Mystic Falls is looking quite different from how it usually does. It’s a little Wild West-ish town, and someone who sounds an awful lot like Wade is taking someone there via horse and buggy. He tells her she picked a good time to visit – there’s going to be a hanging tomorrow. A teacher murdered his students and burned down the schoolhouse. Behind a newspaper that bears the headline “Schoolhouse Slaughter; Dozens Dead, Schoolmaster’s Daughter Missing,” Lizzie says she’s going to try to stop the hanging. The accused is her father, and she’s going to prove his innocence (in what’s increasingly clear is a therapy box simulation).
With Lizzie in the box, Hope gone, and Alaric in the hospital, things are weird at the Salvatore School. M.G. doesn’t think most people have noticed, though. Ethan says that’s why they’re not Super Squad material. M.G. asks Finch about Josie, but Finch hasn’t seen her since the night before. Josie joins them just then and reports that she spent the night reading through Alaric’s old journals. One entry revealed that Caroline once shut off her humanity. Josie thinks there might be details about how to turn Hope’s back on.
Josie recaps for the group: The gang got Caroline back with Liz’s letter. Josie doesn’t know what it said because Caroline burned it. Stefan showed her a memory of what she’d missed, which brought back her emotions. Ethan thinks Josie wants them to do the same thing with Hope, but she doesn’t intend to use a letter. They can get to Hope emotionally by reminding her of her family and friends and her home at the school. Then they’ll need to find an emotion powerful enough to break through.
Finch says they need to move fast. The simulations they’ve been running keep ending with Hope killing them all. Josie figures they’ll only get one shot at this, so they need a perfect idea. M.G. guesses that she thinks they need inspiration.
Cleo is outside with Kaleb, showing him the red oak tree that she’s learned will kill Hope. She’s not sure who to tell, but she doesn’t want to keep secrets. He advises her not to tell the squad, since they keep doing dumb things for supposedly good reasons (like how he handed Hope over to Malivore to save Cleo). Cleo doesn’t like Kaleb’s answer, but he says she knows it’s the right one. Otherwise, she’d be talking to the real him instead of an illusion projected by the conversation prism. Cleo decides that if she’s going to make a mistake, it’ll be by trusting the squad instead of deceiving them.
The real Kaleb is in the woods, looking for the argus Ryan called to warn him about the night before. He runs into Jed, who followed him after guessing that the “wrong number” call wasn’t really from a wrong number. Kaleb tells him that there might be a monster. Jed notes that with Malivore dead, there shouldn’t be any more monsters, but he’ll come along just in case. Kaleb protests, so Jed threatens to tell the squad that he went out on his own and put himself in danger to earn back their trust. Kaleb says that’s not the case, but Jed doesn’t believe him. He urges Kaleb to use his new dragon powers against the argus.
In the therapy box simulation, Lizzie visits Alaric in jail. He claims innocence but doesn’t know what happened. He also doesn’t know where Josie is. Something’s missing from his memory. He’s worried that he’s gone crazy and done something horrible. Lizzie says she’ll hang him herself if that’s the case. But they both know that’s not who he is. He hands her Hope’s insignia necklace, which he found in the ruins of the burned school. Lizzie thinks it belongs to the person who took Josie.
Cleo leads an inspiration session with M.G., Josie, Finch, and Ethan. Josie’s quickly inspired but isn’t sure her idea is the best one. M.G. also has an idea. An alarm suddenly goes off, and Josie IDs it as one she put on Alaric’s secret weapon closet after that time Cleo tried to kill Hope. M.G. calls for the squad to assemble, then uses his vamp speed to rush himself, Josie, and Cleo to Alaric’s office. Poor Ethan and Finch get left behind.
Hope is in the office, disappointed that the squad moved all the weapons. She tells them she’s on her way to take down the Triad. M.G. promises to give her whatever she wants if she’ll do something for them first. Hope reminds him that she can kill all of them. Josie tells her that they’ll do pretty much anything to get her back. She might as well let them try. Or is she too scared? Hope is willing to indulge them if they’ll promise to give up on her afterward. If not, she may have to go after Caroline. Cleo asks if the terms of the deal are acceptable. M.G. says that Hope just has to listen. “I guess I have some time to kill before it’s time to kill,” Hope replies.
