Once Upon A Time

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Okay, so this is it. Probably. I mean I’m sure there’s going to be a gut wrenching cliffhanger and I’m going to spend the next few sessions with my therapist talking about unhealthy attachments to fictional characters. But at least, maybe, I’ll get a little closure. The suspense is bordering on torture. I was preparing my stuff/area for writing (laptop, phone/charger, drink) and wondering what I should drink, and I was having a hard time deciding between diet Pepsi and beer. Then I realized that I hiked seven miles today and tend to drink rapidly when I’m nervous, and combining those things with the fact that tonight is a double-length episode, and also the fact that I kind of broke my NO SPOILERS rule and peeked at some of the stills from the preview and Rumpel and Belle look happy and that is NEVER A GOOD SIGN. GAHHH! So, Diet Pepsi it is because otherwise I’ll be stinking drunk by the end of this episode.

Last week, we left with everyone holding their breath and white-knuckling the next step forward in the plot. Of course we start off with a giant leap back in time to see how Isaac, Lousy Television Salesman becomes The Author instead. He’s slinging TVs in what appears to be a 1950s American appliance store, and his boss is mad because he’s underperforming. Isaac, who fancies himself a writer but doesn’t get anything but rejected, wonders if his luck might change when he gets a letter from Star Publishing requesting a meeting.

He goes, and to absolutely no one’s surprise the office just looks strange and he’s not even sure if he’s in the right place. But then The Apprentice appears and bids him to sit, laying out a row of pens on the desk. Isaac nervously titters about being unsure about what to expect from a publisher, but The Apprentice, who just looks like a weird hairy guy in an uncomfortable suit, advises him that they do things differently around here, anyway. He bids him to select a pen. Isaac protests, but The Apprentice insists. Isaac choses, and a jolt of magic shoots through the pen. Startled, Isaac drops it, but The Apprentice is pleased. He’s found the new Author. He discloses the potential for such a job, paints a door into another realm, and Isaac, stammering, walks through with him.

The show shifts again to the Storybrooke Magic Brain Trust rifling through The Author’s book in The Sorcerer’s mansion. Regina is sweating hard because now that The Author has reunited with Gold, her “making-my-own-happy-ending” future is in serious jeopardy. Everyone who’s anyone is at the sorcerer’s mansion, going through the empty storybooks there, but the search yields nothing. August enters with a sketch of The Apprentice. Killian recognizes him, and since they now know who The Apprentice is (and where he is), they take The Sorcerer’s Magic Stealing Dream Hat to Mother Superior to extract him.

He’s pretty annoyed that The Author has been released and crossly informs The Heroes that he’ll need to be placed back in his prison to fix everything before it’s too late. Regina and Emma go to find The Author while Mary Margaret, David, and Killian escort Henry back to the Charmings’ loft.

But is it too late? Gold is gasping for breath as Isaac is finishing his story. There’s just one more detail he needs to know: does Rumpelstiltskin want to remember Baelfire? The Author can’t bring him back, but he can make it so Rumpel doesn’t remember him at all. Rumpel scoffs and refuses. He won’t ever want

to forget his son. But maybe, instead of remembering that his cowardice cost his son his life, he could remember that he fought valiantly but was unable to save him, and his son knew he was a hero at the end? Or something like that. I’ll be honest I was sobbing pretty hard at that point, because Rumpelstiltskin, Baelfire knew you were a hero. You died when you killed Pan to save everyone, and he was honored and moved by your sacrifice. He was so moved that he risked everything to bring you back, just like you did for him. And also this is really beautiful irony in a fairytale soap opera and this show does that so well. Anyway, The Author agrees, and the work is done.

He pens “The End” as Emma and Regina storm to the pawnshop. Everything seems unchanged, but it’s only the calm before the storm. Soon, everything shakes and rattles, and the world is overtaken by burst of golden light. The citizens of Storybrooke collapse, overwhelmed by magic.

Henry comes to, finding himself alone in the loft. He ventures into the street to find that the entire town has vanished. Panicked, he packs some things and tears out of town in Regina’s Mercedes (and seriously someone involved in the show’s production has a damn-near-car-fetish, that Mercedes is divine). He screeches into a diner/rest stop along the highway. Henry is not a good driver.

He enters the restaurant and asks the woman behind the counter if she’s seen anyone in the pictures that he produces from his backpack. She looks at him unsteadily and regrets that she hasn’t. Henry becomes a little desperate, and she offers to ask around for him. Except really she’s calling the cops because she thinks he’s a runaway. Henry is wise to be cautious of her, and turns away to exit through the rest stop’s gift shop. On his way, he notices a display of mass market paperbacks entitled “Heroes and Villains.” He picks up a copy and turns it over, seeing the author’s picture on the back. Or should I say, he sees The Author, Isaac Heller. Henry notices a sign promoting a nearby event with The Author and departs quickly.

In a theatre, with his name up in lights out front, Isaac Heller gleefully accepts his success and adoration. He gives a press conference steeped in villain-revenge to an enraptured audience. Henry gets in line for an autograph and confronts him. The Author tries to dismiss him but Henry produces the page that was his prison and suggests that the two have a talk.

Isaac takes Henry to the back of the theatre, which is filled with pallets of his book. Henry demands to know where his family is, and Isaac explains the whole caboodle: Henry’s family is in the original copy of the story that’s now a bestseller and has made him rich and famous. The heroes are the villains, and the villains have their happy endings. And, since there’s no room for a Savior in his story, Emma isn’t in it at all. Henry again demands The Author bring his family back, and Isaac, without a hint of remorse, explains that since he wrote his own happy ending, his power has been lost and so he can’t do a thing.

Henry is desperate. But, it’s fairly straightforward. His family is in the book, and so Henry has to be in the book. He uses the key to transport himself into the storybook after wrestling it away from Isaac.

He lands in a small hovel of houses in the Enchanted Forest. He finds a sword discarded in the yard and picks it up, smiling at the weight in his hands. The Author smiles behind him, asking if Henry feels like a

real hero now. Before Henry can reply, Isaac smashes him in the face with a shield and knocks him out cold.

When Henry regains consciousness (again. Poor kid probably has a concussion.), he’s tied up in the yard with an ogre roaring and bearing down on him. Isaac is beside him, giving the rundown of the situation. They’re both trapped in the book, now. They’re in the last chapter, and in order for everything to stay real for the characters involved, everything must continue to go as he has written it. Once time passes and the book has ended, Isaac will be able to go back to his world and continue enjoying his luxurious, famous life.

Isaac peaces out as the ogre approaches. Henry screams for help. The ogre gets closer. Henry (apparently not realizing that ogres are blind and go by their sense of hearing?) continues screaming. It looks desperate, but soon a knight on a white horse enters the yard.

“It’s the Ogreslayer!” shout some children who have apparently been hiding nearby. The knight kills the ogre with a blast of white magic and the townspeople emerge eternally grateful for his heroics. The knight laughs and lifts his face-shield. Robert Carlyle, The White Knight known as Ogreslayer, has come to the rescue. An old peasant woman asks how they can repay him, but he assures her good deeds are their own reward. He inquires as to Henry’s wellbeing. Henry, stunned at seeing his grandfather as a do-gooding white knight, gives his name. When Rumpelstiltskin asks if the boy has family nearby, Henry can barely manage to reply, as I’d imagine that his Truest Believer heart wants to say, “Yeah. You.” Rumpelstiltskin bids Henry and the village farewell, as he’s off to save another village somewhere.

Henry, still holding a paperback copy of Heroes and Villains, reads along to find where the story goes next. He avoids traps hidden in the woods and eventually finds a hollowed out tree trunk leading into a cave. This is the place he’s been looking for. But who’s he looking for, exactly?

Regina, sneaking up behind him, wearing leggings and a fir vest with a bow drawn on him a la Snow White Season One, demands to know what this child is doing at her home. Henry, of course, spills everything immediately.

And we’re off! We now get a compressed version of season one, with Henry now trying to convince Regina that she’s in a story, Snow White and Charming are evil and Regina is an outlaw, because Regina destroyed Snow’s chance at happiness and so Snow wants Regina dead. Instead of trying to convince Emma that she’s The Savior, Henry is now trying to convince Regina, set to lose in life and love again, that she can find True Love with Robin Hood. Regina throws Henry’s book into the fire, wanting no part of anything that could tell her the future. Henry is unable to rescue it. Regina storms off to raid The Queen’s Tax Collection carriage so she can get together enough money to take her to another realm. And Robin Hood? She’s never met him but all she knows is that he always gets the jump on her targets and it infuriates her.

Regina’s ambush of the tax carriage goes as pear-shaped as Snow White’s ambush of Snow White’s ambush of Regina’s caravan because The Author, upon realizing that the ogre didn’t kill Henry, has gotten himself captured by the Evil Dwarves and taken to Evil Snow White and Evil Charming for

sentencing. Trespassing or some shiz, who knows. He’s in trouble, but he informs of Henry’s presence and his aim to undo their world. The Author offers to barter his freedom for Regina and Henry’s exact location so that Snow can have her revenge on Regina. So, instead of a carriage full of taxes, Regina faces a carriage full of Evil Snow White. The caravan stops and Snow emerges, slowly squeezing the life out of Regina as Regina begs for mercy. The writers are basically fracturing their own fairytales at this point. This is OnceCeption. I love it.

So of course Robin Hood swoops in to save the day, much to Regina’s chagrin. He takes her to Sherwood Forest, dressing her wound and generally being a nice person, which Regina is shocked and a little flattered by. And, since Henry has put this idea of Robin Hood being her true love in her head, she can’t help but stare at him, looking slightly terrified and totally in love. Robin Hood is, indeed, charming. And valiant. So valiant, in fact, that he’s giving up his life of thievery and wants to know if Regina the Bandit would want to head up the Merry Men. Regina is flattered, but is certain this realm isn’t meant for her. She’s curious, though. Why does Robin Hood want to give it all up? Well, he sheepishly explains, it’s all for his bride-to-be. Regina’s hopes and dreams for true love literally splatter just behind her eyes as she hears the news. Convinced this is yet another unhappy ending for her, she thanks him for his assistance. She attempts to leave, but Robin’s betrothed has entered the tavern and she simply must meet her.

It’s Zelena. And she’s awful and fake and demanding and Robin doesn’t even look all that happy and Regina can’t bear another minute of it.

Outside the tavern, she immediately runs into Henry. She begins to berate him for dangling such cruel hope in front of her face—Robin Hood may be her true love but he’s set to marry another. Henry is confused, and he peppers Regina (who he keeps calling Mom, much to Regina’s initial horror) with questions and determines that Regina has been given Zelena’s fate. Henry is certain that if Regina breaks up the impending wedding she’ll be able to find happiness. Regina isn’t buying it, and tells Henry to go seek help from his other mother, Emma, if he needs to get back home. Whatever, she just wants him out of her hair.

Henry explains that Emma isn’t in the book he read. And he’s certain she isn’t in this realm at all, because she’s the most powerful sorceress in all the realms. She’s The Savior. Regina twitches and Henry knows immediately that she knows something she doesn’t want to tell him. Henry presses and Regina admits of hearing rumors of a woman, long ago, who called herself The Savior, but was captured by Snow White and kept in a heavily guarded isolated island prison. Well, I think we all know where Henry is headed next, eh?

And so the first half of the season finale concludes. My notes say, “HOW WAS THAT AN HOUR ALREADY OH MY GOD I AM NOT READY FOR ALL THESE FEELS ALSO WHERE THE HELL IS RUMBELLE.”

I get my answer in the next scene, and as a result I do not throw my drink across the room. Belle is waiting for him in their simple but safe cottage, tending to an infant and eagerly awaiting his arrival. Oh and Belle found The Author along the road and offered him a drink of water because hello, that’s just polite. Rumpelstiltskin recognizes The Author on some level and asks Belle for a moment alone.

