If you know me, you know I’m a sucker for a Vampire Diaries/Originals callback, which essentially means that this episode made me very, very happy. Although I should say that even though callbacks made this episode better, it was already standing on solid ground thanks to some great writing. I swear the dialogue on this show gets better every week.
We kick things off at Triad where Agent Clarke has a bag over someone’s head. All we know is that whoever is under the hood is being sent to the Salvatore School to do some work for the big, bad company. More on that later.
Back at school, Landon’s attempt to wake Hope up from a nightmare results in her sleep-throwing him across the room. When she asks if he’s okay, he says, “I was recently dead so I think I’ll mend,” which is precisely why I love Landon. But that doesn’t mean he’s not worried. He goes to Ric about Hope, and when Ric checks in on her, she ends up accidentally throwing Ric across the room in anger. One thing is certain: She needs to blow off some steam.
Although she can’t exactly wolf out today because there are mortals coming to the school. Why? Because the Salvatore School is hosting this year’s Miss Mystic Falls!!! For those who aren’t familiar, it’s the local beauty pageant that was first introduced in season 1 of The Vampire Diaries. Furthermore, it’s the beauty pageant that Caroline Forbes — a.k.a. Josie and Lizzie’s mother — won. It’s also where Elena Gilbert and Damon Salvatore had their first dance together. Trust me, it’s a THING.
So while the students start prepping for the pageant and maintaining their image as being nothing more than a private school for the “rich and awful,” as Ric puts it, Landon tries once again to talk to Hope. He’s worried that she’s getting cold feet about their relationship. “I’m indestructible, you’re relatively indestructible,” he tells her. And now, they finally have a long road ahead of them without obstacles. Unless, of course, you consider Hope’s ex-boyfriend an obstacle.
Enter Roman, the guy who stole Hope’s heart on The Originals before his mother killed her mother. Sounds complicated, right? It is. Apparently Roman has been doing some recruiting work for Alaric, who recently asked Roman to come lend a hand. Precious Landon takes the opportunity to introduce himself as Hope’s boyfriend “and a phoenix, by the way, which is … so cool.” He’s not wrong. But he is having trouble wrapping his head around the idea that Hope no longer holds Roman responsible for her mom’s death.
But Roman isn’t the only surprise guest at the school. MG’s mom stops by after getting the news that her son is now a murderer, and she tries to convince him to find a new school. (Apparently there are some great schools for the supernatural overseas, and MG’s mom looks like the kind of parent who’d be willing to buy his test scores if you know what I mean.) But MG doesn’t want to go, especially not after he meets Nia, a comic book-loving teen who’s here for the pageant.
Speaking of the pageant, Lizzie’s big plan to follow in her mother’s footsteps and be crowned Miss Mystic Falls — no one from the Salvatore School ever has — is ruined when the head judge turns out to be Dana’s mom. It seems Dana properly trashed Lizzie before she died, so Lizzie starts crunching numbers and decides that Hope should be her replacement, something that doesn’t sit well with Josie, though she’d never admit it.
Lizzie wastes no time in getting Hope up to speed, even giving her the dress she was going to wear. It belonged to her mother, but as TVD fans know, there’s more to that story: Klaus, otherwise known as Hope’s father, gifted Caroline that dress in season 3 of The Vampire Diaries as part of an invitation to a ball that the Original family was throwing. It marked a major moment for Klaroline shippers.
But that’s only one of many TVD references. When Hope and Josie both attend the pageant rehearsal, they learn the dance and are told things like “flirt with your eyes,” the same words that Carol Lockwood once told Stefan and Elena. Speaking of Stefan and Elena, there’s a moment where Penelope — who has forced her way in as Josie’s escort — stops Josie from tripping on purpose and dips her that looks a lot like a playful Stefan-Elena dip during their rehearsal.
As they’re told about the “simple intimacy of the near-touch,” Penelope tries to convince Josie not to throw the pageant to help Hope/Lizzie. But Josie’s nothing if not a devoted sister. Across the dance floor, Landon gets Hope all worked up when he starts asking how she can forgive Roman for having a part in her mother’s death when it took her so long to forgive him for stealing a knife. When it’s evident that Hope is about to explode, Lizzie grabs her and takes her into the woods where she can scream and explode in a less dangerous way.
