Landon has just found an illuminated door inside Malivore and is opening it. Behind the door is a Hell dimension full of fire, demons, and torture. Just kidding! It’s an ice cream parlor. Everyone inside turns to look at him as the bell on the door dings. Behind the counter is the Necromancer, who greets him with, “Took you long enough.”
Now that Alaric has decided to turn his focus back to the school and stop actively looking for a way to get Landon back, he’s forced to deal with paperwork that he let pile up. Josie notices the wish artifact on his desk and asks why it’s covered in algae. He fished it out of the lake so he can do more research on it.
To support Josie on her first day at Mystic Falls High, Alaric packed her lunch and put some things she might need in her backpack, including money and a cell phone. He notes that he’s never sent a kid off to the first day of school. He warns that it’ll be tough for her to start in the middle of the semester, but he knows she’ll do great. Josie isn’t so sure about whether Alaric will do great without her around.
Hope is trying to paint in her room but all she can think about is Landon. Her canvas remains blank. Lizzie comes in to present her plan for Operation: Rescue Hope from Herself. She expects pushback but Hope is eager to do anything that will keep her mind occupied. Well, almost anything – she declines Alaric’s request for her and Lizzie to lead a tour for prospective students. She doesn’t think she can handle being around strangers right now.
Lizzie has prepared a speech, which starts with her saying that she wanted to hide in a hole after M.G. and Alyssa hooked up. Hope calls her out for the comparison and Lizzie says it’s not a competition. Hope suggests that Wade give the tour. Lizzie thinks her grief is making her say crazy things. She asks Hope to join her for one shift; then M.G. and Kaleb can take over. Hope isn’t the only one who needs a distraction. Lizzie’s trying to handle Josie’s first day away with poise. She promises that there will be so many kids around them that Hope will easily be able to keep her mind off Landon.
I don’t know how many Lizzie was expecting but it was definitely more than seven, which is the total number of students in the first tour group. Not only that, but as a German guy named Gunter notes, there are no current students around. Lizzie explains that they’re just coming back from a mid-semester break. A girl named Gaby heard from her parents that they took the break because the headmaster’s daughter killed a classmate with black magic. Lizzie clarifies that the break was actually because of “all the monster…trucks.”
With no supervisor looking over his shoulder like the last time he worked in an ice cream parlor, the Necromancer can’t be forced to sing when someone leaves a tip. He’s chained up behind the counter, though, so he still has to work. He explains to Landon that when he was left behind in the prison world, Malivore consumed him, then made the parlor to torture him. Landon asks why he doesn’t break out. Uh, have you not noticed the chains, friend? The Necromancer got a Sphinx to read the inscriptions on the sides of the shackles. They say that the chains will only come off if the Necromancer does something he would never do.
The Necromancer’s only joy in Malivore is hearing gossip from his fellow captives. He asks why Hope left Landon in there. Landon says they both escaped, and then “something happened” and he was sent there. He’s confident that Hope will find a way to get him out. The Necromancer finds it curious that she hasn’t already. Then again, time moves differently there, so while days have passed in Malivore, months could have passed outside. Hope might have moved on already. Maybe she doesn’t want Landon back.
Landon decides he’s done with the conversation. The Necromancer deserves to rot there. The Necromancer asks if he might be interested if, hypothetically, he knew a way out. Malivore left him with a key that the Sphinx said is to “a door out of the darkness.” Because of his chains, the Necromancer can’t go look for the door, but if Landon helps him get out of them, the Necromancer will find them a way home.
As Hope and Lizzie are leading the students on their tour, Hope has a vision of Landon in a hallway. The lights start flickering and Lizzie asks if Hope needs to go yell in the woods. Hope says she’s fine. The tour group goes to the Great Room (which I always just call the living room, since that’s what it was at Vamp Villa), but it’s pretty dead in there. A couple of prospective students decide they’re done with the tour.
Kaleb, M.G., Jed, and Wade arrive just then, and Lizzie prepares the remaining prospective students to meet the rest of the student body. It’s just the four guys, though. No other students are returning to the school.
Alaric joins the Super Squad and they all put on big smiles to make the prospective students think everything’s okay. Alaric got a letter from some concerned parents who are a little upset that he got them involved in “a battle royale against the Necromancer.” Hey, they didn’t have to take part in that! Alaric gave them a choice! Anyway, those kids don’t feel safe there anymore, so they’re transferring to other schools. Lizzie asks how long that letter was on Alaric’s desk. He says that’s not important. Further, since departing students means a huge drop in tuition checks, the faculty can’t be compensated, so they’re not coming back, either.
