Stefan goes to the garage where he works and tells his boss that he needs a few days off. Dean warns that if he doesn’t show up for his next shift, he’ll be fired. Stefan holds him off the ground by his neck and tells him he that if he’d done a background check on his newest employee, he’d know that Stefan’s a vampire. Stefan wanted a new start and a normal life, and everything was great until yesterday. Now he has Ivy’s dead body in his trunk. He’s going to go back to Mystic Falls, the last place he wants to go, so he can kill Enzo. He compels Dean to give him the time off and bury Ivy in the woods. Also, when Stefan gets back, Dean will give him a raise.
Caroline spent the night in the Super Suite but doesn’t plan to make that a habit. Elena thinks she should let herself lean on her friends; it’s not weakness to need help getting through her grief. Caroline complains that Stefan wants to get through his on his own. Elena thinks he needs some leeway since he lost his brother. Not that Elena thinks that brother is worth mourning. Caroline remembers that, thanks to Alaric, Elena has forgotten about her relationship with Damon.
She mentions that she’s going to see Enzo, who has, strangely, become one of the most stable people in her life. Elena tells her to invite him to the party she’s hosting that afternoon. The rest of the gang is coming, since Elena wanted them to hang out for the first time in a long time. Elena threatens to send Caroline selfies every five minutes if she doesn’t agree to come. Caroline gives in but still won’t commit to returning to Whitmore.
As she leaves, she calls Matt, who confirms that Alaric altered Elena’s memories and they’re not supposed to say anything about Damon. Caroline’s sad that Elena doesn’t seem like her old self. Matt notes that that’s the point – she’s happy now. He joins up with Tripp, who’s cleaning “red mulch” out of his van (“red mulch” actually being vampire remains). Matt brings up the party, and Tripp tells him to take another member of the community-protection group, Jay. He advises the guys to keep their eyes open since there have been some “animal attacks” recently.
Sarah and Jeremy spent the night at Vamp Villa, and she’s ready to move in and take advantage of the wonderful showers and plentiful alcohol. She jokes that she can pretend that her father lives there. Jeremy tells her that neither of the guys who lived there is her father. Sarah says her mother lived in Mystic Falls for years before having her, but she died before Sarah could find out who her father was. Jeremy tells her that the house used to be the home of two brothers. One moved and the other died.
Tyler finds Liv and Luke on campus and asks Liv to bring some beer from Scull Bar to the party. Liv doesn’t think it would be a good idea to put Tyler, Luke, and alcohol together again. Luke doesn’t seem to have a problem with Tyler, though, since he apologized. Tyler promises that he’s getting his anger under control. He’s drinking less and avoiding his triggers. Liv agrees to provide beer, and Luke accuses her of being mean to Tyler because she likes him.
Elena runs into Liam and invites him to the party. She wants to introduce him to someone. Liam agrees because even though the two of them fight like siblings, he definitely likes her. As he leaves, Elena spots Stefan down the hall. He came to say hi after not seeing her for four months.
In their version of 1994, Bonnie and Damon go grocery shopping. She gets a candle so she can practice lighting it, even though she couldn’t use magic the last time she tried. She wants to be optimistic. She mentions the mystery person who finished her crossword puzzle and the fact that she and Damon might not be alone. Damon still thinks Bonnie finished the puzzle and just doesn’t remember. She talks in her sleep; maybe she does puzzles in her sleep, too. That makes more sense to him than the idea of someone else being there.
Bonnie thinks Damon doesn’t want to hold on to hope that they’ll get home because then he can’t be disappointed. Damon argues that there’s nothing to hope for. She suddenly notices that the pork rinds they’ve seen on the end of a shelf every time they’ve come to the store for the past four months are no longer there. Then they both hear music coming from outside. The little carousel in front of the store is turning. “That’s what hope sounds like,” Bonnie says happily.
Stefan and Elena chat in a classroom and he notes that she’s happier. She asks if he is; Caroline told her about “the dinner party from Hell.” Stefan decides not to mention that Enzo killed his new girlfriend. Elena’s glad to see him after all this time. She had a rough time dealing with Bonnie’s death, though she feels like she has no room to complain when Stefan lost his brother. He asks if she’s talked to Caroline, who isn’t returning his calls. Elena tells him she’ll be at the party that afternoon, but he doesn’t want to go. When he learns that Enzo’s supposed to be there, he changes his mind.
