“For over a century, I have lived in secret – hiding in the shadows, alone in the world. Until now,” Stefan Salvatore tells us. “I am a vampire, and this is my story.” Hmm, I thought it was Elena’s story.
A couple of 20-somethings, Darren and Brooke, are driving back from a concert when they hit someone standing in the road. Darren tells Brooke to call for help while he checks on the person he hit. Three things stand out about the victim: a) He’s wearing a big ring, b) he doesn’t have a pulse, and c) he’s uninjured enough to grab Darren and use some very sharp teeth to bite him. As Brooke gets out of the car to find Darren, he drops out of the sky onto the car. Something grabs Brooke and pulls her up into the air as she tries to run away.
“I shouldn’t have come home,” Stefan voices over. “I know the risk, but I had no choice. I have to know her.” He watches the sun rise, then jumps off his roof, landing safely on the ground. Sometimes vampires are showoffs. Elsewhere, high school junior Elena Gilbert is writing in her journal. “Dear diary: Today will be different,” she declares. She’ll smile and pretend everything is great, even though her parents are dead. She’ll start fresh and be a new person.
She goes down to her kitchen to get coffee before her first day of school. Her aunt, Jenna Sommers, feels bad for not being more on top of things for Elena and her younger brother Jeremy. They’re teenagers, though, so they’re fine taking care of themselves. Elena asks Jeremy if he’s okay, but he doesn’t feel like being mothered by someone who isn’t his mother. As Elena drinks her coffee, a muted TV plays a news report about the attacks on Darren and Brooke.
Elena gets a ride to school with her friend Bonnie Bennett, who relays a conversation she had with her grandmother about how she thinks Bonnie is psychic. The family is descended from Salem witches. At first Bonnie thought her grandmother was senile, but now she’s not sure. After all, she’s predicted some stuff that’s happened. If Florida breaks off from the rest of the U.S. and turns into resort islands, Bonnie gets to say she called it.
Elena gets distracted when they drive by a cemetery, then comes back to the conversation and asks Bonnie to predict something about her. Before she can, a bird flies into the windshield. Bonnie makes sure Elena’s okay, but Elena says she knows she can’t get freaked out in cars for the rest of her life. Bonnie predicts that this year will be awesome and Elena will be very happy. As they drive off, a crow watches them from its perch on top of a stop sign.
At Mystic Falls High School, Bonnie spots Matt Donovan watching her and Elena. Elena gives him a friendly wave, but Matt ignores her. They’re exes, and he’s not ready to be friends yet. Caroline Forbes runs up to hug Elena and make sure she’s doing okay. Elena does her fake-smile-and-say-everything’s-fine thing. Outside, Jeremy gives Vicki Donovan some pills. Tyler Lockwood approaches and picks a fight with Jeremy, which Vicki stops before it can go anywhere.
While passing the school office, Elena and Bonnie spot a new student. It’s Stefan. When the secretary tells him his records and transcripts are incomplete, he takes off his sunglasses and tells her to check again. This time, she says everything is there. Elena sees Jeremy going into the bathroom and follows him as Bonnie prays that Stefan, whose back is turned, is hot.
Elena confronts Jeremy for getting high before the first day of school, though he claims he doesn’t have any drugs on him. She tells him he got a pass over the summer, but she’s not going to watch him destroy himself. Every time he gets high, she’ll bring him back down. She knows who he is, and it’s not this person, so he shouldn’t act like this is him.
Bonnie finally gets a look at Stefan as he leaves the office, as does Caroline. He passes the bathroom just as Elena exits and they bump into each other. Elena gives him the same look her friends are giving him: This guy is hot. Stefan asks why she’s leaving the men’s room, and she tells him it’s a long story. As they try to walk off, they each accidentally step in front of each other and laugh a little before he steps aside to let her go.
The two are in history class together, and Elena can’t help sneaking a peek at Stefan. Matt notices, and he tries to spy as Bonnie texts Elena that Stefan is staring at her. After school, Elena goes to the Mystic Falls Cemetery to write in her journal again. She’s proud of herself for making it through the day, even though she had to keep acting like she was fine. She doesn’t think anyone noticed that she was lying – when someone asks how you are, they don’t actually want to know.
