Stefan’s back at school after taking a break post-tomb vampires and human blood relapse. He tells Elena the worst part is over, and he wants to get back to his life, especially the parts where he spends time with her. He puts on a good enough show that Elena doesn’t see any reason for concern, but considering his trunk is full of blood bags, he’s definitely not as fine as he’ll say he is 15 times in this episode.
Speaking of blood, Liz tells Damon and John that the blood bank was robbed again. The inventory records were changed, but the manager who supposedly altered them didn’t remember doing it, which means he was compelled. John’s previous warning about thefts at blood banks has put everyone on notice. There will be an increase in security at the hospital, and the guards will be given vervain. John suggests that he and Damon team up to find the thief. Damon acts like this is a great idea and he can’t wait to spend time with John.
Bonnie’s back after being away with family after Sheila’s death. She’s not thrilled to be back in class with Stefan. Also not thrilled: Damon, when Anna shows up at his door. Pearl sent her to apologize for what Frederick and the other vampires did to Stefan. Damon tells her to skip the apology, since he’s not the forgiving type. Also, they should stop robbing blood banks. Anna says the tomb vampires have all left town, except Harper and Pearl, and they haven’t been to a blood bank in weeks.
Elena tries to talk to Bonnie, who’s dealing with both her grief over her grandmother and her discomfort with the fact that their spell didn’t keep the tomb vampires locked up. Caroline gives Bonnie an enthusiastic welcome home, then enlists her to help pick out a dress for the Founder’s Court. Elena and Caroline are both competing in the Miss Mystic Falls pageant. Elena wants to drop out, though, since she only signed up because her mother encouraged her to.
At Vamp Villa, Damon notes that Stefan’s become more lively lately. He guesses it’s because Stefan’s still drinking human blood. Stefan denies that, but Damon knows there’s no other reason he would suddenly go from “the poster child for Prozac” to Mr. Sunshine. Stefan tells him to believe what he wants.
Instead of dropping out, Elena decides to compete in the pageant since her mother was so into Founder’s Day activities. Stefan agrees to be her escort. After hanging up their phone call, Stefan goes to Vamp Villa’s basement, where he has a cooler full of blood bags. Damon catches him and busts him for both lying and stealing.
Stefan doesn’t think it’s a big deal; besides, Damon wanted him to stay off the wagon. Damon chastises him for stealing from the hospital and reminds him that they need to stay under the Founder’s Council’s radar. He asks how Elena feels about this. Stefan says she doesn’t need to know, and he’s the same person, so it doesn’t matter. Damon’s familiar with how Stefan is when he’s struggling with his desire for human blood. He’s a Dr. Jekyll who’s just moments away from snapping and becoming Mr. Hyde. Damon has too much going on to worry about Stefan, too. Stefan says again that he’s fine and tells his brother to back off.
Carol leads interview sessions with the Miss Mystic Falls candidates to determine who’s the most well-rounded and will best represent the town. While Caroline is super-involved and volunteers a ton, Elena acknowledges that she’s taken a backseat for a while, but she knows it’s an honor to participate and she takes it seriously. She wants to honor the legacy her mother left her. There are also other candidates but no one cares about them.
John goes to Vamp Villa to pretend he wants to actually go looking for vampires with Damon. Damon’s like, “Let’s skip the chitchat – tell me about Isobel.” John admits that he and Isobel have a shared interest in tracking down an old invention of Johnathan Gilbert’s that was stolen by a vampire who wound up in the tomb. Since that vampire is now free, John could get access to the invention. If Damon wants John to keep quiet about him being a vampire, he’ll help find the invention. Helpfully, the last person known to have the invention was Pearl. Not helpful: Damon, who refuses to cooperate.
John is surprised that Damon’s calling his bluff. Damon says he only played along before because he thought John and Isobel might be able to point him in Katherine’s direction. Now it’s clear that John doesn’t know where Katherine is. If he did, he could get her help finding the invention, since Katherine and Pearl were best friends. John threatens to tell the Founder’s Council that Damon’s a vampire, so Damon one-ups him by saying he’ll kill all the council members, sever John’s hand, pull off his resurrecting ring, and kill him, too.
Elena and Stefan attend a dance rehearsal for the pageant, since all the participants and their escorts have to do some old-fashioned dance. Elena teases that Stefan was around when dance was invented. Carol chastises them for adding their own dance moves, since they’re touching each other, and this part of the dance is about “the simple intimacy of the near touch.” Elena’s just happy since Stefan’s in a good mood.
