Damon is lying in the middle of an empty road at night, still wearing his clothes from the wedding. When Elena finds him, he tells her he was waiting for her. She asks why he’s waiting for her at the place where they first met. “I’m feeling symbolic,” he tells her. From the look on his face, she can tell that something’s really wrong. Instead of telling her, he asks her to dance.
This isn’t real. They’re still at the wedding, where Kai has just shattered all the glass in the tent and knocked Elena out. Damon tries to feed her some of his blood, apparently forgetting that now that she’s taken the cure, it won’t do anything for her. Alaric asks someone to help Jo, but most of the people in the room are badly injured or dying, except for Damon. Damon yells for Kai, then Stefan, distressed because Elena won’t wake up. Stefan and Caroline surface, and Stefan tells Damon to get Elena to the hospital. Caroline worries that Elena’s now-human body won’t recover.
Kai sneaks up behind Stefan and Caroline and breaks both of their necks. He says it’s nothing personal; it’s just that this is a family matter. Joshua approaches Kai, starting a spell that Kai guesses will send him to a prison world. Some other Gemini coven members join in the chant. Kai reminds them that they can’t kill him because the death of a Gemini leader means the death of all the members.
He tells Alaric he’s sorry about killing his and Jo’s twins. Kai just doesn’t want to have to compete with them for leadership when they’re older. His family decided he was trash, so he figured he might as well prove them right. Kai faces the remaining coven members, then jams a big piece of glass into his neck, killing himself.
Like her not-real moment with Damon in the road, Elena has a not-real moment with Alaric, revisiting the days when he used to train her in the woods. He’s not in a good place to talk to her, but she tells him not to give up. He says he has nothing left to fight for.
While a doctor examines Elena, Damon calls Bonnie, who’s still at Vamp Villa with Matt. She tells Damon that Kai’s out. He’s sweetly relieved that Kai didn’t hurt her. Bonnie says he came after her, and though he took some of her blood, he left her alive. Damon tells her that Kai came to the wedding, killed Jo, and knocked out Elena. The doctors can’t figure out what’s wrong with her.
Stefan and Caroline wake up in the back of a car being driven by Enzo. He tells them that Damon took Elena to the hospital, Kai is dead, and all the Geminis are about to be, too. Enzo has a bigger problem to handle right now. He takes them to that problem, Lily, who’s been searching the storage containers she was sent to for her Heretic family. She tells Stefan that Kai brought them with him when he escaped the prison world. Stefan says he must have lied about bringing them along. She made a deal with a murderer, and guess what, now people have been murdered. Lily ignores him and keeps looking.
Back at the wedding venue, the Geminis are on their last legs. Joshua yells for Liv, who was blown outside with Tyler. He’s been impaled by a huge piece of glass, so neither of them is in good shape. He takes her hand and tells her he loves her. Liv refuses to let him die after everything that’s happened. She looks up and sees a full moon in the sky. If he turned, he’d heal, but that means retriggering his werewolf curse, and that, of course, means killing someone.
Tyler doesn’t want to, but Liv reminds him that he once said he’d gotten a second chance and wouldn’t waste it. She tells him she loves him and asks him to let her do this for him. He pulls the glass out of himself so he can get closer to Liv. “Don’t waste it,” she whispers. She puts his hand over her mouth so he can smother her to death and become a werewolf again.
As he starts turning, Tyler calls Matt to tell him what’s going on so he can warn their vampire friends to stay away from him. Meanwhile, Stefan waits for Lily to give up on the hope of finding the Heretics. He’s tired of her calling them her family; they’re just strangers she sired. She tells him they spent a century and a half together and are loyal to each other. She has a deeper bond with them than anyone she’s ever known, she says to her son.
Stefan orders her to come with him right now or be out of his life for good. The fact that Lily hesitates should be enough of an answer for Stefan, but she makes it official by apologizing, then going back to her search. Stefan stops her and demands to know what she gave Kai in exchange for bringing her the Heretics. She says she gave him her blood.
Back at the wedding venue, Kai revives, now in transition to become a Heretic. He tests out his new ability to do magic without siphoning from anyone or anything else by pulling Joshua closer. He wipes some blood off of his father to taste.
Alaric takes Jo’s body to his car, then retrieves a gun from his glove compartment. Kai approaches and asks if this is a bad time. Alaric fires a bunch of shots at him, but now that Kai’s a vampire, they don’t have any effect on him. With a resigned look that’s almost like a smile, Alaric puts the gun to his head and pulls the trigger. He used all his bullets on Kai, though, so nothing happens. “Looks like somebody’s having a very bad day,” Kai comments. And then so is he, because Tyler leaps out of the darkness, tackles him, and bites him.
