This week is all about the futility of trying to “fix” another person. If 12-step programs have taught us nothing else, it’s that only YOU can prevent blood-drinking. And if you happen to be a vampire and need blood to, oh, say, live, then giving it up completely is not an option. The only choice you have is whether your blood bags are the donated kind or the murdered kind.
Last week we ended the show with Caroline tied to a chair in a dungeon. This week, we see that her father, Bill, is keeping her prisoner because he believes he can cure her of vampirism. It’s not enough that she feeds only from bags and wouldn’t even squash a mosquito to squeeze the blood out of it. No, she must cure herself of the gross, disgusting urge completely.
In Clockwork Orange-type fashion, Bill tortures Caroline in an effort to make her associate blood with pain. He takes off her magic protecto-ring and lets the sun shine in on her, burning her skin and making her smoke like a pig at a barbecue. Then he holds a blood bag in front of her face and insists that she control her vamp face. Caroline, having not eaten for days, vamps out at the sight of blood, so Bill tortures her some more. Nice therapy, dad! Couldn’t you have just sent her to rehab?
Caroline cries and begs and pleads and tries to make her dad understand that she’s not a monster. She doesn’t kill, she only feeds from bags, she’s got it all under control. But Bill is undeterred. He tells her that he’s going to cure her, and if he doesn’t, he’s going to have to kill her.
Poor Caroline. Most dads express their disappointment in shunnings and shamings. It’s ironic that Bill is canonically gay – back in Season 1, Caroline referred to him having left her mom for a guy named Steve. You think he’d be more understanding about the whole nature-versus-nurture debate.
In the end, Caroline’s mom and Tyler come to the rescue. Mom holds dad at gunpoint while Tyler breaks into the torture chamber and carries Caroline to safety. Back in her bed, Caroline and her mom having a touching exchange:
Mom: Your father and I – we have beliefs that were passed down through generations. We were taught never to stray from them.
Caroline: You did.
Mom: You taught me to look at things in a different way.
Mom withdraws and lets Tyler comfort Caroline, while she cries on his shoulder that her dad hates her. Oh, Caroline. He’s only trying to save you because he luuuuuurves you.
And so it goes with Elena and Stefan. Stefan’s backstory takes up the majority of this episode, and WOW, what a tangled web we unweave. Having spent the first two seasons of the show largely indifferent to Stefan, he’s suddenly vying with Damon and Klaus as my favourite character.
Picture it: Chicago, 1920. Prohibition is in full swing, and alcohol is not the only poison that Stefan is indulging in. He’s busy chowing down on the guests outside a speakeasy called “Gloria’s.” We see Stefan killing a lovely flapper in the back of a car. When she’s dead, he plucks the flower from her hair and wears it as a boutonniere. He goes back into the bar with blood on his shirt; inside, he meets a stunning blonde with an English accent who tells him, “You’re still wearing your date. She’s lovely.”
The blonde in question is Klaus’s sister, Rebecca. Back in the day, she and Klaus used to pal around together and Rebecca called him “Nick.” We’re treated to flashbacks of Rebecca and Stefan falling in love – dancing, drinking, torturing their victims, and Rebecca telling Stefan to “put a sock in it.” At the same time, we’re shown Rebecca introducing Stefan to Klaus:
Klaus: So this is the famous Stefan Salvatore I’ve heard so much about. You’re right, he does have funny hair.
Heeee. Stefan shows Klaus one of his favourite torture tricks, compelling one of his victims to drink his wife’s blood. “Nick” is immediately charmed, and he and Stefan become great friends:
Stefan: They’re jealous. Your family wants you dead because they can never be what you are.
Klaus: What? An abomination?
Stefan: No. A king.
So, Stefan asks the obvious question: “If we were such great friends, then why do I only know you as the hybrid dick who sacrificed my girlfriend on an altar of fire?”
The answer is: Klaus compelled Stefan to forget. During a raid on Gloria’s, the police sprayed the bar with wooden bullets. Rebecca says mysteriously, “That means he’s here.” “He” is never made clear; it could be Elijah, or it could be someone else Klaus is running from. In any event, Rebecca and Klaus make their escape, and Klaus compels Stefan to forget them both: “Until I say otherwise, you never knew us.” Then he adds: “Thank you. I’d forgotten what it was like to have a brother.”
Without realizing it, Rebecca loses her necklace in their escape from the bar. Stefan finds it and picks it up, without knowing who it belongs to. It’s the same necklace which he will give to Elena as a gift, years later.
Outside, Rebecca tells “Nick” that she’s done running. She wants to be with Stefan. Klaus decides she’s become a liability and stakes her. He then stores her body, presumably with the rest of his refrigerated family.
Back in the present, Klaus and Stefan take a trip back to Gloria’s, where the owner is not only still alive, but looks miraculously like her 1920s self. We discover that Gloria is a powerful witch, and Klaus wants her help. He wants to know why he can’t create any new hybrids, even though he broke the curse. Gloria says she needs to contact the witch who cast the curse 1000 years ago. Gloria tells Klaus, “Bring me Rebecca. She has what I need.”
