Caroline wakes up in bed with Damon, her neck still bloody from being bitten the night before. He’s still asleep, so she tries to sneak out of the room without waking him up. She’s not successful. She hits him with a lamp, but he seems to barely feel the blow. He tosses her back onto the bed and tells her this could have gone differently. The smell of blood from her pillow makes him vamp out.
On their way to school, Bonnie tells Elena that she should take things slowly with Stefan, even though she previously said Elena should go for it. She’s single, so she should take the chance to play the field. Elena guesses that there’s something Bonnie isn’t telling her. Bonnie admits that she got a bad feeling when she touched Stefan – a really bad feeling. Elena appreciates her concern, but she doesn’t think there’s anything to worry about. Stefan has helped her feel like her life is getting back to normal.
In a spot on campus known as the stoner pit, Vicki asks Jeremy to go out with her. He’s skeptical that she’s suddenly changed her mind about being seen with him in public. He thinks she only slept with him over the summer because he was giving her drugs.
Stefan greets Elena and Bonnie, the latter of whom finds a reason to leave. Stefan thinks Bonnie doesn’t like him. Elena says she’s just not sold on him yet because she doesn’t know him. Nearby, Matt is tossing around a football with a classmate while Tyler does nothing, as usual. He spots the new lovebirds talking and mocks Matt for getting dumped. Elena invites Stefan to have dinner at her house that night with her and Bonnie, so he and Bonnie can get to know each other better.
Matt doesn’t want to get involved in Elena’s personal life, since she’s obviously made her choice and wants to be with Stefan. Tyler suggests that he make her realize she made the wrong choice. He grabs the football from the other guys and throws it toward Stefan, whose back is to him. Stefan turns around just in time to catch it, then throws it back hard.
He tells Elena he hasn’t played football for a long time, and though he likes it, he doesn’t have any interest in trying out for the team. He knows his classmates won’t want him around. Elena notes that this would be a great way for him to make friends. Stefan teases that she can’t lecture him on being a loner when she likes to spend time writing in her journal in the cemetery. She tells him she used to be a lot more outgoing. She’s working on getting back to that girl.
In history class, Bonnie writes the numbers 8, 14, and 22 over and over in her notes. Mr. Tanner quizzes the class on the date of the attack on Pearl Harbor, which Stefan knows. He also knows all the other dates Mr. Tanner throws his way – the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Civil Rights Act, Lincoln’s assassination, etc. Mr. Tanner thinks he’s stumped Stefan with the years spanned by the Korean War, but he’s wrong and Stefan’s right. The class applauds him for showing up their jerk of a teacher. Stefan tells Elena he learned all the dates from doing crossword puzzles.
After school, Mr. Tanner is a jerk again, this time as the coach of the football team. He yells at Tyler for sucking while Stefan watches from the bleachers, trying to decide whether or not to ask for a tryout. Meanwhile, Elena goes to her first cheerleading practice in months, which excites Bonnie. That excitement disappears when Elena tells her she has to come to dinner with Stefan that night.
Mr. Tanner doesn’t want to let Stefan try out since he missed the official tryouts the previous spring. Stefan tries to smooth things over by apologizing for their earlier conflicts. Mr. Tanner decides to let him show his stuff, at the very least because Stefan might get the crap beaten out of him. Tyler volunteers to be the person to do the beating.
Caroline is missing from cheerleading practice, which worries Elena and Bonnie. She arrives late, getting a ride in Damon’s Camaro convertible. “I got the other brother,” she gloats to Elena. Other than the little scarf tied around her neck to hide her bite marks, there’s nothing out of the ordinary with her, as far as her friends can tell. She criticizes Elena’s rusty cheerleading skills and suggests that she just watch the others.
Stefan’s having much better luck with his extracurricular activity. He gets to show off his football skills and show up Tyler at the same time. The rest of the team is happy to have him. Stefan uses his vamp hearing to eavesdrop while Tyler tells Matt they need to teach him a lesson. This involve Tyler tackling Stefan while he’s in the air, trying to catch a ball. Matt apologizes for not…doing whatever he was supposed to do (blocking? I don’t know football stuff, okay?). Stefan’s finger is broken, but he fixes it and it heals quickly. Just another perk of being a vampire.
Later, at Vamp Villa, Stefan catches Damon reading his journal. Damon claims he wants to apologize and make up with his long-estranged brother. If Stefan wants to live a human life, Damon will support him. In fact, he might do the same. Stefan seems to believe him until Damon bursts out laughing. He mentions seeing Elena at cheerleading practice and says she looked hot. But Stefan doesn’t have to worry about any competition – Damon has his own cheerleader girlfriend now.
