Damon deals with death the only way he knows how ... with more death

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Credit: Tina Rowden/The CW

How do you move forward in life after making an earth-shattering mistake? Do you drink it away? Bury yourself in work? Pretend it never happened? If you’re Damon Salvatore, you return to what you know.

At the top of “Postcards From the Edge,” we find Damon flat on his back in the middle of a wooded highway. For a moment it seems as if it could be a flashback (until you remember that Nina Dobrev won’t be showing up until the series finale… if ever), but it’s actually just old school Damon waiting for a victim.

When a guy named Cooper avoids hitting him, gets out to check on the person in the middle of the road, and asks him what he’s doing there, Damon says, “I don’t know. I thought it would make me feel better.” Cooper, give Damon a hug. He just burned up his girlfriend.

Cooper can kind of relate: He ran over his girlfriend’s cat. Instead of eating him, Damon asks Cooper for a ride. He spills his guts to him, saying how he thinks the lesson of the Phoenix Stone was that he’s always going to be damaged. Seriously, Cooper, why aren’t you hugging him yet!?

Damon then says he doesn’t think he can feel for anyone ever again, so he decides to go ahead and eat his ride anyway. Sorry, Cooper, maybe you should have hugged him.

Next stop on the Damon Salvatore spiraling-out-of-control tour: picking on the Big Bad. Julian is shooting apples off the heads of his friends, while blindfolded, at the local bar. Damon makes his entrance into the bar by chopping some guys head clean off. Julian’s mad… until he realizes that Damon wants to make Julian mad. He puts two and two together (Lily was his tether once out of the Phoenix Stone, Damon must have lost, or killed, his). Damon finally admits what he did: “I burned her alive.” Julian takes a little bit of credit for this (as he should!) and says he wants to play a game with Damon.

Before we get to Damon, though, let’s talk about Elena: We’re all assuming because of the flash-forward that she’s not dead. By the way, where did Tyler go? He kind of vanished. Why didn’t he tell Damon he didn’t actually kill Elena before fleeing? Is it possible she’s actually dead?

Maybe, maybe not. But for now, she’s dead to Damon — and he’s dealing with it by becoming a member of Julian’s fight club. There’s only one rule (I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not “don’t talk about fight club”). The rule is losers die. Julian says this raw, physical brutality is the best way for Damon to get over his mental anguish.

Right about this time is when Valerie is telling Stefan that his brother has a death wish. (She observed it at the bar while she was there telling Julian about the notecard she received from the huntress.) And she’s right: Damon makes quick work of his first challenger, so Julian has a better opponent for him: Sam, who has never lost a fight. This fight is tougher for him, and Damon is only able to win because a woman from the crowd throws him a stake to use to kill Sam.

That just pisses Julian off, so he says he‘s going next. And that’s when Stefan comes in to save the day. He’s been doing a lot of that this episode…

NEXT: Creepy kids are bad, creepy in-womb babies are worse

Earlier in the day, Stefan brought multiple types of fries to Caroline — which I guess answers the question, “Do pregnant vampires have food cravings?” — but she doesn’t get to enjoy the fast food for long because she starts getting a pain in her belly and passes out.

Stefan rushes her to the hospital, where the doctor does a checkup and says they’ll all be fine. But when Stefan sees Caroline’s hand is desiccating, he calls Valerie to do a magical checkup, too. She tells them that the babies are siphoners and they’re feeding off Caroline’s blood a little bit at a time, siphoning off her vampire magic.

Valerie has a clever idea, though: She spells a talisman with magic, so the babies can feed on that, instead of Caroline. With Caroline saved, Valerie tells Stefan about Damon and he takes off. When Valerie returns to the room to tell Caroline, the pregnant lady gets angry. She says that Valerie just wanted Stefan to kill Julian to defend her and prove he still cares about his first love. I’m going to chalk this up to Caroline having too many siphoner hormones running throughout her body because this kind of sounds like crazy talk. But no matter, she sends Valerie to the fight club to help Stefan.

And he needs it. Stefan is trying to talk Damon out of fighting Julian, but no one wants to listen. Julian tells his goons to drag Stefan out of the room, and Damon gets on with the fight.

Julian has 300+ years on Damon, so it’s not a fair fight. As Julian makes fun of Damon (“At least I have friends”) and attempts to rip out his heart, Stefan and Valerie use magic cloaking and headaches to try to get Damon to safety. Only problem is Damon doesn’t want to leave. He wants to lay there and die. But he doesn’t want his brother to die — Stefan says if Julian killed Damon, Stefan would have to kill Julian, and then Julian’s friends would kill Stefan — so Damon agrees to go.

Once outside the fight den, Damon tries to wander off. Stefan tells him not to turn off his humanity, and what his brother says surprises him: Damon doesn’t want to turn off the switch, he wants to feel the pain. And then he tells him why: “I killed Elena.” When Stefan realizes what Damon says, he gives his brother the pain he wants; he punches him over and over and walks away.

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Stefan gets in the car, cries, punches the steering wheel repeatedly, and cries some more. The brother whom he loves just killed the woman he also loves. He’s allowed a moment. But Valerie doesn’t really give him one. And in that moment he makes a decision. “I don’t want to be the smart one anymore,” he says. “I want him dead.”

