In Mystic Falls in 1912, Sheriff Gerald Forbes is saying good night to Zachariah Salvatore in the town square. Sheriff Forbes is worried because a member of the Founder’s Council has been murdered, but Zachariah isn’t concerned about other members being targets. He should be, because someone stabs him while he’s on his way home.
In the present, the current Sheriff Forbes is also dealing with the murders of council members. Carol is frustrated that she’s been kept out of the loop. Liz just doesn’t want to start throwing out accusations before she has more evidence. But that hasn’t stopped her from locking up her main suspect, Alaric. He’s just now waking up in a jail cell, after having been shot by Meredith.
Alaric insists that he’s innocent as Damon chastises Liz for listening to Meredith’s accusations. Liz clarifies that Alaric isn’t under arrest; he’s in the cell for his own good. She explains that Meredith shot him (and then healed him with vampire blood) because she thought Alaric was going to attack her with the knife he was holding. Alaric notes that the knife was hidden in her belongings.
Damon points out that Alaric was one of the killer’s victims, which should automatically clear him as a suspect. Liz says that Meredith thinks his stab wounds could have been self-inflicted. Liz doesn’t have anything to go on other than weapons that belong to Alaric and an accusation from a respected member of a founding family. Alaric argues that Meredith is framing him. Liz says that’s possible, but she doesn’t have any proof of that. She orders Damon not to get involved, even threatening to lock him up, too.
Elena and Matt are out for a morning run, which he knows is her attempt to take her mind off of her problems. He tells her that Bonnie is at Abby’s house, and Abby is going to complete her transition with Caroline’s help. Elena wants to be helpful, too, but Matt says Bonnie doesn’t want her around right now. He assures her that Bonnie doesn’t blame her for this. Elena does, though, since Damon turned Abby to save Elena.
Liz calls to fill Elena in about Alaric, so Elena goes right to the sheriff’s department. Damon tells her that he’s been told to stay out of the situation, and he’s actually going to listen. Elena pushes him to act, so he taunts that he could kill Meredith. He reminds her that he saved her life last night, and she should be grateful. Elena would appreciate it if he had more compassion for Bonnie. Damon fakes it, proving how weird it would be if he actually did show compassion for someone. Elena complains that he’s mean, and he says that that plus her hatred for him mean the world is the way it should be. Elena warns that if he keeps pushing people away, he’ll wind up alone.
Damon goes home, where Stefan’s writing in his journal and clearly trying to fight his craving for human blood. “Dear diary, a chipmunk asked me my name today. I told him it was Joe. That lie will haunt me forever,” Damon mocks. He wants to team up with Stefan again to solve a mystery. He’s been thinking about Zachariah’s murder, which was one of many around that time. Stefan remembers that that was 1912, so Damon throws him his journal from that year – the year Mystic Falls last dealt with a serial killer.
1912: Stefan is back in his hometown for Zachariah’s funeral. He poses as Zachariah’s nephew while meeting Marianna Lockwood and Samantha Gilbert (Johnathan’s granddaughter). Stefan asks how Zachariah died, and Samantha tells him that Zachariah was murdered, as were other members of founding families. As the women leave, Stefan sees a crow nearby. Damon appears, and the brothers reunite after almost 50 years apart. For Damon, that’s not long enough.
Stefan wonders if Damon killed Zachariah. Damon notes that Stefan is the brother who has historically killed their family members. Stefan says he’s not like that anymore, but Damon doesn’t care. He starts to leave, but Stefan asks him to get a drink and catch up. He’s missed his brother. Damon is less than excited about the thought of hanging out with Stefan, but he agrees.
Present: Current Damon is the one extending an invitation to current Stefan. Stefan thinks he’s bored, since Alaric’s locked up and Damon doesn’t have a life. Damon admits that, but he also wants to figure out who’s been committing the murders in town.
Rebekah meets with Carol at the Grill to ask if she knows anything about Mystic Falls’ trees. She’s looking for records on the white oak. Stefan and Damon arrive, and Damon and Rebekah share a long look. (His says, “Remember when we banged? That was awesome.” Hers says, “Do not acknowledge me in public. …Never mind, you’re cute.”) Carol tells Rebekah that all the logging mills in the 1900s were owned by the Salvatores, so guess who she’ll have to go through to get ledgers?
