking in the darkness at the Boathouse when someone opens the door. “We’re closed,” he says, but Charles is more interested in the fact that Ethan said words in Cassie’s direction. Which is so not okay. Unlike barbecuing her mother, which is totally okay.
“You drink too much, which makes you talk too much, and I can’t have that.” Charles starts talking about how Ethan could very easily slip off the end of the dock and fall into the water. “Do you know what drowning’s like?” He begins to explain it, and as he does, Ethan begins gasping for air. He falls off the barstool, vomiting water, hands scrabbling on the floor, until he just lays there in a puddle. Charles stands over him. “This is my one and final warning,” he says. As he leaves, Ethan gasps a breath of air.
Cassie’s grandmother calls her: “You have a visitor. A very late visitor.” Cassie comes down the stairs to see Adam gazing sheepishly up at her. “I’ll be in the kitchen. Right through there,” she says to Adam, pointing.
Adam has come to apologize for earlier. “Which part?” Cassie asks.
“In the woods,” he says, the words falling over themselves. “It should never have happened. I love Diana.”
“Yeah, I get it,” Cassie says sincerely. She does.
“It can’t happen again,” he says. Certainly the way he’s looking at her does not suggest that he’d very much like to snog her senseless right this moment, for example.
“No,” Cassie says. “It can’t.”
Principal Chamberlin is just letting herself into her dark house when the front door flies open. She gasps, then smiles ruefully and turns. “You and your tricks,” she says to Charles. “Ethan?”
“We spoke,” Charles says. If you could call it that.
“You did the right thing bringing her here,” Dawn says. “She’s got the gift.”
“She is her father’s daughter,” Charles agrees.
“Well, unfortunately she’s her mother’s daughter too.”
Charles smiles in a way that suggests he is not actually smiling at all. It’s a talent. “Are you sure you can get Cassie to do what we need?”
“I don’t have to get her to do a thing. The circle will take care of that without even knowing it.”
In her room, Cassie turns out the light and stares at the stars. This time when they start to shift and blink, she lets them do their thing. One star gets very bright and Cassie hears a noise. She turns on the light to see what appeared to be a bit of decorative molding suddenly sticking out from her mantel. She goes over to it and pulls it out to find her mother’s book of spells.
Inside is a letter addressed to Cassie. We hear the same words we heard in the voiceover at the beginning of the episode:
“My sweet Cassie, you finding this means I’m gone and for that I’m so sorry. I didn’t want you to have this life, but destiny’s not easy to run from. I hoped that keeping this secret would keep you safe, but all I’ve done is left you unprotected. You have incredible power inside you. People will come for it. They will come for you.”
Did I ever pick the wrong episode to start recapping. First off: Damon doesn’t take his shirt off. Not once. There are no lingering glances between him and Elena (this is solely caused by the fact that they have no scenes together) and almost no one makes out with anyone else. Show, what are you trying to do to me?
BEYOND THIS POINT THERE ARE SPOILERS.