Kai is enjoying the chance to talk to people after so many years alone, so he’s babbling about things he’s done since 1994 instead of telling Damon how they’re going to get out of there. He asks Damon why he thinks they’re stuck in a time loop, reliving the same day over and over. He told Bonnie this is his personal Hell – why?
Bonnie arrives with a bunch of stuff Kai told her to get, but he still won’t explain anything until Damon answers his question. Kai explains that Bonnie’s magic is only part of what they need to escape. He has the key to the rest, and he needs to be sure Damon deserves to come with them. Damon threatens to torture him until he tells them what he knows, but Kai points out that that’ll just make him mad, and therefore less inclined to help. Bonnie tells Damon to play nice, and he replies that she needs to stop trying to impress the new guy. He doesn’t want to reveal what he calls the worst thing he ever did.
1994: Damon has just arrived in Mystic Falls after having been away since 1960. He goes to Vamp Villa and greets Stefan with a copy of a newspaper announcing Kurt Cobain’s death. (Except Cobain died in April of 1994, and this is May, so I don’t know why the show is pretending it happened, like, the day before.) Damon’s invitation privileges have been revoked and Stefan isn’t sure he should let him in. Damon notes that he left a message on Stefan’s answering machine and sent Lexi flowers to apologize for leaving her to burn on the roof in New York. Since he waited 17 years to make that apology, Stefan isn’t impressed. Why is Damon being a good boy now? He says he wants a fresh start.
Zach appears, meeting Damon for the first time. He’s aware of the Salvatore family’s history and has only agreed to let Damon visit if Stefan keeps an eye on him. He invites Damon in, and Stefan confirms that his brother is really ready to start over.
Present: Stefan and Elena have been searching the Mystic Falls border for any signs of Sarah, who disappeared after they found out she remembers being attacked by Elena. They guess she’s in town, so they can’t get to her. Stefan wants to go back to Savannah, but Elena tells him he’s using it as a hideout. He can’t just give up on fixing things and go back to his “fake new life.” Stefan says that when Enzo killed Ivy, he basically killed Stefan’s new life. Now Stefan’s going to find a new place to live and start over again.
Elena notes that he’s just going to keep pretending his life in Mystic Falls never existed. He tells her it’s easier than she thinks to let go of the past. She doubts that – he can’t be as fine as he seems after losing his brother. He tells her he has a system and has done this before. Elena asks him to show her that system. If she believes he can be happy, she’ll let him go. If she doesn’t, she’ll harass him (“Enzo-size harassment”) until he comes home. As for Sarah, Matt and Jeremy will have to tie up that loose end.
Probably not right now, though, as Jeremy is currently puking in a waiting area at the Whitmore Medical Center. Alaric brought him in after a night of drinking and doesn’t seem particularly sympathetic. He tells Matt over the phone that Jeremy turned up at his place in the middle of the night, having gotten drunk instead of looking for Sarah. “I did my part – she is definitely not hiding in the Salvatore liquor cabinet,” Jeremy quips. Matt’s on his way to see Tripp in case Sarah decided to go to him for help. Alaric asks Jo to take care of Jeremy, and the two of them conspire to make him as uncomfortable as possible.
Tripp is upset after having to tell Jay’s parents that he was “found dead” in the woods last night. Matt pretends he doesn’t know what happened to his friend. He offers to go with Tripp when he gives Liz his statement, since Matt could have been the last person to see Jay alive.
Kai puts the things Bonnie brought him to use, requesting more of Damon’s “Hell story.” Bonnie thinks it’s a small price to pay if it gets them a trip home. Damon gives in and says that he came back to Mystic Falls in 1994 to turn his life around.
1994: Stefan and Damon bond by shining the Camaro and sharing some animal blood. Stefan claims he can’t remember if it’s from a rat or a squirrel. They greet Zach, who’s coming back from a grocery run so he can make blueberry pancakes for one of the guests at what was still the Salvatore Boarding House back them. That guest is a pregnant woman named Gail. The baby, by the way, is Zach’s. Damon considers taking over running the place, but Stefan thinks he just wants to mess with Zach and Gail. He tells Damon that they’re on vervain.
