Isobel is in Mystic Falls and wants to catch up with Alaric, whom she hasn’t seen in a couple of years. He asks where she’s been, but she says nothing she tells him will comfort or satisfy him. She wanted him to believe she was dead, mourn her, and move on. Alaric doesn’t think she should be surprised that he tried to find her. Isobel says she wasn’t lost.
She knows Alaric knows Elena, so she gives him a message to deliver and tells him to arrange for them to meet. Ric refuses, so when he told Damon he was done with Isobel, he meant it. He goes out to his car, but Isobel follows him. She grabs him by the throat and vamps out, telling him to arrange for her to meet Elena or she’ll start killing people in Mystic Falls, starting with Alaric’s students.
Elena’s at home, checking in on Stefan via Damon on the phone. She can’t go over since Caroline has roped her into working on the Miss Mystic Falls float for the Founder’s Day parade. Damon tells her that Stefan is back to his boring self. He asks if John mentioned anything to her about the trip Damon and Alaric took to Grove Hill. Elena doesn’t really want to talk to her uncle, but Damon would like her to find out what he’s up to. After they hang up, Damon gives Stefan the phone, which is really Stefan’s, and tells him Elena called.
Everyone at school is in parade mode, making floats for various clubs and departments. Alaric has a group, including Tyler and Matt, working on one for the Battle of Willow Creek. Alaric pulls Stefan and Elena aside for a conversation as Caroline and Bonnie come up with ideas for the Miss Mystic Falls float. Caroline wants to shoot for “southern classic elegance,” which Bonnie knows means Gone With the Wind. Caroline asks why Bonnie and Elena are on the outs. Bonnie say it’s nothing. Caroline’s frustrated that all her friends are fighting, since Matt and Tyler are also at odds.
Damon meets Alaric, Stefan, and Elena to hear Alaric’s news about Isobel. Meanwhile, John goes to see Isobel at the foreclosed house she’s squatting in. She apparently travels with her own personal entertainment, a jazz singer and a cowboy who will either do things Isobel wants together or with her. I don’t know, it’s weird. John reminds her that they’re people, not playthings. She tells him that if he wants to work with her, he has to stop criticizing her. John reminds her that they’re only partners because they have a mutual goal. He’ll never accept her “lifestyle.”
Isobel guesses that John still hasn’t gotten his hands on the Gilbert device, despite blackmailing Damon and killing Pearl. His plan clearly isn’t working. John complains that Isobel has come into town and is obviously going to cause trouble, which will just make things harder for him. She slaps him and tells him she’s taking over the strategizing part of their partnership. Then what is John actually contributing here?
Damon asks Alaric if Isobel knows anything about all the stuff they’re dealing with. Alaric didn’t have time to ask, and he was too overwhelmed by seeing his dead/undead wife again to even think about that stuff. Stefan tells Damon that Isobel wants to meet Elena. Damon pulls a Stefan, reminding Elena that she has a choice and doesn’t have to see her birth mother. But Elena kind of does, if she wants to keep Isobel from going on a murder spree. Elena announces that she wants to meet Isobel – she’ll regret it if she doesn’t.
Later, Elena waits for Isobel at the Grill, with Stefan lurking nearby so he can listen in from a distance. Isobel arrives and immediately comments that Elena looks just like Katherine. She met Katherine after she turned; Katherine sought her out. Isobel thinks she would be “fascinated” by Elena. Well, that’s one word for it. Katherine also helped Isobel get a daylight necklace.
Elena asks who her biological father is. Isobel says that’s not important: “He was a teenage waste of space.” Elena then asks why she compelled the guy who told her to stop looking for Isobel to kill himself. Isobel hoped the drama of the moment would have scared Elena off. Elena’s unhappy that Isobel doesn’t care about human life. Isobel says that’s just part of being what she is. Elena disagrees, since she knows other vampires who aren’t that heartless. Isobel knows she’s talking about Stefan, and she knows Stefan is nearby. She wonders why Elena chose him over Damon. “Or do you enjoy them both, like Katherine did?” she asks.
