When we left our gaggle of Mystic Falls-ians, those both living and dead, finding Katherine Pierce (Nina Dobrev) and the cure for vampirism was very much the name of the game. Damon (Ian Somerhalder) had just had his neck snapped on a rooftop in New York, and Rebekah (Claire Holt) and emotion-free Elena (Nina Dobrev) had stolen his car along with a list of locations where Katherine had most recently been spotted. Stefan (Paul Wesley), fresh from saving Bonnie (Kat Graham) at the cost of twelve witch-lives, was ready to back up his brother, and Klaus (Joseph Morgan) had a nasty bit of white oak sticking out of his skin. All in all, just your average Thursday for all our favorite people.
In The Vampire Diaries Season 4, Episode 18, “American Gothic,” Thelma and Louise — otherwise known as Rebekah and Elena — have made a lot of headway in the past week. They’ve crossed off many towns on the Katherine-list, and abandoned Damon’s car on the highway, replacing it with a Porsche SUV because they are the classiest of broads. The novelty of enjoying each other’s company has worn off, and Rebekah and Elena stop in a tiny Pennsylvania town to stretch their legs, look for Katherine, and do their best not to kill each other.
This place is different than every other town they’ve searched, because the locals seem to know Elena. That is, they know Katherine. Everybody’s favorite doppelganger has compelled the entire town into being not just her forgiving blood-bags, but her best friends. It’s a move even Rebekah calls out as pathetic and this girl spends most of every episode wailing and saying stuff like “I just want to be loved!” and “Babies!”
It doesn’t take them long to find the woman herself, after the neighborhood’s friendly compelled mailman mentions having seen Katherine with a different hairstyle two minutes earlier. Katherine initially gets the drop on Elena, but with an assist from Rebekah, they drag the guilty doppelganger to the town diner for some cheesecake and light torture.
Katherine, being Katherine, is in no hurry to divulge any of her secrets — the whereabouts of the cure included. But since we’re no longer living in medieval times, Rebekah grabs the well-organized doppelganger's cellphone, and spots an appointment in her calendar. It says, ‘Meet Em at 2pm” and the women think it could provide them with some answers. After Bex stabs Katherine in the hand with a fork for recreational and persuasive reasons, the brunette vamp offers up her shoes, her coat, and some jewelry so that Elena can go and meet this mystery friend, doing her best Katherine impression, which is no less than hilarious.
Stefan meets up with Damon not far from the town. After giving him some good natured ribbing about letting a bunch of girls steal his car, they refuel, moving just quickly enough to catch Rebekah and Katherine still at the diner. The Salvatores, princes of single-minded focus that they are, care very little about seeing Katherine again. They want the cure, and they want Elena because the more things change the more they stay the same.
While the out-of-towners are all doing their part to conclude their cure-hunt, Klaus has a deadly itch he can’t quite scratch. He’s writhing in exquisite shirtless agony in his mansion. The piece of the white oak stake that SIlas — in the guise of Shane — jammed in his back is still wedged tight. From the looks of it, he’s been working on trying to extract it all night, using pliers, and a roaring hot fire for, we don’t know, ambiance? Suffice to say, nothing has worked. Thus his extreme relief and delight when Caroline(Candice Accola) shows up to help him. Only it’s not Caroline at all: just Silas taking up another disguise! He’s gotten into Klaus’s head and that’s truly saying something about this Original vampire and original game-player.
Elena is waiting in the quaint town square gazebo, waiting for the mysterious “Em” to arrive. She barely manages to contain her shock with “Em” is revealed to be “E.M.” - Elijah Mikaelson (Daniel Gillies)! She’s even more surprised to learn — as Elijah leans in for a deep kiss — that he and Katherine are not just in league but in some sort of love.
Sensing that Rebekah is wavering in her loyalties, Damon and Stefan remind her that if anything happens to Elena, they won’t let her near the cure. Stefan goes for an Elena hunt, while Damon and Rebekah go with Katherine to her strange, grandmother-esque home so that she can hand over the cure.