On the way to rehearsal, Caroline tells Bonnie that Elena is her biggest competition in the pageant. She thinks Elena will get the sympathy vote for being an orphan. Bonnie admonishes her a little for basically complaining that Elena gets an advantage because her parents are dead. Caroline apologizes for focusing on something that’s pretty petty compared to what Bonnie’s going through. But her grandmother and aunts were all Miss Mystic Falls, so she wants to carry on the tradition. She thinks she deserves it.
They join the others for the dance rehearsal, where Bonnie’s filling in as Caroline’s partner since Matt has to work. Bonnie grows silent when Stefan talks to her. Elena pulls her aside and urges Bonnie to tell her what’s going on. She guesses that Bonnie’s upset with Stefan. Bonnie admits that she feels like Sheila died for nothing, since she was trying to keep the vampires in the tomb, and they’re out. Elena wants to help, but there’s nothing she can do. Stefan eavesdrops as Bonnie blames the Salvatores for her grandmother’s death. She doesn’t want to put Elena in the middle or make her feel like she has to choose sides.
After school, Stefan has to force himself to stay away from a guy who’s bleeding from a basketball injury. Alaric finds him and Stefan almost strangles him. He says he’s just feeling a little sick.
The day of the pageant, Alaric goes to Gilbert Gables to pick up Elena and Jenna. He asks Elena how Stefan’s doing, and she says he’s recovering well. John offers to drive everyone, but Jenna would rather go with Alaric. John doesn’t seem to get that everyone hates him and he needs to stop coming over.
Anna is already at Founders’ Hall for the pageant. She tells Damon that she was supposed to enter it in 1864, but the vampires getting rounded up ruined that. “Nostalgia’s a b&%#$,” Damon taunts. He tells her that John’s looking for a Gilbert invention that Pearl might have, and they need to keep him from getting it. Anna wonders why she should bother doing anything that would make Damon happy. He points out that if John leaves town, Anna and Pearl can stay without worrying about him uncovering their secrets.
Jenna helps Elena get ready as they talk about how much Miranda loved the pageant. Elena thinks she would be having a better time if her mother were there. Caroline overhears and starts feeling bad about the way she’s been seeing Elena as a competitor instead of thinking about how all this is making her feel.
Jeremy’s still annoyed that he’s expected to attend a month’s worth of Founder’s Day events because he’s from a founding family. He asks John about Johnathan, mentioning that he read Johnathan’s journal. John reveals that there are more journals, some of which he’s read. Most of the contents are the “crazy ramblings of a mad man.” Jeremy spots Anna and goes to talk to her.
One of Elena and Caroline’s competitors, Amber, is nervous about the pageant and goes outside to get some air. Elena starts to get ready in the dressing room, but Damon’s waiting there for her with the revelation that Stefan is still drinking human blood. He admits that he would have been happy about that a month ago, but with the Founder’s Council looking for vampires, this is horrible timing.
Elena’s surprised, since Stefan led her to believe that his shakiness and other behaviors were normal. Damon says that “normal” for a vampire is drinking human blood, but for Stefan, it makes him act out of character. He’ll do and say anything to cover it up so he doesn’t have to stop.
Jeremy tries to talk to Anna, who’s still upset that he wanted her to turn him into a vampire so he could be with Vicki. He insists that isn’t true, and besides, Anna became friends with him to give his blood to Pearl, so they’re kind of even. He tells her he knows everything that’s been going on.
Back in the dressing room, Elena blames herself for Stefan’s fall off the wagon, since she fed him her blood. Stefan arrives, and Elena confronts him for lying to her. Damon leaves them alone so Stefan can continue his act. He promises that drinking human blood isn’t changing him. Elena says it is, so Stefan replies that she can’t blame – he’s trying to handle her attitude. Ooh, yeah, good idea, Stefan. It’s never a red flag for a guy to tell a woman that it’s her fault he’s acting the way he is. Elena won’t drop it, and no matter how many times Stefan says he’s fine, she won’t believe him.
Carol comes to get Elena for the start of the pageant. She sends Stefan downstairs, where he has a tantrum in a bathroom, breaking a mirror. Amber finds him there, and Stefan vamps out when he sees her.
The pageant begins with each participant walking down a long staircase to meet her escort at the bottom. Amber’s missing, and Elena’s distracted by her worry over Stefan. She regrets joining the pageant since she’s no longer the sort of person who would participate in this fancy tradition. Caroline won’t let her drop out, reminding her that this was important to Miranda.
