It seems we're entering the winter of Elena's discontent, or at the very least one hell of a romantic lull. Since she rejected Damon, he's quickly reverted back into bad guy mode, and though Stefan seems perilously close to becoming the Stefan we used to know, he's clinging to two ideas pretty fiercely -- that feelings are pain, and loving someone is just a bad idea for all involved when you're a bloodsucker. Even a minor spark with Matt never really got rekindled, so Elena is just going to have to go it alone -- as usual. It turns out having hot vampire brothers lust after you isn't so much fun after all.

The morning after the ball, Elena tries to call Stefan, but he ignores her. Damon, however, is happy to pick up -- only to be snarky toward her. Not that Damon's any more attentive to his booty call, Rebekah. He stops just short of shoving her out the door, and when Rebekah suggests he'll be calling her again soon, Damon pretty firmly puts the kibosh on that idea. Besides, he has other things to think about -- like opening the door to Elena. She's visiting to tell him all about Esther's grand plan, but seeing his date for the evening gleefully slink past certainly doesn't add to Elena's good mood (though it seems to enhance Damon's). They have to do something! But Damon doesn't see a problem with Esther's plot to kill her kids, even if he just slept with one of them -- to him, it's all a win-win. Elena, however, can't stomach the idea that Elijah has to die. Damon warns Elena to keep her mouth shut -- even though he knows full well she won't. 
 
Back at the Mikaelson's, Rebekah does the walk of shame and gets merrily ribbed for it by Kol and Klaus, but Elijah has no interest in frat boy games. He's sure Esther is up to something. Rebekah tells Elijah not to be silly -- their mother loves them! Oh, Rebekah, such a mean girl but such a sweetly naive kid under the surface. 
 
Elena decides to pop over to Bonnie's place for business (working on replicating Esther's privacy spell) and pleasure (complaining about Damon). But Bonnie has an update as well -- Esther has recruited her to help out in the plan to off her kids, as she needs to tap into Bonnie's ancestral bloodline. Bonnie can't understand why this isn't good news to Elena, but Elena can't stop worrying about Elijah. Bonnie suggests she won't have to worry long -- the full moon is coming up, and Esther will be putting her plan into effect to coincide with it. Hello, ticking clock! 
 
Stefan and Damon discuss who gets Elena. The answer? Neither of them. Damon pretends not to care, just as long as they don't let her screw up Esther's plan. I don't believe either of these guys' feigned indifference for a moment, but it's hard not to see the logic in wanting to tie up Elena so that Esther's plot can go through. Yes, it would be horrible to lose Elijah, but it would certainly solve the Klaus conundrum in a hurry. 
 
Uh-oh -- Elijah drops by to visit Elena. He wants to show her something. In the woods. Next to a cave. The fact that Elijah can't meet her in a coffee shop suggests this is not a great idea, but Elena trusts Elijah just a little too much. When Elijah confronts Elena, telling her that he's sure she lied about Esther, Elena crumbles like a stale cookie and tells him Esther plans to kill him and all of his siblings. Which, it seems, was probably in the back of Elijah's brain pan, as he promptly dumps Elena into a bottomless cave -- with Rebekah to keep an eye on her. 
 
Damon hopes that Ric will be able to make sure Elena doesn't do what we know she's already done, but it doesn't matter anyway -- Ric is with the "sexy psycho doctor," as Damon likes to call Meredith, so he doesn't have time to run around on errands for vampires. I'm not sure Meredith is necessarily the safer option, but at least Ric seems happy -- though I think even he has lots of questions about the good doctor. 
 
Stefan comes home to find Elijah holding court, and he quickly learns that the cat is out of the bag, at least where Esther's big plan is concerned. Elijah just needs Stefan and Damon to help him stop his mother. And how can they do that? The ancestral bloodline needs to be broken. As in, kill Bonnie and Abby. They have until that night to stop her, or Rebekah will kill Elena. For the brothers, this is a pretty easy choice, obviously. 
 
Damon has no problem offing the Bennetts -- as he says, you can't draw power from a dead battery -- but Stefan just isn't going for it. Luckily, Damon has a plan B -- they can dagger any one of the Mikaelsons and come at the problem from a completely different angle. 
 
Damon hatches a more fully developed plan B, and this time he can put Ric into action. Kol and Klaus are drinking themselves sick at the Mystic Grill, so their defenses are down. All that's needed now is some good daggering. Oh, and a distracting blonde. So who walks in? Caroline, of course. Klaus drops everything to follow her around, desperate to woo her -- and despite herself, she seems a little more open to his best moves, even as she tells him she's far too smart to fall for them. I have to admit that I like these two together, and though I know it can't end well, I'm curious to see what happens between them. Poor Tyler.  
 