Present: Kai assumes that Damon killed Gail. Bonnie doesn’t want to hear that, as if that would be a deal-breaker for her and she would never speak to him again, even though he’s done tons of other horrible stuff, including turning her mother into a vampire. Damon thinks Kai is stalling because he doesn’t actually know how they can leave 1994. Kai calls his bluff and spells it all out: They can harness the power of the eclipse that happens every day using a relic called an ascendant. He’s been putting together a model so Damon and Bonnie can see what it looks like. His family had one in the Pacific Northwest in 1994, and he wants Bonnie to do a locator spell to find it.
Stefan takes Elena to his garage so he can pick up his final paycheck. She teases him for signing up for health insurance. He says part of starting over is acting as human as possible. She points out that he brought his Porsche with him and ostensibly still uses vampire perks like compulsion, so he didn’t completely abandon his life. Stefan says that he brought the Porsche out of retirement because Damon isn’t around to make fun of it. Elena comments that Damon “really did love to torture people with nicknames – and just plain torture people.” She asks if a low-paying job is really the best way to move on. Stefan tells her the fun part is deciding who you want to be for the next 30 years (until people notice you haven’t aged and you have to move on).
Alaric chats with Jo, who knows that Jeremy is Elena’s brother. He clarifies that he was nowhere near the partier Jeremy is when he was a teenager. He was more likely to hang out at the library. He spots a guy with a bloody nose and struggles to keep from vamping out. Jo chastises him for getting distracted while she was flirting with him.
Stefan and Elena go to a bar so he can show her his “system.” He asks for a ring she’s wearing, then pretends to propose to her with it. She plays along and they hide their laughter as they make up details for their fake personas – she’s pregnant, and he’s been to jail and rehab, as well as dealt with a bullfighting injury. They sell the ruse so well that everyone in the bar cheers for them when they get “engaged.”
Damon makes paper airplanes on the lawn, then goes back inside, where Bonnie’s trying to do a locator spell. He taunts her when she can’t get it to work. Kai advises her to tune Damon out by pretending he’s a white-noise machine. Kai used that trick when he was younger and his siblings were bugging him. He gets a little too close to Bonnie, and Damon gets protective.
1994: Damon meets Liz for the first time at an eclipse-viewing party at the boarding house. She shows him a picture of a toddler Caroline, saying she’s “high-maintenance” but worth it. Gail asks Stefan to take a picture of her and Zach. He notices fang marks on her wrist and she says she doesn’t remember what happened. Damon flirts with Liz, who thinks Bill would get along well with him. Oh, Liz. Stefan confronts Damon for biting Gail, and Damon says his time pretending he’s reformed is up. He compels Liz to go home and forget meeting the Salvatores.
Stefan asks how Damon was able to feed on Gail, since she’s on vervain. Damon admits to swapping out Gail and Zach’s vervain-laced coffee last week. Stefan warns that Zach will stop trusting them when he finds out. Damon doesn’t think he’s done anything big – he’s just doing snatch-eat-erase in the house. It’s functional. It’s all part of his fresh start. Stefan disagrees and breaks his neck.
Present: Bonnie’s locator spell shows that the ascendant is in Mystic Falls. She realizes Kai has it on him. He just wanted to test that her magic was precise enough for the spell that will send them home. Now that he’s satisfied, they can go.
1994: Damon wakes up in a shed, because I guess the cells in the basement weren’t equipped to restrain him yet. Stefan asks why he pretended he was turning over a new leaf. Damon says he had to lie so he could stay. He likes it there. Stefan has taken his daylight ring and won’t give it back until Damon agrees to behave himself. Stefan asks why he came back to Mystic Falls. Damon says he missed his brother. He wanted a connection to his humanity. When he decided to visit, his emotions returned.
