FLASHBACKS TO A DARK TIME IN DAMON’S LIFE - Stefan continues to offer Katherine his support while trying to mask his own pain, until Caroline shows up with an unusual form of therapy. After trying to make amends with Caroline, Elena grows so concerned about Damon that she turns to Aaron for help. Later, when Damon tells Elena about a terrible ordeal in his past that he has kept secret for decades, she shares the disturbing information she just learned about her own family. Finally, Aaron decides on a desperate course of action after a conversation with Dr. Wes.
June 11, 1953 Damon drops in on Joe at the house. Joe sent for both of them. The brothers haven't spoken since Damon left Stefan on the train platform in WWII. Joe stabs Damon with a vervain needle, saying the money was too good to pass up. Damon manages to stab Joe in the neck with his broken glass before he drops. Another man comes in and says he'll be Damon's doctor from now on. In the present, Damon wakes up in a cell with Wes Maxfield injecting him with vervane. He tells Damon that because he killed their test subject last night (Jesse), Damon's going to take his place.
At college, Elena drops in on Aaron, who is reeling over the death of his roommate, Jesse. Even though Elena killed him, she pretends to be shocked. Aaron is overwhelmed by the fact that someone else close to him died. She asks about Wes, who became his legal guardian after his aunt Sarah died. She tells Aaron that Damon went to talk to Wes last night and no one has seen either of them since. She asks for his help finding Wes. Aaron thinks he knows a place. Elena asks Aaron if he thinks it's weird that both his friends committed suicide in their first semester. Elena tells Aaron that Wes covered up Megan's murder. Aaron wants to find Wes to ask him about it. He takes Elena to the Whitmore House, which she knows she can't enter. But Wes invites her in and she's able to enter. He confesses that he owns the house as part of the Whitmore Trust he inherited when his parents died. His name's Aaron Whitmore. Elena looks at a picture and recognizes her father. Wes joins them, and says Grayson Gilbert was one of the best doctors the Augustines ever had. Then he injects Elena with vervain.
At the house, Stefan keeps watch over Katherine, trying to ensure she doesn't kill herself. She's pouty and angry about his hovering and thinks he can't help her until he deals with his own PTSD. She called in help. Caroline arrives as his sober coach -- with a giant safe. Stefan questions whether the safe is a good idea for coping with his PTSD. Caroline reads up on PTSD while Stefan is in the safe. She's oblivious as Stefan starts to freak out inside. Outside, Katherine wonders how you help the guy who is always the hero for everyone else. She gets an idea.
Wes checks in on Damon in his cell. Damon remembers the last time he was locked up, by Dr. Whitmore. Flash back to 1953, Whitmore has Damon strapped to a table. He plans to experiment on him, knowing that as a vampire he'll heal from all his wounds. He plans to cut out parts of Damon's internal organs so he'll regrow them. To begin, he stabs Damon in the eye. Maxfield tells Damon that after training Jesse to crave vampire blood, he's ready to take his research to his next level. Aaron struggles to understand what Wes is doing. Wes tells him vampires exist and Elena is one of them. He opens his safe to reveal stacks of Whitmore files. Wes explains to Aaron that his father taught him everything he knows about vampires and research and the Whitmore Trust has been funding his research. He tells Aaron it's his legacy.
Elena wakes up in a cell next to Damon. Damon confesses he's been there before and tells her about Whitmore's torture, including cutting up pieces of them every day. He was there for about five years. He made a friend, Enzo, a soldier in Europe during WWII, who was also a vampire. Whitmore was working in a battlefield hospital overseas when he discovered Enzo was a vampire and locked him in a coffin and shipped him overseas. He'd been locked up ten years. Enzo tried to teach Damon how to survive, including picturing exactly how he'd get his revenge. Elena tells Damon that her dad worked with Whitmore and was an Augustine. She doesn't want to believe he'd be part of a place that would cut Damon's eyes out.
