Sometimes it feels like Elena is the Mom of Mystic Falls, doesn’t it? She’s the one who takes responsibility for everything, feels guilty for everything, does questionable things to protect everyone she loves and makes decisions on behalf of everybody else – often without telling them (see: Jeremy. Compulsion. Twice.). But, you know, when everybody around you is an evil psychotic brat? What else are you gonna do, besides take them out and spank them? Which is pretty much how this episode begins.
Mommy Elena spends the morning tracking down her kids boyfriends, worried about where they spent the night. Stefan ignores her call. Damon answers as he’s lying in bed next to Rebekah. Oooh, Damon is in right need of a spanking! Elena says she’s been calling all night and he never answered. “If you’re mad at me, Damon, you need to get over it.” Damon replies, “Oh, I’m over it.” Oh, he so isn’t.
Elena eventually shows up at his front door just as Rebekah is leaving, and it’s pretty obvious from their various states of undress that they spent the night having some vampire bondage fun. Elena’s pissed because Rebekah tried to kill her less than 48 hours ago. “Is this how it’s going to be now? I hurt your feelings and this is how you lash out at me?” Damon says it has nothing to do with her, but Elena’s already taking off her belt.
She then tells Damon that Esther’s planning on killing all her children. Elena’s feeling bad about it, because she thinks Elijah doesn’t deserve to die. Damon says they all have to die, and Stefan walks in and agrees with him. “See?” Damon smirks. “It’s democracy in action.” Don’t you hate it when the kids gang up on you?
Elena heads over to Bonnie’s, where she and Caroline listen to her dump-on-Damon rant. When she manages to get a word in edgewise, Bonnie tells Elena that Esther came to see her and asked for her help in killing her family. Elena’s still feeling guilty about Elijah: “Before the sun and the moon ritual, Elijah found a way to keep me alive. And now I’m in the exact same position, and I’m just gonna let him die? It just doesn’t feel right.” Bonnie says there’s no time to change her mind; all the Originals will be dead by the end of the night. Esther is planning to harness the energy of the full moon to perform her spell, and she’s asked Bonnie and Abby to join her.
Elijah comes to visit Elena and invites her for a drive. He takes her for a walk in the woods, near where his family was born and raised, a thousand years ago. He tells Elena that he knows she lied to him last week at the party, and that she’s lying to him now. Elena confesses what Esther’s plan is, and says she wishes there’s something she could do to help. “One thing I’ve learned in my time on this earth,” Elijah says. “Be careful what you wish for.” He grabs Elena, makes an earth-quaking stomp on the forest floor, and the ground beneath them caves in, trapping Elena in the caverns below with no cell phone service and no way to climb out.
Damon, worried that Elena isn’t returning his calls, phones Alaric, who’s at the Mystic Grill with Meredith. “Does he still think I’m a serial killer?” Meredith asks, referring to Damon. “He’s a little judgemental,” Ric replies. Heeeeee, irony. And speaking of serial killers, in stroll Klaus and Kol, who sit down next to them at the bar for a drink.
Bonnie and her mom go to meet Esther and Finn at the haunted mansion in the woods. Exposition – I mean, Esther – explains that she’s drawing power from the entirety of the Bennett bloodline, living and dead. The connection gives her great power but it’s difficult to maintain. Thus, she needs Abby and Bonnie, mother and daughter – “the bloodline made manifest” – in order to maintain that connection. She thanks them for helping, and says that tonight they will “bring peace to the spirits of nature that we serve.”
In the tunnels, Elena’s looking for a way out and instead runs into Rebekah, who’s been assigned to stand guard over her. “For some reason everyone seems to want to bend over backwards to save your life,” Rebekah sneers. “Which is incredibly annoying, but makes you the perfect hostage.” Heee. That’s pretty much the plot of every episode. Accordingly, Elijah pays a visit to the Salvatore mansion and blackmails the brothers into stopping Mommy Dearest. Elijah knows that Esther is channelling the Bennett bloodline for her power. “That line needs to be broken,” he says. The brothers have until the full moon reaches its zenith to find and kill the Bennett witches. If they don’t succeed, then Rebekah will kill Elena.
Elijah leaves, and Damon and Stefan discuss their options. “What if I told you I had a less diabolical plan?” Damon asks, and holds up a dagger. “They’re all linked. One goes down, they all go down.” They don’t know whether it will affect Klaus, since he’s half-werewolf, but Damon says that at the moment, Klaus is the least of their problems. The dagger is lethal to any regular vampire who uses it, but Damon says he knows someone crazy enough to give it a shot.