She obliges, and Rumpelstiltskin wastes no time asking what The Author is doing in his home. Isaac explains he’s come to warn Rumpelstiltskin of a boy who just arrived in the realm and who will destroy everything good about Rumpelstiltskin’s life if he and Regina are allowed to interrupt Robin Hood’s wedding. Rumpelstiltskin, as a White Knight but also with that elegant mirth that we know from The Dark One, rebuffs The Author’s warning. How could a stranger affect his life in such a way? Isaac reminds him that none of this life is real, and it can all be undone if Henry interferes with the narrative before certain events happen. Rumpel accuses him of lying to trick him, but Isaac offers proof of his wisdom in these matters. He also knows of the White Knight’s first son, and not even Belle knows about him. And then Isaac twists the knife with the “truth” that Rumpelstiltskin feels about losing Baelfire again and again—he didn’t fight valiantly to save him, his cowardice lead to Bae’s death. Rumpelstiltskin is disturbed. Isaac leaves him with his thoughts.

Henry manages to find The Jolly Rodger docked in the ports of whatever the hell city they’re even in and sees Hook on her deck. He begins to explain that his mother Emma is trapped and he feels like Hook might have a very vested interest in rescuing her. Hook is impressed by Henry’s story, but can’t help him as the boy wants. Why? Well, Blackbeard shows up and announces that Hook is a cowardly deckhand and that Blackbeard himself is the captain of The Jolly Rodger. He begins to taunt Hook about his cowardice and handicap, and Hook crumples in despair. Colin O’Donoghue does an impressive job invoking Rumpelstiltskin’s pre-curse cowardice, shying away when Blackbeard offers him control of the ship if he can best him in a simple swordfight. Hook cowers, but Henry takes matters into his own hands and knocks Blackbeard out cold. Since Blackbeard has technically been bested, that means the ship is theirs, right? Good enough for me.

The two set out to save Emma in her Very Isolated Prison. They manage to get there through rough seas, and, upon seeing only one guard, decide to employ the old fake-prisoner switch to sucker-punch and incapacitate the guard so they can free Emma. Henry makes his way up to her tower, and she, in a disheveled mess on the floor, recognizes him immediately. Astounded that she knows him, he releases her immediately. She explains that part of Gold’s story and revenge on her heroism was that she’s known the truth all along but no one believes her. Also, she has no magic. Henry, wise to the powers of True Love, figures that won’t be a problem too long.

But, in this world, Emma and Hook are both a bit more bashful with their affections. The only thing more powerful than their instant attraction is their painful awkwardness. This might take some time, Henry. The three board The Jolly Rodger and sail away. Emma advises them to move as quickly as possible, because the guard is bound to be trouble when she wakes up. Yeah, the guard is a she. It’s Lily, actually, who regains consciousness and goes full dragon as Emma speaks. The trio manage to take the dragon down with a cannonball, though. So, they continue on their way to help Regina stop Robin Hood’s wedding.

Snow, furious with her failure to use The Author’s tip to kill Regina, gathers her minions (Dark Dwarves, Dark Granny, etc.) to debrief everyone and see what they have managed to gather for her. Everyone is empty handed. Snow, invoking a stunning Maleficent from the Disney animated film, slowly laughs at her minion’s failure before making an example of Doc and killing him. She sends the remainder of them back into the kingdom to find Regina and Henry.

Henry, though, is off looking for food in port while Emma instructs Hook in a few sword fighting moves down by the docks. It’s cute and flirty and still awkward. It gets worse when, just as Henry returns, Snow and her crew arrive with Lily-as-a-human-again in tow. Snow is displeased. A quick melee breaks out. It turns out this version of Hook is a swashbuckling savant. Which is good, because Charming soon engages him, although Hook manages to disarm him. With Charming on the ground without a sword, Snow advances on Henry, but Emma intercedes. Emma tries to tell Snow the truth, about their heroic and hopeful past, but Snow is 100% unmoved. As Killian moves behind her to escape with Henry, Charming leaps up and stabs him in the back. Hook dies. Emma is devastated. She grabs Henry and they narrowly miss a fireball thrown by Snow. Overall they manage an escape.

Back at Rumpelstiltskin and Belle’s cottage, Rumpelstiltskin is indeed troubled by The Author’s warning. Belle reassures him. It is the fluffiest, most adorable, baby-filled Rumbelle moment ever. Even with Belle’s reassurances, Rumpelstiltskin is worried about the decision he must make. He drops a teacup. More season one parallels that are ultra-adorable. But this time, even as Belle assures him that the chip can be fixed, he’s not so sure it can.

Across the Enchanted Forest, Henry and Emma manage to catch up to Regina as she’s packing up to get out of dodge before Snow comes to kill her again. Emma, of course, explains everything to Regina immediately. Regina, of course, doesn’t buy it. Emma is dead-serious about getting the right thing done, not just for Regina’s happiness, but also because Hook is now dead and unless they change the ending of the story, he’ll be dead forever. Regina is moved. She agrees to go to Robin’s wedding.

The three arrive and there’s a definite Fiona-and-Farquaad Shrek-and-Donkey feel to the moment as they try to figure out how exactly to interrupt the wedding. They stall just enough for Rumpelstiltskin to arrive on the scene, having apparently decided that he must kill Regina to stop her from interrupting the wedding to preserve the good life he and his family have. Emma sends Regina to the church and engages Rumpelstiltskin. There’s a split-sequence between the “I-Do’s” happening in the church and the swordfight. Eventually Emma is knocked out just as Robin lifts his eyes to see Regina standing in the back of the church. Lana Parrilla is a vision. He stalls before he swears himself to Zelena. Zelena chides him, nervously.

Then, Henry has taken up Emma’s sword to defend her against Rumpelstiltskin. He’s ready to slice the boy to ribbons, but Regina knocks him out of the way and take the deadly blow. Everything is chaos. The happy couple emerges from the church and Robin is horrified to see Regina dying in the grass. Zelena moves over to her and begins to freak out because Regina has bled on her dress. The day is ruined! And a patch of her hand turns green! Um, wait what?

Robin holds Regina as she’s dying. The Author appears, gloating over his triumph that his story has ended the same. Emma lays him out because she can’t even deal right now. She demands that he return the story to the way it was, but he insists he’s unable to since he lost his powers.

Henry rifles through The Author’s satchel and grabs his pen. A jolt of magic stabs through the air. Emma, shocked, turns to him.

HENRY HAS THE POWER TO BE THE AUTHOR.

But wait, that quill won’t do any good without the ink. But wait, they can use Emma’s blood! But wait, she’s not The Savior so it’s not her blood they need. But wait, Regina just sacrificed herself maybe her blood will work? It does!

AND EVERYONE’S BACK IN STORYBROOKE.

And now we have the Once Upon A Time We Defeated The Villain Mostly reunion scenes where the heroes gush over each other and take a breather before figuring out how they’re still screwed. Emma and Hook have a really awesome moment, but she still doesn’t tell him she loves him.

Isaac and Gold are back in the pawnshop. Gold is really in bad shape, and Isaac knows he needs to beat town before Rumpelstiltskin dies and only The Dark One remains. He crashes into Belle as he’s leaving. Gold is overwhelmed that Belle came back for him. She assures him she’s only there to make sure he doesn’t hurt anyone. He tries to explain but the pain overwhelms him.

Isaac is trying to get away, but David and Mary Margaret find him and stop him. They want to know why he’s screwed with them so badly. It’s latent aggression at people like them, he spits. He’s been pushed around his whole life and wanted to be the hero. Mary Margaret doesn’t buy it. He became a villain, not a hero. And she knows what it feels like to be dark and she can barely even pity him for what he’ll face for his terrible decisions.

Henry is in his mother’s office, staring at the volumes of Once Upon A Time and Heroes and Villains, and the pen he used to save them all. The Apprentice finds him and approaches him about taking on the job. Henry considers, and wonders if he might be able to bring his father back. Alas, for Magic Reasons, Baelfire cannot be resurrected and can only live on in the stories we tell about him. He offers Henry the job of The Author, but cautions him that he must do it correctly and not follow in Isaac’s footsteps. He must only write the truth. The power to change reality is outweighed by the cost.

Henry pauses and snaps the pen in half. No one should have that kind of power.

And that, The Apprentice informs him, is exactly why he’s the right person for the job.

In the pawnshop, Rumpelstiltskin is growing weaker. Belle stays with him. The two have the Rumbelle moment I’ve been waiting for all season. The life they had in Heroes and Villains had always been within his reach as far as Belle was concerned, but Rumpelstiltskin can’t believe anyone would ever love him. He begs her to continue on and explore the world with Will. Belle replies that she doesn’t love Will. She doesn’t tell Rumpel that she loves him, but she leans in and presses their foreheads together. He begs her to leave before his body dies and The Dark One is unleashed. She sobs and holds him closer.

Granny’s is having its usual post-villains-almost-killing-everyone-bash. Regina and Robin Hood are flirting like teenagers and it’s adorable. Emma apologizes for being so hard on her parents, and then has a heart to heart with Lily about Lily’s future plans (which, if you’re keeping track, involve using a piece of her shell, which is the crescent-moon necklace Emma retrieved from Lily and Boyfriend’s flop house, to try to find her biological dragon father. And not even Maleficent knows who her baby daddy is because what happens when you’re a dragon stays dragon-ed. Or something). But the party’s broken up when Belle rushes in to beg for help saving Rumpelstiltskin’s life. Everyone with magic-slinging powers heads to the pawnshop to try to figure out how to save Rumpelstiltskin. The Apprentice attempts to suck the curse out of Rumpelstiltskin and put it into The Sorcerer’s Amazing Magic Stealing Dream Hat. The darkness is pulled from Rumpelstiltskin’s heart, which shines white as The Apprentice places it back in his chest. It’s a lot of magic for a very old body to bear. The Apprentice preserves him to keep him stable while they figure out if they can help him.

If? What do you mean, IF? Belle wants to know.

Before that gets answered, the hatbox begins to regurgitate Dark One all over the place. Tarry liquid swirls around the room, eventually possessing The Apprentice. Emma manages to intercede and force it out of his body. The liquid disappears out the mail slot and the group attends to yet another critically injured magician.

Gasping, The Apprentice explains that The Dark One is now on the loose, and the only one who can help them now is The Sorcerer. The Sorcerer is named Merlin. He’s the one who decided to control The Dark One by binding it to a human soul and the dagger. The Dark One is floating around Storybrooke right now looking for a host.

The crowd, minus unconscious Rumpelstiltskin and weeping Belle, heads into the street to see where The Dark One went. The goop flies around them and eventually tries to attach itself to Regina, who fights it off using the little White Magic she has. The dagger, now nameless, is in Emma’s hand. Everyone is shouting. Robin moves to save Regina but is instantly thrown back by the magic. Emma realizes what she’s gotta do. She bids goodbye to her parents and instructs them to bring the darkness out of her as they did before, only this time as heroes. She grabs her man, tells him she loves him, and gives him a kiss. Then, she plunges the dagger into the swirling cloud. Magic intensifies. Then, in a burst, everything is gone, except for the dagger that is rattling on the ground which now bears the name Emma Swan.

HAPPY END OF SEASON FOUR, ONCERS! HOPE YOUR PROZAC HAS ENOUGH REFILLS TO GET YOU THROUGH TILL SEPTEMBER.

Overall, though? This was a great season finale to a season that didn’t have a great start. The characters and their struggles have really developed and gained depth as well as earned closure in a lot of ways. Regina’s taking the high road and Belle doesn’t love Will (because she loves Rumpelstiltskin even if she’s not ready to go blurting that out right now). The angst for next season is high, but there were a lot of questions answered and plot twists revealed and explained. This season finale, in particular, was visually incredible and felt beautifully crafted. The retold and reworked storylines were downright delightful.

And, of course, Lana Parrilla, Robert Carlyle, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, and Colin O’Donoghue absolutely crushed and killed and slayed and destroyed every last bit of it. I am eager for next season’s storyline, because it seems like this show is still capable of pure magic (when corporate owners aren’t cramming narratives in unneeded and unwanted places).

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

The last episode before the double-episode season finale. I’m nearly sick to my stomach just thinking about it. THIS SHOW. IT IS DOING THINGS TO MY LIFE.

This week’s installment is entitled simply “Mother,” which would seem like it would give some clue as to what characters we’ll be dealing with, but really everyone in this show has serious mama issues so it really could be any one of them.

Or, well, it’s kind of all of them.

