Well, if you all wanted answers, this episode definitely provided a few. For starters, Alaric likes life better without Damon. Then there’s Bonnie, who’s gone undercover at the mental hospital to find out why the Armory is after her. And finally, when it comes to the question of which lady has Stefan’s heart, it seems the answer is Caroline. (And yes, Stefan has been returned to his hero hair. Thank the TV gods.)
We start on the brother road trip, where Stefan is only getting worse as Marty’s body begins to quit on him. And because Marty can’t show his face at a hospital – what with the cops being on the lookout for him — Damon calls an ambulance and compels the EMTs to save his brother’s life … or have their thumbs become squirrel food.
And while they stay with Marty, Damon and Ric head to Memphis as Valerie gets a motel room where she can prepare for the spell that will put Stefan back in his rightful body. Because if Marty’s insides shutting down don’t kill Stefan, his lack of hair conditioner just might.
With Ric replacing Stefan on the road trip, Damon tries to use the time to get information on Bonnie, but that doesn’t pan out too well. And when Ric doesn’t seem too excited to talk about Damon’s goodbye letter either, the eldest Salvatore tries to pitch this as “one more mission for old times sake.” But again, Ric has a rebuttal: He’s not exactly Stefan’s biggest fan considering that Stefan broke Caroline’s heart. However, Ric can’t deny that losing Stefan would kill Caroline, so he begrudgingly follows Damon to a frat house in Memphis.
Once there, it seems poor Damon didn’t get an invite to the party — if only this were a sorority, amirite? — and can’t get past the threshold. Thankfully, Ambrose – which is the name of the evil vampire in Stefan’s body — gives Damon a call and is ready to make a deal: If Damon kills Rayna, he will jump into the body of a transitioning vampire and give Stefan his hero hair back. Damon agrees.
The problem? Enzo just kidnapped Rayna, determined to find an anecdote to her blood pills (which Bonnie has been taking and which recently killed Mary Louise). But it turns out, Enzo taking Rayna is bad news for everyone involved: Not only can Damon no longer give Ambrose what he wants, but Rayna informs him that the effects of her blood cannot be reversed.
While all this is going on, Stefan-Marty is hanging out in an ambulance, remembering his days spent in The Philippines. In a flashback to two years ago, we find Stefan sitting at a bar attempting to write an apology letter to Caroline. As he explains to the freakishly optimistic bartender, she’s returned every one of his letters unopened. And when Marty-Stefan wakes up in the ambulance, he asks for pen and paper … in case he doesn’t make it through this.
Back in the car, Damon and Ric are working on a Plan B when Ric catches Damon up on the Bonnie-Enzo situation. Basically, he informs him that Enzo saved Bonnie from the Armory, after which the two fell in love. But their conversation is interrupted when Ambrose calls, rather disappointed in Damon’s inability to kill Rayna. As he puts it, “This sense of disappointment must be what it actually feels like to have you for a brother.” DAMN. Harsh burn, Ambrose.
By the time Damon and Ric make it back to the frat house, everyone inside is dead. And that’s when Ric has an idea: Could Ambrose have used his vampire hearing when Damon told Valerie where they were sending Stefan? Spoiler: Yes. (Finally, somebody uses vamp hearing to their advantage.) And that’s why Ambrose just flipped the ambulance and killed the EMTs helping Stefan. Luckily, Stefan is able to make it into a nearby home — which Ambrose can’t enter because #vampireproblems — before Ambrose can get to him.
While all of this is going on, we finally get a glimpse inside the mental hospital where Bonnie is spending her days in North Carolina. After speaking at a group therapy session about how the person she cared about “more than anyone else in the world” betrayed her — oh, Damon — she finds herself being followed by some girl named Virginia.
Virginia accuses Bonnie of switching her meds, and as Bonnie tells her, it’s true, which might be the most inappropriate thing Bonnie’s ever done. But she has a plan. It seems Virginia is a member of the St. John family. She claims that when she tried to save her family from “something dark,” they faked a story to get her checked into the psychiatric facility. And when Bonnie reveals she’s a Bennett witch, she asks Virginia why her family’s after her.
