A teen couple is camping in the woods in Mystic Falls. They hear a noise outside their tent and each tells the other to go out and see what it was. The girl, Jessie, winds up doing it and discovers that a lantern they hung up has shorted out. She gets it to work again, then turns to go back to the tent. She comes face-to-face with someone – but it’s no one she needs to worry about. It’s Liz, and the only thing she does to scare the couple is threaten to call their parents and report them for underage drinking.
She sends them home and the teens head to their car, which is right outside the new anti-magic border. They complain that the town has recently had a crackdown on…well, crime. How horrible! As the guy is packing the trunk, Jessie disappears. She suddenly drops out of the sky onto the car, covered in blood. She tells her boyfriend to look up, and he does just in time to see someone leaping down onto him.
The next day, Elena goes to the cemetery, voicing over that she had a good day. She’s happy that summer’s over and she’s starting her sophomore year at Whitmore. She’s chosen a major, pre-med, and is part of a shadowing program at Whitmore Medical Center. She and other Whitmore undergrads are being mentored by a doctor named Jo Laughlin, who’s impressed with Elena’s knowledge but not above giving her undignified tasks. One of the other students is Liam Davis, who’s basically Caroline in guy form.
In the Salvatore crypt, Elena lights some candles. She voices over that the program gives her access to blood bags. She also gets them for Alaric, who’s adjusting to life as a vampire (and, well, adjusting to life itself, after being dead for two seasons). He’s teaching at Whitmore and Elena’s in one of his occult-studies classes, which she finds weird. She voices over that he couldn’t get a job back at Mystic Falls High, what with not being able to enter the town and, I assume, being presumed dead.
Mystic Falls is now vampire-free, which is probably why Liz has so much more time to devote to human crimes. The Grill is being rebuilt, so who knows where people are eating instead? Even though the crime rate is down, Matt has taken an interest in community policing. He’s joined a community-protection group led by a guy named Tripp Cooke. Elena thinks he’s become stronger than Jeremy. The guys are still living at Lockwood Landing, and Jeremy’s become quite the ladies’ man.
Elena says that Stefan left Mystic Falls a while ago to look for a witch who can communicate with the dead. If he would just go to New Orleans and ask for Davina, he’d be done. In reality, he’s moved to Savannah and is working in a garage. Elena hasn’t talked to him since he left, and she thinks it’s because he’s so busy looking for answers. She acknowledges that they all lost a lot and are grieving, but they’re dealing in their own ways.
Caroline meets up with Liz for a picnic at the Mystic Falls border. She’s talking to Elena on the phone about a Whitmore football game Elena wants her to go to. Caroline has decided to leave school and get an apartment right outside Mystic Falls. Tyler joins Elena and urges Caroline to come back to school. He’s finally enrolled. Elena spots Luke nearby, offering her a little envelope. She shakes her head at him and he leaves. She tells Caroline she’s picking her up tomorrow morning and dragging her to the game.
Caroline goes back to her picnic, telling Liz she’s getting closer to finding a spell that will take down the anti-magic border. Liz encourages her to hang out with her friends. She needs to be with Elena while they’re both mourning Bonnie. Caroline says Elena’s in denial and trying to distract herself from Damon’s death. She won’t talk about him and has barely cried over him. Liz reminds her that Elena has lost a ton of people in a few short years, so she could use some slack.
She gets a call about two teens being admitted to a hospital with neck wounds, possibly from a vampire attack. Caroline’s surprised to hear that, since there shouldn’t be any vampires around, but Liz points out that they can lurk at the border. As she leaves, Caroline tries to catch up with her to return her picnic basket. She accidentally puts her hand over the border, which makes her daylight ring glitch and gives her a burn from the sun. Just another reminder that she’s not welcome in her hometown.
Elena voices over that Caroline doesn’t want to let go. Elena gets it – she doesn’t, either. She doesn’t want to accept that everything’s changed and the worse thing that could happen did. She mixes something up in the crypt and drinks it. Then we get to see who she’s been talking to this whole time: Damon. She can see and hear him, and they can even touch each other.
Alaric tries to focus as he’s teaching a class, but it’s tough because Elena has snuck blood in. Liv is also in the class, and she snickers when he says they’re going to discuss resurrection. She can’t explain in front of everyone that it’s funny because a discussion about resurrection will be led by a guy who was recently resurrected. Tyler arrives late because he was working out with the football team, and he sits next to Liv and tries to get a peek at her textbook to see what page they’re on. She uses her magic to turn his book to the right page.