1953 Enzo keeps Damon going by talking to him about a girl named Maggie that he liked. Whitmore interrupts, asking who's next. He goes for Damon, but Enzo volunteers. Damon listens to him scream from in his cell until he's finally brought back in a bloody heap. Damon asks Whitmore why he's doing this and he explains he's trying to understand vampires on a cellular level to make use of them. Back in the present, Elena thinks Stefan will figure it out and come rescue them, but Damon never told him he was locked up -- he didn't want to give him more to feel guilty about. Damon explains how he escaped. They let the vampires out once a year for the Augustine's New Year's Eve party to show them off. They were weak from vervain and captivity. Whitmore demonstrates vampire blood's healing powers, using Mrs. Fell as a volunteer. She drinks vampire blood to heal her hand after he cuts it. Enzo comes up with a plan, suggesting one of them drink both of their daily rations of blood for a year so that when they're let out next New Year's Eve, one of them will have the strength to fight. They play rock paper scissors and Damon wins. Elena wants to know what happened, but Damon is not forthcoming with the details, saying only that it wasn't pretty.
Wes gives Aaron his grandfather's watch, which he says is a precaution against vampires. Aaron sees news clips about his parents' death at a campground. Wes admits they were killed by vampires. Aaron decks Wes, knocking him to the ground. He takes the gun and bullets from the safe and the watch. Back in the safe, Stefan wakes up next to Katherine. She knows he gets anxious and violent when his PTSD kicks in. She also knows he wants to keep her alive, so she's counting on him not hurting her.
Down in the cell, Elena prods Damon to tell her how he escaped. In 1958, he'd been drinking Enzo's rations for a year and he'd gotten stronger. When Whitmore opened the cage to take Damon out to show him off to the guests on New Year's, Damon broke his own hand to slip out of the chains. He gouged Whitmore's eyes out, then attacked as many people as he could in the room, knocking over a candelabra as he went. The fire raged with Enzo still in the cage. Damon tried to free him, but the bars were coated in vervain and the fire was advancing. Finally, he chose to save himself, but he turned off his emotions first so he could leave Enzo behind. He left Enzo there to die in the fire.
Back at the house, in the safe Stefan hyperventilates, saying he feels like he's dying. Katherine tells Stefan she believes there is something to the doppelgänger prophecy and Stefan wants to get far away from Damon and Elena and she's just the latest excuse to stay in town. Stefan starts choking her. She tells him she thinks he's choosing to focus on the physical pain of drowning in the safe instead of the emotional pain of Elena breaking his heart. She turns to offer Stefan her neck and urges him to fight it. She promises she's there with him. They are dangerously close to kissing when Caroline opens the safe, worried about how quiet it got. Out of the safe, Stefan seems to look at Katherine differently.
Aaron comes down to the cells in the basement with his gun. He accuses Elena of killing Megan and possibly of killing his parents. Damon stops him, and says it was him. Damon explains that with Enzo dead, he had to carry out his revenge plan himself. He planned to kill all the Whitmores in a generation, except one, then let him grow up and start a family, and then kill all of them except one, and so on. And he did. Elena is disgusted and asks when the last one was. A few months ago, Sarah in Charleston. It was a weekend trip. Elena realizes they were together then. Aaron shoots Damon.
Back at the house, Stefan tells Katherine he was right. He admits she knew what she was doing, and she admits sometimes she doesn't even know. She slides up close to him and runs her hands across his chest. She kisses him. He kisses her back. Caroline leaves Elena a message, saying she's going to stay at her mom's. She hears Stefan and Katherine making out and tells her to call.
Back in his dorm room, Aaron calls Wes, angry about having been lied to his whole life. Wes tells him to live his life. Damon wakes up from his head wound in his cell. Elena is gone. Elena wakes up strapped to an exam table next to another vampire. He introduces himself. "My name is Enzo," he says.
- Antagonists: Dr. Whitmore (past), the Augustine Society (past and present) and Dr. Wes Maxfield (present).
- Elena is captured by Dr. Wes Maxfield in Whitmore House after he injected her with vervain. She was eventually locked in the cell next to Damon.
