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Elena: Who is that?
Damon: This.. is Lillian Salvatore.
Elena: Your mother is alive?
Damon: Yep. Turns out she's been in a Prison World, snapshot of 1903, for over a century.
Damon telling Elena about his mother's status

A Bird in a Gilded Cage is the seventeenth episode of the sixth season of The Vampire Diaries and the one hundred and twenty-eighth episode of the series overall.



The Vampire Diaries 6x17 Extended Promo - A Bird in a Gilded Cage HD

DAMON TRAVELS TO THE 1903 PRISON WORLD - With the help of Bonnie and Kai, Damon and Elena set forth a plan to rescue Damon's mother, Lily, who is trapped in the 1903 prison world. Meanwhile, when Caroline's plan for Stefan backfires, she is left to pick up the pieces. Elsewhere, back at Whitmore College, Enzo and Alaric's attempt to reel Caroline back in doesn't quite go as planned when they realize they're outmaneuvered. Lastly, an unexpected gift from Bonnie leaves Damon shaken to his core.


Caroline cleans up the bar after her confrontation with Stefan and Elena. Once Enzo walks into the bar, Caroline explains that she was using Sarah as leverage to make Stefan turn his humanity off. "That's both clever and deeply unsettling," he says.

When Stefan arrives home, he quickly asks Damon where they keep all of the weapons. Damon confronts him about turning off his humanity. But Stefan breaks Damon's arm before he can inject him with vervain, then warns him to stay away and leaves.

Sarah Salvatore wakes up in the hospital, where Jo tells her she got drunk and passed out in the quad after a rave. Sarah seems to have a difficult time believing that. Alaric wants her to keep Sarah safe until Elena's blood is out of Sarah's system, he doesn't want another Salvatore vampire on the loose.

Elena comes home to find Damon working out his rage on the furniture, hitting a chair repeatedly with a bat. He tells her his mother is alive and a ripper. "It makes perfect sense, Stefan was always a mama's boy," Damon says. Elena gets an idea, but Damon thinks you don't fix one ripper problem by unleashing another.

Damon goes to Bonnie for her help to work with Kai to get to 1903 which she reluctantly agrees after some convincing. Bonnie goes to Kai to get the 1903 ascendant. He puts on a big show of how hard it would be to get it, then reveals it's in his pocket. He offers to go to 1903, but only if Bonnie comes. He points out what a danger Caroline is.

Cut to Caroline auditioning for the school musical, bringing herself to (fake) tears. She waits for the director's review, but his head falls off. Stefan killed him. He then mocks her idea of keeping her cover for a year so there's no wreckage when she turns her humanity back on, saying that he has no such routine and intends to wreak havoc on her life so it's full of nothing but mistakes.

At the Salvatore house, Bonnie, Kai, Damon and Elena prepare to go to the 1903 prison world. Once they transport, they are greeted by the world covered in snow, Bonnie and Kai break off to look for the 1903 ascendant, because it can't travel between worlds, and Elena and Damon go to look for Damon's mother.

Stefan tries to get on his motorcycle but soon as he apply's pressure on the seat, it falls apart. Caroline appears round the corner warning him to leave her alone. She's not happy she just had to stuff the director's body in a furnace. When he discovers she unbolted it, he calls her an "embarrassment to humanity-free vampires everywhere." She punches a hole in his gas tank just to prove a point.

Enzo drops by Alaric's office, hoping for vervain to use on Stefan and Caroline. Alaric refuses to help, he doesn't want his child growing up without a father. Enzo guilt's him into helping stop them, and Alaric offers his weapons.

Damon and Elena finds his childhood home, Elena finds a picture of Stefan but thinks that it is Damon and makes a comment that he was so cute. Damon reply's with that's Stefan and hands her a photo of Damon. Once Damon is done swearing that his mother is dead to him, she arrives. Lily serves Damon and Elena tea and explains her life. She drained all the blood nearby and now survives on two drops a week. When laughs when Damon tells her that Stefan ripped their father's throat out. When Lily admits she hated her husband, Damon guilt's her for leaving him and Stefan with him.

Caroline finds Stefan at a vending machine in her dorm. He lobs a soda at her but it explodes in a vervain bomb. He tries to goad her into letting go, but she refuses to let him ruin her life. He tackles her, she flips him, then stakes him.

As Bonnie tries the ascendant locator spell, Kai pleads with her for one more chance to assuage his guilt. When she doesn't listen, he violently grabs her hand. "Even if you're telling the truth, the old you is still inside of you," she says, then walks off, claiming that the ascendant is "this way".

After Damon and Elena explain the need to turn Stefan's humanity back on, she agrees. Then she mentions her "traveling companions". She introduces them to a table full of mummified vampires.

