the Vampire Diaries

The Vampire Diaries 7.11, Things We Lost in the Fire: Liberation

We pick up right where we left off, with Damon surrounded by Stefan, Caroline, Bonnie, and Matt’s dead and unconscious bodies. When he realizes this is reality and he’s not going to reset in the phoenix stone, he rushes to Matt and tries to give him blood. This revives him, and Damon goes to Bonnie next, saving her the same way. He apologetically says he didn’t know where he was or that he was out. Caroline comes up behind him and injects him with vervain. When Damon wakes up, he’s chained up in the entryway of Lockwood Landing. “Yep, I saw this coming,” he says.

Stefan is underwater. He hears Bonnie chanting and Damon saying his name. When he wakes up from this dream, Damon’s calling to him. He promises he’s calm now. Stefan surprises him by not blasting him for flipping out and attacking everyone. It was an honest mistake. Damon can’t believe they’re skipping their usual routine where he pretends to apologize, Stefan says the fake apology isn’t good enough, and Damon insults him. Stefan tells him that everyone understands what happened, so no one’s mad. Stefan especially gets what Damon went through in the phoenix stone. But he won’t be unchaining Damon yet – Hell messes with people, but post-Hell is even worse.

Tyler shows up, annoyed that the Salvatores have taken over his house. He’s in town for Caroline’s baby shower. Apparently she didn’t tell him that Mystic Falls has gone downhill since the Heretics arrived, so he was in for a surprise when he got there. Damon also isn’t aware of how much things declined during his “weekend trip to limbo.” That’s because he wasn’t gone for a weekend – he was in the stone for weeks.

Julian has basically turned the town into a never-ending biker rally. There’s drag racing in the town square and any open-container laws that were on the books before are definitely being ignored. The sheriff’s department clearly doesn’t have the manpower to do anything, since it’s pretty much just Matt. He’s still trying to keep a handle on things, though. He’s currently at the town border with Bonnie, putting spike strips in the road. She tells him that she’s not dealing with Damon right now. Matt knows that Damon will just fool Stefan into thinking he’s changed, and then he’ll be the gang’s problem again. Bonnie says she’s trying to stay positive.

She gets a notification on her phone and asks Matt if he’s on a dating site called He is, and they just matched. He teases her about her profile name, Mystic Queen, and she critiques his decision to go with a picture of himself in his deputy’s uniform. They hide as two drag racers approach and fall victim to the spikes. When they get out of their cars, Bonnie incapacitates them with magic and Matt shoots them with wooden bullets. He complains that the vampires who have overrun the town are worse than the Heretics, since Lily was able to keep them under control for the most part.

Back at Lockwood Landing, Damon criticizes Stefan for sending Matt and Bonnie out to handle vampires. “What happened to your hero-hair campaign to protect Mystic Falls?” he asks. Yeah, Stefan was busy trying to bring Damon back, but he could have multitasked! Stefan tells Damon that he’s been through a lot.

Sometime in the past few weeks: Stefan and Caroline attempt to go on a date like normal people. It’s his first big outing since coming out of the phoenix stone, and though he thinks he’s up for it, he’s clearly not, and that’s even before he hallucinates Damon showing up and pulling a knife on Caroline. She snaps him out of it and he realizes he attacked a waiter.

Present: Damon asks why he had to be a waiter instead of something a little more important. He promises that he has no desire to hurt Caroline, and he won’t have a psychotic break. Stefan agrees to unchain him, but he won’t let Damon be alone until he’s sure Damon is okay. They’ll start with a tour of the new and definitely-not-improved Mystic Falls. As Stefan goes to get the key to Damon’s chains, Damon hallucinates Henry whispering down to him from the staircase landing. He doesn’t say anything about Henry to Stefan.

As Stefan and Damon head downtown, Stefan calls Caroline to bow out of the baby shower at Whitmore. She thinks he’s just found a convenient excuse to not have to participate in a baby-food-tasting game. “If that is what I think it is, then I would rather be sent back to the Hell stone,” he tells her. Caroline isn’t really looking forward to it, either, but she wanted to throw a shower so Alaric will get everything he needs for the babies. Stefan promises to get him the Baby Bjorn Caroline made him look at when he was drunk. She asks him to be careful, since she’s just now gotten him back.