NEXT: Stefan v. Stefan
Virginia wants proof that Bonnie’s a witch — which is fair — but it seems the whole reason Bonnie has been taking Rayna’s blood pills is because it keeps the Armory from being able to find her with a locator spell. However, it also prevents her from being able to do magic. But Bonnie does have something to offer Virginia: Bonnie claims she has an “in” with a doctor who can check them both out if Virginia gives her answers.
And the answer to Bonnie’s question is our newest mystery. It seems there’s a vault in the basement of the Armory, which was sealed by a Bennett witch many years ago and can only be opened by a Bennett witch. For years, the Armory only knew of Lucy — Remember Lucy?! — mostly because of the fact that Bonnie was “officially dead for a while.” Now that she’s back, Virginia begs Bonnie not to open the vault. And when Bonnie refuses to promise that until she knows what’s inside, Virginia actually loses her mind and slashes Bonnie with a piece of glass. Add in her screaming “she’s a witch,” and I doubt Virginia is going to get out of that hospital anytime soon. (Did they call Bonnie Ms. McCall? As in Scott McCall? What if Bonnie were just a huge Teen Wolf fan?)
Back at the Real Stefan vs. Stefan’s Body battle, Ambrose is pulling a season 3 Klaus and throwing everything he can through the door of the house, until finally, he threatens to burn it down. Thankfully, Damon and Alaric show up in just enough time to tranquilize him. As Ric admits, “I hate how good that felt.”
Now, it’s all in Valerie’s hands to see if she can perform a spell that usually needs two Geminis to complete. She promises she can, and the moment she begins the spell, we get a glimpse inside Stefan’s head, where he wakes up back where he belongs — at the Salvatore house.
Valerie joins him as she starts talking about their next destination and how Stefan will soon have the chance to go back to his “real life.” As she starts to bleed from her nose, Stefan tries to tell her that “you are my real life.” She asks him to be honest when she asks, “Have I only been a pleasant distraction these past few years or am I something more?” But Stefan claims she’s never been a distraction.
Back in the real world, Damon refuses to let Valerie give up on the spell. And despite Stefan begging her not to sacrifice herself for him, she completes the spell. Only it doesn’t kill her. And with Stefan now awake and back in the right body, Ric leaves.
He’s finally going home, where he’s wanted to be this entire time. Damon once again tries to apologize for abandoning his friend, but as Ric explains, the last three years have been the happiest of his life because he got to start over. He has kids and a fiancé “that makes me feel so lucky to be alive.” And he got all of that because Damon wasn’t “barging into my life and screwing things up.” So unlike Damon, Ric doesn’t want things to go back to the way they were. (So it seems even being a surrogate brother to Damon gets old? Regardless, seeing these two fight is nothing short of devastating.)
Ric then points Damon to the mental hospital, informing him that Bonnie is undercover and he might have better luck winning her back. Yeah, he doesn’t. But we’ll get to that.
First, Valerie uses the time Stefan’s in the shower to write him a letter. As she tells him, she heard the fear in his voice when he thought she was going to sacrifice herself for him. Stefan was afraid of Valerie’s sacrifice because “it wouldn’t have been worth it, me sacrificing myself for you, because you don’t love me the way I love you,” she says. If she’d died, the guilt would’ve eaten Stefan alive. “I’ve never loved anyone the way I love you,” she tells him. “But that’s not true for you.”
Now, Stefan has the opportunity to make things right with Caroline. Valerie knows Stefan loved her in his own way, but it’s time for her to find a new life. After one last kiss, she leaves. Mirroring Elena’s final sentiments to Stefan before her 60-year slumber, Valerie tells him, “You deserve to be happy, Stefan. Please be happy.”
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We end the episode at the mental hospital, where we find out Bonnie still hasn’t opened her letter from Damon. Apparently, when she was involved in an “incident,” the hospital called her doctor. And her doctor is a very handsome vampire with a sexy accent. Enter Enzo, who can’t wait to see the woman he loves. She’s pretty happy too, at least until Enzo tells her that there’s a decent chance that she’s going to die … again.
The only thing worse than news of her possible death? Seeing Damon again. Just as Damon shows up at her door with flowers, Bonnie gives him the season 6 Elena treatment — she slams the door in his face.
What did you all think of the episode? Will we ever get to read all of these unopened Salvatore brother letters? Hit the comments with your thoughts on what’s in the vault or find me on Twitter @samhighfill.
Don’t forget to check out Julie Plec’s blog to go inside Valerie’s farewell.