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21 Best Episodes Of The Vampire Diaries

Let's prep for the finale -- how about a trip down memory lane? SPOILERS AHEAD.

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21. The Birthday (Season 3, Episode 1)

Ripper Stefan is alive and well. To be honest, I love this episode, because I love a dry Paul Wesley. He's hilarious and so different than broody humanity-on-Stefan. In this episode, Ripper Stefan seems so far gone and way worse than we've ever seen. He's doing more terrible things than we've seen Damon do, which is surprising. The tragic phone call at the end breaks my heart.

Elena: (on the phone) "Stefan, if this is you, you'll be okay. I love you, Stefan. Hold on to that. Never let that go."

20. The Return (Season 2, Episode 1)

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Everyone learns that Katherine is back and up to no good. Our big three can no longer ignore the love triangle forming. After being rejected by both Petrova dopplegangers, Damon lashes out by snapping Jeremy’s neck. Katherine lashes out by turning Caroline.

Stefan: "It's Katherine. She got under his skin. She undid everything that was good about him."

Elena: "There's nothing good about him, Stefan. Not anymore. He's decided what he wants. He doesn't want to feel. He wants to be hated. It's just easier that way. He got his wish. I hate him, Stefan."

19. 162 Candles (Season 1, Episode 8)

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Stefan’s best friend Lexi comes to town to celebrate his birthday. Bonnie reveals her newest witchy tricks to Elena. Elena says she wants to stay away from Stefan, but cannot seem to do so. At the end, Damon uses Lexi to prevent the Town Council from finding out he’s a vampire. He kills her while Stefan and Elena watch. This shows Damon’s true self: he will save his family, no matter what it takes. I love Lexi, and I'm so thrilled every time she comes back to visit in some way.

Stefan: Katherine and Elena may look the same on the outside, but on the inside they are completely different.

Lexi: Oh, so Elena's not a raging bitch then, huh?

18. It’s Been a Hell of a Ride (Season 8, Episode 14)

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I'm as surprised as you are to find a season 8 episode on this list, but here we are. Bonnie, Damon, and Human Stefan work together to defeat Cade. Doing so only played into the bigger plan of a bigger bad—the ultimate queen of evil and now reigning Queen of Hell: Katherine Pierce. Praise Kai for this surprise!

Kai: "Hey, how'd you find me? Locator spell?"

Stefan: "Yelp, actually. CobraKai1972 wrote, 'Grunge music selection weak. Drinks even weaker.' Then 30 minutes later, 'Drinks getting better. Love this place. Microphone emoji. Fireball emoji.'"

17. 500 Years of Solitude (Season 5, Episode 11)

Bob Mahoney / The CW

KLAROLINE! We spend this episode drinking to all of the horrible things Katherine has ever done! Damon forces her to confront many of the people she has wronged over the years, including the ones who have passed on to the Other Side. It makes a perfect 100th episode for the show. It gets emotional.

Oh, don't worry, Katherine is still wonderfully Katherine. Elena forgives her. Then she chants something that lets her take over Elena’s body.

Katherine: "Of course it worked. I'm Katherine Pierce. I survive."

16. Haunted (Season 1, Episode 7)

It’s a Mystic Falls Halloween! Vicki has been turned into a vampire and attacks Jeremy and Elena. Stefan has to stake her. This is Elena’s first vampire attack and Stefan’s first onscreen kill. Damon compels Jeremy to forget all about it.

Caroline: "I am going to drink until someone is hot enough to make out with."

15. You Made a Choice to Be Good (Season 8, Episode 11)

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Thanks to the bell, Cade (the devil) is free. He offers Damon a deal: either kill 100 evil strangers by sundown, or Caroline (the love of his brother’s life) dies. He spends all day trying to save Caroline, without knowing that Cade gave humanity-free-Stefan the same deal. Stefan goes to kill Elena, despite Damon's pleas, but Bonnie and Enzo are there. Stefan immediately kills Enzo without pausing. Defending Elena, Bonnie stabs Stefan—with the cure.

Stefan: “Listen to yourself. You are pathetic. She's the root of all your problems, and therefore, mine. I mean, she's still coming between us, which is insane if you really think about it because, to be honest with you, in the grand scheme of things, she's really not that special. She's just a stupid girl. She's a stupid human girl who will be so easy to kill.”

14. Do Not Go Gentle (Season 3, Episode 20)

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Another school dance! Elena can’t choose between the Salvatores, but she takes Stefan as her date to the dance. Supernatural drama ensues. Esther uses Elena’s blood to turn Alaric into an Original. Alaric decides not to transition. We all sob. Then--typical TVD surprise--Esther possesses Bonnie, and Bonnie feeds Alaric her blood before he can die. Now he’s an evil Original.

Caroline: "Why do you always have to prove you're the alpha male?"

Klaus: "I don't have to prove anything, love-- I am the alpha male." #Klaroline

13. Rose (Season 2, Episode 8)

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ELIJAH, MY LOVE! Stefan and Damon have to rescue Elena after she's been kidnapped by some unknown evil (you know, the summary of this television show). Damon confesses his feelings to Elena but compels her to forget. Single tear alert! It's beautiful.

