We knew that Damon wasn’t the perfect guy on “The Vampire Diaries,” but we’ve always excused his behavior before since it was in the name of saving himself, Elena, his brother Stefan, or anyone else. But what we learned from Thursday (Dec. 5) night’s episode, “The Cell,” changed everything.
After he was re-caught by Wes and the Augustine society, we learned about Damon’s first imprisonment in the basement on campus at Whitmore College. Flashback to … after Damon abandoned Stefan on a train track during WWII (remember Lexi made Damon realize he wasn’t good for Stefan’s recovery back then). One of his ancestors lured Damon back to Mystic Falls and sold him out to the Augustine society for money. Don’t worry: the cowardly Salvatore was murdered by Damon before Stefan showed up to get vervained as well, but Damon wasn’t so lucky to escape. A random doctor, Dr. Whitmore to be precise, finishes vervaining him and he wakes up in a cell. In the present, Wes vervains him to replace Jesse (RIP) as his test subject.
In Mystic Falls, Stefan is keeping Katherine on suicide watch, and tells her that writing what she’s feeling in a diary will help her deal with it all. Katherine’s journaling is way more entertaining (read: snarky) than Stefan or Elena’s journal entries, so we hope she keeps this up. Stefan wants to keep Katherine alive, but he might not be the best person to watch over her as he is also still having panic attacks. Katherine realized this and called for backup, a.k.a. his sober sponsor Caroline.
Caroline can’t do anything about Katherine’s aging/suicidal situation, but she is there to help Stefan deal with his PTSD. She has her mom deliver a safe — the safe — to the Salvatore mansion (after sanitizing it, of course). She says that Stefan needs to deal with the source of his PTSD, but he counters that since she’s a drama major, what does she know about psychology? Well, not much, but she is using her psych textbook, so maybe he should listen to her. It’s certainly better than listening to Katherine since she won’t stop pushing Caroline about “Steroline.” We love seeing her taunt about a possible Stefan/Caroline relationship because how awesome would that be? But Caroline’s not having any of it. Too bad.
Back on campus, Elena goes to see Aaron since Damon never came back from interrogating Wes and she’s worried (as she should be). Aaron’s too busy thinking that his roommate Jesse killed himself. He looks like a mess, since he’s blaming himself (he thinks he’s curse or something). Elena snaps him out of it, getting him to focus on helping her find Damon and Wes since he of all people might know where Wes would take him (Wes has been his legal guardian since the summer when his aunt Sarah died). She also clues him in that Megan didn’t kill herself and Wes forged her death certificate to let him know there’s something bigger going on.
Elena doesn’t even know how big, and neither do we, until Aaron invites her in to Whitmore house … and she can cross the threshold because he owns it. He basically owns the entire school, because his last name is Whitmore! Whoa. While in the Whitmore house, she also finds out that her dad Grayson was an Augustine doctor! Whoa! And then Wes appears out of nowhere and vervains Elena in front of Aaron, clueing him in about vampires! Whoa!
Wes tells Aaron his family pioneered the Augustine research and work, and it’s Aaron’s “legacy” … and that he had been planning on telling Aaron all of this on his birthday, but that timeline has been sped up to now. Elena wakes up in a cell next to Damon in the basement of the Whitmore house, and she — along with us — finally learns about Damon’s Augustine days. Turns out, he was in that very same cell for five years in the 50s, getting tortured surgically every day by the Augustine doctors and getting only enough blood to heal back up to do it all over again. They did it all under the guise of researching how vampires regenerated on a cellular level, but it was just sadistic. They would take out pieces of his organs, cut into him over and over, just to watch him heal.
But the reason Damon stayed alive during that hellish time, without flipping his humanity switch? He made a friend, Enzo, who was a soldier in Europe during WWII that was shipped to America for 10 years of Augustine torture. He told Damon the way to survive was to picture his revenge and that will get him through the day.
In the present, Damon promises Elena that he’ll get her out of there after she agonizes over how her father could have been one of those sadistic doctors. Damon also tells Elena that Enzo’s friendship is what kept him alive and holding onto his humanity. But the craziest part is that he also reveals he never told anyone, including Stefan, what happened during his Augustine imprisonment, so Stefan won’t know where to look for them if he even notices that they’re both missing.
So if Damon never told Stefan about his Augustine past, then how did he escape all those years ago? Every year on New Year’s Eve, the Augustine docs let the vampires out of their cells (though still in a cage with vervained bars) for a party. Dr. Whitmore let the guests drink Damon and Enzo’s blood to demonstrate how vamp blood worked. And that’s how Enzo comes up with an escape plan: one of them will drink both their daily rations of blood for an entire year to gain strength and get revenge the next year on NYE. Enzo lost the rock paper scissors game, so Damon got to drink the rations everyday, saving only a few drops for Enzo so he wouldn’t dessicate.