At Gilbert Gables, Bonnie tells Elena that she had another psychic moment the night before. Then today, she kept writing 8, 14, and 22 over and over. Elena suggests that they play the lottery. Bonnie doesn’t want to talk to her grandmother about this since Grams will just say she’s a witch, and Bonnie doesn’t want to be a witch. Bonnie, I have some really bad news for you. She then guesses where a couple of things are in the kitchen without being able to see them.
Dinner is awkward, since Bonnie doesn’t really want to have a conversation with Stefan. Elena mentions that Bonnie has witch heritage, and Bonnie clarifies that she’s supposedly descended from Salem witches. Stefan tells her they’re examples of individualism. Now Bonnie likes him a little. The doorbell rings, and Elena finds two more dinner guests outside, Damon and Caroline. When Elena starts to invite Damon in, Stefan stops her and tries to make his brother leave. Elena doesn’t catch the hint, and she invites Damon in.
Caroline and Damon liven up the party, but not necessarily in a good way. Now everything is awkward for different reasons. Caroline mentions that Elena didn’t do so great at practice. Damon comments that she doesn’t seem like the cheerleader type. Caroline tells him that Elena’s just in a “blah phase” because her parents died. She used to be a lot more fun. Damon says he can relate to losing your parents. In fact, almost every person he and Stefan have ever cared about has died. He doesn’t mean family, though – he means Katherine.
Over at the Mystic Grill, Jeremy is moping because Tyler keeps flirting with Vicki. Matt tells Jeremy that Vicki sometimes make you work to establish a relationship with her. Jeremy says it was pretty easy for him. As he and Tyler walk past each other, Tyler gives Jeremy a little shoulder bump. This almost leads to a fight, with Matt holding Tyler back. He snaps at Vicki for driving the hostility between the guys, as if it’s her fault they act like children.
In the kitchen of Gilbert Gables, Elena asks Damon if he was talking about Katherine earlier. He tells her that Katherine died in a fire; it wasn’t recent, but it feels like it was. Elena asks what she was like. Damon says she was beautiful, “a lot like” Elena. She guesses that both brothers dated her. Damon tells her to ask Stefan, who would probably give her a different answer than Damon would.
He then suggests that Elena quit cheerleading since she didn’t look happy at practice. Elena admits that things she used to love don’t interest her anymore. Damon doesn’t think she should wait around for her feelings to change. She replies that she’s sorry about Katherine, since Damon lost her just like Stefan did.
In the living room, Stefan admires Caroline’s scarf and asks her to take it off so he can get a closer look. She says she can’t remove it, though she’s not sure why. Damon comes back in and compels Caroline to go to the kitchen to help Bonnie and Elena with the dishes. Stefan slams him for using Caroline as his puppet and personal blood bag. Damon disagrees – humans are whatever he wants them to be. They’re his “for the taking.” Stefan tells him he’s accomplished his goal of using Caroline and meeting Elena, so now he can go. Damon reminds him that he’s been invited into Gilbert Gables, which means he can come in whenever he wants and do whatever he wants to Elena. For Damon, that’s normal.
After the dinner party is over, Elena tells Stefan that Damon isn’t as bad as Stefan led her to believe he is. Stefan would like to stop talking about his brother and make out instead, thanks. They’re on her bed and in the process of getting naked when suddenly Stefan turns into Damon. Elena wakes up screaming from this dream as a crow watches from her window.
The next morning, Elena’s supposed to wear her cheerleading uniform to school, but she hesitates to put it on. At Vamp Villa, Stefan writes in his journal that Damon must still have a shred of humanity inside him. Stefan just isn’t sure how to make him see that – or how to protect Elena from him. He gets out a box of keepsakes and studies something inside.
At school, everyone gathers for a pep rally before a football game. Elena isn’t wearing her uniform, and she worries that that makes her look like a quitter. Stefan tells her to look to the future instead. This is a chance to start over. He gives her the necklace from his keepsake box, which he’s had for a while and never wanted to give to anyone until now. Elena thinks it smells like rose, but Stefan tells her the scent is an herb. He calls the two of them a work in progress and says they’ll figure out their lives.
