With The Vampire Diaries on the homestretch to its big series finale, it's high time to start sewing up some of the loose ends — and appetites — of the Salvatore Brothers & Co. so that at least one of these people can be worthy of the return of Elena Gilbert (Nina Dobrev) when she probably awakens from her curse coma in the finale. So, yeah, things are starting to get pretty saptastic, fit with nostalgic cameos from some of our long-lost friends from earlier seasons to cook in a few extra layers of sobby mush, to wipe away some of the sour that's been brewing these past two seasons.
"But, wait," you might say. "Aren't Stefan (Paul Wesley) and Damon (Ian Somerhalder) too busy ripping people's throats out on behalf of Beelzebub, otherwise known as Cade, right now to wax poetic about their dead friends?"
Well ... yes and no. As of last week, Damon's been reintroduced to his humanity by Sybil as a punishment for never fully letting Elena go, and the flood of guilt that's washing over him is intense and fiery. As in, actual fire. He's burning alive inside his own mind right now for all he's done in recent months, and it's up to Caroline (Candice King) and Bonnie (Kat Graham) to help him snap out of it. Meanwhile, Stefan's pretty much surrendered to his inner ripper demon, but, per usual, there's always someone around him who refuses to give up because good Stefan is totally worth the fight, even against the morose monster whose penchant for verbal deep digs is on full-tilt at all times.
The sucky thing for Caroline and Bonnie is that they'll have to make a deal with the siren Sybil to get her help undoing what she's done to Damon. And even when they do agree to her request to hand over the Maxwell Bell so sister Seline can't use it to kill her (and, it turns out, the entire rest of the town), all she can do is get them access to his head to poke around and figure out what he's looking for.
To be fair to Sybil, though, Caroline doesn't exactly have the bell in hand herself and has to hope the weight of her usual "do it for me, pretty please with a cherry on top" favor-seeking tactics with Matt (Zach Roerig) pull through ... annnnd they do not.
See, Seline's smart enough to go straight to the source herself, so while Sybil's doing some yoga stuff on Damon's temples to provide a "back door" for Caroline and Bonnie into his thoughts, Seline makes her way straight to Matt and says that he can get rid of this Sybil problem for good. He's not so concerned with Damon's well-being, besides, so what does he care if Damon never gets out of this mind burn? To make it work for her, he and/or his dad need to weld the bell together and ring it 12 times to kill the sire. Oh, and it'll also let Cade and his hellfire rain a little Hades on Mystic Falls, but minor details, right?
Stefan's all for it because it'll help satisfy his quota problem with Cade, who could really do with a thousand extra souls down there right about now. Win-win ... well, except for Matt, Sybil, and everyone else in Mystic Falls, of course, but when it comes to the short list of Stefan's interests, anyone not named Stefan Salvatore has pretty much been wiped away by his humanity switch being in off-mode. To ensure the job gets done, he compels Matt to either forgive Damon for killing Vicki within the hour or knock that bell a dozen times as instructed.
Speaking of which, Caroline's ability to take it from Stefan is admirable and all, but she should still be allowed to sock him a few good times for all that humanity-off smack talk he comes at her with. Fair is fair.
But she's resilient enough to muster through his cruel jokes and set back on the task at hand. Caroline and Bonnie are blissfully unaware of what Matt's dealing with on the other side of town. Their treks through Damon's brain prove fruitless for helping him out of his guilt funk, but it does provide a window through which we get a whopping four throwback Thursday-style returns from lost townies, ranging from those we only kinda-sorta tolerated to the nearest and dearest.
First comes Vicki, who's working at Damon's mind diner — turns out, his vision of town is exceptionally accurate, which is probably quite economical for the show's production budget as well — and she really doesn't have anything to say or do except to wear a bandage that, surprisingly enough isn't from Damon's fangs from so early on in the show when he bit her.
Then comes Sheriff Forbes, looking as well as ever and happy to see her daughter. But this reunion is far from a happy one because once Liz figures out that Caroline's a vampire, she's taken right back to the place where her father had sun-tortured her for so long before. Um, trigger warning much?! Caroline figures out that she's supposed to explain why she chose to forgive Damon for what he did to her and gets booted from his brain game with no progress on his catatonic state.
Bonnie meanwhile, gets to have a visit (and tea!) with her Grams and Tyler, and she, too, leaves empty-handed. But she's figured out who can help Damon right now. It's the only person who ever can, really: Stefan. See, Stefan's the one who turned Damon and gave him his "life" as the vampire that's caused so much pain. He's the only one who can level with him on these things somehow.
Now, Stefan may be behaving like a selfish creep who's willing to torch the entire town just for spite and giggles, but he's always got at least a shred of heart saved up for Damon. He agrees to come over and go into his little mind tunnel and has a one-one-one with Damon in the town's wooded graveyard where he tells him that he forgives him, just like the girls did before.
But when Damon arrives, he tells him that's not what this is about at all. In fact, it's the complete opposite. He needed Stefan to arrive so he could forgive him for turning him into a monster out of fear of eternal loneliness in the first place. Stefan's not buying that he has anything to feel sorry for — after all, Damon's the one that got him into this mess with Cade in the first place — but Damon insists that he forgives him anyway. "So for the last time, I forgive you for making me what I am. I absolve you of all the death and destruction I've caused as a result. You wanna know why? Because you're my brother and I love you, and there's nothing you can ever do to change that." Through punch after smack after jab, he forgives him until Stefan promises to get out of the dream and burn the town down, literally, with him right there in it.
But Damon's done what he needed to do and wakes up just in time to stop Matt after his 11th ding of the bell, which means that Cade isn't going to char all of Mystic Falls once and for all. Matt's still not ready to make nice when it comes to what Damon did to his sister so many years ago, but he does give him credit for saving him and the rest of the town, so it's a start. Matt's ready to suit up as the new Sheriff in town now because that's what humans do in this sort of situation, apparently.
Meanwhile, Damon's ready to make the fullest of amends with Bonnie by reciting the goodbye letter he'd written her that she refused to open before, leaving both them and us at home oozing over with gooey feels, and Caroline's got Stefan locked up in his ripper intervention chamber for some long-overdue rehab treatment. Whether he's going to fall back in love with her and take her down the aisle as planned, Stefan's going to be Stefan again so help her goodness, amen.
Buuuut the sirens weren't the only threat haunting the town, it seems. Eleven rings of the Maxwell Bell might not have been enough to summon fire and brimstone, but it did make enough of a gap in the plane of pain to let Cade squeeze through and start taking some lives for himself for once. His first victims of the night are his sisterly sirens, Sybil and Seline, who just couldn't get along and had to go. And thus, the biggest bad of them all, the Devil himself, has joined the fold to heat up this march to the end of The Vampire Diaries. Somehow, we suspect he'll be able to free Stefan from his sober chamber sooner than later and start burning down the town, with or without that bell.
The Vampire Diaries airs Friday nights at 8/7c on The CW.