FOLLOWING THE TRAIL — When two local students go missing, Alaric sends Hope, Lizzie, MG and Landon to Mystic Falls High to investigate. Meanwhile, as Josie helps Rafael adjust to his new life at the school, his reluctance to follow the wolf pack's rules puts a target on his back. Lastly, an unsettling discovery puts Alaric and Sheriff Donovan at odds with one another.
MG finds himself running around Mystic Falls Woods, unable to catch his breathe as he tries to evade some kind of monster that he believes is chasing him. He forces himself to open his eyes not long after and it is revealed to be a dream. He has fallen asleep reading comic books about the DC Comics character Grodd. Sighing, he dangles his feet over the edge of the bed as though he's about to stand up, only to freeze when he hears floorboards creaking nearby. MG slowly turns his head toward his closet, squinting his eyes when he sees movement inside. Suddenly, an unknown person wearing the Ghostface mask from the Scream movies leaps out toward MG with a huge knife in his hand, leaving MG with no choice but to protect his face with his hands and scream. He awakens yet again for the final time, revealing the situation to be a dream within a dream.
Following his dream/nightmare, MG leaves his room for the kitchen. He opens the fridge and grabs a blood bag marked with the Salvatore "S", before he is startled as Kaleb approaches behind him. Kaleb finds the humour in scaring MG, but given his recent nightmare, MG does not see the humour. MG questions where Kaleb has been during the night, and Kaleb admits that he got a little hungry and went out for a midnight snack. MG is conflicted over supporting his friend and upholding the school's rules that state no feeding on humans.
In the hall, Matt Donovan gives an announcement that Dana Lilien and Sasha Stoteraux didn't return home last night. He passes photographs around the school and admits that Dana is notorious for skipping school but that it is a first and unusual for Sasha. Alaric worries that the girls have been taken by monsters, and MG gives Kaleb a startled glance, wondering if he fed on the two girls during the night — he promises that it was not him and MG is inclined to believe him. Alaric asks for volunteers to go to Mystic Falls under the guise of an exchange programme to search for the two girls and investigate their disappearance. Kaleb, MG, Lizzie and Hope volunteer for the programme, with Kaleb especially inclined to prove his innocence.
In the gym, Alaric and Hope work out, with Alaric confused that Hope has voluntarily signed up to help, sarcastically questioning if Hope is an imposter. Hope simply admits that she has never experienced real school and wishes to know what it is like to experience an ordinary life not as a tribrid loner. Alaric laughs, but Hope questions what the plan with Landon is and whether he is a student at the school, but Alaric simply states that there is a lot they need to learn about him before deciding his future at the school.
Landon is on edge when Rafael returns to their room, questioning if anybody said anything about him or if they have decided his future at the school. Rafael admits that he is not the topic of conversation as there is a missing girl, with Rafael hurrying Landon along. Alaric appears in the doorway not long after asking for Landon's help with something. This is later revealed to be Landon's help with the "exchange programme", as he is seen getting off the Salvatore Bus at Mystic Falls High School. Lizzie makes a joke about Hope not alienating the entire student body whilst they try to save the world, but Hope just scoffs, admitting that it is not a competition.
Josie has remained at the school and sits with Rafael at lunch, who asks why she hasn't opted to go to Mystic Falls and play detective. Josie admits that she is working on the curriculum to include offensive spells as they only teach defensive at the school. Jed approaches wanting to have a word with Rafael, but Rafael dismisses him despite Jed being his alpha — a term relatively new to Rafael.
Meanwhile in Mystic Falls, Landon attempts to give Hope a tour of the school, however she does not seem interested and when approached by Cheryl, who asks if Landon is bothering her, she takes the opportunity to embarrass him. She leaves with the new girl not long after, leaving Landon alone in the hallway.
In the woods, Matt and Alaric finally find Dana's car, and nearby they notice a body lying on the ground. They check the body out, which has colorless skin but is confirmed to be Dana. Matt is first confused at the situation as he believes the monsters to be after the supernatural knife, but has his suspicions confirmed when he notices a vampire bite on Dana's neck, suspecting the Salvatore School students are involved.
At Mystic Falls High School, MG tries to talk to one of Dana's friends, but is instantly shut down when Lizzie arrives. MG's phone begins to ring, and it is Alaric, who wants to speak with the entire group, but MG admits that they have all gone their separate ways in order to search. Alaric is angry as he told them all to work together, but reveals that Dana is dead and killed by a vampire. Alaric reveals that he told Matt that the school had nothing to do with it so needs to know if they have heard anything, but the two admit that they don't know anything, despite MG clearly knowing that Kaleb is feeding. Meanwhile in the hall, Hope and Landon meet again, with Hope revealing that Cheryl gave her a headband that belonged to Dana and is possible locator spell material. Landon points at a girl walking down the hallway wearing a scarf around her neck despite it being hot outside, potentially showing a connection with a vampire.