The school gathers for what they’re calling Salvatore Idol. M.G. is the host and Hope is the lone judge. “If people are gonna start to sing, I’m gonna turn this into Survivor,” Hope threatens. M.G. assures his classmates that thanks to a covenant spell, she can’t hurt anyone during the show. Hope notes that she can hurt them emotionally.
M.G. explains how this will go. There are ten stars representing the ten people who are going to “perform.” At the end of each round, Hope has to say how she feels. The truth sphere will confirm whether she’s being honest. She tests it by saying that this contest is the dumbest thing she’s ever heard of. The sphere turns blue, so that’s true.
First up is Wade, who talks about how he’s always looked up to Hope. When he first came to the school, he didn’t fit in with any of the factions, but Hope never cared about fitting in. She was unique. Hope cuts “Wayne” off to report that she feels “irritation bordering on homicidal rage.” The sphere says this is true. She adds that she was only nice to Wade because of Landon. She tells him to sprout his wings and go back to Fern Gully. One of the stars above the stage lights on fire and disappears. One round down, nine to go! Hope decides this is more fun than she expected.
Kaleb and Jed find a corpse that is no doubt one of the argus’ victims. Jed again wants Kaleb to use his new dragon abilities. Kaleb says he came out there to kill a monster, not become one. He suggests that they split up.
Finch goes to the garden, where Josie’s gathering plants, to tell her that Salvatore Idol has basically become a roast. Josie asked to go last, but things are moving so quickly that she’ll be up soon. Finch determines that she’s going to use black magic. Josie thinks that bringing out Dark Josie might get Hope to turn her humanity back on. Finch showed her that she can control Dark Josie, so things should be okay. If M.G.’s plan is going this badly, this might be their only option.
Finch thinks there could be another. She and Ethan have been researching the humanity switch, and they learned that it’s easier to reach a vampire’s emotions if they’re physically weak. Maybe they can drain Hope’s blood. Josie refuses, since that could count as violence, which will break the covenant spell. Finch worries that Josie’s plan won’t work and they’ll have to let Hope go. Josie asks Finch to trust her. She just needs some more time.
Pedro has taken the stage to tell Hope that he’s not afraid of her. She taught him how to fight monsters and helps him with art projects. He made a picture of her and calls her his Salvatore idol. Hope covers her microphone and tells M.G. that even without her humanity, she’s not a monster and doesn’t want to be brutal to Pedro. M.G. tells her to say whatever she’s feeling just to him. She replies that she feels like Pedro should have his fingers cut off so he can never make art again. M.G. just applauds and tells Pedro he did a great job. Pedro knows the truth when the next star burns.
Hope tells M.G. that he’s wasting her time with “scrubs” like Pedro and Wade. She was expecting the “A team.” But she couldn’t have been expecting the next “performer”: Landon.
In the simulation, Kaleb introduces himself to Lizzie as a hired gun. He heard she’s been asking around town about a necklace. She shows it to him and he IDs the insignia as the mark of the Mikaelson gang. She needs to leave town and stay away from them. Lizzie doesn’t want to, since her father’s life depends on what she does, but Kaleb tells her that Alaric is a dead man. She’ll be dead, too, if she ever comes across Hope Mikaelson.
Lizzie offers Kaleb money to track down Hope, who Kaleb says is known as a humanity-less monster. Some say she even drinks her enemies’ blood. Lizzie asks if she also burns down schoolhouses and kidnaps women. Uh, yeah. Kaleb rescinds his offer to help, then leans in to bite Lizzie. He’s also a member of the Mikaelson gang. Before he can bite, he’s shot from behind. His shooter is…Alaric? Nope, he’s Lizzie’s Uncle Ric, who Alaric apparently never told her about.
Hope guesses that Landon is another golem, but he’s just one of her classmates using the illusion ring to look like him. He pulls out a letter that the real Landon supposedly left for Hope. It reminds her that while Landon is probably dead if she’s reading this, Malivore is, too. Hope may be the tribrid but at least she gets to live forever. She’ll get to do everything they talked about doing. She shouldn’t feel alone, since she has people who will never give up on her. Landon hopes that she has a long, happy life and promises that he’ll love her forever.
