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But understand this. Everyone who claims to love you: your friends, your brother, even Bill Compton, they all gave up on you but I. Never. Did.

Once Sookie jumps out of Faerie (or pseudo-Faerie, based on what Mab implied) and finds out how long she’s been gone, the episode moves along at a breathtaking pace. I found myself having a hard time keeping up during the liveblog ““ every time there was something to comment on, the scene switched up and there was even more going on. What struck me overall though was everyone’s lives seemed pretty… ok, without Sookie around. Which is totally unfair ““ it’s not really her fault that a maenad tore the town apart or that the King of Mississippi went ape on national television. But it just feels like it is.

So let’s get to the run-down:

Sookie ““ At the end of last season, Sookie had called it quits with Bill for reals, washed those vampires out of her hair, and ran off with her fairy godmother, Claudine, to Faerie. Faerie turns out to be a very Ren-Faire sort of place, with lots of diaphanous gowns and waxed chests, and fruit that glows. There are also lots of other humans there, including Sookie’s grand-daddy Earl and Barry the Bellboy. Predictably, Sookie screws everything up by refusing to eat the light-fruit and being responsible for letting a vampire (Bill) into Faerie last season, so Queen Mab is pretty pissed off at her. Sookie inadvertently starts a war when she reveals the fairies are harvesting humans, attacks the Queen with her light fingers, strips the entire plane of its glamour, and then escapes back to the mortal plane with Graddaddy. Who then up and dies on Adele’s grave.

Her 15 minutes of hell raising in Faerie turns out to be 13 months in Bon Temps time and Sookie spends most of the episode checking us in on the rest of the cast. Her house has been purchased by a conglomerate (who finally cleans up the destruction from season two), everyone thought she was dead by Bill’s hand, and she has to go begging for her job back from Sam Merlotte. Oh, and of course Bill and Eric show up as soon as Sookie rejoins this mortal coil, so they can piss match over who missed her more. Eric wins.

Jason ““ Jason has joined the Bon Temps police force, assumedly without going to the academy, since he was blackmailing Andy last season for a badge. Andy seems to have developed a serious V addiction, which Jason is constantly trying to keep under control. He’s also still taking care of the Hotshot kids and old folks, though he gets thrown into a freezer for his trouble.

Is anyone really surprised he sold his Gran’s house? I totally wasn’t. Jason is the kind of guy who wants to do the right thing, but keeps getting thwarted by his own stupidity/greed.

Lafayette ““ Oh, Lala. Boyfriend has got a new haircut, a solid relationship with Jesus, and I’m pretty sure new, bigger biceps. His visions from the V overdose have finally settled down. Jesus keeps dragging Lala to his Wiccan circles, trying to convince Lafayette to just give in to his natural supernatural abilities. The coven leader channels Vampire Eddie and raises a dead bird with Lafayette’s help, so all signs point to “damn powerful witch Lala.”

He also still gets the best lines: “I’m sorry that after all that trouble, your bird is still dead.”

Tara ““ Look, Ball. You are put on notice. After the bullshit you’ve put a perfectly good character through for three seasons, there had better be something to Tara’s new lesbian MMA fighting Toni persona. Because it just reads like exploitation. I would like to see more of the Naomi Klein reading, racist sassing Tara from the first season, tout de suite.

Sam ““ Yes, he shot his brother. He didn’t miss. He pulled the trigger and Tommy is limping around Bon Temps, milking everyone’s sympathy for all its worth. As his major character development (I think he’s the only male character who didn’t get a hair cut to prove passage of time), Sam has joined a shifter anger management dinner buddy group. They work off their animal instincts with talk therapy and midnight horse runs.

Jessica and Hoyt ““ Hoyt’s Mama did take a shot at Jessica after last season’s cliffhanger, but she missed. So Hoyt is out of his mother’s world and totally in Jessica’s, though things hardly seem peachy. They’re having what seems to be fairly typical early-twenties relationship problems, where you really love your partner but haven’t had a lot of life experiences and start to wonder what else is out there while secretly resenting the person who is holding you back, but things might work out if only both people involved can get past their own selfishness. Oh, and one person is a vampire and one is a human.

Arlene ““ Arlene and Terry got hitched, had a demon baby, and live in adorable domestic bliss that is only marred by their son Mikey’s tendency to do creepy serial killer things, even though he’s, like, barely a year old. For instance, he decapitates all the dolls in the house. Arlene is sure this is a sign that he’s taking after Rene and since this is True Blood, she’s probably right.

Bill Compton ““ Politician through and through, Bill is now the King of Louisiana. He could only accomplish this by either 1) killing Sophie Anne or 2) marrying her. As she doesn’t show up by the end of the episode, I’ll go with “killed her through trickery, because he’s a tricksy bastard.”  There’s several lingering shots where we’re supposed to think Bill is musing on how he loves Sookie and what he’s given up for his new life of importance, but I think it’s really Bill wishing he was thinking about how he loves Sookie and regrets what a smarmy worm he was for the past three seasons. Bill wants to be a good guy, but he’s a tool deep in his soul. Despite the entire town thinking he killed Sookie, they still let him open up old folks’ homes and cut ribbons, proving that everyone listens when money talks.

He also has a spy in the Wiccan coven. And he gets to order Eric around. And is maybe dating Portia Bellefleur.

Eric ““ Still tall. Still smoldering. Still in love with Sookie. He bought her house because he believed Sookie was still alive during her long absence and knew she’d come home at some point. If she came back to the house, she’d be stuck with him, or that’s what he implies. Eric makes a great vampire PSA, plays nice with humans, and noticeably sports an ashier complexion than Bill does, which means Eric has actually been drinking True Blood while good ole Bill “humans are friends, not food” Compton has been snacking on people.