After dark, the pep rally gets underway and Mr. Tanner tells the crowd what an awesome addition Stefan is to the football team. Tyler’s annoyed that he’s starting in the game. He decides to take out his frustrations on Jeremy, who’s drinking nearby. Jeremy, quit drinking when there are adults around. What’s wrong with you? Why are you even there? Tyler picks a fight by telling him that he can “have” Vicki when Tyler’s done with her. Jeremy decks him and the two start beating on each other. Vicki ineffectually yells for them to stop.
Matt and Stefan break up the fight, but Tyler isn’t happy to have the new star player stopping him from his fun. He punches Stefan in the stomach to try to make Stefan let go of his arm. It’s pretty much the equivalent of fanning him with a piece of paper. While Tyler’s distracted, Jeremy grabs a broken bottle and swings it at him. Stefan moves Tyler aside and puts up his hand, which Jeremy gashes with the bottle. Elena definitively ends the fight, then checks on Stefan, whose ultra-fast-healing abilities make it look like he wasn’t hurt.
Elena’s suspicious, so she asks Bonnie about the feeling she got when she touched Stefan. Bonnie says it wasn’t clear; it was just a feeling that vibrated through her. It’s what she imagines death is like.
Elena goes to her car, where Damon sneaks up on her. He tells her he needs a break from Caroline, who’s too young and chatty for him. Elena won’t let him badmouth her childhood friend. He quickly apologizes for making her uncomfortable, but she knows he does it on purpose. Everything he says has two meanings. Damon thinks Elena has other intentions, too: She wants Damon. She thinks about him all the time, even when she doesn’t want to. She probably dreams about him, too. She also wants to kiss him. Damon moves in to make that happen and gets rewarded with a slap. Elena tells him she doesn’t want to be a part of whatever game he’s playing with Stefan. She’s not Katherine.
Matt thanks Stefan for looking out for Jeremy, then apologizes for being a jerk at practice. He wishes Stefan good luck in the game and says the team is lucky to have him. After Matt leaves, Damon, who’s been spying from the shadows in the parking lot, busts Stefan for putting vervain in the necklace he gave Elena. That’s what allowed her to resists his compulsion. Damon says he’ll just seduce her the old-fashioned way, or maybe eat her.
Stefan calls his bluff. He knows that deep down, Damon feels something for Elena. He still has some humanity inside him, no matter how much he acts like a monster. Damon says he’s not acting, so Stefan urges Damon to kill him. He’s had 145 years to do it, and he hasn’t. Stefan knows Damon hates him because Damon loved Katherine, and he tortures Stefan because Damon still loves her. That’s his humanity.
Mr. Tanner comes over to get Stefan, who’s supposed to be with the rest of the team for the game. Damon takes advantage of the opportunity to prove that he doesn’t have the humanity Stefan thinks he does. He bites Mr. Tanner and drops his dead body on the pavement. “Anyone, any time, any place,” he tells Stefan.
In the locker room, Matt yells at Tyler for being a jerk to Stefan and Jeremy. He’s a bully and he crossed the line. Matt goes outside, where he finds Tanner’s body. Sometime later, when a crowd has gathered, Bonnie is stunned to realize the meaning of the numbers she’s been seeing all day: 8 comes from the building number, 14 comes from Mr. Tanner’s license plate, and 22 is his parking spot number.
Tyler spots Matt looking shaken in the bed of his truck but doesn’t say anything to him. Vicki finds Jeremy nursing his wounds from the fight and assures him that she didn’t just hook up with him to get drugs.
The official story is that Mr. Tanner was attacked by an animal, but Elena doesn’t know what kind of animal would do that. Stefan comforts her. Later, at Vamp Villa, he writes in his journal again about Damon’s humanity. He no longer has hope that Damon has any kindness or love inside him. He’s “only a monster who must be stopped.” Meanwhile, Damon sneaks into Gilbert Gables so he can creepily watch Elena sleep. The look on his face says he’s not just an uncaring, unfeeling demon.
Keep in mind: Vampires have the ability to heal quickly.
Vampires can get into other people’s heads and dreams (I call it vampception).
Vervain prevents compulsion.
Etc.: Look, I don’t want to come across like I’m encouraging Damon to kill people, but I can’t help feeling grateful that he got rid of Mr. Tanner and we never have to deal with him again.
The football stuff is dumb, but fortunately, we never have to deal with that again, either.
Speaking of dumb: my obsession with the fact that this show can’t get Virginia license plates to look right. The font doesn’t look like that! Do better research! We Virginia natives are judging you!