When last we saw the Salvatore brothers, they were headed out of Mystic Falls to carry out their mission for Cade: collecting the souls of evil-doers. Note the word “evil-doers,” because it’s a twist on the original mission Damon had been sanguine enough being part of; the original mission was collecting evil people’s souls, but Stefan’s new marching orders are to lure otherwise good people into committing even one evil act. It’s entrapment on a cosmic level, and Stefan is gung ho. Damon is clearly conflicted.
This week begins at an anger management support group meeting. Where better to find a person with evil in their heart, right? But the test they employ in this scene is flawed, to my mind. They ask a guy if he would rather see someone else from the group die, or if he would accept dying in their place. I don’t think that’s a measure of evil so much as one’s will to live. Most people wouldn’t choose to die in the place of some random acquaintance. (I mean, would they? Am I just more evil than the average? I suspect that most people, given time to consider their answer–and compelled to answer honestly, wouldn’t agree to die in place of someone they don’t deeply care for. Doesn’t mean they wouldn’t make a split-second choice to jump in the way to protect someone on instinct, definitely doesn’t mean they wouldn’t give their lives for their loved ones. Again with the weird morality on this show!)
Anyway, Damon dutifully kills the guy who said he’d rather live than die for his support group confidants, but when he looks up, he sees that Stefan has killed the entire rest of the group in that same time span. (He can’t have drained them all that quickly; Rippers are wasteful!) He chastises Stefan, but Stefan brattily points out that he didn’t rip their heads off, so he’s still in control of his Ripper tendencies. Um, whatever you say, bro.
Back home in Mystic Falls, Caroline is heading back to high school for an assignment. She describes it as being “embedded,” and for a moment, I wonder if they’re doing a Never Been Kissed (they’re not). She sits down in history class and asks how they like their history teacher. Somehow, she doesn’t get immediately terrified at how worshipful they are toward this new teacher…who of course turns out to be Sibyl.
Sibyl rolls her eyes at Caroline’s aggressive reaction and reminds her that she’s massively outgunned on every level. She states the obvious (that she is responsible for Caroline’s being assigned here in the first place), then illustrates the stakes by way of a demonstration: She can psychically kill any of these students in an instant. Caroline has no choice but to go along on the class trip.
Matt Donovan is still gamely sticking around town to be supportive and badass. Man, I love this guy. He heads over to the Armory to check in with Dorian (whom I will finally stop calling “the other intern,” now that he is in on the truth and actively involved in the plot). Dorian is getting some assistance from a local who has some key information they need…of course, it’s Peter Maxwell, aka Daddy Donovan. Man, screw this guy.
Damon awakens in a hospital bed, vervain weakening him through an IV drip. Stefan is quite sinister and smug about Damon’s predicament: unable to fight, flee, or compel anyone, Damon must simply lie there and take what comes. Stefan has another surprise for Damon; he tells him all about the doctor who will be checking on him: a pretty young brunette whose parents died tragically…of course, you can see where this is going. Her name is Tara, and she is a major league do-gooder, deeply involved with the organ transplant program, knows the names and stories of those in dire need by heart…so she’s ripe for Stefan’s spoil-the-good mission. And her resemblance to Elena makes it extra fun for him, as it allows him to torment Damon just a bit along the way.
Stefan is going to mess with this doctor’s mind and test her moral compass, and vervain-weakened Damon can’t do a thing to interfere.
Stefan turns on the charm with the doctor, softening her up with his mega-watt smile, then inviting her in on a private moment with his vaguely mournful gaze as he questions whether his selfish brother even deserves to be saved…especially when you consider all the innocent people in need of organ transplants at this very moment. Because he doesn’t have his humanity right now, he can’t tell when he’s going too far–he actually tells the doctor he’s been looking on the website where the top-priority transplant patients are listed, and he mentions a specific name. This is the moment where any sane person would recognize he’s a nutter who actively wants to see his brother die…and Dr. Tara disengages from him emotionally, telling him that she “can’t think like that,” because a doctor has to look at every life as equally worth saving.
Realizing he pushed too hard and is losing this one, Stefan cheats and compels her a little, leaving her with the implanted belief that Damon is actually the drunk driver responsible for her parents’ deaths. Suddenly, she has some skin in the game, and her Hippocratic oath is a little more abstract. I wonder if the cheat is entirely kosher, per his arrangement with Cade…Cade’s whole approach with Stefan was about Stefan’s charm, not his compulsion skills. But results are results, probably, when you’re dealing with the devil.