Damon and Alaric wait in the town square for the meeting to be over, since Isobel ordered them not to go inside. Damon argues that he wouldn’t kill her in front of witnesses. Alaric tells him he can’t kill Isobel at all, even after everything she did to him. She’s still his wife. Well, she WAS his wife. The woman she used to be isn’t there anymore. Damon tells him she probably gave up her humanity.
Alaric doesn’t get that – Stefan’s a good guy, and Damon, though a jerk, still has something human-like inside. Why is Isobel different? Damon tells him that vampires can turn off their humanity. Stefan likes keeping his on so he can feel stuff (like “every episode of How I Met Your Mother“), but vampires’ instincts tell them not to feel. Isobel chose the “easier” path so she doesn’t feel shame or guilt. Damon claims his humanity is off, but I’m skeptical.
Back inside the Grill, Isobel tells Elena she wanted to meet because she’s curious about her daughter. Also, she wants what John wants: the Gilbert device. Elena asks how she knows John. Isobel says she spent a lot of time in Mystic Falls when she was younger. John had a crush on her for years. He’s the one who told her about vampires. Isobel had a lot of reasons for wanting to become one herself, and she’s sure Elena has thought about all those reasons herself. For starters, Elena will age and Stefan won’t, so their relationship won’t last.
Elena says she doesn’t have the device, then starts to leave. Isobel forces her to stay, ordering her to tell Stefan to keep his distance. She repeats that she wants the device, and she knows Damon has it. Elena’s job is to get it from him. Elena says he won’t give it to her, so Isobel says whatever happens next is on Elena. As Isobel leaves, Bonnie arrives and sees that Elena’s upset. But Stefan’s approaching, and Bonnie still can’t bring herself to be around him, so she walks away.
Jeremy leaves Anna a message, since she hasn’t been returning his calls. John comments that they’re getting more serious. Jeremy thinks John’s too curious about his relationship with Anna, but John says he just wants to connect with someone in the house. After Jenna leaves, annoyed to have to share the same space as John, John asks Jeremy how well he knows Anna. He can talk to John about anything he wants, and John will help in any way he can. Jeremy says he’s good.
Damon has tracked down Isobel’s temporary lair and is playing strip poker with her jazz singer when Isobel gets home. Shirtless Damon alert! (Music: “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” Cage the Elephant) He knows Isobel’s trick for squatting in the most expensive foreclosed home available because he taught it to her. Damon doesn’t have the device with him, so Isobel isn’t interested in flirting. He asks how she knows John. She says they went out a few times as teenagers.
Damon then asks why Isobel wants the Gilbert device. She doesn’t – she’s just doing what Katherine told her to do. She wants John to have the device, and Damon knows that they have to do what Katherine wants or face the consequences. He asks why Isobel is doing Katherine’s dirty work. Isobel tells him not to kill the messenger. They both know that when Katherine gives an order, you follow it. Damon claims he can control Katherine.
They get super-close to each other and start making out, but it’s a ruse for Damon to be able to get Isobel on the floor with his hand on her neck. He tells her she doesn’t get to come into his town and threaten people he cares about. Obviously, he means Elena. If Isobel doesn’t leave Elena alone, Damon will kill her. He has no problem with killing the messenger “because it sends a message.” If Katherine wants something from Damon, she can come get it herself.
Bonnie goes to Gilbert Gables, feeling bad about how she walked away from Elena when she was upset. She wants them to work things out. Elena confides that she met her birth mother and is struggling with the whole situation. She starts crying and Bonnie hugs her.
In other instances of olive branches being extended, Tyler wants to make up with Matt. Matt doesn’t want to talk about how his best friend made out with his mom. That’s fair. They’re at the school, where floats are being constructed, and Elena and Bonnie are inside, looking at Emily’s grimoire. Bonnie’s found a page about the vampire compass. Apparently Johnathan wasn’t as good as inventor as he thought. Emily secretly spelled his doodads so they would work. In addition to the compass and daylight rings, she spelled the Gilbert device. Bonnie explains that Emily was loyal to Katherine, but she also didn’t want innocent people to get killed. Bonnie isn’t sure why Isobel wants the Gilbert device, since the grimoire says it’s a weapon against vampires.
