We all have our ghosts, don’t we? And the inhabitants of Mystic Falls have more than most. This week the ghosts come back to town to deal with unfinished business, and it’s up to the living to lay them to rest.
Last week ended with the ghost of Mason Lockwood smashing Damon in the face. This week, Damon wakes up tied to a chair, with a hot poker through his chest and his magic protecto-ring on the floor. Damon thinks it’s Stefan who did it; Stefan finds him, amused, and unstakes him, but says he wasn’t the auteur of this pretty tableau. He leaves Damon in the chair to untangle himself, and Mason (unseen by Stefan) take the opportunity to throw the curtains wide open and let Damon sizzle in his own juices for a while.
In the town square, everyone is preparing for the “Night of Illumination,” yet another in the seemingly endless parade of Founding Families traditions. Damon pulls up in his car alongside Bonnie and Caroline, greeting them as “Blondie” and “Witchy.” He tells them that something went wrong with the spell to send Vicki Donovan back to the other side. Mason’s back from the beyond, and Damon wants Bonnie to fix it: “When I kill someone, they’re supposed to stay dead.” Caroline and Bonnie don’t know what to do, but then Bonnie’s grimoire magically falls out of her bag and opens on a spell to reveal ghosts.
Alaric, Elena and Jeremy are all downtown to help with the Night of Illumination preparations, but Jeremy’s preoccupied, communing with his own ghost – Anna, his dead vampire girlfriend. Elena, meanwhile, is poring over Stefan’s old journals, trying to figure out how his friend Lexi managed to pull him back from the brink, all those other times when he started eating people. When Damon walks into Mystic Grill, he finds that Mason is not the only one still pissed at him for murder. He tries to bully Alaric into having a drink with him, but Ric snubs him: “We’re not friends. I don’t like you anymore.” Hahahaha. Maybe you don’t, Ric, but we still love you and Damon together.
Bonnie and Caroline go off to do the spell, and suddenly, every ghost in town can be seen by everyone else. Not only that, the ghosts can interact with everyone and everything. Bonnie’s dead Gram appears to her, and says she’s there to help; Elena walks in on Anna and Jeremy kissing; Stefan sees Lexi, who bashes his face into the side of a car and knocks him unconscious; Mason sidles up to Damon and Ric at the bar and has a drink with them, then smashes his glass against Damon’s forehead. All of which was fun to watch, but I think I enjoyed that last part the best.
Bonnie’s Gram does the blah blah exposition thing: there’s an old witch on the “other side” who has business with the original vampires. When Bonnie sent Vicki back, Original Witch wedged the door open to anyone with unfinished business. In order to close the door and send all the ghosts back, they need to destroy the witch’s power source – her necklace, the one that used to be Rebekah’s and now belongs to Elena.
Caroline calls Elena and gives her the scoop. Elena is pissed at Jeremy for macking on Anna, so she’s perfectly okay with Bonnie smashing the necklace. Anna overhears this conversation and takes off, leaving Elena to beat up on her brother for cheating on Bonnie.
But just as Elena’s about to go retrieve her necklace from Damon’s house, Lexi grabs her and says she’s here to help with Stefan. Elena knows she should send the ghosts back, but decides to put it off until she can get the low-down on Lexi’s secret Stefan cure.
Lexi locks Stefan in the old town jail – in the very same dungeon chair where Caroline’s dad locked her up a few weeks back. She gets into Stefan’s mind and forces him to hallucinate that he’s gone years without blood. Stefan sees himself as starving, withered and desperate. He begs Elena to help him, promises to change, but Elena doesn’t buy it:
Stefan: I love you so much.
Elena: I’m sorry, Stefan, I don’t believe you.
Lexi tells Elena that she has to break through the blood lust: “You have to make him feel something, anything, until he’s ready to be saved.” So she stabs him repeatedly with a wooden stake. She compares the whole process to detox, but, sorry. The murder-as-addiction metaphor was old back when Willow was skinning nerds alive. Stefan’s not just an addict, he’s a killer, and it would be nice for someone to hold him accountable for his crimes – just like Mason and Alaric are trying to hold Damon accountable for his.
And back on that rainbow ride, we have the most fun any audience has ever had watching Damon squirm:
Damon: Let’s get to it. I killed you, you want revenge, get in line.
Mason: Actually, I want an apology.
Alaric: *SNORTS* Good luck with that.
Damon looks gobsmacked, and suggests that maybe Mason should be worrying about his nephew, who got turned into a mindless hybrid minion. Mason says he is trying to help Tyler – he knows that Damon wants Klaus dead as much as he does, and Mason knows of a way to kill him. But first, he wants an apology.
Damon, cornered, sits there horrified while Mason and Alaric wait, smirking. There are no words to describe the hilariousness of this scene. Ian Somerhalder looks as if he’s trying to swallow his tongue rather than say the words. Finally he blurts out the lamest apology ever: “You’re right. I didn’t have to kill you. I do a lot of things I don’t have to do.” Mason laughs and calls it good enough. Acting awards all around for this moment, but especially for Ian.
Some ghosts, though, are out for revenge. At the Founding Families event, some of the tomb vampires are back from the grave. They want vengeance against the Founding Families for imprisoning them all 150 years ago, so they eat one of the town’s illuminati and string him up with the lights.
On the necklace hunt, Caroline and Bonnie are digging up Damon’s house looking for it, but they can’t find it. Caroline confesses to Bonnie that Elena caught Jeremy kissing Anna, and Bonnie looks heartbroken and betrayed. Caroline then gets on the phone with Jeremy and accuses Anna of stealing the necklace; Anna denies it, and Jeremy believes her.