Armed with crossbows, Alaric and Enzo hunt Stefan and Caroline. When Alaric questions Enzo's motives, he says it's only more fun to get revenge on Stefan if he cares. Alaric suggests Enzo is just deeply lonely. Caroline is dragging Stefan's body down the hall when a coed finds her. Caroline is about to compel her when Stefan flings a stake at the girl and lectures Caroline about saving strangers. When Stefan lunges to attack, Caroline knocks him out then feeds her blood the girl and compels her to hide. Caroline is yelling at Stefan when he hears a noise, covering Caroline's mouth with his hands. They swoop into hiding so that Enzo and Alaric don't find them. Moments later, a vervain bomb explodes near Alaric and Enzo.

Back in 1903, Lily explains the mummified vampires saved her from herself and her ripper tendencies. She says they gave up their blood rations for her and she learned to control her blood lust. Damon thinks she's wackadoodle. When Lily goes to get the last of the blood to revive them, Elena notices the ascendant is on the table. Damon tells Elena that Bonnie isn't looking for the ascendant. Bonnie leads Kai through the snowy forest then stabs him in the back and leg. She blames him for making her almost kill herself. He insists he's changed. She has, too. Kai then disappears before Bonnie can stab him again.

Caroline and Stefan lay Alaric and Enzo on the floor, then picks up a vervain gun to keep Stefan from hurting them. He turns and goes into the coed's room, then compels her to keep quiet and he chomps on the girl's neck. He tempts Caroline to join in until Caroline can't resist. Then, after feeding, Caroline rushes at Stefan breaking the soda machine and they start making out and tearing each other's clothes off.

As the aurora borealis begins, Bonnie joins Damon and Stefan. When Damon explains to Lily that they're short one witch and her friends can't go, Lilly refuses. She insists that the vampires are her family and she won't leave without him, but Damon threatens to leave her, too. As Bonnie recites the spell, Kai arrives and watches Damon, Elena, Lily and Bonnie disappear out of the prison world.

Enzo visits Sarah in her hospital room and tells her she was a pawn in a game he lost now interest in playing. He calls her by her birth name Sarah Salvatore. Sarah looks confused.

Jo looks over Alaric's injuries and then chews him out for being an idiot. She then gives him a lecture that she doesn't want her child growing up without a father, and that he can return to his suicidal ways after their child is 18.

Back at the Salvatore house, Lily admits to Damon that she did visit Stefan the night of her funeral. Stefan only remembers her as an angel. But when she leaned down to whisper in his ear, all she could hear was the pound of his blood, so she fled for their sake. She assures Damon she missed them twice as much as they missed her. When Lily asks again about getting her friends back, he assures her they'll be going back soon.

Meanwhile, in 1903, Kai stumbles upon the mummified vampires. He peers in a little too close and the one Lily fed a few drops of blood to grabs him around the neck. Kai screams.

Back at the house, Elena tries to convince Damon to give his mother some time. She points out it's never a waste of time to look for the best in someone.

Caroline and Stefan finish rolling around naked revealing that they just had sex in front of her fireplace in her dorm. She then admits his way is much more fun. Damon and Elena start taking each other's clothes off making out very heavily. To then be interrupted by Bonnie who looks startled. When Elena leaves, Bonnie thanks Damon for helping her find closure. Damon turns on the water so his mom can't hear, then tells Bonnie the crazy woman upstairs wants to go back to 1903. But he agrees they're never going back. Bonnie gives him something from the 1994 prison world, the cure for vampirism that she got on her road trip to Nova Scotia. He's not sure if he wants it for Elena anymore. "It's up to you," Bonnie says.