He tries to entice Stefan to go on a road trip with him. They can both go bad and binge on human blood. Stefan knows that’ll just end badly, like it did in 1912, when Damon made Stefan fall off the wagon and he became a Ripper. And like it did in 1942, when Damon almost took Stefan to the dark side again. And like it did in 1977, when Stefan sent Lexi to help Damon, who then left her to die. Now that Stefan’s happy and doing well, Damon can’t handle it.
Damon denies that he’s trying to screw up Stefan’s new life. “You don’t have to try, Damon. All you have to do is exist,” Stefan replies. Wherever Stefan goes and whatever he does, Damon will always be with him, trying to destroy everything he’s built. Stefan can’t believe he thought this time would be different. Damon just keeps failing.
Present: A guy at the bar keeps an eye on Stefan and Elena as they enjoy free drinks other patrons have sent them. (Maybe they missed the part where she said she was pregnant. She wishes she could take that one back.) She notes that when she first met Stefan, he’d been away from Mystic Falls for 15 years. Why did he come back? He says it’s because he met her.
He’s had a lot of roles since 1864, and Elena thinks it must have been difficult to go through so many changes without having a constant in his life. She brings up Damon, and Stefan comments that it’s weird for her to refer to him as just Stefan’s brother. Elena doesn’t get what that means, but he says it’s not important. They toast to change.
Kai tries to figure out where the eclipse’s power will be focused for the spell. Bonnie notes that he could have just shown them the ascendant. She thinks something’s off with him. Damon teases that she’s just not used to guys flirting with her. She tells him she can’t wait to get out of there and talk to someone else. Damon asks for a few minutes of peace while Kai’s quiet.
Bonnie sees one of his airplanes, which he made out of pages of the newspaper they get every day. There’s an article about a family being killed in Portland. She shows it to Damon, telling him that there was another family member who went missing, a 22-year-old named Malachai. Kai hears and confirms that that’s him. He defends his actions, saying he didn’t kill all his siblings. He let a sister live, though he did cut out her spleen. (He doesn’t mention what we’ll find out later, that two others got away from him.) As for the other four, Kai speaks of their murders like a psychopath. He has no remorse and doesn’t care that they’re dead.
He clarifies that the kids weren’t just his family – they were also his coven. Damon asks why he made Bonnie prove her abilities as a witch when he’s one himself. Kai explains that he doesn’t have any powers. His coven, Gemini, banished him here. Bonnie realizes they created this version of 1994 as a prison for Kai. “This isn’t your Hell, Damon,” Kai tells him. “It’s mine.”
Alaric takes Jeremy to the woods for a training session, but Jeremy doesn’t think it’s a fair fight since Alaric is technically an Original vampire. Alaric points out that Jeremy killed an Original. Oh, hey, who wants to tell Jeremy that Kol’s back from the dead? Alaric says that Jeremy would be able to put up a fight if he stopped drinking so much. Jeremy’s annoyed that no one seems to think he should be allowed to be a mess right now. Bonnie’s dead, and she said goodbye to him over the phone so that Alaric… Alaric finishes for Jeremy, saying that she sacrificed herself so he could come back. Jeremy’s mad that Bonnie saved everyone except herself.
Alaric tries to sympathize, since Isobel left him because she would rather be a vampire than stay with him. Then she died. Then Jenna died. Yeah, Ric, he doesn’t need a recap. He was there for all of this. The point is that Damon killed Isobel, then died himself, and Alaric kind of misses him. Now he can’t talk to a woman without thinking about drinking her blood. He has tons of resentment built up, but he keeps going because that’s what the gang does. Jeremy doesn’t respond, but he indicates that Alaric has gotten through to him.
Back at the bar, Elena asks if she and Stefan have to pretend they’re strangers if they ever run into each other again. He promises that they can still be friends. He’ll even give her a discount if she ever needs a car repair. As she leaves, Stefan approaches the guy at the bar who was watching them. The guy says Stefan put his brother in the hospital. Stefan doesn’t care, and he requests congratulations on his fake engagement. Instead, he gets a bottle to the face. Stefan eggs the guy on and takes a few punches. Before the guy can do any serious damage, Elena zooms in and compels the guy to leave and forget the fight.
