The Vampire Diaries Recap: Soul Searching

Photo: Annette Brown/CW
The Vampire Diaries
Episode Title
One Way or Another
Editor’s Rating

Another Friday, another adventure. This week, Stefan and Damon are racing against a ticking clock (and a murderous serial killer) to solve a terrible body-snatching snafu. Let’s recap!

The Way We Were
RealStefan (who weirdly looks a little bit like Joseph Morgan, or am I the only one who noticed that?) and Damon are in the car.

“Find a happy place, chug one of those five-hour energy things with a cough-syrup chaser,” Damon tells RealStefan, who is going to need some kind of boost to make it through his withdrawal, and the fact that Stefan’s vampire soul is quickly killing his human body. On cue, RealStefan vomits blood. Luckily, Damon thinks fast: He compels a team of EMTs to bring RealStefan to safety with Valerie while he tracks the body snatcher, a.k.a. Ambrose. 

When Alaric showed up, I knew we were in for a reluctant reunion of the ultimate bromance. “Do you suggest I spend the afternoon saying a sappy goodbye to Stefan instead of saving his life? You’re getting soft, Ric.” Alaric’s point here was a little insensitive: The soul inside NotJo at the beginning of the season wasn’t Jo. They never found Jo’s soul, and I don’t believe for a second that if they had, Ric wouldn’t have teamed up with Damon, all of the Originals, and Satan himself to try and save her. Maybe he recognizes this point, too, because he gets in the car. 

On this note: In real time, Caroline is trying to find Klaus and presumably get some safety for her kids until this whole thing blows over (while Candice King, the actress, is on maternity leave). But with everything Ric is saying about how he wants his life back and loves Caroline, maybe it’s masochistic of me, but I want to know why and how. Can we get some flashbacks? We’ve seen Stefan and Valerie fall in love over the course of theirs— if we’re going to suffer, let’s suffer equally. Especially if Ric is only saving Stefan because he believes that Caroline will hate him if he doesn’t. (Ric is the saddest character on this show now, guys.)

Meanwhile at a sorority house in Memphis, NotStefan is mid bloody keg stand, having a grand ol’ time. The house is owned by a human, so Damon can’t get in. He tells Ric he should head into the party by going “as the creepy professor.”

Plot twist: Ambrose the sociopath has a history with Rayna. He framed her for the massacres he committed and turned her boyfriend (the one she wound up staking, as she told us during her heart-to-heart with Damon a few episodes ago). She definitely wants him dead. So his plan is simple: bring him Rayna Cruz, and he will soul-swap into the body of a transitioning vampire (easy enough to create with a solo cup of his blood and a broken bottle to a random dude’s neck). 

What’s great about this season as opposed to other seasons is that everyone in our core group has motivations that contradict one another: Damon needs Rayna to give her to Ambrose to save Stefan’s life, but who else needs Rayna? Enzo, so he can use her to save Bonnie’s life.

Ric breaks the news to Damon that Bonnie and Enzo are dating. I was wondering when enough space in Damon’s brain would clear to remember the best friend he left behind.

After weeks and weeks of seeing mopey, sad Stefan on the lam, it’s fun to see Paul Wesley playing bad for a change. He does it so well (and loves it so much). Since Damon couldn’t get Rayna to Ambrose, Ambrose went full-on Ripper at the sorority house — when Damon and Ric show up, he’s gone, having left to hunt after Stefan’s body himself and leaving a pile of bodies in his wake. 

Speaking of role-playing, Bonnie’s stint in North Carolina turned out to be just that — an acting gig. 

After waxing on in group therapy about how she cared about Damon more than anyone else and felt betrayed by him, we see Bonnie go get her medication. An angry girl from group follows Bonnie into a room and accuses her of stealing her medicine. Bonnie says she was swapping the girl’s pills for sugar ones because she knows she isn’t crazy. The girl is happy — but I can tell from Bonnie’s face that she’s lying. 

Once proper bonding over confiscated rehab candy has commenced, Bonnie shows her ace: “Must be hard, being a member of the St. John family,” she tells the girl. Our BonBon is a smart cookie: After realizing that the Armory was after her, Bonnie found a way to mask herself from their locator spells and checked herself into the rehab to get closer to this other St. John girl … hoping she might know why the Armory is after her. Which means a few things: Bonnie isn’t totally unhinged, and we don’t actually know how she feels about Damon leaving her. Is she brokenhearted, or has she, like Ric, moved on? 

