Three years from now: Stefan calls Tyler – excuse me, I was told Tyler would no longer be on this show – and asks if he’s talked to Caroline. Tyler hasn’t, and he doesn’t want to get involved in Stefan and Caroline’s drama. Stefan announces that his scar opened up and he needs Tyler to warn Caroline, since she won’t take Stefan’s calls. The mention of the scar concerns Tyler, so he agrees to get in touch with Caroline. He tells Stefan to get on the road. Stefan grabs a go bag from his car trunk and says he’s working on it. He tells Tyler to take care of himself. After they hang up, Stefan pours gasoline all over his car, grabs his journal out of the trunk, and throws in a lighter. He walks away from the resulting fire without looking back.
Present: Bonnie writes a journal entry to Elena telling her that Lily took her coffin and ordered Damon to leave Mystic Falls. Bonnie is suddenly hit with the visions the phoenix stone made her see before. She passes out again and wakes up on the floor. At Alaric’s, where Damon spent the night and is currently walking around in just a towel, Alaric hides the stone from Damon and encourages him to find a different place to live. Damon says he likes their Odd Couple vibe. Besides, it’s only until he can find the last Heretic and swap him for Elena. He figures that’ll happen quickly, thanks to Matt, something he doubts has never been said before. (Matt’s checking Lily’s phone records.)
Bonnie arrives and asks Alaric to confirm that he destroyed the phoenix stone. Her visions made her pass out for ten minutes. Alaric lies that he dissolved the stone in acid. Damon asks who wants to take a trip to Myrtle Beach, which seems to be where the last Heretic is: “Anyone up for an old-fashioned hostage swap?” Alaric clearly doesn’t want to go, but he’s willing to if it means Damon will put on pants. Damon takes off his towel and tosses it at Alaric’s head, because he’s a child.
Caroline reads Stefan’s journal, where he talks about how wonderful Valerie is. Nora and Mary Louise zoom around the room and harass her, because they’re also children. Apparently Stefan dropped his phone when he got sucked out of the house the day before and no one bothered to pick it up, so Caroline now has it. He calls it from another phone at the Grill and is surprised to hear her voice. She tells him she’s fine in captivity as long as Stefan keeps Damon from killing any more Heretics. Stefan tells her that Lily’s just keeping her there to turn the brothers against each other. Once he convinces her that he hates Damon, Lily will probably let her go.
Caroline asks who Valerie Tulle is. Stefan asks if she’s talking about one of the Heretics. Valerie grabs the phone from Caroline before she can continue the conversation, then knocks her out. That worries Stefan, as does a crash he’s just heard outside. Lily’s just arrived, and since she’s just now learned to drive, she accidentally hit his car while parking. Somehow, that makes him madder than being forced out of his home.
Stefan tells Lily to order the Heretics to stop torturing Caroline. Lily replies that he needs to order Damon to stop killing Heretics. Stefan says they’re not speaking right now, and he doesn’t even know where Damon is. Lily buys this. Stefan asks if Valerie is one of the Heretics. Lily reveals that she knew Valerie years before Stefan met her; Valerie worked in Lily’s TB ward. Lily knows that Stefan met her in 1863 because Lily sent her to him.
1863: Valerie approaches Stefan at a Mystic Falls fair and teases him for writing in his journal instead of socializing. He likes her immediately.
Present: Valerie asks why Caroline has Stefan’s journal. Caroline says Nora gave it to her and asks about Valerie’s history with Stefan. Valerie doesn’t want to tell her, so Caroline dismisses her as just some stranger who caught Stefan’s eye decades ago. Valerie reveals that she was Stefan’s first love.
Stefan asks Lily why she sent Valerie to him. Lily says she wanted Valerie to check on him. She was struggling to adjust to her new life without her sons. A “gentleman friend” invited her on a trip to Europe, but Lily wouldn’t go until she knew her sons were okay. Stefan’s like, “Was this ‘gentleman friend’ a horrible person like Giuseppe was? Because it seems like you have a thing for horrible people.” Lily says that Julian was nothing like Giuseppe. (Spoiler alert: He’s worse.) He was “the man you are not supposed to fall for.”
1863: Julian is also at the fair, charming all the women by kissing them for two cents a pop. He spots Valerie chatting with Stefan and interrupts their fun. He drags her away and chastises her for getting too close to the guy they’re just supposed to observe and report back on. Valerie promises that she has everything under control.