Elena, needing a break from the boyfriend torture, finds Jeremy and says of course Anna took the necklace – she was the only one who overheard their conversation. Jeremy then confesses to Elena that he doesn’t want to send Anna back: “I love her. I’ve always loved her.” (And I love them together!) But it’s not to be, as Elena points out: “It’s not real. She’s dead, gone. Everything you’re holding onto is in the past, Jer. Are you gonna love a ghost for the rest of your life?” You would know, Elena: This is pretty much their family’s whole story. They’re both in love with ghosts, and have been since their parents drowned in a car crash, before the series began.
Anna reappears, and Elena tells her, “He’s at the beginning of his life, Anna. You’re just holding him back. You know that.” Anna does, and she gives them the necklace. She says she took it because with all the tomb vampires roaming around town, she was hoping she might find her mother,Pearl. Jeremy understands, and he and Anna say a tearful goodbye.
On the buddy-cop front, Mason and Damon head to the old Lockwood cellar and start digging for the secret that will tell them how to kill Klaus. Along the way, Damon walks into a booby trap and gets literally nailed to the wall by a bunch of giant stakes. Mason frees him, and we get another great scene in which Damon grits out the following speech between agonized yelps of pain:
Damon: What’s your game, man? I killed you. I jammed my fist into your chest and ripped your heart out. There’s no way this whole buddy-trust act is real.
Mason: Do you know what we do, on the other side? We watch the people we left behind, and we regret our mistakes. I can’t change what happened to me. But maybe I can change what happens toTyler. I don’t need revenge, Damon. I need redemption.
Can Mason and Anna come back forever? That would be kind of awesome.
Downtown, it’s chaos. Carol Lockwood is trapped in her car with the tomb vampires descending on her. Caroline sees her and proceeds to kick every single vampire ass to save her boyfriend’s mom – the very same mom who had her tied up and tortured a few weeks ago. Once again, Caroline proves to be the real Buffy of this show, the blonde heroine with superpowers and a heart big enough to save and love and forgive the whole town. She could not be more awesome if she tried. Even Carol can see it.
Bonnie and Gram do the spell together to send the ghosts back. They throw the necklace into the fire and it esplodes. Before she goes poof, Gram tells Bonnie, “You’re stronger than all of this. I’m so proud of you.” Jeremy then tries to explain himself to Bonnie, but she won’t hear it. “You know what you owe me?” she says. “The respect of not making me listen to you explain yourself.” You tell him, girlfriend. I will not be sorry to see the end of this ship. Bonnie and Jeremy never worked for me. I love them each individually, but together, they bored me to tears.
After Jeremy leaves, the fire leaps, crackles and pops, and Bonnie finds the necklace in the ashes, intact. That can’t be good!
Back at the Illumination event, Anna findsPearl, and they have a joyful, tearful hug before disappearing together. I have to say, I cried like a three-year-old with a lost teddy bear at that scene.
In the tunnels, Damon gets blocked by an anti-vampire anti-invite barrier. He can’t go any further, so Mason goes on without him. When he returns, he’s just about to tell Damon what he found, but before he gets a chance, Bonnie’s spell takes hold and poof! No more Mason.
Lexi goes poof, too, but not before telling Elena, “Stefan’s still in there. You just have to break through.” After Lexi evaporates, Elena and Stefan are left alone. Elena says she’s going to go home, take care of her brother, be a friend to Bonnie and everything else she has to do. “I still have hope,” she tells Stefan. “But there’s nothing I can do until you get yours back. You can break through this. Fight for it. Feel something, anything, Stefan. Because if you don’t, you’re going to lose me forever. I won’t love a ghost for the rest of my life.”
I have mixed feelings about this speech. On the one hand, I’m glad that Elena is finally realizing that Stefan has to save himself. On the other, it still reinforces the idea that he should do it for her, rather than because it’s what’s best for him. Yes, Stefan has to save himself, but does it have to be for the love of a good woman? The tropes, they still chafe.
Damon, by contrast, is starting to realize that maybe there are good reasons why he shouldn’t kill people, other than “Elena doesn’t want me to.” Reasons like wanting to help his family, the way Mason wants to help Tyler. Reasons like it doesn’t sound like much fun, existing in purgatory forever like Anna and Mason and all the other ghosts. Reasons like, you may be forced to apologize in order to get your friends to forgive you. As, for example, when Damon calls Alaric to help him with the last leg of his quest:
Alaric: You didn’t have anyone else to call?
Damon: No, actually, I don’t. I need a non-vampire to get into the cave, and other than Elena, you’re pretty much the only one I trust.
Alaric: Well, you have a crappy way of showing that.
Damon: Look, if Mason Lockwood can get over the fact that I killed him, can’t you cut me a little slack, Ric?
Alaric: I shouldn’t have to get over it. I was your friend, Damon. You shouldn’t have done it in the first place.
Damon: *SWALLOWS TONGUE* Well, sometimes, I do things I don’t have to do.
Alaric cracks the ghost of a smile. “You’re gonna recycle that same crap-ass apology you gave Mason Lockwood?” Damon gives Ric his most charming smirk and says, “Yeah, well, I didn’t mean it with him.”
AWWWWWWWW. Boys! They made up, and I am made happy. Satisfied, for the moment, Alaric goes into the cave and finds it covered with paintings, figures and symbols. When Damon asks what he sees, Ric replies, “I have no idea.”
Tune in next week, when Bonnie has to summon the ghost of Samuel Morse to crack the mysterious code.
SHIRTLESS SOMERHALDER SIGHTINGS: None, but the smirking and tongue-swallowing more than made up for it.
QUIPPITY QUIP: “There’ll be people everywhere tonight, so there’s gonna be lots to eat.”