The squad thinks they’ve gotten through to Hope, but she says she’s bored. She also guesses that Landon is really Cleo. She kind of wants to thank Cleo for pushing her to become the tribrid, but in a way, that means Landon’s death is Cleo’s fault. This could have been avoided if she hadn’t kept secrets.
Hope tries to speed things up by guessing that Ethan was going to use a “hokey sports metaphor,” since jocks like him find their identities in teams, as they’re unremarkable on their own. She figures that Finch was going to talk about Josie encouraging her not to be a lone wolf, which is really just codependency. Hope wraps up by telling M.G. that if this were a real show, it would be canceled before the title card. She gives the idea zero stars, which is exactly what’s left after the last one burns up. Hope would like her weapons now.
Lizzie wants to continue her conversation with Ric, who’s scarred and blind in one eye. He gives her a stake and advises her to pray that she’ll never have to use it. Lizzie’s confused by all the things she’s been learning and dealing with. She can accept that vampires might be real and could be responsible for what happened at the school, but she doesn’t know why Alaric wouldn’t remember. Ric tells her about compulsion, which is among the many “gifts” vampires use to hurt people like Alaric, Josie, and Ric’s lost love, Isobel. Ugh, her?? Lizzie asks who Isobel is, but Ric thinks there are things in his past that she’s better off not knowing about.
He promises to find Josie and kill the vampires. Lizzie reminds him that Alaric will hang if he doesn’t succeed by noon the next day. She wants to go with Ric, who refuses to take her along, since she’s “a soft girl raised by a soft man who loves books more than a fight.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but she wouldn’t stand a chance against vampires.
M.G. accompanies Hope to the gym, where the squad stashed the weapons in a locker. She thinks he’s hoping to get in one last plea. He says that probably wouldn’t work. Caroline turned her humanity back on because she missed out on something – she would never be able to get the letter back. Hope asks if M.G. thought that “trotting around the parade of misfit toys” would make her miss them.
He tells her this is her home, and the friends she’s spent years protecting and fighting alongside are lost without her. “There’s a hole in the heart of this place, a void where you used to be,” he says. “If seeing that doesn’t make you feel anything, there’s nothing I can say that’d matter.” If she’s not going to come back, fine. M.G. will fill the void himself.
Hope scoffs and calls that pathetic, telling him that he’s not capable of doing what needs to be done. What if she goes on a killing spree? What would M.G. do to stop her? She hands him a sword, but he refuses to fight her. She thinks it’s because he doesn’t know what it means to be a leader. He won’t get his hands dirty or use a sword on someone he cares about. She positions the point of the sword over her heart, then notes that he won’t use it even knowing that it won’t kill her. He doesn’t have what it takes. He failed like all the others did.
Lizzie rides a horse out to a clearing and finds Ric’s camp. He’s lying very still on a blanket. Josie appears with blood on her face and shirt and asks if Ric is dead. She tried to drink all his blood, but it was bitter like he is. Lizzie asks what happened to her and she replies, “Something wonderful, thanks to Hope.” She doesn’t need rescuing, since she’s already been saved. If Lizzie closes her eyes, Josie will give her a big surprise and save her, too.
Lizzie resists, so Josie warns that she’s going to see something scary. But when she wakes up, she’ll feel a lot better. Her mind will be clear and the world will be bright. They can explore it together and never have to be apart. Lizzie reaches for the stake Ric gave her, and when Josie vamps out and rushes her, Lizzie plunges it into her sister’s chest. “Why did you do that? Why did you make me go away?” Josie asks. “You were already gone,” Lizzie replies.
Hope is still in the gym when Finch comes in. Since she doesn’t know Hope very well, she thinks she can see things more clearly than the others. She holds up a scalpel and says she’s going to do something Josie wouldn’t. Hope busts her for trying to distract her while Ethan sneaks up behind her with a syringe. She tosses him aside and breaks the syringe.
Hope would have been willing to talk if Finch had said that’s what she wanted. Instead, they’ll fight. But Finch and Ethan aren’t the only people Hope will have to face. Dark Josie is there, too.
She sends Finch and Ethan away so the “big kids” can talk. Hope asks if Dark Josie took so long to show up because of “performance anxiety.” Dark Josie says she needed the right motivation. Hope thinks that if that motivation was Finch being in danger, Josie’s gone soft. Dark Josie says that that’s just what Normal Josie needed to release her dark half. She wants another shot at putting Hope down, this time without the boxing ring.
