Stefan Salvatore is a vampire who has lived over a century, with most of it spent alone. Now he has returned to his hometown of Mystic Falls, Virginia. In his journal, he writes, "I know the risk, but I had no choice. I have to know her."
A couple, driving through the woods at night after a concert, find themselves driving through a dense fog. When they hit a man with the car, Darren gets out to check on the man, whom he notices to be wearing a unique ring. But the sprawled man isn't hurt... he is a vampire who has lured them into a trap. Using super-human speed and strength, the vampire kills Darren and throws his bloody body onto the car. Screaming, his girlfriend runs, but the vampire snatches her up and kills her too.
In the morning, Elena Gilbert gets ready for the first day of school and writes in her own journal. She explains that she has to pretend to be okay after the recent death of her parents, but she really isn't okay. Both she and her younger brother, Jeremy, are struggling. They are looked after by their mother's younger sister, Jenna.
Elena rides to school with her best friend, Bonnie Bennett, who explains that her Grams says she is a psychic and told her about their ancestors being Salem witches. When Elena asks Bonnie to predict something, a black bird flies into the windshield. The car spins around and finally, they stop. Bonnie apologizes to Elena, who seems rattled, but insists she can't be scared of cars forever. To turn the mood around, Bonnie 'predicts' that this year will be "kick ass" and Elena will be "beyond happy."
AT school, Elena tries to be friendly to her ex-boyfriend, Matt Donovan, but he walks away. Bonnie tells her that he's secretly still pining for her. Caroline Forbes approaches Elena and Bonnie and seems superficially concerned with how Elena is doing, but she means well. At the same time, Jeremy is outside the school supplying pills to Matt's sister, Vicki. The two flirt, but when Tyler Lockwood, whom she is hooking up with approaches, he threatens to beat Jeremy up. Vicki stops him and she and Tyler kiss, leaving Jeremy with a sour taste...
Stefan is registering for school in the office and the secretary tells him he is missing much of the needed paperwork. Removing his sunglasses, he demonstrates the power of 'compulsion' and tells her to look again because all she needs is right there. Elena and Bonnie are admiring Stefan's backside when Elena spots Jeremy. She corners him in the men's bathroom and knows he is stoned. She tells him he cannot do this to himself and promises to be there to ruin his buzz every time.
As Elena leaves the bathroom, she runs into Stefan, literally, and they are immediately captivated by each other. They are in the same History class later, where both Bonnie and Matt notice that they can't stop looking at each other.
After school, Elena goes to the cemetery to sit beside her parents' headstone. She writes in her journal that she is pretending to be okay, but she has been lying to everyone because they don't really care to know the truth. When a black bird starts to pester her and a thick fog rolls in around her ankles, she gets creeped out and runs. She falls down and when she gets up, Stefa is there. She wonders if he was following her, but he says that he is also visiting family. She compliments him on his unique ring, which is identical to the one Darren saw. After an intense moment, he notices she hurt herself. She checks and sees her leg is bleeding. He turns his head away as his eyes and the surrounding skin turns black. He says he has to go and before she can look back, he is gone. Later at home, Stefan writes in his journal that he almost lost control and that he's "not able to resist her."
At the Mystic Grill, Vicki is waiting tables. She flirts with Tyler in front of Matt. He is pissed when he realizes that his best friend is hooking up with his sister. Also there to see Vicki is Jeremy. Apparently, Jeremy lost his virginity to Vicki over the summer, which she blames the drug induced haze for. He wants to be with her, but she doesn't want word getting out because it will ruin her chance with Tyler. Jeremy tells her that he only wants her for sex, but she believes that is all Jeremy wants from her either...
When Bonnie and Caroline walk in, Caroline gushes about all the information she learned about Stefan, like how he lives with his Uncle Zack in the old Salvatore boarding house. She is convinced she will snag him.
Meanwhile, Elena opens her front door to leave and meet her friends, but Stefan is standing there on her doorstep. He gives her the journal she dropped and promises that he didn't read it. They bond over the fact that they both keep a journal. After she quickly puts the journal away, she invites him to come to the Mystic Grill with her.
Matt asks Bonnie if Elena mentions him, but Bonnie doesn't want to get involved. She says that maybe Elena just needs more time. "Time?" Matt says, when Elena walks in smiling with sexy, brooding Stefan. But ever the gentleman, Matt walks over and introduces himself to the new guy. Later, Stefan tells the girls about some of his family history in Mystic Falls. Caroline invites him to the back to school bonfire party in the woods the following night, but he turns to Elena and asks if she is going. Bonnie answers for her, yes!
When Stefan returns home, 'Uncle' Zack comes in angrily accusing him of killing the couple on the road. Stefan denies having attacked them. Zack call him Uncle Stefan and says that some people still remember how the town was back then and explains that it was a mistake for him to come back. When Zack leaves the room, Stefan goes through an old journal and retrieves a photo dated 1864. It is of a woman named Katherine, who looks eerily identical to Elena. Is Elena the reason that Stefan came back to Mystic Falls?