At Bell’s, Caroline gives Enzo the rules for the party: 1) No talking about Damon and Elena’s relationship. 2) No talking about Damon at all. They need to let Elena enjoy her life, even though she’s just avoiding her problems. No judgment, of course. Caroline supports Elena’s decision to erase her memories because it means she’s not taking herbs and killing people. But now Caroline feels like she’s alone in her grief. Enzo offers to wallow with her, but he knows Caroline would prefer to have Stefan there over him. She tells him to avoid talking about Stefan, too. She spots some blood on his shirt and blasts him for killing a waitress before they met up. He’s not concerned that he could be setting off alarms with the sheriff’s department.
Damon examines the carousel, trying to prove that there’s a short in the wiring that made it turn on by itself. If Bonnie’s right and someone else is there, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be able to get out. Bonnie notes that if someone’s there, this isn’t Damon’s Hell after all, which means Sheila sent them there. If so, there must be a way out. Bonnie asks what Damon’s going to tell Elena first when they get home. “Sorry I killed Bonnie, but she was the most annoying person in the world,” he replies. As he continues his fake conversation, Bonnie notices something familiar in the parking lot: Damon’s Camaro.
On the way to the party at the swimming hole, Elena and Stefan talk up Caroline to Liam. He thinks Stefan and Elena are together, and when they say they broke up, he notes that they seem “weirdly functional.” They realize they split up two years ago. And I guess Elena thinks she’s been single ever since then.
Damon pretends to drive his Camaro like a kid whose dad let him sit in the driver’s seat. He just wants to listen to the engine for a while. Bonnie asks how the car got to the parking lot – did Damon leave it there? He can’t remember since May 10th, 1994 was 18 years ago and a lot happened that day. But Bonnie thinks it’s unlikely that he ditched it in the parking lot of a grocery store, which means someone else drove it there.
Damon remembers the last time he was in the car, speeding toward the Grill with Elena in the passenger’s seat. He finally answers Bonnie’s earlier question seriously: When he gets home, he’s going to tell Elena how much he loves her. Then he’ll apologize for killing Bonnie. She spots movement nearby, and Damon sees someone running. Now he can’t deny that they’re alone in 1994.
Liam teases Elena for having a swimming hole near her hometown. She strips to her bikini and shows off by swinging on a rope and doing a somersault into the water. As she’s returning to shore, she passes Jeremy and Sarah. They don’t notice her at first because they’re making out. Elena introduces herself to Sarah, pretending this is their first encounter. She announces that she and Jeremy need to have a family talk. “That’s why I’m happy I’m an orphan,” Sarah says, not being as clever as she thinks since the Gilberts are also orphans.
Elena slams Jeremy for bringing Sarah to the party knowing that Elena attacked her. Jeremy reminds her that Caroline compelled Sarah to forget the attack. He swears she doesn’t know anything. Sarah passes Matt and Jay, and Jay expresses skepticism that the bite on her neck was really from a dog. Tyler tells Matt that Elena texted and wants the gang to meet up. Jay asks Tyler if he believes the dog story, and Tyler says he does. Jay calls him an idiot, and as the two start to get heated, Matt tries to make peace. Jay shoves Tyler, then pretends he’s just joking around. Oh, he’s one of those guys.
Elena tries to call Stefan, who’s gone MIA and isn’t answering his phone. Tyler and Matt meet up with her and Caroline at a spot where the gang used to sneak off to get drunk while their parents were grilling at get-togethers. She wants them to do Jell-o shots together like they used to. Tyler and Matt both decline the alcohol, but Caroline is eager to take her mind off of all her complaints about Stefan.
Elena laments that she failed at getting the gang to hang out and act like they’re not drifting apart. Caroline says the problem is that not all of them are okay with pretending. Some of them are facing their problems head-on. As the guys wisely leave, Elena asks Caroline what she means. Caroline backs off and says she’s lonely – Bonnie’s gone, Stefan has moved away, and Enzo isn’t good at the whole friendship thing. Elena reminds Caroline that she’s still there, but she’s not what Caroline needs right now.
Bonnie and Damon search for their mystery guy but don’t find anyone. The carousel starts up again, making Damon think it’s on a timer. Then why hasn’t it turned on any of the other times they’ve been at the store? Bonnie asks about the car and the crossword puzzle. Damon says the car was always here and she finished the puzzle. They’re the only ones there and there’s no escape hatch. They’re never getting back home.