At the bar, Damon starts trying to put the pieces of the mystery together. He doesn’t think Stefan should have quit human blood cold turkey, since doing so always leads to him killing again. He needs to work on moderation instead. Stefan ignores him and says that the three recent stabbing victims were all on the Founder’s Council. Damon wonders why Brian, Bill, and Alaric were the ones targeted, though. Bill was the only one from a founding family. If someone wanted to off members of the founding families, why not go big like the killer in 1912? Rebekah overhears and joins the conversation.
Alaric tries to convince Liz that he has no motive for killing Brian and Bill. Liz points out that Brian and Bill both had arguments with Meredith before they died, and Alaric witnessed the one with Brian. Plus, Meredith said she told Alaric that Bill threatened to report her to the medical board for giving him vampire blood. Alaric doesn’t remember that conversation, which took place at 2 a.m. the same night Bill was killed. Alaric knows (and has previously mentioned) that he drunk-dialed Meredith that night but doesn’t remember what they talked about.
Liz asks if Alaric has an alibi for the night Brian died. Alaric reminds her that she saw him at the fundraiser, but he left at midnight, and Brian died between 1:00 and 3:00 a.m. Alaric says he must have been home, asleep. He doesn’t seem sure.
Back at the Grill, Damon explains to Rebekah that Giuseppe got a maid pregnant during the Civil War, which is how they wound up with Zachariah as a nephew. She asks about the family’s logging mills, which sets off Damon’s alarms, but not because he thinks she’s up to something – he thinks she’s trying to make small talk before she propositions him for another romp in the sack. She claims that will never happen again.
Rebekah asks if the 1912 killer was ever caught. Damon says the town just blamed vampires. She thinks that could have been true, and Stefan agrees, because Damon was around. Damon admits that he suspected Stefan, but the murders weren’t his style. As far as he knows, they were the only two vampires in the area around that time. Stefan says there was one more: Sage. Damon remembers her because he slept with her, too.
1912: Stefan and Damon share some alcohol before going into a tent where Sage is showing off her boxing skills. Any man who can beat her gets $100. Damon’s smitten already. Stefan offers to be Damon’s Lexi and teach him how to live without human blood. Damon wants to live his life without Stefan’s influence, since Stefan’s already affected him enough. Sage approaches Damon for a chat, but he says he’s not interested. She puts some money in his pants anyway.
Present: Rebekah says she knew a Sage once. Stefan thinks Sage slipped under the town’s radar because they never would have suspected a female serial killer.
Elena ambushes Meredith at the hospital to confront her for branding Alaric as the killer. Meredith notes that Elena doesn’t know anything about Alaric, despite living with him. Meredith has dug up dirt on him and knows he was arrested for fighting a bunch before he turned 21. At Duke, Isobel filed two restraining orders against him. Then again, she married him, so Meredith doesn’t know what that says. Elena accuses her of lying, but Meredith says Elena can’t know for sure. She took pity on Alaric and never looked into his past. Elena’s still sure that Alaric didn’t kill anyone. Meredith thinks that someone who dates vampires should be less surprised that her guardian is a murderer. Elena declines to yell after her, “Hey, I’ve only dated one vampire! …So far.”
Rebekah asks for more stories about Salvatore relatives, but Damon isn’t interested in chatting, so he and Stefan ditch her. Meanwhile, Matt and Elena break into Meredith’s apartment to look for anything she may not have turned over to the police. Elena finds a hiding place in the back of her closet, where Meredith has stashed files on Brian, Bill, and Alaric.
Damon goes back to the two murder mysteries, dismissing Meredith as a suspect because she couldn’t have stabbed three grown men. Rebekah objects to his sexism, saying a woman could easily kill a man if she had the right motivation. Stefan snipes at her, and Damon says he’s “on a master cleanse” and is trying to be a better person. Rebekah misses the Stefan she knew in the ’20s.
Damon calls him self-righteous, but Stefan says he just doesn’t want more innocent people to die. Damon pulls out Stefan’s journal to prove that he used to be self-righteous. In 1912, Stefan wrote that Damon was wasting his life. Rebekah notes that Damon probably wasn’t much fun back then, either. Damon acknowledges that, since he was still pining for Katherine.
