Annette Brown/The CW
Samantha Highfill
October 08, 2015 AT 12:27 AM EDT

Without Elena Gilbert, the Vampire Diaries‘ seventh season is going to look very different for long-time fans of the show. And yet, in many ways, it’s also going to look very familiar. 

For one thing, Damon’s still getting naked, so at least we’ll always have that. But speaking to the other Salvatore, showrunner Julie Plec said Stefan is “putting back on the hero hair.” 

Elaborating, Plec said: “I love hero Stefan. I love when Stefan is the guy trying to do the right thing and be strong and make people feel better and rescue the kitten from the tree. I love that Stefan, and it’s nice to have him back in that role that has been sort of occupied weirdly by Damon for the last few years because Damon has been working so hard to do right by Elena.”

And with Elena gone, Stefan and Damon will be forced to move forward, thanks mostly to the fact that their mother has unleashed a family of evil witch-vampire heretics on Mystic Falls. “Now it’s just Stefan and Damon trying to make a go of it in their town with their mother and all her crazy little step-children on the loose,” Plec said. “Watching the brothers bicker about how to handle this circumstance and who gets to play hero and who gets to play villain is fun.”

However, as fans of the show know, even hero Stefan has his bad moments. (Remember poor Amber?) And that tradition will continue this year. “It’s not to say that Stefan’s not going to get his hands dirty, because he absolutely is,” Plec said. 

Specifically, could Stefan get his hands dirty to rescue his latest lady love, Caroline? Well, considering that Caroline is going to find herself on the heretics’ bad side, it’s definitely a possibility. “Caroline begins the season in our present day story still struggling with trying to put all her problems from last season behind her before she feels comfortable diving into anything head first with Stefan,” Plec said.

“Thankfully she tries to get over that pretty well and her self-doubt doesn’t go on for too long, but in doing what she can to protect the town and to help Stefan save the innocents from the nasty shenanigans of the heretics, she gets a bullseye on her chest from this wicked wicked family that’s moved to town and she becomes a little bit of their chew toy. She’s got to fight for her self and for her survival as she comes up against these naughty, naughty people.”

RELATED VIDEO: EW’s Sam Highfill talks what to expect from Vampire Diaries season 7

The Vampire Diaries returns Thursday at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.

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