When it was announced that Nina Dobrev was going to leave The Vampire Diaries, the show’s saving grace was that her absence, as much as it would hurt, would allow the show to refocus on the Salvatore brothers. Because no matter how much you love an epic romance, the brothers have always been the heart of the show. Their relationship, however, has always had its flaws. And its biggest flaw? The fact that both Damon and Stefan seem to put Damon first. And as a result, Stefan has suffered time and time again.
That’s not to say Stefan’s perfect. As Ian Somerhalder recently pointed out, Damon’s in this mess because his brother forced his vampire life on him. And then there was that whole Ripper Stefan thing. However, no one can argue the fact that Damon makes selfish, impulsive decisions that hurt Stefan. And most recently, he hesitated to take Stefan’s scar, which resulted in Stefan being trapped in the Phoenix Stone when Nora and Mary Louise destroyed it.
And that’s where we start the episode, with Stefan being the one who’s lying in the middle of the road for a change. Stefan wakes up at the scene of a car accident to discover a school bus on fire. Snapping into hero mode, Stefan busts into the bus and saves a few cheerleaders. The key word here is that he only saves a few. But Stefan can’t figure out what the lesson is in this hellscape. When the EMT shows him his I.D., which says his name is Marty Hammond, Stefan grows impatient. So he’s an alcoholic? Is that a metaphor for his bloodlust?
Spoiler: It’s not. After Valerie leaves Damon behind and finds Rayna, she discovers that when the stone was destroyed, every soul within it escaped. And because Rayna burns the bodies of her victims, that means that vampire souls are inhabiting random corpses, both vampire and human, all over the world. As for Stefan, he could be anywhere. He could be anyone.
Specifically, he’s in Arkansas and his name is, unfortunately, Marty. After Stefan finds himself handcuffed by the cops for driving the bus and causing the accident because he was drunk, he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Needless to say, he’s not a fan of what he sees — which kind of looked like flashback Klaus’ long hair for a second. So with that, Stefan takes off into the woods, still handcuffed, now on the run.
Meanwhile, Damon’s under the impression that Valerie took Stefan’s body when he finds his brother on the side of the road. At first, Damon simply thinks Stefan has lost his memory — which gives me major flashbacks to Damon not realizing Katherine was Katherine and not Elena in season 2 — so he gives him his journal to refresh his memory. (Does Damon just keep that thing in his car?) So while new Stefan reads about “day 57 of being pissed off at my garbage heap of a brother,” Matt calls Alaric.
It seems Matt thought it would be a good idea to send Valerie and Rayna to Ric’s doorstep, despite the fact that Ric is getting married in a month — where is Caroline, by the way? — and wants nothing to do with this supernatural nonsense. However, when Valerie plays the Caroline card (read: she’d care if Stefan died), Ric has no choice but to help. Rayna might be more concerned with hunting down some of the most evil vampires of the past 200 years, but Valerie quickly makes it clear that Stefan is their top priority.
Speaking of Stefan, he’s currently enjoying the perks of being human and undergoing withdrawal, which includes vomiting. Luckily, he finds a cabin in the woods where he’s able to break his hand and sort of free himself from the cuffs. He then duct tapes his hand? Poor Stef is so disoriented he thinks duct tape will help. Watching the local news, he realizes that he’s Marty Hammond, a known drunk. So if the incoming blizzard doesn’t kill him, his detox might.
Meanwhile, Damon takes new Stefan to a diner and finally realizes something’s off when Stefan starts drinking the waitress’ blood and furthermore, can do so without ripping her head off. Calling Alaric, Damon is updated on the situation. But Ric also has (more) bad news: When a vampire inhabited Jo, her body broke down. If Stefan’s in a human body, Ric estimates they have three days to find him.
But thanks to Ric’s avid news watching and expert note-taking, they’re closer than they think. Valerie uses magic to channel Rayna’s visions and see bits and pieces of where Stefan is. And when a few of the details overlap with a news story, they realize that he’s in the body of poor Marty.
Back in Arkansas, Stefan is hot-wiring a truck and enjoying the irony of being trapped in the body of an addict. He reveals that he had started to enjoy the idea that he’d die when Rayna did. Having an expiration date was about as close to being human as he was ever going to get. But now? Well now he remembers how much being a human sucks.
NEXT: Damon’s … the new Matt Donovan?