In Mystic Falls, Klaus is sure his death is approaching faster than ever. Caroline shows up. While he’s skeptical after his tricky encounter with Silas, her whining about his phone stalking her and her complaints of being overworked by the Prom committee make it clear that this is indeed Miss Forbes in the flesh. He explains his predicament, and she, being a good person, goes ahead and helps him. Then she realizes that she has him at the advantage and stops, saying she’ll only continue if he calls off his hunt for Tyler(Michael Trevino).
It doesn’t take long at all for Elijah to realize that Elena isn’t his Katerina. He’s surprised to see Elena, and even more so to see her with her emotions turned off — the compassion that he once commended her for locked so tightly away. Elena berates Elijah for falling for Katherine’s ruse, which, she figures, involves using Elijah until she can broker a deal for the cure with his brother Klaus. Elijah says whatever Katherine’s faults, there must be a core of her that is still the woman he loves. Elena basically spits on this idea, as it’s the same one that’s got both Damon and Stefan still singing Rick Astley at her in spite of everything.
At Katherine’s house, Rebekah is sent upstairs to look for the cure, and Damon, not falling for Katherine’s mewling assurances that it has been stolen, uses his knowledge of his one time psycho-lover to figure out its whereabouts: in the empty fish tank. In an instant, Rebekah has the cure in her grasp, and when it comes to taking it or stopping Katherine from running out the door, she picks the cure. She guzzles it and falls over in a heap.
Klaus — the single most stubborn supernatural entity of all time — refuses to give in to petulant Caroline’s demands. They bicker like (sexy) teens and all of the sudden Klaus becomes aware that he no longer feels the prick of the wood he was so sure moments ago was headed towards his heart. He realizes that Silas had gotten into his head, and that it was fighting with Caroline that distracted him and brought him back to reality. They don’t part as best friends, but Klaus points out that he isn’t exactly scouring the earth for the Tyler, and for now, that’s enough to make Caroline smile.
In spite of everyone’s hopes and fears, the cure hasn’t worked. Rebekah is still very much a vampire, and so the opposite of psyched about this. She discovers this after Damon tries, and fails, to end her not-so-human life. Stefan accuses Damon of allowing Bex to take the potion deliberately and not wanting Elena to take it. Damon doesn’t do much to deny this accusation. Besides, they’ve got bigger Originals and dopplegangers to fry. Clearly this “cure” was a fake planted by Katherine, and they played right into her hands.
Or should we say right into her extremely murderous hands, as she snaps Elena’s neck when the newbie vamp is mid conversation with Elijah. It’s a hollow gesture though, because Elijah has already learned from Elena that Katherine killed Jeremy. This information was news to Elijah. His conversation with Elena was enough to make him question Katherine, and he walks away from his lover.
Stefan is furious with Damon in light of the revelation about allowing Rebekah to take the cure. He was so sure that they were on the same page, and Damon admits he let his feelings get in the way. The brothers make up and go to the diner to meet Elena, their bond growing stronger. Elena’s called this meeting to make it clear that she has no intention of ever taking the cure. They in turn make it clear that they will never give up on getting her to take it. That, she says, will have terrible consequences. And she’s not just talking to hear herself. Just ask the waitress whose neck she snapped to prove the point. Or don’t. Because she is dead.
While Elena is being badder than ever, Katherine shows signs of redemption — or is it all just another game? She brings the cure, which she’d hidden at one of the compelled townspeople’s home, to Elijah. Katherine says that her feelings for him were real and that the cure is in his hands now. It’s a tremendous act of faith, one Elijah doesn’t have much time to mull over. Rebekah appears to let him know that if given the chance she wants to take it. She will always love her family, but wants to finally choose the way she lives and dies. Cure in hand, Elijah and Rebekah drive back to Mystic Falls and Klaus.