Caroline and Enzo try to remind Stefan about Damon as Alaric works to make Elena forget him.

By Mandi Bierly
Updated October 10, 2014 at 03:26 AM EDT
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If this episode does nothing else, it gets “Whatta Man” stuck in your head. But chances are, it also makes you tear up as Elena finally admits she first felt love for Damon on her 18th birthday when he selflessly gave her back her necklace, and Alaric successfully erases her feelings for him. Now, Damon is just Stefan’s brother who snapped Jeremy’s neck that time and later died. Ouch. And that isn’t the only development: Damon and Bonnie realize they’re living a Groundhog Day in 1994 and they’re not alone, Enzo is a bit of a hero (in his own way), and we have a villain (hello, Tripp Fell). Here we go.

Four months ago, Damon and Bonnie didn’t really go anywhere. Well, technically, they stayed in Mystic Falls but went back 20 years to May 10, 1994. No one else is around, but otherwise, everything is as it was that year. As Damon goes on a bourbon and pancake-making bender to “Whatta Man”—an instant classic Damon moment, right up there with him dancing with Vicki—Bonnie visits her old house and finds her old teddy bear and Grams’ grimoire. Maybe she can teach herself magic again and get them out of there. When they realize they’re reliving the same day, Damon decides it’s his own personal hell. Granted, these two notoriously dislike each other, but he’s back in Salvatore Mansion, so it’s tough to feel bad for him when the alternative would be, you know, a real death. In the end, Bonnie wonders if it’s her hell they’re in, but the two of them seem to understand that they need to coexist because they’re all each other has. When the crossword puzzle answer that has escaped Bonnie for weeks ends up solved (27 across: YellowLedBetter, the episode title), they know someone else is in that house that they can’t see… Who? Is it someone we already know? A new character? Why did we have to go back 20 years?

Alaric, meanwhile, sits down with Elena and tells her he’s going to use a combination of hypnotherapy and memory reprocessing techniques to erase her love for Damon. They have to find the signature moment—the moment she first knew she loved him—and then the rest of her memories would fall like dominoes. She tells Alaric about the first time she and Damon met in the road. Not it, so it wasn’t love at first sight. When he kissed her on the porch in season 3? No. When he rescued her from the embarrassment of being an escort-less Miss Mystic Falls contestant and they danced? No, but that was the first time she allowed herself to feel how sexy he was. It didn’t involve the sire bond (yes, let’s all forget about that). It wasn’t at the motel that night that she wanted to kiss him so badly and did.

Both Elena and Alaric get frustrated at their lack of success. She wants to give up, leaves a message for Luke asking for more herbs, and starts unpacking the box of Damon photos and shirts she tore open during sex. But Alaric phones Caroline, who tells him he just has to get Elena to admit she fell in love with Damon while she was still with Stefan. Alaric was so wonderful and nonjudgmental in the scene with Elena: He’s right, you’re allowed to fall in love with more than one person in your life, it’s just that Elena was lucky enough to do it while she’s so young (and okay, with brothers). Like Katherine used to say, it’s okay to love them both. Elena does know the exact moment: It was her 18th birthday party in the season 3 premiere.

“Even though he loved me, he gave me the one thing that represented hope for me and his brother. I knew how much it hurt him, but he did it. It was the most selfless that he’s ever been,” she tells Alaric. “And in that moment, I loved him. I didn’t want to—it terrified me. But, for that moment, I loved him.” Was that the moment you would have picked? Watching the clip above, it doesn’t seem as earth-shattering as, say, their season 2 finale kiss on what was supposed to be Damon’s deathbed when she admitted she liked him just as he is, and Katherine delivered Klaus’ blood to cure the werewolf bite and told Elena it was okay to love them both. But it makes perfect sense.