Alaric promises to handle all that while the Super Squad makes sure the prospective students enroll. One of them, a Nigerian girl named Cleo Sowande, asks Gunter who Alaric is. He thinks Alaric is the headmaster. Also, Gunter is a vampire, and he used his vamp hearing to listen to the whole conversation. He knows the school is in trouble.
Kaleb turns to M.G. to come up with an activity to entertain the prospective students. But Kaleb recently convinced M.G. to start putting himself first, and since M.G. doesn’t want to take part in this, he’s not going to. That leaves Kaleb and Hope to come up with their own idea. Kaleb doesn’t see a point, since it’s hard to show how fun the school is without their classmates there. They should postpone the tour. Hope knows from memorizing the school charter in the third grade (um…why?) that the town requires them to have a certain number of students to remain open. They really do need the prospective students to enroll.
Josie finds her locker at Mystic Falls High and is delighted to see a familiar face waiting for her there: Dorian is the new principal! Emma made him get a “monster-free” job. Josie thanks him for the decorations in her locker, but they’re actually courtesy of Finch.
Kaleb and Hope take the prospective students to the gym to meet the werewolves. Kaleb warns that they’re “as legendary as they are dangerous.” Jed is leading the pack in what his counting claims is 1,000 push-ups. And by “pack” I mean three wolves, counting Jed. He pretends they keep numbers low for “a high wolf-to-alpha ratio.” Kaleb says Hope is a wolf, too, and encourages her to talk about life at the school. Hope talks up their parties and dodgeball games. ‘Cause you can’t get those at regular schools!
As she’s thinking about past experiences at school, she of course thinks about Landon. The lights flicker again and a cart of rubber balls tips over. Kaleb sends the prospective students off with Jed. Two of them bail, and Gaby comments to Kaleb that they’re probably out. Thanks, Gaby. Kaleb warns Hope that if she loses control of her magic, they’re going to have a really tough time convincing the prospective students that the school is safe. She promises that she can control it. She won’t lose her home on top of everything else.
Landon helps the Necromancer brainstorm actions that might fall under the category of things he would never do. He’s fought in a war, betrayed a friend, fallen in love, and then killed them (“of course”). There’s nothing the Necromancer wouldn’t do, so this is a tough one to puzzle out. The darkness outside the parlor gets even darker, which the Necromancer explains is an illusion to make it seem like time is passing normally. This means he only works regular business hours, but that doesn’t make being there any easier. He just spends the whole night dreading the next day. Aww, now the Necromancer knows what it’s like to be human.
He complains that everything in the parlor is designed to torture him. The freezer is always locked, for example. Landon reminds him what Malivore said the last time he made the Necromancer human: He was teaching the Necromancer a lesson. Maybe this lesson is that the customer is always right. Landon shakes the tip jar and suggests that Malivore wants the Necromancer to humiliate himself in front of the humans he finds so inferior to himself. The Necromancer refuses, since singing “If You’re Happy and You Know It” is something he would…never do.
The Necromancer mumbles the song, but an amused Landon makes him sing louder. The Necromancer even claps at the end. His shackles immediately fall off. Good job, Landon! The Necromancer is much less proud of him, and he punches Landon out.
When Landon comes to, he’s wearing the Necromancer’s shackles, which now chain him to the Necromancer. The Necromancer admits that he lied about their deal. The door out of Malivore will only let one person through. The Necromancer suspects that Malivore is just teasing him with the possibility of escape. The door probably just leads back to the prison world where Malivore is trapped. The Necromancer has a better escape plan: Hope. She’s her father’s daughter and will cross any lines necessary to save Landon, who will no doubt just wait to be saved.
Josie and Finch continue being cute, which makes the good day Josie’s been having even better. That is, until she finds a note from Lizzie in her bag telling her not to worry about her former classmates and to focus on herself. Josie realizes she hasn’t thought about her sister all day.
Wade tries to get M.G. to join him for a round of Dungeons and Dragons. M.G.’s feeling down, thinking about how he and Alyssa used to chat through a magic mirror. Jed comes in to apologize for hooking up with Alyssa. Just then Alyssa calls via the mirror, but M.G. decides to keep up his new just-say-no habit and not answer. He also doesn’t want to play D&D or make Jed feel better about being a jerk.
Alaric has managed to get some departing students back on board, giving them a student body of 30, which is enough to stay open. Lizzie notes that his list includes Landon and Rafael, so they only have 28 enrolled. Alaric suggests bringing Josie back, but Lizzie wants to let her do her own thing. Kaleb comes in to report that they keep losing prospective students from the tour. They need to do something big. Jed arrives to offer his help, which makes Lizzie wonder who’s leading the tour now.