Bonnie, Damon, and Kai return to Vamp Villa as the eclipse occurs overhead. She doesn’t want to let Kai escape, but Damon is willing to give the mass murderer a pass so they can go home. Bonnie asks if Damon doesn’t get the big deal here because he murdered a pregnant woman.
1994: Thanks to the eclipse, Damon was able to leave the shed without his daylight ring. He’s back in the boarding house, attacking the party guests. Stefan and Zach find him about to kill Gail. He demands his ring back, and when Stefan returns it, he realizes he’s never going to be rid of his brother. Damon says he won’t. In 1912, he showed Stefan who he is. In 1942, he gave Stefan his freedom. And in 1977, he almost killed Lexi because Stefan didn’t come to help him. “You owe me, and it’ll take you an eternity to pay me back,” Damon tells his brother. He bites Gail’s neck and tosses her to the floor. “An eternity of misery, brother – just like I promised,” Damon says before zooming away.
Present: “Poor Nephew/Uncle Zach,” is Kai’s response to the story. Damon says that Stefan compelled Zach to forget about Gail and the baby. Instead of covering up the other deaths, Stefan just left town. The Founder’s Council started back up again, though they didn’t have much to do for the next 15 years, since Stefan and Damon both stayed away. When Damon came back and saw Zach again, he kept remembering how he’d ruined Zach’s life. It was a relief to kill him.
Done spilling his guts, Damon asks if they can go home now. Kai warns Bonnie that if he goes, too, he’s going to kill his coven. Damon begs Bonnie to do the spell to let them leave; he needs to get back to both Elena and Stefan. But Bonnie won’t release a killer, so she isn’t going to do the spell. Kai approaches Bonnie, but Damon separates them and tells him never to touch her. Kai says that since the eclipse is over, they’ve missed today’s escape window and will have to wait until tomorrow.
Tripp and Matt drive back from their meeting with Liz, which apparently didn’t go well. Tripp’s wife was Liz’s high school rival, so there’s some animosity there. Tripp clarifies that his wife died in a car accident some time ago, which is why he left town. It held too many memories. Matt asks Tripp what he told Liz, and Tripp says Jay was probably killed by a mountain lion. Matt implies that he knows the animal attacks in town aren’t really animal attacks. He says Jay told him he was tracking a vampire last night. Matt pretends that that’s a crazy idea he knows nothing about. Tripp buys it and says he needs to show Matt something.
Elena asks why Stefan picked a fight with the guy at the bar. Stefan says it’s part of his system. She guesses that he lets people beat him up so he can feel something. He spits out that she has no place to lecture him about coping mechanisms. She tells him he’s not the only one who’s grieving – she lost Bonnie when he lost Damon. She fought through it, and it was hard, but she’s recovering.
Elena thinks Stefan is pushing her away because she and Damon didn’t get along. She doesn’t get why he would inflict pain on himself over the death of a hateful person. Damon doesn’t deserve his grief. Stefan needs to find a different way to move on. He says he can’t just forget Damon like Elena did. When Elena says she’s not forgetting him, Stefan tells her everything: She had Alaric erase all the good things Damon did. “You made him a monster in your own mind because you couldn’t handle the grief of losing him,” Stefan says.
She doesn’t believe that. Why would she do that? Stefan tells her that they were in love, and when Damon died, a part of her died, too. Elena finds it ridiculous that she could love Damon. Stefan admits that he couldn’t understand it for a long time, but then he saw it. Damon helped Elena embrace the darkest parts of herself. When she died, he made her feel alive and she made him feel human. “You loved Damon for the same reasons that I loved Damon – because in spite of every single thing that he did, we couldn’t live without him,” Stefan says. Now Stefan’s the only one who has to. If Elena gets to handle her grief her way, he gets to do it his way.
