Usually Damon’s the one we see lying in the middle of the road, but this time it’s Stefan. He’s been in a bad crash between a car and a school bus, the latter of which is on fire. Stefan runs inside to pull out as many people as he can. He’s relieved when some police cars pull up.
Once everyone’s been removed from the bus, a paramedic tends to Stefan, who’s breathed in a lot of smoke. He’s missing a shoe, and she advises him not to put his foot on the ground, since the weather is at a record low. She asks his name but he doesn’t remember it. Oh, great, another amnesia storyline. The paramedic finds a bad cut to his carotid artery and says he’s the first person she’s ever seen survive that kind of injury.
Stefan sees a dead body being wheeled away, and the paramedic tells him that even heroes can’t always save everyone. Stefan’s surprised to be called a hero. Somehow this sparks his memory and he now knows his name. The paramedic asks if he knows where he is. Yes – he’s in Hell.
Damon is still at the airfield, sitting next to Stefan’s body. Valerie has found Nora and Mary Louise’s wrecked car and the remains of the phoenix sword and stone. Damon tracks her to the spot and she says that Nora and Mary Louise didn’t know that Rayna had already stabbed Stefan and sent him into the stone. They must have thought they were saving people. Damon doesn’t care, since the two of them only ever cared about each other. There’s no point in “mourning Thelma and Mary Louise” – they need to leave.
Valerie blames Damon for all this. If he’d put Stefan first for once and taken his scar, this wouldn’t have happened. Damon says he’s trying to make things right. They need to find Rayna and return Stefan’s soul to his body. Valerie tells him the stone was destroyed, so they won’t be able to get Stefan back.
Damon refuses to accept that there’s nothing they can do. If his brother’s dead, Damon’s responsible, which means he’s going to feel haunted forever. He’ll spend eternity repenting and hating himself the way everyone else hates him. He’s not ready for that, so he’s not going to admit that Stefan’s dead. Valerie thinks he’s an idiot, and though Damon talks her into a locator spell to find Rayna, she won’t do it with him.
Stefan wonders what lesson he’s supposed to take away from this new Hell scenario. The paramedic is like, “Hmmm, maybe I missed something when I checked you for a concussion.” He tells her and some cops to go ahead and start the torture already. A cop IDs him as Marty Hammond (Stefan: “No, but okay”) and asks if he’s been drinking. Stefan thinks alcoholism is a metaphor for his blood lust. The cop is like, “I don’t know about that, but the straight line I need you to walk isn’t metaphorical.”
Rayna calls Matt, the only person she feels she can trust. Since she put Stefan back in the phoenix stone, Matt doesn’t have any reason to continue to associate with her, so he doesn’t want to chat. She tells him that the stone was destroyed, which means Stefan’s free. All the vampires in the stone are. Matt asks what that means. Valerie, who’s just found Rayna, wants to hear the answer, too.
Damon returns to the airfield and discovers that Stefan’s body has disappeared. He calls Valerie, assuming she took it, and warns her not to let anything happen to it. He’s surprised when he sees Stefan walking on the side of the road. But there’s also a Stefan back at the scene of the crash, walking a straight line and being called Marty. “I can hear them, all the voices,” Rayna tells Valerie. “They’re coming from everywhere.”
The cop accuses Stefan of being drunk when he was driving the bus. Rayna tells Valerie that when the stone was destroyed, all the souls inside it escaped. Now she can hear all their voices. Valerie clarifies that every vampire ever killed with the phoenix sword is roaming around free. Damon lets Stefan into his car, asking what happened to him. Stefan isn’t sure.
The other Stefan tells the cop that he just remembers waking up in the road and saving people from the bus. The cop doesn’t think he’s much of a hero for that, since he caused the crash. Stefan asks why the cop keeps calling him Marty. Rayna tells Valerie that she burned the original bodies of all the vampires she killed, so when their souls escaped, they went into random dead bodies, human, vampire, or otherwise. And now one of them is in Damon’s car, using Stefan’s body. Valerie just wants to know where Stefan is. Well, he’s in Marty Hammond’s body, as he sees when he looks in a mirror.