Main Cast

Recurring Cast




  • Antagonists: Stefan and Caroline
  • The episode title refers to Stefan and Damon's mother, Lily Salvatore, and the Prison World that she's in.
    • This is the third time this season that Elena and Damon have worked together since Damon's return from the 1994 Prison World.
  • This is the first episode to feature two vampires, Stefan and Caroline, with their humanity turned off.
  • This episode is the second episode to feature spring break at Whitmore College. The first was While You Were Sleeping.
  • Enzo and Alaric meet for the first time on-screen in this episode. They had been in contact at the beginning of the season when looking for a lead to Damon's whereabouts, but hadn't shared a scene until this point.
  • Stefan makes Caroline's life miserable by 'teaching' her how to exact proper revenge when your humanity is off, so that she will let go of her carefully controlled life and enjoy herself fully instead. Eventually, after resisting him all day, she gives in when he uses her desire to feed on human blood against her.
  • With this episode, Elena and Caroline have both had sex with the same three men in the series. Similarly, those three men, Matt, Stefan and Damon, have also all had sex with the same three female characters: Elena, Rebekah and Caroline.
  • Lily tells Elena and Damon how she became a vampire in 1858 at the TB ward after she was fed vampire blood by a nurse, which caused her to wake up in transition after she died from the disease. She also explained that the reason she left her sons in her husband's care instead of taking them with her was to protect them from her uncontrolled bloodlust.
    • Based on the date given by Lily for her imprisonment on the night of October 31, 1903, this means she was placed in the prison world one month before the Wright brothers flight at Kittyhawk, NC.
  • Damon greets his mother Lily in the same manner in which he greeted Stefan in the Pilot, with "Hello, Mother" instead of saying brother.
  • Damon tells Elena that his mother will only be a means to bring back Stefan's humanity, nothing more and Elena agrees with him. However she also believes there might be some good in Lily and that it will take time for him to see it.
  • It's revealed that in 1903 that the same house that Stefan and Damon grew up in is still standing.
  • Elena invites herself on the trip to the 1903 Prison World to meet Lily, stating that she wants to see the woman who gave birth to the two epic loves of her life. While there she finds a picture of Stefan as child at first mistaking it for one of Damon until Damon shows her a picture of himself as a child with Lily. She then takes the photo with her, as she says there are no baby pictures of her boyfriend.
  • Lily claims to only drink two drops of animal blood a week, due to the low blood supply in the Prison World.
  • Lily Salvatore leaves the 1903 Prison World and Bonnie and Damon arrange for Kai to be left behind.
  • Bonnie, while in 1994 getting Silas's headstone, discovers that the cure still existed in the prison world. She gives it to Damon so that he can decide what to do with it. When he suggests that he doesn't want to give it to Elena anymore, Bonnie tells him that it's up to him how the cure is used, and he can give it to Elena or to someone else.
  • Bonnie's mother, Abby, is mentioned in this episode. When Bonnie gives the cure to Damon, she tells him that she had planned to give it to her mother but she was "surprisingly happy" as a vampire.
  • The cure would also exist in the 1903 Prison World as well, the same as Silas' tombstone infused with Qetsiyah's blood and magic. Kai like, Bonnie can make use of Silas' Tombstone to free himself and Lily's vampire "family."
  • Jo agrees to hold Sarah for a day until Elena's blood is out her system so she doesn't become another Salvatore vampire, as they too are aware that Sarah Nelson is a Salvatore.
  • Enzo gives up on his plan to get revenge on Stefan, having grown disillusioned with it after Alaric told him that it was only a way to deal with his loneliness. He then tells Sarah the truth about who he is and apparently tells her about her parentage.
  • This is the first of two episodes to feature all four currently living members of the Salvatore family: Stefan, Damon, Lily and Sarah.

Body Count



Behind the Scenes

  • This episode had about 1.59 million viewers in the USA.
  • Hashtag during the airing is #MamaSalvatore

Cultural References

  • "A Bird in a Gilded Cage" is a song composed by Arthur J. Lamb (lyrics) and Harry Von Tilzer (music). It was a sentimental ballad (or tear-jerker) that became one of the most popular songs of 1900.
    • This title marks a shift from naming each episode this season after songs released in 1994, to songs from the early 20th century, which is consistent with a transition from the 1994 prison world to the 1903 prison world.
  • "It's the Hard-Knock Life" is a song from the musical Annie with music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Martin Charnin, which was used in the song "Hard Knock Life" by Jay-Z. Enzo quotes it while talking to Caroline.
  • "The Gilded Age" is a period of US history from the late 19th century, about 1870s to about the year 1900, to the early 20th century.


Stefan (to Damon): "Where do we keep our weapons?"
Damon: "Pardon?"
Damon (toStefan): "Not a good time for a humanity flip, brother."
Stefan: "Stay out of my way today."
Elena (to Damon): "You can't blame it on Stefan."
Damon: "Stefan without his humanity is one artery away from Stefan the Ripper."
Stefan (to Caroline): "This is me forcing you to let go until you break."
Caroline: "I'm not gonna let you ruin my life."
Stefan: "Well then I'll just end it."

Alaric (to Enzo): "What are you doing here?"
Enzo"Really hoping that you've gone off vervain to get blonde and her cohort from here to the Salvatore cellar without further drama."
Alaric"You do realize I'm a human right? Up against two vampires without remorse."
Enzo"Ah, I see! Your girl's got a bun in the oven and now you've gone all gun shy. Vamp-hearing."
Alaric"You know. I'd actually like my child to grow up with a father."
Enzo"It granted a cowardly father. Probably played catch and run from the ball, going fishing; flee from fish."
Alaric"I have weapons in my apartment."

Elena (to Damon): "Damon! What are you doing?"
Damon: "Looking for a... healthy outlet for my rage. Haven't found it yet."
Elena: "Your mother is alive?"
Damon: "Yep. Turns out she's been in a prison world snapshot of 1903 for over a century."
Elena: "Your mother is alive!"
Damon: "She's a ripper, Elena."
Lily (to Damon): "Damon?"
Caroline (to Stefan): "This is seriously about revenge?"
Stefan: "Yes. It is."
Stefan (to Caroline): "Like you, I'm prone to doing bad things when my humanity is off. But unlike you, I don't have an elaborate system to keep me in check."
Caroline: "Well, that's not my problem."
Stefan: "Oh, I'm making it your problem."
Stefan (to Caroline): "She has a really pretty neck."



Last.fm_play.png "I Won't Let You Down" – OK GO
Last.fm_play.png "Life Is Good" – Toy Bombs
Last.fm_play.png "Black Widow" – Cage The Elephant
Last.fm_play.png "Wonderful Waltz" – Alice Morrison
Last.fm_play.png "Hypnotic" – Zella Day
Last.fm_play.png "You're Mine" – Meiko




See also