Caroline and Stefan get married, but there's more than one surprise guest in Mystic Falls
We're Planning a June Wedding
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…

Well, it happened: Stefan and Caroline are married. But before we get too far into it, let’s start where we always do…

“We’re Planning a June Wedding”: As pretty much all fans know at this point, Caroline says this line in the pilot. And yes, it’s about Stefan. After Stefan takes Mystic Falls High School by storm, Caroline decides that she’s going to land the new “mystery guy,” and between third and fourth period, she learns everything she can about him — he’s a Gemini, his favorite color is blue, etc. — and declares that they’re planning a June wedding. Jump ahead eight seasons, and it might not be a June wedding, but it’s definitely a wedding.

The start of the hour shows a curly-haired woman who looks to be Katherine walking through the town square — ahead of the Founder’s Day parade, which is a lovely callback to the season 1 finale — before murdering an innocent bystander. Of course, we all assume that’s the Queen of Hell herself, Katherine Pierce. But it’s not until later that we’ll discover the truth.

Back at the Salvatore mansion, everyone is getting caught up: Not only has Kelly Donovan mysteriously returned to town, but Katherine Pierce is coming for them all. And that means they need a plan. Dorian suggests they create a weapon from Katherine’s bones, much like the one they used to kill Cade. And thanks to Katherine’s Traveler barbecue when she possessed Elena, her bones are currently residing in the very tomb where she spent some time in season 2. So while Stefan and Damon head out to retrieve the bones that they’re hoping Peter Maxwell can forge into a metal dagger, Dorian and Ric are left to brainstorm ways to destroy hell itself.

While they ponder that, Damon has a plan for the dagger: They can lure Katherine out by shoving Stefan’s happiness in her face. After all, there’s one party Katherine would never miss, and that is the wedding of Stefan Salvatore.

Not surprisingly, Caroline “the control freak” Forbes is none too happy about her happy day being hijacked to kill Katherine, but not even she can be as bummed out as Bonnie right now. Bonnie explains to Caroline that she won’t attend the wedding because she can’t watch Stefan be happy. Caroline understands and reminds her best friend of just how much she loves her, and all the while Stefan listens in: a shot that mirrors the moment in season 2 when Stefan listened as Elena told Jenna the truth about vampires.

Back in the tomb — which is giving me so many flashbacks — Stefan and Damon have a bit of a heart-to-heart while they retrieve the bones of the first Petrova doppelganger who stole their hearts. Damon, in a rare “older brother moment,” tells Stefan that what he did to Enzo is something that will haunt him forever. But the Stefan who’s standing here now, the one who’s going to marry Caroline, didn’t kill Enzo. It was “evil nasty Ripper Stefan” who killed Enzo, and Damon reminds his brother, “You are not him.”

The recently ordained Damon then has a bit too much fun with Katherine’s skull before he speaks for all of us when he says how fitting it feels for the bitch who started it all to be the one who’s back to try to end it. Taking us quite literally through all the seasons, Damon says Katherine is the one who sent them down the path of “Ripper sprees, the Originals, the cure, Silas, the Other Side, prison world, Gemini twins, Heretics, and don’t get me started on doppelgangers…” But Stefan is quick to remind his brother that “we had some good things happen to us, too.”

Looking back on this show, Katherine is the one who turned the Salvatore brothers into vampires. She’s the one who turned Caroline into a vampire. She was the first real big bad of the series (following Damon’s villainous stint, of course). Her arrival in Mystic Falls turned Elena’s life upside down. She really is the “baddest bitch of all,” so she’s the perfect villain to end this series.

But as for Stefan and Damon, Damon’s breaking out the booze because apparently, impromptu weddings call for impromptu bachelor parties, even if that means drinking while collecting the bones of the woman you both used to love.

Meanwhile, back at the Grill, Matt is trying to get to the bottom of his mother’s return, but she claims that she’s simply had a few years to think and want “to do things better now.” As she tells her son, people do change.

