Elena wakes up to the sound of Kai’s voice babbling about restaurants. They’re at the Grill, where he’s tied her up with vervain-soaked ropes. He explains that he siphoned the magic out of the border spell, and now he’s full of power. He tried to use it to give the restaurant’s manager a heart attack, but something went wrong and “he kind of exploded in blood.” Kai’s decided he can’t merge with Jo while he’s like this, so he’s going to practice, using Elena as a guinea pig. He puts her on edge by undoing a cloaking spell he’s already perfected, revealing that the manager’s dead body is on the table between them.
Stefan also wakes to unpleasant noises – someone’s breaking stuff at Vamp Villa. He goes to the kitchen, where he finds Jeremy shirtless. Jeremy, unphased, says he forgot Stefan lived there. Stefan hears something else breaking and goes to check it out. Liv’s clothes are smoking and she asks where she can find a T-shirt to borrow. The living room is in disarray, thanks to Jo’s unsuccessful attempts to reteach herself magic. She apologizes for breaking a vase and asks if it was expensive. “I don’t know but the Smithsonian would,” Stefan replies.
Alaric arrives with breakfast, including champagne for mimosas so he doesn’t have to watch this mess sober. No that Alaric does much of anything sober. Jo explains to Stefan that she’s going to train for a month (until the next celestial event), then merge with Kai. Damon offered up Vamp Villa as her training grounds because he feels guilty about…well, all sorts of stuff, I imagine.
Damon isn’t there for Stefan to complain to about that because he spent the night in a chair in Liz’s hospital room. He got a text from Elena (really Kai) saying she couldn’t come by Vamp Villa the night before because something came up. Damon confirms to Liz that he’s letting Alaric use the house as Jo’s personal Hogwarts in an attempt to make things up to him. He doesn’t realize the idea he’s planted in Alaric’s head that will be realized in a few years.
Caroline brings Liz a kale smoothie, which she’s heard can slow the spread of cancer. She wishes they could skip the research and just try healing her with vampire blood. Liz won’t allow it, and Damon agrees that they shouldn’t mess with magic. Liz is going to be a good patient, taking it easy at home while she waits for MRI results.
Liv raids Damon’s dresser while talking to Tyler on the phone about the work she has cut out for her with Jo. Luke doesn’t know about the sisters’ planned training sessions. Caroline takes Liz home, pleased to see that Liz has been taking care of an orchid Caroline had to leave behind while she wasn’t able to be in Mystic Falls. Stefan has volunteered to rearrange some things at Fort Forbes so Liz will be more comfortable. He’s a little shaken by being around her, knowing she’s dying. Caroline announces that she’s going to meet with an expert on Liz’s type of tumor. When Stefan learns that she’s going to Duke, he asks to tag along. He wants to go visit a friend. (Caroline’s confused, since she thought his friends were her and Elena.)
Kai takes Elena to Mystic Falls High, which is empty because everyone’s on winter break. He wanted a testing location with no flammable surfaces and lots of bathrooms. He spots a picture of her and Bonnie from when they were cheerleaders and comments that they were so innocent back then, “smiling like nothing bad could ever happen.” Anyway, back to work – he wants to try to turn Elena’s blood to acid. He actually tried it already but may have accidentally burst some capillaries in her brain, which is why she doesn’t remember getting there.
Elena tries to reason with Kai, who ignores her and gets to work. He doesn’t turn her blood to acid but he does manage to melt her daylight ring. Elena’s able to free herself from the chains she’s in, and she races to a sink in a chemistry lab, hoping she can cool the ring with water before it melts completely. No luck. Kai doesn’t get the significance of the ring; he thinks she just liked it, something he never understood. Why get attached to something if losing it will just make you unhappy?
Elena takes in her surroundings and comes up with a creative weapon: She sticks her hand in a sunbeam to light it on fire, then turns on some gas and makes herself a flamethrower. She shoots fire at Kai and is able to run away from him again.
Damon comes home to find Jo trying to float stuff and Liv wearing one of his shirts. His phone rings and he answers, “Magic camp, how can I help you?” It’s Elena, calling to ask him to rescue her from Kai. She’s only able to say where she is before she has to hang up and run again. Kai’s a step ahead, though, and he traps her in the cafeteria and uses magic to break her neck without touching her.
Stefan and Caroline go to a student photo exhibition at Duke while she tries to get in touch with the doctor she wants to meet. He tells her to go without him and he’ll catch up with her later. He’s there to see Sarah Nelson – the real Sarah Nelson. But Enzo’s new obsession with learning Stefan’s secrets and trying to ruin his life has also brought him to the exhibit.
Caroline meets with the doctor, who says that Liz’s team is doing everything right. There are no other options for her at this stage. The doctor has a patient in the same condition and he’s not responding to any treatments. All that’s left for him to do is wait to die. Caroline says she wants to see him.
