Think you know vampires? You don't. Neither does Elena Gilbert, but she's about to, as two very different brothers - one good, one evil; both vampires - will soon be at war for her soul. The town of Mystic Falls, Virginia, will never be the same again.
It is four months since a tragic car accident killed the parents of 17-year-old Elena and her 15-year-old brother, Jeremy. As the school year begins, Elena and her friends are fascinated by a handsome and mysterious new student, Stefan Salvatore.
As Mystic Falls prepares to celebrate the passing of a comet, Vicki is still in the hospital. Stefan goes to the hospital and tries to use his abilities to make sure Vicki doesn't remember what really happened, but his attempt is cut short when Vicki's brother arrives.
Elena tries to ignore Bonnie's warnings about the disturbing vibes she got from Stefan and invites Stefan and Bonnie to dinner. But the evening is disrupted by the unexpected and unwelcome arrival of Damon and Caroline. Plus, the town is shocked by an act of violence.
Elena asks Stefan to escort her to the town's annual Founder's Party. Zach reveals a useful family secret to Stefan. At the party, Damon tells Elena a story about the Salvatore family's past. Finally, Stefan takes action to get Damon out of his life for good.
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Stefan is hopeful that his plan to get rid of Damon is working, and decides to reveal parts of his past to Elena. At a fundraising car wash, Bonnie is surprised by powers she didn't know she possessed. Finally, Elena hears a disturbing story about the Salvatore family.
Elena demands that Stefan explain the frightening events that have been happening in Mystic Falls. In flashbacks, Stefan explains how his rivalry with Damon began. Back in the present, Damon impulsively takes control of Vicki's future, and a terrified Vicki runs away.
As Vicki's behaviour becomes more dangerous, Stefan tries to help her. Elena tries to convince Jeremy to stay away from her. Trying to cheer Vicki up, Matt takes her to the high school's haunted house, but the evening soon takes a terrifying turn.
On his birthday, Stefan is surprised by a visit from Lexi, one of his oldest friends. Still upset by the events at the Halloween haunted house, Elena does her best to stay away from Stefan. Plus, Damon's offer to help Sheriff Forbes has sudden and tragic results.
Jeremy gets a break from the mysterious new history teacher, Alaric Saltzman, and introduces Alaric to Jenna. Bonnie is having terrifying dreams about one of her ancestors. Damon finally reveals to Stefan the stunning reason he has returned to Mystic Falls.
When Sheriff Forbes tells Damon there has been another attack, he offers to track down the killer and learns a startling piece of information. Stefan and Elena come to a new understanding, but everything changes when Elena accidently makes a devastating discovery.
Damon takes a trip to Georgia and enlists the help of an old flame to figure out how to open the tomb. In the process, Damon comes face to face with someone who is determined to make him pay. When Damon returns, Stefan is waiting with news that will change their world.
As Stefan and Damon try to figure out the identity of the new vampire in town, Stefan gives Elena jewellery filled with Vervain to protect her family and friends. Damon and Stefan accompany Elena to a school dance, where Alaric introduces himself to Damon.
In flashbacks, Stefan and Damon recall the long-ago actions taken by townspeople. Back in the present, Bonnie's date with Ben takes a frightening turn. Elena helps Stefan as he and Damon race to find the missing journal that belonged to Elena's ancestor. history.
Stefan helps Elena and Bonnie out of a dangerous situation. Jeremy asks Anna to a party in the woods, unaware that she has her own reasons for wanting to meet him there. Stefan, Damon and Elena work with Bonnie and Grams to open the tomb.
Matt and Caroline are surprised by the sudden reappearance of Matt's mother, Kelly. Alaric discovers shocking secrets from his own past. With help from Jenna and Stefan, Elena is determined to find out everything she can about her birth mother.
Anna brings a surprising guest along when she pays a visit to Damon. Elena and Stefan go on an awkward double date with Caroline and Matt. Jenna reunites with her old friend Kelly, and Jeremy's relationship with Anna takes an unexpected direction.
Stefan and Damon make a dangerous enemy and Stefan suddenly finds himself in a perilous situation. Damon and Elena try to convince Alaric to work with them. And, after Caroline's car breaks down in a storm, she makes a horrific discovery that shocks everyone in town.
While Stefan struggles to control his new situation, Elena and Jeremy are surprised by a visit from their uncle, John Gilbert. At a Founder's Day event, Stefan displays a rare party attitude and Damon's attempt to find out why Uncle John has returned takes an ugly turn.
Elena and Caroline compete for the title of "Miss Mystic Falls" against other girls from town. Elena is happy to have Bonnie back in town, but Bonnie still has issues to work through. John Gilbert tries to intimidate Damon, but his plan doesn't have the desired effect.
Both Stefan and Damon reveal parts of their history to Elena, until she finally learns the truth about how they became vampires. Pearl has an ugly confrontation with John Gilbert. Damon and Alaric try to find a mysterious invention before John does.
Isobel returns to town and stuns Alaric with her attitude. When Isobel and Elena finally meet, Isobel refuses to answer most of Elena's questions, but reveals that she will stop at nothing to find the mysterious invention John Gilbert has been searching for.
Founder's Day has finally arrived, and everyone is busy with last-minute preparations for floats and fireworks. Although Damon and Alaric do their best to stop him, John Gilbert sets a plan in motion that brings Founder's Day to an end amid chaos, destruction and death.