On the road from Arkansas to Memphis, Damon checks to make sure Stefan (still in Marty’s body) is just sleeping and not dead. Damon bought him a bunch of over-the-counter medicine to help with his human feelings of pain and sickness. But since Stefan’s still bleeding from places he shouldn’t be, I don’t think they’ll make much of a difference. Damon decides it’s time for plan B – medical professionals. He can’t take Stefan to a hospital, since Marty’s wanted for the bus crash, but he can bring paramedics to them.
Alaric meets up with the Salvatores in a parking lot where Damon has compelled two paramedics to tend to Stefan. Now Damon and Alaric can go find Stefake, and Valerie can put Stefan’s soul back in his body. Simple, right? Valerie’s preparing for that reunion spell in a motel, and she’s already tracked Stefake to a frat house at Memphis College. She’s also ID’d him as a vampire named Ambrose. Aww, I liked calling him Stefake.
Damon appreciates Alaric’s help, but Alaric notes that Valerie didn’t really give him a choice. Damon says she must have known he would want to help an old friend, even if he’s marrying that old friend’s ex. Alaric doesn’t think Damon’s making the right choice here. He may have bought Stefan a little time, but if things turn out for him the way they did for Florence, Damon should consider spending what little time Stefan has left with his brother. Damon would rather try to save his brother than spend meaningful time with him, and he thinks Alaric is crazy for suggesting otherwise.
Bonnie’s in another group-therapy session at her psych facility, which is now identified as being in Asheville, North Carolina. She’s talking about Damon and how hard it is to care about him when he doesn’t seem to care about her. She’s upset that he hasn’t contacted her since getting back. She’s decided to move on and try not to let his betrayal ruin her life. The woman leading the session asks another patient, Virginia, if she wants to add anything. Virginia says no, but she’s staring at Bonnie like she definitely has something to say.
Damon asks Alaric what he missed in the three years he spent desiccating. Alaric says he doesn’t know, since he cut himself off from everything Mystic Falls. Damon is sure that Caroline has told him something. Alaric guesses that he wants to know about Bonnie, in which case he should ask her himself. Damon doesn’t know where she is, though, and he figures this will give him something to talk to Caroline about at the wedding reception. Alaric tells him there won’t be a reception or a big wedding. They’ve just invited a few friends. Damon’s skeptical that Alaric has friends other than Damon.
Alaric tells Damon that while he was napping, the rest of the world moved on. Damon corrects that it was more than a nap – it was a painful experience, and he voluntarily took it on so he wouldn’t hurt people he loves. Alaric asks to be dismissed from this road trip so he can go back to his new, normal life, but Damon ignores him. He apologizes for saying goodbye the way he did and asks to make it up to Alaric. Alaric declines the chance to be roped into Damon’s “12-step redemption tour.” Damon wants one last mission, just like old times, but Alaric doesn’t feel like helping the guy who abandoned Caroline and broke her heart. Damon notes that that situation worked out for Alaric. He plays the “Caroline would want Stefan to live” card to keep Alaric around.
In the ambulance, Stefan reminisces about his time in the Philippines two years ago. The bartender who offered Valerie his help notices that Stefan’s struggling to write a letter. Stefan says it’s an apology for Caroline, telling her he wishes things were different but it’s better this way. She’s returned all of his previous letters unopened. The bartender says that maybe this will be the one she’ll read. In the present, Stefan asks a paramedic for a pen and paper.
In Memphis, Ambrose is doing his version of a keg stand, feeding on a human while he does a regular keg stand. Damon arrives but can’t enter the frat house without an invitation. Ambrose teases that he’ll have to go through some hazing. Instead, Damon gives Alaric a Memphis College shirt and tags him in. But Alaric doesn’t want to play, and he’s already making plans to fly back to Dallas that afternoon.
Damon thinks Alaric is “still in the game.” After all, he had a rifle when Damon surprised him in Dallas. Alaric doesn’t think having a weapon to protect his family means he’s “in the game.” Damon presses him to help save Stefan, if not because Alaric actually likes Stefan then because Stefan’s stepping aside allowed Alaric to have his family.
