Stefan is still in the basement of Vamp Villa, and he’s not having a good time. He has a flashback to the vampire roundup in 1864. He sends the townspeople after a nonexistent vampire, and he and Damon get Katherine out of the carriage she was put in, but someone catches them and shoots Damon, killing him. Moments later, as a group of townspeople approaches, the shooter takes down Stefan as well. Katherine watches as he dies.
Stefan’s memories meld with the present and he combines Damon and Elena’s presence in the basement with his memory of Katherine being put back in the carriage and driven away. She clutches at the bars in the back of the carriage as Elena looks at Stefan through the bars in his cell door.
Elena’s having a hard time seeing Stefan locked up, but Damon points out that they didn’t have a choice. She thinks he’s trying so hard to protect his brother because he actually cares about Stefan.
1864: Stefan wakes up by a quarry, confused because the last thing he remembers is dying. He’s wearing his daylight ring. Emily explains that Katherine had her make it weeks ago. She and her brother found him dead in the woods the night before. They also found Damon, who’s already awake and brooding by the water. Emily tells Stefan that both of them are in transition because they had Katherine’s blood in their system when they died. She’d been compelling Stefan to drink her blood for a while. Damon, on the other hand, was a willing participant. He tells Stefan he woke up last night and went to the church. He watched the townspeople set it on fire to kill all the vampires inside.
Present: Damon studies the Gilbert device, still unsure what it is or what it does. He asks Elena if she’s talked to John recently. She hasn’t, since she’s been avoiding him. She’s also been spending the night at Vamp Villa to be near Stefan. Damon asks if she’s staying that night, too. She says yes, and he teases that it’s difficult to have her around.
Anna surprises Jeremy at school, where she’s enrolling. She’s willing to put up with all that comes with school just so she can spend time with Jeremy. They kiss, so that relationship has progressed. Also, now that Pearl knows about Anna’s interest in Jeremy, it looks like Anna doesn’t see the point in hiding their friendship anymore.
Back at Vamp Villa, Damon brings Stefan some non-human blood so he doesn’t desiccate because he’s too depressed to eat. The human blood left Stefan’s system a while ago, so Damon wants to know why he’s still in the cell, feeling sorry for himself. It’s called guilt, Damon. Look it up. He tosses Stefan a plastic bottle of blood, but Stefan ignores it.
Alaric calls Damon to report that he has information on John. He was getting phone calls from the same number Elena dialed to reach Isobel. The number has been disconnected, but now John’s getting calls from a new number. It’s safe to assume the caller is Isobel, and the calls are coming from Grove Hill. Damon asks for the address, but Alaric wants to tag along. They bicker about who’s tried to kill whom and whether they should trust each other.
Damon puts Alaric on hold to take a call from Elena, who’s coming back over after she gets some of her things from home. Damon goes back to his call with Alaric, agreeing to go to Grove Hill with him. Then he goes back to Elena, telling her that Stefan won’t eat. Elena offers to get whatever kind of animal blood is Stefan’s favorite. Damon tells her to get a move on so he can go on his road trip with Alaric. Elena debates telling him to drop dead, but that won’t mean anything. He messes with her by telling her that Stefan likes puppy blood.
John ambushes Elena like a vampire sneaking up on someone. He tells her he knows she knows about vampires, and that Stefan is one. What would her mother say if she knew she was dating a vampire? “Which mother?” Elena shoots back. Ooh, point to Elena!
1864: Stefan and Damon wash up and talk about how Giuseppe probably knows they’re vampires by now. Their bodies hurt because they’re being pushed to feed. Damon has decided not to complete the transition, and he’s surprised Stefan doesn’t want to do the same. Damon only wanted to become a vampire so he could be with Katherine. With her gone, there’s no point anymore. He just wants it to end.
Present: Elena checks on Stefan, trying to convince him to drink some blood. He tells her he’s not going to – after what he’s done, he shouldn’t let himself live. He just wants it to end.
Elena shares this with Damon, who says Stefan’s being dramatic. He won’t actually starve himself. He’s just being a martyr because he hurt Amber. Once he eats, this will pass. Damon tells Elena that he’s going somewhere with Alaric, and no, they’re not friends, because Damon doesn’t have friends. He cautions her not to go back to the basement by herself, but Elena doesn’t see any reason to worry. Damon tells her she’s too trusting. Elena says he is, too, or he wouldn’t leave her alone with Stefan.
John meets up with Pearl at the Mystic Grill so they can supposedly talk about her desire to buy Grayson’s office building. They both know exactly who the other is. Pearl won’t hand over the Gilbert device, but John thinks he can charm her into changing her mind. After all, she has a weakness for the charm of Gilbert men. Uh, probably not anymore, since the last one she trusted got her thrown in a tomb for a century and a half.
