Stefan and Damon are in one of the last places anyone would ever expect to see them: a support group for people with anger issues. Damon has volunteered to share with the group, and the leader asks him what brings him there. He says he got Stefan a job (Stefan clarifies that he asked for it), and now they have new orders to push people to make evil choices. Then the brothers will kill them and send their souls to the devil. “I thought we were going for, like, a – a veiled analogy,” Stefan says softly. Damon reminds him that everyone in the room has been compelled. Plus, he prefers “clarity over cleverness,” like he says all the time. Stefan doesn’t remember him ever saying that.
Damon continues that Stefan’s been full of himself since he got this new job. Stefan thinks he’s jealous because Stefan is better at finding new “clients.” He asks who the group thinks is the worst person in the room. He and Damon debate whether one of Stefan’s top two choices, Meg and Elizabeth, would do something evil if given the opportunity.
Stefan asks the leader which of them he would pick to die. What if it was between him and Meg? He compels the leader to be honest, and the leader picks Meg to die over him. Next Stefan asks if the leader would be okay with both Meg and Elizabeth dying so that he could live. Yep! Damon adds everyone in the room to the hypothetical. The leader says he wants to live and doesn’t care about anyone else there. Congratulations, meeting leader – you get to meet Cade! Everyone else in the room gets to be eaten.
Stefan doesn’t want to go back to his old Ripper ways, so he’s pacing himself and not letting heads fall off this time around. Damon is skeptical that he’ll be able to control himself that much. Stefan doesn’t appreciate his lack of faith. Damn just doesn’t think he should take chances, given his Ripper history. “That’s why it’s called ‘history’ – it won’t repeat,” Stefan replies. Huh?
Dear Elena, Caroline took three weeks off from writing to you, but she figures Bonnie and Alaric are keeping up with it, her from Paris and him from wherever he’s hunkered down with the twins. Caroline’s been keeping herself busy with work and trying not to think about the past. That’s going to be hard, though, since her boss has sent her to Mystic Falls High for the day. Caroline tells Elena that Stefan and Damon are together, and she’s not sure what they’re doing, but it can’t be good. She’s trying to keep herself from thinking about it.
As she heads to a history class, she talks to Matt on the phone, explaining that she’s reporting on the students’ activities leading up to Founder’s Day. The school requested her since she’s an alum. She invites him to join her for lunch, but he’s on his way to the Armory with the box of Dalton’s research that Tyler left him. He asks how she’s doing with the girls gone. Caroline’s obviously struggling, but she’s reminding herself that it’s temporary. Matt offers to buy her drinks at the Grill if she writes something inappropriate in the football coach’s playbook.
Dorian’s the only person at the Armory, running things while Alaric’s off with the girls. He finally told Dorian everything about the sirens so he would know what he’d be fighting if he stayed. To Dorian’s credit, he didn’t run away when given the chance. Matt welcomes him to the “circle of trust.” Since Dorian was friends with Georgie, he’s happy to join the gang in finding a way to get revenge on Seline.
He’s already discovered something helpful: The tuning fork is also known as the staff of Arcadius. Cade’s enemies forged it in the fire that killed him. Dorian learned this from Harvey’s journal. Harvey was friends with the sirens, who lured him into the tunnels in 1790 and left him to starve to death. Not only that, but DNA testing has identified who Harvey is, as well as matched him to a living relative. He’s there to claim the remains. Oh, and he’s someone Matt knows – it’s Peter.
Caroline chats with a student named Violet about the history teacher and all she’s been doing. She even volunteered to organize the upcoming Miss Mystic Falls pageant. Everyone loves her. That may not be voluntary, though, since the teacher is Sybil. Caroline calls her out, but Sybil warns her not to make a scene or call the police. If she does, the kids are all dead. Caroline asks what she wants. Instead of telling her, Sybil taunts that Stefan must be doing some pretty bad stuff right now. She wants to teach Caroline history, and she specifically requested her for her job assignment.
Stefan and Damon take a break at an outdoor café, considering who to choose as their next victim. Damon isn’t impressed with any of their options. He wants a challenge. Stefan points out a young doctor he thinks is driven by something dark from her past. They agree to make a bet. Stefan then injects Damon with vervain and calls out for a doctor.