- Aaron learns that Elena is a vampire and that his parents were killed by a vampire when he was a child. The vampire who killed his parents was revealed to be Damon Salvatore at the end of the episode.
- It is revealed that Enzo didn't die in the 1958 New Year's fire as Damon originally thought, as he later introduces himself to Elena by his test subject number: 12144.
- Elena learns that her father Grayson Gilbert used his medical expertise as a doctor for the Augustine Society, where he worked with Dr. Maxfield (and presumably others) on vampire experiments.
- Stefan tries to encourage Katherine to write down her feelings and thoughts in a diary after attempting suicide in the previous episode, which she does not enjoy.
- Caroline attempts to help Stefan with his PTSD by using exposure therapy, and brings the safe Stefan was locked in and thrown into the quarry by Silas all summer. When Stefan begins to freak out inside the safe, Katherine crawls in and locks herself in with him to help him focus. He nearly kills her, but she ultimately helps him through his panic by making him realize that he was so focused on his break-up with Elena that he wasn't concerned with the physical pain of dying over and over again throughout the entire summer.
- It is revealed that Aaron is a member of the Whitmore Family and, as the family's sole surviving member, he has ownership over Whitmore House and many other buildings on Whitmore College's campus, which was founded by his ancestors.
- After revealing the truth about vampires to him, Wes gives Aaron his great-grandfather Dr. Whitmore's vervain-laced wristwatch to protect him from compulsion.
- Katherine refers to Mystic Falls as a "one-horse town."
- This is the second episode this season to feature only four main cast members. The first episode was Original Sin.
- Katherine and Stefan kissed in this episode.
- Jeremy, Bonnie, Matt and Tyler don't appear in this episode.
- It is revealed that Damon was sold out to Dr. Whitmore in 1953 by his own descendant, Joseph Salvatore, who also had intended to do the same to Stefan.
- Stefan only escaped this fate because he was late to their meeting. This betrayal by Joseph is what eventually led Damon to kill him before he was incapacitated and brought to Whitmore to be experimented on.
- Damon reveals that he never told Stefan about being imprisoned and tortured by the Augustine Society because he didn't want him to have anything else to feel guilty about.
- Damon reveals that in revenge against the Whitmore family for what they had done to him and Enzo, he spent the next several decades enacting his promise to Enzo as a sort of tribute to him. This promise involved killing nearly all of a generation of the Whitmore family at a time, leaving only one survivor to carry on the family bloodline so that Damon could then kill all but one of the following generation, repeating the cycle over and over again.
- Damon also reveals that the last time he killed a Whitmore was several months ago, when Elena and he had their first summer together as an official couple. Her name was Sarah Whitmore, and she was Aaron's aunt and his legal guardian after the death of his parents.
- Damon tells Joseph in 1953 that the last time he saw Stefan was in 1942 in New Orleans, which was seen in the flashbacks in Season 4's We’ll Always Have Bourbon Street.
- This is the third and final episode of the season to not feature Nadia before her eventual death in Gone Girl.
- This episode marked the first appearances of Dr. Whitmore, Joseph Salvatore and Enzo.
- Joseph Salvatore was first mentioned in You're Undead To Me.
- Mystic Falls, Virginia
- McKinley, Virginia
Behind the Scenes
- This episode had about 2.36 million viewers in the USA, which was 0.31 million less than the previous episode.
- Hashtag during the airing is #VampireHell
- The Cell is the name of a 2000 science fiction psychological thriller directed by Tarsem Singh and starring Jennifer Lopez.
- The cell is a functional and structural unit in all living organisms.
- The cell could also refer to the holding cells where the Augustine test subjects are held.
- The Cell is a song by Jandek.
- One-Horse Town is a song by Elton John.
- Damon: "What are you doing to me?"
- Wes: "I'm ready to take my work to the next level."
- Elena: "Wes is involved in something much bigger than anyone even realizes."
- Dr. Whitmore: "This is for the advancement of science."