Hope taunts that when it comes to fighting, Josie has to rely on her strong half – the half that’s like Hope. Dark Josie clarifies that she’s not there to fight. She just has to snap her fingers. That’s how she turned Jade’s humanity back on. Dark Josie holds up her hand and snaps.
“Hello? Mr. Argus?” Jed calls as he searches the woods. When did Jed get…kind of adorable? Instead of the argus, he comes across something that growls like a dog. The argus is in Kaleb’s neck of the woods, watching him through its multiple eyes.
Ric is still alive, but he doesn’t want Lizzie to stay and help him when she should be looking for Josie. She confirms that Josie was a vampire and has been taken care of. Ric is surprised that Lizzie had it in her to kill her sister. Lizzie is, too. He says she’s more like him than he realized. Isobel was also turned, so he traveled around to kill vampires in her name. Alaric thought he’d gone crazy. Maybe he was right. He’s smarter than Ric, so he devoted his life to protecting his daughters from his brother. He built them a home and a school “someplace far away from all this violence. But sometimes…violence is the only solution.”
Lizzie says that Alaric was wrong. They need to kill Hope. Ric tells her she’ll be on her own for that, but he’ll give her some weapons to help her. They’re two pistols inscribed with names: Stefan and Damon. Ric doesn’t have time to explain that, but he says that what matters is what’s inside them. Hope isn’t an ordinary vampire, “but nature always finds a loophole.” The bullets in the guns will kill her. Lizzie examines one and worries that she’s not as much like Ric as he thinks. She realizes he’s dead, and she takes off her hat in reverence.
Hope’s humanity is still off, but Dark Josie says she knew her snap wouldn’t change that. Hope’s basically an Original now, so Dark Josie’s magic isn’t enough to affect her. She just wanted to see what would happen when she snapped. She thought Hope might look scared, which is exactly what happened. Hope denies that she’s afraid of anything. Dark Josie throws the truth sphere at her and it glows red – she’s lying.
Hope crushes the sphere as Dark Josie says that she’s afraid of her humanity coming back. She doesn’t want to remember what it felt like to kill Landon. Eventually this defense mechanism will crumble and she’ll have a bigger mess than before. Hope fires some magic at Dark Josie, but it doesn’t have any effect on her. “Even the almighty tribrid can’t outrun her trauma forever,” Dark Josie warns. Hope punches her through the door, which turns her back into Normal Josie.
Kaleb fights the argus, which has a hard time biting him because his skin is kind of dragon-y now. Kaleb pulls out a few of the argus’ eyes, grossed out. He yells for Jed, who arrives with backup – his pack. Unfortunately, they’re wimps who run away when the argus growls at them. Jed joins the fight with an axe, which barely phases the argus, and decides that they’re outmatched. “It’s dracarys time,” he tells Kaleb. Kaleb breathes fire and takes out the argus.
Lizzie is burying Josie and Ric next to an empty grave when Hope approaches her. “You’re shorter than I thought,” Lizzie comments. “I dug this grave far too large.” Hope thinks it’ll fit Lizzie. Lizzie’s ready to avenge her sister and uncle, but Hope doubts she’s faster than a vampire. They stare each other down, and though Lizzie’s a quick draw with one of her new pistols, Hope is quicker and shoots her in the shoulder.
She tells Lizzie that she has a dark side like Josie. Hope could use someone with that grit, so if Lizzie wants to join the Mikaelson gang, she can do it dead or alive. Lizzie kicks Hope so she spins around and doubles over a cross made of sticks. Lizzie pulls out the other gun and starts firing. Hope falls in the empty grave and turns to ashes and embers. “There’s always a loophole,” Lizzie says, twirling a pistol.
Josie tells Hope that today’s events proved that she’s still reachable. Josie just has to figure out how to get through to her. Hope says she could kill everyone, but Josie knows she won’t. There’s a reason she left Alaric alive and sent a warning so the Super Squad wouldn’t go after her. She doesn’t want to kill them. Her humanity is still inside her. Hope’s annoyed that Josie won’t stop trying to reach her. Josie notes that Hope never gave up on her, so she’s going to return the favor. Hope uses magic to freeze her while she figures out what to do with her.
