Before Sunset & By Request

So, I was asked to have a look at the Elena/Damon/Stefan porch scene and the Damon/Stefan car scene from the end of the last episode to see if there was anything particularly interesting or revealing that caught my eye. As it happens, there was quite a lot.

So Elena is the star of this scene to me. She is its driving force. Both Stefan and Damon were ready to be on their way and she is the one who opens up seemingly at random (or maybe it seems random since I haven’t seen the whole episode and don’t know if this came up) about how she’s feeling and how torn she is.

The fact that she starts the conversation demonstrates that this is weighing on her and she’s not comfortable with it. She feels the need to get it off her chest, to make sure they both know that she doesn’t want to hurt or mislead them.

What I find really intriguing about her speech here is the line : “If I choose one of you then I lose the other.” To my knowledge – and I checked with friends who’ve been watching every week – Damon has never, not once, given any indication that Elena would “lose” him, under any circumstances really. Quite the opposite, he promised never to leave her again. So I’m not convinced that Elena truly fears losing him. I’m more inclined to believe that she fears hurting him any more than she already has, quite possibly because she knows perfectly well that he wouldn’t leave her even if she chose Stefan.

Their past history is too full of opportunities that they’ve both passed up to sever ties with each other, and too full of promises that they won’t lose each other for me to buy into the idea that Elena is worried about Damon disappearing from her life altogether. Which brings us to Stefan – disappearing if he doesn’t get his way is right up his alley and so is walking away from Elena in general.

He’s turned away from her a whole host of times for a whole host of reasons; to protect her, because he felt guilty, because he had to save his brother. And entirely aside from all of that, Stefan’s “love” as we all know is completely conditional. Frankly, it’s a miracle that he hasn’t walked away yet in an outrage that Elena could dare have feelings for Damon as well. And here, is where I think part of this isn’t even about Elena for Stefan. It’s about his constant struggle and competition with Damon. Stefan is incapable of bowing out gracefully. He’s incapable of even suggesting it without ulterior motive as we’ll see in the car scene later.

His reactions on the porch to Elena’s words are indicative, in my eyes, of the fact that Stefan is more interested in Elena making a choice than in what that choice actually means to her. I sensed no concern for her emotional well being from him. I see a flash of surprise that Elena is as scared of losing Damon as losing him. I see him glancing at Damon to see what he makes of it. I see him considering what it all means but only what it means for him. Somehow in Stefan’s whole thought process, Elena’s feelings aren’t registering. And when Damon indicates that Stefan should respond (more on that in a sec) all Stefan has to say is that it’s been a long day, effectively dismissing everything Elena has just said and implying at the same time that she’s too tired to think clearly.

Elena says that she is being selfish but she, at least, has the presence of mind to consider who might be hurt as a result of her actions. Stefan doesn’t seem to care that Elena is scared of being hurt and we all know he doesn’t give a damn about Damon’s emotional pain. All Stefan had to do here to give his supposed feelings for Elena some credibility was tell her that he understood or that she should take as much time as she needed to make the right choice for herself. But he didn’t because his feelings for her are not about her and in my view they never have been.

Right, now enough about Stefan. Let’s talk about Damon. I found him to be most intriguing in both of these scenes. I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t say much on the porch. There are very few people in whose presence Damon is willing to be open and vulnerable and while Elena is one of them, Stefan is not. So I didn’t expect him to say anything particularly meaningful and I don’t think Elena did either. I think that as usual with these two, the looks they shared were enough. It speaks to their now legendary “understanding” that words are often superfluous. It’s also noteworthy that the last close up of Elena’s face before the brothers walk away, she’s looking at Damon rather than Stefan.

Back on point, Elena’s words clearly had an impact on Damon. But unlike his brother, Damon’s reactions are primarily about Elena. When she talks about having lost people, I  got the sense that it resonated with Damon. He knows what that feels like and I think it pains him that Elena knows what it feels like too. Simply put, Damon hates to see Elena hurt. When he talks about calling her from the road after they dump Klaus’ body, his tone and facial expression indicate an attempt, however fleeting or failed, to reassure and inject levity into the situation.

In short, this scene sums up to me not just how different the brothers’ approach to and definitions of love are but also the different motives behind their wanting to be with Elena. Damon wants to love and be loved with all the mutual feelings and responsibilities and joys and frustrations that that implies. Stefan wants to possess and control Elena and he wants her so that Damon can’t have her.

The irony of this whole thing is that both Damon and Elena genuinely hold love for Stefan and he doesn’t love either one of them the way that they deserve.

This scene as I’m sure you can all imagine had me reaching for the gasoline and the blow torch. I am so fed up of Stefan and his emotional blackmail. Having said that, again, I sort of loved Damon in this scene and I think it contrasted very well with the car scene between these two in 2×08. On that occasion, Damon was nervous and having a fairly hard time holding his emotions in check. Stefan was trying to get under his skin and although Damon tried not to show it, he was succeeding just a bit.

Here it is the opposite. Stefan kicks off with this whole spiel about if Elena picks you I’ll leave town blah blah Ripper bullshit blah. The only reason he says ANY of this is because he is angling for Damon to give the same guarantee. Damon sees right through him but he humors Stefan because it’s not worth getting into an argument over, certainly not when they’ve managed to kill Klaus (assuming the bastard is actually dead). I don’t for one second believe Damon meant a word of it when he agreed to leave if Elena chose Stefan. If Damon were to leave town it would be for his own reasons and not out of commitment to some half assed promise.

I think that the balance of power between these to has finally, truly, shifted. Stefan doesn’t have the power to wound Damon that he once did because Damon has a clear sense of who he is now and who he wants to be. He fought hard like hell to attain that and I am proud beyond words that he’s not letting his brother mess with that anymore.

Between that and the porch scene, Stefan just ends up looking quite weak and pathetic. He’s like a puppet master (read manipulator) realizing that the puppets have cut all their strings. He no longer holds the power he used to over Damon and frankly he doesn’t hold it over Elena either. If he did, she’d love him as much as she did in S1 and never have developed these deep and powerful feelings for Damon.

Having said all this, the writers are perfectly capable of screwing this up ten ways from Sunday and turning it into a clusterf**k of grandiose proportions. Until that happens though, I’d say that the signs are heavily pointing to Elena choosing Damon in the finale.

Another random thought is about the episode title. Before Sunset is the name of a movie with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. The two main characters have a pretty unique emotional connection that has that same intangibility to it that Damon and Elena’s understanding has always had. It might have nothing to do with anything but I like the parallel.