Elena’s not-real moment with Matt takes place on Wickery Bridge, a reenactment of the mini-memorial service he once held for her. She eulogizes herself as a great girlfriend and friend, then tosses flowers off the bridge. He’s glad one of them can find some lightness in the situation. Elena says she has to, since the alternative is saying goodbye, which she’s not ready for.
Real Matt is ready to take Bonnie to the hospital to see Elena, but she’s found a video Kai left for her on the 1994 camcorder. In it, Kai explains that he used Silas’ headstone to get out of 1903, the same way Bonnie used it to get out of 1994 (though she used it for magic while he used it for Bennett blood). He wants to make Bonnie suffer for trapping him in 1903.
At the hospital, Damon gets a text from Alaric telling him that Tyler is a werewolf again and Kai is a vampire. Kai suddenly shows up and asks Damon what’s happening to him. Damon guesses that he was bitten by a werewolf. He offers to go to New Orleans and get some of Klaus’ blood if Kai tells him what he did to Elena. Kai says he can’t do that.
Damon warns that he’s in a “volatile” place right now, so if Kai messes with him, he’s going to get decapitated. Kai doesn’t find Damon so intimidating now that he just looks blurry. Damon attacks him and orders him to fix Elena. The doctor said she’s fine, so Kai must have done a spell. Kai says she’ll stay “fine” until she wakes up. In his video to Bonnie, he clarifies this: He linked Elena and Bonnie’s lives. As long as Bonnie’s alive, Elena will remain asleep. If anyone tries to find a workaround, both of them will immediately die. “This is kind of all your fault,” Kai taunts Bonnie.
Matt urges her to leave town. Elena’s the only person Damon cares about, and Matt can see him killing Bonnie to get Elena back. Bonnie’s not worried, though. Kai has the same idea as Matt, that Damon can just kill Bonnie, though he notes that Elena would hate him for it. Kai heads out before Damon can take out his anger on him.
In Elena’s not-real moment with Stefan, they go to the falls, the place she once told him she didn’t want to be a vampire. She thinks it’s fitting now that she’s human again. She acknowledges that Stefan always knew she didn’t want to be a vampire – he knew her better than anyone. That means he knows how difficult it is for her to say goodbye.
Caroline and Stefan stay with Elena while Damon’s off dealing with Kai. Caroline asks if Stefan will be okay if they can’t break the spell keeping Elena asleep. Stefan doesn’t answer, instead asking if Caroline will be okay. She says no, but at least she’ll be able to see Elena again someday, after Bonnie’s gone. She thinks this will be tougher on Stefan because he and Elena were soulmates once.
Stefan says that Elena didn’t come into his life to be his soulmate. She was, and they loved each other, but she’s also the only person who’s ever believed that Damon was worth loving. She reminded Stefan that he used to believe the same thing. Her faith in Damon brought the brothers back together. Stefan loved Elena more than he thought he could love someone else, but ultimately he needed Damon more than he needed her. He asks Caroline if she feels like she needs to keep her distance from him because she doesn’t think he’s moved on from Elena. She says no, but she also doesn’t want to finish the conversation.
Kai goes back to the wedding venue, looking for any survivors he can feed on. Bonnie finds him, showing no fear. He taunts that her friends will want Elena awake more than they’ll want Bonnie alive. She gives him a magic migraine and orders him to undo the sleeping spell. He says he can’t. She magically breaks his bones but he just laughs at her. He repeats that he can’t undo the spell – his death made it permanent. Bonnie says she’ll just wait for his werewolf bite to kill him. But Kai realizes that he can siphon out the venom and heal himself. Once he’s done, he levitates Bonnie off the ground and throws her into a wall.
On the road in their not-real moment, Damon asks Elena again to dance. She still wants to know how bad things are. He finally tells her that Kai linked her to Bonnie, and Elena won’t wake up until Bonnie dies. Kai won. Elena asks what Damon’s going to do, but he doesn’t answer.
Damon finds Bonnie, who’s badly injured. Kai says this is the perfect time for Damon to kill her and get Elena back. Or he can just walk away and let Bonnie die without having to do anything himself. Damon contemplates his options, then tells Bonnie he’s sorry. He kisses her forehead, pulls his hand out of her grasp, and walks out. She watches, stunned, as he leaves her to die.
Kai can’t believe it, either. He arranged this to torture Damon. He could have at least flipped a coin: heads, Bonnie lives; tails… He doesn’t get to finish, because Damon sneaks up behind him and fulfills his threat to decapitate him. “Heads it is,” he says. Then he zooms over to Bonnie and heals her. He was never going to leave her to die – he’s not done making up new nicknames for her.
The next day, the gang gathers at Vamp Villa, where they’ve put Elena in a coffin. We finally get an explanation for all of the not-real scenes: People have been going into Elena’s mind to say goodbye to her. Caroline helps Bonnie connect with Elena, and the three of them imagine themselves having a sleepover at Gilbert Gables. Elena tells Caroline to take care of everyone while she’s asleep. She asks Bonnie and Caroline to keep journals off all their experiences over the next few decades so Elena can read them when she wakes up and feel like she was there.