Elena tells Alaric, “Do it. It’s okay. I’m ready,” and the tears come—for her and for fans. Alaric tells her Damon never came into the room, never gave her the necklace. The party sucked and she spent the rest of the night watching movies and eating popcorn with Jeremy. Jeremy: She remembers Damon snapping his neck. Now when Alaric asks her who Damon is, she doesn’t say he was her boyfriend and she loved him. He’s just Stefan’s brother, a monster who died. What’s interesting, besides that beautiful rendition of “All Through the Night” playing, is that when Elena had earlier explained this plan to someone, she said Alaric can bring back her memories if Damon does return. Can it really be that simple?

NEXT: Stefan is a dick

Let’s move on to Stefan and Caroline. Ivy, the girl he slept with, has the nerve to think she can stay and make breakfast. He sends her on her way but suggests she come over for dinner that night and he’ll cook. Caroline is pissed when she hears from Alaric that Stefan hasn’t been following the leads on Damon and Bonnie for months. Luckily, Enzo has been on that beat—and his knees, trying to woo information out of a hotel coat check girl, who ultimately tells him there’s a weird “Gemini coven” of witches in New Orleans that found a way to communicate with their ancestors on the other side before it went away, so they might know where Bonnie and Damon are. Caroline interrupts Enzo before things get good—sorry, coat check girl—and Enzo takes Caroline to Savannah to crash Stefan’s date night.

It’s the most awkward dinner in TVD history, and that’s saying something. Enzo has enough of Stefan pretending everything’s fine and stabs his hand. Caroline ushers Ivy away, and the boys have a fight that ends with Stefan being stabbed in the neck because Enzo is angry that Stefan gave up on Damon, and Enzo getting his neck snapped. After Stefan overhears Caroline telling Alaric that Elena fell for Damon when she was still with Stefan, he doesn’t seem to really care. Caroline wants to know why he doesn’t care about any of it now when that used to be what she liked about him. He says he spent two months talking to witches and shamans in 20 countries and no lead, including the Gemini coven, panned out. He had to—for his own sanity—give up and move on. She can’t believe he didn’t return her messages, and she realizes he never even listened to them. He had to move on from everyone, he says. She summarizes her messages: You’re a dick.

I’ve said it before: When Caroline cries, I cry. She storms out and sobs in the car waiting for Enzo to wake up and join her. She gets a call from newly-erased Elena who just thinks she spent the day crying to Alaric about Bonnie and suddenly feels so much better. Elena wants to go out and party, but Caroline suggests she’ll sneak into the dorm later. Enzo returns to the car, sees Caroline’s been weeping, and marches right back into Stefan’s home. My heart grows three sizes for Enzo… until he snaps Ivy’s neck. Long speech short: He tells Stefan that he’s going to make him suffer. Every time he sees him trying to start a new life and acting like his brother’s not missing, he’s going to ruin it for him. He snaps Stefan’s neck. A little drastic, Enzo, but sweet. Sort of.

Jeremy, Jeremy, Jeremy. He’s hurting. Finding out that he’s paying Bonnie’s cell phone bill so he can leave her messages ranting about how she said goodbye to him on the phone is supposed to make us feel for him. And maybe you did, for a second, but he’s still just so annoying that you can’t even enjoy him being shirtless. Since Matt doesn’t want the girl Elena drank from (and who admits to stealing her boss’ car) staying with them, Jeremy says they’ll go Salvatore Mansion and bone there. The girl, it turns out, has a father she’s never met in Mystic Falls. Who’s that? Wouldn’t it be kind of awesome if she’s Bonnie’s half-sister (and doesn’t know her dad’s dead)? Maybe that’s why Bonnie’s gone back 20 years? So we can see evidence of the girl then? It’s not Tripp, right?

Speaking of that dick, we find out he’s been rounding up vampires outside of Mystic Falls and driving them into town so they’ll burn up in the back of his sunroofed paddy wagon of death. His real name is Thomas Vincent Fell III. He’s from one of Mystic Falls’ founding families. Is he a Big Bad or just a bad man? Not having a dense Silas-size mythology is nice, but the show does need a threat other than a broken heart. The way he smiled at the vampires’ decimation? He needs to go down.

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The Vampire Diaries

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