The plan to bring everyone back from The Other Side ends in tears and more than one game-changer
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…

The good news: Paul Wesley is not a liar. He told EW that the season finale would end with a cliffhanger that put someone in a position worse off than Stefan. The bad news: That person is Damon, who didn’t return from the Other Side. He and Bonnie held hands as it appeared to crumble. The screen went white. Presumably, they found peace — that’s comforting. But according to our instant reaction polls, nine out of 10 viewers can’t imagine season 6 with Damon (Ian Somerhalder). So how could he return? Before we get into theories, let’s start at the beginning. Tissues ready.

Caroline brought Stefan’s dead body back to the Salvatore living room, laid him on the sofa, and sobbed. She didn’t know where to take him, she told Damon and Elena, and she couldn’t leave him outside. She expected Bonnie to have a plan to bring him back. Damon was determined to make it happen. Stefan was on the Other Side watching, tears in his eyes. And then the wind started. First he slid across the floor on his stomach (being dragged to hell?), and then he held onto a wall with his fingertips as his body was raised parallel to the ground. Why did the abyss target him so soon? Luckily, a hand grabbed his. “I got you,” Lexi said. I squealed, cried, and got chills. I’d thought about the possibility of seeing Alaric if, as rumors suggested, Damon died this hour. The thought of that reunion made me tear up in my office earlier in the day. But I hadn’t expected to see Lexi. That friendship is just as special.

Damon went to see Bonnie and threw a fit in her dorm room when she told him she had no plan. How was she going to get a dozen Travelers to die and overwhelm her so people could sneak back from the Other Side? Enzo said he had a new plan — he just needed Bonnie to get him a witch to do the spell.

Liv was urging Luke to drive faster on their way out-of-town, but he was sure the vamps of Mystic Falls didn’t survive Markos’ spell. Wrong. Elena appeared in front of their car and Caroline behind it. The Wonder Twins didn’t want to risk their coven’s wrath by helping to bring people back, even if the Travelers including Markos would be killed in the process. So Caroline snapped Luke’s neck. He was on the Other Side. Liv would have to play.

Sheriff Forbes met up with Markos. She was still herself. She’d called for a 10-mile civilian evacuation around the town square citing a gas leak (that had supposedly killed all those people who’d had Passengers?). The Travelers reset the official Mystic Falls border to where their anti-witch magic spell started. They sent Julian/Tyler across the town line to where the witch’s magic was undone. He wasn’t a hybrid. He was just a hot werewolf whose neck had been snapped. He dropped dead.

Tyler came to Bonnie. At least he was himself now, not Julian. “The list keeps growing,” Enzo said of those who’d need to return.

NEXT: Someone needs to be a “younger, hotter Bruce Willis”

Damon met up with Matt and Jeremy, who’d mapped the anti-magic zone by marking the areas where he hated Damon less. Ha. We started to learn the plan: “Crazylocks” Liv would do the spell as Jeremy and Matt started a leak in the gas line that runs under the town and into the Grill, where Sheriff Forbes would assemble the Travelers for their forced sacrifice.

Lexi and Stefan were looking for Alaric at the Grill on the Other Side. She likes day drinkers, she said, but not all-you-can-eat potato skins. She asked Stefan why he hadn’t left Mystic Falls. She tried to tell him it was because he should be with Caroline, but she got cut off. Bonnie was on the phone with Jeremy, who had to go be a “younger, hotter Bruce Willis.” She told him once he and Matt set the deaths in motion, the Travelers would swarm her, and the others could return. She said she’d no longer be the anchor (lie!) and Jeremy wondered how she’d make it back then. She told him not to worry. We knew she wasn’t coming back.

The Traveler who Enzo had found to teach Bonnie the spell that Liv would need to do made his grand entrance — SILAS. I hadn’t thought we’d see him either, but man, I missed him. Bonnie reminded us that Silas had killed her father. Now she’d have to let bygones be bygones so she could bring back her friends — and him? Just wait.

Stefan asked Lexi why she hadn’t found peace. They decided if all else fails and the Other Side falls, they’ll find peace together — a death peace pact. She said she’d hate for him to miss his come-back-to-life window before he even had his first date with Caroline. “Oh, shut it,” he said. She said it. Thank you.

Silas taught Bonnie the spell. It didn’t go well. She was nervous about unleashing him, a plague, back on humanity. Speaking of mass murder, “How is my shadow self?” he asked. “Is it a crime for someone so good-looking to be so sad all the time?” When Elena asked who the Traveler was that would be helping them, Silas quipped, “Just the perfect specimen of man, that’s all.” Seriously, I missed him. Bonnie lied and told Elena it was a moody, senile old lady.