The cop tries to arrest Stefan, who’s able to escape into some woods in handcuffs. It turns out that though the crash was in Arkansas, the bus was from Dallas, so the crash makes the local newscast that Alaric’s watching at Saltzman Shelter. Matt calls Alaric, who’s angry about him getting in touch since he knows Matt’s working with Rayna. Matt says he made sure Caroline was safe despite the hostage situation. Alaric’s frustrated that they’ve been dragged back into supernatural stuff after three years of peace and safety. They’re supposed to get married in a month, and they have kids to take care of.
Matt argues that Caroline was just bait to draw Stefan out. Alaric asks what happened to Matt to make him side with a villain. Matt says that he called to let Alaric know that some “visitors” are heading his way. Alaric protests, since he’s supposed to join Caroline and the twins in hiding. Matt tells him this affects everyone. Alaric hangs up, but it’s too late for him to get out of what’s going on. Valerie has just arrived at the house with an unconscious Rayna.
She explains to Alaric that the vampire-soul prison break is like what happened when Florence went into Jo’s body, only this time it’s random. Alaric doesn’t get why this is his problem. Valerie tells him that Stefan is missing, and she thinks people who live in Alaric’s house care about whether he lives or dies. Well, one person, at least. Alaric resigns himself to getting involved and asks what they need to do.
Rayna regains conscious and announces that they need to hunt down all the vampires. Valerie wants to focus on Stefan first. Rayna says he should be at the bottom of her priority list. It’s not like the vampires in the stone were good guys. There are a bunch of evil vampires walking around in other people’s bodies, free to do whatever they want.
Just like when the real Stefan had memory problems, Damon gives the impostor (hereafter known as Stefake) a journal to look through to jog his memory. The first entry Stefake comes across trashes Damon, so Damon tells him to read it to himself. As Stefake sees his reflection and realizes he’s in someone else’s body, Damon says he screwed up, and Stefake is free to be mad when he remembers why. Stefake just replies that he’s hungry.
The real Stefan makes his way through the woods, stopping to throw up (thanks, show). He spots a boarded-up cabin and manages to uncover a window that he can break to get inside. He looks around for something he can use to get out of his handcuffs, but all he finds is a table vise in a shed. He reluctantly uses it to break his thumb so he can slip out of one cuff.
Damon and Stefake stop at a diner, where Stefake compels a waitress to let him feed on her. He offers her wrist to Damon, who’s starting to get that something is off here. He puts a song on the jukebox, then calls Alaric to ask when he realized that Jo wasn’t Jo. “Are you with your brother right now?” Alaric says. “That’s what I’m asking,” Damon replies. Alaric and Valerie tell him that he’s dealing with an impostor, but he needs to keep Stefake close because they need Stefan’s body. (Insert your own joke here about how Valerie especially needs Stefan’s body.)
Alaric and Valerie are trying to find the real Stefan, but all they really have to go on right now is a bunch of tweets about zombies. Damon tells them to speed it up so he can stop “babysitting a cheap knockoff” of Stefan. Alaric reminds him that Jo’s body started breaking down after Florence inhabited her. If Stefan’s in a human body, they need to find him fast.
Stefan is in a human body, so he has to put duct tape on his broken thumb, then look for food. The cabin is empty and there’s no electricity. He goes outside to check the generator and is able to get it started, which solves the electricity problem. He sees a news report about Marty, who’s the subject of a police manhunt. The cop who tried to arrest him says that if the extreme cold doesn’t kill Marty, going cold turkey from alcohol will. Stefan notices that his hand is shaking, the first sign that he’s in withdrawal.
Alaric and Valerie see the same news report, and Alaric writes down Marty’s name as someone to follow up on. Valerie asks Rayna if the voices in her head are accompanied by visions. Rayna says yes, so Valerie sends Alaric to find a picture of Stefan. She’s going to do a spell to help Rayna focus on one person out of all the voices in her head. Alaric brings her a photo of Stefan and Caroline most likely taken when they were a couple. Valerie has to tear her eyes away from the sight of her boyfriend with someone else.