Kai has tied Elena up again, this time in the cafeteria. He says it’s no wonder Damon likes her – she’s “crazypants” (incidentally, the same thing Damon once called Amara). He’s sad that she burned his shirt and he had to find a Mystic Falls Wolverines tee to replace it. Elena doesn’t get how he can care about his shirt but not people. Kai asks if she’s going to put him through an episode of Ricki Lake and make him face his demons so he becomes a better person. She wants to know if he’s really never cared about anyone. He says he liked one of his brothers. You know, one of the brothers he killed. He tells Elena not to waste energy trying to change him. He likes himself, and that’s what’s most important.
“To think, a day almost went by where I wasn’t roped into saving one of your friends,” Liv comments as she and Damon arrive at the school. He needs her to do a cloaking spell so he can sneak in and get Elena. Liv refuses to go in, in case Kai sees her, but she says she’s strong enough to do the spell from outside. Damon hopes she’s better at practicing magic than teaching it, because her lessons with Jo aren’t off to a good start. She promises that Jo will be ready for the merge when the time comes.
She starts the spell, but instead of making Damon disappear, Liv vanishes. Luke has done his own cloaking spell, and after telling Damon that Liv doesn’t have time for this, he cloaks himself as well. Damon calls Alaric to complain that Luke and Liv are both gone and he needs a new plan. Jo offers to help, since she’s known how to do a cloaking spell since she was a kid. The only problem is that she’ll have to stay next to Damon while she does the spell, so she’ll have to go in with him. Jeremy joins the conversation, announcing that he has another idea. “Let me guess – Jeremy’s holding a crossbow,” Damon says over the phone. (He’s right.) Jo refuses to let anyone kill Kai, but Jeremy isn’t going to discount that possibility if it comes to it.
Luke takes Liv to his dorm, explaining that their father wants them to return to Portland. The gang isn’t their responsibility – the coven is. Liv guesses that Luke found out that she’s training Jo, and Luke told Joshua, who summoned them home. She complains that Luke is just like their father. Luke says he’s always believed that Kai is too dangerous to lead the coven, and Liv and Jo are wasting their time because Jo will never beat Kai. Liv points out that Luke cloaked her, which means he’s strong enough to be the leader. She knows her brother loves her and kind of hopes that she’ll live if they merge. But Liv thinks he’ll win, and it scares her. She’s not going home, and she’s going to continue preparing Jo to merge with Kai.
Matt found the Grill’s manager’s body when he got to work, so he calls Liv in to investigate. He notes that the border spell has been down for 22 hours and 18 minutes, and someone’s already dead. “This is never gonna end, is it?” he asks. Their life is back to the way it was before everyone supernatural was banished. Liv is basically like, “We’ve all learned to accept the cost of living here, so suck it up.” (But nicer than that) She starts to collapse, worrying Matt, who may not know yet about her diagnosis.
Caroline visits Colin, the patient who hasn’t responded to treatments. Since he has no family and is going to die no matter what, she decides to use him as a lab rat. She feeds him some of her blood and compels him to forget their encounter.
At the school, Kai magically carves a letter K into Elena’s cheek, then makes it disappear. He tells her he’s working on self-control. Damon and Jo enter, bickering over whether or not Alaric is making a good decision by trying to protect her. Kai is just one hallway over but can’t hear them. When he comes into their hallway, he pauses and looks their way, but he can’t see them.
Enzo asks Stefan why he let Enzo kill Monique – what secret was he trying to protect? Since the photo exhibit is by a Sarah Nelson, the same name Monique was using, Enzo figures she’s someone significant. He threatens to introduce Stefan to her, but Stefan won’t let him. He’s tired of Enzo’s whole deal, so he reveals that Sarah is Zach’s daughter, and Damon killed her mother.
Enzo asks why Stefan wants to keep that from Damon. Stefan wanted to give Sarah a safe, happy life, and after all these years of lies, Damon won’t be happy to learn the truth. But if Enzo tells him about Sarah, Stefan won’t have it hanging over his head anymore and Enzo won’t have anything to obsess over, so he can go ahead. Caroline calls to summon Stefan to the hospital, where she’s “conducting an experiment.” Enzo decides to drop the whole Sarah thing and leaves.
Elena is alone in the cafeteria when her ropes suddenly come off. Damon and Jo appear to her as she gets pulled into their cloaking spell. Jo’s weakening and wants them to leave before she has to drop the spell, but Elena can’t go outside without a daylight ring. She suggests that they escape through the tunnels accessible through the boiler room.