Bonnie tells Damon to give her his daylight ring. He refuses as she tries to wrestle it off his finger. She notes that he keeps saying there’s no hope, so why doesn’t he just take off his ring and let himself burn up in the sun? Hope is the only thing keeping her going. If Damon’s really done, he should just be done. His denial isn’t helping. Damon goes back into the store to grab some bourbon and finally encounters the mystery guy, Kai.
Elena didn’t get a chance to introduce Liam to Caroline, but he’s okay with that because he wants to be with Elena. He kisses her, but she’s not sure she wants to date a guy who would choose her over the friend she’s trying to set him up with. Liam thinks he’s her type, though, and judging by the smile on her face after he walks away, he’s right.
Enzo returns from getting ice (Caroline sent him on an errand; he must like her if he agreed to do it) and uses the bag to fend off a stick Stefan’s thrown at him. Stefan rushes him, so Enzo smacks him in the head with an ice bag. He pulls the stake from the other bag and throws it at Stefan but instead hits Jay. Enzo has accidentally saved Stefan’s life, though – Jay was about to shoot him.
Annoyed that Enzo hasn’t brought back the ice, Caroline compels some random girl to go get more. Then she slams Jeremy for hooking up with a bunch of girls to try to pretend he doesn’t care that his last girlfriend died. Enzo texts her, then tells Stefan that they should call a truce until they sort out what to do with Jay’s body. No dice – Stefan just takes Jay’s gun to finish what he started. Enzo points out that he just saved Stefan’s life. Stefan reminds him that he promised Stefan a lifetime of misery on Damon’s behalf, so obviously he’s not going to let Enzo live. Caroline zooms in to stop Stefan before he can do anything. Stefan walks away, telling Caroline to ask Enzo why Stefan might want him dead.
Kai reveals that he’s been following Bonnie and Damon for a while, since he has nothing else to do. He misses Baywatch. Damon says that he’s had “a monumentally bad day in a sea of bad days,” so he’d like Kai to explain who he is and why he’s there a little more quickly. Kai warns that Damon’s temper is going to get the best of him. It’s already made Bonnie ditch him 13 times. Damon says he actually likes Bonnie, so his temper is going to get even worse where Kai is involved. He grabs Kai by the shirt, and Kai apologizes for his conversational struggles, which are kind of understandable since he’s been there alone for so long.
He suggest that Damon have a drink, which he knows always calms Damon down. Well, it also makes him angry and sad, but then calm again. Yay, alcohol (“the cause of – and solution to – all of life’s problems” – Homer Simpson)! As Damon starts to drink from a bottle on the shelf, Kai announces that he’s following Damon because he wants to kill him. Damon spits out his drink, having realized the bottle is full of vervain.
This grocery store happens to sell patio furniture, so there’s an umbrella with a wooden pole conveniently nearby, and Kai knows just the weakened vampire to use it on. He jams it through Damon’s hand first and says he knows Damon plays dirty. For instance, he stole from the bank while playing Monopoly with Bonnie. Not cool! Kai pulls out the umbrella pole, then uses it to knock a bunch of bottles off the shelves, showering Damon with vervain. He raises the pole to finish Damon off.
But Bonnie has arrived, and she orders Kai to stop. He’s happy to see “the useless one,” who’s been trying for months now to do magic but hasn’t had any luck. He finds it embarrassing. Kai knows Bonnie can’t stop him with magic, so he raises the umbrella again. But something inside Bonnie has switched on, and she lights a nearby candle with her mind. She’s stunned and relieved to see that she still has her magic. Kai, meanwhile, knows he’s in trouble.
Bonnie tells a pleased Damon to run, then magically sets the alcohol all over the floor on fire. Kai drops the umbrella, ready to call a truce, but Damon has snuck back around and he knocks Kai out. “I’m sorry I called you the most annoying person in the world,” he tells Bonnie. “I hadn’t met him yet.”
Matt and Tyler gather the empty kegs at the party, and Tyler tries to make sure they’ll all pristine so Liv doesn’t get mad at him. Matt teases him for being whipped. Enzo brings Jay’s body to them and informs Matt that Jay was a vampire hunter. Meanwhile, Caroline finds Stefan and tries to talk to him about Ivy. He thinks she’s going to say that he was using Ivy as an escape and fooling himself into thinking he could have a normal life. Caroline was really going to say that killing Enzo won’t bring her back. Stefan knows that, but it would stop him from thinking about Damon. Then he can leave Mystic Falls behind and start over for good.
