Initially, "Catch Me If You Can" seems like it's going to be like one of those insane episodes of The Walking Dead, when zombies attack Rick and the gang from every direction, until Rick is bloody and half-mad but yet his hair is still a gelled masterpiece. Jeremy needs to kill twelve recently turned vampires before they kill Matt. Klaus compelled the vampires to do so so that Jeremy is forced into killing and, thus, completing the hunter's map. The initial plan lasts less than an act. There's an abrupt turn in the story when Kol shows up and murders the vampires. And a typically enjoyable episode of The Vampire Diaries, with its twists and turns and threats of characters getting harmed, isn't actually enjoyable and that is atypical.
The Vampire Diaries won the hearts and minds of fans because of its unrelenting narrative pace and creative choices to kill off important characters. Unfortunately, that pace catches up with a show in the fourth season, like a runner who one day realizes his knees feel worse because the years of running have worsened them. I've written about this before but it bears some repeating: what was once unpredictable insanity is now predictable insanity. "Catch Me If You Can" felt like an unnecessary amount of Stakes for an episode that accomplished one thing: moving the story forward.
Kol will always be the wild card of the Originals because he was defined as such in his first appearance. Kol still doesn't want Silas to rise. Silas scares him. Original vampires commit violent crimes when they're scared. Kol ruins Damon's stupid plan to complete the hunter's mark. Damon then gets compelled to kill Jeremy by Kol. Kol tied Damon up in a freezer, tortured him a bit, and then got distracted by Damon's relationship with Elena. The Originals are awfully interested in the triangle, way more than the majority of the audience. Kol wants Damon to admit various truths about his feelings on Elena's brother and his own brother. Damon will not. Soon thereafter Damon's compelled to kill Jeremy.
Damon's never going to kill Jeremy, of course. The story serves to address an aspect of Damon-Elena that hasn't been addressed in a long time, or really ever, in a meaningful way. Once Damon failed, and Stefan intervened to weaken Damon and keep him locked up in the Salvatore dungeon so he wouldn't kill Jeremy, Stefan converses with ex-lover Elena. Elena wants to see Damon. Stefan won't let her. Why not, Elena demands? Damon'll use the sire bond to get released and then from there kill Jeremy. Damon tried to kill Jeremy twice; he actually snapped Jeremy's neck in the season two premiere. Stefan doesn't get how Elena's able to look past that and love him. Elena's disgusted to learn Stefan works with Rebekah. Rebekah betrayed him and tried to kill him---that's when Stefan throws Damon's past with Jeremy in her face, figuratively speaking. Elena recoils reflexively and the hurt is clearly expressed on her face. Stefan wanted to hurt her like she hurt him.
Elena can't answer Stefan's question about overlooking Damon's attempted murders on her brother. The writers probably can't reasonably explain it. Though it is addressed, it's roundabout. The sire bond is a problem because it is a crutch, or it seems like a crutch. Elena loves Damon; therefore, she's bonded to Damon as he is her sire. The writers set up the sire bond angle for the audience to wonder whether or not it is the sire bond, as Stefan thinks, or whether or not it is truly felt love, as Elena believes. Meanwhile, Jeremy recovers from just a miserable night (actually two nights) in the Gilbert household. Klaus stops by to offer protection from his brother Kol. The Gilberts decline the offer. Klaus responds with a threat about Kol burning the house down as well as his own threat about using whomever Jeremy loves to coax him into killing vampires to complete the map. Elena has her own idea: kill Kol. Kol's an original, so his death will kill thousands of other vampires, which allow the map to complete. Kol's death breaks compulsion, so she'll have her Damon back; and Jeremy doesn't need to personally kill a bunch of vampires face-to-face and become a desensitized and crazed killer who can't control his hunter's impulses. He'll kill a bunch of vampires, but he won't have to face it. I suppose trying to kill an original is a more inviting story than Jeremy facing off with a dozen extras.
Shane, meanwhile, confesses to convincing the pastor to committing suicide/mass murder, but he skirts free of actual conviction and prison time by using Bonnie's Expression against her, scaring her dad into trusting him as the only person who can keep Bonnie from the edge. The shame of the story is, narratively speaking of course, that Bonnie's father figures Shane out. He's a fast-talking, charismatic manipulator. Bonnie's going over the edge regardless of Shane's presence or not. It's the point of Expression.
Rebekah and Stefan try to get answers from a stranger that tried to take the head stone from them, causing the unlikely new to wonder which new team is involved they don't know about. The man's identity, motivation, purpose, etc., is a mystery. Rebekah, unrelated to the guy, gets into squabbles with her brothers. The Originals are a bit tiresome to watch. Always bickering, always trying to dagger one another, etc.
"Catch Me If You Can" has fireworks, twists, turns--the basic essential elements of a good-to-great TVD episode; however, it was flat, hollow; all sound and fury yet it signified nothing. Interesting and worthwhile character stuff never panned out. Plans failed. Around the fourth act, it was just, "How many MORE wrenches did Plec and her writers throw into this?" Maybe I missed Caroline.
-Elena said she doesn't want the cure. Well, she didn't say she didn't want it; she said she doesn't care about it. As usual, the males don't listen to her. They just push on with the plan. It's vaguely reminiscent of the Monty Python and the Holy Grail scene when Lancelot's intent on saving the damsel in distress and doesn't consider that the person locked in the tower is a man.
-I thought Steven R. McQueen would get a chance to show what he's capable of as an actor, given the intense story for Jeremy. Jeremy does the same stuff he always does, so McQueen was exactly the same. Oh well.
-Stefan was written as a petulant, petty, and adolescent so-and-so in his scene with Elena. His behavior represented the problem of teenage melodramatic romantic nonsense. Characters are incredibly passive-aggressive and hurtful. None of them sits down and says, "You did this to me and it hurt, and I can't be the way I am around you anymore because of what you did." Stefan says those things but while mimicking what Elena said to him; then he sleeps with Rebekah. Stefan's reliably stable, but not tonight. It was tough to watch as a Stefan supporter and defender.
-Brian Young & Michael Narducci wrote the episode. John Dahl directed it.