Liv tells Tyler that her fate is once again up in the air because Luke would probably beat her in a merge. Tyler thinks they should run away, but Liv knows her family would hunt her down. Tyler says that if she won’t fight, she might as well just walk into her doom. She tells him she made a mistake getting involved with him. He disagrees. Luke finds them and announces that he told Joshua that he and Liv won’t do the merge. He won’t fulfill his destiny or his responsibility to the coven if it means killing his sister.
Jo continues weakening as she, Elena, and Damon head for the tunnels. (It takes more power to cloak three people than two.) The spell drops and Kai catches them. Jo apologizes but Damon likes the idea of Kai having to watch Damon beat him up. Jo leaves and Kai cloaks Elena, ready to face off with Damon alone. Damon almost ends the fight after just a few seconds by throwing a mop handle through Kai’s chest. But Kai has used another illusion spell to make Elena look like him, and she’s the one with the makeshift stake just inches from her heart.
Kai gives Damon a magic migraine, then leaves him and Elena so he can grab Jo. Fortunately, a backup plan is waiting in the wings – Jeremy shoots Kai through the shoulder with a crossbow bolt, and Alaric injects him with something that knocks him out.
Colin has made what can only be described as a miraculous recovery. He’s out of bed, hungry, and basically looks like he was never sick. Stefan’s skeptical that the solution is that simple. Caroline reminds him that vampire blood is magic. They just haven’t heard about using it like this before because most vampires aren’t altruistic enough to try it. Stefan wants this to work, and Caroline asks him to believe it will. At least he should believe that she thinks it’ll work. He does, so they head back to Mystic Falls to see Liz.
Damon pulls pieces of wood out of Elena, who tells him there’s still a splinter near her heart. If he has anything he needs to say, he should do it now. He focuses on what he’s doing, and she reveals that she was just messing with him. I’m not sure how that’s funny but okay. They end up holding hands, and when Jo and Alaric join them, Damon’s like, “Yes, please come hang out with us, we were just hoping we wouldn’t have to be alone right now.” Alaric asks Elena if she’s okay. “I’ve never felt more alive,” she replies.
Enzo goes back to the photo exhibit and talks to the organizer about Sarah’s family. He mentions that one of her relatives tortured him, and now he wants revenge. The organizer just thinks he spent the day helping himself to the exhibit’s selection of free wine. Enzo tells her that the best revenge is cultivated and patient, so no one sees it coming until it’s too late. He compels her to pack up all of Sarah’s work for him.
Damon, Elena, Jo, and Alaric take Kai to Alaric’s place, where they’ll keep him sedated until the next celestial event. Elena asks Damon if they can try again to meet up for dinner. Jo offers to clean her clothes; she’s even created her own blood remover. Alaric tells Damon that he thinks Jo is going to be able to defeat Kai. Damon points out that Kai absorbed all the magic from the border, which mean he’s more powerful than they all thought. But Alaric won’t drop his optimism, so Damon backs off. “Here’s to women who make crazy, screwed-up decisions, and loving them more for it,” he toasts.
Stefan takes Caroline back to Fort Forbes, telling her all about Sarah. She thinks he’s noble for keeping the secret for all these years and keeping an eye out for Sarah. She thanks him for all he’s done for her and Liz. He takes her hand, and by not pulling away, she indicates that their friendship is definitely on the mend. She goes inside, where Matt has been hanging out with Liz. After he leaves, Caroline tells her mother that there are no available cures for her. Liz wants to get another opinion, but Caroline knows there aren’t any more options. That’s why she gave her blood to Colin.
Caroline tells Liz that she’s known for a while that she would outlive her mother, since Liz is mortal and Caroline isn’t. But she’s not ready to lose Liz this soon. She wants all the things they haven’t done yet. “I want you to live for me,” Caroline says, knowing it’s selfish. At Duke, Colin starts coughing. Caroline bites herself and drips some blood into Liz’s teacup. As Colin starts coughing up blood and crawls into the hallway to get help, Liz drinks. “Everything’s gonna be okay,” Caroline assures her mother.
Etc.: Paul Wesley (Stefan) directed this episode.
Damon has two moments in this episode that made me go, “Awww”: 1) Spending the night in Liz’s hospital room. 2) Reassuring Jo that it’s okay that she dropped the cloaking spell.
Elena should retroactively get bonus points in high school chemistry for creating her own flamethrower.
Liv’s facial expression when Damon asks if she’s wearing his shirt his hilarious. It says, “Yes, it’s yours, but it looks better on me and I’m keeping it.”
Elena may not remember her relationship with Damon, but since she calls him from a pay phone, at some point she memorized his phone number.
This would have been an opportune time for someone to call Meredith and ask about her experiences using vampire blood with patients, but I think Paul Wesley and Torrey DeVitto had split up by this point, so that wasn’t going to happen.