Damon teases Stefan for being whipped as they go into the Grill. It’s now pretty much a biker bar. Damon wishes Bonnie had pulled him out of the stone first so he could have prevented this. Stefan says he wasn’t ready to come out, then asks what he went through. Damon gives him a vague recap, making the part where he had an emotional breakthrough about Lily sound like he was putting on an act. He spots Henry across the restaurant but again doesn’t say anything to Stefan.

Julian joins the brothers and tells Damon that he and Stefan called a truce. Stefan wouldn’t go that far, since it’s more like Julian just took over the town and Stefan had to let him. Damon wants to fight but Stefan reminds him that he needs to prove that he can “play well with others.” Julian says he won’t hurt the town; it has sentimental value for him because Lily used to live there. He welcomes Damon back to life and warns that the real work is about to begin.

Damon hallucinates Henry again, and this time Stefan notices him acting off. As Damon heads off alone, Julian comes back and asks Stefan if he’s really in any shape to be Damon’s wingman. He must still be adjusting to life after the stone. Stefan says he’s fine, but Julian tells him he thought the same thing after he got out.

Caroline isn’t having a great time at the baby shower, but Bonnie is. She’s gathering blackmail material by filming Alaric, Matt, and Tyler as they diaper baby dolls with their eyes covered by those cute hooded towels they make that have animal faces on them. Caroline points out that in a few weeks, Alaric will be responsible for two lives, and so far he hasn’t convinced her that he’s ready. But it turns out he’s a pro at diapering a baby without looking, so now Caroline feels a little better. As for Tyler and Matt, one has put the diaper on his doll’s head, which is still better than the other, whose doll doesn’t even have a head anymore. Alaric tells them they’re never allowed to babysit.

Caroline asks Alaric how he pulled off his surprise win. He’s like, “It’s putting on a diaper, not dismantling a bomb. Which I can also do without looking.” He read all the parenting stuff she gave him and knows what he’s doing. Caroline acknowledges that she’s being overbearing (I mean, what else is new?), but Alaric appreciates her generosity. She tells him to remember that once the babies are born, she won’t be there to help parent them. He promises that he never expected her to. One of the babies kicks and Alaric is thrilled to feel the movement.

Tyler gets a drink to try to feel manly again, but Matt has to abstain since he’s on duty. Tyler doesn’t know why he bothers trying to do his job, since he’s not making a difference. Things seem to be getting worse, actually. Matt doesn’t want to give up on the town where they grew up. Tyler says it’s not a place worth getting killed over. Leaving was the best thing to ever happen to him. Nora shows up, having surprisingly been invited by Bonnie. She even brought a gift – socks that look like sneakers. Bonnie welcomes her while Matt glares at her.

Damon leaves the Grill for some fresh air and another hallucination. Henry asks if he’s going to surrender Mystic Falls to Julian. Damon says he’s already passed the phoenix stone’s test and admitted his problems, so he doesn’t need this. Henry tells him that he hasn’t finished his “liberation.” Damon responds by plunging his hand into Henry’s chest and pulling out his heart. He’s surprised by how realistic it feels. Stefan comes outside and sees Damon standing over a random vampire’s body, still holding his heart.

Matt confronts Bonnie for inviting Nora to the shower after they spent the morning killing Julian’s vampires. Bonnie tells him that Nora isn’t in Julian’s fan club anymore. Plus, she helped get Stefan out of the stone. Matt reminds her that Nora was the reason Stefan was in the stone in the first place. Plus, she killed everyone in his graduating class, held Caroline hostage, and killed everyone at her anniversary party. Wait, what?

Bonnie feels bad since Nora’s alone now, and she thinks it’s better to have her as a friend than an enemy. Nora joins the conversation and suggests that she leave before Matt says something inappropriate and Nora retaliates by rendering him mute. (That reminds me: What do you think Beau is up to?) Nora gives a demonstration by using magic to choke him. Bonnie gets her to back off, but Matt’s still mad at her for bringing Nora there in the first place. He decides to start drinking, job or no job.

Stefan chastises Damon for not telling him that he was hallucinating. It’s just going to get worse from here. As they get in Stefan’s car, Damon asks for more details on what Stefan went through after he came back. Stefan says he saw Damon everywhere.

Sometime in the past few weeks: Stefan has a recurring dream about drowning in the quarry, but not alone like he was in reality – Damon’s there. Caroline urges him to talk about it. Damon appears and says that Stefan is lucky to have her to hold on to. Stefan tells Caroline to leave, which confuses her. Damon threatens to rip the babies out of her. Stefan throws a glass at him, but of course, there’s no one there. Caroline tries to convince him that he’s imagining things.