Someone brings Damon a phone so Ambrose can talk to him from the party. He wants Damon to come back; he’s sure they can find the right person to invite him in. Ambrose is looking forward to having the students start killing each other. Damon tries to get him to come outside for the rest of his “villainous monologue.” Ambrose finally tells him what this is all really about: Rayna. Ambrose is the one who turned the guy Rayna was in love with, so her desire to hunt him down is a little personal. If Damon kills Rayna, Ambrose will let him have Stefan’s body back.
As Ambrose gives a partygoer a cup of his blood, Damon asks why he would give himself up. Ambrose explains that he can jump into the body of a transitioning vampire. He slashes the partygoer’s neck with a broken bottle and tells Damon that he just needs to find a witch who can transfer Stefan’s soul back into his body. Then Ambrose will jump out and take Rayna’s head as a trophy, and everyone will be happy. Damon’s in.
He calls Valerie and tells her he’s sending Stefan her way while he tries to get his hands on Ambrose. Valerie admits that the soul-transfer spell will be difficult without help from another Gemini witch. Good thing Bonnie knows how to do it! I’m sure Bonnie is ready, willing, and able to help. Valerie’s not confident, but Stefan is the only person left in the world who she cares about, so she’ll do whatever it takes to save him. Damon asks her to find Rayna with a locator spell first.
Rayna’s in an Uber, being driven to the frat party by a very chatty college student. They come across a road block set up by Enzo to recapture Rayna. He knocks her out with tranquilizer darts and grabs her from the car. In Asheville, Bonnie takes her daily medications and asks if her doctor called. On her way back to her room, she catches Virginia following her. Virginia pretends to veer off in another direction, then slips into Bonnie’s room and locks the door. She accuses Bonnie of swapping Virginia’s medication for placebos every day when the nurse turns away to check for messages.
Bonnie explains that they won’t be able to get better if they can’t concentrate. She wanted to help Virginia clear her mind. Virginia’s thrilled to hear that and hugs her in gratitude. She feels like herself for the first time in a long time. She invites Bonnie to raid the nurses’ secret candy stash with her.
Damon and Alaric come across Enzo’s roadblock, where the Uber driver is still in the car, thanks to Enzo’s compulsion. Damon figures out that Enzo took Rayna and calls to demand that he return her. Enzo plays innocent, denying that he would take Rayna for the Armory since he doesn’t work for them anymore. Damon says he needs Rayna more than Enzo possibly could right now. Enzo challenges that by asking him how Bonnie is. Damon hasn’t spoken to his supposed best friend in three years because he let himself desiccate. Damon says this is about Stefan, not Bonnie, and he needs Rayna to save his brother. Enzo tells Damon to find another way.
As Damon and Alaric get back on the road, Alaric tells Damon that Bonnie and Enzo are a couple now. Damon can’t believe that. Alaric explains that Bonnie got into trouble with the Armory after Damon took his “hibernation vacation,” and Enzo helped her out. Damon notes that Alaric claimed not to be aware of what the Mystic Falls gang has been up to. Ambrose calls for an update, and Damon asks for an extension on his deadline to capture Rayna. “This sense of disappointment must be what it feels like to actually have you for a brother,” Ambrose replies. So…that’s a no?
Bonnie and Virginia chat while enjoying their stolen candy. Virginia thinks she and Bonnie have similar stories – like Bonnie, Virginia was betrayed by someone she loved. Unlike Bonnie, the betrayer was her family, not a boyfriend. Bonnie clarifies that Damon wasn’t her boyfriend. Virginia says she tried to save her family from something dark, but they didn’t want to be saved. Her sister had her drugged and locked up in the psych facility to make everyone think she’s crazy. “It must be hard being a member of the St. John family,” Bonnie comments. She’s known all along that Virginia is Alex’s sister.
Virginia thinks Bonnie’s there to spy on her for her family, but Bonnie says she’s hiding from Alex and the Armory. She doesn’t know why they’ve been looking for her. She came up with a cover story and checked herself in a few weeks ago, hoping Virginia could help her figure out what the Armory wants and why they’ve been hunting Bonnie for almost three years. Virginia says her family’s business is hunting things and people, and they won’t stop until they get what they want.
