'True Blood' Season 4 Premiere Recap: 'She's Not There'

When we last left off on "True Blood," Sookie had been spirited away to a faerie confab—which, as you know if you caught the sneak preview of the show's first eight minutes, doesn't turn out so well. The garden party is populated by scores of pretty guests, with all the golden ambiance of a teensy Italian bistro and an endless supply of "light fruit" (glowing comestibles that look like radioactive mangoes)—and hey, look, there's Barry the psychic bellboy! And Sookie's long-lost dead grandpa! But while Sook chats with Granddaddy, she can't help noticing that there's a skulking demon in their midst...and her attempt to issue a telepathic warning doesn't go over so well considering that, y'know, everyone else at the party can read minds. The real deal: Faerie queen Mab is super-peeved at Bill's impromptu visit to the faerie garden last season, and she's going to close the gate and initiate a massive human harvest.

NOOOOOOO! Sookie blasts Mab with her magic hand-light, causing the pretty surroundings to melt away and all the attractive guests to morph into gaunt, fanged monsterfaeries who look like cousins of the cave-dwelling beasts from "The Descent." The only two non-homicidal fae at the party help Sookie and Granddad to escape...but whoops, Gramps ate the light fruit, which means he's doomed. He hands Sookie his pocket watch and says a tearful goodbye before dissolving into dust.

And, someplace far away, Bill and Eric are simultaneously wakened by their internal Sookie Alarm.

Sookie returns to her house only to discover that it's occupied by workmen, none of whom seem to know who she is. But when Jason shows up in full-on cop regalia, all becomes clear: time works weirdly in the faerie garden, and what felt like 15 minutes to Sookie was actually more like thirteen months on earth—which means that she's been missing and presumed dead for more than a year. Bill and Eric appear on the porch as soon as the sun goes down; Bill's grief and relief is heartbreaking, but Eric is all suave confidence as he informs Sookie that he's the only one who never gave up on her. Andy Bellefleur, meanwhile, is doing a lot of very loud shouting. He's furious over the expense of Sookie's unsolved disappearance...oh, yeah, and he's addicted to V, so that's not helping the rage ish.

The great thing about this whole Lost Time Plot Device: all the other characters have jumped ahead in fun ways, without us having to watch it happen. Lafayette and Jesus are still on like Donkey Kong (more on that later); Tara's down in New Orleans with a new lease on life, a new gig as a lady cagefighter and (oooooh!) a lesbian lover; the Bon Temps vampires are still filming heartfelt PSAs in an attempt to undo the damage Russell Edgington hath wrought; Hoyt and Jessica are struggling to negotiate their interspecies romance and fighting over the inherent grossness of dead human food; and Arlene has successfully birthed a big-headed baby boy who may or may not be displaying early signs of sociopathy (which, as always, begins with a few beheaded Barbie dolls).

Sookie reunites with the crew at Merlotte's, most of whom are thrilled to see her...only here's Sam, looking sour as ever. And there's brother Tommy, who's sporting a leg brace (huh?) wearing khakis (what?) and simpering his way through a plate of biscuits alongside Hoyt's mom. Okaaaay! That's weird! A little expository dialogue reveals that this is the upshot of that season-ending gunshot, with physical therapy for Tommy and anger management classes for Sam. (Only Sam's anger-management program is really just a Shifter Meetup; we see them drinking wine, stripping down and then morphing into horses for a little late-night gallop.) Sookie's also trying to get back her house, which Jason sold when it seemed like she was gone for good. She secures the services of Portia Bellefleur, attorney at law, but something seems off. A telepathic peek into Portia's skull reveals the truth: She's no fan of Sookie, and she's got the hots for Bill.

Oh yeah, and about those witches: Manwitch Jesus is still trying to convince Lafayette to free his mind and embrace his supernatural abilities. Lafayette is reluctant, but gamely accompanies his boy-toy to the meeting of a local coven...led by the this season's likely villain, the lank-haired, pucker-faced Marnie. Lafayette freaks and bolts when Marnie starts channeling Eddie, Laf's old V dealer—and we don't blame him, because OMG SO CREEPY—but comes back at Jesus' urging for one more go. Marnie's pet parrot has died, and the coven is going to help smooth her transition to Parrot Heaven...only all of a sudden, Marnie seizes her neighbor's hand and starts furiously spouting Latin in an attempt to bring the parrot back from the dead, then throws a bolt of Crazy Shade in Lafayette's direction when he won't join the party. Resigned, he offers up his hand—and BAM, the parrot is alive! For three seconds! And then it goes limp again, dead. (Or, per Monty Python, pining for the fjords.)

The only thing missing from this episode: vampire sex. But wait! In the last moments of the show, we see Sookie stripping down in her bedroom and rummaging for a nightgown...only to have Eric Northman appear, in the flesh, eyeballing her body like a hungry beast. Sookie's confused—how is he here, when she rescinded his invitation?—but all is explained when he flashes a dangling key. It's not Sookie's house anymore; it's Eric's. And that means he can come and go as he pleases...and eat anything in the house.

And out come the fangs!

What's your take on last night's "True Blood" premiere? Are you digging the time jump? Do you think this will be the season Eric and Sookie finally DO IT? Did Bill's storyline just get super-interesting? And where was Joe Manganiello? Sound off in the comments and on Twitter!