We begin in the Enchanted Forest, sometime after Regina has assumed the throne after killing her husband. She’s tearing around the countryside with her father in a carriage when she stops and sees a gathering of peasants beside the road. She halts her envoy and gets out to greet them. They all look so happy! It’s because they’re having a wedding! Everyone is so very happy indeed!

Except for Regina. The peasants are trespassing on royal lands, and she’s not having it. And, because she’s The Evil Queen, she rips out the groom’s heart to prove she means business. Her father tries to reason with her, reminding her that she’s only feeling sensitive because it’s a certain day. Dude, you had a wife and you have a daughter, how the hell do you not know that you *never* blame a woman’s mood or actions on a particular day? Regina, insulted by her father’s patronizing and condescending words, crushes the groom’s heart in anger. She then leaves him to walk home as she tears off in the other direction.

Of course, it is a certain terrible day for Regina. It’s the anniversary of her beloved Daniel’s death, suffered at the hands of her mother, Cora. So when Regina visits Daniel’s grave and finds Cora waiting there for her, she’s less than pleased.

Okay, but hold that thought, because this launches into a plot grinding episode early. In present-day New York, Regina and Robin have a very up-front and heart-wrenching conversation about their current predicament. Robin is completely thrown, and Regina is twice as bad. She’s having more trouble accepting that Robin was moving on with Marian than she realized. They’re both outraged that Zelena used Robin and Roland as pawns to hurt Regina. Robin, for all that he’s suffered, still has feelings for Regina that he doesn’t want to ignore. Regina isn’t ready to dive headfirst into a man who’s about to have a baby with her sister, The Wicked Witch of the West. Hard to blame her.

They decide their best course of action is to get back to Storybrooke, where they can lock up Zelena and reunite Lily and Maleficent. They return to the apartment to pack as much as they can and get back as soon as possible. Zelena is an obnoxious, mocking bitchface the whole time.

Back in Storybrooke, Gold and The Author are apparently just walking around like nobody would dare mess with them. They appear to be right. The two are in Granny’s having what appears to be a late breakfast when Killian enters and saunters over to their table. Gold looks less happy to see Killian than he usually is. Killian looks so delighted that he can only be bringing them bad news. And he is! He wants

to report that he’s heard from Emma about their road trip, and he knows that she didn’t turn dark, and now Gold’s whole plan is ruined and Killian is nearly giddy. He takes leave as abruptly as he entered.

The Author immediately begins panicking. They need the darkness in Emma’s blood (since she’s The Savior and therefore the supplier of happy endings) to give the ink the kind of magic it needs to work. Gold, obviously having a very magical heart attack, mumbles some things about loopholes and tries to walk out of the restaurant. He’s too weak, so he magicks himself and The Author away instead.

Meanwhile Emma, Regina and their magic refugees (and one prisoner) arrive in Storybrooke. Emma has an emotional reunion with Killian and Henry, but refuses to give her parents anything but a dirty look. Maleficent is waiting at the edge of the crowd, trying to get a glimpse of Lily. Emma leads Lily (who glares daggers at Mary Margaret and David, since she knows that they’re really Snow White and Charming and responsible for her entire terrible fortune) from the car to her mother. Maleficent, tearful, embraces her. Lily doesn’t look like she knows how to react, but tentatively returns her embrace.

The two have a rather uncomfortable, brief lunch at Granny’s. Lily wants to know about Maleficent’s plans for revenge against Snow and Charming, and is disappointed when Maleficent dismisses revenge as a waste of time. Maleficent tries to explain that she’s just so relieved to be reunited with Lily that she isn’t interested in anything but building a future with her. Lily, angry that her mother is being such a pushover, storms out.

Maleficent is despondent that her daughter isn’t interested in a positive relationship, and so she goes to Mary Margaret and David for help. Which is admittedly weird, since their own daughter isn’t speaking to them about the very reason that Maleficent is struggling with her own daughter, but Maleficent has witnessed how heroic Snow White and Charming were, even after they did that terrible thing to her daughter, and they kind of owe her anyway for doing that terrible thing in the first place. Mary Margaret is, of course, eager to help.

But where could Lily be? And what could they even tell her when they find her?

Maleficent and the Charmings aren’t the only ones looking for Lily. Regina has kidnapped/absconded with The Author from the pawnshop where he and Gold had been looking for dark savior blood alternatives. She arrived on the scene just as Gold was in the midst of another magical heart attack and left him collapsed on the floor, taking the magic quill with her as she left. After The Author explained why they need The Savior’s darkness for the magic ink to work, Regina has an idea. Emma doesn’t need to turn dark, she just needs some of The Savior’s potential for darkness. And Lily is that, in the flesh.

Regina tracks her down at the sad joke of a bus stop, waiting for a ride out of town. She greets Lily, and Lily promptly tells her that she holds Regina as responsible for her damaged fate as she does Snow White and Charming and that she doesn’t want anything to do with her, so she can shove off. Regina knows these bad-girl tirades when she sees them. She’s had enough of them. Unfortunately for Lily, Regina is Queen of Sass in Storybrooke and won’t deal with an immature smartmouth with a chip on her shoulder. Lily warns her off again, but Regina has her exactly where she wants her.

See, with The Savior’s darkness all riled up within Lily, all Regina needs to do is slice her palm with a dagger, smear some blood on the blade, and scrape that blood into the inkwell to complete the magic ink The Author needs for her happy ending. Striking quickly, that’s exactly what she does. Before Lily can react, Regina has summoned The Author, completed the ink, and vanished. Lily’s eyes flash yellow.

Cause, yeah, Lily is Maleficent’s daughter. Which means she’s got that dragon-thing going on as well. She transforms and begins tearing around the forest, presumably trying to figure out how to leave Storybrooke. Mary Margaret, David, and Maleficent catch up with her on the edge of town. There’s a tense confrontation, and Mary Margaret gets thrown head-first into a rock. Satisfied with that bit of havoc, dragon-Lily takes off over the trees but appears to be injured.

Luckily, David had the sense to call Emma and Killian away from the cuddle-and-talk-about-forgiveness-date they were on and in as backup before they confronted the dragon. Emma arrives as David is clumsily trying to attend to Mary Margaret’s head wound. She rushes in and heals her mother. The two go back and forth but Emma eventually admits that she can’t do anything but forgive her parents because she knows they were trying to do the right thing. And also because she loves them so much. There’s a lot of hugging and crying.

Maleficent didn’t stick around to watch the reunion. She figured Lily couldn’t have gotten far, and she was right. She comes upon Lily as she’s transforming back into a person. Lily is aggravated to see her mother—she’s not the badass dragon bitch that she expected her to be, and it’s just another terrible disappointment in her miserable failure of a life. Maleficent refuses to hear her daughter say such negative things. She assures her daughter that she doesn’t mind her dark streak, as she has one of her own, but reminds her that their darkness doesn’t mean that they have to hurt other people. They have a chance at a great future. There is more hugging and crying.

So. Many. Mama. Issues.

Back in town, Regina has taken The Author to pay a visit to her pregnant sister, who’s being kept under magic, lock, and key in Storybrooke’s rather grim psychiatric ward. She really has the chance for her happy ending. She has The Author. The Author has the enchanted quill, and Lily’s blood has done the trick to make the ink enchanted as well. She wants Zelena to witness what she’s gonna do.

And what’s she gonna do, Zelena taunts. She’s carrying Robin’s baby! She’s the mother of his child and he’d never ever forgive Regina if she did something to harm her. Well, Regina explains, that won’t matter, because she’s gonna have The Author rewrite the story and eliminate Zelena entirely. Poof! She’ll be gone and no one will even remember her.

Zelena, more incensed that her sister is getting one over on her than she is at her own demise, continues to taunt Regina, accusing her of acting just like their mother and throwing away whatever was inconveniently in the way of whatever selfish things she wanted.

We were talking about mama issues? These two sisters have the market cornered. And this all reminds Regina of the time that Cora came to visit her at Daniel’s grave, once upon a time.

Cora came back and talked a bunch of reconciliation nonsense with Regina, even going so far as to divulge that she knows of Tinkerbell and Regina’s potential soulmate, the man with the lion tattoo. Regina remains suspicious, but when Cora appears a few days later, magicking Regina into a beautiful pale slate-blue-and-white gown (in which Lana Parrilla looks STUNNING. ABSOLUTELY STUNNING.) and leading a man with a lion tattoo into the room. Regina, not knowing that it’s The Sherriff of Nottingham and not her potential true love, because didn’t see Robin Hood’s face when Tinkerbell tried to show her, is overwhelmed. And beautiful. The two go for a fairytale courtship type walk around the garden. Lana Parilla looks beautiful. The Sherriff begins to reveal what a jackass he is. Regina, beautifully, grabs him by the arm and realizes his tattoo is magic. Panicked, Nottingham spills the truth—Cora hired him to pretend to be her true love because Cora wants Regina to have a baby.

Regina is disgusted, but not surprised. She throws Nottingham in the dungeon, changes back into her (also-dead-sexy) Evil Queen wardrobe, and stews in her chamber. Cora enters and demands to know why Regina looks so unhappy. Regina confronts her mother and accuses her of only wanting Regina to have a child so she could then murder Regina and become Regent to Regina’s child’s throne. Cora denies wanting to assume the throne herself, but she’s also Cora, so she of course admits that she has been trying to manipulate Regina into being happy with her power and positon. Regina is sure this is part of a power-grab, and produces a potion to make her sterile so that her mother will never be able to use her children against her. Cora begs her to reconsider, but Regina drinks it.

Cora, who might be the closest thing to distressed as a narcissistic greedy witch can be over seeing Regina’s painful reaction to the potion, leans down to try to explain to Regina one last time—she wanted Regina to be happy, and she was just a terrible failure at doing so. But Regina, in reacting to whatever she assumed her mother was up to, became her own worst enemy and only hurt herself in the end.

Cora goes back to Wonderland.

And so that’s the kind of mother that Regina and Zelena are dealing with. Zelena might resent being abandoned, but Regina resents being raised by that psychopath. And then Regina has a villainous moment of clarity.

Their mother was a monster, but their worst enemy is truly themselves.

She doesn’t want Zelena to be written out of the picture entirely. She will just believe that she and Robin (who has shown up, for some reason) will be strong enough to handle whatever the future will bring. Her happy ending isn’t about being with Robin or any man. It’s about finding her own place in the world, where she fits in and has relationships with people, including her son and her son’s biological family. And Robin, too.

So there’s Regina’s self-proclaimed happy ending. And she didn’t even need The Author for it. And, The Author notices this, and promptly peaces out with his magic quill and ink, returning to Rumpelstiltskin, who is barely breathing on the floor of the pawn shop.

Gold is stunned to see Isaac, but doesn’t even want the details of how he’s managed to return to him with the necessary tools to write these happy endings. But, Isaac has done so, so Gold bids him to start writing on a book that appears before him on the counter.

The book, similar in dimension to Henry’s storybook, but bound in black leather with silver lettering, is entitled “Heroes and Villains.” The author opens to a blank page, and begins to write, “Once Upon A Time…”

THE END. NOT EVEN KIDDING, THAT’S JUST THE END RIGHT THERE.

So Emma hasn’t turned dark, and has forgiven her parents, and Gold doesn’t even need her to go dark now that the ink has been enchanted by other means. Lily’s plans for revenge have at least temporarily been derailed by a possible bad-ass mama-and-daughter relationship that she never thought she’d have. Regina realizes that she can’t keep letting other people’s mistakes cause her to act badly, and takes responsibility for her own happy ending. Possibly finding out that it wasn’t exactly fate and an Ice Queen that ruined her happiness, but her crazy-ass sister plotting against her the whole time, has emboldened her to take control of her own fate. At any rate, NONE OF THIS ADDRESSES WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN TO RUMPELSTILTSKIN AND BELLE, AND IF THEY DON’T GET BACK TOGETHER I MIGHT ACTUALLY DIE.

Next week!!!

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

As with last week’s installment, this week’s title, “Lily,” pretty much gives away what this episode is going to focus on. Maybe I would complain about spoilers in another show but there are so many damn possibilities about what could happen and be revealed about a new character in a soap opera about fairytales, that I ain’t even worried about it.