Damon: "I just need to say it once. You just need to hear it. I love you, Elena. And it's because I love you, that I can't be selfish with you. Why you can't know this. I don't deserve you... but my brother does. God, I wish you didn't have to forget this... but you do."

12. Masquerade (Season 2, Episode 7)

It’s the quintessential TVD episode. There’s a masquerade ball and a high stakes plot involving witches and the moonstone. Katherine wreaks havoc on everyone’s lives to get what she wants. Tyler triggers the werewolf gene. We hear the beginnings of the bigger bad – Niklaus. A masked person kidnaps Elena. It's delightful.

Katherine: "Three of us together, just like old times. The brother who loved me too much, and the one who didn't love me enough."

Damon: "And the evil slut vampire who only loved herself."

11. Memorial (Season 5, Episode 2)

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After all of these deaths - finally - an episode of mourning! Stefan attempts to teach Elena how to deal with her new life and vampire hunger. One great non-mourning scene of note worth rewatching: at the funeral when the hunter is trying to lure out the vampires using blood. It's classic, suspenseful TVD with most of the characters involved. The core group lights lanterns in honor of everyone they’ve lost. Damon, of course, refuses and visits Alaric’s grave instead which gives us this wonderful Ian Somerhalder monologue:

Damon: “They're floating lanterns in the sky, can you believe that? A Japanese lantern is the symbol of letting go of the past. Well, here's a news flash: we're not Japanese! Do you know what they are? Children. Like lighting a candle is going to make everything okay or even saying a prayer or pretending Elena is not going to end up just like the rest of us murderous vampires. Stupid, delusional, exasperating, little children. I know what you're going to say: ‘It makes them feel better, Damon.’ So what? For how long? A minute, a day? What differences does it make? Because in the end, when you lose somebody; every candle, every prayer is not going to make up for the fact that the only thing that you have left is a hole in your life where that somebody that you cared about used to be.”

10. Graduation (Season 4, Episode 22)

In typical TVD fashion, the veil to the Other Side is down, and loads of people are back from the dead including Jeremy, Alaric, and Lexi. They have the cure to vampirism and can’t decide who “deserves it” the most. Bonnie puts the veil back up, and trades her life for Jeremy’s. So he lives, and she stays on the Other Side. Elena chooses Damon, so Lexi convinces Stefan to leave town. He does, but Big Bad Silas (who we’ve yet to truly see) reveals himself as Stefan’s doppleganger before locking Stefan in a safe and throwing him into water at the bottom of a quarry. I didn't see any of this coming.

Damon: "I wanted to apologize..."

Elena: "Good."

Damon: "Let me finish. I said I wanted to. And then I realized, I'm not sorry."

9. Thinking of You All the While (Season 6, Episode 22)

This episode had to be included for obvious reasons. For one, it's super dramatic. It's also Nina Dobrev's last episode. Kai attacks Alaric and Jo’s wedding, killing a pregnant Jo. He also links Bonnie and Elena, so only one can live while the other lies in some sort of coma. Bonnie helps everyone say proper goodbyes to Elena in a dream-like state. It’s sob-worthy, but she’s not dying, so it could be worse. See ya in 60 years, Dobrev. Or in the finale.

Elena: Promise me something, both of you. Write it all down, everything that you accomplish in your life, every crush, when you fall in love, when you start a family, every time you fantasize about wanting to kill Damon.

8. Miss Mystic Falls (Season 1, Episode 19)

Ripper Stefan! He finally emerges! The main part of this episode is the dance with Elena and Damon. It’s the beginning of so much in the future—the end of Stelena and the rise of Delena. The triangle takes form, and in formal wear.

Stefan: "I don't hurt people. I don't do that. I'm the good brother."

7. As I Lay Dying (Season 2, Episode 22)

Bob Mahoney / THE CW / Via vampirediaries.wikia.com

Damon is dying from a werewolf bite. Stefan is trying to save him. We find out Hybrid blood can cure a werewolf bite. Meanwhile, Jeremy gets shot, and Bonnie brings him back from the dead. Stefan trades his freedom to Klaus for a cure for Damon. Elena kisses Damon, thinking he's dying, but Katherine brings the cure and saves him at the last moment. The season ends with the emergence of Ripper Stefan and Jeremy seeing ghosts, and this episode sets up a lot that will have to be handled next season.

Katherine (to Elena): "It's okay to love them both. I did."

6. Home (Season 5, Episode 22)

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This premise is complicated, because this season was a disaster. Stefan is dead and on the Other Side. (This is why you never let down your guard with any supernaturals who weren’t students at MFHS.) Lexi tells him about Caroline’s feelings for him. (Trust that he needed the hint.) The faves craft a spell that requires more people to die and go to the Other Side and then come back through Bonnie. This will get Stefan back and destroy the Other Side. (I told you - complicated.) Of course, something goes wrong, and Bonnie and Damon can’t get out. They go into oblivion together. The rest of us mourn in ugly ways.