Yeah, they do. They DIE and then they come back from hell as something that coughs up black stuff. Sorry, to be more specific: Kelly makes her way to the bathroom, where she coughs up something that looks like blood but is black and then kills an innocent bystander because she says murder is a short-term remedy for her condition. Her condition? Returning from hell, because Kelly Donovan is not alive, guys, and she hasn’t been for a while.

NEXT: Damon and Caroline bond

Getting back to the wedding of it all, Stefan leaves “something old” for Caroline, and she finds it just as Damon walks her drunk fiancé through the door. Remember, Stefan is human now, which means he’s a lightweight. And after more than 100 years, there’s a good chance he’s going to vomit. (Welcome to your human life, Stefan! Here’s a trash can!)

So, with Stefan out of the game, Damon needs a new drinking buddy. Who says one Salvatore can’t throw both the bachelor and bachelorette party?

Together, Caroline and Damon toast to Liz, the “mom who started out hating me and became one of my closest friends,” Damon says. “She was strong. She was loving, and not only did she protect this town, but she raised an incredible daughter who I now get to call family. To Liz Forbes. Gone but never forgotten.” Yeah, I’m sobbing at this point. But Damon’s not done yet. (This guy’s on a roll!)

When Caroline can’t get over how many people will miss her wedding day — her mom, Elena, Bonnie, her girls — Damon hands her Elena’s necklace. He’s not asking Caroline’s forgiveness just yet, but this way, Elena will be with her tomorrow. Consider it her something borrowed (because Damon definitely wants it back).

At the Lockwood mansion, Bonnie is setting up for the wedding when Enzo shows up and kisses her. Considering their ability to touch, he reminds her that magic has to be involved somehow. But more importantly, he tells her that she should attend the wedding, because the version of Stefan that killed him died when Bonnie gave him the cure. Now, the real Stefan is back, and he’s getting married. He reminds her that she can share in Stefan and Caroline’s happiness without it negating theirs. Speaking of their happiness, Enzo paints the perfect picture of their wedding day — the church, their first dance, and of course, the fact that he is “the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” (Or, you know, wherever it is that he is.)

After that speech, Bonnie has no choice but to be there for her best friend. First, she leaves a present for Caroline — a tiara — before Ric stops by and drops off the girls. It seems Stefan called in a favor with Valerie, who put a protection spell on the twins. Translation: They can watch their mom get married. But Ric can’t. It hurts too much. Mirroring Elena’s sentiment to Stefan when they said goodbye in the season 6 finale, Ric tells Caroline to “be happy.” And she will, especially considering the fact that Bonnie shows up at the last minute to be her maid of honor.

Just before the ceremony starts, Kelly Donovan goes looking for the bone dagger made for Katherine, but she’s too late. Peter already gave it to Stefan, who’s just about done getting ready when he tells Damon that he hopes to see his older brother’s wedding to Elena one day. Stefan wants his brother to get that human life with Elena, and Damon wants him there too. “Because I’m gonna need a best man,” Damon tells him. “Hopefully your hero hair hasn’t fallen out by then.”

With that, the Salvatores head out into the crowd of compelled guests to start the wedding. To kick things off, Damon has the orchestra play the opening waltz from the Founder’s Ball, the same one that Stefan and Katherine danced to in 1864. If she’s going to show up, now’s the time.

At that moment, a curly-haired figure texts Kelly Donovan with the message, “Game on” — the same message Katherine sent the Salvatores after she killed Caroline in season 2. But we still don’t see her face. Not yet.

Back at the Armory, Dorian is trying to figure out if they can create an explosion of psychic energy to destroy hell, but Ric isn’t paying any attention. At this moment, Caroline is getting her happy ever after, so Ric, feeling reflective, tells Dorian the story of why he first came to Mystic Falls: He was going to kill Damon because he thought he’d killed Isobel. Only, Damon had turned Isobel, and it had been what she wanted. As for how Ric moved on from that, he tells Dorian, “I guess I didn’t have the energy to hate somebody forever.”