This week opens with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice conjuring The Sorcerer through a cauldron and pillar of smoke. The Sorcerer needs to be made aware of the terrible things The Author has done, and also of his punishment for his misdeeds. The Sorcerer doesn’t appear to be too fussed about the outcome of The Author’s meddling—the two girls’ fates have always been entwined. The important part now, is damage control. They must stay out of the way and allow events to unfold from this point on. And above all, The Author must never be permitted to alter another story.

Well, too bad that’s exactly what Gold is expecting him to do, even at Cruella’s burial. The two men stand graveside, but while Isaac wants to mourn Cruella, Gold reminds him that it all needed to happen to blacken The Savior’s heart. From just outside the graveyard, said Savior glares at the two.

Emma then storms into Granny’s, where the Storybrooke Magic Brain Trust has gathered to discuss recent events. Emma, now aware that she killed Cruella even though she wasn’t actually a threat, wants to seek out Gold and get to the bottom of his plans. Killian and her parents encourage her to proceed with caution, but she dismisses them. She is, indeed, being cautious. She regrets killing Cruella but it was an accident and she isn’t consumed by that. She just wants to get to the bottom of everything, she swears.

She’s interrupted as Maleficent (presumably no longer under Cruella’s sleeping enchantment, as Cruella is dead) strolls in and announces that she wants to get in on whatever they’re up to. She has no more allegiance to Gold—he resurrected her for his own needs, not to help her, and she won’t be his pawn any longer. Instead, she wants to enlist Emma’s services as a Lady Who Knows How To Get Things. And Maleficent really wants to find her daughter.

No one seems to think it’s a very good idea to leave town with so much going on and Gold shoving her towards darkness, but Maleficent disagrees. Keeping her away from Gold will be the best thing for her. She continues to divulge the history she’s learned from Gold, that her daughter was adopted in Minnesota, and her adopted parents named her Lilith.

Lilith. Lily. The name immediately triggers Emma’s memories of her long-ago friend (because names mean something. Also this might be the *only* useful, satisfying plot point from the entire Frozen debacle so eat this up, kiddies). Emma rushes to the sheriff’s station to pull a bunch of stuff on microfilm that might help her confirm or disprove her suspicious. She finds Lily’s birth announcement in a newspaper article, complete with a picture showing the star-shaped birth mark on her wrist.

Emma sits in front of the screen, stunned. “Ain’t fate a bitch,” Regina remarks, standing behind her. Emma isn’t amused. How is it even possible that Lily, her only friend from so long ago, was Maleficent’s

daughter, linked to her Enchanted Forest past all along? Regina assures Emma that some powers are beyond anyone’s understanding, and can’t help but add that it’s more likely considering that Emma’s parents messed with those powers so much. Emma becomes more despondent—her only friend wasn’t even her friend, she was just another part of Emma’s ridiculously complicated fate. Regina can sympathize, being that the child she adopted wound up being the son of The Savior and Rumpelstiltskin’s long-lost son. Fate pushes all of us, she explains as gently as someone who used to be The Evil Queen can. Maybe, she continues to suggest, it’s time to push fate back a little.

Emma isn’t sure they can, but Regina outlines the circumstances. Regina needs to get to New York to save Robin, and Emma knows New York. In addition, she can help Maleficent find her daughter, and maybe put to rights a little what Emma’s parents did on her behalf. Emma thinks this may be a good plan after all. The two begin planning what I am hoping to be a truly epic road trip.

Isaac and Gold watch the two explain their plans to their families from across the street. Isaac is incensed that Gold is allowing the two to leave, but Gold rebuffs him. It doesn’t matter where exactly The Savior turns dark, it just needs to happen. It just may be that this little road trip will turn her even faster than the two of them could if they tried. Gold sees Will and Belle walking along the street and excuses himself in the most menacing way possible.

Emma has pulled her Bug in front of the mayor’s office, waiting for Regina to finalize her preparations (i.e., locking up Belle’s heart good and tight in her office with Maleficent to stand guard against Rumpelstiltskin). She bids goodbye to Henry. Mary Margaret and David try to offer their encouragement, but she refuses to reply. Instead, she cozies up to Killian for a very cute reaffirmation of Emma’s status as a hero, and also how much they mean to each other. Oh, and a really adorable kiss. Should pirate-kisses be adorable? Oh well. Anyway. As they pull away, Emma receives information about Lily from one of her contacts. It’s an address, but it’s five years old. And, it’s also the same small town where Emma was living five years ago. Fate, indeed, is freaky. Deciding to investigate the old address first, the pair depart on their trip, complete with The Snow Queen’s scroll, which they’ll use to regain entrance into Storybrooke once Robin is rescued and Lily is recovered.

At the pawnshop, Belle is debriefing will on how to look after things. She has to go watch Neal for Mary Margaret and David, and should be back in a few hours. She kisses him goodbye, and before the door can jingle closed, the camera turns and we see Rumpelstiltskin’s figure in the background.

Will notices him, and begins to give the cheeky remarks a cockney thief would give to the man whose ex-wife he’s currently seducing. Rumpelstiltskin is enraged, but he also has bigger things to worry about. Will is too thick to notice, of course, but Belle’s heart has been taken by Regina, and Gold needs a thief to get it back. A thief like Will. Will isn’t interested, but Gold makes it abundantly clear that he won’t take no for an answer.

Back on the road with Regina and Emma, they’ve found the dump of an apartment building where Lily had lived. Regina is disgusted by the squalor, but Emma is more concerned that her former friend had lived somewhere so terrible. They knock on the apartment door, but a nosy, half-dressed neighbor dude staggers across the hall, asking them what they want. They inquire about Lily, and the man informs them

that she died a few years back, using as much tact and sensitivity as he would have if he’d informed them that she stepped out for a cheese sandwich. He goes on. Ain’t no surprise Lily’s dead. She was a terrible loser, made horrible decisions, could never get her life together, and he’d probably continue except Emma grabs him by the throat and shoves him against the wall. Regina talks her down, assuring Emma that getting her hands dirty with a puke like this guy won’t be worth it. Emma is reeling, but she agrees with Regina. There isn’t anything more for them there. She turns and leaves.

The two continue driving towards New York. Emma continues to agonize over Lily’s ill fate. Regina tries to reason with her, but Emma can’t let it go. She feels guilty now that Lily is dead after such a terrible life. Regina continues to argue with her when Emma sees an obstruction in the road ahead and swerves to miss it.

In swerving, Emma runs off the road, flattening one of the tires. Before Emma can even get out to assess the damage, she looks back to the obstruction that caused the accident. It’s not just an obstruction. It’s a wolf who appears to be completely unfussed despite the fact that it had nearly been run over. It looks in the eye as she gets out of the car before trotting off into the forest. Seem familiar? It should. It’s how Emma wound up spending her first night in Storybrooke in the drunk tank after dropping Henry off and accepting a cocktail from Regina. Emma muses over the déjà vu, but Regina isn’t sure this is fate. It’s more like a traffic accident. A serendipitous one, maybe, since they’re right next to a diner/gas and repair station. Regina orders Emma to go get them some coffees while she sees about getting Emma’s car repaired.

Emma sits at a table and orders two coffees to go, so dazed that she barely recognizes that the waitress she’s been making small talk with has the same star-shaped birthmark that Lily did. Emma sees the waitress’ nametag reads “Starla,” but Emma isn’t fooled. Regina sits down as Starla turns away, and Emma tells her earlier guess about fate’s actions had been wrong. The waitress is Lily, and she was supposed to meet her here.

Emma goes to confront the server, who is no longer wearing her uniform and waiting in a parking lot adjacent to the restaurant, staring at her phone. Emma approaches her and confesses that she knows “Starla’s” real identity, and identifies herself as her long lost friend.

Lily is a little disbelieving and overwhelmed, but the conversation continues and she knows that Emma is who she says she is. Emma begins to apologize for abandoning her all those years ago, but Lily assures her that there aren’t any apologies necessary. She admits her life was messed up for a while, but she was able to make a fresh start. She likes her life in her little town. She has a husband, and a daughter, and hasn’t even thought of Emma in years. A school bus pulls up, and Lily excuses herself so she can fetch her daughter and walk her home.

Emma watches Lily walk towards the children streaming from the bus. Safely out of earshot, she kneels before a little girl with dark hair. She smiles at the girl. “You know me from the diner, right?” she asks. The girl nods. “Well, free burgers for a week if you hold my hand and walk around the corner with me. You gotta decide right now, though,” she offers with a smile. The girl gives her a grin, and the two walk away.

Emma may not have been in earshot, but she always knows when someone is lying to her. She’s certain that Lily’s troubles have continued to follow her to her new life as Starla. She’s equally certain that she bears some responsibility for her terrible life. Why’s that exactly? Well, turns out, the last time we saw Emma and Lily together (when Lily’s father had come to fetch her from their lake house) wasn’t the last time the girls saw each other, even though Emma swore she never wanted to see Lily again.

Not so long ago, in a land not very far away (Minnesota, actually), Emma has finally landed with a good foster family. They’re absolutely gooey over each other, planning a family camping trip. Emma seems to be on top of the world, until she goes to the garage to fetch a sleeping bag and finds Lily hiding in there. Lily! What in the world is she doing here?! Before Lily can explain further than “I am in so much trouble for real,” the foster parents walk in. Lily immediately spins a nonsense story about knowing Emma from a group home and just moving to the neighborhood herself, and gets invited to stay for dinner.

As the evening progresses, it’s clear that Lily is still Bad News Bears, and Emma is panicked about her sudden presence in her otherwise-maybe-going-okay life. And Emma has every reason to be concerned. Turns out Lily is wanted in an armed robbery of a convenience store. Lily tries to explain that it all happened before she could stop it, and that it was her boyfriend’s idea and he made her do it, but Emma isn’t having it. She wants Lily gone immediately. Lily agrees, but begs Emma to retrieve her birth mother’s necklace from the place where she and her boyfriend have been squatting. Emma isn’t happy, but, assuming that it’s the fastest way to get Lily out of her life, agrees and goes to the flophouse to retrieve the necklace.

She returns home, expecting to find Lily, but instead, she finds her foster parents, and they are super mad. It seems that Lily broke into her foster dad’s desk and stole their vacation money. Upon finding both the money and the girls missing, they called Emma’s social worker and found out that Emma and Lily had been arrested together. Emma, realizing that everything has unraveled, grabs a pack next to the door and storms out.

She’s waiting at a bus stop when Lily approaches her. Emma is irate, but Lily tries to explain. She’s saved Emma from a really boring life, and with the money Lily’s just stolen the two of them can go anywhere. Emma won’t have it, but Lily pleads a little. Everything’s gotten so much worse for her since Emma came into and then left her life. No decisions work out. She can’t help but make terrible mistakes no matter how hard she tries not to. She wants to start over again with Emma. Emma, enraged that Lily has cost her another chance at happiness, presses her mother’s necklace into her hand and storms off, swearing she never wants to see her again.

So, Emma has to do something to help Lily, and she wants to start with tracking her down and reuniting her with her mother. She manages to get Lily’s address from her timecard at the diner, and she drags Regina off to investigate where she’s now living. They pull up to a run-down trailer that isn’t any better looking inside. There are no signs of a husband or a child inside, confirming Emma’s suspicions.

What neither woman can account for, though, is the bulletin boards all over the walls in a back room, outlining all the events from Regina’s curse-threat to Lilith’s banishment to this land without magic.

LILY. KNOWS. EVERYTHING.

I can only assume that the writers are making up for the dumb, barely-existing plot twists in the Frozen arc. I also heartily approve of this.

Okay, so Lily knows everything and by the looks of her serial-killer bulletin-boarding she wants revenge against Snow White and Prince Charming for dooming her fate. And she’s been waiting for Emma and Regina to show up. And they’ve just walked right into her trap.

There’s a crash and tires squealing outside. Emma and Regina rush onto the porch just in time to see Lily take off in Emma’s Bug (which has Regina’s purse, which has the scroll that she can use to enter Storybrooke.)