Bonnie apologizes to Elena, who says it’s not her fault. They’re both going to get everything they want in life, just not at the same time. As Caroline leaves, Elena notes that Bonnie has spent her life making sacrifices for Elena. Now it’s Elena’s turn to make a sacrifice. As a last request, she pulls out a handful of feathers and asks Bonnie to make them float. They laugh through their tears as she does it.
Matt tosses flowers off the bridge back in his and Elena’s not-real moment. He’s dressed as a sheriff’s deputy, which is what Elena hopes he’ll become. He’s always been the same throughout their crazy lives – “human, loyal, and good.” She hopes he spends his life fighting for people like him. Matt’s sad because there’s a good chance he’ll never see Elena again. She points out that they’ve survived all sorts of crazy stuff. “I like our odds,” she tells him.
In the woods, Elena assures Alaric that he won’t be in pain forever. He just has to let it all in first instead of fighting it. “You have to let yourself drown in it, but then eventually, you’ll start to swim,” she tells him. “And every single breath that you fight for will make you stronger.” As Alaric comes out of the connection, Jeremy arrives. He’s sorry he missed the wedding but Alaric’s glad that he was out of danger.
Jeremy enters Elena’s mind and they meet up in the stoner pit. She starts crying immediately and wishes she’d been able to stay strong for him. He tells her that when she wakes up, she should know that he spent his life doing what he felt he was born to do. He was happy. Tyler goes next, because we’re still pretending that he and Elena are friends. They’re in an unfamiliar place, possibly a cellar, where he’s getting ready to restrain himself during a full moon. She urges him to leave town and figure out what to do and be, then fight for it. He’ll be fine. He should embrace being a werewolf again and let it be what makes him extraordinary.
Stefan is up next, and Elena thanks him for bumping into her in the hallway on his first day at Mystic Falls High. She thought she would never be happy again before she met him. He literally saved her life. She loves him and she can’t wait to find out what kind of new life he’s living when she sees him again in 60 or 70 years. He tells her he won’t be in high school. Elena urges him to be happy and says she’ll see him soon.
Enzo goes back to the storage containers Lily’s been hanging around all night. She says her life was miserable before she met the Heretics. They made her feel like she was a part of something. She thinks Enzo can understand that. He says he’s been searching for that his whole life. They look up and suddenly see a building that wasn’t there last night. Enzo guesses that Kai cloaked the building but the spell was dropped when he died. Inside are tons of crates…and the Heretics.
Stefan and Damon take Elena’s coffin to the Salvatore crypt, which they’re going to have Bonnie seal with a spell so vampires can’t come in and suck the cure out of Elena. It’s now time for Damon to say goodbye to Elena for the foreseeable future. He does this in her head, saying she could have told him what to do. She says she knew what he would do. Damon sees this as giving up the love of his life to let her best friend live, but Elena sees it as him saving his best friend by temporarily living without the love of his life. She asks him not to sit around and wait for her. Damon tells her he was thinking about letting himself desiccate until she’s awake, but Elena wants him to enjoy his life and be happy, even if it’s without her.
She finally agrees to dance with him. (Music: “Hunger,” Ross Copperman) As they dance in the middle of the road, Stefan goes to Fort Forbes and tells Caroline he made a list to counter the one she made about all the ways falling for him has made her life harder. His list is all the ways falling for her has changed his life. She was there when he needed a friend. She made him laugh and dance, and she told him he would find love again. He understands if she needs time to heal and be alone, and he’ll wait for her. When she’s ready for him, he’ll be ready for her.
As Damon and Elena’s dance ends, she asks if he’s ready for this. Of course he’s not ready to spend the rest 60+ years without her. They say they love each other and he dips her and kisses her.
Time passes. Then one night, Matt drives through the town square in a sheriff’s vehicle as a storm approaches. The downtown area looks like something out of a disaster movie. Up in the clock tower, Damon looks out over Mystic Falls.
Etc.: I don’t know why Kai didn’t just unleash the Heretics on Mystic Falls and let them wreak havoc. Why keep them hidden?
Which twisted writer came up with the idea for Tyler to retrigger his curse by killing the woman he’s in love with?
The way Alaric is so casual about putting a gun to his own head is truly disturbing. No goodbyes, no second thoughts – he’s just done. It’s very unlike him.
I know, I know, the magical-sleep thing is dumb, but as far as ways to write out Elena so Nina Dobrev could leave the show, it was at least creative.
Elena saying goodbye to her friends always makes me sad. Some of them have good reason to believe that they’ll never see her again. One of them is right.