Landon is quick to apologize … until they find that MG’s mother has been turned to stone. Instantly, Landon thinks Roman did it. But when Landon confronts Roman, he gets the answer to his real question: Yes, Roman still has feelings for Hope. But he says Hope would never get back with him. Roman knows Landon doesn’t trust him, but he tells him that he should trust Hope. (Next: Triad makes a big move against Landon)
Elsewhere, Ric and MG set out to find what Ric believes is a gorgon — something that was recently on an episode of Supernatural — which has snakes for hair and can turn people to stone. Spoiler: It’s Nia, MG’s new friend. After she turns Ric to stone, she asks where Landon Kirby is. MG refuses to give him up, and when she can’t turn MG to stone because he’s a vampire, she snaps his neck instead.
As for Landon, he’s drinking his sorrows away when Penelope joins him. The poor guy is feeling sufficiently jealous of “vampire Captain America,” but when he talks about Hope’s policy on honesty, Penelope scoffs. This is where I should mention that Penelope is the snooper to end all snoopers. She spelled all the pens in the Salvatore School so that whenever someone writes something down, it goes into a notebook that she has. Translation: She’s reading EVERYONE’S journals. Her hair is literally full of secrets. And now, she tells Landon one…
As the pageant begins, Penelope returns to escort Josie, and for a moment, she convinces Josie to try to win this thing. But it doesn’t last long. By the time Jo reaches the bottom of the stairs, she sees Lizzie and goes through with the plan: She fakes a fall that takes out Hope’s top competitor. And when Penelope makes a comment about how she’s not going to be here to fight for Josie much longer, Josie finally decides to read her letter.
Hope’s up next, and when Landon confronts her about the secret she’s keeping regarding his mom — which is what Penelope told him — she doesn’t deny it. And when he runs off, Roman steps in as her escort, not unlike bad boy Damon having to step in for boyfriend Stefan in TVD‘s first season.
As the dance begins, Nia finds Landon, but MG is there to save the day. Apparently, three tolls of a bronze bell disrupt a gorgon’s powers. From there, MG knocks her out and Landon informs him that they’re now even. Long story short, she was the captive that we met at the start of the episode and Triad was behind all of this.
Back inside, Josie finally reads Penelope’s letter, which says Penelope is leaving the school. And apparently, Lizzie knew that already but neglected to tell her twin. “You never consider anybody’s feelings but your own,” Josie tells Lizzie, admitting that of course, she wanted to win the pageant. As Roman listens in to the twins’ conversation at Hope request, Josie reveals the truth about Hope’s dress: That Klaus chose it. When Hope learns that, she starts to cry. Moments later, she’s announced as the new Miss Mystic Falls, at which point Lizzie sees a meltdown coming and swoops in and lets Hope sob on her shoulder.
Afterward, Lizzie and Hope make a pinky promise to help each other win back their other halves: Josie and Landon. And speaking of Landon, he confronts Ric — who’s no longer stone — about Hope’s secret, and Ric takes the blame, explaining that Hope was just trying to protect him. But she’s not doing the best job because when Landon goes outside to get some air, MG’s mom pulls up and TASES HIM!!! Apparently, she works at Triad, and Triad now has Landon.
As for Penelope, she ends the episode by saying goodbye. Her mom got a job in Belgium and there’s a great witch-only school there. Josie asks her to stay, but she says she can’t watch Josie put herself second anymore. And she definitely can’t watch what comes next. That brings us to her parting gift: She gives Josie her notebook full of secrets, which includes what Ric wrote about the merge. Penelope then kisses Josie, tells her she loves her with all of her obnoxious, evil, selfish heart and leaves.
And that brings us to the end of another wonderful hour of this show. In some ways, I feel like this show is like a teenager: With each episode, it’s discovering its identity, and the more it comes into itself, the more I love it. (Although, if it’s a teenager, it’s one that started out on a freakishly self-realized level because it’s always been good.)