Present: Valerie admits that she lied – she fell for Stefan right away. Caroline thinks she compelled him to write nice things about her in his journal. She figures this is just a Katherine situation all over again. Valerie says she wasn’t a vampire yet, just a witch who was banished from her coven because she could only siphon her magic. Her power was kept in an amulet.
1863: Stefan tells Valerie about his family – brother away at war, jerky father, supposedly dead mother. Valerie encourages him not to hide his grief over losing her. It means he has a kind heart. She spots Julian looking for them and uses her amulet to cloak herself and Stefan so they can sneak away from him.
Present: Caroline asks what happened after that. Valerie smirks and won’t say. Caroline thinks Valerie put the spell on her that makes her skin burn vampires so Stefan can’t touch her.
1863: Stefan and Valerie go off to the woods to be alone. A gentleman (and a virgin), he asks permission before undoing the buttons on her corset. They have some gentle, sweet intimacy before more clothes come off.
Present: Valerie rubs it in that she was Stefan’s first, which means there’s no way he’s forgotten about her. Caroline can’t hide that that stings.
In Myrtle Beach, Damon presents his simple plan to capture the last Heretic, Oscar: Bonnie (“B-Town”) zaps him with magic, Alaric injects him with vervain, and Damon breaks his neck. Bonnie wants to have Oscar siphon away her visions first. Damon would rather come up with a different solution to her vision problem, but they can’t think of any, so they proceed.
Damon pretends to be room service to get Oscar to open the door to his hotel room. Oscar surprises him by not only recognizing Damon but greeting him like an old friend. He happily invites Damon, Bonnie, and Alaric into his room, where he’s been partying and enjoying not being subject to Lily’s rule. Oscar says he knows Damon is Lily’s son, and they met at a bar near Gettysburg in July of 1863. Lily sent him to check on Damon while Valerie was checking on Stefan. Damon doubts that Lily still cared about him, but Oscar says she wanted to know that he was happy.
Stefan heads off somewhere with Lily, reminding her which side of the road to drive on. She tells him that Valerie never mentioned their romantic involvement. Stefan replies that Valerie never told him that his mother was alive. Lily asks if it would have mattered if she had. Valerie told her that Stefan had forgotten all about her and moved on. That allowed Lily to move on as well. Stefan says you can’t move on from having your mother sent to a TB ward and never seeing her again. All you can do is find ways to distract yourself.
1863: Done with this one particular distraction (i.e., sex), Stefan takes Valerie to Lily’s grave. Valerie gets uneasy at the thought of him coming there every day to leave flowers for a woman who’s still alive. He says he’s trying to make up for his failures. One day when Lily’s health was deteriorating, Giuseppe sent Stefan to get some flowers for an herbal tonic. Stefan went as fast as he could, but when he got home, Lily had been taken to the sanatorium. She died before he could see her again or say goodbye. He’s always wondered what would have happened if he’d run faster. Maybe the tonic would have helped her and she would have lived.
Valerie eases his fears a little by telling him that the flowers he was sent to fetch don’t have medicinal properties. She knows from her time working in a sanatorium. She guesses that Giuseppe made up an excuse to get Stefan out of the house. Stefan couldn’t have saved Lily no matter what, and her death isn’t his fault.
Julian interrupts the two and tells Valerie they’re leaving for New York now. She apologizes for disobeying him, but Julian notes that he’s not the person she’s gone against. Valerie promises Stefan that she’ll find her way back to him some day.
Present: Caroline says their fling was like The Notebook, except they never reconnected and Stefan forgot about Valerie. Caroline, I doubt Valerie has seen The Notebook. Valerie says that Julian convinced her to lie to Lily that Stefan was happy and had moved on from her. Julian had the ability to convince anyone to do anything he wanted.
Alaric asks Oscar why Lily sent him to Myrtle Beach. Oscar clarifies that he volunteered for the errand because he was tired of all of her rules. He greatly prefers his freedom to experience the 21st century, where you can get drinks served in fishbowls or call a number and have an escort sent over. Bonnie figures that since Oscar values freedom, he’ll be willing to free her from her visions. Since Oscar’s obviously been exploring what the modern world has to offer in the way of drugs (definitely marijuana), Damon tells him to think of it as a “magical toke.”
Oscar doesn’t want to “mix mediums,” but Damon orders him to siphon the visions. He promises they won’t tell Lily that Oscar is slacking instead of fulfilling whatever mission he was sent on. Oscar agrees, and after he siphons the visions and sees them himself, he asks where the phoenix stone is. He wants to know what the gang is up to. Alaric aims a vervain gun at him but Oscar magically chokes all three of them.