1912: Sage catches Damon feeding on someone and criticizes his technique. He should enjoy drinking from a woman – she’s for pleasure, not just food. Damon doesn’t want to take pleasure in killing a woman, since he’s saving himself for Katherine. Sage says part of being a vampire is enjoying the kill. She takes him back to the boxing tent and teaches him to identify women who “secretly crave seduction.” They’ll fight back, but part of the fun is making them beg for their lives. If they don’t cooperate, Damon can make them do what he wants.
Present: Rebekah decides that that Sage is the same one she knew. She was interested in Finn 900 years ago. Damon’s shocked by that, which makes sense, since Sage is like the prom queen and Finn is the goth kid who writes dark poetry in the back of every class. Stefan decides he can’t sit there and listen anymore, but Damon won’t let him leave until he admits he’s craving human blood. Stefan admits it and asks why Damon wants him to say it. Damon says he’s just feeling self-righteous.
Meredith’s hidden files contain tons of information on Alaric. Matt finds a Gilbert journal in the box, plus a coroner’s report that contradicts the one that said Brian died between 1:00 and 3:00. Before the teens can think about that further, they hear noise in the hallway and realize Meredith is home. They hide in the closet as she changes clothes and leaves again…except she just closed the front door to make them think she left. She knew they were there, and she busts them when they exit the closet.
The teens end up in Liz’s office for a lecture about breaking and entering. Elena clearly thinks it was worth it since they found proof that Alaric’s innocent – he couldn’t have killed Brian. Liz reveals that there was an error on the initial coroner’s report, which has since been corrected. Meredith brought the correction letter to her hours ago and apologized for accusing Alaric. Matt wonders why she would have hidden a copy of the report in her closet. Liz says she can’t ask about that now, since the teens interfered in the investigation. She’s already scrambling to protect Matt and Elena, so they need to stay out of this. Once the letter has been authenticated, Alaric will be released.
Damon and Rebekah follow Stefan out of the Grill, psychoanalyzing him. Damon says he always pursues one extreme or the other, indulgence or abstention. Damon may need help handling him this time. Rebekah offers to assist. Damon spots a potential meal for his brother, compels her to stay quiet, and bites her. Stefan zooms up to save the woman, which puts him in close proximity to blood. Damon urges him to drink so he can stop struggling with withdrawal. If Stefan doesn’t drink, Damon will let Rebekah kill the woman.
He reminds Stefan that he doesn’t want any more innocent people to die. They’ll pull a good, old-fashioned snatch, eat, erase, and Damon will even heal the woman before they let her go. Stefan resists, not wanting to lose control and go full Ripper. Damon says he lets that part of himself control him. He wants to help Stefan learn how to fight it. Rebekah gets impatient and prepares to finish the woman off, but Stefan grabs her and reluctantly drinks from her.
Damon sends Rebekah on her way, saying he can take it from here. He has to push Stefan off the woman to get him to stop feeding. As Damon is giving the woman his blood, Elena and Matt walk up, and she sees Stefan with blood all over his mouth. Damon says they were just doing an experiment and there’s no need to get dramatic. Matt gets Elena out of there as Stefan starts brooding again.
Matt takes Elena home, where she invites him to say what he’s obviously thinking: He doesn’t get why she’s involved with the Salvatores. She says that after her parents died, she felt safe with Stefan. Matt doesn’t get that, either. She says she felt like Stefan would never stop loving her. Unlike her parents, he would never die. Damon, on the other hand, got under her skin unexpectedly and she can’t shake him. Matt gets that – it might not be possible to shake someone you’ve fallen in love with. (Unspoken: “I’m still in love with you and will never get over it.”) Elena’s hesitant to keep talking about this subject, but Matt says it’s not weird for him to talk to her about the guys she’s fallen for after being with him.
He reveals that he managed to snag the journal from Meredith’s closet before they were taken to see Liz. The deputies Meredith called were more interested in talking to Elena than to Matt. He says that sometimes there’s an advantage to being the only normal one in a town full of vampires – he’s practically invisible. (Unspoken: “You don’t see me anymore now that your life is all Salvatores, all the time.”) Alaric arrives, and Elena hugs the only family member she has left in town.
Stefan is brooding when Damon gets home and announces that Alaric has been cleared. However, that means the investigation is back to square one and there are no suspects. Damon’s proud of Stefan for how he acted tonight, and he thinks Stefan will be able to drink human blood in moderation again. He also thinks Elena will understand when they explain this to her. Stefan says it doesn’t matter what she thinks. Damon cautions him not to give up his humanity again. They’re on the road to recovery together.