As Caroline walks down the aisle, Ric’s voiceover says, “We’ve all made terrible mistakes in our lives, done things that no apology can heal. But you just have to keep going, try to find some new happiness no matter how much you’ve lost. The strange thing is: Losing those people is what brought us together. It’s how we found each other. It’s what made us family.”

I love this speech so much, because while it applies to Ric and Caroline, it’s about every single person on this show. This is a show about loss, and it’s loss that has brought us to where we are, that has given these characters a family in one another. And now I’m crying again.

NEXT: Caroline and Stefan tie the knot

Once Caroline makes it down the aisle, Stefan recognizes the necklace she’s wearing. It turns out, what Caroline thought was a gift from Stefan actually belongs to Katherine, but the doppelganger is not ready to show her face yet. And when no one objects to the union — not going to lie, that would’ve been a great entrance for Kitty Kat — Damon moves forward with the ceremony, even though neither Stefan nor Caroline prepared vows.

Instead, they wing it. Stefan tells Caroline, “You’ve been my friend, my conscience, my sounding board. You saw light in me when all I saw was darkness. You saved me from despair. You told me once that I would fall madly in love without realizing it, and that’s what happened — day by day, bit by bit, year by year, with you.”

Caroline remembers saying that at her prom — in season 4, if you need a reminder. Caroline also remembers “how you told me that when I was ready for you, you would be ready for me. I’m ready now.” (A season 6 finale reference.) Caroline goes on to say that a part of her has been ready for this day from the first time he was the “new mystery guy” in the hallway at school, yet another callback to the pilot. And then, in a moment that brings everything back to reality, she promises to remember this moment 100 years from now… for both of them. BECAUSE STEFAN WILL BE DEAD. I CANNOT DEAL WITH THIS.

And then when Damon says, “You may kiss the bride, little brother,” is when I completely lose it. I’m a goner guys; it was nice knowing you all.

At the reception, Bonnie shares a brief dance with Damon (and Enzo) before a drunk Kelly Donovan interrupts Damon’s best man speech, which I actually really wanted to hear. Just after Matt finds his injured father, Kelly explains that she actually died two years ago from a bad fall and no one noticed. The only person who cares about her? Katherine. And that’s why she caused a gas leak in the mansion.

Just then, with Caroline’s daughters and Bonnie inside, the Lockwood mansion blows up.

But don’t worry: If we’ve learned anything in eight seasons, it’s that Bonnie Bennett does not die easily. Inside, the twins are keeping her alive by siphoning her magic. Yep, Bonnie has magic! But if they siphon it, will she lose her ability to see Enzo? In that moment, Enzo appears to her and tells her that he believes they will be together again. “When I see you again, there’ll be only peace and no one will ever part us,” he says in what is some beautiful acting from both Michael Malarkey and Kat Graham. He tells Bonnie to live her life — all of it — and after one final, “I love you,” Bonnie instructs the girls on what to say. Together, they are able to use magic to send the fire out of the house through the chimney.

Back on the dance floor, Damon and Matt demand answers from Kelly, who reveals that she did all of this simply to avoid being tortured in hell. As for Katherine’s plan, Kelly was only supposed to keep everyone distracted while Katherine burns Mystic Falls to the ground with hellfire. But considering she needs a Maxwell to ring the bell, well, it’s a good thing that the curly-haired mystery woman of the hour isn’t Katherine… but instead, it’s Vicki Donovan! And when she rings the bell, which marks its twelfth ring, Bonnie collapses.

With that, Kelly Donovan dies, Bonnie’s unconscious, and if I were to wager a guess, hellfire is headed for Mystic Falls. At this point, we better hope the Salvatores have enough gas in the tank to go one more round with the formidable (and sexy) Katherine Pierce.

Overall, there’s a lot to like about this hour. The wedding was beautiful, and I’m loving every single brother moment we have left. Plus, I love a last-minute twist. I don’t think it’s as strong as last week’s showing, but I’m excited (and scared) to see what the finale holds. Also, HOW IS IT ALREADY FINALE TIME?!

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

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