A flashback to the 1920s unlocks memories for Stefan, while Damon and Elena hit the road to find him

By Nuzhat Naoreen
September 30, 2011 at 07:07 AM EDT
Annette Brown/The CW

Shortly before the second season of The Vampire Diaries premiered, critics, bloggers and fans alike began to wonder whether it was headed for the all-too-common sophomore slump. At the time, I was confident that the show would manage to keep its momentum. And it did. Getting better and better with each passing episode. Yet, all that being said, as we headed toward season 3, even I began to wonder whether it could to sustain itself. After all, how can a show that sets the bar so high from the outset continue to not only satisfy expectations, but raise them?

The answer, it seems, is with a set of writers who care enough about the story (and the fans) to put together an episode like tonight’s, complete with a flashback to the flapper era that could not have been easy to pull off. From beautiful costumes to deep storytelling, for me, this episode worked on multiple levels. So let’s breakdown what made it so fantastic.

You know you’re in for a great ride when the first twist of the night happens approximately five seconds into the episode. Welcome back, Katherine, oh how you’ve been missed. Kat kicks things off right with a phone call to Damon to tip him off about Stefan’s whereabouts (Chicago in case you’re wondering). Turns out our vixen has been keeping tabs on Klaus all along. Though she claims she only did it so she could avoid his path, Damon suspects that it’s actually because she cares about Stefan — a theory I totally agree with. Armed with the new info, Damon heads straight to Elena’s house…correction, bed. Yes, that’s right, Damon, being the troublemaker that he is, decides to give Elena a wake-up call by snuggling up next to her. Maybe it’s just me, but she seemed mighty comfortable lying next to him. Okay fine, so she wasn’t even conscious but I like to read into things. Anyway, once she wakes up/flips out/gets over Damon being in her bed, she packs a bag and joins him on a road trip to the Windy City. What is this, their third one so far?

On the way, Damon (who really shouldn’t have a license) tries to get her to read old entries from Stefan’s diary to prepare herself for their journey into his past. But Elena refuses, citing invasion of privacy…because you know, when your boyfriend is on the brink of madness thanks to a power-hungry hybrid, what really matters is invasion of privacy. Sure. Okay.

Speaking of said boyfriend, he’s taking a little trip of his own. Except unlike Elena and Damon’s roadside adventures, Stefan is joining Klaus for a walk down memory lane. Klaus, it seems, wants to remind him of a time when all that mattered was partying, drinking, and binging on blood. Cue the flashbacks, narrated by Klaus (who is apparently a very good storyteller).

NEXT: It’s time for the roaring ’20s…

The first flashback of the night transports us to the 1920s, where we find a ravenous Stefan finishing off a date minutes before heading inside a speakeasy. The venue’s lead singer, Gloria, is quick to recognize him, announcing over the mic that if any ladies are looking for a good time, he’s the guy to see. Judging by how smoldering he looks in his tux I’m sure plenty of ladies found they needed a good time. Before he can settle on dessert for the night though, he’s caught off guard by a pretty blond who steals his drink without so much as a second look. She turns out to be a vampire with a British accent and confidence to spare. He’s naturally intrigued by this mystery woman, and so am I.

Of course, just as we’re hooked, Klaus cuts the story short in favor of taking Stefan to the old speakeasy where much of it took place. There Klaus meets Gloria, the singer from the bar. Turns out her voice isn’t the only magical thing about her. Gloria is a witch, who has managed to remain remarkably young thanks to a mix of herbs and spells (though Bonnie wasn’t in this episode, I really hope she was taking notes). Klaus sends Stefan to the bar to make drinks (which irritates me because he’s supposed to be a partner in crime, not a personal assistant!), and tells Gloria that he needs her help figuring out what went wrong in breaking the curse.  She says that in order to find out they’ll need to contact the original witch who made it happen. Klaus informs her that the witch is dead (he’s referring to Greta, right?!), but Gloria says that there’s a way to contact her. To make it happen though, she’ll need the help of someone named Rebekah. As they’re negotiating the terms of their agreement, Stefan’s still by the bar mixing drinks (he is a slow bartender apparently), while simultaneously using his super-hearing powers to eavesdrop on their convo (even though, he’s only like five feet away). He doesn’t catch much because he’s distracted by a black and white photo that catches his eye. It’s a picture of him and Klaus from the good old Ripper days. Yep that’s right, turns out these two were friends way before Mystic Falls. Surprise!