As Matt and Jeremy contemplated blowing up the only place dumb enough to hire them — another great line — Sheriff Forbes lured the Travelers to the Mystic Grill with an open bar and free food. She was supposed to speak to them, but since they were partying, she told Markos she wanted to take her own advice and evacuate town. Read: She wanted to get out before the explosion. He told her to stay so he could convince her that this could still be her home even if her daughter couldn’t visit her there.

Operation Massacre was on. Elena and Damon were in the woods. Project Kaboom needs someone to trigger the explosion, he told her. He’d volunteered. Now I always thought if we were going to lose Damon, it would be him sacrificing himself for Stefan, so I was thinking he may really die. Elena asked him if he saw a future with her, because he’s all she sees in hers. He told her it was only half a suicide mission since Bonnie would bring people back. Playing one of Elena’s favorite cards, he said she had to respect his choice. They kissed, and he promised her twice that he’d make it back. Just watching that epic backlit kiss, I wrote, “Lord, he’s going to get trapped on the Other Side!!!” in my notes.

NEXT: Mass murder!

In the woods, Silas confirmed Liv was ready after Bonnie taught her the spell. The wind picked up again on The Other Side, and both Enzo and Silas started to blow away. Bonnie grabbed on to Enzo as Silas reached for her. “Bygones,” she said, and watched Silas be swept away. Goodbye, perfect specimen!

Liv had her candles lit at 6:59, and she began chanting. Matt and Jeremy started the gas leak and ran. Bonnie stood and looked at the Bennett family tombstones wondering where Grams was. Don’t rush your elders, Bonnie. Grams told Bonnie she knew what she was doing (meaning lying to Jeremy still): She wouldn’t survive all the people coming through her, and if she did, she’d still be the anchor.

This time, Grams didn’t give Bonnie a lecture about being honest with Jeremy. She simply said it was a privilege to watch Bonnie grow into the beautiful woman she’d become. Ah. Bonnie wanted Grams to go through her, too, but Grams said no. Bonnie wasn’t the only one who made a sacrifice. Grams made peace because she made sure Bonnie would find hers. She wanted Bonnie to know she looked out for her. They hugged and cried. I cried and got chills again. Me, the person who’s been wishing Bonnie dead for seasons. Stefan and Lexi made it to them in time to see the embrace.

At the Grill, Markos got suspicious of Sheriff Forbes’ motives for hanging around town as her phone blew up (figuratively). She told him she smelled a gas leak so Markos would go check it out — and she knocked him out. She texted Damon that it was a go. Markos came to and grabbed her.

Damon, meanwhile, was finishing a bottle (of bourbon, no doubt) by the town sign. He got in his car to drive across the border. And then Elena got in with him. He’d have to respect her choice to die beside him. She realized she’d essentially start drowning as soon as they crossed the town line. Didn’t matter, she was all in. That’s love. As they drove, Elena started to cough up water and told Damon they had to die while they were still vampires. (But Tyler died as a human, right, and still went to The Other Side?) It seemed like Elena was going to say she loved him, but he already knew. They held hands and he floored it. He crashed the car into the Grill — flames.

The dead Travelers found Bonnie in the woods and started going through her to the Other Side, beginning with Markos. Damon and Elena went through her. She told them they’d wake up by their bodies and had to get back to her as soon as possible. Elena’s body was still in the car, fried. Damon’s had been thrown from the car. “Did you seriously wear your seatbelt?” Alaric asked her. ALARIC! She wanted to look for Damon, but he told her to get to Bonnie for Jeremy’s sake. He’d find Damon.

Damon saw Sheriff Forbes on the ground, and I thought she was dead. He went to lift a fallen beam off her, and Alaric was there to help him. REUNION! “Friendly advice, when you finally get the girl, don’t blow her up,” Alaric said. “Good to see you, too, buddy,” Damon said. Sheriff Forbes breathed. She’d somehow be okay. Time to go, guys!

NEXT: The Returned

Liv was still chanting and bleeding from her nose now. Luke demanded they not wait for Damon to go together. He was starting the return trips. After Luke, Enzo went. “See you around, gorgeous,” he said to Caroline as he walked past her. Tyler went through next. He hugged Caroline. Something felt different, he said. Tyler cut himself and he didn’t heal. He’s no longer a hybrid.

Lexi wanted Stefan to go. But when Elena showed up and said she wouldn’t leave without Elena, Stefan said he’d stay.