Back in the present and upstairs in the Whitmore house, Wes tells Aaron that he found him and his parents after they were murdered at the campsite, and knew that vamps had killed them. He covered it up to look like a bear attack, adopted Aaron, and promised to continue their work so that never happened to anyone else again. But instead of joining Wes, Aaron punches him! Yes! He wasn’t swayed over to the dark side! But he grabbed a gun. Crap. What’s he going to do with that? Also of note: Wes gave Aaron some important watch that his father always wore. Is it filled with vervain, or is it some magical object of great import that will be big later this season?
Back at the Salvatore mansion, Katherine has the bright idea to make Caroline lock her in the safe with Stefan. She thinks that in order for him to get over his PTSD they need to tap into his “hero” instincts and overshadow his fear of the safe. If he has a panic attack, he’ll kill Katherine, so hopefully he’ll care more about her safety than freaking out. And then she throws his line back at her: “You’re Stefan Salvatore, suck it up.” These two. So perfect together. They truly know what makes the other tick.
While in the safe, Katherine helps Stefan realize he’s been focusing on the physical pain of dying over and over again rather than the emotional pain of Elena leaving him for Damon. She helps him stop his panic attack, and in the close proximity of the safe, they almost hook up! But Caroline opens the safe, being the biggest buzzkill ever.
Back in the dungeon, Damon finally tells Elena his shameful secret: he left Enzo to die during his escape. After massacring the party on NYE and knocking over a candle, he tried to break the cage to free Enzo but the bars were vervained and he couldn’t get him out. Damon flipped his humanity switch so he would stop caring about Enzo, and left him to die in the ensuing fire. Watching him walk out of the burning building, all calm and uncaring, while Enzo screamed helplessly in the background, was just heartbreaking. Elena, while horrified that Damon left Enzo, forgave him since he left to save himself. It
was all about survival, after all.
But then. Then Damon reveals his dark secret revenge that changes everything we think and feel about the elder Salvatore. When Aaron comes down to free Elena and Damon, he makes them confess the truth first. He wants to know if Elena killed his parents, but Damon reveals that it was him. Damon killed Aaron’s parents! It was all a part of his revenge plan that Enzo told him to focus on back in the 50s. He decided that he would kill all the members of Augustine and then all the members of the Whitmore family … leaving only one Whitmore alive.
Damon would let that person grow up, start a family, and then kill them all except for one, let them grow up and start a family, and do it over and over again. For the past 50 years, he’s been sticking to his revenge plan and kept it up even as soon as a few months ago, when he killed someone named Sarah Whitmore … a.k.a. Aaron’s aunt. He did this at the beginning of his happy, perfect summer with Elena. It was a weekend trip that she didn’t know about.
This reveal is huge. Damon’s lost count of how many Whitmores he’s killed over the years (meaning it’s a whole lot) and there isn’t anything to excuse him for his shocking, horrifying behavior. He wasn’t killing these people to survive, or to save anyone, or because his humanity was flipped off. There was no purpose other than pure, unadulterated revenge. Sure, he was tortured for five years, but killing innocent people just because they were born with the last name of Whitmore? That’s just … cold. Sadistic. As bad as the Augustine doctors themselves.
Damon’s been keeping it up even during his relationship with Elena, and she had no idea what was going on. Will she be able to get past this? From the horrified and disgusted look on her face, we doubt it. Is this the end of Delena? She can’t even go back to Stefan though since he’s with Katherine (more on that in a bit) so that’s the end of Stelena, too. And in shock from hearing what Damon’s been doing to his family for the past 50 years, Aaron shoots Damon (in the head, not the heart, thank goodness).
Back at the mansion, Caroline’s happy over Stefan’s success, and calls Elena to let her know. But … thanks to her vampire hearing, she hears something she probably wish that she didn’t. Katherine and Stefan hadn’t cooled down after getting out of the safe … they simply relocated to the library, and started MAKING OUT. Katherine! And Stefan! MAKING OUT! Excuse us while we jump up and down in excitement. This. Was. Freaking. HOT. Caroline, on the other hand, is freaking out. She definitely isn’t as happy as we are about Stetherine. Whatever buzzkill, at least Stefan’s happy again.
But no one is happy over at Whitmore. After Damon’s confession, Aaron left both Damon and Elena in the cells and Wes told him to live his life. He also put on the watch of some great important reason that we still don’t know about.
For a second it looked like Aaron had let Elena go and she chose to leave Damon but she was actually brought in by Wes to be tortured. And she — along with all of us — was shocked to see none other than Enzo strapped onto a table next to hers. Enzo’s still alive! And singing? After 50 years of nonstop torture, we wouldn’t blame him for being a little batty. Plus, that voice is like caramel. Keep on singing, Enzo!
So what did you think of “The Cell?” Are you as horrified about Damon’s revenge on the Whitmores as Elena is? Are you able to forgive him? Will she? And how hot was Stefan+Katherine? So hot, right?
“The Vampire Diaries” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.