SAVING SOULS – In order to save Stefan's soul, Damon makes a deal with Cade to retrieve the Maxwell journal. Alaric and Matt refuse to hand the journal over as it may contain the key to destroying Cade. Caroline desperately tries to connect with Stefan before Cade goes through with his plan.
|Matt Donovan wakes up barefoot and in cold sweat in the Armory after experiencing a series of visions that he learns from a recently-returned Alaric Saltzman and Dorian are from a necklace he wears around his neck belonging to his ancestor, Ethan Maxwell, who was apparently affiliated with a coven of Bennett Witches in 1790.
Elsewhere, Bonnie Bennett mourns the death of Enzo at the hands of Stefan whom she subsequently cured and informs Damon as much over the phone after he calls to find out whether or not Stefan killed Elena.
A recently humanized Stefan suffers from the guilt of killing all the victims of his emotionless self and drives away in effort to escape from facing Bonnie and Caroline, not knowing how to make it all right as he informs an in pursuit Caroline Forbes, who informs him that she knows all that has conspired with him and Enzo. Stefan, who literally has Enzo's blood on his hands after fleeing the scene of his death, is pulled over by the police for speeding only for them to arrest him for having blood on his hands.
Caroline calls Damon to tell him Stefan has been arrested and Damon is pleased as Stefan may be suffering guilt and might consider suicide as he is now a powerless human, susceptible to permanent death. Damon is then paid a visit from Cade, who has come to tell him their deal is off and he is free as Stefan is now human and of utterly no use to him. Cade takes advantage of this situation and gives him until midnight to find and handover the Maxwell Journal before midnight or he would recall Stefan's spirit to hell forever.
Stefan, meanwhile is held as the prime suspect of over thirty murders in the last couple of months, the police having placed his fingerprints at every crime scene. He is shown every one of his victims and their respective lives and whom lost them, further adding to his guilt before Caroline arrives, having assured the police it was all a misunderstanding and telling Stefan it was not his fault but Cade's after they reunite. Stefan affirms that Cade would still want him to keep killing as the year is not over, but Caroline updates him on Cade's new deal with Damon: he wants the journal and if he gets it by midnight he will be free to live a full, long human life or otherwise be damned.
Bonnie finds herself hearing Enzo's voice calling to her before she hears a knock on her door and finds her mother, Abby Bennett Wilson awaiting her. She tells Bonnie that Caroline called her, hoping that if she didn't want to talk to Caroline, she could talk to her mother instead. Bonnie immediately forgives Abby for previously abandoning her and hugs her.
Damon rushes to the Armory where, after Alaric, Matt and Dorian find out he wants the journal, he is vervained by Alaric as “you don't give the Devil something without knowing why he wants it”. They believe the answer resides within Matt's psychic connection to his ancestor Ethan Maxwell, through the Witch Talisman, and stabilizes his visions with hypnotherapy, which an imprisoned Damon ridicules despite it immediately working. Matt is placed in the hypnotic trance and sees the life of Ethan Maxwell from his point of view, seeing that Ethan was the spokesperson of his family in 1790 before its subsequent founding 70 years later. At the time, the town was being plagued by cannibalistic murders and his family created the Maxwell Bell and the most powerful family of witches in the town – the Bennett Family who were also the respective leaders of the Bennett Coven – spelled it with powerful magic that would drive the-then unknown threat out of their town by unknown means. They also bound it to the Maxwell Bloodline so only they would be able to use it. Matt sees Ethan have a conversation with Beatrice Bennett, the daughter of the coven leader as they were apparently in a romantic relationship and planning for that night when they would drive out the Sirens. At that moment Sybil and Seline approach the lovers and ask to speak to him alone, much to Beatrice's curiosity as they were sirening him to go with them.
Meanwhile, present day, Abby begins to consecrate Enzo's body for burial when Bonnie tells her she feels as though he is reaching out to her, she dismisses it as grief, but Bonnie knows grief and believes it's something else. Abby doesn’t think that is possible since the destruction of the Other Side, but Bonnie insists there must be another way as her coming back must be for this reason.
At the police station, Caroline has the officers erase all evidence and mention of Stefan Salvatore from their records while Stefan sees a little girl launching a missing person complaint on a Realtor (Karen Bruck) he believes he fed on and left for death in her trunk somewhere and it will weekd days to find her and is even more phased by the fact that the girl has no other relatives. Optimistic, Caroline decides they will find the body themselves before weeks pass. While searching for Karen, Stefan lets Caroline know how confused he is about what their future looks like now that he is human and that he can't just forget all the murders he did and "go cake tasting", offending Caroline, but Stefan apologizes before they find the car and the victim missing, having survived and run away. Caroline takes this as hope that she's alive but bleeding out wherever she is. They find her eventually, barely alive, but she frightened of Stefan and stabs him in the gut with a nearby pole, he insists Caroline heal her first. After she does so, she attempts to heal Stefan only for her to remember that individuals who have taken the Cure cannot be otherwise altered by vampire blood. As they wait for the paramedics, she urges Stefan to keep living and not give up as he can make all his mistakes right after he tells her it doesn’t matter and he knows he’s going to hell anyway.