The spell helps Rayna see the aftermath of the bus crash and where Stefan is now. Valerie gets the visions, too, but there’s nothing helpful in them other than the cabin and a tattoo of an anchor on Stefan’s hand. She can tell he’s scared, though. The mention of the anchor makes Alaric and Valerie think Stefan is in Marty’s body, since Marty used to be a Merchant Marine. Valerie also saw a bus in Rayna’s visions.
They call Damon to tell him that Stefan appears to be in Arkansas. Damon ends Stefake’s binge on the waitstaff and patrons at the diner so they can go. Meanwhile, Stefan breaks into a truck outside the cabin and tries to hotwire it. He finds it ironic that he’s trapped in the body of an addict. He spent three years knowing his lifespan was tied to Rayna’s, and he almost enjoyed it. Having an expiration date made him feel human again. Now he’s remembering how much being a human sucks. Fortunately, he’s able to get the car’s engine to start.
Stefake pretends he’s starting to remember the things in Stefan’s journal. Though he doesn’t know what Damon did to him, he promises that he loves his brother. Damon lets him off the hook, saying he knows Stefake isn’t really Stefan. Stefake says that Stefan hates Damon; he wrote about resigning himself to never seeing Damon again and feeling unburdened by the decision. Stefake’s happy about that, since he doesn’t plan on giving up his body. “Fair warning: That hair requires a tremendous amount of maintenance,” Damon tells him.
Stefake wants to go to Memphis, so Damon hopes he’s Elvis. (Elvis secretly being a vampire “would explain a lot.”) Stefake’s a little entertained by Damon, and when this is all over, they should “go carousing.” He gives Damon a peace sign and a “deuces!” before flying out the car window.
Damon calls Alaric to tell him that Stefake “figured out Stefan’s body is a timeshare” and ran off. Since he asked about Memphis, it’s a good guess that the real Stefan is there, so Damon wants Valerie and/or Rayna to track him while Damon finds the real Stefan. Thanks to Stefake’s mention of Memphis, Rayna has figured out who he is – a serial killer vampire. Valerie refuses, since they need Stefan’s body, so Rayna breaks herself out of her binds to make her escape.
Valerie runs over to fight her as Alaric slowly reaches for a case in the kitchen. Rayna breaks Valerie’s neck, then turns to see Alaric going for the case. She guesses it holds a weapon, and he admits it’s a dart gun. “Think it’ll help?” she asks. Obviously not, so he just puts his hands up and lets her go.
Stefan runs out of gas, but it conveniently happens as he’s approaching a woman on the road. He hides his handcuffs and asks to borrow her phone. Unfortunately, a news report about Marty has just come on her car radio, and her instincts tell her the guy who’s just approached her can’t be trusted. He spooks her further by trying to keep her from closing the door in his face. Without his vamp strength, he can’t stop her, and she drives off without him as it starts to snow.
Damon arrives in Arkansas and goes to a high school that’s serving as headquarters for the volunteers searching for Marty. He tells the captain that he’s Matt Donovan from Mystic Falls (the captain’s never heard of either), and no one needs to see his badge because he’s “the finest, bravest, least stupid cop” this one has ever met. The cop tells Damon that no one’s found Marty, and they expect him to die in the woods overnight, so they’re just going to wait.
With a broken window and no heat, the truck Stefan hotwired isn’t the best place to ride out a blizzard, but he doesn’t have any other options. He hallucinates Damon arriving to take him to his real body. Stefan knows he’s entered a new stage of withdrawal and is really screwed. The next stage involves more puking.
A reporter at the high school tells her audience that the temperature is 12 degrees and falling. The woman whose phone Stefan asked to use comes to the station, and the captain allows Damon to question her. He sends the cops in the opposite direction from where the woman said Stefan was, then compels her to forget that he lied. She mentions that she dropped her phone as she was driving off.
Damon calls the phone, which Stefan finds glowing in the snow. Damon’s headed in his direction, and he tells Stefan to start walking so he can warm up a little. Stefan’s almost too cold to move, and his tremors have worsened; he’s not sure if they’re from withdrawal or the cold. Damon tells him again to get up and move. He’s not going to die like this. Stefan thinks it’s fitting, though. Damon asks for something to work with. “You suck at playing hero, brother,” Stefan tells him. “I guess I’m just not used to you being such a damsel in distress,” Damon replies.
