Someone takes the cure, and someone else dies after Cade arrives in Mystic Falls
You Made a Choice to Be Good
Credit: Annette Brown/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…

You know how all season I’ve been talking about waiting for things to feel final? Waiting for the show to feel like it has stakes again? Well, I got my wish and I have the tears to prove it. The ending of tonight’s hour was shocking and powerful and I loved every second of it. But before we get to that, let’s start with the title…

“You Made a Choice to Be Good”: Taking us back to the end of season 1, this is something Elena said to Stefan. After his first ripper binge on the show, the episode titled “Blood Brothers” is all about the moments after Stefan realizes what he’s done and the battle he fights every day as he carries the guilt of his victims around with him. It’s also the episode where we first learn Stefan is the one who forced Damon to turn all those years ago. But as Stefan stands at the quarry and contemplates giving up the fight and letting himself burn in the daylight, Elena reminds him that at some point along the way, he decided to be good. And where we are currently in season 8, he definitely needs to be reminded of that again. (Although I can’t imagine the guilt he will feel after what he just did.)

The episode starts with Cade running into Bonnie at the coffee shop. Once Cade decides what drink fits him best, he leaves the boss to beat up the employee that Cade just revealed to be sleeping with the boss’s wife. So I guess we know how Cade likes his coffee: With a side of chaos.

With Stefan still chained up, Damon gives his brother a little update on the outside world. The sirens are MIA — of course, we know Cade burned them up — and as for Damon, he’s all about redemption now that his humanity is back on. When Stefan reminds him about their deal with Cade, Damon tells his brother, “Stefan Salvatore, dropping bodies is not part of a balanced humanity-on lifestyle.” You know what is part of the balance humanity-on lifestyle? Pancakes. So Damon’s off to make some.

At the high school, the town has gathered to celebrate Time Capsule Day, where they’ve unearthed a capsule buried in 1790 by the first settlers of Mystic Falls. It’s never been opened until now … and neither has the time capsule that Caroline, Bonnie, and Elena buried when they were 11. Inside, Caroline finds old photos, a letter she wrote to her future self, and Bonnie’s 6th grade bucket list, which apparently contained being on American Idol and MTV’s Spring Break.

Speaking of bucket lists, Bonnie has an idea: Before Enzo takes the cure, he needs to take advantage of his immortality. So while they’re on their way to hide the Maxwell bell, Bonnie decides to make a few stops along the way and give Enzo one final adventure.

As for Matt, he’s just about done with all of this supernatural business. After Stefan’s attempt to destroy the town last week, Matt doesn’t seem too excited about the possibility of letting Stefan off the hook because he’s “not himself” right now. As he puts it, “It’s hard to keep giving him a pass.” Is it fair? Yes. But considering Matt took a big step toward forgiving Damon — the man who made this deal with Cade in the first place — last week, this feels like a step back.

But none of that really matters because by the time Damon’s done making pancakes, Stefan’s long gone. It seems Cade freed him. As Cade explains to Damon, when the bell rang 11 times, the boundary of hell broke down for a moment, and he was able to slip through. Now, he’s sent Stefan on a task, and he has one for Damon as well: Damon can either kill 100 people by sundown … or he can kill Caroline. And of course, if Damon disobeys him, he’ll get to spend an eternity in hell. (You gotta give it to Cade: The man knows how to bargain.)

With his decision made, Damon calls Caroline and they decide to move the town celebration to the Mystic Grill while Damon tries to come up with a plan. And while the town is at the Mystic Grill, Caroline tries to hand Matt an insurance policy in the form of a blood orange margarita that contains her blood. But Matt’s (literally) sticking to his guns on this one. As far as he’s concerned, becoming a vampire isn’t survival.

While Stefan meets up with a real estate agent at a gas station, Bonnie and Enzo are enjoying their day at the race track making sure Enzo doesn’t miss out on anything before becoming mortal. And then there’s Dorian, who’s tasked with figuring out the purpose of the latest Maxwell heirloom, which was found in the time capsule. It’s used for code breaking, so Dorian brings Harvey’s journal to the Mystic Grill to see if he can figure out its purpose.