Emma realizes that Lily has destroyed every chance of happiness she had as a child, and she’s not about to let her interfere with her family again. She grabs a wrench and hotwires an SS Chevelle that happens to be sitting in a neighbor’s parking space. Regina, horrified but unable to stop Emma’s dramatic response, hops in as they go tearing off after Lily. Emma drives exceedingly fast, determined to stop Lily before she can reach Storybrooke and hurt her parents. Regina pleads with her to think things through. Emma won’t have such advice coming from someone who was on her way to New York to rip her sister’s heart out if need be in order to save her boyfriend. It’s not about heroes and villains right now, she snaps. They’re in the real world where real people have real problems, and she’s gotta put a stop to Lily.

They catch up with her and, after engaging in a longer car chase than necessary when pitting a Chevy Chevelle against a Volkswagen Bug (seriously, between these two cars, Cruella’s Roadmaster, and Gold’s Cadillac, I’m only assuming that someone on the writer’s staff has a car thing going on. I heartily approve), Emma pulls ahead and beaches her car ahead of the Bug. The three women get out.

Emma demands to know if Lily knew about their fates when they were children. Lily learned later, she confesses, but what does it even matter now? Lily has exactly what she needs to get into Storybrooke and seek her revenge, and without magic there’s nothing The Savior can do to stop her!

The two women scuffle. Energy crackles and a headlight on the Bug bursts. The scuffle ends when Emma pulls out her gun and draws it on Lily, who’s kneeling before her.

Lily goads Emma. Lily’s whole life has been nothing but pain and mistakes, and no good can come of Emma allowing her to live, since she’s just going to go to Storybrooke to destroy her family. Emma, shaking, doesn’t respond, but keeps the gun trained on Lily as Regina again tries to act as the voice of reason. It’s a tense confrontation, but eventually Emma lowers her gun. Lily is too stunned to move or run away. The two women sit on some nearby discarded drainage pipes and try to process what’s happened.

How, indeed, did Lily know everything? After being abandoned by Emma with only her mother’s necklace and a wad of stolen cash, Lily hopped on a bus to get out of town and beat her armed robbery rap. She’s on a bus to Pittsburgh (which made my little heart sing, being a Pittsburgh native myself, and everyone knows everyone from , the Burgh gets excited when we’re on TV), staring at her mother’s

necklace, and maybe mourning her fate a little. Then, there’s a man beside her, calling her by name, offering to tell her all about her mother and her origins. It’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice! Because, lord knows that a teenage runaway girl will totally not be freaked out by a scraggly-bearded man confronting her on sketchy public transportation, especially if he claims to know everything about her. 100% normal. Well, maybe it would bother other girls, but Lily (even though she doesn’t know it) is the daughter of a dragon and a yet-unnamed probably-magical baby-daddy, who has crossed realms and had had destiny stacked against her since before she could even talk. She has seen some shit. She allows the man to continue. Maybe we’ll find out what happened in that conversation next episode?

Back in Storybrooke, Will has successfully stolen Belle’s heart from Maleficent (with the help of a diversion by Rumpelstiltskin). He doesn’t hand it over to Gold, but rather meets Belle in the shop with it. He shows it to her, and she’s overwhelmed. Before Will can finish explaining, Rumpel emerges from the back. She tenses, but he assures her he means her no harm. He again professes his love for her, but, even as he places her heart back in her chest, admits that he’s unworthy of her. He won’t continue to hurt her with his presence. If Belle wants a future with Will, he won’t stand in her way. And, for the fourth? Fifth? Millionth? time this series, Bobby Carlyle says, “Goodbye, Belle,” and breaks my heart into itty bitty pieces.

He walks out the front door, and Belle turns to watch him leave, clutching her chest. Will grabs for her hand. She doesn’t turn to look back at him.

So! Belle’s heart being back in her chest means that Regina has lost her leverage with Gold, and Maleficent calls Regina to let her know what’s happened. Lily and Emma were having a very soul-affirming conversation about bad things happening even when it’s nobody’s fault, but Regina insists that they leave to find Robin immediately.

And find him, they do. Marian happens to be at the store, which is perfect because now Regina can rapidly debrief him about Marian being dead all along, and Marian really being Zelena, and everything being a trick. Robin is overwhelmed, as one would probably be. Marian, of course, returns just as he gathers the words to tell Regina that he and Marian have started a new life together. Marian first proclaims to have no idea what Regina is talking about, but Zelena can’t ever keep a secret when she knows she can drop a bomb. She transforms into her true self before Robin’s very eyes.

Regina orders Robin to escape with her as soon as possible, but Robin can’t bring himself to move. He can’t leave. He just can’t. “Why?” Regina demands.

Zelena giggles and encourages Robin to share their happy news. She’s pregnant.

ZELENA IS PREGNANT.

BECAUSE IT’S NOT A DAMN SOAP OPERA WITHOUT A DRAMATIC PREGNANCY.

SEE YOU NEXT WEEK.

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

This week’s Once Upon A Time is entitled “Sympathy For The De Vil,” so it’s no surprise when we open to a young, blonde girl running through some misty English countryside woods with Dalmatians chasing her. Eventually they catch her and a car pulls up. A somberly-but-elegantly dressed woman emerges and orders the girl into the car. The girl refuses, and the woman threatens her to set the dogs on her. “Now that your father’s gone,” she says, stepping towards the girl and leaning into her face, “we’re going to make a few changes around the house, Cruella.”

She takes the girl back to the house and summarily locks her in the attic. Cruella protests, but her mother will not be swayed. She’ll stay locked in this room until she obeys her mother.

But hold off on that story for a minute. Let’s find out how present-day Cruella is terrorizing the denizens of Storybrooke!

She’s tearing along a road on the outside of town at a seriously unadvisable speed. She screeches to a halt when she sees Maleficent standing directly in her path. Annoyed that she had to stop, Cruella gets out of the car and begins to berate Maleficent. Maleficent though, won’t have it. She demands to know what became of her daughter. Cruella, without much remorse, admits that she and Ursula left her in the woods to die after stealing the egg she came over it. They used the magic to keep themselves young. She’s a terrible person, you see.

Maleficent is enraged and turns herself into a dragon, presumably to begin slow-roasting Cruella. But Cruella isn’t afraid. She’s been hoping for this. Since, yanno, she can control any beast, and a dragon is definitely a beast. She orders Maleficent to go to sleep and stay out of the way while she gets hers. She tears off again in the opposite direction.

So, The Charmings, Emma, and Killian arrive at Casa de Charming, brainstorming ways to try to find The Author. They’d probably make more progress if Emma could go ten seconds without throwing her parents’ lies into their faces, but this is a soap opera. And also Snow and Charming did some seriously bad shit to Maleficent’s kid. So, there’s a lot of angst to the planning.

Regina then shows up and spills everything about Robin Hood and the Zelena/Marian nightmare. She’s going to New York City come hell or high water to save Robin, and she knows how she’ll get Gold to let her do it. She goes to visit Belle in the pawnshop. The confrontation is a bit tense at first, but Belle soon realizes that Regina doesn’t want to work with Gold, so she agrees to help.

So what’s Gold up to? He’s locking The Author (who introduces himself as Isaac) up in the cabin. The Author chatters nervously, but Gold is all business. He taunts Isaac with the magic quill. Isaac retorts that the pen is worthless without ink. But Gold knows that. And he’s going to obtain some ink when The Savior turns dark. Once that happens, The Author will be able to write happy endings for Gold and his associates. Those associates, Isaac notices as he reaches out to grab one of Cruella’s coats on the coatrack, seem to have intriguing tastes. Gold remarks mildly that he assumed that The Author knew his associates, but The Author clarifies: he only knows of them, since different stories are handled by

different authors. The Author tries to further explain, but Gold grabs his chest and, upon informing Isaac that something more important has come up, immediately leaves. Isaac is a bit nervous about being left without protection.

Gold doesn’t care, though. His Belle has summoned him at the wishing well where they were married (and a billion other important things have happened). He’s astonished that Belle has summoned him and begins to apologize, but Belle refuses to hear apologies. She simply wants the truth about why he’s in Storybrooke.

Without hesitating, Rumpelstiltskin reaches into his chest and shows her the black mass that is his heart. There’s a faint, glowing light in the center, and it’s obvious that the light is the only part of his heart that still works. He won’t die, he replies when Belle asks what exactly his deteriorating condition will do to him, but he’ll lose all ability to love. And so, he’s in Storybrooke to try to keep that from happening.

He assures Belle that he doesn’t expect her to understand, but brave, forgiving Belle understands better than he could have hoped. She’s wondered if she threw away the chipped teacup too soon. Rumpelstiltskin gives her a look. The two kiss. I cry.

When they break apart, Belle admits she has a bit of a problem. Will’s such a better kisser! And Rumpelstiltskin is pathetic, begging for her like a dog for scraps. Rumpel is devastated and confused. Why is his Belle saying such things?

Well, that’s what happens when Regina takes your heart and commands you to say awful things to your (ex?) husband. Regina emerges from the forest, holding a glowing heart in her hand that could easily be assumed to be Belle’s. The Dark One is furious and threatens Regina after she sends Belle running along home without any memory of the encounter. Regina reminds him that it’s unwise to threaten the person who can kill your true love just by squeezing. Rumpelstiltskin calls her bluff, but Regina’s face and twitching fingers make him think twice.

He asks her what she wants, and she informs him that she’s going to New York to save Robin and that Rumpelstiltskin won’t be doing a damn thing to stop her.

Don’t mess with The Queen.

With Gold absent and Maleficent taking a dragon-nap, Cruella is free to get to The Author all by herself. She finds him reading The Great Gatsby and taunts him that his writing skills could never hope to be as good as Fitzgerald’s (she’s probably right.) Isaac slowly lowers the book and glares at her. He’d hoped he’d never see her again, he spits. Cruella is only amused by his ire with her. She marches up to him and threatens him for that thing he has that she wants. Now, Isaac is amused, because he knows that they both know that she doesn’t have enough magic to hurt him, even if she’s able to control all the dogs within a hundred miles. Cruella softens, and asks nicely, for old times’ sake, if he’ll give her what she wants. He refuses. And, he continues, he knows that she lied to Rumpelstiltskin about knowing him, and once she’s caught in her lie there will be hell to pay. Cruella, furious, storms out. She’ll have what she

wants, and Isaac will pay for turning her into what she is today. There’s more than one way to skin an Author.

What’s she gonna do? And why? Well, you see, once upon a time, the young girl who had been locked away by her mother has grown into a lovely young woman who is still locked away but now listening to the radio. Er, she listens until her mother comes in and rips it out of the wall.

She knows Cruella stole the radio the last time Mother Dear let her out of the room. Cruella desperately tries to explain that she’s been bored for years, and she wouldn’t have to steal things to keep her occupied if she could just go outside! Mother Dearest isn’t having it. And then the doorbell rings.

Isaac, smartly dressed as a 1920s seedy-type-dude can be, is on the other side. He’s a newspaper reporter collecting interesting stories, and he thinks there might be one right around this locale. He hustles his way inside, remarking on Mother Dear’s uncanny and sought-after dog-training skills. Mother Dear is tight-lipped as Isaac continues to prattle until they wind up in a grand living room with three portraits hanging on the wall. Isaac assumes they’re family, but Mother Dear corrects him. They’re her late husbands.

Three late husbands! Isaac is astonished. There’s a story that’s even better than dog training! Mother Dear is appalled at his insensitivity and throws him out. If he understood what it was like to actually live and lose someone, instead of just writing about other people’s lives, he’d know better than to be so callous.

Isaac stands in the driveway, disheveled and a bit stunned. But Cruella’s seen the whole thing. And, she calls down to him from her attic room, if he can get her out of there, she’s got a story she knows he’ll want to hear.

Hours later, Cruella is waiting anxiously when she hears tapping at her window. She opens it to find a key! She dresses quickly and sneaks out of the house and towards the street, noticing her mother’s dogs are fast asleep instead of keeping guard. She sees Isaac standing on the sidewalk. She’s so happy to see him! He suggests they go somewhere quiet to, ah, talk, but she insists she wants to go somewhere loud. Living in an attic is quiet enough. She wants music! Isaac smiles. Cruella can have music if she wants music. He points her toward his car. Of course, it’s THE car, the Coupe de Ville roadster she terrorizes motorists with to this day.

