The Vampire Diaries to Explore Family, Friendship on Season 4

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We may be months away from The Vampire Diaries Season 4 - an extra month, no less, with The CW pushing its fall premieres back until October - but producer Julie Plec was on hand for a panel at the ATX Television Festival in Austin this weekend and offered up a number of teases to keep fans buzzing throughout the summer.

And it all starts with a friendship that will turn into a major focus of the new season.

"I always look at Caroline as Stefan's future Lexi," Plec told an enthusiastic crowned. "You've seen little pockets of a friendship spark between them, and I see Caroline in the long run of the series becoming that important in Stefan's life."

What will bring the pair together when TVD returns? The desire to help Elena with her transition, Plec said, explaining that "Caroline is an acolyte of the Stefan school of sobriety."

Among other tidbits revealed at the panel:

Caroline and Matt will "have another moment," according to Plec.

Alaric may return, even with Matthew Davis starring on Cult and his character confirmed to be dead. "As long as Jeremy can see ghosts and Alaric is out there in the universe, then there's a window there," Plec said.

Without delving specifically into the love triangle, Plec did acknowledge that Damon has grown over three seasons, saying he has done terrible things in the "name of love, pain, abandonment, self-preservation, survival and family" and that "he's going to keep evolving and Elena's feelings for him are going to continue to evolve."

Finally, it's "time" for the arrival of Bonnie's dad, Plec spoiled: "This year is a big year of transitions. It's the end of senior year, and there's a rich home life for everybody we're going to explore."

Writing on Season 4 of The Vampire Diaries begins today. Which of these storylines has you most excited?

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.

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Vampire Diaries Quotes

You want a love that consumes you. You want passion and adventure, and even a little danger... I want you to get everything you're looking for. But for right now, I want you to forget that this happened. Can't have people knowing I'm in town yet. Goodnight, Elena.

Damon

Dear Elena, yes you heard that correctly. Hell has frozen over. I'm writing it all down. Granted, I'm half a bottle in thanks to my 1950 Chateau Cheval Blanc, a bottle I waited 65 years to open. I used to spend nights sitting in my wine cellar convincing myself I could hear it age, tannins growing, fermenting, but appreciating its beauty didn't make time go by any faster. The bottle just laid there on its shelf, torturing me while I waited for Katherine and time stood still. Eventually I convinced myself that no sip of that wine could ever taste as good as I dreamt it would. And that is the story of why I drink bourbon. I don't know who I am without you, but I know that as long as I'm with you, time will stand still. So who is Damon Salvatore without Elena Gilbert? A selfish friend, a jealous brother, a horrible son? Or maybe with a little luck, I'll do right by you. Because you may be a thousand miles away or a hundred years away, but you're still here with me and my heart is right there in that coffin with you. Until you come back to me.

Damon