Dr. Tara goes in to talk to Damon, and you can see in her face, she’s already made up her mind to kill him. She’s not proud of her feelings, but she’s giving in to them. He feebly begs her to listen to him, to not do this thing, but she injects an air bubble into his IV line.
In the hospital parking lot, Stefan approaches Dr. Tara. She is understandably shaken when Damon joins them. Stefan gloats. Damon looks miserably resigned but also a touch less sympathetic to the woman who just blithely murdered him.
So, this week’s Mystic Falls history lesson is about the town’s origins. Caroline parrots the story she’s always heard about the Gilberts, Fells, Forbes, Lockwoods, and Salvatores in 1860, and Sibyl says, Nope! She doesn’t want to talk about the “story” of Mystic Falls, rather its actual history, which has been whitewashed by the so-called founding families…right down to the part where they call themselves the “founding families,” because they didn’t “found” the town so much as they found an existing town and claimed it as their own. Sibyl has brought the class and Caroline out to the site where 100 witches were burned at the stake in 1790. This, she says, is the true history of Mystic Falls.
The students are doing some incidental busywork in the background, and Caroline briefly asks about it but is ultimately distracted by Sibyl’s lesson about the witches and a gifted metalworker in town working together on a big project of great mystic significance…and oh by the way, I’m going to need you to find me a relic from that project, and if you don’t, these kids are all going to burn at the stake. Yep, while she had Caroline talking history, the kids have carried out their brainwashed instructions to build a network of stakes, tie each other up in groups, douse everything with fuel, and light a torch.
Caroline quite reasonably asks how the hell she’s supposed to know where to find this artifact, and Sibyl identifies it as the charter bell that is part of the parade through town every year on Founders’ Day…except not really, because the current bell is a replica. The original was tossed off Wickery Bridge years ago (by deadbeat dad Peter Maxwell, incidentally). The bridge connection is why she’s leaning on Caroline; Sheriff Liz Forbes, while dragging the river to retrieve the bodies of Elena’s parents, also discovered the bell. It was last seen at the Forbes home, among Liz’s effects.
Speaking of effects, Damon’s were given to Stefan at the hospital, Elena’s necklace among them. He suspects the necklace is the reason Damon isn’t having as much fun as he is, that Damon is clinging to Elena and thereby his own humanity. He bullies Damon into tossing the necklace out the car window, then, of course, into killing the Elena-ish Dr. Tara, sending her soul on to Cade.
Back in Mystic Falls, we’re getting another angle on the story of the gifted metalworker who created the bell back in 1790. His last name: Maxwell. That’s right, Bad Dad has a whole sob story about how he’s descended from real Mystic Falls history, and he coulda been a contendah, but those crappy rich people showed up and told the Maxwells, Hey, you make great bells and stuff, so we’d like to hire you, but we’ll never invite you to our fancy parties, because we’re rich and you’re not. And somehow this led to Peter Maxwell feeling cheated out of his shot at happiness 200 frickin’ years later, as if the world owes him something because his ancestors were merely respected and sought after craftsmen rather than part of the social elite. It’s gross, and once again, I’m thinking how lucky Matt Donovan is that his lousy father wasn’t around to poison his young mind with bitterness, resentment, and baseless entitlement.
Sibyl and Caroline dig through boxes at the Forbes home. Of course, instead of finding the bell, they find a note from Seline, taunting Sibyl over the bell. Ha! If we are stuck with Sibyl, whom we can’t do a thing to harm or even annoy, at least we’re getting an occasional assist from her pissed off sister.
But Sibyl is petty…she psychically triggers the torch-holding student to set the pyre alight. As Caroline’s rage shows, Sibyl reminds her, you know you can’t kill me, and by the way, I may or may not have a psychic link with your daughters that would destroy them if anything ever did happen to me. Crap.
Matt and Peter just barely free all the students in time, and then we get a final lame guilt trip from Peter, telling Matt not to walk away from family, because it’s the worst mistake I ever made, blah blah blah. Whatever, Bad Dad. I mean, Matt is such a quintessential good guy, he’ll probably be a little conflicted about this and give you a chance, but I sure wouldn’t.
The day after tossing the necklace from the car window, Damon sneaks back to look for it. He admits that he’s not even sure why he wants the necklace, but it makes him feel better to have it.
Reunited with his memento of Elena, Damon goes to rejoin Stefan. Unfortunately, he finds a massacre of headless bodies–Stefan has gone full Ripper.