The times I enjoy most on “Vampire Diaries” are the times when the metaphor of otherness and addiction is most explicit. And even though it’s a secondary storyline in this episode, that’s definitely the case with Caroline’s reprogramming at her dad’s hands. But we’ll get to that in a minute. A LOT happens in this episode, and just when we thought Klaus was out of tricks, the quest for hybrids gets a lot more complicated.
After a lengthy absence, Katherine gives Damon a call. Of course, Katherine being Katherine, she isn’t calling to be friendly. She has important information — the whereabouts of Stefan and Klaus. They’re in Chicago, and Klaus is taking Stefan on a magical memory tour of his good old bad old days. Of course, it’s really more for our benefit, as Stefan staggers around not remembering anything and generally feeling disgust at his past actions. But who cares? We get treated to glamorous flashbacks to the 1920s, and that’s what’s most important. Bad Stefan is much more palatable when he’s wearing a tuxedo and isn’t filled with self-loathing.
But that isn’t the only reason Klaus is taking Stefan back to Chicago. He’s there to see a witch, Gloria (who was around in the 1920s and is aging remarkably well — really, you’ll never see a better advertisement for pursuing witchcraft as a hobby unless it becomes the latest skin treatment by CoverGirl). Klaus thinks Gloria can help him figure out his whole hybrid conundrum, and it seems she can — but she needs Rebekah to do it. And who’s Rebekah? Don’t worry, we’ll find out soon enough.
Throughout the episode, we return to Caroline’s deprogramming/rehab hell. Her father takes away her ring of protection (for her own good, of course), because he’s going to fix her. And, just as “fixing” someone’s homosexuality is an ugly, senseless process, this is all the more terrible to watch as Caroline plaintively cries to her daddy to stop it. But he steels himself against his own daughter’s cries and continues his blood rehab work, complete with sunburn shock treatment. He’s sure he can retrain her to repress her vampire instincts so that she associates human blood with pain, as if she were a mouse in a lab test. “It hurts me as much as it hurts you!” Bill says.
It’s almost a darkly funny scene until Caroline asks, “Daddy, why are you trying to fix me?”
“So I don’t have to kill you,” Bill responds with grim, blind determination.
Fortunately, we get out of the prison and back to Klaus and Stefan soon enough. Of course, Damon and Elena are hot on their trail, and soon Klaus isn’t the only one leading an educational history tour through Chicago. In the car Damon tries to get Elena to read Stefan’s diaries from his “ripper” days in the 1920s (she doesn’t need to; there’s nothing she can’t handle!) and then shows her around his old apartment. The important feature isn’t the retro sofa, unfortunately, but a list of everyone he killed during his bad old days tucked away into a hidden compartment. It’s like finding out your boyfriend slept with more women than Walt Chamberlain, but Elena doesn’t blink. Or at least doesn’t let Damon see her blink. Even with his permasneer, it’s obvious that Damon is just trying to brace Elena for the news that she doesn’t want to hear — now that Stefan’s back on the sauce, I mean blood, he’s a changed man — and he’s not likely to change back, at least not in Elena’s lifetime. But Elena is still young enough to believe in true love and fairy tales, and she doggedly drowns Damon out like a really bad soft rock station on the radio.
Damon deposits Elena in Stefan’s old room to go Stefan hunting, a decision which seems unwise on the surface. If Damon knows where Stefan’s old pad is, doesn’t Klaus?
The answer, of course, is yes. While Elena is reading Stefan’s diary (she doesn’t have anything else to do — it’s not like Stefan had cable installed in the ’20s), she hears Klaus’ voice. She hides herself in the secret compartment, which Klaus orders Stefan to open up so he, too, can look upon the names of his kills and absorb exactly how bad he was. Stefan and Elena stare at one another in silent, tortured surprise until Stefan grabs a bottle of liquor and shuts the door, saving Elena and keeping yet another secret from Klaus.
Throughout the episode, we’re treated to Prohibition-era flashbacks, most of them involving, yes, Rebekah. She’s beautiful, she’s a vampire, and she’s falling for Stefan. The problem? She’s Klaus’ sister. And while things don’t start off well between Klaus and Stefan, they’re soon fast friends. More importantly, Stefan wanted to be Klaus’ wingman back in the day — which seems to be one reason why Klaus is keeping him around now. Although, knowing Klaus, it’s never that simple. But one thing’s clear — Klaus demands loyalty.
