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'The Vampire Diaries' '500 Years of Solitude' recap: Survival and surprises

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"The Vampire Diaries" season 5 continued Thursday, Jan. 23, with episode 11, "500 Years of Solitude," the series' 100th episode, and the big question going in concerned Katherine's fate.

As this "TVD" episode began, we alternated between looking at Katherine giving birth in 1490 and not being allowed to see or even hold her daughter and Katherine in the hospital, dying. Nadia couldn't believe her mother was going to die from a heart attack, but she was, and without vampire blood to save her, all they could do was bring her home to be more comfortable for her last day.

Elena and Damon were both down after their breakup, with Damon drowning his sorrows at the bar and Elena getting treated to a "breakup breakfast" from her roommates, but their mornings were interrupted when Stefan called to tell them about Katherine, and that meant everyone gathered at the Salvatores' to drink to and "reminisce" about Katherine – and all the horrible things she'd done to them over the years. (Although, Caroline did note that she was "weirdly better off" since Katherine killed her, so there was that.) Meanwhile, upstairs dying, Katherine was more worried about her looks than the few hours she had. "If a girl's got to go, might as well be glamorous," she said, telling Stefan to kill her if she began sagging anywhere. But downstairs, as Matt looked for another bottle of alcohol, Katherine's daughter knocked him out.

Stefan joined the others and told them they were being insensitive, joining them in a drink, but drinking to the girl who was a survivor after her family shunned her. Damon commented about their night together, and it turned out Caroline forgot to tell her roommates about that. And about Nadia. But they had bigger problems: Nadia buried Matt in the safe somewhere on the property, and she took his ring.

Nadia took Stefan and Elena to a boarded up house and explained her plan to have a Traveler teach Katherine how to do the spell so she could possess someone: Nadia. Caroline, Bonnie, and Jeremy set out to look for Matt, with Caroline all about the "scandalous sex" they were having (and wondering why she wasn't having any), and the couple quickly split off from her, which left Caroline to run into Klaus by herself.

As the flashbacks continued, Damon entered Katherine's head and watched her find her family slaughtered, and Liz came in as he stood over her, pillow in hand. He explained that she ruined him, but Liz pointed out that this just showed how much control she still had over him. She had sedative for Katherine, but she didn't want to be weak and give Damon the opportunity to get back in her head. However, when Katherine commented about the Damon/Elena breakup, he gave her a sedative himself, leading to a flashback to the first time Katherine saw Stefan, on the side of the road, entering Mystic Falls. Katherine explained that while she wanted to think the prophecy about doppelgangers was absurd, she could only describe the moment she saw Stefan as seeming like fate.

Nadia led Stefan and Elena into the house and explained she had found a Traveler whose services could be bought for the right price: the doppelgangers. She left them trapped there, their rings not working, to be surrounded by chanting Travelers. But being trapped in a corner gave them the chance to talk, and she admitted that she didn't have the right to judge him and Katherine's night together after what he'd been through. Then one of the guys cut their wrists and collected their blood in buckets, and while they stood there dripping blood, they had the chance to talk about their respective relationships with Katherine and Damon, and Stefan advised his ex to not give up on his brother. Once the Travelers had enough blood, Stefan and Elena were free to go.

While they were stuck, Caroline was trying to find Matt, only for Klaus to decide that talking was a better plan. But don't worry, he had Rebekah save Matt from the safe ("I'm gone not three months, and look at the trouble you're in," the blonde Original commented when he saw her) while he wondered if Caroline would give him the same choice as Tyler if he gave up his plan to gloat over Katherine's dying body. Damon continued to mess with Katherine's head, first making her see Jenna stab her in the stomach and then John cut off her fingers, but the cruelest was making her see Elijah there to say goodbye. (Unfortunately he didn't join his siblings in their day trip to Mystic Falls.) But his taunts that no one cared were halted when Nadia snapped his neck, and she had a Traveler, Mia, with her.

Katherine refused to do the spell though and instead asked for a moment alone with her daughter. She explained that letting her father take her away from her was the biggest regret of her life, and she wished she had fought harder to keep her, which was why she spent the next 500 years making sure she didn't make the same mistake. She'd lived a long, full life, she got to know her daughter, and she didn't want her to waste another minute on her. She wanted her to live, and so for once, she wasn't being selfish. Nadia left, refusing to watch her mother die.

Back in the woods, Klaus promised to leave without gloating in exchange for one thing: Caroline's confession about him. He'd walk away and never return, and, well, confess she did. "I hate myself for the truth," she admitted before kissing him, and then the clothes came off and Caroline had some scandalous sex of her own.

With the sedatives in her system, Katherine was drifting in and out, and when Stefan came to say goodbye, he found her back in her head remembering the day her family died. "I don't deserve to be loved," she told him, and instead of the gruesome scene she blamed herself for, he gave her peace and her baby in a crib. She wasn't dead yet, but she wasn't going to wake up again, Stefan explained as Elena stepped into the room. Stefan left the doppelgangers alone and joined his brother outside, also pushing him to fix his relationship with Elena, even if it meant the universe freaked out because the doppelgangers weren't together.

When Caroline returned to the house, pulling leaves out of her hair, she covered her disappearance by claiming she had gotten lost in the woods. Tyler then showed up as Rebekah's parting gift for Matt. Everyone sat around waiting for Katherine to die, prompting Matt to ask Bonnie about being an anchor and who she saw, which led to some familiar faces popping up, including Vicki and Alaric, and one of the best moments of the episode was Damon knowing he was talking about him and raising his drink in a toast to him. But when Bonnie saw Katherine, Katherine said it was too soon and suddenly woke up again in bed.

Elena had heard her heart stop, but apparently Katherine had some unfinished business. Elena had been prepared to give her unconscious body a speech, that yes, included all the hate she'd expect, but it also had one more thing: "I forgive you." Katherine was surprised, but Elena pulled the "we're not so different" card: "I forgive you. You weren't born evil. Your life made you that way. You lost everyone that you cared about way too young, and you didn't have a family that looked after you. Sound familiar?" Katherine asked for one last syringe, figuring Elena should be the one to do it, and as Elena was a bit distracted doing just that and by Katherine's "Thank you for your forgiveness," Katherine surged up, grabbed Elena's head and performed the Traveler spell. Elena collapsed after her eyes turned black, and Katherine's eyes closed.

When Elena's eyes opened and she answered her ringing phone, Mia completed the spell and Nadia checked to make sure it worked. "Of course it worked," Katherine said, in Elena's body. "I'm Katherine Pierce. I survive. I'll see you soon." She stood in front of the mirror, looked over Elena's body, and said, "Hi, I'm Elena Gilbert." Could it have ended any other way? No.

"The Vampire Diaries" season 5 airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on the CW. What did you think of episode 11 "500 Years of Solitude"?

© Meredith Jacobs 2014

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