by Dianna Berrian
Buckle your seatbelts, kiddies. We’re gonna be doing a lot of back and forth between present day and the 1950s during this episode of “The Vampire Diaries”. To start, we revisit the old Salvatore boarding house in Mystic Falls in 1963 where Damon is greeted by a relative by the name of Joseph Salvatore. It never becomes clear exactly who this Joe is because right after he stabs Damon with a syringe of vervain, he gets his neck snapped. Another man waltzes in and jabs him with another needle, knocking him out for the count. In some form, this all relates back to the Augustine society.
Flash forward to present day with Dr. Maxfield injecting Damon with even more vervain. Does he ever get a break? “I lost a test subject last night. And you’re gonna replace him.” Guess not. And as Maxfield locks him in a cell he once called home, he flashes right back to the past. This time, we learn that the man in the boarding house was Whitmore himself – you know the founder of Whitmore college? Convenient, no? But don’t worry. All this torture – I MEAN testing is for the sake of science. Pshaw.
In an odd but genius turn of events, a doppleganger is writing in a diary. And it’s not Elena. Apparently, Stefan thought it would be therapeutic for Katherine to write her feelings down while he has her on suicide watch. Um, do you not know Katherine Pierce, son? Not to mention it’s a little contradictory for a PTSD victim still having “panic attacks” to be watching over someone with a death wish. Katherine begs the question for us: “How are you supposed to help me stay alive if you can’t even help yourself?” And since she can’t work with people who don’t give their 100%, she called for backup. Enter Caroline “sober sponsor” Forbes. Yes! And that’s not all. To aid their cause, she’s brought along the very safe that caused Stefan all his misery the last two months. Sans dead guy and guts.
Elena pays a trip to her not-so-doppleganger male version of herself, Aaron who is under the assumption that his roommate Jesse killed himself. Here we go again… Elena plays her part and they bond a little over their woe is me lives. He just wanted a new start in college after his aunt Sarah died over the summer but death follow him and everyone around him dies. Eventually, Elena cuts to the chase. She’s worried about the lack of snarky text message or call from Damon since he went to question the mad scientist slash legal guardian. Luckily, Aaron has an idea where he may be. On the way there, they discuss Jesse and Megan’s untimely deaths. Elena tries to hint how weird it is that both seemingly happy students suddenly offed themselves before the semester was even over. Hey, by the way, since when did Elena start curling her hair all the time like Katherine? I miss straight hair Elena… But I digress. Elena confesses to Aaron that she found out Megan was murdered and that Wes has something to do with it, seeing as he wrote up the suicidal death certificate. “Wes is part of something much bigger than anyone realizes.” Hey, also! Why do they keep making everyone’s names easier? Qetsiyah became “Tessa”. Now Dr. Maxfield is just “Wes”. Are we viewers too dumb or something? Sorry! I’m done digressing. It turns out Aaron has taken her to the Whitmore house where she is not invited in. But it doesn’t take long for the doe-eyed blonde to invite her and, if it weren’t clear, Elena makes it so: “So who owns this place?” Subtle, Elena. And technically, Aaron does. It’s part of the Whitmore trust he inherited when his parents died. Wait. He’s Aaron Whitmore? “So you, like, own this school?” Isn’t that what he just said? As she looks around, she spies a picture of the Whitmore alumni, one of which is her father Grayson. Well that’s odd, right Wes? Wait. What’s Wes doing here? And why does he have that vervain syringe? Surprise! Elena is jabbed and down for the count and Aaron says it best: “What the hell?”
Meanwhile, Stefan is skeptical about Caroline’s safe idea. “Are you sure you’re not just sublimating your feelings about what happened to Jesse last night?” Feelings? What feelings? She just got dumped by Tyler, it was a crush! Yeesh. So what does a drama major know about PTSD? Not much, but his way isn’t working so it’s time to try it her way.