A crow lands on the headstone Elena’s facing, which belongs to her parents, Miranda and Grayson. Fog starts rolling in, and the combination of that and the crow creeps her out a little. She shoos the bird away, but it comes back. Elena grabs her bag and runs off. She turns to look behind her, where someone is hiding behind a statue, watching her.
Elena trips, and when she gets up, she’s standing right in front of Stefan. She wonders if he’s following her. Why else would he be in a cemetery? He tells her he’s visiting family. She says the fog and the bird got her flustered, then introduces herself. “We have history together,” she reminds him (also two other classes). Stefan pulls a leaf out of her hair and she admires his ring. He says it’s a family thing. Suddenly he frowns and asks if she hurt herself. Elena realizes she cut her leg when she fell. When he sees the blood, he turns away – the veins under his eyes are turning black. He tells her to go fix herself up, then vanishes.
That night, at his giant house (hereafter called Vamp Villa), Stefan writes in his own journal about how he lost control today. He almost let out everything he’s kept buried inside, and he had a hard time resisting Elena.
Over at the town hangout, the Mystic Falls Grill, Vicki flirts with Tyler as she serves him and Matt. Matt hopes Tyler isn’t hooking up with Vicki, Matt’s sister. Tyler says he’s not, but Matt knows he’s lying. Jeremy corners Vicki and asks why she’s suddenly treating him differently. They had a great time hanging out over the summer – including having sex a few times while high – but Vicki wants to be with Tyler. Jeremy says Tyler only wants her because he likes having sex with her. Vicki wonders if Jeremy wants her for anything different.
At another table, Caroline tells Bonnie what she’s learned about Stefan: He lived in Mystic Falls as a kid, moved around a lot with his military family, and has now moved back to live with his uncle Zach at what used to be the Salvatore family’s boarding house. Also, he’s a Gemini and his favorite color is blue. “We’re planning a June wedding,” Caroline jokes.
At the Gilberts’ house (Gilbert Gables, TM someone over at Television Without Pity), Elena tells Jenna that she’s going to meet her friends at the Grill. She’s surprised to find Stefan at the door. He came to apologize for disappearing in the cemetery, though Elena thinks he just ran off because he doesn’t like the sight of blood.
Stefan also came to return Elena’s journal, which she left in the cemetery. He promises that he didn’t read it. He knows the importance of privacy since he has his own journal. He likes recording his important memories. Elena ducks inside to put her journal away, telling Stefan he doesn’t have to stay outside. He does, though, because while not all vampire lore is universal, one thing is: A vampire can’t enter someone’s home without an invitation. She invites him to come to the Grill with her.
Matt asks Bonnie how Elena is, and if she’s dating anyone. Bonnie won’t be their go-between and tells him to ask Elena himself if he wants that kind of information, though she does say that Elena needs more time being single before she finds someone else. Just then, Elena and Stefan enter. Matt and Bonnie both watch them, as does Caroline. Matt scoffs at Bonnie’s claim that Elena isn’t ready to date again, but instead of just glowering in a corner, he introduces himself to Stefan.
Bonnie and Caroline interrogate Stefan, who tells them his parents are dead and he doesn’t have any siblings he’s close enough to actually speak to. They invite him to a back-to-school event at the falls the next night. Stefan is only interested if Elena’s going, too.
Back at home later, Zach questions Stefan about Darren and Brooke’s deaths. Their attacker is reportedly an animal, but Zach knows how common it is for Stefan to make that kind of attack and fool people into thinking an animal was responsible. He thought Stefan had things under control. Stefan says he does. Zach calls him “Uncle Stefan” and pleads with him to stay under the radar. The town has been peaceful for years, but there are people who remember what it was like before then. Stefan’s presence might stir things up again.
Stefan promises it won’t, so Zach asks why he chose now to come back. Stefan won’t tell him. Zach says he knows Stefan can’t change who he is, but he doesn’t belong in Mystic Falls anymore. Stefan asks where he belongs, then. Zach can’t force Stefan to leave, but he wants Stefan to know that coming back to town was a mistake. Stefan goes to his room (music: “Running Up That Hill,” Placebo covering Kate Bush) and pulls out a book. Inside is an old photograph labeled “Katherine 1864.” The girl in the photo looks exactly like Elena.