When Damon returns to the room, Elena is fit to be tied — and Damon tells her what he’s found out from the witch. Klaus and Stefan will be returning to the bar that evening, and he needs her to change her clothes and assure him she’s ready to do what it takes to get Stefan back. He’ll only have five minutes to distract Klaus before he tries to rip out his heart, after all. Like some dark guardian angel, Damon keeps proving his love (or lust, depending on what you think of Damon) to Elena. He’s risking his life to return her true love to her, he cuddles up next to her in bed (which makes her scream, but she can’t say she didn’t like it) and he’s trying to prepare her for the bad news she’s likely to get when she sees Stefan. But Elena has blinders on. She’s ready to save Stefan, and that’s that.
Klaus drags Stefan to a warehouse where he reveals Rebekah, an original-killing dagger through her heart. Klaus yanks it out and orders the guard to let her feed on him until he dies after she wakes up. Even though we know through flashbacks that Stefan loved Rebekah, he can’t remember her. And soon enough, we find out why.
While Klaus and Stefan get soused at the bar, Stefan spots Damon. They have the same conversation they had last time — “Get Elena to forget about me!” — but this time, Stefan finally explains the situation a little more fully, saying Klaus is probably minutes away from finding out why his hybrid efforts aren’t working and Elena needs to get lost, pronto. Elena steps forward. She doesn’t care. She wants Stefan back. And even though we can be fairly sure he’s lying through his teeth, he tells her he doesn’t want to go back.
Elena tries to argue, of course. In his diaries, he wrote about how Lexi saved him from his bloodthirsty ways. If he did it once, he can do it again. Stefan counters by noting it took him 30 years to pull himself together — which will be half (well, more or less) of Elena’s life. He’s not willing to do it again. He doesn’t want to be with her, and things can never be the same. This is what I would call a pretty final dumping.
I don’t think Elena is buying it, but it’s enough to send her back to the car with Damon, who narrowly escapes getting his heart pierced with a wooden drink umbrella by Klaus, even though he offers to take Stefan’s place as wingman. His argument that he’d be a lot more fun than Stefan makes sense to me, but Klaus clearly has other plans.
Those other plans are made clear when Rebekah comes to and, after trying to kill Klaus (or Nik, if we want to use his ’20s nickname), he presents his peace offering to her — Stefan. And then, he allows Stefan to remember everything about his past, including Rebekah. He steps toward Rebekah with a look we haven’t seen on his face in a while — uncomplicated, untortured happiness — just as he realizes he also remembers Klaus. Suddenly, it appears that they’re one big, old happy family, and Elena is just a distant memory, one Stefan might actually be relieved to forget given that there seems to be no chance for him to go back to her.
What Stefan doesn’t know is that Klaus and Rebekah are (and were) being hunted by someone or something. And when the time came to run in the 1920s, Klaus compelled Stefan to forget everything and, when Rebekah stomped her feet and demanded to stay with Stefan, he stabbed her. Yes, Klaus demands total loyalty, and while I’m sure he has a logical reason for “killing” his sister, I suspect it has more to do with his own insecurity and loneliness. It’s the only thing to explain his need to keep Stefan around and his willingness to overlook some of the more obvious clues that Stefan is keeping secrets. Once, Klaus felt he had a true friend, one who didn’t just like him for his fame and power (hey, he’s an Original), but for himself.
It almost seems like a (weirdly) sort-of happy ending for Klaus, but we get an actual happy ending for Caroline. Her mom Liz pops in, wielding her work revolver with Tyler in tow and makes quick work of rescuing her daughter from her own father. Caroline is soon home and in bed, her mom giving her a bag of blood like warm chicken soup. But Caroline still has to deal with the aftermath of a very bad scene. “I just thought he was the one who got me,” she says to her mom in a small voice. Though Liz tries to reassure her that someday he’ll get her again, she tells Tyler the truth about how she feels. “My dad hates me,” she says, crying into his arms, feeling more wounded than she could from any vampire sunburn.
Back with our newly happy trio of Klaus, Rebekah and Stefan, it’s not all hugs and kisses. Rebekah can’t find her necklace — and it’s the only way for her to get in touch with the original witch, which is what Gloria (and Klaus) was counting on. That necklace? Oh, you know, it’s the one Stefan gave to Elena. And who knows that Stefan has it? Katherine. She calls Damon to say goodbye, and he assumes she’s jetted off to Spain or Italy. No, she’s sticking around in Chicago, because she knows an opportunity when she sees one.
Do you think Stefan is more lost to Elena than ever? What did you think of Rebekah? And how did you feel about Caroline’s tough love treatment?