Damon: “I get to die knowing I was loved. Not just by anyone-- by you, Elena Gilbert. It's the epitome of a fulfilled life. It’s never gonna get any better than this. I peaked."

5. Founder's Day (Season 1, Episode 22)

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The Founder's Day party! Bonnie didn’t deactivate a witchy device like she said she would, so all supernatural people are revealed to the Founders Council. The gang has to act quickly to save lives. After the crisis, Elena kisses Damon and then stabs Uncle John – JK it’s Katherine. Her first present day appearance!

Damon: “I'm here to eat cotton candy and steal your girl!"

4. The Sun Also Rises (Season 2, Episode 21)

This is the intense and too-complicated-to-explain sun and moon sacrifice with the lovely Klaus. Jenna becomes a vampire. She and John sacrifice themselves for Elena to live, leaving Elena and Jeremy as true orphans. John leaves Elena the most heartbreaking letter. This is the first time I truly got emotional watching this show. Oh, and Damon is dying from a werewolf bite and too proud to say anything.

John: “I don't ask for your forgiveness or for you to forget, I ask only that you believe this-- whether you are now reading this as a human or as a vampire, I love you all the same, as I've always loved you, and always will.”

3. The Departed (Season 3, Episode 22)

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There is no way to summarize this episode adequately. It’s the cliffhanger of all cliffhangers. I’ll just hit the A story: Both Salvatores are dying, and Elena can only go to one. SHE FINALLY HAS TO CHOOSE. Matt’s driving her to Stefan. She calls Damon to say goodbye. Rebekah runs them off Wickery Bridge (JUST LIKE WITH HER PARENTS –SOB) and Stefan comes to save them (JUST LIKE WITH HER PARENTS –SOB) and Elena tells him to save Matt and he does (JUST LIKE WITH HER PARENTS –OMG CAN YOU STOP WE ARE MERE MORTALS). Elena dies – with Damon’s blood in her system.

Elena: "I love him, Damon. He came into my life at a time when I needed someone and I fell for him instantly. No matter what I feel for you, I – I never un-fell for him." Damon: "Yeah, I get it. Stefan, it’s always gonna be Stefan."

Elena: " I can’t think about always. All I can think about is right now. And I care about you, Damon, which is why I have to let you go. I mean, maybe if you and I had met first..."

2. Stand By Me (Season 4, Episode 15)

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Katherine kills Jeremy to get the cure from Silas. Stefan and Elena bring his body back to Mystic Falls, and Elena cannot accept that he’s really dead. Bonnie says she can do a spell to drop the veil to the Other Side, meaning all dead supernatural beings (including Jeremy) could come back.

Elena panics. She douses the house (including Jeremy’s body) in lighter fluid and burns it and everything inside of it to the ground. Damon uses the sire bond to make her turn off her humanity. She realizes she has finally lost everything. Just writing this now, I’m getting emotional, and I really never cared for Jeremy. The brokenness is so relatable. It’s also the best acting Nina Dobrev has ever done on this show.

Elena: “You want me to face the truth? This is the truth, Stefan. I don't want to live here anymore. I don't want these sketches. I don't want this Xbox. Not gonna need this bourbon anymore. Alaric's not here to drink it. I mean, unless you guys are willing to bring back every supernatural creature on the Other Side to get him back. Would you? I know you want your drinking buddy back. Would you, Damon? Because I wouldn't. I don't know, I mean, does that make me a bad person? I-- I have no idea. […] There's nothing here for me anymore, Stefan. Every inch of this house is filled with memories of the people that I love that have died-- my mom, my dad, Jeremy, and Jenna and Alaric, John, even John. I mean, they're all dead. Everyone is dead.”

1. Lost Girls (Season 1, Episode 6)

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Stefan explains everything! The first flashbacks of the series show us the basics of the Damon-Katherine-Stefan triangle from 1864. The costumes! Katherine Pierce in the flesh! In real time, after some drinking and dancing, Damon takes out his anger towards Stefan on Vicki and turns her. Stefan tries to The back-and-forth between storylines captures the complex relationship between the Salvatore brothers and how it all goes back to a Petrova doppleganger. Plus, it’s damn entertaining. Classic TVD at its best: one Salvatore cleaning up the other Salvatore’s bloody mess. Poor Vicki was just in the wrong place with the wrong Salvatore. And how great is Kayla Ewell? That cemetery scene! God it’s tragic. I love every time they bring her back through the years, because she’s the anti-Elena, and sometimes we need that dynamic. I could write an essay about this one episode, but I won’t. I will say that this is an episode to show a non-TVD fan for them to understand what you’ve been going on and on about for eight seasons.

"I've been in love; it's painful, pointless, and overrated." – Damon (and me about this show)

DISCLAIMER: I've tried to limit this to the best episodes about our Mystic Falls fam. Elijah Mikaelson is the love of my life, but I'll have to give The Originals their own post later.

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