Elena goes outside to look for Stefan, but instead she runs into Jeremy. He wants to talk about how Anna’s avoiding him. He admits that he and Anna are more than friends. He thinks Elena knows something and is lying just like she always does. He announces that he knows what Anna is, and he knows that Elena knows. Shaken at the revelation that Jeremy knows about vampires after she worked so hard to keep him safe, Elena says she doesn’t know where Anna is, but Jeremy doesn’t seem to believe her.
As he leaves, Elena turns around to find Isobel right behind her. She says she’s there to be more involved in her daughter’s life. Elena doesn’t want that, and Isobel says she understands. Elena already has a lot of people she cares about. Isobel knows who all of Elena’s friends are, partly thanks to Caroline, who was apparently eager to talk about Elena to a total stranger.
Isobel zeros in on Matt, then points out her cowboy, who’s hanging out nearby. She makes Elena watch as the cowboy stomps down on the trailer Matt is working on, injuring Matt’s arm. Tyler tries to help lift up the trailer, but it’s Stefan’s vampire strength that gets the job done. Isobel tells Elena that it’s really easy to hurt the people she cares about. Once Elena hands over the Gilbert device, everyone will be safe again. Elena repeats that Damon will never give it to her. Isobel tells her that Damon definitely cares enough about her to do what she wants. And if he doesn’t, Isobel will kill Jeremy, who was recently standing nearby but is now gone.
Tyler offers to take Matt to the hospital, and though Matt doesn’t want to let Tyler do anything for him, Caroline insists. Isobel goes home and tells John that, though she doesn’t have what they want, she has something even better: Jeremy. John objects to her using his nephew as a bargaining chip. Isobel reminds him that she can take off his ring and kill him. John tries to appeal to Isobel’s humanity, because he still doesn’t get that she doesn’t have any left. I mean, she kidnapped a teenager and is threatening his life. Come on, John. Isobel pretends to agree to let Jeremy go, then tells her minions to attack John. She takes off his ring and leaves him with Jeremy.
Elena, Stefan, and Bonnie gather in a classroom to discuss their options. Stefan knows Elena’s right that Damon won’t just hand over the device, especially now that they know it’s harmful to vampires. “What if it’s not?” Elena asks.
They head over to Vamp Villa and present her plan: Bonnie will remove the spell from the device so it can’t hurt any vampires. Damon still refuses, saying he can rescue Jeremy himself. Stefan doubts that, guessing that Isobel will kill Jeremy as soon as Damon shows up. Damon asks if Bonnie is even powerful enough to remove the spell. Bonnie’s been practicing her magic, and she demonstrates her skills by making a copy of Call of the Wild fly off a bookshelf and into Damon’s hand. He’s still not convinced, but Elena says they’re doing this her way and demands the device. Damon doesn’t trust Bonnie (as she fully admits), but he trusts Elena enough to let her see her plan through.
Jeremy asks John what Isobel wants. John explains that they’re trying to get a device that can hurt vampires because the tomb vampires want revenge on the town. Jeremy’s confused about why a vampire would want to kill other vampires. John says Isobel has her own reasons. No one expected vampires to return to Mystic Falls, but now that they have, the humans have to destroy them. Jeremy doesn’t believe that all vampires are evil. John says that Grayson did, and that should mean something to Jeremy. Jeremy’s surprised that his father knew about vampires, too. John replies that Grayson’s the one who taught him all about them.
Back at Vamp Villa, Bonnie does some tinkering with the device. Elena takes it to the town square to trade it for Jeremy, but when she realizes that Isobel didn’t bring him with her, she won’t hand over the device. Isobel has backup in the form of her two minions, but Elena has Damon and Stefan, so I’m going to give the advantage to Elena here. Isobel, already bored, tells Elena to call home – Jeremy’s there, safe and sound. (So is John; no one cares.) Jenna is, as always, clueless about what’s been going on.