At school the next day, Mr Tanner, the history teacher/football coach, talks about their town's own battle of Willow Creek back in the 1800s. He is insulting his students who don't know how many people died in the particular battle. Stefan tells him the answer and Tanner asks Mr. Salvatore if he is any relation to the original Salvatore settlers. He is in fact one of those settlers, but he cannot tell them that. He and Tanner argue when Stefan says there were civilian casualties. A church was fired upon which was thought to have weapons inside, but killed 21 people instead. When tanner doesn't agree, Stefan tells him to brush up on his facts.
At the party in the woods, Stefan demonstrates another of his super-human vampire abilities, his ultra hearing, which allows him to zero in on Elena's voice through the crowd. He heads for her, but Caroline stops him, wanting to get him a drink. Bonnie and Elena are by the fire and as she touches Elena's hand, Bonnie gets a vision: crow, fog and a man. Bonnie apologizes, blaming the alcohol, while Elena neglects to tell her best friend that she did in fact encounter all of those things in the cemetery.
Stefan finally catches up to Elena and they go for a walk when he mentions how they met in a graveyard. She explains that in the spring, her parents died when their car went off Wickery Bridge. She was in the back seat, but survived. Stefan tells her that she won't be sad forever.
Meanwhile, Vicki and Tyler are making out in the woods. He tries for more, quite forcefully and she says no. Jeremy comes by and tells him to get off of her. Before a fight starts, Vicki tells Tyler to get lost, and then tells Jeremy she didn't need his help. He wants more from Vicki than just sex but she doesn't dare let him in, fearing he will just love and leave her.
Stefan and Elena are still talking when he notices Matt keeps staring at them. She explains they were close friends through childhood, then became more, but when her parents died everything changed. It wasn't passionate. They stare into each other's eyes, but she notices Stefan's getting black. He rubs them and says he will get her a drink as an excuse to leave.
At the same time, Vicki is walking alone in the woods when a fog rolls in. She looks around for Jeremy, thinking she hears someone, and gets attacked…
Back at the party, Matt tells Elena that he will wait for her to do what she needs to do because he believes in "them" still. Stefan approaches after Matt walks away, but Caroline stops him again. She tries once more to flirt with him, but he flat out tells her that nothing will happen between she and him. She looks crushed when he walks away.
Elena sees Jeremy stumbling into the woods and runs to yell at him, but he trips and falls… over Vicki's body. They carry her back to the party, yelling for help. Elena tells Matt that something bit his sister's neck and she's losing a lot of blood. Matt watches curiously as Stefan leaves in a hurry.
At home, Stefan tells Zack that another vampire attacked tonight and it wasn't him. In his bedroom, Stefan sees a crow perched and turns around to see his evil older brother, Damon Salvatore (also a vampire), whom he hasn't seen in 15 years. Damon says he is responsible for the crow, fog and recent attacks, but reveals he left Vicki alive so she could blame Stefan.
Damon says that he also sees Elena's uncanny resemblance to Katherine and knows that is why Stefan has returned. Damon mocks his brother for his non-human diet, provoking him about how Elena's blood would taste. Stefan's eyes turn black, his fangs come out and he pushes Damon through a window. But Damon is unharmed, obviously stronger. When Stefan asks again why Damon has come home, he reminds Stefan that he has promised him an "eternity of misery." He tells Damon to stay away from Elena… Damon notices Stefan has lost his ring (one which Damon has an identical of) and mentions the sun rising soon. He gives his brother back the ring then throws him across the courtyard. That was a message to let Stefan know how much stronger Damon is and that he will pretty much do whatever he wants to do.
While waiting for Jenna to pick them up, Elena asks Jeremy if he is okay. He pulls away from her and she notices that he is still drinking, even while the police are still walking around. She tells him that soon, people will stop giving him breaks. Nobody cares that their parents died anymore, because people have their own lives to deal with. She says it is time to move on, but he knows that she hasn't quite done that yet either.
Bonnie brings Caroline to get coffee to sober her up. Caroline is devastated that she works so hard, but Elena gets everything. When Bonnie gets up for a moment, sitting at a table behind them, Damon catches Caroline's eye. They smile at each other.
Meanwhile, Matt sits by Vicki's hospital bed. She awakens just long enough to say, "Vampire," before losing consciousness again.
Elena is home writing in her journal, while Stefan does the same thing at his own house. Jenna sadly watches as Jeremy sits alone with a photo of his mother and father. While Elena writes about how she made it through the day but lied the whole time, Stefan appears on her front lawn. She runs to the door where he tells her that he had to know if she was okay. She is happy he is there and asks him if he wants to come inside. Having officially been invited in, he can now step over the threshold.