In the woods, Alaric persists to say that the Salvatore kids had nothing to do with the murder, but Matt does not believe him and gestures towards Dana's body, which to their surprise is no longer there, with only her blood-stained sweater as proof that the body was ever there.
Hope and Landon follow the girl, who arrives at the stoner pit to speak with Kaleb. Kaleb removes the scarf from around the girl's neck revealing bite marks. He compels her not to be afraid, but before he can feed Hope arrives warning him against it. Lizzie and MG arrive shortly after and Kaleb is confused and feels betrayed that MG would rat him out. Lizzie confronts Kaleb, accusing him of killing Dana, but Kaleb denies killing her and warns the group to leave him alone. Lizzie uses her magic to trap Kaleb when he tries to run away, but Landon tells the gang that he is more than likely telling the truth as Dana approaches from the woods, groaning and falling to her knees before their eyes. The group take Dana to a picnic bench, asking what she remembers about the previous night. Dana tells them that they were on their way to graffiti the Salvatore School, but the only thing she remembers after that is waking in a ditch. She is horrified a couple of seconds later when she notices the bite on her neck, but Lizzie passes it off as a hickey, calling Dana slutty. Dana tries to leave to speak with the cops, forcing Hope to put a sleeping spell on her. With Dana out, Lizzie accuses Kaleb of turning her instead of killing her, but Kaleb sarcastically remarks that he wouldn't want to listen to her for the rest of eternity.
At the Salvatore school, Jed approaches Rafael who tries to shake him off citing that he has to get to class. Despite this, Jed pushes the notion of initiating him into the pack, admitting that they know he killed someone recently and that to be in the pack he has to tell them the story. Rafael gets annoyed, telling Jed that he isn't a pack guy, which annoys Jed who admits his only option is to submit. Rafael tries to flee but is thrown to the ground by Jed and surrounded by other wolves, beating him. Josie interrupts the beating and throws the wolves away using magic, while Jed simply cites that the event is to be continued. Josie asks if Rafael is alright, but he shrugs her off, asking her to stay away from him.
In the parking lot at Mystic Falls High School, Landon tries to comprehend what the transition into a vampire entails. Kaleb suggests that they just give Dana some human blood, but Hope is against the idea citing that not everyone wants to be supernatural. Lizzie agrees with Hope, suggesting that they give Dana time to consider her options. Landon suggests they tell her the truth and perhaps invite her to the Salvatore school, which Lizzie eventually agrees with. Dana quickly begins to vomit, with Hope worrying that she is literally vomiting her guts up, and not long after she is reduced to goo on the floor with only an outline of her skin. Hope surmises that it has got to be another monster after the knife, and Kaleb is quick to blame the whole scenario on Landon. Landon looks to Hope to back him up, but she looks away, causing Landon to take off on foot while Hope looks on.
Annoyed by the situation that has just unfolded, Rafael takes to the Old Mill on the Salvatore Estate, angrily screaming and throwing furniture around. Josie attempts to calm Rafael down, but he does not want her help an grabs her roughly to scare her away. Rafael tells her that it is not safe to be around him and to leave him alone, but she persists to try and calm him. When he is calm, Josie tells Rafael that Jed is the alpha and that is the way werewolf packs work, but Rafael is distracted by the upstairs of the Mill that is covered in spider webs. They both investigate and find a young woman asleep in the webs, it is revealed to be Sasha, the missing girl. Josie gets trapped in the web when trying to get a better look, and when Rafael tries to pull her free, he too gets trapped.
- "An Arachne was originally a beautiful woman who was cursed by a jealous god and turned into a giant spider. Uh, all it wants to do is be human, so it wears the skin of its prey to pass. Oh, my God! It's-it's fangs are huge, so they could pass for a vampire bite! And its bite liquefies its victims! Plus, I found a web in Dana's hair!"
- —MG realizes that the monster is an Arachne
With Dana having turned to flesh before their eyes, the gang are trying to clean up her remains when MG notices a picture of an Arachne in the comic book he is reading. He alerts the group, signalling that the creature that took over Dana's appearance could be an Arachne. Lizzie, however still believes Landon to be responsible. Lizzie questions if they could do a tracking spell if they had something that belongs to it, when Landon emerges with a large chunk of flesh on his hand — which he has obtained from punching who he thought was Connor in the toilets — offering that as a solution.