Alaric gets distracted again and says quietly, so only Elena can hear, that he can smell what she’s drinking. He needs her to get rid of it because he’s already picturing his students as blood sausages, like this is some twisted Looney Tunes cartoon. I would also advise her to use a straw that isn’t clear, because while her cup looks like it could contain anything, her straw gives her away.
After class, Elena tracks down Luke and tells him she’s been thirstier than usual lately. She wonders if that’s a side effect of the herbs he’s been giving her. He thinks that’s a good reason to cut her off. The herbs let her see Damon, and Luke offered them to her in the first place because he felt bad about ending the spell before Damon could come back from the Other Side. (He also made a daylight bracelet for Alaric.) But now it’s time for Elena to face reality. She promises she’s fine and tells him to come to her room later.
Stefan’s not happy with his recent paycheck and thinks his boss, Dean, is ripping him off. Alaric calls him from a diner called Bell’s and asks if he’s had any success after talking to his contact. Stefan says he’s working on it. He hangs up when a woman named Ivy comes to the garage.
Caroline joins Alaric and returns a bunch of books he loaned her since none of them contained anything useful about taking down the anti-magic border. She asks how Stefan is, fishing for information on what he’s been up to. She’s clearly upset that Stefan talks to Alaric a couple times a week but hasn’t been in touch with her at all. He also never said goodbye before he left town. Alaric thinks he just doesn’t want to have to keep telling her about leads that never pan out. “Maybe I just need to get over it,” she replies.
Elena calls Matt, since Jeremy won’t take her calls, and has him put her on speaker so she can yell at her brother to stop playing video games and do something productive. He asks if she’s going to come there and make him. “I’ll have the sheriff arrest you and drag you to the town border, where I will kick your a%$ myself,” she replies. Nice. Matt promises to deal with him.
He asks Jeremy if living the bachelor/frat-boy life is really what he wants. It sucks that Bonnie’s dead, but Jeremy can’t just sit around and do nothing. Jeremy thinks Matt’s decision to do the opposite by joining the community-protection group is pointless – people in Mystic Falls don’t need to be protected anymore. Matt is sure that Caroline will eventually figure out how to take down the anti-magic border, which means they’ll be up to their ears in supernatural problems again. As a hunter, Jeremy has skills, and he needs to use them. Jeremy reminds him that without magic, he’s not a hunter anymore. “You’re not much of anything anymore,” Matt replies.
Luke didn’t go to Elena’s room so she goes to his. He tells her again that he’s not giving her any more herbs. She’s using them too much and making him feel like a drug dealer. She reminds him that they’re friends, even though he’s the reason she lost Damon. She starts searching his room for herbs. He says she’s living in denial and needs to realize that she’s acting crazy. Elena angrily grabs him and says she needs to see Damon. She’s not asking for herbs, she’s demanding them.
The next day, she has a conversation with Damon as she drives to pick up Caroline for the football game. She wants to fix up Alaric with Jo but isn’t sure how long she she should wait while he adjusts to being alive again. Damon asks why Bonnie isn’t in the car, too – surely Luke can give Elena herbs to see her. Elena notes that if she wanted to drive around with all her dead loved ones, she’d have to upgrade to a bus.
Damon thinks it’s really because she knows Bonnie would agree with Luke that Elena needs to face reality. He reminds her that he’s dead (and yes, he’s technically been dead the whole time they’ve known each other) and gone. This conversation she’s supposedly having with him is really her logical side talking to her irrational side. She turns up the radio to drown out both sides.
Tyler’s at the pre-game tailgate party, where he bumps into Alaric and snaps at him for not being more careful before he realizes who he’s talking to. He blames his alcohol tolerance for his temper, but Alaric knows better – Tyler has anger issues and they’re nearing a full moon. Tyler says he’s been working on his anger, which has improved because he’s allowed to work out with the football team and beat on people in a controlled environment.
Alaric worries that he’ll get drunk, accidentally kill someone, and trigger his werewolf curse again. Tyler insists that everything is under control. Alaric takes his cup just to be safe, noting that he hasn’t gotten drunk since he came back from the Other Side. That has to be his longest stretch of sobriety ever. Liv is also at the party, and when Tyler glances at her, Alaric tells him she’s not into him. And we all know that Tyler always respects the wishes of women and girls who don’t want to hook up with him!