Damon wakes up in a hospital, annoyed that Stefan seemingly didn’t trust him to play along with his idea. Stefan tells him that the doctor, Tara, lost both parents ten years ago in a hit-and-run accident caused by a drunk driver. He thinks that proves that she’s driven by something dark. Damon still isn’t sure. Stefan continues that Tara’s parents’ organs saved lives, which inspired her to go into medicine. She also volunteers with a transplant support group. Stefan thinks that’s morbid, but also perfect.
Matt and Peter tell Dorian that Alaric let Seline go after she removed her psychic imprint from the twins. Peter says he was out of town at the time, and Matt snarks, “That’s his specialty.” Dorian fills them in on what he’s learned about Harvey (“Mr. Skeleton Maxwell”): He was a metalsmith and made sketches of something that, according to Dalton, his family made into an heirloom after his death. It’s the bell striker Damon stole from Peter’s garage. Dalton wrote a lot about Seline in 1883, including measurements. Peter realizes he was actually writing about a bell. The Maxwells made church bells. Dorian thinks that’s cool. “You’ve got a really low bar for ‘cool,'” Matt replies. Peter gives him a look that says, “I know you’re an adult and you don’t respect me, but just know that I’m not pleased with how you’re acting right now.”
Tara tells Stefan that Damon’s bloodwork is normal and she hasn’t figured out what’s wrong with him yet. Stefan chalks it up to karma for Damon’s horrible choices and how much he’s hurt people. Maybe this is happening so Damon can die and donate his organs to better people. Stefan tries to nudge Tara toward letting Damon die so one of her other patients can have his kidneys and fulfill her dreams of helping others. Tara says she has to view every life as just as important as everyone else’s.
Stefan tries another nudge, telling her that Damon killed her parents. She doesn’t believe him, so he uses compulsion to “convince” her. When he goes in to Damon’s room, Damon blasts him for manipulating her. Stefan says there’s no rule against it. Damon still isn’t sure Tara can be corrupted. Maybe she’s just a good person. Stefan doesn’t think anyone is truly good. He gives Damon more vervain so his health will seem to worsen. Damon complains that he’s cheating, but Stefan points out that he works for the devil, so he doesn’t have to play fair.
Sybil quizzes her class about Mystic Falls history, calling on Caroline to answer when the town was founded. Caroline knows it was 1860, and that the charter was signed by a Lockwood, a Forbes, a Fell, a Gilbert, and a Salvatore. Sybil corrects that while those families took credit, there were already people living in Mystic Falls. Those people were ultimately burned to death because they were different. Caroline knows she’s talking about the 100 witches who were killed at Hex House. Sybil was there, and she wants to take her students (and Caroline) there on a field trip.
Caroline finally decides to end Sybil’s act, grabbing her by the throat. One of the students collapses, and Sybil explains that she used her siren powers to shut down his mind. Caroline notes that if anyone dies, Sybil’s cover will be blown. Sybil lets the student revive and tells Caroline that any deaths today will be on her hands – and on her Hell scorecard.
The class heads to Hex House, where the students immediately start constructing pyres. Sybil tells Caroline that she and Seline came to Mystic Falls in 1790 looking for victims for Cade. The witches didn’t approve. Caroline guesses that the sirens were responsible for the witches’ deaths. Sybil tells her that the witches spelled a bell being forged by a local metalsmith. But Sybil and Seline had secretly befriended that metalsmith, and they “threw a little wrinkle into his plan.” Caroline asks what the students are doing, and Sybil says they’re working on extra credit.
Dorian finds something about a bell in the Maxwell family’s estate records. Peter tells Matt that most of their property was sold to the town to pay off a debt (“Grandma…she liked the ponies”). Dorian thinks Seline was looking for the bell in 1883.
Sybil tells Caroline that Peter was the last person who had the bell. He threw it off a bridge 20-something years ago. She saw it in his mind at Christmas, along with a parade. Caroline guesses that it was a Founder’s Day parade, during which they ring the charter bell. Sybil tells her that bell is a replica. Peter threw the real one off Wickery Bridge in 1992 (the same year most of the gang was born). Sybil has spent the last three weeks sending people into the river to look for the bell, but with no luck. She knows it still exists, since it can’t be destroyed, thanks to the witches.
She tells the students it’s time for their next activity – tying their classmates to the pyres they’ve constructed and dousing them with lighter fluid. Violet grabs an unlit torch, and when Caroline tells her to stop, Violet ignores her. Sybil’s sirened everyone to do her bidding. She lights the torch, which Violet starts to carry over to a pyre. Caroline demands that Sybil let everyone go. Sybil says she will when Caroline brings her the bell. Not that Caroline has any idea how to find it. But that’s not Sybil’s problem!
