STEFAN FINDS HIMSELF IN THE FIGHT OF HIS LIFE IN THIS EPISODE DIRECTED BY JULIE PLEC — In the aftermath of his brother's fateful decision, Stefan awakens to find himself thrown into a life or death situation with only his basic instincts to rely on. With time working against him, he sets off on a journey of survival while forced to confront a lifetime of irreversible damage Damon has done to their relationship. Meanwhile, desperate to save his brother, Damon follows an unusual lead he has come across, while Matt sends Valerie to Dallas to enlist Alaric's help in the search for Stefan. Finally, when Rayna discovers the emergence of a new threat, she sets off on her own mission to find Stefan before the others do.
|The episode starts with Stefan being the one who’s lying in the middle of the road for a change. Stefan wakes up at the scene of a car accident to discover a school bus on fire. Snapping into hero mode, Stefan busts into the bus and saves a few cheerleaders. The key word here is that he only saves a few. But Stefan can’t figure out what the lesson is in this hellscape. When the EMT shows him his I.D., which says his name is Marty Hammond, Stefan grows impatient.
After Valerie leaves Damon behind and finds Rayna, she discovers that when the stone was destroyed, every soul within it escaped. And because Rayna burns the bodies of her victims, that means that vampire souls are inhabiting random corpses, both vampire and human, all over the world. As for Stefan, he could be anywhere. He could be anyone.
Specifically, he’s in Arkansas and his name is, unfortunately, Marty. After Stefan finds himself handcuffed by the cops for driving the bus and causing the accident because he was drunk, he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror. Needless to say, he’s not a fan of what he sees which kind of looked like flashback Klaus’ long hair for a second. So with that, Stefan takes off into the woods, still handcuffed, now on the run.
Meanwhile, Damon’s under the impression that Valerie took Stefan’s body when he finds his brother on the side of the road. At first, Damon simply thinks Stefan has lost his memory which gives me major flashbacks to Damon not realizing Katherine was Katherine and not Elena in season 2 so he gives him his journal to refresh his memory. So while new Stefan reads about “day 57 of being pissed off at my garbage heap of a brother,”
Matt calls Alaric.It seems Matt thought it would be a good idea to send Valerie and Rayna to Ric’s doorstep, despite the fact that Ric is getting married in a month where is Caroline, by the way? and wants nothing to do with this supernatural nonsense. However, when Valerie plays the Caroline card (read: she’d care if Stefan died), Ric has no choice but to help. Rayna might be more concerned with hunting down some of the most evil vampires of the past 200 years, but Valerie quickly makes it clear that Stefan is their top priority.
Speaking of Stefan, he’s currently enjoying the perks of being human and undergoing withdrawal, which includes vomiting. Luckily, he finds a cabin in the woods where he’s able to break his hand and sort of free himself from the cuffs. He then duct tapes his hand? Poor Stefan is so disoriented he thinks duct tape will help. Watching the local news, he realizes that he’s Marty Hammond, a known drunk. So if the incoming blizzard doesn’t kill him, his detox might.
Meanwhile, Damon takes new Stefan to a diner and finally realizes something’s off when Stefan starts drinking the waitress’ blood and furthermore, can do so without ripping her head off. Calling Alaric, Damon is updated on the situation. But Ric also has (more) bad news: When a vampire inhabited Jo, her body broke down. If Stefan’s in a human body, Ric estimates they have three days to find him.
But thanks to Ric’s avid news watching and expert note-taking, they’re closer than they think. Valerie uses magic to channel Rayna’s visions and see bits and pieces of where Stefan is. And when a few of the details overlap with a news story, they realize that he’s in the body of poor Marty.
Back in Arkansas, Stefan is hot-wiring a truck and enjoying the irony of being trapped in the body of an addict. He reveals that he had started to enjoy the idea that he’d die when Rayna did. Having an expiration date was about as close to being human as he was ever going to get. But now? Well now he remembers how much being a human sucks.