Cut to Alaric, who’s still at the bar with Klaus and Kol. Caroline is called in as well, to lure Klaus away. She sidles up to the bar, insults Klaus a few times and leaves. Like the predictable lovestruck stalker he is, Klaus follows her outside. They sit on a bench and Klaus dares Caroline to get to know him. “Just to be clear,” Caroline says, “I’m too smart to be seduced by you.” Klaus replies, “That’s why I like you.” Oh, Caroline, no wonder Klaus can’t resist your charms.
At the haunted mansion, Esther is getting ready for the slaughter. Her plan is to reverse the spell she cast a thousand years ago and turn her children back into humans. Once they’re human again, they can be killed. And since they’re linked as one, Finn will be the sacrifice. “My mother is releasing me from an eternity of shame,” Finn tells Bonnie and Abby. “It’s not a sacrifice, it’s a gift.”
Back at the bar, Kol hits on Dr. Meredith. Ric takes the opportunity to come to her rescue, metaphorically speaking. When Kol turns to face him, Ric stabs him with the dagger. Kol goes down, and in the tunnels, Rebekah gasps for air, collapses, and begins to decompose. Elena makes a run for it. In the woods with Esther, Finn collapses as well, and Esther knows something’s wrong. Outside the bar, Klaus feels something run through him but he doesn’t collapse. “What did you do?” he yells at Caroline.
Alaric drags Kol out into the alley behind the bar, where Damon and Stefan are waiting for him. But they’re not quick enough – Klaus discovers them, bashes Alaric in the head, jumps Stefan, and pulls the dagger out of Kol. Damon’s the only one left standing, and Klaus attacks. Just then Elijah intervenes and says they still need Damon and Stefan alive. Elijah tells Damon to find the witches and kill them, or he’ll have Rebekah kill Elena right now.
Damon and Stefan pull up outside the haunted mansion and have this exchange:
Damon: If we sit this out, Esther completes her spell, Klaus dies, you get your revenge. It’s what you’ve wanted this whole time. The only collateral damage is…
Damon: You know what she’d choose.
Stefan: She’d let herself be killed to save her friend. If we do this, it’ll wreck her.
Damon: She’ll hate us. Thing is, she’ll only have to hate one of us.
They have a coin toss, to decide which one of them will kill Bonnie and/or her mom. “Awful lot of effort, for someone who pretends not to care anymore,” Stefan says. “Pot, kettle, brother,” Damon retorts, and tosses the coin.
In the tunnels, Rebekah recovers and goes chasing after Elena. But Elena has been in these tunnels before, and she’s a smart cookie. She runs into the Lockwood caves, where the history of Mystic Falls is protected by the spirits of the dead witches. No vampires allowed! Rebekah then decides to torment Elena by dousing her with gasoline and tossing a match into the cave. “You’re not going to do it,” Elena says, going all Psych 101 on her. There’s a chance Rebekah might still be alive tomorrow, and she’ll still want revenge on Elena for pretending to like her and then stabbing her in the back. “That’s why you slept with Damon, isn’t it? That’s why you’re tormenting me. Because I hurt your feelings.” Oh, Elena. What’s it like to be the only grown-up surrounded by a bunch of evil brats?
And speaking of evil brats, Esther’s sons approach her and Finn in the woods. They try to convince her to stop her spell, but Esther says she’s been forced to watch them for a thousand years, feeling the pain of their victims. “Even you, Elijah, with your claim to nobility,” she says. “You’re no better. All of you are a curse on this earth.”
Inside the haunted mansion, Bonnie and Abby hide out from the Originals, knowing the dead witches will use their power to keep them out of the house. The witches don’t suspect Stefan and Damon, however, who find the Bennetts in the basement. Stefan confronts Bonnie and tells her that he has to break the bloodline in order to save Elena. Since Esther is channelling all the witches, living and dead, the only way to break the bloodline is if one of the remaining Bennetts is no longer a witch. Damon then finds Abby, feeds her his blood and breaks her neck.