Bonnie’s desperate to get her life back, so she’d appreciate any help Virginia can give. Virginia’s not interested and she turns to go. Bonnie gets her to stop by blurting out that she’s a Bennett witch. Virginia asks for proof, but Bonnie can’t use magic right now. Virginia’s skeptical that the Armory hasn’t been able to find a Bennett witch in all this time. Bonnie says she found a way to hide from them. She can prove that if Virginia promises to keep her secret. Virginia agrees, but she wants Bonnie to break her out when she leaves the facility.
Damon and Alaric return to the frat house, which Damon is now able to enter. Everyone’s dead and there’s blood all over the walls. Ambrose is gone, but Damon doesn’t think he went after Rayna, since he wouldn’t know where to look for her. But Damon can’t ask him where he is because he left his phone behind. Alaric and Damon wonder if he’s on his way to another “murder party” or if he’s just going to keep running until Marty dies and takes Stefan with him.
Alaric asks if Ambrose might have been able to hear Damon when he told the ambulance drivers where to take Stefan. Damon realizes that if Ambrose kills Marty, Damon won’t keep bugging him to get Stefan’s body back. He calls one of the paramedics and complains that the ambulance is still on the way to the motel, since there are lights and sirens they could have used to get there already. The paramedic tells his colleague to turn on their lights, but before he can, a car T-bones them. “Bull’s-eye,” says its driver, Ambrose.
The paramedics are able to get out of the wrecked ambulance but they can’t escape Ambrose. This leaves Stefan at his mercy. He’s recovered enough to run off, and he’s able to make it into a house Ambrose can’t enter without an invitation. That’s another human privilege Stefan didn’t intend to benefit from ever again.
Rayna wakes up in Enzo’s car and assumes he’s taking her back to the Armory. He asks if she knew that they’d made a pill that suppresses magic. In Asheville, Bonnie shows one of those pills to Virginia. She just has to take one a day to render locator spells unable to find her. The downside is that she can’t use magic while she’s taking them. They’re made with Rayna’s blood, just like the pills Mary Louise was given – the pills that are poisonous to witches.
Enzo asks Rayna if the pills’ effects can be reversed. She just laughs at him. The effects of her blood can only be enhanced, not reversed. She knows because the Armory already tried. She realizes he’s asking for a reason – he stole the pills and gave them to someone he cares about. As Bonnie takes a pill, Rayna guesses that Enzo has given her a death sentence.
Ambrose throws bricks at Stefan through the open door of his hideout, trying to talk him into coming outside and getting his death over with already. When Stefan moves out of his path, Ambrose turns his attention to a grill and a gas tank. He opens the valve and throws the tank into the house, then lights a can of oil with a lighter. He asks if Stefan has any last words.
Stefan tries to move the gas tank out of the way, but it turns out not to be a threat. Damon arrives just in time to catch the oil can as Ambrose throws it into the house. Ambrose grabs a two-by-four so he can stake Damon, but again, someone stops him. This time it’s Alaric, who shoots him with vervain darts. “I hate how good that felt,” he tells Damon.
Bonnie asks Virginia why the Armory’s looking for her, but first Virginia wants assurance that Bonnie can get her out of the facility. Bonnie says she knows a doctor who can check them both out. Virginia tells her there’s a vault in the basement of the Armory. It was sealed by a Bennett witch, and only a Bennett witch can open it. The St. Johns thought Lucy was the only remaining Bennett witch, but she disappeared about four years ago. Bonnie figures that she herself fell off the St. Johns’ radar after her death.
As for what’s in the vault, Virginia will only say that it contains something that shouldn’t be let out. Bonnie needs to promise never to open it. Bonnie can’t say that without knowing what she’s dealing with, so Virginia won’t tell her anything more. She breaks a mirror and uses a shard of glass to attack Bonnie, wanting to ensure she never opens the vault. Fortunately, an orderly restrains her before she can cause too much damage, and her claims that Bonnie’s a witch who wants to open a vault just sound like the ramblings of a psych patient.
Damon and Alaric have delivered Ambrose to the motel, where Valerie promises Stefan that she’ll get him back into his body. She thanks Alaric for his help, but he thinks she should be more grateful to Damon. Damon knows that Valerie didn’t believe he would come through, even though she knows how much he cares about his brother. She starts the spell, going into Stefan’s head to make him think they’re at Vamp Villa so he’ll be comfortable. She promises that he’ll be fine. Stefan wants to make the most of his time in case she’s lying, but Valerie says he just needs to think about where they’ll travel next.