Stefan tells Damon that he pushed Caroline away and lost sight of everything. He barely noticed when Julian took over the town. Downtown, Damon appears to Stefan again and tells him there’s no way he’ll win a showdown with Julian. Stefan demands to know why Damon’s still there. Damon says he’s “a piece of the stone puzzle,” and he’ll leave Stefan alone once he solves it.

Present: Stefan’s sole focus after that was trying to get Damon to go away. Damon asks what he did. Stefan reveals that he convinced himself that burning Damon’s body would end his “haunting.”

Sometime in the past few weeks: Caroline catches Stefan after he’s poured gasoline on Damon’s body and is about to set him on fire with a lighter. Stefan says he doesn’t want Damon to come back. Caroline tells him this isn’t who he is. He loves his brother and would rather die than let him go.

Present: Stefan doesn’t think he would have been able to stop himself in time if Caroline hadn’t found him.

Someone smashes the front window of the car with a baseball bat and knocks the brothers out. When Stefan wakes up, Damon says his brother should have left him at the Grill and let him suffer the consequences of his actions. Instead, Stefan had to clean up Damon’s mess, like always. Julian pulls Stefan out of the car, wanting revenge for the vampire Damon killed. Stefan promises to get Damon under control. Julian notes that he’ll have to find Damon first, since he’s not there. In fact, according to Julian, he wasn’t in the car at all. Julian warns that if the Salvatores hurt any of his guys again, he’ll kill one of them and feed him to the other.

Damon’s at Whitmore to meet with Tyler and request a visit with Elena. Tyler reminds him that when Damon handed over her coffin, he ordered Tyler not to let anyone see her, even Damon himself. He also knew that he would one day want to go back on that, and Tyler wasn’t allowed to give in to him, no matter what. Damon says he changed his mind, but Tyler knows something’s going on with him. Damon threatens to go to the shower and kill the guests if Tyler doesn’t do what he wants.

Matt is driving back to Mystic Falls when he gets a text. He takes his eyes off the road to read it and swerves into the opposite lane, almost hitting another car. They avoid each other but a cop is driving by and sees. Matt gets pulled over by Officer Penny Ares from the Grove Hill Police Department. She doesn’t care that he’s a deputy, since he swerved while driving and willingly admits to having had a couple of drinks.

Tyler takes Damon to Greensboro, North Carolina, where he’s stashed Elena’s coffin in a shipping container in a storage facility. Damon doesn’t think he did a great job with the “secure” part of ensuring her security, but Tyler notes that it’s unnecessary when she’s in a place no one would ever know to look for her. As Damon wheels out the coffin, just wanting to look at his girlfriend’s face, Tyler ducks around a corner to grab something. Damon opens the coffin, but instead of Elena, it holds Henry. Behind him, Tyler fires a gun at him. Damon dodges his bullet and knocks Tyler out.

Stefan goes to the baby shower, thinking Damon might have come there. He tells Caroline that he’s having hallucinations again. She tries to assure him that he’s okay, but he says he isn’t, and neither is Damon. Damon’s still at the storage facility, where Henry tells him he can’t leave until Damon finds liberation. He’s denying his nature and hasn’t let go of what’s holding him back. The key is in the name of the stone: phoenix. “It doesn’t trap you,” Henry says. “It frees you to be reborn as your true self.”

Stefan wants to go find Damon but Caroline is more concerned about her boyfriend. He never told her how he passed the test that allowed him to be pulled out of the stone. He can’t keep hiding whatever it is that happened to him that he won’t admit. Stefan says there’s nothing they can do about it right now. Caroline thinks the only way they can get through this is if he tells her everything. He can’t go on like this.

So Stefan finally reveals what he went through. His endless Hell loop was Damon dragging him into the quarry, the two of them drowning together. Stefan would try to surface but Damon would drag him down. When Stefan tried to save Damon, they would both die. Stefan finally realized that the only way to escape was to let go of Damon and surface on his own. He abandoned his brother and let him drown so he could save himself.

Caroline confirms that Stefan’s hallucinating Damon because a fake version of him is upset with Stefan for what he did in a fake reality. Yeah, when you put it like that, it sounds ridiculous. You know, like everything else on this show. Stefan says the stone is trying to tell him something: He’ll never be happy until Damon is out of his life. Caroline asks if he really believes that.