Damon warns him that “that hair requires a tremendous amount of maintenance,” but new Stefan is only concerned with how long it will take them to get to Memphis. Damon’s best line? “Please tell me your name was Elvis. That would explain a lot.”
New Stefan is entertained, but he has places to be. So, utilizing a trick that vampires really don’t use enough, he flies out of the car window. Damon immediately updates Valerie and Ric, and they agree to track Stefan’s body while Damon goes to Arkansas to save his brother. But when Rayna realizes which vampire has inhabited Stefan, she snaps Valerie’s neck and hits the road, determined to kill whomever it is.
In Arkansas, Stefan’s bad luck continues when he runs out of gas and the only other person within miles of him just so happens to be the type of person who listens to news on their radio. Honestly, who does that?! But when she hears about the male fugitive on the loose, she freaks out and drives off.
The good news? Damon has made it to Arkansas and is at the police station posing as none other than Deputy Matt Donovan. Compelling the officers, Damon learns that they’re planning to let the weather do their job. Translation: These cops suck and are going to let Marty freeze to death.
And you know what? Their plan is kind of working because Stefan is currently shivering inside Marty’s truck. And when he hallucinates Damon, he realizes that he’s reached the delirium phase of withdrawal and his time is running out. Falling out of the truck thanks to another vomiting episode, Stefan remains outside, sitting in the blizzard and seemingly resigning to his fate.
However, when the woman who saw him on the road makes it to the police station, Damon compels her to lie to the cops about Stefan’s location. And when she tells him that she dropped her phone, Damon calls it.
Stefan hears the phone ringing in the snow and finally gets to talk to his brother. Damon tells him to start walking even though he can’t feel his legs. “Get up,” he tells his younger brother. “This is not how you are going to die, Stefan Salvatore.” And yet, Stefan kind of enjoys the irony of him dying alone in the wilderness in the frozen corpse of an alcoholic murderer.
“You suck at playing hero, brother,” Stefan tells Damon. Damon’s response? He’s not used to Stefan being “such a damsel in distress.” With a little time on their hands, Stefan decides to list all the ways in which this is Damon’s fault. “You bailed on me when you decided you’d rather live in a coffin than own up to your mistakes,” Stefan tells him.
Damon tries to defend his decision by claiming that he was preventing himself from making more mistakes, but Stefan doesn’t understand why that’s so difficult for him. And no, Elena is not an excuse. Not when Damon lived 160 years before he even met her. As Stefan tells his brother, when he woke up in a stranger’s body, his first instinct was to save the people in the bus. “Where are your instincts, Damon? What does the voice in your head say?”
Realizing that Stefan needs to hear him say it, Damon admits what they both know: “I’m selfish. I’m angry. I’m impatient.” He continues: “Until I met Elena, I wasn’t interested in doing the right thing for anybody.”
Stefan adds “your brother included,” and Damon concurs. But with this conversation, Stefan’s anger grows. So as Damon tells him, “Then get up and come kick my ass yourself.” In that moment, fueled by his anger, Stefan gets up and starts walking when he asks his brother, “Wanna know why this is so hard? Because eventually I’m not gonna be able to go on and when that happens, I don’t believe you’ll be there.”
How heartbreaking is it that after all these years, Stefan truly doesn’t believe that his brother will save him? Because years of Damon’s decisions have forced him to realize that he’s not his brother’s top priority? But just as heartbreaking as it is for Stefan to say, Damon has to hear it. And we’re not even done with this conversation yet…
When Damon asks about the worst part of being human, Stefan admits he’d really love to be able to compel people right about now. When Damon mentions playing by the rules, Stefan brings up how they used to play hide-and-seek as kids. Damon claims Stefan cheated by hiding in their father’s office — where they weren’t allowed — and in this moment, Damon admits he wouldn’t go in there to find Stefan because he was scared to break the rules. But he wasn’t scared for himself. He was scared that their father would punish Stefan. And when Damon asks why Stefan would bring that up now, he says, “Because you’re never gonna find me,” before he collapses to the ground.
