The season three primere of Vampire Diaries, The Birthday, made one thing abundantly clear, Stefan isn’t coming back. Elena may have gotten her birthday wish, but not the way she would have wanted.
As the episode begins, Klaus shows up at a farm house in Tennessee, trying to talk his way in by saying that his car has broken down and he needs to use the phone. His reassurance that he’s not a serial killer makes no headway with the young woman from Florida, but he compels her to let him inside. He tells her friend inside that he’s looking for Ray Sutton, he suspects he makes it home at least once a month. Her attempt to run from him is futile as Stefan is waiting at the front door. She gives us Ray’s location and Klaus’s compulsion gets Stefan a free pass in the front door. He tells Stefan to kill the first girl quickly, but make the second one suffer. He goes to wait in the car.
Elena wakes up to a sunny morning and wakes up Jeremy for work. Caroline calls from her party planning trip and tells Elena that Sheriff Forbes has a new tip about an animal attack in Memphis that may be Klaus. Elena begs Caroline to keep the party small, but she makes no promises. Alaric asks if there is news and Elena says there are possibly more Klaus victims and it’s better for her to believe that Stefan is still with him than to think that he might be dead.
Elena asks Alaric if she’s sure that he’s alright with sleeping on their couch. He’s spent half the summer there. He points out that his other options are limited to her dead parents’ room or his dead girlfriend’s room. Alaric wishes her happy birthday as she leaves.
Damon is polishing off a bottle of champagne in the bubble bath as Andie gets ready for work. When she refuses to go get him a new bottle, he traipses off through the house for more, still naked and only slightly covered with bubbles. He comes across Elena coming into the boarding house and she’s shocked by his nakedness. Of course, Damon is amused.
You should learn to knock. What if I was…indecent?
After being certain that Damon is covered with a towel, Elena shares the new location from Sheriff Forbes. Damon seems beyond skeptical but Elena says this could be it. He won’t allow her to go because Klaus has to continue believing that she’s dead. He says he’ll look into it and goes back to his room where he pins the lead to a map and discusses it with Andie. She says the person she gave him information about from Florida had family in Tennessee and he asks her to get the address for him.
Jeremy, sporting a nice new haircut, is working in the back room at the grill and talking to Bonnie on the phone in a video chat. A dark flash goes through the room and he rushes to get off the phone with Bonnie. Vicki appears in front of him as the lights flash again. In the next moment she’s gone and Anna appears behind him. Just as Anna is about to touch him, Matt barges in and asks him to trade sections because Caroline and Tyler just came in and sat in his.
As soon as Caroline sees Jeremy she realizes that Matt asked to switch sections with him. She tells Tyler that he thinks they’re dating and Tyler says that his mom does as well. They’re together all the time so it isn’t really much of a leap. Caroline says that’s crazy, but neither of them seems sure. Jeremy witnesses the exchange and smirks as he walks off.
A man walks up to a bar and the bartender calls him Ray. That’s all Klaus needed to hear. He approaches Ray Sutton and tells him that he’s been looking all over for him. Ray instantly knows that something is up but Stefan is there to block his escape. He recognizes Stefan as a vampire, but Klaus explains that he is something much more. He tells him that he is a vampire/wolf hybrid and he wants to create more like himself. Stefan has compelled everyone in the bar so that they won’t help Ray, but of course Ray cannot be compelled. Stefan orders up a scotch on the rocks and tells Ray they’re going to play a game of truth or wolfsbane.
Damon and Alaric arrive at the same house Klaus and Stefan were at looking for Ray. Damon didn’t tell Elena where they were going because he doesn’t want to get her hopes up. They enter the house to a grisly scene. The walls are smeared with blood and bloody handprints. Damon finds the victims seated primly on the couch and says it’s definitely Stefan.
It’s his signature. There’s a reason they call him the ripper. He feeds so hard he blacks out, rips ’em apart, but then, when he’s done, he feels remorse. …He puts the bodies back togeher.