Matt couldn’t get out of work, so Caroline has a substitute escort, some Lockwood cousin. Elena’s up last, and Anna doesn’t want Jeremy to miss her entrance, but Jeremy doesn’t care. Elena’s been keeping things from him, and now he’s piecing together secrets to keep from her. He confides to Anna that he’s mad about the cover-up of Vicki’s death and his memory wipe, but part of him is glad. He doesn’t want to remember Vicki as someone who wanted to hurt him. Anna tells him that originally, he was a part of her plan to get Pearl back, but after spending time with Jeremy, she likes him and would never hurt him.
Stefan drags Amber outside to the parking lot, unsure of what he’s going to do with her. He compels her to calm down so she won’t be scared. He’s shaken because Elena knows he’s still off the wagon. Amber says he seems sad, but Stefan says he’s hungry.
Back inside, Damon realizes Stefan’s MIA and Elena’s about to walk down the stairs to no one. He quickly takes his brother’s place and becomes her escort. This means joining her for the dance, which Damon says they need to get through before they can figure out what to do next. (Music: “All I Need,” Within Temptation) They dance. It’s…not unenjoyable, and I don’t mean just for the audience. They are feeling things! Feeling! Things!
In the parking lot, Stefan tries to talk himself out of doing anything he’ll regret: “I don’t hurt people. I don’t do that. I’m the good brother.” But he wants to kill Amber – just rip her skin apart and drink from her carotid. She asks what’s stopping him. He says if he starts, he can’t go back. Amber basically gives him the okay, so he bites her.
Richard thanks all the pageant participants for their work in bettering the community. The winner is Caroline, who’s surprised because she really thought Elena would win. Elena is just as happy as she is. Meanwhile, John and Liz find the mirror Stefan smashed, as well as some of his blood. She tells someone to find Damon.
Back outside, Stefan realizes he won’t be able to stop if he keeps drinking from Amber. He’s confused that she’s not scared, since he didn’t mean to compel her not to be. He tells her to be afraid so she’ll run for her life. Inside, Damon tells Elena about the broken mirror and the blood; that combined with Amber’s disappearance can’t be good. Bonnie watches as they slip out to go find Stefan.
Amber runs through the woods, but Stefan has changed his mind and is easily able to catch up with her. Damon, Elena, and Bonnie all find him and try to talk him down. Instead, Stefan attacks Damon. Bonnie uses Sheila’s magic trick for giving someone a migraine to stop Stefan in his tracks. It seems to knock some sense back into him, and he runs off.
Damon, Elena, and Bonnie concoct a cover story to make Liz think that the girls found Amber bleeding in the woods but don’t know what happened to her. Damon tells her they didn’t get close enough to see that she was bitten. Elena wants to talk to Bonnie about what just happened, but Bonnie isn’t in the mood. Though she still doesn’t want to make Elena choose between her and Stefan, Bonnie’s going to make her own choice: stay away from vampires.
Jenna and John watch Jeremy chat with Anna, and John asks who she is. Jenna tells him her mother’s name is Pearl, and she’s the woman who wants to buy Grayson’s office building. John starts putting things together. Meanwhile, the writers try to justify putting Alaric in this episode by having him notice that Elena’s having a bad night.
Anna and Pearl approach Damon to discuss the invention John’s looking for. It’s the pocket watch/vampire compass, which Pearl last saw in Johnathan’s hands, but she took something else from him, and she wants Damon to have it. (It looks like another pocket watch; we call this one the Gilbert device.) It’s an apology/peace offering to try to convince him that she and Anna want peace.
Elena finds Stefan at Vamp Villa, but he doesn’t want to see her now that she knows what kind of predator and monster he really is. She says that human blood makes him that way, but he says it just brings out that part of him. Elena refuses to believe that Stefan is anything other than the person she’s come to know. She won’t let him scare her off. Stefan asks why she would risk her life to come see him. Elena says it’s her fault he’s acting like this, but Stefan says she just brought out who he really is.
She keeps approaching him, even as he yells at her to stay away. He grows more aggressive, then gets emotional, saying he doesn’t know what’s happening to him. She holds him and assures him that everything will be okay…then injects him with vervain. Damon comes in and takes him to the basement, locking him up until he’s back to himself. Elena decides to stay with him, so Damon sits with her to wait.
Significant item update: Damon has the Gilbert device.
Etc.: Wait, there’s a Whitmore at the pageant? Interesting…
Watch the dance scene and decide for yourself the feelings involved here.
Nothing against Caroline but Elena should have won. Yeah, Caroline wanted it more, and it’s a nice boost to her self-esteem, but Elena was the better entrant.
Lexi was Stefan’s sober coach, so none of this would be happening if Damon hadn’t killed her. THANKS A LOT, DAMON.