In Jeremy’s bedroom, he and Anna recap what John and Pearl are up to. Jeremy thinks there’s more information on the Gilbert device in one of Johnathan’s journals. Anna warns that John is anti-vampire and wants her and Pearl dead. Jeremy promises he’s not like his uncle, which Anna knows. She says he’s her weakness. They start getting naked, but he pauses before they go too far, worried that Jenna will catch them. Anna’s vamp hearing tells her that Jenna’s in the kitchen. Jeremy thinks that’s cool. Okay, stop thinking about your aunt.
Damon and Alaric go to the house where John’s calls have been coming from, unsure whether Damon will be able to enter. He has to be invited into a home by either the owner or the “person of entitlement.” When dealing with a short-term rental or hotel, the rules aren’t completely clear (in other words, the writers haven’t nailed it all down and want to leave themselves open for inconsistencies). Anyway, Damon’s able to enter the house, which means there’s no living permanent resident. There are blood bags in the fridge, so it’s a safe bet that a vampire lives there. A guy flies out of the shadows and attacks Alaric, who uses some kind of brass knuckle-type thing on him. Damon recognizes the attacker as Henry, one of the tomb vampires.
1864: Stefan goes to the Salvatores’ house, where Giuseppe and Johnathan are putting together records to hide the truth about the vampire roundup. Giuseppe wants some secrets to stay between the two of them – for instance, he wants Stefan and Damon remembered as innocent victims in the Battle of Willow Creek. Stefan eavesdrops on the whole conversation, then leaves.
Present: Stefan warns Elena that since Damon hasn’t given him vervain recently, he could hurt her through the bars on the door. Elena knows this, but she also knows he won’t. He asks her to go away. Instead, she opens the door and goes in. She orders him to drink the blood Damon left him. Stefan vamps out and growls at her to leave, but she refuses, barely flinching.
Damon makes nice with Henry, pretending he and John have been friends for years. Henry met John after he got out of the tomb; John’s been helping him adapt to the modern world. Alaric’s too impatient for their small talk, so he asks if Henry lives there with anyone else. Long story short, Henry doesn’t know Isobel, but he feeds John information about the other tomb vampires. For example, they’re still mad at the founding families for putting them in the tomb, and they want revenge. John is supposedly just keeping an eye on them.
John calls just then, so Damon takes Henry’s phone as if he’s going to answer it and talk to his good buddy. Instead, he and Alaric kill Henry (even though Alaric had hoped to avoid violence during this trip).
At the Grill, John tells Pearl that he can help her stay in Mystic Falls, thanks to his connections with the Founder’s Council. She tells him the Gilbert device doesn’t work, so she doesn’t get why he wants it. He says it’s a family heirloom, that’s all. He read about Pearl in Johnathan’s journals and says Johnathan regretted betraying her back in 1864. Pearl accuses him of lying, but she’s not completely sure he is until John laughs at her. He tells her Johnathan hated her and wished he’d killed her himself. Pearl angrily tells him that she gave the device to Damon. He should go ask Damon for it, then rot in Hell.
Elena asks Stefan why he’s decided to let himself die. He tells her he should have done it years ago. He shouldn’t have chosen to feed and complete his transition.
1864: Stefan surprises Giuseppe in his study, wanting to say goodbye. Giuseppe’s confused, since he watched Stefan die. In fact, he’s the one who killed Stefan and Damon. They were already dead to him anyway, since they sided with the vampires. Stefan says he’s not going to turn and will instead let himself die. Giuseppe would prefer to take care of that for him. He attacks Stefan with a stake, but Stefan fights back, and somehow the stake ends up impaling Giuseppe. Stefan pulls it out, then gets tempted by the blood now on his hands. He tastes it, completing his transition.
Present: Elena wants Stefan to keep telling her about his past. She wants to take him upstairs so he can keep talking until he feels better. She puts his daylight ring down next to him and tells him to join her when he’s ready.
Damon and Alaric don’t find anything helpful in Henry’s house, and Alaric decides he has to stop searching for Isobel. They joke about how he’s giving up after just two years, while Damon might keep looking for Katherine until he makes it to an even 200 years. Alaric keeps wanting answers to his questions, though he doesn’t think any amount of answers will be enough. Damon tells him that Isobel charmed him. He should have figured out that she had ties to Katherine. “There had to be some reason I didn’t kill her,” he says. Alaric says he doesn’t want answers anymore – he’s done with Isobel.
Anna goes home to find Pearl packing up so they can leave town. Too many people in Mystic Falls know who they are for them to be safe. Anna begs to stay, and Pearl guesses it’s because of Jeremy. She says Anna gave her back her life, so now Pearl is doing the same for her daughter. She won’t force Anna to go with her, though.
Elena’s still waiting for Stefan to come upstairs when Damon gets home. She tells him she thinks Stefan is getting close to wanting to live. It’s not helping his guilt that Damon’s spent 145 years blaming him for what happened to Katherine. She doesn’t think Damon is innocent here – he’s been punishing Stefan all this time. Damon asks if Elena has heard the rest of the story.
