She's also a Horta-level master of the double-inverse statement. "Do not interfere, Kirk. Keep thy place." What place? Is she saying stay out of the fight, or is she telling him to remain as T'Pring's champion? Seriously, Kirk needed to ask her what she meant by that. That ambiguity on her part seems downright deliberate.
And T'Pring may be the cagiest, fastest thinking Vulcan yet to appear onscreen. She walks into the arena with no plan in place whatsoever and upon seeing Kirk and McCoy quickly conceives one. And not just any plan, but one that Spock himself describes as "logical. Flawlessly logical." She is a game player, willing to throw aside her existing, agreed-upon strategy of pitting Stonn against Spock for something better the minute she works out the angles of it, something no one else present is doing.
I've joked that her plan had one major flaw ("If your Captain had won, he would not want me...") Are you sure, T'Pring? He does have quite rep, y'know. In any case, joking aside, she is correct. He's not going to take kindly to a woman who arranged for the death of his best friend at Kirk's hands no less. She figures out the logical consequences of every outcome and sees herself winning in all of them and then acts immediately and decisively to put her plan into play. You can watch Arlene Martel's eyes sparkle as she conceives her plan and looks Kirk up and down while devising it.
Stonn doesn't make a good impression, true, but he's caught up in a sordid love affair with a woman whose husband he's just obligated himself to kill. How do these fights usually go on Vulcan? Does the crazed, blood fever-enraged Pon Farr sufferer have the advantage or does the champion of the bride usually win, being the more controlled and rational one? Has Stonn ever been in a fight before? He has other things on his mind, especially once T'Pring springs into action without consulting him.
And I really like T'Pol. Really I do. I seriously respect the integrity Jolene Blalock brought to that role. But she has got to be the dumbest Vulcan since that rapist with the polyester haircut on Voyager. She is constantly making bad decisions in regards to her own mental health and addictions, endangering herself and the ship time and time again because she is unable to get or keep her act together.
Roddenberry's original plan was to have Spock as a red-skinned, Satanic-seeming tempter with a wicked sense of humor who eats by placing food against a metallic plate in his abdomen. He offered the part at one point to DeForest Kelley, who wisely stepped away from it.
By the time the Cage was filming, Spock had become a brash outsider ruled by his curiosity. Nimoy needed to play volatile and fiery to be seen as interesting against Jeffrey Hunter and Majel Barrett's "cool." Once Shatner came aboard, suddenly all that dynamic energy was embodied in the Captain and Nimoy was left with the task of underplaying his role to provide contrast. Barrett's computer mind and lack of emotion were transferred over to his character. The more that interplay between Kirk and Spock worked, the more the writers leaned into it, creating the aloof, scientifically brilliant, mathematically gifted race of nearly-super-powered beings the Vulcans eventually became. (Mutating further under Berman to become a race of lying, posturing dicks whose hypocrisy knew no bounds.)
Their cultural history and sense of racial memory goes back considerably farther than ours. I have no doubt that many ages and eras were spent in denial of those "animal passions" they cast out "on these sands" so long ago. The dirty truth of it, they've acknowledged to themselves, is that they are not so different after all from their ancestors. Centuries of discipline and rigid control have enabled them to master their emotions, to a degree we cannot readily imagine, but the hidden cost of it all is to return to those ancestral grounds and face their inner selves on a basic, biological level. It isn't a question of philosophy or imperfect thinking. Their bodies react this way to certain stimuli and denying it does not make it go away.
They therefore accept it in themselves, even if they do not advertise it to others. "The air is the air. What can be done about it?" They've struggled with their dual heritage for some time now. If there were a pill they could take to make themselves 100% in keeping with Surak's ideals, they'd have taken it by now. And probably have, countless times over their history. And found that denying essential truths about themselves on a genetic level does not work.
Another point regarding all of their superstition and mumbo-jumbo, psuedo-religious conduct. Unlike ours, the tenets of theirs is borne out as truth on a daily basis. Those souls deposited in the libraries of Mt. Seleya? They're actually there. You can talk with them. Consult their wisdom and accumulated knowledge. Vulcans accept the loss of their physical forms and transference into pure thought because they can see their future in what has taken place with all those in the past. They can reach out and touch those minds. Commune with them. Know what they know. Even the weirdest, left-field rituals from the distant past work. We know because we saw one work in the third movie.
It does not take faith to believe in the spirituality of the Vulcans. It is clearly something they hold close to themselves and only share reluctantly with others, but it is definitely real in the context of the series. Why not just give up the priesthoods and the robes and take it all into the laboratory where it belongs? We don't know that they haven't. But something deep in the "Vulcan heart, the Vulcan soul" still responds to it in this fashion. And uncomfortable as it may be for them at times, they accept that as a truth about themselves as a people and deal with it accordingly.
As for whether or not the early Vulcans helped us technologically, we don't know how old the Prime Directive is by the time we see it on Star Trek. It may not have been in place when the two cultures first met. Or they may have judged us worthy of assistance by their standards. Or maybe we did it all on our own and they, while never admitting to being surprised, were still respectful of our accomplishments.
This is certainly how I would have preferred the premise of Enterprise to have gone. While that creatively dead and dreary mess droned endlessly on about Warp Five culture and Warp Five this and Warp Five that, I'd have had the Earthlings bust out into space with a Warp Seven engine, skipping Six entirely. Suddenly our ship being the only one that could travel to the Klingon Homeworld (not outpost. Homeworld.) in such-and-such amount of time would have made sense. Also, the question of why we aren't already conquered by the Klingons if their homeworld (not outpost, Homeworld) is only five days away is answered. They can only go Warp Five. At Warp Five, we'd be much further away. Going there in five days at Warp Seven makes a lot more sense, and puts the Klingons on notice that a new, crafty bunch of space monkeys is out there making them look bad.
The Earth as the center of the Federation makes sense if we have an engine no one else has. It makes no g*dd*mn sense for us to be the center of everything if all we have is what everyone else (including the Pakleds) got one-hundred and fifty years ago. Humans as uppity little noisemakers demanding full run of the playground when all we've done is nothing more than everyone else (including those Pakleds) is a bad television show. Nothing can be done with that that is of the slightest interest. A Warp Seven Enterprise with us whipping about and zooming everywhere two hundred times faster than everyone else...? Now there you have something. At least we bring something to the table with that premise.
In any case, I don't think the idea originally was that the Vulcans wiped the milk off our chins and put us in fresh Pampers whenever we needed it. I think we sent out a few brave Marco Polos and Vulcan was our China**. They gave us someplace to go and someplace to come back from. And on the way, we continued to meet others. And so it grew...
* "Vulcanians" was a term that went away quickly on the Original Series, much like the terms "United Earth Space Probe Agency" and "Space Central" to refer to Starfleet or the Federation.
** No, scratch that. Old Vulcan Proverb: "Only Nixon Could Go To China." Marco Polo is not allowed for in that... :-)