Cut to Aaron freaking over his legal guardian attacking his sort of friend. Wes admits to him he studies vampires and that Elena is one of them. He shows Aaron a safe filled with wooden stakes, vervain, and wood bullets. See, the Whitmore family pioneered the work of Augustine for generations. This was all supposed to come clear to him on his birthday but I guess Wes is bad at remembering them or something so now will have to do. And I’m glad Aaron is taking it so well, not even questioning it for a second and just nodding his head while Wes is all, “yeah, dude. Vampires are totes real, and by the way, here’s a book explaining your legacy of torturing them. Have fun, kiddo.” (I may have paraphrased…)
Since being attacked, Elena has joined Damon in captivity. When she asks where they are and why, Damon responds with one of the better quotes of the night: “Wes is carrying out the grand Augustine tradition – getting his kicks off of vampire torture”. He begins to relay his tale of being an Augustine captive once before when one of his family members sold him out to a society that tortured vampires, cut into them, cut pieces of their eyes out and pushed them to their limits. He was there for 5 years, and the only thing that kept him from going crazy was the friend he made in his cell mate – Enzo. Cue flashback to a very attractive vampire being led into the adjacent cell. He was a soldier in Europe during WWII. Dr. Whitmore was working at a battlefield hospital when he found him and Enzo was kept 10 years in captivity. He helped Damon hold himself together with words of wisdom and encouragement: “You’re living for the moment. You need to live in the future. For revenge.” And they begin to share revenge plots they dreamt up. Back in 2013, Elena reveals to Damon that Wes knew her dad. They worked together in Augustine. But it doesn’t make sense that her kind, gentle, loving father who was a town doctor would take part in something like this. “People are full of surprises.” Ain’t that the truth? But of course, lovesick puppy that he is, Damon makes the promise to get her out. No rush, Damon. I mean, I’m down for some Elena torture. It’s my favorite kind.
Back at PTSD central, Caroline has Stefan locked in the safe as she reads her psychology textbook for reference. He’s not entirely thrilled with the concept, but he’s holding up…relatively well. Katherine, on the other hand, can’t hide her curiosity and asks Caroline if she and Stefan ever…you know. “Oh my god, Katherine. Seriously? We are friends.” And that’s the way, uh huh uh huh, I like it! But according to Kat, Stefan’s great in bed. Bow-chicka-wow-wow! Okay, back to helping Stefan with some “prolonged exposure therapy.” Doesn’t sound pleasant. And as she reads irrelevant definitions, Katherine begins to argue over techniques: “So how do you help the guy who always comes to the rescue? Stefan’s the hero. That’s who he is at his core.” Poor Stefan, in the meantime, is having another panic attack and choking on his own breath.
In the cell block, Damon starts to have a few minor flashes of past torture again when Elena asks how he survived. Enzo’s friendship kept him alive, saved his humanity. Now, a full fledged flashback commences taking us to where Enzo and Damon discuss interests, like cars and women, to pass the time and ignore the pain. Without naming her, Damon makes reference to Katherine while Enzo mentions a woman named Maggie who was a part of Augustine. She didn’t take part in the torture stuff, didn’t even know about it. She just sat outside his cell taking notes. When she found out, she couldn’t bear it and said “sorry” and skedaddled. Damon the pessimist throws his two cents in: “Wouldn’t have worked out anyway. You’re a vampire. She’s a human. Relationship was doomed from the beginning.” Hmmm. Is this supposed to foreshadow his current status with Elena? Somewhere in there is something in there about them.
Back to the past, Enzo is taken away for torture and Damon is left to listen to his cries, getting a little restless. When Enzo is returned, Damon asks Whitmore WHY? For science, Damon! Whitmore wants to “understand them from a cellular level”, something about their genetic makeup and how the heal, and all that mumbo jumbo. Elena starts to panic a little, reverting to old habits and relies on Stefan to figure it out. Joke’s on you, sweetheart. Stefan doesn’t even know this place exists. Once Damon escaped, he saw no point in giving Stefan more to feel guilty about. He never told him about Augustine. Never told anyone. So the next question is obvious – how did he escape? Every year on New Year’s Eve, the vampires were let out to let the guests of the Whitmore cocktail party drink from them to demonstrate the healing power of vampire blood. That’s how Enzo came up with “the plan”. Seeing as they got tiny rations of one shot glass of blood a day, he decided if one vampire took both rations of blood for the next year, by the next New Year’s Eve party the one vampire would be ready to fight. They battled it out “rock, paper, scissors” style and Damon won the right to drink the blood and get strong. More or less, the plan worked. How? “Doesn’t matter, Elena. I got strong. I got out. It wasn’t pretty. All you need to know.” No, but how?
Trying to win him over, Wes gives Aaron another birthday present. It’s a nothing special watch, but I’m guessing that’s the point because the rule on this show is that looks can be deceiving. Aaron scans over all the news clippings and photographs from his parents’ deaths in the file, stricken. Wes explains that it was vampires that killed them and that’s why he wanted to continue the work. “I hope you’ll join me.” There’s about three seconds of indecision here before Aaron just up and punches his legal guardian out, grabs the revolver and wooden bullets from the safe and leaves.