Tripp takes Matt to a little cabin in the woods that only people in his inner circle know about. Tripp came to town after the “gas leak” a few months ago to check on his grandmother. When he crossed the border, he remembered things – things like the fact that his wife didn’t die in a car accident. She was killed in front of him by a vampire. The killer altered his memories to make him think he was responsible. Tripp started looking into vampires and discovered that they’re real. Now he has Enzo chained up in his cabin for killing Jay. Tripp plans to get him to spill the names of all the vampires in the area, including the one who bit Sarah.
Speaking of Sarah, she’s back at Vamp Villa to get answers out of Jeremy. She found a picture of Zach and Gail. Since she was a baby, she’s had her own picture of Gail – her mother. She was a Jane Doe who turned up in a hospital six months pregnant (a flashback shows that that was courtesy of Stefan). The nurses thought Sarah was dead, too, but a doctor did an emergency C-section and saved her. Though she doesn’t say it and would have no way of knowing, a flashback reveals that that doctor was Grayson. Sarah never knew who her father was, but now that she’s found the picture Stefan took, she guesses it’s Zach. Jeremy tells her who he was.
Elena goes to Alaric’s to confront him for messing with her memories, as if it was his idea. He brings out her box of Damon-related stuff and gives her a journal where she wrote a letter to herself. (She predicted Caroline would be the one to tell her what she’d erased. Heh.) It confirms that Elena loved Damon and couldn’t handle the void left by his death. She couldn’t face eternity without him, and she turned into someone she wasn’t – a monster.
As Damon looks at a picture of Stefan and Zach, Elena looks through the box of his things. Her letter says that Alaric can restore her memories, but it would be better not to. There’s no end to the pain she’s facing. She needs to discover who she is without pain. “If you feel any hope for the future at all, then you’re already better off,” she writes. In Savannah, Stefan uncovers the car he’s been restoring in his free time. It’s Damon’s Camaro. Elena’s letter urges her to take advantage of this chance to start over and be happy. Alaric asks what she wants him to do. She gives him back the journal and asks him to hold on to it in case she needs to read the letter again.
Bonnie has psychoanalyzed Damon and decided that he makes pancakes every day to punish himself because Gail liked them. He feels remorse, which makes him different from Kai. That means there’s hope for him. Damon suggests that they steal the ascendant, find out what Kai knows, and leave without him. But Kai has been eavesdropping, and he tells Damon it’s not that easy. He has a “peculiar effect” on magic. Though he can’t produce it himself, he can take it from others. He grabs Bonnie’s arm and siphons her magic so he can give Damon a migraine and start a fire.
Kai says that if he takes all of Bonnie’s magic, he’ll kill her. If the three of them work together, they can all go home. Or he can take Bonnie’s magic, kill both her and Damon, and leave by himself. Hmm, sounds like the decision here is simple.
Stefan gets a surprise visitor while he’s working on the Camaro – Ivy. Enzo fed her his blood before he killed her, and now she’s really thirsty.
Keep in mind: Kai killed his siblings, leaving one sister alive (but without a spleen).
Kai’s family was part of the Gemini coven.
Kai can siphon magic.
Etc.: Not that killing Gail wasn’t bad, but I don’t think Damon would see it as the worst thing he ever did. Did he already forget about killing Aaron? Killing Jeremy? Okay, I have to stop at just two things or I’ll be here all day.
I feel like Stefan’s mention of a bullfighting injury is too random not to be based in reality. It makes me think he once went to Spain, tried to fight a bull, and walked away sulking.
1994 Liz with long hair, wearing a pink dress = weird.
Damon’s actually lucky that he got stuck in 1994 with Bonnie because if he’d come back while everyone thought she’d died, Jeremy probably would have killed him.
I can’t believe Jeremy didn’t mention the irony of being lectured about his drinking by a guy who’s basically a functional alcoholic.
I feel like Stefan could have easily stopped Damon from killing Gail. Also, why did he think putting Damon in timeout without securing him was going to accomplish anything? They’re called chains, Stefan. Get some.
Grayson being the one to deliver Sarah was an unnecessary connection.