It's a flashback, and I believe it's the next episode. I don't think we've ever seen Bearded Stefan --- he's never had a beard. I did a play over the summer and I grew out a beard for the role, then Julie saw my beard, and I think she loved it. So when we were flashing back to this era we've never seen, she was like, 'Let's get that beard back.
So, we're going to go back to a time when beards were more fashionable in this Stefan flashback, I suppose. This momentous event will take place in this Friday's episode, titled "The Next Time I Hurt Somebody, It Could Be You." Sounds pretty serious, right? As Stefan's portrayer Paul Wesley noted to TV Line in his interview, no matter what condition we've seen his character in, Stefan has never been bearded before. The man has simply never let himself go to the point where he would give up shaving. So, what could possibly be happening in this flashback that he would have let his face get all furry? We don't know just yet, but from the looks of the photo Wesley posted on Instagram during the shoot, the time period will be sufficiently old-timey.
See? His hair is sort of ukempt, too. And everything looks sort of early 1900s rustic, so I'm guessing this isn't going to be a trip back to the 1970s (beards were popular then, I hear). It's interesting to hear Paul Wesley mention that this all may have come about just because he needed the beard for a play he did over the summer hiatus for Vampire Diaries. Apparently, showrunner Julie Plec got a look at him all bearded up and decided the show needed to get some of that goodness on screen, so she had him grow it out again for this flashback-leaning episode.
Well, lucky for us, I say. It would be hard to make Stefan unattractive at any rate, and we all know some of you probably have some fan art with the vamp all scruffed up in this manner anyway. So, to all of you I say, enjoy Friday's episode of the Vampire Diaries. I'm sure you're gonna love it.