Elena, Caroline and Tyler are preparing for the party. Elena is frustrated because she has to fight Damon every time they get a lead. Tyler suggests the possibility that Damon doesn’t want to find Stefan because he wants Elena for himself. Elena disagrees and says that Damon wants to find Stefan because he saved his life. Tyler says that her kissing him probably messed up his head. Elena admits that she did kiss him, but she thought it was a goodbye kiss, she thought he was dying.
Caroline fusses at Tyler for letting Elena know that she told him about the kiss. He’s off to get ready and pick up his date for the party. Caroline seems surprised that he’s bringing a date, especially “Slutty Sophie”, to the party. Tyler says that things have been slow for him in that department lately and being a werewolf has thrown his sex drive into constant overdrive. Caroline says that being a vampire has done the same for her because it heightens all of her feelings. The tension between them is palpable. She tells him she hopes he gets lucky tonight.
Damon is about to set fire to the house to cover up Stefan’s tracks. Alaric takes a step back and they notice a strange creak in the floor. They pull back the rug and discover a trap door. Inside it they find chains and manacles…evidence of werewolves.
One of those werewolves is currently being tortured. Ray is standing in front of the dart board and Stefan is skillfully assaulting him with darts dipped in the scotch now laced with wolfsbane. Ray is bloodied and in obvious pain but still not giving up where his pack meets for the full moon. A woman comes in and speaks to Klaus. She tells him that Damon was seen at the farmhouse. Klaus thanks her and sends her on her way. Klaus wants to take care of him but Stefan convinces him to let him go instead. He says he’ll make sure that his brother doesn’t bother them anymore.
Elena is in Stefan’s room dressing for the party. Damon comes in and she promises that she won’t lose it, at least not before the cake.
It’s your party, you can cry if you want to.
He’s brought her a gift, but promises that he didn’t spend any money on it. He found it. Elena is shocked to see her necklace. Damon says that Alaric found it in his loft and figured she’d be glad to have it back. Damon puts in on for her and escorts her down to the party.
Elena is shocked to see how huge the party is. Damon stops one of the party-goers and takes a bottle of the good wine away from her, compelling her that she wants the cheap, young stuff. Caroline takes Elena off to mingle.
Matt finds Jeremy preparing to smoke a joint. He asks him what has him on a downward spiral and Jeremy says he doesn’t want to know. He tells him that ever since he died and Bonnie brought him back to life, he’s been seeing things he shouldn’t be seeing. He hasn’t told anyone and it’s messing with his head. He just needs to chill out. Matt shares the joint with him, then runs into Caroline and Elena as he stumbles out of the room. Elena sees Jeremy smoking.
Alaric and Damon are outside drinking. Alaric says that he is every parent’s worst nightmare, the chaperon teacher from hell. He asks where Andie is and Damon says she’ll be there in a little bit, she had to do the ten o’clock broadcast. Elena comes out and tells them that Jeremy is smoking again. She fends off a comment from Damon and asks Alaric to talk to him. She says that Jeremy looks up to him.
Andie is on the phone telling the person on the other end that she is the last person in the studio again and she needs to leave because she has a party to go to. As she hangs up, one of the lights suddenly comes on. They go off and on until she starts to run and falls. She sees a silhouette in the lights then Stefan appears in front of her. She’s immediately relieved but then becomes fearful as Stefan does not react the way she expects. He begins to move toward her as the veins surface around his eyes.
The party is still in full swing. Caroline is standing in the doorway drinking and watching Tyler dancing with his date. Matt asks her what’s up with Tyler. They begin to argue about whether or not he’s been ignoring her and how much time she spends with Tyler. Matt starts to get loud about them being mortal enemies, vampires and werewolves. Caroline shushes him and he apologizes and leaves. Tyler comes over to see what’s happening. Sophie tells her it’s a great party. Caroline says thanks and then compels her to leave.
Damon gets a message from Andie to pick her up. He asks Alaric to hold down the fort while he’s gone.
Elena steps into Damon’s bedroom and finds Caroline there having some blood. Elena tells her that she thinks she might just skip the cake. Caroline isn’t having it, she says that she can’t get on with her life until she’s made a wish and blown out the candles. Stefan was the one who wanted to be sure that she lived her life and instead she’s just letting it pass her by. Elena says the one wish she wants to make is just to know that Stefan is alive. As she starts to leave the room, she notices the maps. She opens the door and discovers that Damon has been tracking Klaus without her.