Meanwhile, Enzo is hustling to get Rayna to Bonnie, because every good revelation on this show needs an equal and opposite bad one: Bonnie’s not in the psych ward, but the pills she’s been taking to shield herself from the Armory’s magic are the same ones they used to experiment on Mary Louise … which means Bonnie is possibly very, very sick, and doesn’t know it yet.

“Are we playing 20 questions now?” Rayna asks Enzo when he interrogates her about the pills. Yes, and here are some of my questions: what will Rayna’s purpose be in the last few episodes of the season? I have to imagine that there’s some reason she’s still alive and that the destruction of the sword (a.k.a., the magic that binds her to her purpose) didn’t result in her death. Is it selfish of me to still hope for that Elena connection? 

“You just gave the girl you love a death sentence,” Rayna tells Enzo. Okay Rayna, except you don’t know our Bon Bon. She’s beaten death at least twice before. She’s like Jon Snow. She always comes back. (They better, at least.) 

The Armory wants Bonnie because she’s a Bennett Witch and can unseal a vault with something inside of it that they want — but this mystery relative would rather try to kill Bonnie with a shard from a broken mirror than allow them to get it. Once again, this means a few things: Either Bonnie is dead by the end of the season, or whatever is in the Armory’s vault could end up being our Season Eight Big Bad (along with Matt, of course). 

Bonnie’s story line is up in the air right now, and I have so many questions — but we did get at least one answer, at the end, about how she feels about Damon. After all is said and done, when he shows up with flowers, not knowing what to say, useless excuses on his lips … she slams the door in his face.

Second Chances
With our Scooby Gang so distant from one another in season seven, it’s interesting to see how their feelings for one another have evolved. Friendship became isolation for Ric and Damon, distrust became love for Enzo and Bonnie … but when we see RealStefan flashback-ing to the beach in the Philippines two years ago, writing a letter to Caroline, it’s obvious that this is one relationship where the feelings haven’t changed.

Stefan still loves her. But Caroline, on the other hand, returns all his letters unopened. Burn. (Minus 100.)

He comes to in the ambulance, still stuck in Marty’s body, just as Ambrose’s car rams into the side. The shot of NotStefan walking through the smoke was serious fire, but I still wanted our guy to get out of there. He runs, finds a house and uses his finely honed Revenant skills to get inside. Luckily, the empty house is still owned by a human, which means Ambrose is trapped outside…that is, until he finds a “portable oven” and throws it inside, releasing gas into the air. 

“You’re a deeply sensitive, literary sort of fellow,” he drawls. “Any final words to deliver?” 

Thankfully, Damon gets there just in time and Ric vervains Ambrose in the back. Team Bromance is having a Renaissance!

After what feels like eons, NotStefan and RealStefan are reunited, in a hotel room, with Valerie prepared to do the body swap. As she’s beginning the spell, we find ourselves suddenly transported to the Salvatore living room. For a second, I got nervous: Stefan isn’t actually going to die, right? And then I realized: We weren’t saying goodbye to Stefan, Valerie was. As blood streamed out of her nose, I thought about how all the heretics have died these tragic, unearned deaths. They all deserved the chance to be free, and to save Stefan’s life, Valerie was sacrificing hers. (Except Julian. He deserved what he got.) 

And then Stefan woke up, in his correct body, and Valerie was still there. “I heard the fear in your voice. You weren’t afraid of dying. You were afraid that I was going to die for you,” Valerie tells him. The guilt that he would have caused her to sacrifice herself when he didn’t love her as much as she loved him would have destroyed Stefan. It’s sad that Valerie realized this only by literally almost dying for him — but it’s a good message for the show to send: You can’t force someone to love you, and the wrong vampire isn’t worth dying for. Stefan deserves a second chance with Caroline, and Valerie deserves a first chance at freedom: without Lily, or Julian, or the memories of what could have been with Stefan, haunting her. 

“If the world had been kinder to us, I could have been the love of your life, too,” she tells him. I’m glad to see Valerie go (because Steroline forever) but I’m glad she’s not getting a tragic ending. For her, it’s actually a new beginning. And one she truly deserves. 

We’ve got four more episodes to go, and still a lot of ground to cover! What’s in the Armory’s vault? Has Caroline found Klaus? Have we seen the last of Ambrose? Shout out your theories, and until next week, I’ll be on Twitter @Talkativetara.