In the Mill, Rafael and Josie are trying to escape the spider webs with no luck when Rafael suggests that Josie use magic to free them. Josie says it is theoretically possible but she would need to siphon from him but cannot move her arms. She leans in and kisses him while simultaneously siphoning magic from him. Before Josie can try and escape, they notice footsteps approaching, it turns out to be Connor. Rafael calls out to get his attention and ask that he help free them, but he ignores them and takes his true form. Josie hurls a fireball at it, which only angers it more.
Alaric calls Lizzie, having found Dana's remains in the glove compartment of the Salvatore Bus, asking for an update on the situation. Lizzie tries to lie, but is quickly caught out by Alaric and forced to tell the truth. Alaric does not believe in the "comic book" theory and warns them to stay away, but they ignore him.
At the Mill, Landon arrives in time to distract the Arachne, allowing Josie to escape from the webs. Hope also arrives and asks for Josie and Lizzie's help with a spell that will kill the Arachne. The trio work together and they are able to kill the Arachne and save Sacha from it's webs.
- "Tell her that it's gonna hurt. It always will. Tell her that some days will be harder than others, but eventually she'll remember the good times she had with Dana, too. Tell her to hold onto those, because it's the key to getting through this."
- —Hope advises MG on what to tell Sasha
Rafael and Josie approach the gymnasium where Jed and the pack are playing ball. Jed questions if Rafael has returned for a fight, but Rafael admits the story of how he triggered the curse. Jed jokes that Rafael must take a knee but welcomes him into the pack and their game a couple of seconds later. Meanwhile at the Quarry, Landon explains to Hope that he doesn't know why he took the knife but just wants to be with Hope. After he has explained his feelings, he leaves her alone sitting by the Quarry.
At the Salvatore School, Alaric rebukes his daughters for not waiting when he specifically asked them to. He warns them against being a hero as being safe is more important and becomes increasingly angry when Lizzie makes the situation about Hope. Josie admits that Hope did a spell that saved them today and would be useful if the school started teaching offensive magic. Alaric promises to take her words into consideration before kissing them goodnight. In the kitchen, Kaleb is angry that MG sold him out about feeding on humans and admits that he thinks MG is a puppet under Alaric's control. With that, he leaves MG alone and walks down the hall before being confronted by Matt, who questions him about the bite marks on the cheerleaders. Alaric says he will handle it and for Matt to leave him alone but is revealed to be a ploy to force Kaleb's confession, before Alaric neutralises him and confines him to the basement in a cell.
Special Guest Star
- Antagonist: Arachne, Malivore (indirectly)
- Siphoners siphon through touch, primarily through their hands, however they can siphon via any form of skin to skin contact, such as when Josie siphoned from Rafael's lycanthropy through a kiss.
- Josie argues with her father in favor of the school teaching the students spells of offensive magic to protect themselves when they are in danger. Although Alaric does not agree immediately, he agrees to think about it after Hope, Josie, and Lizzie confronted the Arachne.
- Kaleb is incapacitated and locked up by Alaric after he is told that he's suspected for some time that he was feeding on humans.
- A creature tracks Dorian and the supernatural knife to his undisclosed hiding location. It remains to be seen what this creature is or how it was drawn to the knife.
- Dana Lilien - Internal organ liquification; killed by the Arachne
- Connor - Unknown; killed by the Arachne to inhabit his body
- Arachne - Magical Explosion; killed by Hope, Josie, and Lizzie
- Matt was last seen in This is the Part Where You Run.
- Cassie was mentioned. She was last mentioned in We're Being Punked, Pedro.
- The Gemini Coven was mentioned. They were last seen in I'm Thinking Of You All The While on The Vampire Diaries.
- Salvatore Boarding School for the Young & Gifted
- Mystic Falls High School
- Mystic Falls Woods
Behind the Scenes
- This episode's title is a line used by Alaric Saltzman.
- Ghostface's appearance at the beginning of the episode is a nod towards co-showrunner Brett Matthews due to his role as the showrunner of the re-booted third season of MTV's slasher television series Scream.
- Grodd is the primary enemy of The Flash from DC Comics. He has also appeared in the live-action television series The Flash and Legends of Tomorrow (both currently airing on The CW) and as a playable character in Injustice 2.
- Ghostface is the psychotic killer identity and the main antagonistic force from the Scream movie franchise and television series.
- Hunger Games is the first movie of the Hunger Games movie franchise based on the Hunger Games novels.