It’s Hope, who takes the only three remaining students – Gaby, Gunter, and Cleo – to the dining hall to talk about the community they’ve built there. This just brings up more Landon-related memories for her, which makes her magic flare up. A blast of it comes out, knocking out all three prospective students.
Lizzie and Alaric try to reassure Hope that it’s not her fault, but that doesn’t make her feel better. Alaric tells Lizzie and Kaleb that they still need two prospective students to enroll as soon as they wake up. Kaleb suggests that they divide and conquer. Lizzie calls dibs on Gunter, but Alaric vetoes that. She opts for Cleo instead, but Kaleb thinks she’s into him and steals her. Alaric advises – with love, of course – that Lizzie censor herself to get Gaby to enroll, since Lizzie’s already annoyed by her.
The Necromancer’s plan seems to be to just sit around and wait for Hope. He doesn’t see a point wasting energy looking for a door that might not even be there. Besides, he figures Landon was waiting for rescue before he found the parlor. Landon asks if there’s anything else written on the shackles. The Necromancer says it’s just something about a snowstorm. He passes them to Landon so he can see for himself.
The inscription is actually Blizzard Breeze, which Landon remembers from his job at the Mystic Grill is an appliance company. They make fridges, coolers, and freezers. Both guys realize at the same time that the perpetually locked freezer is the door out of Malivore. They trip and pull each other back with the chains and grab the key from each other as they try to get back to the parlor.
Cleo wakes up in a room full of candles, where Kaleb’s playing the piano. He tells her that Hope’s magic blast was a defensive drill. He flirts by asking Cleo about her dreams and fears. “One of my fears is being stuck in a room with a man who plays piano,” she quips. Ha! She knows Hope lost control of her magic. Kaleb promises that the school is still safe.
Cleo asks why the other students aren’t coming back. She knows the school is in trouble, and she asks what will happen if she doesn’t register. Kaleb says it doesn’t matter; they’re totally fine. But she’s sure he wouldn’t have taken time to light candles if that were true. Cleo can’t stay there if people won’t tell her the truth. That said, Kaleb’s not a bad pianist.
Alaric chats with Gunter, thinking he’ll be a good fit for the school because of his love of history. He suggests that Gunter’s parents sign a letter of intent. Gunter’s parents are dead, and his guardians are from an old vampire line who taught him all about his family. Many of those family members were killed by a vampire hunter Gunter has sworn to seek vengeance on if they ever met. Alaric came prepared, though, and he vervains Gunter before Gunter can stab him.
Lizzie takes Gaby to the kitchen, which is unimpressive to her, since her old school in Belgium had one that was much bigger. That old school also had a former Salvatore School student who warned Gaby that it’s rundown. Yep, that’s our Penelope. Lizzie remains diplomatic, and Gaby is surprised that she’s not bothered by all the criticism. Penelope told her that Josie is the best part of the Salvatore School. If the school is so awesome, why isn’t Josie there?
Lizzie tells Gaby that the school may not be perfect, but it’s what they have. If it’s not good enough for Gaby, she doesn’t have to go there. She can leave them behind while she goes off to find herself in the human world and make new friends and forget about them. Gaby’s like, “Yeah, we’re done here. Also, I know that wasn’t about me.”
Hope goes to the art room, where she angrily flings some paint across the room, making it splatter onto a blank canvas. Cleo comes in and connects with her over her love of art. She and her sisters used to play a game where they asked each other what they saw in paintings. Hope doesn’t want to play, but Cleo doubts that running away will help her. She knows Hope has something powerful inside, and she’d prefer if Hope talked about it instead of keeping it inside and losing control again.
Alaric has chained Gunter up to force him to listen to a pitch for coming to the school. “Just stake me,” Gunter says. Alaric, he just tried to kill you! You can’t have him enroll there, no matter how desperate you are! Alaric tells him about a vampire he once wanted to kill who eventually became his best friend. Ha ha ha ha ha ha, this is so not the same, Ric. Gunter says that Alaric isn’t fit to be the headmaster there, since he’s killed supernaturals. Yeah, we already did the plot where Alaric doesn’t think he should be in charge. We’re not doing it again.
Ethan finds Josie eating lunch by herself in a hallway and joins her. He doesn’t feel like he should sit with the football team until he’s earned his spot back. Plus, Josie looks like she could use a friend. He promises that going to school there will get easier. He understands how hard it is to be away from a sibling who’s been your best friend for most of your life. But even during tough times, he knows Maya would be mad if he stopped trying. Josie asks if he feels guilty for staying behind after Mac and Maya moved away. Ethan did for a while, but he remembered that they want him to be happy. He’s trying to be.