Now that he doesn’t have to run from Rayna anymore, they can settle down somewhere (though not Mystic Falls, thanks to Matt ordering all the vampires out). Valerie wonders if he’s thinking about moving to Dallas. Stefan says no, but she sees this as his chance to get back to his real life. He assures her that she’s his real life. Her nose starts bleeding and she fights to keep doing the spell. Damon orders her to keep going.
In Stefan’s head, Valerie asks if she’s only been a distraction for him for the past few years, or if she’s something more. He says she’s never been a distraction. Damon keeps pressing her to continue the spell, even though it’s taking a lot out of her. Stefan wants her to stop; he’s afraid that she’ll sacrifice herself for him. But Valerie insists on continuing, since he’s all she has. She suddenly disappears from his head. Moments later, Stefan wakes up in his body, relieving everyone. (Well, maybe not Alaric.)
As soon as the adventure is over, Alaric heads out, wanting to go home. Damon apologizes again for the way he left to desiccate and asks how he can smooth things over. He wants things to go back to the way they were. Alaric says that the past three years were the best of his life because he got to start over. He has daughters he loves, a job he earned, and a fiancée who makes him feel lucky to be alive. He got all that without having to deal with Damon. He doesn’t want things to go back to the way they used to be. Hurt, Damon just thanks him for being honest. Alaric starts to walk away, then stops long enough to tell Damon where Bonnie is. Maybe he can repair their friendship.
As Stefan gets cleaned up, Valerie tries to write him a letter. She admits that she knew he wrote Caroline when he thought she wasn’t looking. She heard how scared he was during the spell – not that he would die but that she would die for him. She thinks he was afraid the sacrifice wouldn’t be worth it because he doesn’t love her the way she loves him. Valerie loves Stefan more than she’s ever loved anyone, but she knows he doesn’t feel the same. Now he has the chance to go back to Caroline. Valerie thinks things could have worked out for them if the circumstances had been different, but the way they turned out, she’s not the love of Stefan’s life.
Stefan apologizes but Valerie doesn’t think he needs to. She’ll use this opportunity to make a life for herself that’s completely hers. She kisses him goodbye and tells him he deserves to be happy. She wants him to be, and he wants the same for her.
Bonnie finds Damon’s goodbye letter from three years ago while she’s packing up her room at the facility. Enzo arrives and says he heard she had an “incident” with another patient. Apparently he’s the “doctor” who’s able to check her out. She’s happy to see him, especially since she gets to tell him that she’s found out why the Armory’s been looking for her. Once they figure out what’s in the vault, Bonnie can leverage it to Alex for her freedom from the Armory’s harassment. First, though, Bonnie wants out of the facility.
Enzo takes her pills from her and tells her she can’t take them anymore, even if they’re the only thing keeping the Armory from finding her. He explains that Mary Louise got sick from taking them. Bonnie’s upset that they could kill her, too, but Enzo promises that he won’t let her die (uh, again). As he’s comforting her, Damon shows up with flowers. He tries to figure out what to say that would be a sufficient apology. It doesn’t matter, since Bonnie doesn’t want to listen. Without a word, she slams the door in his face.
Etc.: Bonnie’s alias in the hospital, Bonnie McCullough, was her character’s name in the book series.
I’m surprised by Caroline’s refusal to read Stefan’s letters. I would think she would understand why he wanted to keep his distance.
Good for Bonnie for not getting overly dramatic while denying that Damon was ever her boyfriend. Season 1 Bonnie would give someone a magic migraine for suggesting that.
Damon catching the oil can after Ambrose throws it feels like a throwback to the end of “The World Has Turned and Left Me Here.”
Not to be nit-picky (…that’s a lie, I love being nit-picky) but if Bonnie checked herself into the psych facility, it means she’s there voluntarily, and she can check herself back out.
That’s it for Valerie, which is too bad, because there are plenty of times through the rest of the series when the gang could really benefit from having her around. We’ll just pretend she went off somewhere she’s always wanted to go and built a really good life for herself.