- Wes: (to Damon) "Vervain... to keep you calm."
- Elena: "We have to find Damon."
- Damon: "Well, he doesn't call, he doesn't write. Of course, neither do I. In all fairness, I am the one that abandoned him on a train platform in the middle of World War II."
- Joseph Salvatore: "Well, there's always time to be a better man."
- Damon: "Eh, not sure I got one of those in me."
- Katherine: "Dear Diary: So, here I am, alive. Stefan saved me from killing myself. Now, he's got me on suicide watch. He says it would be therapeutic for me to write down my feelings about the fact that I'm dying and there's nothing I can do about it. Deep thoughts, mortal coil, blah blah blah. My hand's tired. What kind of sentimental idiot writes down everything they feel? Is this what the prophecy meant when it said that all the doppelgängers were drawn together like magnets? Because if it is, I want my money back."
- Enzo: (to Damon) "Welcome. Dr. Whitmore never gets tired of watching us vampires heal, but he gives us one glass of blood per day, just enough to keep us alive. Pick yourself up, soldier. My name's Enzo."
- Enzo: "You're doing it wrong. You're living for the moment. You need to live for the future."
- Damon: "What future?"
- Enzo: "The one where you get your revenge. For instance, in my future, my revenge will start with killing Whitmore's dog and mailing it to his house, postage due. Go on. Picture your revenge. Use your imagination."
- Damon: "I can see it. Yes. I can see it. After I've taken out the entire Augustine society, I'll kill every member of the Whitmore family."
- Enzo: "Boo! I said use your imagination."
- Damon: "Except one person. I'll let that person grow up, start a family, and then I'll start killing Whitmores again. And then I'll take out the generation after that, leaving only one person to carry on the name, and then I'll take out the generation after that and so on, and so on, and so on."
- Elena: "Damon, Wes knew my dad. They worked together. He said that my dad was an Augustine, too. I know that my dad was a vampire hunter, but he was also the town doctor. He was kind, and gentle, and loving. He wouldn't be part of a place that would cut your eyes out."
- Damon: "People are full of surprises. I am so, so sorry I got you caught up in this. Hey. Look at me. Hey. But I promise you, I will get you out of here, okay? I'll get you out of here."
- Katherine: (about Stefan) "Have you two ever, um -- ahem -- you know?"
- Caroline: (confused) "No, I don't."
- Katherine: "Oh, come on, you know. Have you?"
- Caroline: (groans in realization) "Oh, my god! Katherine, seriously?"
- Katherine: "That wasn't exactly a yes or a no."
- Caroline: "We are friends."
- Katherine: "Your loss. He's great in bed."
- Caroline: "Oh, God. I am so not listening to this."
- Damon: "Enzo's friendship kept me alive. He gave me a reason to hang on to my humanity."
- Elena: "Stefan is gonna figure this out. When you don't come home and no one hears from me, he will-- he will find us."
- Damon: "Points for optimism. But unfortunately, Stefan doesn't even know this place exists."
- Elena: "But you were here for five years."
- Damon: "Yeah, and in the first year, I'd thought he'd rescue me. He didn't. Once I escaped, there was no point in giving him more to feel guilty about, so I never told him what happened here. I never told anyone."
- Damon: "And I knew if I was going to save myself, that I had to stop caring about Enzo. So I turned off my emotions. I left my friend to die. After that, everything was fine. Everything was fine."
- Katherine: (to Stefan): "The problem is you're not facing your real issues-- the death you felt in the safe, the pain of dying over and over again. It's easier for you to focus on the physical pain than the emotional heartbreak of Elena leaving you. Your problem is you're not in touch with the reality of the moment, so let's bring you back to the present, shall we? (She moves her head to side when Stefan starts to let go slowly, leaving her neck bare to him.) In this moment, are you going to feed on me, or are you gonna save my life? Fight it, Stefan, fight it! (She lowers her voice to a whisper) I'm here. I'm here. (She grabs his face with both her hands as she looks into his eyes) I'm with you. We're together."