Hope analyzes her splatter painting for Cleo, seeing anger, fear, and danger for her friends. She thinks that trying to help them just makes things worse. She’s worried that what’s inside her will keep coming out because everything at the school reminds her of Landon. She doesn’t know how to move forward. Cleo thinks she’s already done the hardest part – saying it out loud.
She asks why Hope doesn’t leave, since it’s so painful for her to be there. Hope says the school is her home. She doesn’t know who she would have become if she hadn’t come there. Cleo asks if it’s safe. Hope admits that it’s dangerous sometimes, “but it’s a place where it’s safe to be yourself.” Cleo appreciates that someone has finally been honest with her. Hope says it might be too late, since they’ll have to close if they don’t have enough students, but Cleo wants to enroll.
Landon and the Necromancer crash through the window of the ice cream parlor and the Necromancer grabs the key to the freezer from Landon. He sings again to get his shackles off, then drags Landon to the freezer, telling him it was always going to end like this for him: “You just don’t have it in you to win at all costs.”
The Necromancer unlocks the freezer, revealing the entrance to a deep pit. Just as he’s about to jump in, Landon pops up behind him and chokes him with the chains. He punches the Necromancer until he’s unconscious, which is apparently something Landon would never do, because his shackles fall off. He gathers himself for a few moments, then jumps into the freezer.
Cleo signs her enrollment paperwork, telling Alaric she doesn’t have any parents he needs to talk to; it’s just her. “Not anymore,” Hope says. They’re still one student short, since Gunter’s on his way back to Germany, but Gaby also wants to enroll. Someone made her realize that the school is better than she thought. It turns out that she and Wade have been playing D&D online together for years. He’s excited to have his longtime friend joining his school.
Josie finds Finch and apologizes for acting weird. Finch thinks she came on too strong with her flirting and locker decorating, but Josie says she helped make the day even better. It’s just that having such a great day freaked her out because she didn’t feel like she deserved to have fun. Finch confides that she has a screwed-up family and emancipated herself when she was 14. The hardest part was feeling guilty that she got out and believing that she deserved to be happy. She’s sure that Josie will get there.
Cleo moves into Alyssa’s side of Hope’s room, even though with so many students not returning, there should be plenty of empty rooms. I guess they don’t want to be alone. Lizzie comes by to have ice cream with Hope and realizes that Hope already has someone to hang out with. She takes the ice cream to M.G. instead and finds him getting rid of everything from his room that reminds him of Alyssa. He’s over caring what other people think.
Lizzie laments that everything’s changing and Josie might go off and have an amazing life without her. She asks to come in and hang out, since M.G.’s the last normal thing there. He reluctantly says no. They need to break their pattern of her ignoring him until she runs out of other people to turn to. That can’t be their dynamic anymore. “If you keep searching for someone to fill this void, you end up putting your happiness in other people’s hands,” he tells her. “But our happiness – it’s our own job.”
Lizzie says he’s right. Plus, if they’d hung out while they’re both feeling vulnerable, they might have done something stupid like hook up. They’re making a good choice here. M.G.’s like, “Wait, hold on, let me think about this a little longer. Come back! Come back and eat ice cream with me!”
Landon has made it out of Malivore and into the prison world. He writes a note “to whom it may concern” explaining who he is and the possibility that he might never get home without help. He won’t stop trying, though. There has to be a way out of the prison world, and he won’t wait around for rescue. “I will get myself home, no matter what it takes,” he vows. He sticks the note to a spike in the front gate of the Salvatore School, puts on Hope’s insignia necklace, and heads off to look for an escape route. Behind him, the wind blows the note off the gate.
Etc.: So the prospective students’ parents sent them to the school tour alone, not coming along to check things out themselves? Would you send your kid to a school you hadn’t vetted yourself, especially knowing all the dangerous stuff that had already happened there?
It makes me giggle thinking about a woman trapped in Malivore who leaves a tip at the ice cream parlor. Being consumed by a mud man is no excuse not to be polite!
I also giggled at Finch’s totally casual, “Oh, hey, welcome back” when she and Josie see each other again. She’s trying so hard not to look like she cares that it just accomplishes the complete opposite. It’s adorable.
We should probably praise Alaric for not having Gaby, Gunter, and Cleo sign enrollment paperwork while unconscious and then pretending they did it while they were fully awake and knew what they were doing.
Lizzie’s perfect nickname for the seemingly precocious, smirky Gaby: High-and-Mighty Granger. Kaleb doesn’t get it until she explains, “Like Hermione Granger but just more stuck-up?”