And while Dorian’s there, Caroline and Matt continue their disagreement. Caroline explains the perks of vampirism to Dorian, and Matt is more of a reality check: “It’s violence and murder,” Matt explains, and as far as he’s concerned, a choice Dorian would regret forever. But as Caroline reminds him, some people don’t regret it.

NEXT: A plan to kill Cade

As for Damon, he runs into Cade over at the school, where he’s reminded just how powerful Cade is. Cade quickly reads Damon’s mind and realizes the Salvatore is contemplating killing him. But, the thing is, killing Cade isn’t as easy as Damon thinks, and to prove it, Cade sets himself on fire and then rips out his own heart. Yep, you read that right. Not only is this guy freakishly attractive, he’s also sort of invincible. Well, maybe.

When Damon meets up with Caroline at the Grill, Caroline has an idea: What if they turned the immortal mortal? Translation: She wants to give Cade the cure. Damon, unwilling to give up his life with Elena, isn’t into it until he learns Bonnie was planning on stealing the cure for Enzo anyway. Long story short, the cure is in Elena’s blood. They could use it on Cade, and then Enzo could steal it from Cade, thereby aging him 4,000 years and killing him. And THEN, years from now when Elena’s awake, Damon could take it from Enzo. Any questions?

Well, Bonnie has one: What about her happiness?! After she and Enzo finally arrive at the house she bought with the money her dad left behind, she allows herself to picture their life together, only to be reminded that her role on this show is to sacrifice her happiness for her that of her friends. So, she agrees to get the cure for them to use on Cade.

Speaking of Cade, he arrives at the Mystic Grill just after Caroline gives Dorian an insurance policy all his own in the form of yet another blood orange margarita. It’s then we learn he got into occult studies after believing his family was “cursed” until he saw his little sister in a dream and could feel she was at peace. No idea what that has to do with the story, but I’m sure it will come into play later. (Something else that will come into play? The additional Maxwell heirloom that Dorian later hands Matt.)

Back to the Cade of it all, he walks into the Grill and instantly kills three people before Matt leads all of the folks who are “free of evildoing” outside. Damon then enters, and Cade fills him in on the task Stefan’s currently completing. Much in the way Cade gave Damon a choice, he gave Stefan the same one: Kill 100 people or your brother’s girl. And it seems Stefan chose to kill Elena.

With that, Damon kills the first innocent person he sees, a visual that ensures Dorian will never choose life as a vampire. Caroline then gets Dorian to safety before Damon goes after Stefan.

In the meantime, Caroline calls her former fiancé, who’s almost done with Bonnie’s real estate agent. That house Bonnie and Enzo are currently at? It’s where she moved Elena after Damon and Enzo went missing. And now, Stefan’s changing the lease.

Just as Enzo tells Bonnie he’ll still love her just as much if he remains a vampire, he’s ripped from the house. He’s no longer invited in … but Stefan is.

Damon, desperate, calls his brother and begs him not to hurt Elena. And that’s when Damon realizes his call to the NYPD is no good, because Elena’s not in Brooklyn. It seems Cade’s morning coffee run served as his chance to read Bonnie’s mind and get the address of Elena’s new home. And now, Stefan’s on his way to kill the woman he once loved.

As Stefan tells his brother, Damon will keep trying to interfere “as long as we’re connected through her.” That’s why Stefan wants Elena gone. Because when Damon blames Stefan for her death, he’ll finally stop trying to save him, and Stefan will finally be free. (Anyone else have season 3 flashbacks of Stefan trying to make Elena hate him?) At this point, Stefan’s sick of Elena constantly coming between them, so he’s here to end it.

And this is where it all happens. Just as Bonnie finishes extracting the cure from Elena’s blood, Stefan rips out Enzo’s heart. And just before he can kill Bonnie too, she injects him with the cure! And in the final seconds of the episode, Bonnie lets out a scream so powerful it releases a psychic energy. I have no idea what all that could mean — Does Bonnie have her magic back?! — but I know Enzo is dead, Stefan is human, and I have chills.

There’s a lot to like in this episode, from the Caroline-Matt debate of whether the supernatural world is good or evil and what it’s done to the town, to Bonnie and Enzo’s tragic love story. But all I know is that ending is going to stick with me for a while.

What did you all think of the episode? Hit the comments with your thoughts or find me on Twitter @samhighfill.

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