Damon arrives at the studio looking for Andie. He gets an angry call from Elena asking where he is. He tells her that he’s by the punch bowl. When she says she saw his closet, he tells her that he has to go break up beer pong and hangs up. He kicks Andie’s purse on the studio floor. Stefan is standing across the room. He tells him to stop following him, he’s causing problems. He’s supposed to let Stefan go. Damon says he has a birthday girl at home who isn’t going to let him do that.
Stefan says he hasn’t made his point. Andie is on the catwalk above them. She’s crying and tells Damon that she can’t move. Stefan tells her that she can move now and pins Damon to a pillar across the room so that he can’t stop her fall. She’s killed instantly.
Matt is wandering around outside trying to find his truck and Jeremy offers him a ride home. Jeremy closes the door and turns to see Vicki in his passenger seat. Before she disappears, he calls out and she asks him to help her. Matt asks if he said his sister’s name but Jeremy denies it. He turns on the headlights and Anna is standing in front of the car. He turns them back off and tells Matt that they should just walk home.
Caroline and Tyler argue about the fact that he brought a date. He asks her if there is a reason he isn’t supposed to be dating. He’s already been there with her once and she shot him down. He’s not going back unless she makes it clear, which she does by kissing him. She passes a distraught Damon on the way out and tells him that he missed the cake.
Damon shuts himself in his room and finds Elena with all the papers from his maps. She says he made her feel like an idiot all summer for having hope. He tells her that she was an idiot, they both were. Elena demands that her tell her what he knows. He tells her to get back to the party. She wants to know why he didn’t tell her he’d been tracking Klaus’s victims. Damon says it’s because they aren’t Klaus’s victims, they’re Stefan’s. He’s flipped the switch, gone full-blown ripper. Elena doesn’t believe him, she tells him to stop.
No, you stop, Elena. Stop looking for him. Stop waiting for him to come home. Just stop! Stefan is gone and he’s not coming back. Not in your lifetime.
Matt and Jeremy are polishing off bowls of ice cream in the Gilbert’s kitchen. Matt says he should go before Elena and Alaric get home. He stops and asks Jeremy why he said Vicki’s name in the car. Jeremy says he’s been seeing her. Matt says he sees her all the time too, he just misses her so much. Matt says they have their hands full of supernatural in Mystic Falls, but the idea of ghosts seems to be too much for him.
Ray is spread out on top of a pool table in agony. Klaus is explaining to him that this is a three-step process. He slits his wrist and presses it to Ray’s mouth, forcing him to drink his blood. Step two is killing Ray. Stefan walks in and says that he took care of things with Damon, he doesn’t care about anything anymore. Klaus says you never stop caring about family, but every time you feed, the blood makes it easier to let go.
Elena comes home to find Alaric packing his things. He says he’s not going to stay there anymore. He’s not a role model, he drinks too much, says the wrong things, encourages bad behavior. The way he’s missing Jenna he’s no good to anyone right now. Elena is 18 now and she can do it better without him.
Tyler and Caroline have taken things back to his house. As they undress each other they take turns using their supernatural strength to take control of the situation.
Damon goes up to Stefan’s room and begins to throw his things around, bent on destruction. Stefan rushes out of the bar in obvious emotional distress. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out his phone. Elena is preparing for bed as her phone begins to ring on her dresser. She picks it up and there is no answer.
Stefan? Stefan if this is you, you’ll be okay. I love you, Stefan. Hold on to that. Never let that go.
Stefan nods and fights back tears, but never speaks.
Tyler is sleeping as Caroline sneaks out of his bedroom. She creeps down the stairs and is startled by Tyler’s mother. She tries to explain her way out of the awkward moment then reaches for her purse. Her purse burns her hand and she cries out. Carol Lockwood aims and shoots her in the back three times with vervain darts.
Was everyone else completely blown away? What an incredible start to season three.Can’t wait to read your thoughts in the comments!