By the time everyone has recovered, Oscar’s gone. Alaric realizes that the stone is, too. Bonnie asks Damon if he knew that Alaric still had it. Damon tries to dodge the question, eventually saying, “I live with the guy. Guys know stuff.” Bonnie’s upset that Damon lied to her. Damon’s like, “Alaric lied to you, not me, and also, this isn’t my problem, so leave me out of it.” He heads off to find Oscar.
Bonnie confronts Alaric for keeping the stone even though he knew it was hurting her. Alaric says he just cared about bringing Jo back more than that. Bonnie points out that he doesn’t even know how the stone works or what it does. He reminds her that both of them died and came back. They got second chances, and Jo deserves the same. Bonnie points out that the Other Side doesn’t exist anymore, so he can’t assume that they can bring her back. Alaric wants to find out – if there’s even a 1% chance he can resurrect Jo, he wants to take it. If he doesn’t try everything he can, he’ll spend the rest of his life wishing he’d stayed dead.
Lily asks Stefan if he has any other questions for her. He says it doesn’t matter since Valerie used him. Lily insists that she didn’t, since that would have hurt him, which would have hurt Lily. Stefan suggests that Valerie doesn’t care about anyone but herself. He reveals that she sent him a telegram saying she was coming back. He reminisces about reading it as Valerie reads a journal entry she wrote about it. The telegram said that she wanted to run away with Stefan. She told him to meet her back at the fairgrounds on a certain date, but she didn’t show up. Stefan doesn’t get the point of all that. Lily says that he can’t still be mad at Valerie. Stefan just replies that it was 150 years ago. Because no one on this show has ever held a grudge for 150 years!
Valerie reads her journal entry to Caroline, revealing that she did show up at the fairgrounds but only watched Stefan from afar. Caroline’s upset that she abandoned him. Valerie just tells her there was a change in plans.
1863: Valerie is on her way to meet Stefan when Julian catches her. He tears off her amulet, leaving her powerless. He guesses that she wants to stay in Mystic Falls instead of go with the “family” to Europe. That means Lily won’t want to go, since she refuses to travel without her “family.” Julian insists that they go today. He asks Valerie if he frightens her. He can hear her heart racing – both of her hearts, actually. He wonders if Stefan knows that Valerie is pregnant with his child.
Present: Damon finds Oscar and says he remembers their encounter at the bar. He just didn’t want to talk about it in front of Bonnie and Alaric because he hates remembering how he was a Confederate soldier. Oscar remembers that he wanted to desert but didn’t because he knew Giuseppe would be ashamed. Yeah, but screw that guy. Damon thinks Oscar compelled him to take sick leave. The next day, his entire regiment was killed. Oscar says he couldn’t use compulsion back then; he was still human. He just talked Damon into following his heart. Now Oscar wants to desert – he doesn’t want to be in Lily’s “cavalry.” He just wants to have fun.
Oscar warns that a lot of people want the phoenix stone. If the gang messes with it, they could end up dead. Damon says he has no use for it. He just needs to trade Oscar for “something way better.” He stakes Oscar through the stomach and pummels him a little, but Oscar uses magic to shove him off. He pulls out his stake and sticks it in Damon instead.
Bonnie and Alaric arrive in time to do the plan Damon wanted them to do in the first place: Bonnie gives Oscar a magic migraine, Alaric shoots him with vervain, and Damon breaks his neck. Teamwork! Bonnie snags the phoenix stone and offers it back to Alaric with a warning to never lie to her again. Damon’s pleased that his “besties” are friends again. Now it’s time to go make their trade.
Lily goes looking for Valerie at Vamp Villa, but Caroline says she left. Lily mentions that she knows about Liz’s death, which is pretty much the last thing Caroline wants to talk about after hearing about Stefan’s first time. Lily says she was just interested in Caroline’s healing process after her big loss. Caroline notes that Lily must know from her own mother that a mother/child relationship is different from any other kind.
She says that Stefan wrote about Lily a lot in his journal. She offers the journal to Lily, telling her that Stefan loved and missed her. As a thank-you, Lily calls to Nora to remove the spell trapping Caroline in the house. She’s releasing Caroline to reward Stefan for his honesty. Caroline nicely thanks Lily for freeing her before zooming off (in case Lily changes her mind).