And moments later, in a beautiful shot, Damon comes to his brother’s rescue.
By the time Stefan wakes up in the car, Damon feeds him some stolen donuts — which brings Stefan a sort of ecstacy that only comes from human hunger — before asking if all’s forgiven. But as Stefan tells him, “Not by a long shot.” Oh, and about that nose bleed, Stef? You’ve got 48 hours to get back in the right body.
And while we’re talking about his right body, Valerie and Ric follow it to Memphis where the two of them have a very honest conversation about Stefan and Caroline. Valerie says she never fooled herself into thinking she and Stefan were in it for the long haul, but Ric put a ring on it. And yet, Ric knows that Caroline said yes because it made sense for the kids. So Stefan coming back could mess up his life. His response: “So what?” Ric’s been through it all, guys. Did you expect him to be fazed?
That conversation is put on hold, however, when they track new Stefan to a fraternity in Memphis and Ric remembers an old tale about a serial killer in the 1880's. He targeted sororities and fraternities, where he’d force victims to murder each other. And when no one would believe their story, it would drive the survivors mad. They never caught the murderer.
Well, considering new Stefan/Ambrose just trapped everyone inside a frat party, I’d say he’s there for more than just some jungle juice.
- This is the second episode of the series overall to not feature any of the main female characters.
- This is the second episode of the series overall to feature four main cast members.
- This episode marks the first appearance of Marty and Stefan's spirit possessing him.
- Marty was revealed in the news cast to once have been in the Merchant Marines as well as being a drug addict. On his left hand he has a tattoo of an anchor.
- Stefan unlike Jo when possessed by Florence remembers who he is in Marty's body this implies this was ensured because of the magic behind the Phoenix Stone being siphoned away.
- Stefan finds being human again to be miserable like being unable to compel someone and playing by the rules.
- Note: Once more there is no reference in 17 episodes to the fact that Elena is the Cure and that Damon will become human again when he feeds off her after she wakes up with Bonnie's death.
- Damon uses Matt's name when he enters the police staging area in a local hospital and compels a deputy there to accept him as a fellow officer.
- Stefan tells Damon that long before Elena came into his life that Damon had turned his back on him.
- Rayna reveals to Valerie and Alaric that the Phoenix Stone was meant for the worst of the worst vampires in the last 200 years not do gooders like Stefan.
- Rayna meets Alaric for the first time in this episode.
- Rayna reveals that she can feel all the spirits that were in the stone but it is hard for her to isolate them as it's like noise and they entered the first piece of dead flesh they could find vampire and human alike, meaning that Marty Hammond was dead when Stefan's spirit entered his body.
- Rayna could see the vampire spirits or souls released from the Phoenix Stone, Valerie accesses her visions by siphoning them to find Stefan.
- Enzo does not appear in this episode.
- This is the first episode to feature Valerie as the last of the Heretics since Nora and Mary Louise died at the end of the previous episode.
- This episode is Stefan-centric.
- Stefan has the most screen time in this episode.
- Caroline Forbes is mentioned by Alaric, Matt and Valerie. She was last seen in I Would for You.
- Nora Hildegard and Mary Louise are mentioned by Damon, Rayna and Valerie. They were last seen in Days of Future Past.
- Elena Gilbert is mentioned by Damon and Stefan. She was last seen as a hallucination in Things We Lost in the Fire.
- Josette Laughlin is mentioned. She was last seen as a corpse in Best Served Cold.
- Florence is mentioned. She was last seen in Jo's body in Best Served Cold.
- Although indirectly, Beau, Spirit possessing Oscar and countless other phoenix stone vampires are mentioned as being released.