Bonnie grabbed Elena and back she came. Bonnie started coughing up blood and almost collapsed. Nice guy Stefan went to catch her, and boom, he was back. Lexi could tell every body that passed through Bonnie brought her closer to death. She didn’t want to go. But Markos did. Lexi kicked his ass and sent him flying into the abyss. Bonnie told her to pass through, it was her time. “What kind of a best friend would I be if you died before Stefan got his brother back?” Lexi put her arms out, and said to the abyss, “You’re not gonna get me.” She closed her eyes and got peace. I CRIED.

Damon and Alaric finally arrived, and Alaric passed through. Luke had seen enough of Liv suffering. He chanted and stopped the spell. When Bonnie went to touch Damon after he made sure Elena had gone back, nothing happened. Elena ran inside and found the candles out and Liv and Luke gone. Bonnie said that was it, it’d been there one shot. It’s too late. Elena cried. I didn’t because I was thinking they HAVE to try again in season 6. Damon can’t be gone for what I imagine will be the final season of the show.

Damon watched Elena cry. Bonnie told her that Damon was there and she could say goodbye.

Stefan, meanwhile, was on a perfectly lit bench in the middle of the graveyard. Caroline sat down with him, and he said he’d lost them both — the two people he’s loved longest in this world. Caroline knew he meant Damon and Lexi. Stefan figured Lexi was responsible for Markos not coming back, and that she found peace. Damon finally had everything he wanted and he was happy. “He should be here,” he said crying. Caroline held him.

Back to Elena. She wasn’t ready for a nice goodbye. “You lied to me,” she said to the invisible Damon. “Even if I wanted to apologize you couldn’t hear me, so I won’t,” he said, touching her face. She could feel that though. Nina Dobrev was not vain in that scene. She let herself cry. “Please don’t leave me,” she sobbed. “I don’t have a choice, baby,” he said. “And you are by far the greatest thing that ever happen to me in my 173 years on this earth. The fact that I get to die knowing that I was loved, not just by anyone, by you, Elena Gilbert, that’s the epitome of a fulfilled life.” She sank to the floor and sobbed harder. “It’s never gonna get any better than this. I peaked,” he said and touched her face again. “I love you, Elena,” he said slowly. I’m watching it again and CRYING AGAIN.

“Please. Please come back to me,” she said, crying even harder.

“Bye,” he said.

What I loved about that scene is how serenely Ian Somerhalder played Damon. He was already at peace. Damon was so fulfilled, so certain of his love for Elena that you forgot about all the drama of the past five seasons.

Bonnie phoned Jeremy to tell him she’d lied. There was never a way for her to stop being the anchor. When the Other Side goes, she goes to. She told him to take care of Elena and hung up. He needed to get to her.

Elena kept crying, and Alaric came in to comfort her. “He’s gone,” she said. Alaric held her. The CW has confirmed Matt Davis will be a series regular again next year. So that’s something to look forward to. Their embrace was cut short because they heard Jeremy screaming Bonnie’s name.

They saw her in the woods. We saw her on the Other Side. Damon walked up beside her. The wind was strong. The place was going down. Bonnie said there’s a million people they’d each rather be with at that moment but… she took his hand in her hers. I CRIED AGAIN. “Couple thousand at most,” he said.

“Do you think it will hurt?” she asked him, as the background began to turn white as though it was disappearing.

“I don’t kno—” he said. And that was it. He was cut off. The screen went completely white.

In my mind, they found peace. Like I said, we felt it with Damon; Grams made it sound like she’d made a deal for Bonnie to move on, whether or not Bonnie genuinely felt it. It was pretty brilliant to have Bonnie and Damon go out together, because we all pretty much feel like the show can survive without Bonnie. So you have to ask if Damon is really gone for good, even if your gut says no way Ian is off this show.

But what could bring him back? The Other Side is gone, so they can’t just find more Travelers to sacrifice and do the spell again. Are Bonnie and Damon in heaven? I can’t imagine how they do it. It would be rude of whatever higher being to send Damon back because he wasn’t part of Grams’ deal.

And let’s not forget, Tyler is no longer a hybrid. So does that mean everyone who came back from the Other Side is now human: Stefan and Elena, Alaric, and presumably long-gone Enzo? If so, why didn’t they feel it as soon as Tyler did?

My head hurts. Look for a postmortem with EP Julie Plec posting on our Inside TV blog Friday afternoon. Until then, this is the only relief I can offer you:

Episode Recaps

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…
The Vampire Diaries

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

  • TV Show