In history class the next day, the teacher, Mr. Tanner (booooooo!), lectures about the Battle of Willow Creek, a Civil War battle that took place in Mystic Falls. No one can answer his question about how many people were killed. Tanner is a jerk about it, not that that’s any different from how he usually is. He even basically tells Elena that she’s lost all the good will she’s built up after her parents’ deaths.
Finally, Stefan gives the correct answer. When he reminds Tanner of his name, Tanner asks if he’s related to the Salvatores who used to live in the town. Stefan says they’re distant relatives. He continues that 27 civilians died during the battle, something Tanner didn’t know. 27 people hid in a church, and Confederate soldiers shot into the building, thinking they were destroying Union weapons.
That night, dozens of students gather in the woods for a kegger. Stefan can hear conversations from across the clearing, and he eavesdrops as Elena and Bonnie talk about him. Caroline greets him and takes him off to get a drink before he can talk to Elena. Bonnie uses a beer bottle as a makeshift crystal ball so she can jokingly use her psychic abilities to find out where Stefan is. But when she touches Elena’s hand, she sees a crow, fog, and a man. It freaks Bonnie out, but she tries to convince herself that she’s drunk and the vision doesn’t mean anything.
As Bonnie leaves to get another drink, Stefan sneaks up on Elena. She’s happy to see him. Nearby, Jeremy watches Tyler take Vicki off for some alone time. Elena and Stefan go for a walk together and she tells him everyone’s talking about him and calling him mysterious. Stefan thinks Elena’s mysterious, too, though part of that is because of her sadness. She doesn’t really want to talk about the reason for that, but she opens up anyway: Last spring, her parents’ car drove off a bridge into a lake. Elena was also in the car; she survived, they didn’t. Stefan promises that she won’t be sad forever.
Vicki and Tyler make out in the woods, but she decides she doesn’t want to go any further if it means being backed up against a tree. He ignores her when she tries to make him back off. Jeremy arrives in time to stop Tyler from sexually assaulting Vicki. She defends him, saying Tyler was just drunk, but Jeremy notes that he’s drunk, too, and he’s keeping his hands to himself. Vicki doesn’t like that Jeremy keeps trying to get to know her so he can have sex with her until he loses interest.
Matt keeps a close eye on Stefan and Elena as Stefan notes that they’re being watched. She tells him that she and Matt have been friends since childhood, and she decided to try a relationship with him because she felt they owed it to themselves. After her parents died, everything changed. Stefan guesses that the relationship was never passionate. The veins under Stefan’s eyes start to change again, and Elena notices. Stefan finds an excuse to leave.
Vicki trudges through the woods alone as fog rolls toward her. A man appears behind her, then disappears before she can see him. When she turns, he’s in front of her, and she screams.
Back at the party, Elena’s lost track of Stefan, so she chats with Matt instead. He’s hurt that she broke up with him because she wanted time alone, and now she seems to be dating someone. He wants her to do what’s right for her, but he’s not going to give up on them being together. Stefan starts to approach Elena, but Caroline intercepts him and invites him to go see the falls with her. He gently but firmly tells her that the two of them aren’t going to happen. He goes back to Elena, who assures him that Caroline will eventually give up on him.
Elena spots Jeremy heading off alone and follows him into the woods. He trips over something on the ground and realizes it’s Vicki. She’s unconscious and has a bleeding neck wound. Elena and Jeremy rush her back to the party so they can get help. Stefan watches with concern, and Matt notices him leaving.
Stefan goes straight home and tells Zach that there was another attack. This wasn’t Stefan’s doing, either. He goes to his room, where a crow flies in through the open window. He turns to the doorway and sees Damon Salvatore standing on his balcony. “Hello, brother,” Damon greets him. And now the party can really begin.
Stefan criticizes Damon for using a crow to spy on people. Damon says he’s been messing around with fog, too. He claims he’s back in town for Stefan’s first day of school, after 15 years of the brothers being apart. Stefan accuses him of attacking Vicki and adds that Damon left her alive. Damon says that could be a problem…for Stefan. He’s as curious about Stefan’s return to town as Stefan is about Damon’s, though Damon has guessed that Stefan is there because of Elena.