Ivy spent the night at Stefan’s, and I have to wonder how Lexi would feel about him dating someone who isn’t Caroline. She’s a little frustrated that after a couple of months of dating, she still barely knows anything about him. He never talks about family, and he gets weird when his friends (who he also doesn’t talk about) call. She tries to get him to open up to her, so he tells her he’s a vampire. “You’re so annoying,” she replies.
Back at the tailgate party, Alaric manages to pour some blood in a flask without anyone noticing. He meets Jo, who’s happy to see someone else there who’s older than 20. They have an awkward conversation that only gets more awkward when she asks for a sip from his flask. He lies that he doesn’t like to share because he’s a germaphobe.
He calls Elena, telling her that when he turned into a vampire, he lost his ability to talk to women. He’d like her to get there already and save him from any further awkward conversations. She doesn’t hear his call or get his message. She comes across a young woman, Sarah, whose car broke down on a dirt road near Mystic Falls, in a spot without cell reception. Elena gets out and offers to help her, but instead, she bites her. Damon reminds her that she needs to stop the “snatch” and “eat” parts of “snatch-eat-erase” and get to the “erase” part. Elena’s still hungry, and she keeps drinking until Damon warns that she’ll kill Sarah, like she almost did to her last couple of victims.
Just when it looks like Elena might be turning into a Ripper, Caroline shows up. While Elena’s distracted, Sarah takes off running. Elena tries to zoom after her but Sarah has crossed the border already and there’s nothing Elena can do.
As Sarah stumbles toward downtown Mystic Falls, weakly calling out for help, Caroline confronts Elena over feeding on humans. Elena thinks the herbs have been making her act out. She admits that she’s been taking them to see Damon. She tried to grieve him, but even with all her experience with that, she wasn’t able to function.
Caroline promises that she’ll be okay, but she needs to find a better coping mechanism. Elena doesn’t think Caroline’s new obsession with taking down the border is any better. And Stefan’s departure from town definitely isn’t a good way to handle this. This is just the way Elena’s getting through her loss. Caroline disagrees – she’s pressing pause. She sends Elena off to hide while she and Liz deal with Sarah. Elena finally starts to realize that she’s made some bad choices.
Sarah makes it to the town square, where the community-protection group is going for a run. Matt gets to her first and tries to stop her bleeding as she tells him she was bitten by a person. He tells the rest of the group that it was a dog. Tripp is suspicious that that’s the real story, but Liz swoops in and tells Matt to take Sarah to the hospital before he can get more information. Tripp doesn’t like being outranked, but since his group his all volunteers and Liz is the sheriff, he doesn’t have a leg to stand on here.
Stefan declines a call from Elena, who just calls again. When he answers, she asks him to give her good news, that he found someone who can help them get Damon back. He hasn’t. Elena asks how he’s able to get through the day without falling apart. She’s not doing things the right way. Stefan tells her there’s no right or wrong way. “No, there’s only forever,” she replies. She needs him to give her hope. She won’t be able to live forever without Damon. Stefan admits that he’s not looking anymore – he gave up. It’s pointless, since they can’t get Damon back, so he said goodbye and moved on. Elena needs to do the same.
Tyler calls Caroline, wondering why she hasn’t shown up for the game. She tells him about Elena and her herbs, which explains how Elena seemed to get over Damon’s death so easily. Caroline blames Luke for enabling her, so Tyler starts looking for Luke.
Matt takes Sarah to the border, stopping her when she tries to run off again. (To be fair, he technically kidnapped her.) He tells her he’s been attacked like her and gone through even worse things like drowning and having his neck broken. (Okay, but…you drowned yourself, buddy.) He’s lost the little family he had and refuses to lose any more. Now he wants to protect people like Sarah. She doesn’t trust him, or anyone, so she tries to take off again. Caroline stops her and agrees that not trusting people is a good call.
Luke asks Tyler if he’s seen Elena. Tyler says she’s not herself because Luke has been tricking her into thinking Damon’s still alive. Luke accuses Tyler of being drunk, and Tyler grabs him and puts his hand around Luke’s throat. He taunts that Luke can’t chant anything to make him back off. He tells Luke to stay away from Elena or he’ll suffer consequences that can’t be resolved with magic. Alaric breaks up the confrontation, asking if Tyler really thinks his anger is under control. As Tyler leaves, Alaric takes Luke off to tell him what’s going on.