Bonnie and Abby show up for Esther's ritual, which involves a big pentagram, some tiki torches and them. Esther will be able to make her children human again through her latest spell -- thus, making them easy to kill. She's about to sacrifice Finn, but she realizes something's gone wrong -- like Kol getting daggered at the bar by Ric and the gang.  
 
Klaus feels it (as does Rebekah), but neither of them seem all that injured, as Klaus springs into action and rescues his brother. Damon takes the opportunity, though, to confront Klaus and tell him about his mom. Let's just say there's not a whole lot of love being directed toward Esther right now. 
 
Back in the cave, Rebekah is having great fun torturing Elena, who accidentally stumbles into the vampire free zone in the cave. This annoys Rebekah to no end, who is not only eager to kill Elena, but looking forward to making her thoroughly miserable before she does. Of course, no safe zone is really all that safe, as Rebekah comes up with the idea of dousing the area with gasoline and setting a match. Elena can either come out and be killed or… well, stay in and be killed. Elena finally decides to appeal to Rebekah's baser character. If she kills Elena now, she won't be able to make Elena's life miserable over the long haul. And isn't that what Rebekah wants? Her feelings were hurt, and she wants payback -- not quickly, but slowly and painfully. Realizing the truth in Elena's sad assessment, Rebekah puts out the match. 
 
Soon enough, it's time for Elijah, Kol and Klaus to confront dear old mom. Esther, once confronted about her plan, has no intention of backing down. Standing in a circle of protection, the sons can do nothing to the mother, but soon she can't do much, either -- as Stefan and Damon are back to plan A, which involves making that witchy battery a dead one.
 
Stefan and Damon debate which one of them will end up on Elena's grudge list for going through with their plan, and they admit they're willing to do the evil deed -- and get on her bad side -- if it saves her life. For one guy who refuses to love and another who loves and has lost, they're impressively dedicated. 
 
But we soon learn that Damon and Stefan aren't planning to kill Bonnie or Abby -- Damon, in fact, turns Abby into a vampire. Vampires can't be witches, and thus, the ancestral bloodline is broken. It's not ideal, but it's a heck of a lot better than killing Abby, and I have to think Elena will be able to see the upside in this compromise, even if it takes Bonnie a while longer. 
 
Later, Elena tries to rush to Bonnie's side -- but Caroline is manning the door. Even though Elena wants desperately to be there for her friend, Bonnie doesn't want to see her as she watches her mother transition into a vampire. And, as Caroline points out, everything that was done that night was done to save Elena, which is fine and good -- but Bonnie's somehow always the one who gets hurt. Elena, chastened, has no choice but to leave. 
 
There's also chaos afoot at the Mikaelson's. With Esther's plan seemingly on hold for the long haul, the siblings are beginning to split up. Elijah's leaving, Kol's already fled, and no one has any clue as to where Esther and Tim have gone. What Rebekah realizes is that Klaus has never left her -- so she decides to share a secret with him. When she was taking pictures of Elena in the cave (all the better to torture the Salvatore brothers), she saw cave drawings, the ones Bonnie and the rest of the gang couldn't decipher. But Rebekah knows exactly what their import is -- though they destroyed the white oak tree, it seems it must have shed a sapling along the way. That means the tree that can kill all of the Originals is still around. Looks like Klaus has a job to do -- and Esther, though she doesn't know it yet, might still have another card to play.
 
If Elena was feeling betrayed by Elijah for sticking her in a cave with her worst enemy (or at least one of her worst enemies), he leaves her a note on her bed to apologize. He will live with the regret he feels forever, and he has great admiration for her sense of compassion. Well, that's sweet, though I would think he may have to try a little harder than a handwritten note on nice stationery. 
 
Ric, who's still getting over getting tossed around during the confrontation with Kol, is recovering at Meredith's messy house. In the middle of the night, he gets up and can't help snooping around. Just as he finds the dagger that looks suspiciously like the murder weapon in the medical examiner's death, Meredith tells Ric he wasn't supposed to see that -- and shoots him. And just like that, the investigation that had faded into the background in recent episodes just got a whole lot more interesting. 
 
What do you think of Damon's fling with Rebekah? Do you think Stefan is on his way to becoming the old Stefan we used to know? What did you think of Elijah's decision to have Elena held hostage?