Most of the partygoers have left by the time paramedics load Vicki into an ambulance. Bonnie tells Elena that she’s sure she’s not psychic, but whatever she saw in her vision, she thinks it’s just the beginning.
Back at Vamp Villa, Damon tells Stefan that he’s seen Elena, too, and he knows she and Katherine look alike. He wonders if Stefan feels alive being around Elena. Stefan acknowledges that Elena isn’t Katherine, which Damon says is good, because they both know how that ended. He asks the last time Stefan drank blood from another bigger than a squirrel. He tries to entice Stefan to go feed on a human with him – they can even start with Elena. Stefan’s face changes again, and though he tries to fight his rage at Damon, he eventually gives in to it. He tackles Damon and they both fly out the window.
When Stefan gets up from the pavement outside, Damon is standing a few yards away. He taunts Stefan for his vamp-out and tantrum. Stefan warns that he’s not going to let Damon kill people here. After all these years, can’t they make peace? “I promised you an eternity of misery,” Damon reminds him, “so I’m just keeping my word.” Stefan orders him to stay away from Elena.
Damon suddenly “notices” that Stefan’s ring is gone, which means when the sun comes up, Stefan will turn to ash. Damon’s just teasing, though; he took the ring, and he gives it back to his brother. Then he throws Stefan across the yard and warns him not to think he’s stronger than Damon. Zach comes to check on the commotion, and Damon gives him an insincere apology and goes inside.
Jeremy’s still drinking at the party, which is pretty dumb since there are cops there and he’s underage. Elena tells him that people are going to stop cutting him slack – they don’t care anymore that the Gilbert kids are orphans. Everyone else has moved on, so they should, too. Jeremy knows Elena writes in her journal in the cemetery, so he doesn’t think she has anything to say about moving on.
Bonnie tries to sober Caroline up at the Grill, where Caroline is sad that the guys she wants never want her. She never knows how to talk to them, while Elena always knows what to say without even trying. Everyone picks Elena, no matter how hard Caroline tries. Bonnie says it’s not a competition, but Caroline doesn’t believe that.
At the hospital, Vicki wakes up and says one word to Matt about her attacker: “Vampire.”
At Gilbert Gables, Elena writes in her journal again (music: “Never Say Never,” the Fray). She was wrong about being able to fake her way through her grief. Stefan’s writing as well, over at Vamp Villa. He thought he could create a new life. Elena feels the same way – they each wanted to create a new persona, someone who’s alive. But they know it’s hard to escape the bad things that have happened in the past, no matter how much they want to.
As Jenna finds Jeremy crying over a picture of his parents, Caroline and Damon see each other at the Grill. For once, Elena’s not there to draw a guy’s attention away from Caroline.
Elena writes that you have to be ready for something new and good so you can invite it in when it comes along. She looks out her window and sees Stefan in her yard. She goes down to talk to him in the front doorway, and he says he just wanted to make sure she was okay. She tells him everyone asks her that all the time, and she always says she’s fine. Stefan asks if she means it. “Ask me tomorrow,” she replies. Then she invites him into her house, which he happily enters.
Keep in mind: Since some episodes move so fast it’s hard to know what you need to remember, I’ll highlight things you should keep in mind, especially for future episodes.
As fits with vampire lore, vampires must be invited inside a home before they can enter.
Elena looks just like someone Stefan and Damon knew in 1864, Katherine.
Vampires have excellent hearing.
Stefan and Damon have rings that allow them to walk in daylight.
Etc.: Just for the record, because I know it’ll come up: I’m neither Team Stefan nor Team Damon when it comes to who Elena should be with. I can see the pros and cons of her being with either of them. I tend to be fine with whoever she’s with when she’s with him.
I have no use for Tyler and would love not to give him any thought throughout the entire series.
I think music is really important in this show, which is why I’m highlighting some of the songs used, either ones that are particularly memorable or ones that fit well with their scenes.
The show uses a number of songs by the Fray through the series. Candice King (Caroline) is now married to Fray member Joe King.
Steve Belford, who plays Darren, was also Jesse on Degrassi: The Next Generation at the same time Nina Dobrev (Elena) played Mia.