Elena goes back to the Salvatore crypt, lights her candles, and drinks the herbs, but when Damon appears, she acknowledges that her subconscious is just making her see what she wants to see. She wants to keep doing this, but not at the risk of becoming reckless and hurting people. Damon asks why he’s there, then. If she wants to move on, she can. Elena came to thank him for saving Stefan, Alaric, and Tyler. He gave her everything she always wanted – passion and adventure and a love that consumed her. She wants it to last forever, but it can’t. This will be the last time she sees him. She says goodbye and tells him she loves him but has to let him go.
They kiss and she closes her eyes, expecting him to disappear. He doesn’t. He tells her she’s still holding on. He understands, since she knows the reality she’ll have to face. He thinks she’ll go back to Luke and ask for more herbs. Elena swears that she won’t, but that means she’ll have to feel the pain of Damon’s loss for the rest of her life. She begs him to get out of her head, then knocks over her candles and throws something through a stained-glass window. She collapses in tears but still, Damon’s with her.
Liv finds Tyler doing pull-ups on a bar in the doorway of his dorm room. He admits that he lost control with Luke. She tells him it’s not Luke’s fault that Elena guilted him into doing what she wanted. Tyler tells her that Elena’s grieving – Liv can’t get that because her brother came back while the gang lost two friends. Liv says she and Luke think about that every day. But most of the gang also got their lives back because of Liv, so they need to leave Luke alone.
Tyler apologizes and she says he’ll have to save that for Luke himself. He tells her what’s really been troubling him lately: Four months ago, he was a hybrid, one of the most powerful supernatural beings around. Now he’s human again and all he has left is rage. He really is trying to deal with that. Liv wishes him luck with that, but Tyler would appreciate a little more sympathy.
At Bell’s, Caroline leaves Stefan a message about what a rough day she had. She laments that the gang has drifted apart. Everyone’s acting like they can get through their grief alone. Elena clutches one of Damon’s shirts as Caroline says she’s so afraid to accept his loss that she’s become a different person. Tyler’s hiding and pretending things are fine while he’s secretly scared that he’ll retrigger his werewolf gene. Matt and Jeremy never leave Mystic Falls, and Caroline feels like there’s an invisible wall between them and the members of the gang who can’t enter. Even worse, no one’s doing anything about it. Jeremy gets drunk in the woods, looking at a picture of himself, Elena, Matt, and Bonnie at the memorial tree stump.
Caroline tells Stefan that the gang needs each other. If they don’t get back together, they’re just going to be left with memories. That’s why she’s not going to stop calling him until he answers the phone and tells her he’s going to help her fix things. Stefan sees that Caroline left him a message, but instead of answering it or just ignoring it, he breaks his phone. Drama queen.
Alaric visits Elena in the Super Suite, where she notes that they haven’t talked about how he’s handling everything. He says it helped to move away from Mystic Falls, and with Meredith now married and living in Alaska (aww, good for her), he doesn’t have to worry about having an awkward reunion with her. Elena meant the whole vampire thing. He tells her he hates everything about it. She does, too, or at least she did, until she realized that she could have an eternal love. Now she feels like she’ll have a hole in her heart where Damon’s supposed to be.
Alaric tells her it’ll get easier, as if he’s forgotten he’s talking to Elena “Everyone I’ve Ever Loved Has Died” Gilbert. She knows the idea of moving on is impossible. If she’s ever going to fall in love again and survive living forever, she needs something from Alaric. Because he’s an Original vampire, he has the ability to compel other vampires. She wants him to compel away her memories of loving Damon.
In a kitchen somewhere, Damon is wearing a red and black flannel shirt and making pancakes. (Music: “Shine,” Collective Soul) Bonnie pours them both coffee as he hands her a plate. Her pancake has a blueberry face and fangs made out of whipped cream. “Every day I tell you I hate that,” she reminds him. “And every day I do it anyway,” he replies. She hands him a newspaper and works on a crossword puzzle as they eat breakfast together.
Etc.: The titles of the first two-thirds of the episodes in season 6 are all from songs from 1994. The titles of the last third of the episodes are from songs from 1903.
Outside of when they’re bugging each other, Tyler and Liv have no chemistry.
It seems like Jeremy’s still in high school, which means he didn’t pass last year. Makes sense, since no one was actually making him go to school.
Part of me wants Jo and Alaric together. Another part of me wants her to run far away before she gets dragged into the middle of the gang’s chaos.
Please note that Elena is living in the Super Suite alone. She’s the only person in a room for three. If I went to Whitmore and found out a sophomore had that nice of a setup, I’d go rabid.