Stefan wants to blame Damon for all this, and Damon’s willing to hear him out. First up: Damon bailed on Stefan. Yeah, Damon eventually agreed to the transfer spell, but Stefan says he bailed before that, when he decided he’d rather live in a coffin than take responsibility for his mistakes. Damon says he was trying to prevent himself from making more mistakes. Stefan asks why it’s so hard for Damon to behave himself. It can’t be because of Elena; he lived 160 years before he met her.
Stefan was ripped out of Hell and thrown into Marty’s body, and his first thought was saving the people on the bus. Without knowing who or where he was, his instincts were to be a hero. What are Damon’s instincts? What does the voice in his head say?
Damon knows that Stefan already knows the answer to that, but he says it anyway: He’s selfish, angry, and impatient. Before he met Elena, he didn’t care about anyone else, including Stefan. He knows Stefan resents him for that, and he’s fine with that. Stefan can use that resentment to come find Damon and beat him up. Stefan starts walking and tells Damon that the hardest part of this is that he won’t be able to go on forever. When he stops, he doesn’t believe Damon will be there.
Alaric and Rayna have to stop their search to wait out the snowstorm in a diner. Valerie doesn’t think Alaric cares that much about saving Stefan, since Stefan’s death means Alaric no longer has to compete for Caroline’s heart. Alaric claims he’s not that insecure, but Valerie knows all about the Stefan/Caroline dynamic. He points out that Stefan ditched Caroline to travel the world with Valerie. She tells him that she never let herself believe that she and Stefan would last. Alaric, however, made a commitment to Caroline. He says he fell in love with her, and she said yes because of the kids. He acknowledges that Stefan’s return might upend the Saltzman family, but he claims not to care. Valerie says she’s rooting for Alaric and Caroline.
Damon asks Stefan the worst part of being human. Stefan hates not being able to compel people. “Sucks having to play by the rules, doesn’t it?” Damon says. Stefan reminds him of how they played hide and seek when they were kids. Damon accuses Stefan of cheating by hiding in Giuseppe’s office, since they weren’t supposed to go in there. Stefan asks why it was so hard for Damon to find him. Damon replies that he was scared and didn’t want to break the rules.
Stefan thinks he hoped that Giuseppe would catch and punish Stefan. Damon denies that – he was scared for Stefan. He asks why Stefan brought up the game. “Because you’re never going to find me,” Stefan replies. He collapses, exhausted. Seconds later, Damon pulls up next to him on the road.
Sometime later, Stefan wakes up in Damon’s car. Damon’s a little put off by his brother being in someone else’s body. Stefan scarfs some donuts and says the joy of eating bad food is something he misses about being human. Damon asks if everything’s forgiven, and Stefan says no. Just then, his nose starts bleeding. Damon tells him that Marty’s deteriorating and they’re down to just 48 hours to find Stefan’s body.
Valerie’s been tracking that, and she tells Alaric that Stefake just stopped in Memphis. The tracking spell she did lets her hear music, and she guesses that he’s at a frat party. Alaric says they need to get back on the road. Rayna’s mention of Stefake being a serial killer reminded Alaric of a legend about a serial killer who became a vampire in Memphis in the 1880s. He would go to fraternities and sororities so he could have his pick of victims.
As Stefake is invited into a party, Alaric tells Valerie that he would force his victims to kill each other. The survivors would try to explain what happened later, but no one believed them, and they went crazy. Stefake wraps something around the handles on the doors to the party to trap everyone inside. He’s happy to be back in his old stomping grounds, surrounded by his pick of victims.
Etc.: Nothing against the other actors in this episode but I almost wish it had been just Stefan and Damon.
They really like to make Paul Wesley (Stefan) play evil, don’t they?
Alaric claims not to have any pictures of Stefan at Saltzman Shelter, but when Valerie says Caroline must have one, he finds it pretty quickly, so…someone wasn’t hiding her picture of her ex very well.
I love how you can clearly see a stuffed unicorn next to the case that holds the dart gun. There’s no way he ever thought his life would end up like this.
I would love to see Matt’s reaction to Damon using his identity in Arkansas.