A man hiking in the woods in Mystic Falls stops when he hears someone behind him. It’s Harper, the vampire who escaped the tomb thanks to Damon’s blood bag. He’s confused to find himself in 2010. He apologizes before killing the hiker and stealing his clothes. More confusion comes from the hiker’s cell phone, which Harper has obviously never seen before, having been stuck in a tomb for 145 years.
At Gilbert Gables, Elena tries to call Bonnie to see how she’s doing after Sheila’s death. Bonnie’s spending time away with family, i.e., not in this episode. Elena tells Jenna that Sheila’s funeral brought back a lot of feelings about her parents’ deaths. This segues into Elena asking if Jenna’s found out anything about Elena’s adoption. Jenna thinks she’s found Elena’s birth mother’s name: Isobel Peterson.
With the suspicion that Isobel was her real first name but Peterson was a fake last name, Jenna used that product-placed search engine no one actually uses to find a woman named Trudie Peterson, who lives in nearby Grove Hill. A picture from Trudie’s yearbook shows that she was friends with Isobel. Elena’s pleased to see that her possible birth mother was a cheerleader, just like Elena used to be. Jenna has found Trudie’s address, but she claims she couldn’t find anything else about Isobel. After debating whether to say anything, Jenna reveals that Alaric’s wife was also named Isobel and also grew up near Mystic Falls. Unfortunately, she’s dead.
Elena shares all this with Stefan, wondering if it’s all some weird coincidence. She’s not sure she wants to get in touch with Trudie and find out more. She might just confirm the disappointing news that her birth mother is dead. Stefan asks if Jenna told her anything else about Isobel. Elena only knows that she was killed and the case wasn’t solved. Instead of spilling that Damon killed Isobel, Stefan agrees/feeds Elena’s denial that there’s no way her Isobel and Alaric’s Isobel could be the same person.
Stefan decides he should head home and check on Damon, who’s handling the revelation that Katherine wasn’t in the tomb in a very unhealthy way. He has some college students over for a sexy dance party/feeding frenzy. Damon assures his brother he’s fine: He accomplished his 145-year goal of getting into the tomb, even if the results weren’t satisfying. With no master plan to occupy Damon’s time, he can do whatever he wants now. That’s exactly what Stefan’s afraid of. Damon promises that he hasn’t killed anyone recently, and he’ll return his new friends to their dorm unharmed.
He guesses that Stefan has something else he wants to talk about. Stefan brings up Isobel and asks if Damon remembers anything about her. Damon’s killed enough people not to remember anything specific about any of them. Plus, he doesn’t care.
Matt and Caroline are watching TV at his house, though Caroline thinks they should be taking advantage of the fact that Matt lives alone. They start making out, then start getting naked, but before everything can come off, Matt’s mother Kelly shows up.
Downtown, Jenna and Alaric hang up a banner for a bachelor auction fundraiser, which he doesn’t want to participate in. These two must have gone out a few more times, because they’re now comfortable kissing in public. But Jenna makes things much less romantic by telling Alaric that his late wife might have been Elena’s birth mother. Alaric’s pretty sure Isobel never had a baby, but when Jenna shows him a picture of Isobel and Trudie, he confirms that the Isobels are the same woman. He’s shaken by the realization that his wife never told him she had a child.
Elena has decided to go meet Trudie after all. She almost changes her mind after knocking on Trudie’s door, but it’s already opening. When Elena asks if Isobel placed a baby for adoption, Trudie immediately realizes that’s who Elena is. She offers Elena some tea and indicates that she should come inside, but she pointedly doesn’t give a verbal invitation. Since Elena’s not a vampire, she’s able to come in anyway. She explains that she made up her mind to come after she had a memory of Miranda that got her thinking about her birth mother.
Trudie hasn’t seen Isobel since she left to give birth to Elena. They fell out of touch a long time ago, so Trudie doesn’t know about her life after that. She also claims not to know who Elena’s birth father is. She knows Isobel went to college in North Carolina, possibly at Duke (which is where she and Alaric met). As Trudie goes the kitchen to get some tea, she texts someone, “She’s here.”
At Donovan Domicile, everyone’s clothes are back on and Caroline has fled. Kelly doesn’t approve of Caroline as an appropriate girlfriend for Matt, though it sounds like it’s because she doesn’t like Liz. Matt asks if she’s heard from Vicki. Kelly isn’t worried, since Vicki always ends up back at home when she needs something. Matt thinks that’s what’s going on with his mother right now. Kelly doesn’t think she needs a reason to come back.
Alaric meets up with Stefan downtown so they can get on the same page about Isobel. Stefan confirms that Elena knows about the Salvatores being vampires, and knows that Alaric knows about them. The only thing she doesn’t know is that Damon killed Isobel. Alaric pushes Stefan to ask Damon about Isobel again. Stefan says he’s not stable, and Alaric needs to ease off right now. He also needs to leave Elena out of the mess. Alaric just wants to know what happened, and he thinks Stefan wants to know, too. Stefan asks for a picture of Isobel that he can show Damon.