1864: Stefan brings a woman to the quarry and tells Damon that he drank Giuseppe’s blood. He loves the changes that have come with his transition, including power. He’s not feeling any guilt for killing their father since he’s able to turn off his guilt like he’s flipping a switch. He wants Damon to transition, too, and put aside his pain over losing Katherine.
Damon refuses, even though Stefan reminds him that he’ll die without drinking human blood. He bites the woman’s neck, then tells Damon that they can do this together. He pushes Damon toward the woman until Damon drinks from her neck and completes his transition.
Present: Damon tells Elena that Stefan became a different person as soon as he drank human blood. Elena gets now why Stefan has decided to let himself die. Damon acts like he doesn’t care what Stefan does, but Elena knows better. She goes downstairs, but Stefan’s cell is empty. He’s left his daylight ring behind.
Anna sneaks back into Jeremy’s room, prepared to tell him she’s leaving town, but he’s only half awake, so she just says goodbye.
1864: Damon is also happy to be a vampire, and Stefan is pleased to have someone to hang out with for eternity. But Damon doesn’t want the same thing: He’s going to make it “an eternity of misery” for his brother.
Present: Stefan’s at the quarry, growing weaker.
1864: Emily tells Stefan that what he thinks of as a gift now will change. His heart is still pure, which will be a curse.
Present: Elena finds Stefan and tells him she knows the whole story. Stefan wishes he’d let Damon and himself die instead of transitioning. He’s responsible for everyone they’ve hurt and killed. Elena tells him that the night her parents died, they were coming to pick her up from a party she chose to go to instead of spending time with her family. If she hadn’t called them for a ride, they wouldn’t have crashed the car. People’s actions set things in motion, and sometimes those things are horrible, but they have to live with it.
Stefan tells Elena that he made a choice and ended up getting a lot of people hurt. She reminds him that he also made a choice to stop drinking human blood, and reject the person that made him. “You made a choice to be good,” she says. The good Stefan is the one who saved her life. Stefan tells her that the pain he feels over what he’s done is with him all the time. He’s tempted every day to let himself indulge and avoid the pain. He has to fight it every day. He’s terrified that one day he won’t want to fight anymore. “The next time I hurt somebody, it could be you,” he warns.
Elena thinks that Stefan is strong enough to make sure there is no next time. He can throw his daylight ring in the water and wait for the sun to rise and kill him, or he can put it on and keep fighting. She puts the ring in his hand to let him decide between life and death, just like he always lets her make her own choices. Stefan chooses life.
Pearl is still packing up, and she tells Harper he can stay in Mystic Falls if he wants. He credits her with giving him a life, so he wants to go wherever she and Anna are going next. Unfortunately, that will be nowhere, because when Pearl opens the front door, someone kills her.
Elena brings Stefan home to Vamp Villa, where Stefan thanks Damon for helping him. “You brood too much,” Damon snaps. He needs to stop blaming him for the things Damon does. He won’t give Stefan permission to feel Damon’s guilt. If Damon wants to feel it himself, he will.
He tells Stefan that Emily waited until they’d transitioned to tell him that the spell was successful and Katherine was alive. She didn’t want Damon to know about the tomb before he made his decision. Stefan says she didn’t want either of them to turn. He asks Damon why he didn’t reveal that Katherine was alive this whole time. Damon simply says that he didn’t want Stefan to know. He hated Stefan, and supposedly still does, but not because he forced Damon to turn. It’s because Katherine turned Stefan – the plan was for just Damon and Katherine to be together forever.
Anna gets home and finds Pearl and Harper both dead with stakes in their hearts. The culprit? John. He calls Liz and tells her he has an update about the town’s vampires.
Over at the Grill, Alaric is ending the day the way he often does, with a drink. But his day isn’t over, and it’s not a day like all the others, because guess who’s in town? Isobel!
Keep in mind: Vampires can turn off their human emotions at will.
You know that spin-off I wanted about Katherine between 1864 and 2009? I also want one where Pearl lives and we see her take on the 21st century as a woman who can finally have anything she wants.
So many characters on this show have issues with their fathers, but somehow Stefan and Damon’s never get explored fully, even though they have the most reason to hate theirs.
The stuff at the Miss Mystic Falls pageant combined with tending to Stefan definitely changed something in Elena and Damon’s relationship. They’re practically friends now. Even when they’re mean to each other, it’s good-natured.
The scene with Stefan going to the quarry to die is a lot like the ending of the Buffy episode “Amends,” and Emily saying that Stefan’s purity of heart will be his curse is similar to how Angel is cursed with having a soul so he can’t kill people without feeling human emotions. The show’s writers have been open about their love for Buffy, so they must have been thrilled to get Bianca Lawson to play Emily, since she also played Kendra on Buffy.
I’m not a huge Anna fan, but it’s impossible not to feel sorry for her when Pearl dies. She spent 145 years waiting to get her mother back, and they only had a few weeks together. No wonder everyone hates John.