Warning: Spoiler Alert
Last week’s Once Upon a Time ended abruptly, with Emma reeling in the town’s square, dazed in her pursuit of The Author. This week begins exactly as we left, with Emma running through the town. Mary Margaret and David catch up to her, and she pauses.
They’ve lost The Author, and they need to find him. As Emma pants, Mary Margaret confesses that she and David know The Author from a long time ago. He’s the one who tricked them into dooming Maleficent’s child. They try to explain themselves, but Emma is still furious with their manipulation. They’ve controlled her entire destiny so she could become The Savior and they did so at the expense of an innocent child’s soul. But she doesn’t care to discuss it further. She reminds them again that they need to find The Author before Gold does.
They don’t, of course. As The Author races through the woods outside Storybrooke, he pauses to grab a stick and begins to carve a pen. Gold interrupts him, reminding him that the quill will only be magic if it comes from an enchanted pen, and there are no such trees in Storybrooke. The Author, sneering at having to speak to The Dark One, curses his reminder and moves to walk away.
Gold then produces the kind of pen that The Author is looking for. There’s no magic to be found in this world, but magical items brought over from other realms will still work. He’s got himself a magic quill, and he’ll give it to The Author so long as he uses it to write a whole bunch of happy endings.
The Author begrudgingly accepts, and Gold whisks them off in a cloud of purple smoke before The Charmings, Killian, and Henry charge into the clearing where the two just stood.
Cut to Regina’s vault, where she’s still unconscious and restrained. She awakens to find Gold standing before her. She’s his prisoner now, she supposes. He reminds her that she chose to go against him and had been caught. Regina bristles as he reprimands her poor decisions, incredulous that he once told her he cared about her happiness and now he’s holding her hostage.
It’s true, he admits, that he cared about her happiness. But in truth he cares about his own happiness more, and isn’t afraid to use her or eliminate her if she gets in the way of his. Regina wonders what could have happened to him to make him so heartless. He lost everything, he replies, but he found other things. Like a phone number for Robin Hood.
Regina knows that Gold is up to something and demands to know what he’s holding back. He shrugs, removes her bonds, and hands her a phone. He suggests she find out for herself. Suspicious, but unable to do anything to stop herself, she dials the phone.
But before the call can go through, we’re taken to nine weeks ago. We see Robin leave Storybrooke with Marian and Roland, and I cry just as hard as I did the first time. The trio winds up in New York City, looking for Baelfire’s old apartment. Regina had given Robin the keys that she had (somehow?) and a map. They aren’t finding their way through the city well, and as they pause to resituate their baggage and Roland, a man comes along and, in NYC fashion, grabs one of their bags and runs off.
Robin is frantic, but spies a horse from a nearby hansom carriage. He steals it and gives chase to the thief. In a very impressive pursuit scene, he chases the thief down and overtakes him. As he tackles him to the ground, Robin admonishes the thief’s lack of honor. Silly Robin. Thieves in New York in 2015 don’t have honor!
Eventually, Robin reunites with his family and they find Baelfire’s apartment. Marian is tending to a cut on Robin’s forehead when they hear someone trying to open the front door. They stash Roland in the back, grab some impromptu weapons, and wait as the door swings open.
Gold staggers into the apartment, looking horrible and then enraged as he sees the Hoods there when he expected to have the place to himself. The two men get into an argument over who should have the apartment, and as things get heated, Gold grabs his chest and collapses.
(Here my notes say “IT’S A GOOD DAMN THING THAT THIS WAS NINE WEEKS AGO AND I KNOW HE’S NOT DEAD RIGHT NOW.”)
In a critical care unit waiting room, Robin holds an iPhone. The screen waits patiently. Call Regina? But before he can decide anything, a nurse calls him and tells him that his “friend” is awake.
Robin goes to see Gold, who looks exactly like everyone looks in a hospital gown and hooked up to machines: like hammered shit. Robin enquires to his condition. Gold snorts, saying he was told it was a heart attack and got advice about diet and exercise. Robin understands that Gold is unimpressed with modern medicine. The problem isn’t physical, Gold continues, it’s moral. His heart is contaminated with all the dark deeds he’s done. In Storybrooke he used magic to keep him intact but outside it’s catching up to him. He needs Robin to fetch a certain potion for him that could fix his problem.
Robin wonders why on earth he’d do something like help Rumpelstiltskin. But Rumpelstiltskin knows Robin’s heart, or at least his honor. He’ll help him because it’s the honorable thing to do, and it would be a disservice to the sacrifice he made in giving up Regina if he forsakes that honor now. Looking much like everyone else who gets backed into a deal with The Dark One, Robin agrees.
Gold directs him to an abandoned antique furniture store that belonged to The Wizard of Oz after Zelena sent him to New York City to keep an eye on Emma when she crossed over. The name of the store? “The Wizard of Oak.” Yup, because this show has a pathological and delicious obsession with terrible magic puns. Anyway, Robin breaks in and immediately triggers a burglar alarm. He ransacks the dusty store, finding what he was looking for just in time. The cops come rolling up outside, but Robin smashes through a window and manages to escape.