They head to a totally-roaring-twenties-type joint. The two sit down for cocktails. Cruella is absolutely gushing with excitement, and chatters easily about Mother Dear’s dirty secrets. She’s doing more than just keeping her daughter locked up in an attic. She killed her husbands! All three! Cruella is certain. The Author is enraptured and wants to keep talking, but Cruella wants to dance. He resists, but who can resist a beautiful blonde woman, all done-up and crackling with excitement, begging you to dance with her?

The two shut the place down, talking quietly back at their table as the staff cleans up around them. Isaac is moved by Cruella’s beauty and concerned for her terrible situation. He wants to help her. He begins to

explain his position as The Author. Cruella doesn’t believe him at first, but he shows her the pen and ink. Cruella still isn’t convinced so he writes a few sentences and suddenly she’s wearing some beautiful jewelry. Jewelry will always convince a woman like Cruella.

Isaac implores her to run away with him, but she’s worried about leaving. Her mother might follow her somehow! Isaac writes a few more lines to keep her safe, giving her the power to control any animal around her. Cruella leaves to confront her mother. The two agree to meet back at the hotel. She won’t allow Isaac to accompany her, but she gratefully accepts the keys for his car. She kisses a napkin, rubbing her lipstick into it, and slips it into his jacket pocket as she bids him goodbye.

Isaac goes back to his hotel room to sweat things out. He answers a knock at the door, expecting it to be Cruella, but instead it’s Mother Dear and some angry dogs demanding to know where Cruella is. He isn’t happy to see her. He tells her what he knows about her and orders her to leave. Mother Dear goes from furious to sympathetic. There are some things, she begins, that he should know about Cruella.

Like, basically how she killed her father and her mother’s two subsequent husbands. About how Cruella has been wicked since birth and no amount of parenting had ever changed that. Mother Dear was disturbed that Cruella wasn’t crying after watching her father die of a heart attack, and then saw a slight smile on her face. Isaac dismisses this as a lie, but Mother Dear keeps coming back at him with facts that make much more sense than Cruella’s version of events. Isaac, rattled but blustering, orders Mother Dear to leave again. This time she does, wistful and pitying him as she goes. Cruella destroys everything you love, she cautions.

Could Mother Dear have been telling the truth? Nah, Isaac reminds himself. It’s just a bunch of fiction. He goes to his desk and reaches for the box that holds his quill and ink, perhaps to write himself a story. Except they’re missing. Cruella stole them. Mother Dear must have been telling the truth.

Sure enough, Cruella confronts her mother in a spooky, moonlight hallway with curtains blowing everywhere. Mother Dear pleads a bit, but Cruella turns the dogs against her, ordering them to kill her. Guess that answers that?

So, yeah. Cruella really has been a psychopath this whole time, and The Author gave her magic. Lovely!

Anyway! Let’s go to Storybrooke for a second! Regina’s packing her car to leave for New York when Emma finds her and offers to go along. Regina refuses, but thanks her for the offer. Emma is concerned about Regina’s safety and hands her a handgun. It’s not magic, but it might be her best bet. The women share a sisters-in-magical-badassery look, but they’re soon disturbed by their chirping cell phones. They’ve both received a video message from Henry. Um, that’s probably not good.

It’s not. Henry has been kidnapped by Cruella (who used Pongo to lure him into an alley and then turn on him), and she’s demanding that the two women kill The Author, or she’ll kill Henry. Cruella has to mean serious business to poke the two most powerful witches in the realm, right?

So, the Storybrooke Magic Brain Trust assembles and it is decided that Killian, Regina, and Emma will look for Henry (since David was able to identify the area she’s holding him in from a convenient trail

marker in the background) while David and Mary Margaret use a locator spell to find The Author. There is more angst between Emma and her parents.

With Cruella holding Henry hostage, Isaac is again alone in the cabin. But, not for long. Gold arrives to finish their earlier conversation. See, he knew that Isaac and Cruella had both lied to him about knowing each other. And he knew that Cruella’s happy ending wasn’t a reunion with her mother, but rather to see The Author dead. He’s known all along. And, of course, he also needs to use Cruella to turn The Savior dark so that The Author can write happy endings for villains. Gold explains Cruella’s ransom to Henry’s mothers. Isaac is confused. Why would Cruella sending Regina and Emma to kill him help Gold with his plan? Gold only admits that he wants to keep Isaac alive because he’s got him over a barrel and the next Author might not be so willing to help his cause. Gold will keep Isaac alive, provided Isaac provide Gold with what he wrote about Cruella all those years ago.

Sweating, Isaac reaches for a leather pouch around his waist. He produces a piece of stationary monogrammed with a dog. Gold unfolds it, reads it, and chuckles.

SO WHAT DID ISAAC WRITE?

Well, after setting the dogs to rip her mother apart, Isaac found Cruella in her dimly lit attic room, the radio blaring, frantically sewing something at a sewing machine. He’s concerned, he begins, but he’s cut short as Cruella turns around to give him a vacant, way-too-happy smile. Isaac is stunned. And, as she continues to explain how she’s always been drawn to darkness since she was a child, and how she gleefully used the dogs to kill her mother and then made a coat of their hides, incredibly terrified.

He spots the pen laying on a desk across the room. Cruella catches it as well. They lunge for it at the same time. In the scuffle, the ink (which is magical and very dangerous of course) spills over Cruella and she collapses.

Isaac gulps. Cruella rises, no longer the apple-cheeked blonde but the terrifying, eye-lined, lipsticked, monochrome-coiffed witch we know today. Isaac has managed to find the pen, though, and he scrawls something on a piece of paper as she advances on him with a gun. She tries to pull the trigger, but it won’t go.

And it won’t go. Isaac smirks. Cruella demands to know what he’s written about her, but he only tells her that he took what she loved and destroyed it. Cruella is enraged and somehow powerless. He leaves her to rant in her darkened attic.

MOAR STORYBROOKE.

Regina and Killian try to reason with Emma as they search through the forest for Henry. Emma will not relent. She’s too hurt and betrayed by her parents lies to be able to forgive them. They continue to bicker back and forth about it until Emma stomps off ahead of them.

Nearby, Cruella is playing Angry Birds on the hood of her car while Henry is tied to a nearby tree and Pongo stands guard. Cruella has bound Henry with a flimsy scarf, very close to a lot of broken glass.

She’s no just a terrible person, she’s a terrible kidnapper. Henry takes off through the forest. Pongo, still enchanted, growls and sets off after him. Cruella might be a terrible kidnapper but her underlings are pretty competent. I think that’s the first time that’s happened in Villain History.

Mary Margaret and David make it to the cabin to find Isaac waiting, presumably unguarded. They demand to know his part in this. Isaac, again terrified, begins babbling that he’d only been trying to protect the world from Cruella–even he didn’t know how the story would end! David releases his hold on Isaac only enough so Isaac can speak a little easier. The story, he tells them, ends with The Savior turning dark. Mary Margaret and David don’t understand what Cruella has to do with any of this.

Isaac again reaches into his pouch to procure the same paper he showed Gold earlier. When he was scrambling to undo his mistake in her story, Isaac wrote “Cruella De Vil can no longer take way the life of another.” So Cruella can’t kill Henry. Her ransom is an empty threat.

And Emma doesn’t know.

In the forest, Regina, Emma, and Killian split up as they hear Henry shouting and Pongo barking. Killian and Regina are led astray by some seashell-speaker-magic, but Emma is led to find Henry moments after Cruella caught up with him at the edge of a very inconvenient ravine. She hauls Henry close to the edge and pulls a gun on him. Emma tries to talk sense to Cruella for about thirty seconds, but Cruella keeps mocking her and threatening her. Emma has faced evil queens and witches enough to know that you don’t let them chatter about how they’re going to kill someone. In a burst of white magic, Cruella is thrown backwards off the cliff and into the ravine.

Mary Margaret and David arrive with Regina and Killian as Emma and Henry peer into the canyon to see Cruella’s twisted body on the rocks below. They all look very sad and serious. Emma’s eyes look like she’s been on a four-day bender. She’s just killed a defenseless woman. Is she about to turn dark? Or does she look like that because it’s allergy season?

Guess we’ll find out!

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

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!

Photo Courtesy Of ABC/Jack Rowand

Photo Courtesy Of ABC/Jack Rowand

Warning: Spoiler Alert

In the Enchanted Forest, Snow White and Charming are running frantically through the woods. Snow is ahead of Charming, gaining distance as she runs. She’s tracking something. She pauses to examine a patch of earth and David catches up with her. They’ve been tracking a unicorn, and they seem to have found it. If they can approach it and touch its horn, they’ll be able to see their daughter’s fate. They reach out and make contact at the same time, but have two very different visions.

David sees Emma as a happy, cooing baby in a basket along a path in a strange looking forest. He approaches her and she continues to make docile baby noises as he picks her up. He’s so relieved, everything is going to be fine! Except, Snow’s vision isn’t quite the same. It’s in the same forest, but Emma is a teenager—a scowling, petulant teenager who rips out Snows heart and crushes it, simply because she can. They awake from their visions, and Charming is elated, while Snow White is horrified. She’s so disturbed and astonished by David’s elation, she can only breathe “it’s evil.”

So we begin this installment with a mystery, because immediately after the open, we switch to Storybrooke in the present. Emma and Regina are trying to figure out how The Author is trapped in the book. Regina is stressed because she needs to get back to the Queens of Darkness (minus Ursula) and Gold because she’s been gone a really long time. Suddenly, though, August’s condition worsens. Emma, Regina, and Henry take him to the fairies/nuns. Mother Superior examines him and finds that he’s suffering from the extreme magic he’s been subjected to. He may survive, but he’ll have to be very strong.

Regina is relieved that August isn’t actively dying, but she’s pressed to get back to Gold and she needs to take him something to show for all the time she’s been gone. Emma conjures a forgery of the page. Henry is impressed, but Regina is certain it won’t fool Gold. Instead, she takes a picture of the page with her iPhone, hugs Henry for longer than a teenage boy likes to be hugged, and rushes back to meet the bad guys.

As Regina leaves, Emma and Henry goes to The Charmings’ loft to meet Killian and debrief about what they’ve all learned. Killian explains what Ursula disclosed last episode—The Dark One wants to turn Emma’s heart dark to un-Savior her so to empower The Author to give villains their happy endings. Emma scoffs, not only because if this weren’t Fairytales of our Lives the whole plot would be ridiculous, but because she trusts in her family’s love for her and the goodness of their hearts. Killian cautions her that darkness has a way of sneaking up on someone, but Emma rebuffs him. Mary Margaret and David, with two of the worst poker faces in the world, fret in whispered tones about their sketchy past and how it may affect Emma. The two depart, hoping to find a way to intercede with The Author. His powers to grant the villains happy endings shouldn’t be reliant on Emma’s good heart and Savior status, and they have to convince him of that.

Emma is concerned about August, and Killian is jealous. Emma doesn’t find his protectiveness about her endearing. Still, she assures Killian that August is special to her because he was one of the few friends she made since her childhood trauma with Lilly (the girl from the video tape in the story arc that we are otherwise pretending didn’t happen). Killian seems placated, and the two are about seal their reconciliation with a kiss when a purple haze rushes through the window, knocking them out cold.

When Regina returned to Gold, Cruella, and Maleficent, she produced the photograph of the picture of the door. However, instead of being left with nothing to go on except the picture, Gold notices a glare on the photograph as a sign of magic. He quickly determines what August told The Heroes—that the page is the door and the author is trapped within the book. They need to get the real page. Regina cautions that since her son Henry has the page, they’ll have to be extremely delicate in procuring it. Maleficent, on the other hand, has a slightly different idea. She sets of a sleeping curse that knocks out all of Storybrooke. With the town incapacitated they’ll be able to find the page easily.

As the group walks into the cursed town, Maleficent pulls Gold aside. She knows she’s more valuable than Cruella or Ursula, especially since he doesn’t seem to be at all concerned with Ursula’s happy exit. Since she’s more valuable, there’s something else that she wants from Gold. He knows what it is, but they don’t mention it specifically. He concedes that if she can get him the page with The Author’s door, he’ll give her what she seeks.