Speaking of surprises, Caroline got a pretty big one last week when she learned her father had returned to “fix” her. Things haven’t exactly gotten better for her since then. Turns out daddy’s convinced he can use a little negative reinforcement to get his daughter to stop craving blood. So, he begins his experiment by removing her ring, and burning her over and over again with the sunlight. I actually found these scenes hard to watch, but that’s to Candice Accola’s credit. The girl knows how to convey pain. For awhile, I was worried that no one was going to pick up on the fact that she was actually missing, but thankfully Tyler had the good sense to go to Caroline’s mother.

NEXT: The hunt for Stefan heats up…

Back in Chicago, Damon and Elena search for Stefan, starting with his old apartment (which has apparently gone untouched for decades?). There, Damon shows Elena a hidden closet with a list of Stefan’s victims, and trust me, there are a lot. For some reason, he thinks it’s a good idea to leave her there alone while he goes to search for Stefan. After all what could POSSIBLY go wrong right? You’d think Mr. Overprotective would have been a little smarter here.

Anyway, little does Damon know that his brother is at a nearby bar reeling from the realization that he and Klaus have a history. But it gets better. According to Klaus, they didn’t exactly get off to a good start. And so begins another story. We’re back in the 1920s but this time we’ve dropped in on a scene that feels quite R-rated. Stefan is with his mystery woman again though now it seems like she’s warmed to him. They’re both feeding on the same girl and once they’re done with their meal, they start making out. Somewhere amidst the kisses Stefan notices her necklace. Cue another twist I never saw coming: The necklace Stefan admires is the same one he gave to Elena back in season 1 (yeah, that’s right he re-gifted!). You know, the one Damon recently found and returned to her on her birthday? That one. To think, all this time I thought it was nothing more than a romantic prop. Kudos on that curveball, TVD writers. Anyway, before Stefan and blondie can make out some more, Klaus swoops in and pulls her away. Turns out Stefan’s 1920s love interest was none other than Klaus’ sister, Rebekah.

This is of course the same Rebekah whose help Gloria said she needed to figure out what went wrong with Klaus’ spell. Luckily for him, Rebekah isn’t far. Remember how Klaus killed all his family and stored them in coffins? Well, it looks like at least one of his siblings is poised to come back.

Klaus and Stefan go to check on Rebekah’s dead body, and after seeing her face Stefan says he still can’t remember who she was to him. Not that I blame him, I mean dead vampires aren’t exactly attractive you know? As we learn from another flashback though, back in the day he used to be quite smitten with her. So much so that he actually went to dinner with Klaus to prove his worth. He didn’t have to do much, because as soon Klaus saw Stefan’s sinister side in action (which in this case, involved making a man drink his wife’s blood) he was a fan. Even with the new info, Stefan still doesn’t trust that he and Klaus are old pals. So, Klaus decides to prove it to him and suggests they head back to his old apartment. At this point, I banged furiously against my keyboard because obviously, while Damon is out gathering intel, Elena is hanging in Stefan’s old room reading his diary. Yeah that’s right, she’s invading his privacy! But that’s not important anymore, what’s important is that Klaus is going to arrive at any second. RUN ELENA.

NEXT: It’s a close call for Elena…

Okay, more like hide. Elena sneaks into a closet, while Klaus reminds Stefan that he used to love writing down the names of each of his kills so he could relive them over and over again. Of course, the names are all on the wall of the very closet Elena is hiding in and it’s not long before Klaus swings the door open. Luckily, Elena manages to stay out of Klaus’ sight (you’d think a hybrid would have been able to sniff her out at this point…) but Stefan spots her. They spend a long moment gazing into each other’s eyes (a moment during which I was yelling “CLOSE THE DOOR”), before Stefan grabs a bottle of wine and gives Klaus an excuse to leave the apartment.

Eventually, Damon comes back and instead of asking Elena how she’s doing post-almost-run-in with Klaus, he tells her to get dressed for a yet-to-be-disclosed mission to save Stefan. Is it me, or was Elena a little disappointed that Damon took her brush with death so lightly?

