Did Stefan Salvatore really just die? We knew The Vampire Diaries was going to kill off someone important in this episode, and we speculated that it might be Stefan, but we had no idea that Stefan was going to go out in such a gruesome way in Season 5, Episode 21. And poor Caroline was a witness to the whole thing! 

TVD has a knack for memorable death scenes, and part of what made Stefan's death so shocking is that it happened so suddenly. Seriously! One minute he was fighting with Julian (in Tyler's hybrid body) and the next, Julian was holding Stefan's heart in his hand. That's right. Julian ripped out Stefan's heart! Now, seeing as the Other Side is currently falling apart, we don't think this death is permanent — at least we don't want to believe it. Stefan has grown into one of our favorite characters over the last few seasons (read: the best character on the show), and his friendship with Caroline is the best part of the show! We just don't see how Julie Plec and Co. can make this death permanent. 

Then again, it does end the love triangle once and for all, which is a very good thing for the series. Perhaps Stefan's death would be the catalyst TVD needs to fix itself. This past season has faltered when it came to storytelling. Stefan is an amazing character, but in his absence, perhaps other character will step up to the plate. 

OK, so now that you've had some time to deal with the reality of Stefan's fate, let's rewind at start from the top. The penultimate episode begins with a scene at the Salvatore mansion. In the wake of Stefan and Elena’s “doppelnapping,” Damon is questioning (read: torturing) a Traveler — or, rather a Passenger residing inside poor Mr. Sykes — and getting nowhere. It turns out these Travelers are really good at keeping quiet and really bad at keeping track of Markos’ whereabouts.

Luckily for Damon, but unluckily for Mr. Sykes, a rogue Traveler sets Stefan and Elena free from Markos’ blood-draining dungeon. They’re weak and hungry, but hey, at least they have their lives. And we’d totally watch a spinoff of them trying to live off the grid. Hunting for squirrels is not Elena’s forte. You think they would have learned more survival skills hunting for the cure.

With nothing better to do, Stefan and Elena entertain themselves by asking W.W.C.D. — “What Would Caroline Do?” We love that the TVD writers love Caroline Forbes as much as we do. We only wish she would have had more screentime in this episode. (And if Caroline was around, there would definitely be two rainbows.)

Eventually, Stefan and Elena get picked up by the same rogue Traveler who set them free — and it happens to be Julian’s wife. She wants to save her husband, which is awkward because Stelena obviously wants to save their friend. But they don’t have a ton of time because now that he has the doppelganger blood, Markos is about to start the spell to rid Mystic Falls of magic.

Enter the Wonder Twins. Luke and Liv tried everything they could to stop the Travelers, so in a desperate attempt to stop Markos, they decide they have to kill one of the doppelgangers. So they attack Stelena during their joyride back to the Salvatore mansion. Julian’s wife Maria dies in the crash — hey, Bonnie, what’s up, girl? — which leaves Stelena in a dangerous situation.

But the Wonder Twins don't get very far in their murderous plan before their magic starts to wear off. The Travelers of Mystic Falls have begun the spell — and it's spreading beyond just their sleepy town. Liv and Luke aren't the only ones affected by the Travelers' spell, as Stefan and Elena's daylight rings no longer work. This sends Stelena running for the Mystic Grill. And while they're on the run with Matty Blue Eyes, Stefan and Elena both relive their human deaths, which has devastating effects IRL. Needless to say, Stefan and Elena need to get out of Mystic Falls. (Don't worry: Caroline is safe and at Whitmore.) 

As for Damon, well, he's busy with Markos. After his plan to kidnap Markos' Travelers from the cave backfires — Markos clearly doesn't care about his people — he resorts to Plan B, Julian. Julian wants to reunite with his wife Maria (he clearly doesn't know she's dead), so he teams up with Damon to try and take down Markos. Unfortunately for both of them, the Travelers' have started the spell and both Damon and Julian are losing their supernatural abilities. Markos tells them to run; they might be able to out-run the spell by nightfall. 

So all of our Mystic Falls favorites gather just outside of town, ready to leave Mystic Falls. Damon and Elena reunite and — wait for it — KISS. There's nothing like a near-death experience to remind you of how much you love each other. Stefan tells Damon and Elena to head off while he waits for Caroline. Matt and Jeremy are going to stay in Mystic Falls to keep an eye on the Travelers. 

But Julian doesn't want to leave without Maria. And that's when Stefan has to tell him that Maria's dead. He doesn't take it well. He tries to attack Stefan. That's when Caroline steps in and tries to snap Julian's neck, and then Julian goes after Care Bear! Stefan steps in, and before you can say, "Hero hair," Julian is holding Stefan's heart in his hand. 

Caroline cries. We all cry. Stefan meets Bonnie to pass to the Other Side. We have no idea how they're going to fix this one. 

Catch the season finale of The Vampire Diaries on Thursday, May 15 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW. Are you sad Stefan is dead? Tell us what you thought of the episode in the comments below! 

Crystal Bell is an editor at Wetpaint Entertainment and our resident fangirl for all things The Vampire Diaries. Follow her on Twitter and Google+!