There’s something sweet about our favorite vampires getting to go home for the holidays, but this is not a feel-good episode. In the end, Bonnie burns her tree; Matt becomes Enzo’s reluctant partner; Kai is more powerful than ever, ready to merge with Jo, and just kidnapped Elena; and oh right, Liz Forbes has cancer. Because I’m sure a commenter will say it: Yes, this has shades of Buffy—a mother dying of natural causes is one thing neither a vampire nor a vampire hunter can fix. But it seems Liz’s illness might be more drawn out. Already, it’s served to bring Stefan and Caroline closer. He’s going to be there for her this time. Here we go.
We open with Jo phoning Alaric to tell him she’s going to be two hours late to dinner, so he should save her some. A young woman comes in with a massive wound to her abdomen. Surprise, Kai stabbed her. (Why is his face all bloody? Not that I’m a splatter expert, but…)
Bonnie is still stuck in 1994. She’s remembering holiday cheer of years past while dragging a tree to the high school parking lot because in her mind, it’s time to decorate the town tree. Caroline assumes she and her mom are canceling Christmas this year since Caroline can’t return to her home in Mystic Falls, but of course, Liz just brings the decorations to Caroline. And Stefan as well, who’s on light duty. “The little ones obviously,” as Caroline says.
Elena’s praise of Damon for helping her look through Alaric’s reference books for the Ascendant is interrupted when Alaric calls to ask her if she’s seen Jo. No one’s seen her since the previous night when she and one of the stabbing victims went missing. Oh, so Kai was posing as a victim them? Got it. Damon’s plan is simple: They’ll find Kai and kill him. Cut to Tyler telling Liv and Luke they need to help keep Kai alive so he can merge with Jo. Luke can see the bigger picture: If Kai becomes their leader, he’s still a problem. Damon calls Matt and asks him to keep an eye out for Kai, “think sociopathic Ryan Reynolds,” but he and Jeremy (a.k.a. Beavis and Butthead) are more concerned about killing Enzo. Did Damon just spend his long days in 1994 brushing up on pop culture? Love it.
Damon doesn’t seem worried about Kai searching for the knife Jo hid her magic in. He’s hidden it after all… and it’s gone. Looks like Liv and Luke did that locator spell for him after all. Their lives are on the line, sure. But does Jo get no loyalty from them for saving their lives 18 years ago?
Bonnie continues to try to make the most of her one-woman tree decorating while we see another flashback to the girls’ freshman year in high school. It’s right around the time Caroline’s father was getting ready to divorce his mother because he’s gay and Bonnie’s father was about to move away. (Pause as I realize I’ve never used popcorn garland. How long does it keep?)
Stefan tries to make amends with Caroline by helping her hang lights, but anyone can be friends when what you share is a task that easy. She wants Stefan to leave, but he returns when Sheriff Forbes passes out. So she’s going to die so Stefan can be there for Caroline through something difficult?
While Kai tries to stab Jo’s magic back into her, it doesn’t work. She put her magic in it by choice, it has to be her choice to take it out. Luke can’t watch, so he leaves. Liv stays and Kai threatens to slit her throat if she can’t figure out how to force it back into Jo before he gets back from finding a bandage so Jo doesn’t bleed out. You have a large knife, Kai. Maybe cut off the bottom of someone’s shirt and make it a tourniquet?
Elena joins Caroline at the hospital to wait for word on sedated Liz’s condition. If nothing else, Stefan abandoning her after Damon and Bonnie went missing gives her a new appreciation for Damon, who sticks with Elena through thick and thin. “You’re clearly malnourished,” Elena jokes. How long does it take Stefan to find a blood bag in a hospital anyway?
Damon figures out that Tyler and the twins helped Kai locate the knife. He phones Tyler, who insists he’s just trying to keep his girlfriend alive. Damon spots Luke at the dorm and reiterates Luke’s worst fear about what happens if Kai becomes the coven’s leader.
NEXT: Matt is badass… for a second