While Elena gets all pretty, Klaus and Stefan down drinks back at the bar as they wait for Rebekah to show up. There, Klaus reveals that back in the day Stefan used to want to be his wingman, and we see via flashback that he’s not lying. The two genuinely were good friends and the only reason they were separated was because Klaus had to go on the run after an unexpected shootout at the speakeasy. While the details surrounding the event weren’t completely clear, what was evident is that Klaus was running from someone. Before he jetted off though, he made sure to erase Stefan’s memory of both him and his sister. Speaking of Bex, to her credit she didn’t ditch Stefan during the shootout. In fact, she even decided to stay with him rather than go with Klaus (which is, of course, when he “killed” her and took away her choice).

Before Stefan can dig deeper into the story though, he catches sight of Damon, who signals him to step outside where Elena is waiting for him. She begs Stefan to come home and just when he lets her get close enough she pulls out a needle with vervaine  (always a good backup option when puppy dog eyes don’t work). Of course, she’s not fast enough because Stefan catches her hand before she can knock him out, and proceeds to give her a harsh reality check on how things can never be the same. While Stefan pushes her away, Damon’s inside chit-chatting with Klaus. Okay, so it’s less chit-chat and more getting stabbed, but he manages to make it out of there alive.

Damon links up with Elena and the two decide it’s time to return to Mystic Falls, although things aren’t exactly peachy there either.

NEXT: Another round of twists…

Back in town, Caroline is still in the cellar being tortured by her father who’s convinced he can change her. Caroline keeps insisting it’s not possible, which is when he admits that if he can’t save her he’ll have to kill her. Great parenting. As he’s about to leave for the night, he comes face to face with Ms. Forbes, who’s got a gun locked and loaded pointing directly at him. I’m not sure how she found him in the cellar, but I could not have been happier to see her. Seriously, way to go Mystic Falls moms! As Bill tries to convince her that what he’s doing is the best for their daughter, Ms. Forbes calls for some backup a.k.a. Tyler, who carries a weak Caroline out of the cellar. Swoon. They end up back at her house, where Ms. Forbes gives Caroline blood bags, a small moment which shows us just how far their relationship has come. Tyler pops in soon after and makes a crack about taking her to task for sneaking out of his bed the previous morning. Double swoon. Then, he holds her while she cries about her father hating her. It amazes me that I’ve gone from not caring about this pairing at all, to absolutely loving them together, but with scenes like this how can you not?

Meanwhile, Klaus and Stefan hit the final chapter of their story. With Rebekah back to life, Klaus compels Stefan to remember everything that he once made him forget. You can immediately see the spark in his eyes when he recognizes Rebekah and then again when the memories of his friendship with Klaus come back. It’s a pivotal moment that will undoubtedly change the season going forward, and I’m especially curious to see how it effects Stefan’s long-term relationship with Elena. Personally, I think his love for her overpowers all the rest but that being said, having to deal with feelings for an old girlfriend he didn’t even know he had is bound to mess with his head a little.

Klaus tells Rebekah that she has something Gloria needs, and she realizes he means her necklace. Except, she doesn’t have it anymore. As Bex begins to furiously search for it, Stefan looks on, fully aware that it’s hanging off Elena’s neck. Also, as if that wasn’t enough of a major shocker, we also learn that Klaus’ other name is Nick. Did he change his name to sound more tough? I need to know more about this now.

Over at Casa Del Salvatore, Damon is back on the phone with Katherine and though she doesn’t reveal it to him we learn that she’s in Chicago, where she’s apparently been doing some reminiscing of her own. It turns out Katherine was at the bar the night that Klaus (or should I say Nick?!) and Bex made a run for it and in addition to seeing a memory-swiped Stefan cluelessly pick up Rebekah’s necklace from the floor, she also saw the police commissioner who was hunting Klaus. In essence, once again Kat manages to get the best card. Now it’s just a matter of how she’s going to play it.

Okay, now it’s your turn! What did you think of tonight’s episode? How do you feel about this whole Bex-Stefan thing? What should their couple name be (Befan)?! And who do you think Klaus was running from? So many questions, so little time. Let’s get the theories started below!

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