Caroline asks if that’s why he really came to the party. It wasn’t to see his friends? She doesn’t believe that. She knows part of him misses his hometown and the gang. Being there reminds him how much they need him – how much she needs him. If she’s wrong, he’s free to go, but if she’s not and there’s even a small part of him that came to check on Elena or Alaric or Caroline, he should stay. Stefan doesn’t respond, just walking away. Nearby, Elena has heard the whole thing, and she comforts Caroline over losing her friend yet again.
The party is still going on, even without ice. The girl Caroline sent away came back without it, which surprises Jeremy. She says she was halfway to a convenience store when she remembered she has self-respect and doesn’t follow orders from people like Caroline. Jeremy realizes she went into Mystic Falls. He tells Elena and Caroline that the girl’s compulsion went away when she crossed the anti-magic border. That means that when Sarah left the spot where Caroline compelled her to forget Elena’s attack and went into Mystic Falls, her compelled-away memories returned.
Damon and Bonnie take Kai to Vamp Villa so they can interrogate him. He tells them they’re on the same team. His whole goal was to get Bonnie to recover her magic. He was never going to kill Damon – why would he kill a third of their population? Kai’s not a monster. (Spoiler: Kai’s a monster.) Bonnie always comes back when Damon ditches her, and Kai knew that if he gave her the right “motivation,” she would access her magic. He’s pleased that Damon’s life was that motivation. “I guess that’s just how you two show your love,” he says. Bonnie asks why Kai wanted her to recover her magic. He says it’s the key to them getting out of 1994.
Tyler wonders if Jay was working alone, but Matt doubts that. He guesses everyone in the community-protection group is a vampire hunter. He feels foolish for believing that Tripp just wanted to…well, protect the community. Liv arrives to get the kegs, since Matt loaned Enzo his truck so he could bury Jay’s body. She mocks Tyler for being a sad jock, and he calmly tells her to back off. She bugs him by using magic to make the kegs he’s trying to pick up roll out of his reach. He confronts her and she admits that it’s easier for her if he’s aggressive and unlikable. That way, she knows she won’t fall for him.
Sarah has left Vamp Villa, and Jeremy’s worried about her telling someone what she knows about Elena. Elena and Caroline are going to look for her near the border, and Caroline decides to leave her stuff in the Super Suite while they’re out. Also, if there are more vampire hunters, she shouldn’t live alone near the border. In other words, Caroline’s moving back in with Elena.
She apologizes for getting mad at Elena earlier. She just feels like Elena has some secret way to move on. Caroline finds one of Bonnie’s shirts in Elena’s dresser, and Elena admits that she hasn’t completely moved on. Caroline says she misses her home and her life and… Elena knows she’s thinking about Stefan. She asks if Caroline has feelings for him, and Caroline admits that she did (past tense).
Enzo goes to Bell’s, where Tripp is waiting for him with a syringe of vervain. This is Enzo’s punishment for not being more careful about his feeding habits. Enzo has built up a tolerance to vervain, so he’s able to fight it for a while, at least long enough to kill Tripp. But he won’t get the chance because Stefan has arrived with Jay’s gun. He shoots Enzo and tells Tripp that he took the gun from one of his guys, whom he thinks Enzo killed.
Stefan introduces himself and tells Tripp they have something in common. Tripp recognizes the Salvatore name and just thinks Stefan’s a regular old member of a founding family. Stefan’s ready to finish off Enzo, but Tripp wants to use his own favorite method for killing vampires. “Just make sure it’s painful,” Stefan says, leaving Tripp to get revenge for him.
Keep in mind: Crossing the border into Mystic Falls erases compulsion.
Etc.: Kai is, hands down, my favorite villain across all three series. Chris Wood is unbelievably good in the role.
Bonnie and Damon shop with a list, which makes me wish we’d gotten to see them making the list and taunting each other over their selections. I imagine a big debate over the grossness or non-grossness of mayo. I don’t, however, have any desire to see them play Monopoly. No one wants to see that much fighting.
I never noticed this before: The grocery store in 1994 and the diner near Whitmore are both named Bell’s.