Outside, Esther feels her connection to the dead witches collapse. The spell protecting her and Finn goes with it, but Finn spirits mommy away to safety before her remaining sons have a chance to kill her. In the tunnels, Rebekah tells Elena that she can go – her boyfriends took care of the problem. Damon turned Abby into a vampire, and you can’t be a vampire and a witch at the same time. “Oh, and by the way, you were right,” Rebekah says. “I do prefer taking my time watching you suffer. Much more satisfying.”
At Caroline’s house, Bonnie is keeping watch over her mother, waiting for her to wake up. Elena comes to the door but Caroline won’t let her in. Bonnie doesn’t want to see Elena right now. “Everything that happened tonight was to save you,” Caroline says. “And that’s okay because she loves you, so much. But somehow she’s always the one who gets hurt.” I dunno, Caroline, didn’t Elena just spend the entire night running for her life and getting tortured by fire? How is that not getting hurt? Way to lay on the guilt, girlfriend. And of course, Elena takes it to heart and feels responsible, because that’s what moms do.
At home, Damon washes the blood off his hands in the bathroom sink. Sorry, Pilate, but those hands ain’t ever gonna be clean. Stefan tells Damon that Elena is safe.
Stefan: I lost that coin toss, Damon. It should have been me who turned Abby. Why’d you do it?
Damon: Because I’m not blind. I see what’s been going on around here. You’re hanging by a thread. Barely over your last ripper binge, and all you want is to be the old Stefan again. How long has it been since you had a drop of human blood?
Stefan (looking chagrined): How’d you know?
Damon: You spend 146 years with someone, you kinda start to pick up on their tells.
AWWWWW, MY HEART. <3
Stefan confesses that he’s been off humans since the night he threatened to drive Elena off Wickery Bridge. “You know, you’re not fooling anyone, either,” he tells Damon. “You still love her.” Damon replies, “I do. And I thought I could win her from you fair and square. She didn’t want me. It’s for the best. I’m better at being the bad guy, anyway.”
And thus we get the return of the status quo, and the beginning of Stefan’s rehabilitation. I have no doubt that Elena will forgive him – I’m pretty sure she already has. The story has given Stefan enough loopholes and excuses (He was compelled! It wasn’t his fault! etc.) to make a reconciliation plausible. Personally, I kinda want to see Elena give him the smackdown, the way Caroline has been doing to Klaus. It’s way more fun to watch.
At home, Elena finds a note from Elijah, apologizing to her for being evil, if not a brat. “Today I did things I abhor to protect the one thing I value most: my family. If anyone can understand that, it’s you.” Awww, I like the parallels, but does Elijah really know Elena well enough to draw that comparison? He goes on to tell her that her compassion is a gift, and she should carry it with her always.
Back at Klaus’s mansion, Elijah is feeling guilty for everything he’s done. He tells Rebekah that their mother was right: he talks of virtue, but when it suits his needs he’ll kill, torture, and use his own sister as a weapon. “Mother made us vampires,” he says. “She didn’t make us monsters. We did that to ourselves.” YAY for a vampire acknowledging free will. Boo for Elijah deciding that the best course of action is for him to leave town. :(
Rebekah walks into the study to find Klaus tossing his drawings of Caroline into the fireplace. He’s feeling like a pouty pariah because all his family has abandoned him again. Rebekah says she hated him when she found out that Klaus killed Esther, but after a thousand years together as a family, Nik is the only one who never left her. So it looks like it’s down to just the two of them again.
Rebekah then shows Klaus some photos that she took when she was down in the caves with Elena. The pictograms show images of natives worshipping at the white oak tree – the one that can kill them – 300 years after their family burned it to the ground. It must have grown back. Rebekah tells Klaus that it’s not over.
Dr. Meredith takes Ric to her place and nurses him back to consciousness. “It kind of sucks, getting my ass kicked on a date,” Alaric jokes. “That’s what you get, picking fights with guys 30 times your age,” Meredith quips. He falls asleep in the living room armchair. When he wakes up, it’s dark, and Ric heads for the kitchen for a glass of water and some pain meds. There, he finds the knife that was stolen from his weapons collection – the one used in the recent spate of murders. “You weren’t supposed to see that,” Meredith says as she confronts him. She pulls a gun and then shoots.
How many times must a man fall dead, before they call him a man? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.
SHIRTLESS SOMERHALDER SIGHTINGS: Damon greets Elena at the front door sans shirt, and avec Rebekah wearing last night’s party dress. Busted!
QUIPPITY QUIP: “Why do you look like someone just shot a panda bear?”