Back in the Armory, Matt continues to have visions of 1790 where Ethan learns what the Sirens are: servants of the Devil whom they then give the Staff of Arcadius to add to the Maxwell Bell, which will corrupt the Bell's magic so on the twelfth ring it will open a direct link to hell and summon hellfire that will destroy the entire town. They psychically forbid him to breath a word of the ordeal to anyone. Later at the Witch House, he fashions the staff into the Bell and encodes a message for Beatrice informing her of the siren's mind control. She sees it the moment he rings the bell for the first time. The psionic frequency mentally hurts every one of the 100 witches who had gathered around the bell and Beatrice informs the hundred witches of her coven of this despite her own pain as Ethan continues to ring the bell. Beatrice urges them to combine their respective powers and create a spell that'll stop it before the twelfth ring. They are too late to stop the twelfth ring and the second the hellfire immerged, the witches' combined might was strong enough to hold it back, but the cataclysmic nature of the combined magical and psionic forces at play is strong enough to give Matt, a mere spectator, a heart attack present day.
Bonnie and Abby conduct a séance to see if Enzo's soul is still with them and if he is trying to reach them. The winds pick up and suddenly, Abby gets a vision of the day Enzo died, feeling all his and Bonnie's pain and that her pain at the time was powerful enough to somehow create a link to Enzo, opening a door to a cold place full of pain and suffering which shouldn't be possible without magic. Bonnie believes Enzo may be in hell and wants to get him out, but Abby refuses this because whatever darkness Bonnie reached into is reaching back for her and they must bury Enzo and close the door before it does. Bonnie vows not to leave Enzo, but his voice speaks her name again and Bonnie is overwhelmed by an unknown force that renders her unconscious, beginning to kill her, much to Abby's panic. She burns Enzo's body when Bonnie's breathing shallows and she refuses to wake up. Breaking the link, Bonnie wakes up and is angry that Abby destroyed her link to saving Enzo, but Abby has failed Bonnie too much to let her destroy herself and Enzo would not want that for her and Bonnie knows that and is forced to accept his death once and for all in tears.
Back at the Armory, Damon urges the others to let him out so he can heal Matt before he dies. They do so and Damon heals him in time. In the flashbacks, Matt continues to witness the witches holding the flames back only for them to catch on its fire, sacrificing their lives to keep Mystic Falls safe as the flames burn them to ashes, not even leaving bone, forever marking the place with power. Beatrice, standing further away, rushes to her people but is held back by Ethan as the hellfire stops and Beatrice breaks down in despair. She then makes a plan to lock away the sirens: she and Ethan lure them into the caves underground and she spells the cave so that they will be stuck behind the walls forever. Sybil and Seline attempt to manipulate them by telling them that they are going to hell through the walls and that they cannot escape it unless they use the bell to resurrect and subsequently kill Arcadius. But Beatrice is adamant against letting the devil walk the earth so the sirens sing a song that makes Ethan try to kill Beatrice, which fails when she uses magic to throw him into a nearby room and, seemingly, spell it shut, tearfully disregarding his pleas to let him share with her the way he’s discovered to kill the Devil as the sirens will not let him say. She leaves him behind in the room where the MFG found his dead bones and he eventually starved to death, but not before writing the way to kill Cade in his journal. Matt wakes up and tells them as much, but the journal is gone, Damon along with it.
Damon returns to the Salvatore Boarding House before midnight and Cade is there waiting. He asks him how he knows Cade will keep his end of the bargain to which he replies Damon doesn’t and takes the journal, sees if it legit while Damon asks if anyone has ever earned their way out of hell before and he replies “I wouldn’t want to give you false hope” before burning the journal with hellfire and leaving.
Meanwhile, Caroline has had the paramedics tend to Stefan and they watch as the Realtor reunites with her daughter. Stefan apologizes for what he said earlier of their wedding and that he feels as though he doesn't know how to deal with the future or how it looks like now. Caroline says they don’t have to throw it all away and Stefan says he doesn’t know how to make it all right. Caroline admits she doesn't either but she knows where to start.
Bonnie returns home to find Matt sitting on her porch. After asking him how long he’s been waiting, Matt answers that not long, to which she answers “liar” and Matt summarizes his day: he was hypnotized, almost had a heart attack and searched for the one thing that could kill the Devil and lost it and then came here to tell her how sorry he was about Enzo, the last being the most important. Bonnie tears up as he says he knows sorry won’t do much to appease her as he’s been through this himself and there’s nothing he can actually say or do. Bonnie doesn’t think she can do this but Matt disagrees as she is one of the strongest people he knows and he knows where she may get some of that strength from his day in the past when he learned their families are closely connected and he never quite appreciated what badasses the Bennett Witches were. Bonnie thinks it’s too bad she doesn’t have her magic anymore because otherwise she could’ve saved Enzo and none of this would be happening. Matt asks her to take comfort in the fact that Enzo loved her and that he will always be there. He kisses her on the forehead, tells her to call if she needs him and leaves after she thanks him, leaving Bonnie behind still wearing Enzo’s Necklace.