Stefan goes to the place where the fairgrounds used to be, which is now the site of the hospital. Valerie finds him sitting on a bench like he did when he waited for her. She tells him she came to that same spot to think every day in the prison world, before the Heretics desiccated. She guesses that Stefan does the same. Now that they’re finally there together, she wants to tell him the truth.
1863: Valerie begs Julian not to tell Lily anything. He gets that Valerie has reasons to stay in Mystic Falls, but he has reasons to leave. Obviously he’s not going to let her reasons to stay stop the family from leaving. He hits her and kicks her to the ground.
Present: Valerie tells Stefan that Julian beat her almost to death. She miscarried the baby.
1863: She wakes up on the ship to England. Valerie voices over that Lily believed Julian’s story that he found her on the street after she’d been beaten and robbed. Lily healed Valerie with her blood. Julian knew that Valerie could never tell Lily anything because she would have had to confess what she’d done. Lily would never have forgiven Valerie for sleeping with Stefan. So Julian looks like a hero to his girlfriend while holding power over Valerie.
Not wanting to be under Julian’s thumb, Valerie drinks laudanum and drowns herself in a bathtub. But she still has Lily’s blood in her system, so her death is only temporary. By turning into a vampire, Valerie becomes the first Heretic.
Present: Valerie tells Stefan she’s sorry about everything. But Stefan hasn’t heard anything she’s said. Thanks to magic, Valerie has been sitting with Stefan without him hearing or seeing her. She’s not sure she’ll ever tell him what happened.
Bonnie looks through Alaric’s books in search of information on the phoenix stone and resurrection. She asks if he’s sure he understands what he’s trying to do. This isn’t the same kind of resurrection they experienced, where a veil was lifted and they were just able to come back to the real world. This is necromancy. Alaric takes Bonnie to the morgue and reveals that he’s paid a tech to keep Jo’s body there for months. He’s sure she’s still in her body somewhere, and he can bring her back – just not by himself. He asks Bonnie to at least try. She’s hesitant, but she says she will.
Elsewhere in the medical center, Damon is keeping an eye on Oscar, who’s connected to a vervain IV keeping him unconscious. Damon calls Lily to confront her for sending Oscar to check on him back in 1863 instead of coming herself. If she’d come, Damon’s whole life would have been different. He tells Lily that he found her “prodigal Heretic” and wants to trade Oscar for Elena. Lily orders him not to hurt anyone else in her family. Damon says that her whole “family” thing bothered him at first, but now he gets it. Lily moved on to a new family, and so did Damon. He shares a look with Bonnie and Alaric, then tells Lily it’s time to “end this mutual disdain once and for all.”
Caroline finds Stefan at the Grill, where he’s drinking and not expending any energy trying to rescue her. She tells him Lily let her go and mentions Valerie. Stefan downplays the importance of that encounter, saying he was young and human back then. Caroline points out that she was also young and human when she met him. But she remembers the moment she first saw him. She asks if he remembers the first time he saw her. Then she decides she’s being dumb – he was with Elena, so he probably didn’t notice Caroline at all.
Stefan acknowledges that things have changed. Caroline’s real concern is that Stefan will want to be with Valerie now that he knows she’s in Mystic Falls. Stefan immediately says that that doesn’t change anything for him. He’s stopped wondering what direction his life would have taken if she’d met up with him a second time. He doesn’t care about the past, just being with Caroline. Too bad they still can’t touch, thanks to Valerie’s spell.
Oscar wakes up as Valerie finds him. He thinks Lily sent her to get him, but Valerie says Lily has no idea where he is. Valerie found him with a locator spell. She asks if he completed his mission to find Julian. Oscar confides that he found Julian months ago but kept it quiet so he could enjoy himself.
Valerie guesses that he’ll use Julian’s location to get Lily to grant him his freedom. Though she likes Oscar and sees him as a brother, she isn’t going to let that happen. She reaches into Oscar’s chest and grabs his heart as she says that Julian is the devil and she can’t let Lily bring him back. Just like that, Oscar’s dead and Damon has lost his best shot at getting Elena back.
Etc.: Ugh, Julian. He’s the worst. (Todd Lasance is perfectly cast, though.)
There’s so much parent/child stuff this season – and this early on, some of it is foreshadowing for things that won’t be happening for a few more episodes.
Dear Elena, Stefan is more worried about his car than he is about you.
Alaric might need therapy more than Klaus does.
Stefan must not think Lily would hurt Caroline because he spends zero time in this episode trying to get Caroline back.