The villains go to The Charmings’ loft, finding Emma and Killian passed out on the couch, but no sign of the page. Gold quickly realizes that Henry would have been immune to the sleeping curse since he had already been placed under one. Henry has taken the page, and they must find him. Again, Regina asserts that she’ll be the only one to deal with Henry. Gold agrees, and lets her go to find him. After she leaves, he tells Cruella and Maleficent to tail her to make sure she’s doing what she’s supposed to. He, on the other hand, has something to take care of.

Mary Margaret and David realize the sleeping curse has hit the town as they’re arguing in the street about their next course of action. Mary Margaret is distressed by their lying, knowing that their deception will only hurt Emma if she finds out the truth. David, though, thinks there might be another way. If The Author is gone entirely, Gold will have no reason to turn Emma’s heart. They can find Henry, get the page, and destroy it before they release The Author. Mary Margaret isn’t thrilled with the plan, but they notice Regina taking off from the loft and Cruella and Maleficent tailing her just as Henry calls Mary Margaret to tell him that he’s also been unaffected by the curse and is hiding at The Sorcerer’s mansion. It’s their perfect chance, isn’t it?

As Henry hides under a table in the mansion, a ray of sunlight hits the illustration of the door. The illustration begins to shine, golden light pouring from around the door and through the keyhole. The light makes contact with a keyhole on an adjacent desk, and Henry scrambles to open the drawer. The drawer holds only a small key, which shines like the illustration as he picks it up.

He hears someone entering the room and, thinking it’s Mary Margaret and David, he begins to tell of his discovery. He realizes its Regina and grows silent. She asks him for the page before she can explain what’s happened, and Henry hesitates. As he does, Maleficent and Cruella enter, mocking Regina about her parenting skills. Regina demands the page from Henry, but gives him an eyebrow waggle as she does so. He hands over a page and the three witches depart, Regina leaving last and casting another long, meaningful look to Henry.

Henry has handed her the forgery. It’s not a good plan, but it’ll buy Regina a bit of time with Cruella and Maleficent. Henry’s still sighing with relief as Mary Margaret and David find him, and he tells them of

their switch. He produces the picture with the key and moves to unlock the illustrated door. David stops him, claiming it would be dangerous, and takes the illustration and key from Henry. He sends him off so that David and Mary Margaret can examine them. Mary Margaret isn’t happy with yet another lie, but she nods to Henry and he gives them some privacy.

But of course those two aren’t the only ones with secrets. Gold left Cruella and Maleficent for business, and he does go to his pawnshop, but he isn’t interested in the antiques. He sees Belle collapsed on the floor. Distressed to see her slumped over so carelessly, he picks her up and carries her to the couch in the back. It’s a good time for a villain soliloquy, and Robert Carlyle never disappoints. He holds Belle’s hand tenderly as he tries to explain himself. His magic comes at a price, and his debts are unmanageable as they stand. He’s got to try to find a way to change the world, and he has to do it quickly, because other things are changing and he’s running out of time. He flinches here, reaching underneath his tie to press his chest in discomfort. He’ll come back to her if he can, he promises, and leaves.

Cruella, Maleficent, and Regina are waiting for him outside the shop. He quickly dismisses the illustration Regina shows him as a forgery and accuses her of deception. She tries to defend herself, but he knocks her out with magic and orders Maleficent and Cruella to take Regina to follow him to Regina’s vault.

At The Sorcerer’s mansion, Mary Margaret stands behind David, who crouches before a fire holding the illustration. Mary Margaret stops him before he can burn it and trap The Author in the book forever. They can’t start lying to Henry any more than they can keep lying to Emma. She has to know the truth about the horrible thing they did to Maleficent and how it will affect her heart. Reluctantly, David agrees.

They return to the loft to find the sleeping curse has worn off. They have a story to tell Emma…

Once upon a time, in the Enchanted Forest, Snow White and Prince Charming were worried about the fate of their baby. Their child has the capacity for good, but also for great evil, and they need to make sure their child doesn’t become evil. The unicorn gave them no good answer, so they set out to return home and formulate another plan.

Along the road, they meet a peddler whose cart has become stuck in the mud. Charming leans into the cart to help and soon sets it free. The peddler is appreciative, and they begin to chat. He notices they’re returning west and warns them that the way ahead is dangerous. Maleficent has turned herself into a dragon, laid an egg, and scorched the forest for miles around to secure her clutch. He advises that they head the opposite direction. They don’t know the way, they protest. That’s fine, he assures them, and gives them directions to a cottage. The man inside will be able to help them further. In thanks, Snow White gives the man a small bottle of brandy to warm himself on the cold road ahead.

Snow White and Charming find the cabin with no trouble, and who does the man in the cabin happen to be but The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. He seems to know of their plight, and offers a very dangerous but sure way to make sure their child does not fulfil an evil destiny. He can take the capacity for darkness out of the blank slate of a baby, so long as he has another blank slate to put it onto. Charming refuses, because

they won’t put that kind of darkness into another child. But Snow remembers what the peddler said about that dragon’s egg. An egg’s a blank slate, too, right? They confirm with The Apprentice that it will do the trick, so they set out to steal the egg.

They find Maleficent’s lair being guarded by Cruella and Ursula (what a crappy baby shower!), so they knock those two out and enter the lair. They find treasure strewn about the floor, and a beautiful golden egg laying on a nest of rocks.

Charming moves to retrieve the egg, and the nest twitches alive. Not rocks. A dragon, instead. Maleficent goes all fireball on them, but Snow grabs the egg and warns that if she toasts them, the egg goes, too. Maleficent stops and transforms back into a human, begging Snow and Charming to return her baby. Snow can’t return the egg, she explains, because she needs it to save her child. Maleficent continues to beg, mother to mother, for Snow’s mercy, but the couple run away without reply.

They turn the egg over to The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, who performs the spell to cast the darkness out of Snow’s baby and into the egg. Oh, and in addition to transferring the darkness, he’s also going to banish it to another realm where the darkness can’t hurt anyone like it can in the Enchanted Forest. Snow and Charming are frantic—they told Maleficent they’d bring the egg back! But it’s too late, and the spell can’t be undone. As the panic continues and the spell strengthens, Cruella and Ursula rush the scene, trying to get the egg back, but they’re sucked into the portal along with the egg, just before it closes.

But Snow White and Charming’s baby is safe, The Apprentice reassures them, and her darkness will be banished as long as Snow and Charming raise her in the light to be a good-hearted person.

Upon hearing their tale, Emma is stunned and heartbroken. Her Superpower has been right all along—her parents have been lying and keeping this from her. She’s appalled at her parents’ deception, and runs off to process things.

In Regina’s vault, Cruella and Maleficent stand over her unconscious body, sneering at being deceived. Gold, though, isn’t fussed. He’s got something that she’ll do anything to keep safe. She’s safely unconscious now. He turns to search another area of the vault and Maleficent follows him.

She made Regina produce a page, and therefore she wants the answer she’s asked for. Gold admits that, even though the page was a forgery, Maleficent did fulfil her part of the bargain. But he’s hesitant to fulfil his. Once she sees what he has to show her, there’s no going back.

But Maleficent is desperate. She wants to know the fate of her baby. She doesn’t know if it was a boy or a girl or if it even survived being banished here. Gold, hearing the familiar pain of a parent who has lost their child, relents and shows her a scene: A tiny, dark-haired baby, squalling and wriggling in a man’s arm. A woman in a business suit smiles warmly, assuring him that the adoption has gone through and the baby is now his daughter. The man smiles as the baby continues to cry with healthy, powerful lungs. He’ll name her Lilith, he says. He and her mother are going to call her Lily.

LILY. EMMA’S BEST FRIEND FROM THAT VIDEO TAPE. THAT’S MALIFICENT’S DAUGHTER.

BOMB. DROPPED.

Emma is staring at the picture and the key as she sits on a bench at the harbor. Killian finds her, sympathizing with her struggle. He assures her that her parents meant well, and tells her that August has improved and is now awake. She goes to see him at the convent, explaining that they’ve found the key and they have the illustration. She wants to free The Author, because she has some questions about her own story that she wants answered, but August stops her. He’ll only be able to help her if he wrote her story.

See, The Author isn’t a person. It’s a job title. There have been dozens of authors over the years, across the realms, recording the best stories that ever happened. But the most recent Author (named Walt) didn’t do a very good job. Instead of recording the stories, he started to alter them. And so the Sorcerer’s Apprentice trapped him in the book where he could do no more harm.

Emma, though, wants her answers, and even if The Author isn’t a good guy he’s still her best chance. She uses the key to open the door, and in a puff of magic, The Author is revealed.

Upon seeing him, it seems very plausible that he is, indeed, The Author that Emma is seeking. He altered Snow White and Charming’s story, sending them to meet The Apprentice, instructing that he tell them of the spell to ensure their child’s good heart. He planted the seed for where they could find another blank slate to take their baby’s darkness, too.

THE AUTHOR IS THE PEDDLER. HE STILL HAS THE BRANDY THAT SNOW WHITE GAVE HIM THAT DAY ON THE ROAD.

BOMB NUMBER TWO HAS REACHED ITS TARGET. MY HEAD ASPLODE. (This is a Homestar Runner reference and usually I try to not mishmash my pop culture but it works way too well here to avoid.)

And The Author is still the jackass that he was when he was trapped in the book. Mary Margaret and David stumble to recognize him, and are still reeling with recognition when Emma says that she has some questions for him.

“I’ll bet you do,” he replies. With a cheeky grin, he pulls the curtains off the window onto the heroes and takes off running. Emma struggles out of the fabric and chases after him, somehow winding up in the middle of town before she realizes where she is.

End scene.

Okay, I’m going on record as saying that I absolutely love this season, and the plot twists are as fun and intriguing as I am accustomed to with this show, and I am totally going to crack in half because I have to wait two weeks for the next episode.

See you then!

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Photo Courtesy Of ABC

Warning: Spoiler Alert

Okay, Once Upon a Time, Season Four, Episode Sixteen. You’re the fourth episode in this story arc, and this is where Frozen started to fall apart for me. I didn’t realize it at the time, partially because I really wanted to believe that the story could be good and partially because I was so distracted by Rumpelstiltskin’s insistence on making every terrible decision he could possibly freakin’ make.

This time though, feels different. It might be my ridiculous and irrational optimism, but I feel like maybe the show will come back together and start to make sense again. As a bit of an aside, I’d like to make it understood from here on out that when I say “making sense” or “doesn’t make sense,” I fully realize that I am talking about a fairytale soap opera and, dude, it is bound to go to absurd places sometimes. Television shows have continuity errors. It happens. But the plot and the characters were always clever enough to be engaging despite it all. More often than not, things that may have seemed puzzling at the time turned out to be really integral parts of the past. When I say “make sense,” I mean make sense within its own storyline. I don’t feel like the Frozen storyline ever really pulled that off.

Tonight turns out to be a test of whether or not the new characters in the arc can become a comfortable part of the Storybrooke I know and love. We open with Captain Hook in Neverland, scolding Smee about overeating. The food he’s shoving into his pie hole is for Pan, and they must keep Pan happy because his request for revenge against The Dark One has not been fulfilled. Soon, the men notice beautiful singing and begin to drift aimlessly across the heavily-misted sea. They’re all dazed, but Hook soon notices they’re headed straight for some rocks that will break the Jolly Rodger into pieces.

He shouts for the men to look alive before they all get killed. The crew snaps to attention and scrambles to steer the ship away from their doom. They manage, but barely, and Smee barely manages to ask his captain what it was that nearly killed them. Hook, sneering with the kind of contempt one only feels for someone more powerful than oneself, tells him it was a mermaid.

It was, indeed, a mermaid. A beautiful young girl, sitting on the rocks and singing in the mist. She looks sad, and it’s soon apparent why. Her father, Poseidon (played by ERNIE FREAKIN’ HUDSON HOLY ACTUAL CRAP) appears and begins to hassle her about letting the Jolly Rodger get away instead of sending it crashing into the rocks, killing everyone aboard. It’s weird that a father wants his daughter to murder people, isn’t it?