Meantime, Damon learns that Stefan is in Chicago thanks to a phone call from Katherine. Damon asks if she’s tailing Stefan, but Katherine replies, “A hybrid who wants me dead and a vampire who’s off the rails? I couldn’t be further away.”
Damon rounds up Elena, and together they head off to the windy city to drag Stefan back to his senses. They discover Stefan’s old hideout and Elena is shaken by the list of names written on the wall of a hidden closet: all of Stefan’s victims. Still, she’s determined to bring him back, so she and Damon hatch a plan.
They track Stefan and Klaus to Gloria’s, where Klaus and Stefan are busy drinking. Damon, unseen by Klaus, lures Stefan outside, where Stefan promptly throttles him:
Stefan: Elena is the key to everything. Klaus can’t know that she’s alive. She was supposed to die in the sacrifice and she didn’t. Now Klaus can’t create any new hybrids. His witch is seconds away from figuring that out. Tell Elena to go home and forget about me.
Damon: Tell her yourself.
Stefan turns, and Elena is standing there, looking forlorn and lovely. They embrace, and Elena furtively tries to stab Stefan with vervain. But, oops, her down-low is too slow. Stefan grabs her wrist, and this pivotal exchange follows:
Elena: I know you’re trying to protect me, but I can’t let you do it. Come with me, Stefan, please.
Stefan: And what do you expect if I do? It’s never gonna be the same, Elena.
Elena: I know that.
Stefan: I don’t think you do. I’ve left bodies scattered from Florida to Tennessee. Innocent people. Humans.
Elena: Lexi found you like this before, in the 20s, and she saved you.
Stefan: And do you know what I did, after that? I spent 30 years trying to pull myself together. To a vampire, that’s nothing. To you? That’s half your life.
Elena: I can’t give up on you, Stefan.
Stefan: Yes you can. It’s done. That part of my life is done. I don’t want to see you. I don’t want to be with you. I just want you to go.
Elena looks crushed, and also unconvinced. But she leaves with Damon.
Klaus then takes Stefan to find Rebecca, who’s lying in a coffin looking dead and decayed. Back in Season 2, we learned that in order to kill an Original, you have to leave the stake in their heart; as soon as you pull the stake out, the Original comes back to life. Klaus yanks the stake out of Rebecca’s chest and she reanimates, stabbing him in revenge.
Klaus, being a hybrid, can’t be killed by a stake, so he just shrugs it off. As a peace offering, he calls Stefan in. Rebecca’s face lights up; she’s clearly moved by the sight of him. Klaus then lifts his spell on Stefan, and presto-chango, he remembers!
// BEGIN SQUEE //
How much do I love this plot twist? Suddenly, Stefan and Klaus have history. They’ve known each other for nearly a hundred years. Stefan is in love with Klaus’s sister and he and Klaus are like brothers. It’s all my Buffyverse dreams resurrected!
// END SQUEE //
Klaus then tells Rebecca he needs her help to contact the witch who cast the curse. Rebecca reaches for her necklace – which, it turns out, was a gift from the witch. But, oh noes! The necklace is gone! Stefan’s face betrays his fear – now Klaus has yet another reason to go after Elena.
At the end of the episode, Damon is back home, angry and frustrated. Katherine calls again to taunt him. After she hangs up, we see that she is, indeed, in Chicago. Will she give Elena up to Klaus? Magic 8-ball: “All signs point to yes.”
So, that’s the recap. Now, back to my squee.
I’ve deliberately avoided reading any other reviews of this episode, so I don’t know what most of the fandom thinks of the Stefan-recovered-memories plot twist. But I’m going on record right now: it’s the most brilliant thing the show has done to date. This amps up the story arc for the rest of this season, because it sets up a pitched battle not only for Stefan’s soul, but for his heart. We have rival lovers, Elena and Rebecca, and we have rival brothers in the form of Klaus and Damon. We have Stefan running with Klaus and Rebecca not as a reluctant hostage – not just because he’s trying to save Damon or protect Elena – but because he cares about his partners in crime.
Klaus tells Damon in this episode: “By the time I’m done with him? Stefan won’t want to be saved.” And that’s key. Elena and Damon will spend the rest of this season trying to win back Stefan’s affections. When they fail, it will set the stage for them to turn to each other in their sorrow, and fall into the romantic relationship that we all know is coming.
Of course, it will take more than one episode of flashbacks to convince me that Klaus&Rebecca can ever trump Damon&Elena in Stefan’s heart. But I have faith that the show can do it. After this week’s episode, I think this show can do anything.
SHIRTLESS SOMERHALDER SIGHTINGS: No one was shirtless in this episode, but I barely noticed. Plot occasionally trumps pretty.
Elena: He’s in Chicago? How do you know?
Damon: Came to me in a dream. I was naked. You would’ve loved it.