Kaleb and Jed leave the “ungrateful cowards” of the pack feasting on the argus’ corpse so they can bury its victim. Kaleb appreciates Jed’s help, and Jed appreciates how Kaleb used his new powers to save the day, even though he didn’t want to.
Jed says that he hated what he had to do to activate his werewolf curse. He’s never told Kaleb about it (we’ll get the story in a few episodes), but he felt for years like he was walking around with a rock in his shoe, hoping it would disappear on its own. Eventually he realized that he put the rock there, so he was the only one who could remove it. Kaleb needs to forgive himself for what he did. If he doesn’t, it won’t matter if no one else forgives him. Kaleb offers Jed a fist bump, but Jed gets distracted – the corpse of the argus’ victim has just revived.
The town sheriff (M.G.) releases Alaric, since the person who framed him has been brought to justice. Lizzie tells her father that she found Josie; Hope killed Josie, so Lizzie killed Hope. Alaric is eager to get out of town, having never wanted this kind of life for his daughters. But Lizzie says that after what she’s seen, there’s no going back. The Mikaelson gang is still out there.
Alaric tells her that revenge won’t bring Josie back. Lizzie knows, but she wants justice. “I didn’t raise you like this,” he says. “Perhaps you should have,” she replies. The word “vindicta” (vengeance) appears on a wanted poster and Lizzie remembers who she is. She knows that Alaric was once a vampire hunter, and trying to be a teacher instead landed him in a coma. She’s upset that the Super Squad isn’t doing anything about it. They just want to forgive Hope.
Cleo uses the conversation prism to have another chat with Kaleb. She tried to use what Landon told her about Hope while they were in Malivore to get through to her, but it didn’t work. Kaleb notes that she got an answer to a different question. She’s decided not to tell the squad about the red oak. If Finch and Ethan had known about it, they might have killed Hope. Kaleb gives her some encouragement, sure that she’ll figure things out.
As Cleo puts down the prism and ends the conversation, Finch wakes up across the room. Cleo says she’s lucky to have survived her run-in with Hope. Josie, however, is unconscious – not because Hope hurt her but because she sent Josie into the therapy box. The squad doesn’t know how to get her out, but M.G. figures it’s a safe place for her to be right now.
Ethan’s annoyed that M.G. left him out today; he seems to want Ethan on the sidelines. M.G. says that having powers sometimes means not using them. Until Ethan can get that, it’s too risky for him to be in the middle of things. Ethan is willing to be a team player instead of the lead quarterback, but he needs M.G. to teach him what to do. M.G. tells him that being the leader means making tough decisions. In this case, that decision is to bench the star player. But M.G. is also going to train Ethan to make sure he’s ready for the “big game.”
Josie and Lizzie run into each other in the therapy box’s exit room. Josie tells Lizzie that Hope trapped her but didn’t kill her, which means she’s still reachable. Lizzie’s eager for the box to reboot so she can get out and go after Hope. She promises that she knows exactly how to fix her. Josie’s game is just beginning, but Lizzie’s is over, and she won.
As Lizzie gets sent out of the box, Hope calls the bartender’s contact again to share her plan to kill the three Triad members. The contact isn’t worried. Hope asks which she is, the vampire, the witch, or the werewolf. “That would spoil the surprise,” the contact replies. Hope not only has weapons, she also has the bloodline records from the Triad facility, so it won’t be long before she figures out who the three Triad members are. The contact says she can’t wait to meet her.
Etc.: The title card du jour.
Something that doesn’t get mentioned is that Hope’s humanity apparently shut off on its own, so it’s possible there’s nothing anyone can do to flip the switch, even her.
(putting on my English major hat) The obvious theme of Lizzie’s therapy box scenario is the fact that one day she’ll have to face Josie in the merge and possibly kill her. But there are two other themes: 1) Lizzie resisting becoming a vampire, which she’s considered as a way to void the merge, and 2) Alaric’s arc in season 3 of The Vampire Diaries where he was killing people and didn’t realize it. I assume that’s in his journals, which both twins have now read, and I imagine it was a big shock to read about all the stuff he did.
Since when can the werewolves turn at will?
“The vampire, the witch, and the werewolf” sounds like a Chronicles of Narnia joke.