Tara examines Damon, who tries to convince her that he didn’t kill her parents. He’s too weak to compel her into believing him, so he asks her to show Stefan that Damon’s right about her. He wants the chance to redeem himself. Stefan says that no matter what Damon does, Tara’s parents will still be dead. He can’t undo his mistakes. “My life is worth something,” Damon says. “So is your death,” Stefan replies. It would do something good for people who actually deserve to live.
Stefan tries to convince Tara to do nothing and let Damon die. Tara reminds him of the Hippocratic Oath, but he tells her that saving Damon will just allow him to go out and drive drunk again, killing someone else’s parents. Tara doesn’t want to assume that he’ll keep doing horrible things, but Stefan says he’s shown them over and over who he is – they need to believe him. Stefan gets how hard it is to try to be perfect when all you want to do is make a choice for yourself. Tara says this isn’t about her, but Stefan disagrees, since she gets to make the call here. She should follow her instincts and do what’s right. She thinks it over, then sends Stefan out of the room.
As she closes the window blinds, Damon tells her that he’s sorry. She replies that it’s not enough. Stefan listens in via vamp hearing as Damon laments not being able to go back and change what he did. But killing him won’t change the past. Tara knows, but killing him will change the future. She picks up a syringe as he asks her not to do this. She gives him one last look, then injects air into his IV and seemingly kills him. In the hallway, Stefan looks through a bag of Damon’s belongings. Tara declares Damon dead, and Stefan, hearing from the hallway, nods in approval. He pulls Elena’s necklace out of the bag and sighs a little. “That figures,” he says.
Caroline calls Matt and tells him she needs the bell Peter threw off the bridge. Matt realizes what happened to it: After the Gilberts’ car went off the bridge, the river was dredged, which brought up the bell. Liz put it in storage, and Matt found it when he cleaned out her office after her death. It wound up in Fort Forbes’ garage. He tells Caroline not to give Sybil the bell, but Caroline says she doesn’t have a choice. Sybil grabs her phone and tells Matt that if anyone tries to interfere with her attempts to get the bell, she’ll send a “psychic command” to her students and kill them.
Matt and Peter speed back to Mystic Falls to try to find the students. Peter thinks it’s insane that Sybil’s looking for a bell. Matt asks why he threw it in the river. Peter explains that he was upset about the Maxwell family’s exclusion from all the lore surrounding Mystic Falls’ founding. They were the first family with a skilled trade, and they’re the reason there’s a town at all. The rich people who took over squeezed the Maxwells out and acted like they were an embarrassment, which is ultimately what they became. Peter got rid of the bell because it symbolized what the family lost. After he got rid of it, he left town.
As Matt gets information on where the kids went for their field trip, Stefan meets Tara at her car and tells her everything he put her through was a “morality test.” Damon’s dead, but no one knows what Tara did. She notes that Stefan wanted him dead and tricked her into killing him. Stefan says he just wanted to know what she would do if given the opportunity to kill Damon. She lived up to her potential.
Damon joins them, having regained his strength by feeding on the orderly who came to take his body to the morgue. Stefan compels Tara to stand still and be quiet. He tells her she already failed the test. Damon doesn’t think Cade will want her; she might deserve a second chance. Stefan says he’s disappointed in his brother and gets now why he was confused. He pulls out Elena’s necklace, knowing Damon’s been carrying it around for weeks. He thinks it’s why Damon hasn’t been enjoying himself.
Stefan picked Tara specifically to mess with Damon. She has brown eyes, brown hair, no parents, and an interest in medicine, just like Elena. The necklace triggers Damon’s conscience and is holding him back. Damon denies that, so Stefan implies that he should prove it by killing Tara.
Dorian calls Matt with more bell info: The tuning fork and the bell striker fit together to make a clapper, the piece that swings inside a bell. Put together with the bell Peter got rid of, they make “a mystical, witchified super-bell.” The tuning fork alone hurts and incapacitates the sirens, and ringing the bell magnifies the effect by a thousand. Dorian thinks he’s finally found out something about bells that Matt will find cool, but Matt will have to get back to him on that. He and Peter have reached Hex House, and their priority is making sure Violet doesn’t set anyone on fire.
Caroline and Sybil search Liz’s boxes, which Caroline never unpacked. She finds an empty shelf, where Seline left a note behind: “Hey, sissy. Looking for something?” Caroline says that this explains why Seline kept organizing the house. Sybil is furious, and she wants to take it out on her students. She sends Violet a psychic message to light the pyres. Matt and Peter have been untying the students, and they manage to get the last one off his pyre just before the flames reach it. Matt tells the kids they completed their assignment and Sybil’s done with them.
