Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert and Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2012 The CW Network Photo: Stefan and Damon in Season 3, Episode 16: “1912”

Though he jokes, Damon is really concerned about his brother’s decision to quit cold turkey. This leads us to Flashback No. 4. Sage catches Damon clumsily feeding and criticizes him for only using his female victim for food. “What is being a vampire if not relishing in the pleasure of it?” she asks. She takes him inside and tutors him on how to pick his victims. She tells him to go for the quiet conservative women because they’re closet freaks and he’ll have more fun seducing them. She points one out for him. Damon take her advice right away. But he takes good notes. And, during Flashback No. 5, he suggests that Stefan break his no-humans fast and share that woman for a meal.

History seems to be repeating itself in the present day. After admitting that he’s “ready to eat the whole wait staff,” Stefan rushes out of The Grill. Damon and Rebekah follow. This time, when Damon picks a woman for them to share, he thinks he’s helping his little brother. “You’re not going to survive this cold turkey stuff,” he says “You never do.”

Damon threatens Stefan, saying that if he doesn’t drink some of the woman’s blood he will give the poor girl to Rebekah to kill. Stefan looks at the woman’s bleeding neck. He can’t resist going in for a sip-sip. Only once he starts drinking he can’t stop and he loses control and Damon has to knock him off her.

The woman falls to the ground and Damon gives her some of his blood so that she’ll heal. But, of course, before Stefan can vamp home and clean himself up, Elena and Matt walk by, catching him with blood on his face and a bitten woman at his feet. Ooops. Damon tries to convince Elena that it’s just an experiment, but she’ not that stupid. 

Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert and Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2012 The CW Network Photo: Damon and Rebekah in Season 3, Episode 16: “1912”

Simply titled “1912,” the returning episode of The Vampire Diaries opens as the clock in Mystic Falls’ town square strikes midnight. The year is — you guessed it — 1912.  One Mr. Zachariah Salvatore, a town council member, is walking home when someone approaches him from behind and stabs him in the back. It’s murder — apparently the third councilmember that year. (Sound familiar?)

Flash forward 100 years and Sheriff Forbes and Mayor Lockwood are crossing the same town square, headed to the jailhouse where Alaric is about to wake up from the dead behind bars. Apparently, after the history teacher discovered the knife in Meredith’s bag, the not-so-good doctor shot him. Then Mer called Sheriff Liz claiming he attacked her. So now he’s in jail. Neither the sheriff or the mayor wants to believe he did it. But the medical examiner and Caroline’s dad were both killed with weapons from his stash so…well, what are they going to do?

Across town, Elena’s trying to jog off the memory of last night. Matt catches up to her to tell her that Bonnie’s mom has decided to live through the transition and become a vampire. Elena feels horrible about the whole predicament. Matt tries to cheer her up, saying that Bonnie “knows it’s not your fault.” But our girl’s realistic even if he isn’t. “Damon turned [Bonnie’s] mom into a vampire to save my life,” she says. “It’s absolutely my fault.”

Before Elena can whip herself some more, she gets a call from the Sheriff and heads to the jail to check on Alaric. There, she catches Damon on his way out. The Sheriff has ordered him to stay out of the investigation, which, of course, means that’s all he’s going to do. But he refuses to tell Elena that. When she asks him to stick around and help, he snarks her, offering to “rip out Dr. False Accusation’s Throat.”

Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert and Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2012 The CW Network Photo: Sage in Season 3, Episode 16: “1912”

Back at Casa Salvatore, Damon asks Stefan if he remembers the year their great-nephew Zachariah was murdered. It was (you guessed right again) 1912. “Or, as I like to call it,” Damon repeats, “the last time Mystic Falls had a serial killer on its hands. “

We then enter Flashback No. 2. After going 50 years without seeing each other, the Salvatore bros return to Mystic Falls for their nephew’s funeral. The two have an awkward reunion. After learning that their so-called “uncle ” Zack has been murdered, they decide to stick around to solve the whodunit.

Returning to 2012, Damon and Stefan head to The Grill to discuss Alaric’s case. They try to come up with suspects and something that would tie the current murders to those in 1912. While they play Hardy boys Rebekah does a little investigating of her own. She meets with Mayor Lockwood to try and dig up a little town history so that she can locate the other white oak tree before someone uses its ashes to kill her and her fam (again). The mayor’s so cooperative we’re starting to wonder if she has been compelled.

After the mayor leaves, ‘Beks joins the brothers, suggesting that maybe one of their kind did kill those people back in 1912. Stefan remembers that there was one other bloodsucker in town at the time. “Oh, right, Sage,” Damon says. “Speaking of great sex…”

Off that comment we slide into Flashback No. 3. The night after their nephew’s funeral, Damon and Stefan go out for drinks at a boxing match being held at a tent in the woods. The main event features a woman, an undercover vampire named Sage, who kicks human butt for $100 payoffs. While they watch the fight Stefan tires to convince Damon to join him on the no-human-blood bandwagon.