Stefan asks why Damon cares. Why is he buddying up with Stefan? Why is he being mean to Elena again? Does he feel guilty for kissing her? Stefan would prefer it if Damon hated him again – it was easier. Damon says he’s simply trying to help. Stefan tells him he doesn’t need help, but Damon reminds him what happened the last time he said that. That was the last time Damon convinced Stefan to drink human blood.
1912: Damon goes all Sage on Stefan at another boxing match. She’s convinced him that hurting people is worth it for the pleasure of the act. Damon chooses Marianna as Stefan’s next meal and invites his brother to have a drink with him. They can put the past behind them.
The two feed on Marianna together, but Stefan goes full Ripper. He immediately feels horrible and blames Damon for making him lose control. Damon offers to help him learn to control himself. Like in the present, Stefan says he doesn’t need Damon’s help.
Present: Thanks to this one slip, Stefan fell off the wagon, and by the end of the decade, he was the Ripper of Monterey. Damon watched him go over the edge and didn’t try to stop him. Stefan says he couldn’t have, but Damon disagrees. He didn’t want to stop Stefan then, but now he does. He’ll make sure Stefan doesn’t lose control again. He’ll be there as often as Stefan needs until he doesn’t need help anymore. Stefan asks why, and Damon replies that Stefan is all he has now.
Alaric thanks Elena for the lengths she went to in an attempt to help him, but he doesn’t want her to get in trouble because of him. “If not for you, for who?” she replies. He reminds her that he’s the adult, so he’s supposed to look out for her. Elena suggests that they take care of each other.
She’s been reading the journal Matt found, which turned out to be Samantha’s, not Johnathan’s. Both of them went crazy, which makes Elena worry about the genes she’s inherited. Alaric jokes that she has something to look forward to.
At Vamp Villa, Stefan brings Damon some info from their family’s archives. While the 1912 killer was never found, Samantha confessed to the crimes ten years later. She was branded crazy and locked up in an asylum. Apparently there was no follow-up. Damon is skeptical about Samantha being the killer…because he’s pretty sure he’d already killed her by then.
Meredith goes to Gilbert Gables to try to explain her actions. Alaric’s confused because she shot him, healed him, got him locked up, and then got him freed. She admits that she forged the coroner’s note to clear Alaric’s name. That means Liz and her deputies will leave him alone. Meredith pleads with Alaric to trust her, even though he has no reason to.
Up in her room, Elena reads Samantha’s journal entries about losing time and feeling like she’s going crazy. At Vamp Villa, Stefan asks if Damon really thinks Samantha’s still alive, killing people in Mystic Falls again 100 years after her first spree. Damon says no, because they’d know if she became a vampire. Stefan says she must have had one of the Gilbert resurrection rings. Damon notes that she was still human, and the rings don’t prevent death from old age, so she can’t still be alive. And that means her ring has since been passed on to either Jeremy or Alaric.
Meredith goes over the evidence with Alaric, trying to convince him that he’s the killer. After all, he’s had blackouts and lost time. What if his ring has changed him somehow? Meredith knows that that’s happened before. As Alaric starts to consider the possibility that he’s killed people and doesn’t remember it, Elena joins them in the kitchen and says Meredith’s right.
1912: We see Zachariah’s murder again, but this time we see his killer. It’s Samantha, and she’s wearing a Gilbert ring.
Etc.: There should have been at least one more murder in the present, just to make the situation more crucial. Like Damon said, Brian and Bill were small potatoes. You need bigger stakes to make a murder mystery interesting.
I wonder if the show intended to do something with Giuseppe’s third son at some point but scrapped it or just never got around to it. It seems like a missed opportunity to say Stefan and Damon had a younger brother but then never introduce him or even mention him again.
Damon is really off his game if he thinks Rebekah’s questions about logging mills were a prelude to seduction. He should have been really suspicious.
I’m not sure what to make of Meredith’s claims about Alaric’s past. I don’t know why she would make that stuff up, but I doubt he would have gotten hired as a teacher with that kind of record.
I wish we got to see Sage in more than just three episodes. I especially want to know how in the world she fell for Finn.