Back on the road to find their next victim, Stefan analyzes Damon, guessing that the necklace is making his humanity poke back through. Damon insists that it doesn’t mean anything to him, so Stefan tells him to prove that he’s put the past behind him and doesn’t care. Damon does so by tossing the necklace out the window. But the past isn’t completely gone: Tara is in the backseat, still alive. Damon pulls over and kills her.
Matt and Peter sent the students off on a bus with no memory of what happened and a fake story about a carbon monoxide leak. Peter approves of that cover story, and Matt says he knows a lot about excuses. Peter tells him that leaving was the worst mistake he ever made. He doesn’t want Matt to make the same mistake by walking away from his family. Matt says that when he was a kid, he was the only one whose family didn’t have a legacy in Mystic Falls. He felt like an outsider in his own town. Knowing his family’s history could have changed everything for him, but Peter didn’t give him the chance to learn it.
Sybil throws a tantrum in the garage as Caroline hears from Matt that all the students are safe. Now Caroline is free to attack Sybil. Sybil notes that she can’t be completely sure that Sybil isn’t still linked to the twins. She could have put an “off switch” in their brains to kill them. Caroline thinks Sybil’s bluffing, since Stefan made sure the girls would be safe. Sybil says he could have overlooked a loophole when he made his deal with Cade. Does Caroline want to take the risk and gamble with her kids’ lives? Though Sybil guesses she already is – she’s marrying a Ripper.
Caroline says that by the time she marries Stefan, he won’t be a Ripper anymore. Sybil reminds her that Stefan has fallen off the wagon before. “Do you know what the definition of insanity is? It’s doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” Sybil says. She hopes the twins aren’t around the next time Stefan goes Ripper.
The next day, a prison work crew cleans up the side of the road where Damon threw the necklace. Damon shows up and asks a worker if he’s found anything valuable. He mentions that his brother made him throw something away, so the worker suggests that Stefan help look. Damon says Stefan took the morning off and doesn’t want Damon to have what he’s looking for anyway. (Music: “Scars,” Michael Malarkey, AKA Enzo) Damon isn’t sure why he wants it – it just makes him feel better. The worker thinks Stefan’s kind of a jerk. He’s an only child, which Damon says is lucky, since he doesn’t have to worry about other people’s mistakes.
While Stefan sits in the hallway of Tara’s hospital, Damon says he’s keeping it together, but things are weird right now. “If my brother takes a turn for the worse, all bets are off,” he notes. The worker says that sometimes people bounce back. Damon asks if they do that by performing penance like the worker is. He’s only cleaning up trash, but it’s better than leaving it where it is. As Stefan watches a nurse at the hospital, Damon hands the worker a bottle, just in case even doing a little is enough. He looks back down on the ground and sees Elena’s necklace.
Stefan feeds on the nurse, continuing to pace himself so he doesn’t go full Ripper. Damon picks up the necklace, then goes to meet Stefan at the hospital, where he’s killed at least a dozen people. I think it’s fair to say he’s taken a turn for the worse and all bets are off.
Significant item update: Seline has the charter bell.
Etc.: Ian Somerhalder (Damon) directed this episode.
Nina Dobrev (Elena) and Alexandra Chando (Tara) look enough alike that if I knew nothing about them and you told me they were sisters, I would believe you.
The first scene is really fun. I like Ian and Paul Wesley’s (Stefan) dynamic when their characters both have their humanity off.
Bonnie and Enzo took the tuning fork with them to Paris. I assume that there are a number of compelled TSA agents and customs officials who have no idea that it was in their luggage.
I feel protective when Matt picks on Dorian. Dorian’s great! He’s a better friend than you are, Matt!
Unless every single other person in Mystic Falls is a Gilbert, Fell, Forbes, Salvatore, or Lockwood, Matt’s feeling of not fitting in there because he didn’t know he came from a meaningful family is weird. I guarantee he was the only one who cared about that growing up. Plus, Bonnie thought the Bennetts’ only claim to fame was witchcraft, which she clearly felt was silly before she learned about her own powers, so I think Matt needs to reexamine his issues.
I love that there was a throwaway moment a few episodes ago where Seline told Alaric she was organizing the garage, and this episode explains why that was important. Nice job by the writers.