So Stefan and Valerie go on a Julian hunt. They find him surrounded by friends, and Stefan tells him what they’re going to do. Julian says they wouldn’t attack him in front of all of his people, but Valerie has taken care of that: She’s cloaked them. She’s also choking him with her magic, which makes Stefan staking him a little bit … unfair. “Maybe this is cheating,” Stefan says, “but I don’t really care.” And then he kills him. All of their troubles are over, right?

Wrong. Because while Stefan is killing Julian, Caroline is desiccating in the hospital room without the strength to call anyone. Guess Valerie’s talisman didn’t do the trick.

NEXT: We still have two more story lines to talk about

First let’s talk about the ladies on a mission for a vampire huntress. Bonnie and Nora do a locator spell and find that she’s in Cincinnati. Mary Lou also got the card from the woman we learn is “Rayna Cruz”; she was spelled by shamans to be a vampire huntress — they created the sword and gave her extraordinary strength and eternal life. Mary Lou insists on going to Ohio with Bonnie and Nora, so the three set out. This turns out to be a poor choice on Mary Lou’s part; Bonnie and Nora have become friendly, and she doesn’t enjoy watching that.

But personal problems aside, they do find the woman they’re looking for. The only problem is she’s an old, demented woman in a hospital bed in a psychiatric ward. An old lady who just wants a cookie.

While Nora and Mary Lou are talking about their lives or something, Bonnie is finding a cookie for the old woman. The lady thanks her for the cookie and says, “What’s a nice girl like you doing with two deviant vampires?” So she IS the huntress! Rayna says as she got older, the drive to kill got scrambled in her brain and she ended up staking a grocery store checkout girl. But the lady won’t stop talking about that cookie, so Bonnie attempts to feed it to her. Rayna grabs the ID card lanyard around Bonnie’s neck and starts to strangle her.

A savior comes to her rescue: It’s Enzo! He throws a knife into Rayna’s throat and kills her. Is this when they fall in love!? How romantic! (I joke, but I actually loved their banter here.)

Too bad it didn’t last long While Bonnie goes to find Mary Louise and Nora, Enzo takes off with the body. The next we see him, he’s placed the old woman’s body in a glass enclosure. He tells her, “I knew if I sent those postcards, the heretics would lead me right to you.” And then she goes ablaze and a young woman crawls out of the flame and to the window. Woah, Enzo, who are you working with and what is your plan?

Although they failed to capture the huntress (even though they think she was successfully killed), the road trip did give Mary Lou and Nora a chance to reconnect. Mary Lou apologizes: “If I could take it back, I would choose you … every time.” And Nora says, “We do still make a good team.” Aww. Don’t you love it when murder brings people closer together?

Matt Donovan sure does. He finally, finally, may have a love interest again (although, I have to be honest, I’m not sure I like her). Penny, the woman who pulled him over last week flirts before releasing him and telling him that her friend from Mystic Falls was told he could move back into the city.

Matt goes to investigate this guy’s house — Julian was inviting residents back so they could invite vampires into their homes and then kill them — and Penny follows him. A vampire comes in the room, and when Penny’s bullets don’t faze him, Matt takes him down with wooden bullets.

Over a bottle of liquor, he shares with her all the dirty little secrets of Mystic Falls, and she tells him how incredibly brave he is. Eye roll.

Three years from now, Matt is standing outside of Caroline’s news station when Stefan pulls up. Matt tells Stefan that Caroline is safe at home with Ric, but Damon’s inside. And when Stefan looks away for a second, Matt vervains him in the neck. Matt looks into a security camera and says, “All right, I did it. He’s out. Now I never see you again, right?” And the woman who tied Damon up to a chair in the news station a few episodes ago, the woman who Enzo rebirthed this episode, Rayna says, “Yes, Thank you. Have a nice life.”

And don’t worry — I didn’t forget the hottest moment of the episode. This happened so out of the blue, I wasn’t really sure where to place it in the recap. Which isn’t to say I didn’t like it, but let me describe it first: Damon is back home, well, the Lockwood home, when the mystery woman who threw him the stake during his fight with Sam walks in. She’s brought tequila with her and clearly has one thing in mind (sex, I’m talking about sex). When she kisses him, he pulls back and it’s not just for a second. You can almost see him truly contemplating it. But then he goes back in… and it’s pretty hot.

To him, Elena is dead. Maybe she is? But even if she isn’t, she’s going to be asleep for 60ish years; it’s Damon we’re talking about. He can’t be celibate until then. The larger issue is who is this woman, and what does she want? You know, other than that one thing (still sex).

And who is this Rayna 2.0 — what is she up to? Why did Enzo help her? When do Bonnie and Enzo finally get together? Will Matt and Penny end up together? (Please say no.) How will Caroline not desiccate? Can Stefan forgive Damon, or is Elena’s “death” why they seem so hostile toward each other in the flash-forwards? There’s a lot to think about tonight. Let’s talk about it below or on Twitter @realdalener.

Before you go, be sure to read Julie’s Diary, where the showrunner breaks down what went into tonight’s episode.

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