After handing one over, Alaric has a flashback: He’s in bed, waiting for Isobel to join him, but she’s working on something at the computer. She tells him she found out a bunch of stuff about Mystic Falls and the mysterious deaths there that keep being blamed on animals. She’s sure vampires are really to blame. Alaric is amused by her belief in the supernatural but doesn’t believe himself. She’s the Mulder to his Scully. Isobel vows to prove that there really is something supernatural going on in Mystic Falls. She reminds Alaric that Mulder was right in the end.
Trudie shows Elena some pictures of Isobel, then encourages her to try the tea. Elena asks about the herbs in it, then guesses that it contains vervain. Trudie plays innocent, though it’s obvious that she knows something about vampires. She tells Elena it’s time to go and rushes her out the door. As Elena goes to her car, she spots a man standing in the road nearby, just staring at her. She drives off as fast as she can.
Alaric is drowning his sorrows at the Mystic Grill when the last person he wants to see right now (AKA Damon) joins him. They size each other up, but Alaric leaves before they can discuss anything meaningful. Liz takes his place and starts to ask Damon for a favor. He asks if she’s ever been in love and then had her heart broken. Liz reminds him that she used to be married. She tells Damon about the bachelor auction and asks him to participate. He’s been a town hero, and he’s single and hot, and she’s desperate for more bachelors. Damon agrees, asking for his own favor in the form of information on Alaric.
The guy from the road goes to Trudie’s and thanks her for the text about Elena. She promises she didn’t tell Elena anything, like she’d promised, but Elena already knew something. The man says that doesn’t matter – “she won’t get any closer to the truth.” Trudie thinks she’s fulfilled whatever her duty was, but the man isn’t done with her. Also, he’s not a vampire, so the fact that Trudie hasn’t invited him in doesn’t keep him out. Trudie’s upset, since she did her part, but the man says now he has to do his. She tries to escape by running upstairs, but he pulls her down and she falls, knocking herself unconscious (or, more likely, dying).
Harper makes his way downtown, where he’s overwhelmed by all the modern sights and people. A woman on a bench gives him a nod, like she knows who he is. Meanwhile, Elena goes to Vamp Villa looking for Stefan and instead finds SHIRTLESS DAMON IN ALL HIS GLORY. ELENA, WHY ARE YOU NOT MESMERIZED? He’s feeling generous after agreeing to Liz’s favor and offers to do something for Elena, too. She tells him she’s just there to meet Stefan so they can go to the auction together.
Damon’s still drunk, so he asks Elena to help him button his shirt. ELENA, YOU ARE IN CLOSE PROXIMITY TO DAMON’S BARE CHEST. PLEASE TAKE ALL APPROPRIATE PRECAUTIONS. She tells him she found out who her birth mother is, but Damon doesn’t care. She gave Elena up, which means she sucks. Elena’s hurt, but fortunately, the brother who will be happy for her has arrived. She tells Stefan that she hopes this heartbreak will turn out to be a good thing for Damon: It’ll remind him that he actually has a heart.
Elena tells Stefan she went to see Trudie, and that she knows about vampires. Stefan shows her the picture Alaric gave him and tells her that Alaric learned everything he knows about vampires from Isobel. He also believes she was killed by one. Stefan wants Elena to hold off on asking Alaric for any more info until Stefan can talk to him again.
The bachelor auction is being held at the Grill and hosted by Carol. Alaric’s trying to pull himself together for it. Jenna hopes he and Elena can get together and talk about Isobel sometime. Alaric isn’t sure that’s a good idea.
Stefan sent Elena on to the Grill without him, so back at Vamp Villa, Damon asks where “our girlfriend” went. Stefan shows him Isobel’s picture and asks again if Damon remembers her. Damon asks who wants to know, other than Stefan. He says he doesn’t know her.
At the Grill, Caroline jokes to Elena that Matt is cougar bait because all the women eagerly awaiting the auction keep hitting on him. Kelly comes by and gushes over Elena, who was dating Matt the last time Kelly was in town. She even calls Caroline her son’s rebound girlfriend. Caroline tries to keep a smile on her face, but Matt’s annoyed, and it looks like Elena feels bad for Caroline. She spots Alaric across the room, but he walks away so he doesn’t have to engage with her.
Damon flirts with Carol, joking that she should rig the auction so they end up together. Uh, she’s married, my man. Keep it in your pants (and keep your fangs in your mouth). He goes to chat with Liz, who tells him Alaric has a clean record with just a few speeding tickets. His wife disappeared a few years ago in North Carolina. That jogs Damon’s memory, and another look at a picture of Isobel seems to help Damon put things together.
The auction gets going, and let’s just say Alaric and Damon appear to be the best options. That’s even without Alaric being able to string together a full sentence. Stefan arrives as Carol introduces Damon and asks if he has any hobbies. Damon says he likes to travel. He was in North Carolina a couple of years ago, near Duke’s campus. He’s pretty sure Alaric went to school there. He’s definitely sure that Isobel did. Damon had a drink with her once – she was delicious.