Back in the future, Elena approaches Dr. Fell outside the hospital to see how the evil M.D. could “do that” to Alaric. The doc plays hardball, claiming Alaric has a violent past that includes a couple of restraining orders from Isabel. Elena doesn’t believe her. “You date vampires, Elena,” she says. “It shouldn’t come as a shock to learn that your guardian is a murder.” Oooh, low blow.

Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert and Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2012 The CW Network Photo: Stefan, Marianna, and Samantha in Season 3, Episode 16: “1912”

Back at Casa Gilbert, Matt tries to consol his ex. Then he asks what she sees in the Salvatores. Elena tells him that she knows it doesn’t make sense but that, back after her parents died she felt safe with Stefan. And the whole Damon thing? Well, she says, “Damon just sort of snuck up on me. He got under my skin and no matter what I do I just can’t shake him.” Matt knows the feeling. He gives Elena a look that makes us think he has forgotten about Caroline. “Once you fall in love with someone I don’t know if you actually can,” he says. Uh-oh. As a parting gift, he pulls the Gilbert journal out of his back pocket. Turns out he’d lifted it at the police station after their meeting with the sheriff. “Sometimes it pays to be the only normal one in a town of vampires,” he says of his theft. “I’m practically invisible.”

Across town at Casa Salvatore, Stefan’s sitting in front of the fire, brooding. He accuses Damon of trying to help him only because he feels guilty for kissing Elena. This takes us back to Flashback No. 5. So Damon convinces Stefan to step off of the animal-blood-drinking bandwagon by taking the woman Sage picked for him. “Have a drink with me, brother,” he says.

Cut to Stefan greedily drinking and not sharing the woman. Mid binge, he beheads her — just up and rips her head right off her body. Then he falls to his knees and starts apologizing and trying to put the lady back together. “What have you done to me?” He asks Damon. Then he runs off. Damon does not follow. This, it turns out, is the start of another Stefan killing spree.

It turns out not stopping Stefan from going on that murder roll is what Damon really feels guilty about — not the whole Elena business. That’s why he’s trying to help Stefan slowly back off human blood. “Whenever you go too far I will be there to pull you back,” he says. “Every second. Every day. Until you don’t need me… Because right now you’re all I got.”

Likewise, Alaric is all Elena has. When the teacher tries to chastise her for breaking into Meredith’s apartment, Elena lets him. Then she goes upstairs to read the stolen journal, which, it turns out, belongs to her great grand-something Samantha.

Meredith drops by while Elena’s upstairs reading. She tells Alaric that she forged the document to clear him so that she could help him. Get this: She thinks he is the killer. “You’re insane,” Alaric tells her.

“No. But I think you might be,” Meredith replies. “You wear a ring that lets you cheat death, Ric. How many times can you die before it changes you?”

Ric sits down. And he gets a look on his face that suggests he’s not so sure about himself. Just as Meredith starts explaining how she thinks his murdering sprees could be possible, Elena walks in holding the journal. “Ric I think she’s right,” she says.

Cut to the final flashback. We’re in the square with Zachariah Salvatore again. Only this time we see a woman, Samantha Gilbert, pulling the knife out of Zack’s back. She’s wearing the same ring that now belongs to Alaric.

 

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Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert and Bob Mahoney/The CW ©2012 The CW Network Photo: Damon, Stefan, and Rebekah in Season 3, Episode 16: “1912”

Determined to prove Alaric’s innocence, Elena waits until Meredith goes into surgery then she and Matt break into the doc’s house. Their plan is to look for evidence to use against her. At first, they find nothing. But then Elena remembers that founding family members have a thing for building false walls in the back of their closets, so she checks Meredith’s closet and… bingo.

Elena and Matt start digging through the doc’s files. They find a box filled with what looks like a hit list — files on the medical examiner, Bill Forbes, and Alaric. They also find a Gilbert family journal and a coroner’s note that claims the medical examiner died three hours earlier than the official report states. The time difference would clear Alaric as a murder suspect. Instead of taking this and running, they stick around just long enough to get caught by Meredith.

Saying the Sheriff is disappointed when she finds out about Elena and Matt’s breaking and entering would be putting things lightly. She’s pissed. Turns out Meredith had already given her a copy of the document that cleared Alaric. By snooping Elena and Matt inadvertently damaged the case she was building against Meredith. Now, the doctor can claim that any evidence found in her apartment was planted there by Elena. Drats.

Speaking of stupid moves… Back at The Grill, Rebekah’s still hanging around the Salvatore brothers even though they’ve made it clear that they don’t want her company. Stefan’s especially not pleased. “Why are you so grumpy,” Beks asks after he makes yet another rude comment. “He’s on a master cleanse, trying to be a better man and all,” Damon replies.