- Marty Hammond and 4 passengers - died in an accident caused by Marty Hammond
- Waitress and at least one more woman - drained of blood; killed by Ambrose
Behind the Scenes
- Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. Last year, the writers and I broke a story where Bonnie enters a prison world in the middle of a snowstorm. Production hated me. Snow is not cheap. In addition to costing many thousands of dollars for the actual materials that MAKE snow, you need several extra condors (big tall electric machines that you can hang lights and cameras and snow blowers on), snow-blowing machines, a rigging crew to lay the snow for days leading up to the shoot, another crew to clean up the snow for days after the shoot, and extra man power on the shooting day to actually make snow fall. Not to mention your sound mixer hates you because the snow machines make too much noise to get a clean dialogue track, the actors hate you because they know they’ll probably have to loop all of their lines, and you hate yourself because you can’t get the fake snow out of your clothes, your hair, and various body parts for a week. So what did I do this year? I broke a story that involved a BLIZZARD. Why? BECAUSE IT’S SO PRETTY. Snow somehow makes everything more emotional and I don’t regret it for a minute.
- Neil and I jokingly called this our Revenant episode. The idea being, we wanted to put Paul Wesley through as much total misery as possible while Stefan suffered through the experience of being trapped in a human body. I couldn’t wait for him to be shooting in freezing cold weather, icicles dripping from his face, lips chapped, body stiff. I rooted for complete, utter miserable shooting circumstances. In February, Georgia can usually be counted on for such a thing. However climate change had its say and during the snow scenes, it was actually anywhere from 50–70 degrees. All that suffering he’s doing on camera? That’s ACTING. The only day of our exterior work that I didn’t need it to be cold was the night of the bus crash. That was a full night shoot, 6 p.m.–7 a.m., and no one wants anyone to suffer on a night like that. So what did Georgia give us? Twenty-five frigid degrees and 30-mile-an-hour winds. It was dreadful. I couldn’t look half the crew in the eyes the next day.
- The cabin that Stefan stumbled across did not exist two weeks before this episode shot. Production designer Garreth Stover and his team designed and built an entire cabin in the woods in the back of our production office. We could Airbnb it tomorrow and start recouping the money we spent to create it. All it needs is Netflix and it’s a perfect weekend getaway.
- I had to shoot two pieces on the airplane tarmac where Ian shot a good portion of his episode. That meant he and I had to share some shooting days. The night we shot there, we had to bring in rain towers (machines that create rain) because it was supposed to rain the next night during a scene that had to cut straight in to the scene we were shooting. In other words, we had to be prepared to make it match. That meant we had to shoot the scene both ways: with rain and without. Poor Ian, after a full day of directing, had to act in a scene we shot twice, once dry, once fully drenched in rain, knowing that the rain piece might never see the light of day. Again, Georgia weather proved to be unpredictable. It never rained again, so the rain scene we shot didn’t make it into the cut. It’s possible he’s still mad at me.
- "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." This is a quote from Walden by noted transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau, which is a reflection upon simple living in natural surroundings.
- Mary Louise and Nora are referred to Thelma & Louise by Damon in passing.
- Alaric: "That is not Stefan. We don't know who that is."
- Alaric: "That is not Stefan. We don't know who that is."
- Valerie: "Keep him close. We're going to need his body."
- Damon: "I don't want to spend the rest of my life babysitting a cheap knock off of my brother!"
- Matt: "Look, I know you're gonna find this hard to believe, but I made sure that Caroline was safe."
- Alaric: "Safe? Rayna shot a stake through her ribcage! Matt. Listen to me. We were out. Three years. Three years! No stabbings. No hostage swaps. No supernatural threat breathing down our neck okay? We are getting married in a month. We have got kids that we need to take care of."
- Matt: "Look, Caroline was bait to draw Stefan out. That's all."
- Alaric: "What the hell happened to you man?"
- Stefan: "My name is Stefan Salvatore."
- Paramedic: "Do you know where you are Stefan?"
- Stefan: "Yes. I'm in hell."
- Valerie: "They didn't know."
- Damon: "Didn't know what?"
- Valerie: "That Rayna had stabbed Stefan. That his spirit was trapped in the Phoenix Stone."