Elena thinks that Isobel was just messing with her – she was never going to hurt Jeremy. Isobel says she was actually going to kill him. Elena shouldn’t try to find any redeeming qualities in her. Elena notes that Isobel took a risk with Damon. How did she know he would give Elena the device? “Because he’s in love with you,” Isobel says. Stefan’s face: “Did you guys hear that? Right, nothing. We all heard nothing just now. No one said anything.”
Elena gives Isobel the device and thanks her for “being such a monumental disappointment.” It makes Elena’s memories of Miranda better. “As long as you have a Salvatore on each arm, you’re doomed,” Isobel warns. Katherine was smart enough to get out, but Elena’s no Katherine. Isobel leaves and Stefan hugs Elena, who looks at Damon over his shoulder.
Jeremy tries calling Anna again, but she’s still not answering her phone. Elena wants to talk to him about all the stuff she’s been keeping from him. He tells her that he read her journal and already knows everything. He’s especially unhappy that she let Damon erase his memories of Vicki’s death. Elena says that she couldn’t stand seeing him in so much pain, especially after losing their parents. She just wanted to take it away. Jeremy doesn’t accept her justification.
Isobel finds Alaric at the school and tells him she’s leaving town. He doesn’t get why she would come say goodbye, since she didn’t the last time she left. She asks what he expected to find after he spent all that time looking for her. He hoped to find the woman who gave him his ring. She acts like she doesn’t care, but she cared enough to give him a ring that keeps him from dying. He takes it off and throws it to her, not wanting anything from her. He also gets rid of the vervain he keeps on him and invites Isobel to either kill him or compel him.
Isobel rushes him and tells him she needed this final encounter, though she knows she’ll regret it forever. She compels him to forget the conversation and only remember that she loved him. She has a hard time thinking about the life she gave up with him, but now Alaric is free of her. She says goodbye, then puts his ring back on his finger. When he comes out of the compulsion, she’s gone.
Anna shows up in Jeremy’s room and tells him that Pearl is dead. She feels lost, so she came to him. At Vamp Villa, Damon invites Stefan to address the elephant in the room. Stefan knew that Damon and Elena were friendly and have come to care about each other, but not to the extent Isobel believes. He’s worried that Elena will get hurt. Damon says she’s his friend (possibly his only friend), and he hopes Stefan doesn’t have a problem with that. “History will not be repeating itself where Elena’s concerned,” Stefan says. Damon says again that they’re just friends.
Since Stefan and Elena don’t like to keep secrets from each other, Damon will let him tell her what he’s figured out – and he’s apparently the only one who’s figured it out: Isobel and John dated as teenagers. She got pregnant and went to John’s brother to have the baby. Therefore, John is most likely Elena’s biological father. When Stefan tells Elena, Damon will be there to talk if she wants to turn to a friend.
Isobel calls John to tell him that the device is on the doorstep of Gilbert Gables. He knows what he needs to do next, and he’d better not screw it up. John also gets his ring back, but probably just so Isobel can make sure he’s alive long enough to do her bidding. Katherine wants all the tomb vampires dead, and Isobel wants to add two names to the list of victims: Stefan and Damon. She doesn’t want “this life” for Elena. John says he’d always planned to kill them, so it’s no problem. Isobel confirms Damon’s suspicion that John is Elena’s father, and says that they owe her a safe life without vampires.
At the Grill, Bonnie tells Caroline that she did something bad and then lied about it. She pretended to do something that she didn’t really do. She couldn’t do what Elena wanted her to, since Sheila wouldn’t have been okay with it. When Elena finds out, she’ll never forgive Bonnie.
Significant item update: John has the Gilbert device.
Etc.: Elena seems naïve for thinking other vampires are eager to be as human as Stefan is, instead of leaning into their dark sides as they take advantage of all the power that comes with being what they are.
“Why didn’t you go for Damon?” implies that Isobel expected Elena to hook up with the same guy she once hooked up with. GROSS. (And yeah, I wasn’t 100 percent sure before but I am now: Isobel and Damon definitely slept together either right before or right after he turned her. DOUBLE GROSS.)
A fun game to play in season 1 is Is Damon’s Humanity On or Off Right Now?
It’s hard to be mad at Bonnie for lying about removing the spell. Why should she be loyal to the Salvatores over Sheila?