Back at the Salvatores’, Stefan returns to the house where Damon is having some whiskey, he offers Stefan some after remarking about him being a mere mortal now. Stefan passes as he just came home to change and go to Bonnie’s to apologize for killing Enzo. He hasn’t been able to find the words to do so if the past half hour and he can’t expect her to forgive him if he can’t forgive himself. Damon reminds him that Bonnie’s a much better person than either of them and that with time, she will forgive him, but the “clock doesn’t start ticking until you say those words”. Stefan thanks Damon for saving him, Damon waves this off as “Tuesday”. Stefan asks finally if he thinks maybe there’s a chance for them to redeemed (earning their way out of hell), Damon lies to Stefan, telling him there is and promptly rushes to the Armory right after, where Dorian is about to tell Alaric what he needs his help with only to decide to put it off when Damon arrives and is confronted by Alaric who tells Damon he doesn’t know what he’s done. Damon actually knew that the journal was an instruction manual to kill Cade and only gave him the journal because he also knows how it ends. He has Ric follow him into the tunnels.
Outside Bonnie’s house, Stefan is in his car waiting and preparing to enter the house. When he finally decides to get out of the car, he is tasered by an unknown individual that abducts him.
Meanwhile, Damon and Alaric go into the tunnels where Sybil and Seline were for so long and Alaric discovers from Damon that apparently the weapon that could kill Cade was in the room with Ethan and that Damon figured it out from being with Sybil for so long. He tells Ric they should celebrate with bourbon and make a plan to kill the Devil. Suddenly, Kai Parker suddenly walks into the room with a “better” idea than that, shocking Damon and Alaric.
Special Guest Star
- Antagonists: Cade, Sybil (flashback) and Seline (flashback).
- The real story of the 100 witches being burned in 1790 is told, they sacrificed themselves to save the town.
- In 1790 Sybil and Seline revealed to Ethan Maxwell how Cade could be killed.
- It seems to appear that Ethan and Beatrice may have been in a relationship.
- Damon gives Cade the Maxwell journal so he won't kill Stefan by midnight who then promptly burns it.
- Stefan is now seen as a human in the present day after 164 years of being a vampire.
- It's shown that the Cure prevents vampire blood from healing someone who has it in their blood. As shown when Caroline tries healing Stefan after he's seriously hurt. This means Damon's blood wouldn't have healed Elena from the injuries she suffered in Kai's wedding attack.
- Stefan is abducted by an unknown person as he's walking to Bonnie's house to apologize for killing Enzo.
- Kai's return surprises both Alaric and Damon, who tells them both he has a better idea than killing Cade.
- The Bennett Coven - Consumed by Hellfire; killed by Ethan Maxwell (flashback)
- Olivia Hayden, Javier Ruiz, Kelly Parks, Robert Lansu, Tanya Handelman, Jeffrey Li and up to 23 unnamed people - Blood loss; killed by Stefan (within two last months; December 26, 2017 - February 14, 2018)
- Grove Hill, Virginia
- Mystic Falls, Virginia
- Upstate New York
- Rockland County Police Department
- Alaric was last seen in The Next Time I Hurt Somebody, It Could Be You. He appears after being absent for four episodes.
- Abby Bennett Wilson was last seen in Season Four's episode A View to a Kill, which aired on January 31st, 2013.
- Sybil and Seline were last seen in Nostalgia's a Bitch.
- Kai was last seen in I'm Thinking Of You All The While.
- Zach Roerig plays another character for the first time. He has already played Gregor and Silas but those were body swaps.
Behind the Scenes
- "What are you?" is a line from Elena to Stefan in season one's You're Undead to Me.
- This is the second title in the series in the form of a question.
- Hashtag during the airing was #HellsBell
- Damon: "I say we can make a plan to kill the devil."
- Stefan: "I'm here."
- Caroline: "Stefan, thank God! I talked to Damon... and I know what happened to Enzo."
- Stefan: "Bonnie, she must be... I don't even know what to say. I don't know how I... Every time I close my eyes I see it play out over and over again in my head and every time I open them I see Enzo's blood on my hands."
- Caroline: "Just please come home."
- Stefan: "I can't do that."
- Caroline: "Well I'm not letting you run. Okay? So just tell me where you are, I'm coming to get you."
- Stefan: "No, I can't face you and I can't face Bonnie. Damn it, I'm being pulled over."
- Caroline: "Stefan?"