Stefan wakes up from passing out to find a guest in the safe with him. Katherine. “try not to be mad of me. I got in here while you’re were unconscious and Caroline locked us in here. It was the only way. Don’t get mad.” Thing is, if Stefan gets mad he gets anxious, violent and rip peoples heads off. And he knows this. But that’s the point. Katherine explains, “You need to get rid of the triggers or else you will kill me.” Are you getting it yet? Basically, Katherine is hoping his heroic side will override his PTSD and want to save her rather than kill her. “You’re Stefan Salvatore. Suck it up.” I love it when words are fed right back to their originator.
Elena continues to pester Damon to tell her how he got out of captivity before Wes comes back. But Damon is reluctant, despite Elena’s promise not to judge and profession of love. Finally, he just tells her and yet again we transition back to the past. The next party was in 1958. He got stronger as Enzo starved himself. So when Whitmore let them out to “toast the new year with a glass of vampire blood”, Damon’s bonds were unlocked and his broken hands began to heal. With them he gouged Whitmore’s eyes out then bit him dead, knocking a lit candelabra over in the process. He runs around snapping and biting necks until everyone is dead or dying then runs back to free Enzo. But the bars were infused or soaked with vervain and their efforts prove futile. At this point the fire from the candles was too out of control and Damon made a devastating choice to save himself and turn off his humanity. He left Enzo to die in the fire. So much for friendship.
While Caroline stands idly by the locked safe, inside Stefan is having trouble breathing again and feels like he’s dying. So Katherine tries to distract him by talking about the doppleganger prophecy to lead into the real sore subject: “I think you’re still in love with Elena. I think you’re miserable about the fact that she chose Damon over you and you wanna get out of this one horse town as far away from their happiness as possible, and yet somehow, you keep finding excuses to stay in MF. I think I’m just the latest excuse.” Stefan is starting to lose a grasp on his control and Katherine keeps trying to talk him down. “The safe isn’t the problem. The problem is you’re not facing your real issues. The death, pain of dying over and over, – it’s easier to focus on physical pain than the emotional heartbreak of Elena leaving you.” And he gets closer to her neck, eyes veining on and off. With a new idea, Katherine begs him to fight it and starts whispering, “I’m here, I’m here”, reminiscent of Elena. It’s working, and he’s calming down so she turns and faces him, holding his face. “I’m with you. We’re together.” And just as their lips brush close enough to kiss, Caroline rips open the safe. “It was so quiet, I got worried!” Sober sponsor or cockblock? Am I allowed to say that here?
Miraculously, for a guy who knew nothing ten minutes ago, Aaron stumbles upon Elena and Damon in their cells. He wants to know the truth while he fumbles with trying to load the gun and gets it aimed at Elena. Since she was so interested in him and his friends, he seems to think Elena killed Megan and/or his parents. But in a moment of selflessness, Damon comes clean, admitting it was him. And to support his claim, he goes back to the first flashback with Enzo where they were talking about revenge plots. He planned on taking out the entire Augustine society and killing every member of the Whitmore family. Except one person. He would let that one grow up, start a family, and then start killing Whitmores again. Leaving one person after that and kill again. And so on, and so on, and so on. And starting in 1958, after the fire, that’s exactly what Damon did. With a horrific and sneaking suspicion, Elena has to ask who the last Whitmore he killed was. It was a few months ago, her name was Sarah. As in, Aaron’s aunt Sarah. Elena is horrified because they were together a few months ago and she had no idea. Aaron’s had enough of them and shoots Damon in the head, letting him bleed out.
As Caroline struggles to move the way-too-heavy-for-a-vampire safe, Stefan is in the other room tossing the remains of one of the chairs he broke in a panic attack into the fire. Katherine meanders her way in, waiting to hear him say she was right. And he does. He admits he needed to stop ignoring the pain of the breakup and move on. They exchange a little banter with a bit of flirtatious edge as they draw closer, and closer still. She ventures to slide her hand over his shoulder and the distance between them gets lesser and lesser until finally, they meet in a slow, tentative kiss. But once the ice is broken, the kiss grows deeper and heated. Caroline is oblivious as she leaves a voicemail for Elena until her vampiric ears suddenly pick up sounds of Katherine and Stefan making out. All I can say is, LOL!
Aaron is back at home, or in his dorm, I think, talking to Wes on the phone and wanting to know what the heck is going on. But Wes placates him with a “Go to school. Live your life. Talk to you soon.” Well then. He toys with the watch for a minute before putting it on, still curious as to its true nature. Me too.
Damon wakes up from his head wound, groaning. He glances over alarmed to find Elena missing from her cell. Elena, on the other hand, wakes up fastened to a lab table with the sound of a mysterious and somewhat deluded humming in the room. She looks around, confused as to what’s happening when she sees another vampire – the source of the senseless humming – locked to a table next to hers. “Oh. Welcome. I’m 12144. My name’s Enzo.” Wait, whuuuuuuut?