He doesn’t immediately return the potion to the hospital, though. He goes home and confesses the past few hours events to Marian. She is completely against helping someone like Rumpelstiltskin and says as much. Robin explains the dire situation, but Marian is unmoved. Maybe letting someone like him die will be for the greater good. Robin is appalled—the Marian he married would never say something like that. “Look around, Robin,” Marian retorts. “Everything has changed.”
“Not me,” Robin replies. He leaves to take the potion to Gold in the hospital. He seems more agitated by Marian’s objections to following through on his duty to Rumpelstiltskin, and maybe it’s not only because Marian seemed so callous.
See, a long time ago, in the Sherwood Forest, Robin of Locksley was trying to clean up his act. He was working at a barkeep in a tiny village, obviously in love with the waitress (like every restaurant you’ve ever been to. Keep that in mind the next time you go out to eat. One of the bartenders is unstoppably in love with one of the servers. Gender nonspecific.) Anyway, he’s working at the tavern but it’s kind of a hole so nobody’s making much money. That’s especially unfortunate because Robin has wound up super-behind on his taxes and the Sherriff of Nottingham comes to collect. The two have a tense conversation and Nottingham eventually agrees to give Robin a two day extension, knowing that he’ll fail. Then, after Robin is in debtor’s prison, he can snatch up Marian for himself like she’s some kind of property. Which, she quickly interjects, she is not. Smirking and dismissing her rejection, he reinforces the two day deadline and leaves.
Robin was in trouble and not sure how to get out of it. Because The Dark One must be able to sense these kind of things, he visits Robin that evening with a deal for him. Robin’s the best thief around, and Rumpelstiltskin needs him to go steal something for him that he can’t take for himself. He’ll be rewarded handsomely for his troubles. Robin hesitates, but in the glow of the golden straw that Rumpelstiltskin extends, he accepts.
Rumpelstiltskin sends Robin to Oz to retrieve The Elixir of The Wounded Heart in a little curtained archway and a ball of magic. It’s no Kansas Dustbowl-era farmhouse, but it still manages to land on someone just in time to save someone else. A member of the royal guard has been knocked out by Robin’s blind landing, leaving Will Scarlett shaken but relatively unharmed.
The two men regard each other, quickly recognizing the other as a thief. Will encourages Robin to trust him, saying that the two are both in a bit of a predicament so it would be wise to help one another out. Robin discloses his mission to Will, and Will agrees to help Robin and dispose of the guard on the condition that Robin also steal some of this elixir for Will to sell to the highest bidder. Robin, realizing he’s getting a pretty good deal in a bad situation, agrees.
He steals the guards uniform and makes off to the palace, eventually finding himself in what would become the Wizard’s throne room. He begins rifling through the treasures there, eventually finding the elixir and pouring some of it into vials.
Zelena catches him red handed. She quickly deduces that he was sent by Rumpelstiltskin, and, rather than be enraged, she’s more amused by the little thief Rumpelstiltskin sent in his stead. She begins to engage him with magic, but Robin manages to create a diversion and escape. As he flees, we hear glass shattering.
He returns to find Will waiting for him outside the city’s walls. There, Robin tells Will that he’s failed his mission but thanks him profusely for his help. Will isn’t upset by Robin’s failure. He understands that Robin is desperately trying to turn things around for the sake of his true love Marian. Robin,
uncomfortable with Will’s flattery, suggests that he return to his realm and Will goes to accompany him. As Will starts out ahead, Robin reaches within his cloak. He’s a liar. He managed to steal one vial—the vial he needs for Rumpelstiltskin.
They make it back to the archway, and Will continues to praise Robins honor, and Robin grows more and more uncomfortable. For a thief, Will has a terrible poker face. Robin figures out that Will didn’t want to sell the elixir, but to use it himself, to heal his own broken heart. His sister, Will confesses, loved him truly, but she drowned and her loss has grieved him unrelentingly ever since. Robin, trying not to look absolutely ill as he continues his lie, wishes him the best. They shake hands, and then he slips through the curtain which disappears behind him, and Will continues along the Yellow Brick Road. Soon, though, Will realizes something is jabbing him in the ribcage. He reaches into his vest pocket and pulls out the elixir that Robin slipped into his pocket as they bade farewell to each other. Smiling, Will continues along.
And so maybe Robin has more of a debt to Rumpelstiltskin than he’s told Marian. That doesn’t stop him from demanding a further deal with Gold after he gets to the hospital, though. He wants Gold to vacate the apartment and leave Robin and his family stay there. Desperate for the potion, Gold agrees. Robin leaves, and Gold opens the vial and downs it immediately.
He waits, the angle shifts around the room and nothing happens. Confused and enraged, Gold shouts at the vial, “Why is it not working?!”
“Because it’s not real magic,” a female voice replies.
Marian walks into the room in a pronouncedly casual cantor, holding a vial in her hands. He just drank cough syrup—good for congestion but not great for healing wickedly black hearts.
Further agitated, Gold demands to know why she’s done such a thing when he’s done her no harm. Done her no harm? Marian doesn’t know about that. Well, not exactly.
She reaches beneath her shirt to reveal a pendant, and in a swirl of magic, turns into Zelena.