Damon takes a page from Stefan’s book, planning to burn Elena’s coffin so he can get rid of Henry. But as it goes up in flames, Henry appears behind him and tells him he screwed up. “I promised you liberation,” he says as Damon realizes he set fire to Elena instead. She was holding him back from being the monster he really is, Henry tells him.

Bonnie finds Nora at an outdoor café and chastises her for not behaving so she could have a fresh start. Nora doesn’t care about that anymore – she got a postcard that has shifted her focus. The only thing on the postcard is a big red X. She thinks Bonnie sent it to mess with her, but Bonnie knows nothing about it and doesn’t get why it’s a big deal.

Nora tells her it’s a warning from a huntress – the same huntress the phoenix sword belongs to. She’s the one who put Julian and thousands of other vampires in the phoenix stone. Once her sword marks you, she hunts you until she’s finished you off. That’s how Beau got his X-shaped scar. “She’ll come for him now,” Nora says. “She’ll come for all of us.” There’s no way to stop her. Bonnie wants to do something, since her friends could be in danger, and Nora is willing to brainstorm with her.

Penny releases Matt from a holding cell at the police station, but he can’t drive home since he’s not completely sober, and he doesn’t want to call any of his friends. Penny expresses sympathy over the loss of his graduating class, then mentions that it’s weird that no one’s really doing anything about the alleged mining fires that caused their deaths. It’s like they’re just going to let the fires burn out on their own. If they don’t do anything, the town will be destroyed. P.S. Penny found a bag of vampire-hunting weapons in Matt’s truck and would like to know what that’s about.

Caroline takes the shower gifts to Alaric’s apartment, where she finds a letter offering him a position as an anthropology professor at a college in Dallas. She asks him when he was going to tell her that he was leaving. He says he wanted to wait until he’d officially secured the job. He doesn’t want to raise his kids near Mystic Falls or Whitmore or the fanged supernatural beings who hang out there. Caroline tries to hide how sad she is that Alaric is going to move away and cut off her connection to the twins. She tells him he’s right to want to get away from the craziness of their lives.

Stefan finds Damon back at Lockwood Landing and tells him how he was able to get out of the phoenix stone. Everything he’s hallucinated since then has driven home the point that he turned his back on his brother to save himself. Damon gets it – Stefan wants to be a hero and have a happy ending. He’s right to want that, since Damon’s true self is dark, “and all that light just keeps getting in the way.” It’s keeping Damon from being who he really is.

Stefan asks who that is – someone who’s reckless and selfish and manipulative? Damon thinks that sounds right. Stefan agrees, but Damon’s also his brother, and Stefan won’t ever give up on him. Damon’s stuck with him. Damon could give Stefan a reason to abandon him for real by telling him he burned Elena’s body, but he keeps that to himself. “Here’s to drowning together,” he toasts as he finishes his drink.

Three years from now: Caroline’s message to Stefan is still playing in a loop at the news station. Matt arrives and frees her from some kind of large equipment case she was shoved into. He says he told the Dallas police that the supposed hostage situation at the station was a hoax. Caroline’s surprised that it’s suddenly all over. Matt tells her that she can go – she’s already done what they needed. “Are you helping her?” she exclaims.

Matt tells her this was the easiest way to get to Stefan. She blasts him for using her when she has a family. “So did I,” he replies. He had a girlfriend and a life, and now he doesn’t. Caroline’s problems don’t concern him anymore. He tells her to go hide until the huntress gets what she wants.

Keep in mind: The phoenix sword belongs to a huntress who goes after anyone who has been marked by it.

Etc.: Paul Wesley (Stefan) directed this episode.

It’s really interesting to me that Matt is the first person Damon tries to save. It has to be for Elena’s sake, because Damon doesn’t care about him, but why him first? Maybe part of him thinks/hopes Bonnie’s dead already, or if he doesn’t help her, she’ll die and he’ll get Elena back.

In addition to humans always carrying vampire blood with them, which I’ve suggested in the past, I recommend that everyone on the show always have a syringe full of vervain with them in case a vampire buddy gets out of hand and needs to be subdued. The next time Damon threatens Tyler, Tyler can just make him take a little nap.

If the phoenix stone uses vampires’ biggest sins to torture them, I don’t get why Stefan’s loop was drowning in the quarry. He went through that because Silas trapped him, not because he did anything wrong.


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