The humans are fighting back, and that could mean big trouble for Elena, Damon, and the rest of the Mystic Falls gang on "The Vampire Diaries."
Last week, we got an in-depth look at the decades-long Augustine project, which used Damon as a vampire test subject. When he finally got free, Damon (Ian Somerhalder) embarked on a quest for revenge against every living Whitmore — a story that shocked and appalled girlfriend Elena (Nina Dobrev).
But then, Elena herself was taken to Dr. Wes Maxfield's lab of doom. The winter finale is "a pretty intense episode," promised writer and executive producer Caroline Dries.
"We start with Elena still in that lab and she's wondering, a) where she is, b) what the heck is Wes doing to her, because he seems to have a very clear and secret agenda," Dries told Yahoo TV in a phone interview.
Meanwhile, Damon and Stefan (Paul Wesley) set out to find Elena, though when they do, Damon will come face-to-face with Enzo, the friend he left to die in the burning fire of the Whitmore house. That reunion probably won't be a happy one!
Here are seven juicy tidbits from Dries about the action-packed winter finale and the rest of the season:
1. Elena learns everything isn't so black and white.
As horrific as Dr. Maxfield's experimentation is, Elena comes out of the experience with a very different viewpoint than when she went in.
"We called it 'Fifty Shades of Grayson' for a reason, because she goes through something that's so layered and has so much gray area to it," Dries explained. "She realizes that Augustine is this horrible institution, but at the same time, what they were doing was actually not what she thought they were doing."
Maxfield may seem like a mad scientist, but consider that his motivation is to save humans. "It's very black and white if we're human and we want something tested to make sure we're not going to die from it. We test it on a rat, and we don't think twice about the rat."
2. The past will come back to haunt Damon.
Back in the '50s, when Damon was part of the Augustine project, he bonded with fellow captive Enzo (Michael Malarkey). Together, they teamed up to find a way to escape. But when that time came, Damon left Enzo behind to burn to death.
He feels "tons of guilt," Dries revealed. "It's also not only just guilt, but this old wound that Damon doesn't want to deal with and now the band-aid's been torn off." And we all know Damon doesn't like pain!
3. Damon's quest for vengeance will cause problems in his relationship with Elena.
Elena was appropriately horrified to learn that Damon had systematically taken out every single Whitmore family member except for one — Aaron, whom Elena has befriended and bonded with.
"I would hope for the sake of women everywhere that Elena thinks twice about the person that she's dating, knowing that he's killing all these people," Dries said.
But while it might test their relationship, it won't necessarily kill it.
"Definitely the fact that Damon killed Aaron's entire family is certainly an obstacle for Elena to get past. But yes, their relationship will endure massive obstacles coming up," she said. "But the thing I think we do so well is that we just don't throw people together and break them up willy nilly. Their relationship will be tested, but at the same time, Elena loves Damon. Damon loves Elena, you know?"
4. Stefan and Katherine have an awkward morning after.
Last week, after Katherine helped Stefan overcome his PTSD, the two started making out (to Caroline's grossed-out chagrin).
"We'll see the fallout from them having slept together in this episode," Dries teased. "We're going to see every moment of the morning after, and how it affects Katherine and how it affects Stefan having slept with this woman who's been the bane of his existence for so long."
Ex sex is the hottest kind!
5. The doppelganger issue will continue to haunt everyone.
"Vampire Diaries" fans have posited the idea that since Silas and Amara are linked, then perhaps Stefan is actually Katherine's doppelganger destiny. Their recent hook-up might just be proof of that. So, wouldn't Elena be fated to be with Silas 3.0?
"That's a good question. We kind of closed up the Silas/Amara chapter earlier in this season, but we're going to revisit the concept of doppelgangers and the whole Travelers' prophecy that the doppelgangers are meant to be drawn together by the universe," Dries said. "That's going to come back toward the later part of the season."
6. Bonnie and Jeremy's road to love is rocky.
Now that they can finally, physically be together again, all should be blissful for Bonnie (Kat Graham) and Jeremy (Steven R. McQueen), right? Please, this is "Vampire Diaries"!
As Dries notes, the couple has never addressed what came between them last time — Jeremy's emotional relationship with the ghost of Anna.
"Now that they're getting close again ... that's kind of this cloud that will hang over Bonnie," Dries said. "If there's a third party, will Bonnie be threatened by that? Is she still a little bit insecure in her relationship?"
7. Caroline makes a mistake.
Caroline is in a bad place in the winter finale — Tyler's gone and Jesse's dead at the hands of her best friend. Will she turn to someone else in this trying time ... perhaps her good buddy Stefan?
"Their friendship is really rich and it's a really fun to watch on the show and we're giving that relationship a lot more on-screen attention. So we're slowly but surely drawing them deeper and deeper, as friends, closer together. Definitely there's a possibility there," Dries acknowledged.
But — a major but — Caroline isn't emotionally ready for another romantic entanglement. Particularly since she will have to deal with a much bigger problem.
"Caroline is not perfect. She makes mistakes too," Dries said. "The fallout from a mistake that she makes has ripple effects in the latter half of the season."
Well, if there's anything Caroline is good at, it's fixing things!
Watch a preview of the midseason finale:
After tonight's winter finale, "The Vampire Diaries" returns January 23, 2014.