Credit: Bob Mahoney/The CW
Best Starting Point: ''Growing Pains'' (401) — A lot changed in last season's lead-up. It's probably best not to miss this season opener, which shows…

Ian Somerhalder will be the first person to admit that the race for the cure isn’t exactly going well for Damon on The Vampire Diaries. “It’s getting to a point now where only living for Elena’s well-being and getting this cure is starting to take a serious toll, and it’s starting to become not the healthiest thing in the world,” he says. “But he’s gonna do it anyway.”

In this week’s episode (Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW), Damon’s still being held captive in the Salvatore family cellar because Kol compelled him to try to kill Jeremy. Stefan asks Klaus to babysit Damon, which results in Klaus promptly letting slip that Stefan slept with Rebekah. Damon will, of course, get out of the cellar at some point, because we’ve already seen shots from the Feb. 7 episode, “Into the Wild,” of him joining the Professor Shane-led expedition to an island off the coast of Nova Scotia in search of the cure. “You have Elena, Damon, Stefan, and Rebekah all sitting around a campfire looking at each other. What an odd moment. Everyone has basically slept with each other,” he says, laughing. “Pretty funny.” But as so often happens on this show, things do take a serious turn. Photos from the Feb. 14 episode, “Down the Rabbit Hole” (pictured), reveal that Damon suffers more than awkward moments on that island: He runs into a skilled Hunter named Vaughn (guest star Charlie Bewley), one of The Five, who banters with him but also beats him. We’re used to seeing Damon tied up and tortured, but usually with his shirt open. What gives? “I think A.) it’s really cold in Georgia, so we opted against that,” Somerhalder says, laughing again. “But I just thought, ‘You know man, I would love to get my ass kicked once but have clothes on.’ And it wasn’t like it was Rebekah, or Katherine, or some awesome lady [doing it], it’s a guy in the woods.”

The knocks will keep coming off-screen as well for Somerhalder, who’s set to take part in DirecTV’s 7th annual flag-football Celebrity Beach Bowl this Saturday (along with Nina Dobrev). “I think what I’m gonna do is just eat a lot, because a guy like Deion Sanders or someone hits you, you better have some cushion,” he says of his preparation. And p.s., just like TVD, the game should have a great soundtrack: “When they do the football game, they say, ‘Hey, if you were to score, what kind of song do you want to play?’ So apparently they play one over the speakers, which will be cool. I’ll be curious to see if you like my song.”

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Episode Recaps

Best Starting Point: ''Growing Pains'' (401) — A lot changed in last season's lead-up. It's probably best not to miss this season opener, which shows…
The Vampire Diaries

Ian Somerhalder, Nina Dobrev, and Paul Wesley star in the CW’s romance-infused vampire soap opera.

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