ZELENA. BACK. IN THE FLESH. IN NEW YORK CITY NINE WEEKS AGO.
This is no longer dropping bombs. We are getting shelled with plot twists. God, I hope it lasts.
Gold is incredulous that she’s survived, but she explains that she managed to extract her lifeforce from her body before he shattered it with the dagger. And then, she followed Emma and Killian through the time portal and followed them throughout their time-fixing adventure. Emma knocked Marian unconscious and they left her unattended, killed her and used a glamor spell to take her place.
SO MARIAN HAS BEEN DEAD AND ZELENA HAS BEEN MARIAN THIS WHOLE TIME. THINGS MAKE SO MUCH MORE SENSE. I MAY HAVE SCREAMED EVEN MORE THAN I AM RIGHT NOW.
Gold is reeling and Zelena continues to taunt him—his son wasn’t avenged after all! He’s failed in so many ways! And now she has the elixir that he’ll die without.
He flatlines. Zelena, utterly unconcerned, regards his body and listens to his chest. “Hollow,” she declares and the show cuts to a commercial.
I usually don’t note when commercial breaks happen because it’s not usually all that important but I would like everyone to know that the four-or-so minutes during the commercial break that I spent willing myself to not look at the internet to assure myself that someone in Eastern Daylight Time had already posted that Rumpelstiltskin wasn’t really dead were the longest of my life and all I did was capslock-scream into my notes for the entire time.
Anyway, Gold comes to with a tube in his throat and Zelena by his side. She knows he’s in trouble, and she’ll give him the elixir he needs, so long as she gets a happy ending from The Author. She also wants a truce between them, with the understanding that Zelena has the upper hand. Powerless and helpless as he was when he begged Killian for Milah’s life all those years ago, Rumpelstiltskin accepts.
Gold is discharged and doesn’t return to the apartment. Robin gets in contact with him, wanting to give him a box of Baelfire’s things that they found. Gold declines. The box has things that belonged to Neil Cassidy, who was a boy abandoned in this world by his coward father. It’s just a reminder of a happiness that Rumpelstiltskin had within his grasp but was too greedy and couldn’t recognize it.
The conversation drifts to Robin’s troubles with Marian. He means to remain true to her, but she seems so different from the woman he married (OH GEE I WONDER WHY). He misses Regina terribly but he can’t allow himself to leave Marian. Gold suggests that Robin assess his situation and advises that he hold onto happiness with both hands if it comes within his reach.
Robin departs and goes home to take a shower, angrily.
He recalls what happened two days after he abandoned his deal with Rumpelstiltskin. Nottingham came to collect from Robin but found him unable to pay. Nottingham moves to arrest Robin, but the Merry Men spring from hiding places around the tavern to defend him. Robin explains that he knows that he’s a failure as a barkeep, but he’s good at being a thief. He just wants to be a thief with honor. And so, he’ll steal from the rich and give to the needy, starting with Nottingham and his men, since they’re vastly outnumbered and holding quite a lot of gold that they don’t deserve.
Robin and his men relieve the troops of their gold, which he immediately turns over to the villagers. They celebrate and dance with joy like villagers do. Marian is impressed with Robin’s valiant thievery. Robin is incredulous, but Marian vows to support her husband the bandit so long as he does so with honor. It won’t be easy, since Nottingham will be calling for Robin of Locksley’s head, so Robin decides to become Robin Hood. The two begin their life together on the run not only from Nottingham but from Rumpelstiltskin, who didn’t give up his gold but who also didn’t get his potion. Robin managed to lift a charm from Zelena’s vault that will perform a glamor spell, so hopefully that will help somehow!
He exits the shower to find Marian (ZELENA. OH MY GOD NO WONDER SHE HATED REGINA SO MUCH) holding his phone. She found the screen still waiting to call Regina, and she doesn’t want to get in the way of Robin’s happiness (it’s so easy to say that when you know the person will never leave you, eh?).
Robin refuses, re-declares his love for Marian, and deletes Regina’s number. The two embrace, and the scene cuts away to reveal Robin sharing a love-affirming kiss with Zelena in the mirror opposite them.
And then we’re back to the present, with Rumpelstiltskin watching as Regina dials the phone and waits for an answer.
It’s not Robin who answers, though. It’s Marian, who quickly confesses that she’s Zelena, and that she’s got Robin Hood under her thumb, and so Regina better go along with everything she’s told or Robin will get it. It’s a hell of a conversation between two sisters who hate each other, filled with top-drawer Soap Opera Sorceress Queen dialogue that anyone could ever hope for. The phone call ends, and Gold approaches Regina. Yeah, he’s been deceiving her and he doesn’t care. He needs her to do as she’s told for the sake of his happy ending, or Robin Hood is gonna sleep with the fishes. Regina tries to resist him and hands him back the phone.
Gold asks her if she’s sure (actually he says “is that your final answer” and someone should get fired for that line because Bobby Carlyle shouldn’t have to say something that Regis Philbin made famous). Regina’s eyes fill with tears, then her expression hardens.
The End! They’ll continue living traumatically ever after next week!