Alaric isn’t too happy with Damon, but Elena’s especially hurt by the casual way he just euphemistically announced that he killed her birth mother. She rushes out, and when Stefan follows, he confirms everyone’s suspicion that Damon killed Isobel. Elena beats herself up for feeling sorry for Damon. She’s upset that Stefan didn’t just confront him with what he suspected. Why is he protecting Damon? Stefan admits that he’s also hoping Damon will change. Elena spots the man from Trudie’s house down the block and tells Stefan she recognizes him.
Back inside, Kelly wins a date with one of the uninteresting bachelors. Caroline congratulates her, but Kelly accuses her of being fake. She won’t fall for the act like Matt has. Elena comes back in and immediately tells Damon off. She reveals that Isobel was her birth mother. Damon genuinely feels bad for the way he acted earlier, but it’s pretty clear that Elena isn’t going to accept an apology any time soon, if Damon were to even consider apologizing.
Stefan and Elena are ready to leave, but the guy from Trudie’s house is waiting for them back outside. He tells Elena to stop looking for Isobel. She doesn’t want to talk to or get to know Elena. Elena realizes that that means Isobel is alive. Stefan notes that the man is under compulsion. Elena promises that she’ll stop looking into Isobel, and the man declares that his mission is done. Then he lets himself get hit by a truck. Stefan rushes Elena off, I guess so they don’t have to answer any questions, and Elena pockets the man’s phone.
Jenna has outbid the other auction attendees and won Alaric. Great, she just spent money to go on a date with her own boyfriend. Good for you, Jenna! I’m sure your grad-school, raising-two-teenagers lifestyle allows for these kinds of expenses! Carol gets Damon, who’s disappeared. Alaric tells Jenna he’ll call her later, then has another flashback as he leaves. He and Isobel fight about her obsession with vampires and how it’s upended their lives. He wants them to be normal, but she wants something more.
Matt gets Kelly (who’s drunk) home, as he’s most likely done dozens of times for Vicki. He asks why she’s really home. She admits that her boyfriend left her; she screwed up her relationship like she always does. Matt is all she has left. She begs him not to leave her, too.
Alaric goes to Vamp Villa with a stake, ready to finally make Damon pay for killing Isobel. He has to know he’s outmatched, but he doesn’t care. Damon admits to snacking on Isobel, but he didn’t kill her – he turned her. She wanted to become a vampire, and he liked her, so he slept with her, then did as she wanted. Damon taunts that Isobel must not have been happy with her life and husband.
Alaric rushes Damon, but there’s basically no contest here: Alaric is human and Damon is a 145-year-old vampire. Damon gets the stake from Alaric and puts it through his chest. He comments that they could have been friends, since they both had their hearts broken. Oh, well. Damon pours himself a drink and settles in to watch Alaric bleed to death.
Stefan comes home to find Alaric’s body in the living room. Damon says he acted in self-defense. It’s not his fault that Alaric couldn’t handle the truth that Isobel didn’t want him anymore. Stefan sarcastically asks if Damon is handling the whole Katherine situation well. Damon wonders if Isobel had an ulterior motive in coming to him. She’s related to Elena, who appears to be related to Katherine, so Isobel might also be related to Katherine. Maybe Katherine sent her. Stefan tells him to stop looking for his long-lost love.
Damon leaves, knowing Stefan will get rid of Alaric’s body for him. But suddenly that’s not a problem anymore – Alaric isn’t dead. At first, Stefan thinks Damon turned him, or Alaric has vampire blood in his system. Alaric figures out the truth.
Flashback: Isobel gives Alaric the ring he always wears (and claims is a family heirloom). She won’t tell him where she got it, but she promises that it will protect him from all sorts of monsters. It’s her way of showing her love. She apologizes for being so obsessed with her work and neglecting their marriage. In the present, Alaric tells Stefan that the ring brought him back to life, as impossible as it sounds.
At home, Elena looks at a picture of herself with Miranda and Grayson, then looks through the phone she picked up. She calls one of the numbers on the list of recent calls. “Was there a problem?” Isobel asks on the other end. “Did you find her?” When Elena says her name, Isobel hangs up.
Harper goes to a house where the woman from downtown announces his arrival to Anna and Pearl. They ask the house’s owner, Ms. Gibbons, to let him in. They’ve clearly been expecting him.
Keep in mind: Alaric’s ring (which Isobel gave him) keeps him from dying.
Etc.: Matt cooking for Kelly reminds me of him making dinner for Vicki when she turned up after being missing. It’s a nice little detail that shows that while these two women cause him a lot of stress and worry, he still wants to take care of them.
That said, Kelly serves no purpose on this show other than to flesh out Matt’s character. Feel free to skip her scenes.
We later find out that Miranda, Liz, Kelly, and Abby (Bonnie’s mother) were all friends in high school. It seems really weird that all four of them had kids the same age, and all those kids also wound up friends. Wouldn’t at least one of them have decided to move away after graduation? It also seems strange that Kelly would be in that social group. She’s so different from the other three.
Assuming Damon’s telling the truth about sleeping with Isobel, knowledge of what happens later in the series makes that really gross, when you think about it. So…let’s not think about it!