Yeah, it’s weird. But maybe a little understandable, considering that Ursula’s “Humans are okay!” mother was killed after she was betrayed by a human. And, since Poseidon misses his wife terribly, he wants Ursula to lure every human possible to their death. Except Ursula isn’t into it, because her mother taught her to sing and she doesn’t like using her voice to kill people. That’s not what her mother was about, and she wants to honor her memory.

But Poseidon is unmoved. His grief over his wife has driven him to extreme cruelty. He won’t suffer Ursula’s pro-humans stance, and he orders her to get out there and start killing more people. Ursula is devastated by her father’s destructive vendetta against humanity and pleads with him to reconsider his

position. He won’t back down—when she lives in his ocean, she’ll obey his rules. And his rules say kill all humans.

Here’s a tip, parents: If you don’t want your headstrong teenager who disagrees with everything you say to move the hell out of your house the instant they’re able to, don’t give them the “as long as you live in my house you’ll do as I say” line. You’re a parent. You love your kid, right? Don’t make them feel like they’re forced to leave your house with nothing but the clothes on their backs before they’re able to actually provide for themselves. It leads to really poor decision making and probably a lot of hurt feelings on everyone’s part, even if everyone is too proud to admit it.

And in a nutshell, that’s what happened to Ursula. She stole a bracelet that would allow her to walk on land as a human from her father’s vault. She made it to the first fishing village she could find and is trying to make money by singing in a tavern to a bunch of questionable looking dudes. She needs money for a trip to a certain city her mother once spoke fondly of.

One night, a pirate captain with a hook for a hand appears in her tavern. He recognizes the voice he hears as the one that nearly sunk his ship. After she finishes her songs, he confronts her about nearly killing him. But, he admits, she didn’t wind up killing anyone after all, and for that he is grateful. He buys her a drink.

Over some ales or mead or whatever, he wheedles Ursula’s story out of her. She tells him of her mother’s death at the hands of a pirate and her father’s murderous vengeance. She swears that she won’t dishonor her mother’s memory by using her voice as a weapon, since it is so beautiful and can bring people such happiness. Hook is moved, and confesses that her voice has been the only thing that has eased his pain since Milah’s passing/murder at the hand of her estranged husband Rumpelstiltskin. He offers to help her start her life over on land. The two agree to meet the next morning to set out on their journey.

However, Hook is followed and accosted on the way back to his ship. He’s indignant about being forced onto his own ship, even when he realizes Poseidon is behind it all. He admonishes him for using his daughter in such a terrible way, but Poseidon reminds Hook that he knows just how painful it is to lose your true love. Poseidon won’t allow Ursula to live her life on land, it’s too dangerous. He must return her to the sea. Without her singing voice she’ll have no reason to want to stay among humans so that’s what he needs to take from her. He hands Hook an enchanted seashell and tells him that, in exchange for Ursula’s voice, he’ll give him squid ink that is a powerful enough poison to kill The Dark Once. Hook’s expression changes. He makes the deal.

Except he turned around and told Ursula everything the next morning. He swears that he won’t help her father take her voice. Ursula is concerned that a deal broken with Poseidon could turn Hook into his slave, but Hook figures he may have weaseled his way around that. He tells Ursula that, while he doesn’t want to help Poseidon, he does want the squid ink, and since she has experience stealing things from her father’s vault, if she could help him out he’ll take her anywhere she wants to go. She happily agrees.

She fetches the squid ink and meets up with Hook a few nights later. Hook is grateful to Ursula for providing him the opportunity for his own revenge, Pleased, the two are about ready to set sail so Ursula’s dreams can come true when Poseidon shows up.

Angry words are exchanged. Alliances are shifted when Hook refuses to steal Ursula’s voice as he promised. As punishment for the betrayal (the betrayal committed so Ursula wouldn’t have to kill any more people, mind you) Poseidon destroys the squid ink, thereby destroying Hook’s chance at revenge against Rumpelstiltskin. Furious, Hook uses the seashell to steal Ursula’s singing voice. Poseidon has his daughter back, but he’ll never hear her sing again, and that will break his heart far worse than anything Hook could do to Poseidon personally (it seems like a theme is developing in this storyline, yes?). Hook isn’t sorry. At least Ursula’s voice will never be able to sink another ship. Ursula is disgusted that Hook could be so cruel as to take her voice from her and returns to the sea, glad to be rid of something that could bring joy to such horrible beings.

Back in their palace, Poseidon is non-apologizing for his plot against her. Ursula won’t have it. Because of her father, the only thing she had to keep her mother’s spirit alive is gone, and she won’t be a pawn in anyone’s game anymore. She seizes Poseidon’s trident and uses its magic to give her the powers of the sea goddess she was named after. She commands the sea now, and her father (and everyone else) should be afraid.

And that’s how Ursula’s evil side was made. And we know how she and Hook know each other, and how he took her happiness. Though, treacherous histories tend to come in handy these days.

Upon transforming Pinocchio back into August Booth, Rumpelstiltskin and the Queens of Darkness insist that Regina begin the, um, enhanced interrogation techniques. Regina hesitates and Cruella accuses her of being soft, but Regina’s been tearing hearts out since before Cruella even played with puppies.

All hail Regina, Queen of Sass.

She conjures a fireball and leans in to August. Nervous, he blurts out that he’d heard about The Author in Hong Kong from The Dragon. The Dragon was murdered before he found out much, but August took all of his research. Intrigued, Gold goes to that trailer August used to hang out in look for the materials, leaving the witches to guard their prisoner. It’s a lot of information Regina needs to get back to The Charmings and Emma. She glares into the fire, conjuring a smoky spell that rises out of the chimney.

It doesn’t have to go far to find The Charmings and Emma and Hook, looking for Regina in the forest around Storybrooke. They watch the spell swirls around Mary Margaret. When the smoke dissipates, she looks the same but sounds like Regina. She discloses what she’s discovered—Gold is back, Pinocchio is technically okay but has turned into August, and Gold is up to something more but she doesn’t know what yet.

With word that Gold has returned, the crew heads to the pawn shop to talk to Belle. She insists his return is impossible, but his “turn into Killian so Belle will give me the dagger” trick is revealed when Belle (who breaks that whole Pirate Oath thing into a billion pieces for what appears to be no real reason) tells them that she gave it to Killian, and Killian denies ever doing such a thing. Belle is distraught that he managed to deceive her again, and Killian is outraged that The Dark One would stoop so low. He’s determined to find out all of his plan so that they can stop him before anyone gets hurt. And he knows how! Because he’s got that sketchy past with Ursula and still has her voice hanging around to use as a bargaining chip!

Ursula is at the cabin with the rest of her coven when she hears Killian summoning her with some sort of seashell pager magic thing. She excuses herself and takes off, which is weird, but the other witches are too absorbed in their own plots for happy endings to think much of it.

She meets up with Killian and threatens him a little, but eventually hears him out when he offers to return her happy ending without needing The Author so long as she spills the beans about everything she knows regarding The Dark One’s most recent plan. The voice is hidden on the Jolly Rodger, so they head to the harbor to track it. And, it’s closer than they think! Its floating in a bottle in the harbor somehow! But how are they going to get it out?

They head to the pawn shop, this time looking for Will Scarlett. Killian knows that Will has experience on magic ships and, since he is a man who knows how to get things (by stealing them), he happens to know of just the thing. A drop of a potion and a toss of a bottle into the harbor and the ship is restored! Does Storybrooke have a Staples? I think we should have an Easy Button for stuff like this.

They board the ship and Killian retrieves Ursula’s voice. The seashell shimmers and begins to release a golden-green magic that sings like Ariel’s wordless aria from The Little Mermaid. The magic pulses, and then fizzles. Ursula is furious that the magic didn’t work. Hook suggests that she’s too corrupted with evil for the spell to work properly, and that isn’t his problem, so he wants to know the rest of the villains’ plot. Ursula isn’t giving in, though. This failure proves that villains can’t get a happy ending without The Author, and so Ursula will be sticking with Gold to make sure she gets hers. And, for good measure, she ties up Killian and tosses him into the water.

He begins to sink (but thank goodness for waterproof eyeliner!) when a being swims up to him and pulls him out of the water.

ARIEL. ARIEL IS BACK.

(And yes if you read the internets about this show these things have already been mentioned, but I like to avoid those kind of things because I like these kind of surprises).

She drags him aboard the ship and revives him. Concerned, she asks if he’s okay as he regains consciousness. Initially upset that she was trapped with The Jolly Rodger, she’s also relieved to be free so she can find her way back to Eric.

But wait how did all this happen? Well, Blackbeard did some pretty unsavory things with The Jolly Rodger and so The Snow Queen shrank it in Arendelle as punishment for his misdeeds and Ariel got caught up in the spell somehow. The bottle wound up here when The Snow Queen took up her powers

in Storybrooke, because magic. And yeah, this is a stretch. But Ariel has always been the character to show up and help out just in the nick of time, and I love Joanna Garcia Fisher, so I’ll buy it.)

As Ariel is now grateful to Hook (and Ursula, really) for releasing her, Hook asks for a favor for the two of them on Ariel’s behalf. What favor? Well, he’d still like to get Ursula her happy ending somehow since he was the one who interfered with it, and he wants help figuring out a way to make that happen. More on that in a minute, though, because there are SO MANY OTHER THINGS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW. THIS EPISODE HAS SO MANY THINGS.

Okay so at the cabin Regina is trying to sweat more information about Henry’s book and The Author out of August. He recognizes her and Robin Hood in the picture, also strange since he was a boy at the time Robin Hood was around, but apparently August has Pinocchio’s memories even if Pinocchio didn’t have August’s. And that makes sense actually since Pinocchio was supposed to start over and not repeat any of August’s mistakes when The Blue Fairy saved him. Anyway, he wishes he could help her, but there’s not a lot he can do.

Gold returns, revealing that he knew August was lying about The Dragon’s research, so he didn’t go to inspect the trailer. Instead, he went to the fairies and stole a potion from them that, once altered with his magic, will turn August back into wood for a time being. It’s going to be incredibly painful. Gold forces the potion down August’s throat. He groans as he changes into wood, and gasps in pain when the spell breaks and he’s a person again. But the potion isn’t just painful, Gold reveals. It will reactivate the consequences that Pinocchio had to deal with when he lied.

This interrogation just got interesting.

Gold eventually forces out of August (holding his head to the fire as his nose grows longer and longer) that he knows that The Sorcerer trapped The Author behind a door. A door that Regina will know about, since she has all of August’s things from his saddlebags. Regina admits that she has seen the illustration of the door but that it’s now in Henry’s possession so it won’t help them much. Gold demands to know where the door is, but all August knows is that it’s somewhere in Storybrooke. Satisfied, Gold pulls August back from the fireplace and secures him into his chair again. Since Regina has seen the door before, she’ll be accompanying him to The Sorcerer’s mansion to look for it. Cruella will stay behind to guard August.

Cruella is satisfied with her assignment, given that August isn’t too bad to look at when he’s all stubble and less wood shavings. She’s been ogling him for hours when Emma bursts in. She, Mary Margaret, and David have set out to save August. Cruella is delighted to have a crack at fighting The Savior, but Mary Margaret knocks her out cold with a frying pan from behind. First rule of being a bandit, she explains. The back door is usually unlocked.

They work to free August (and he and Emma have a cute moment reminiscent of all the flirting they did back in season one) when Ursula returns. She has her shell, but her happy ending is still out of reach, so she’s going to pour everything into working with The Dark One to find The Author. She holds Mary Margaret by the neck with one of her tentacles and orders them all to leave her and Cruella with August.

But Hook and Ariel had figured out a way to help Ursula, so they’ve been headed to the cabin as well. They arrive on the scene just as Ursula gets really close to choking Mary Margaret to death. She’s surprised to see him alive. He approaches the scene gingerly but calmly, the way hostage negotiators need to work. He has something important to tell her. It wasn’t Ursula’s dark magic that made her unable to retrieve her voice. It was just that the voice can’t be retrieved by anyone except the person who enchanted the shell to begin with. Ursula’s eyes fill with tears as she thinks of her father, and there isn’t a dry eye in the house when Poseidon himself walks through the door.

He explains that a mermaid took him through a portal, seeking him out when she found out about Ursula’s wicked plan. He apologizes for everything and wants her to have her voice back. It had been so painful to hear her sing, because he was reminded of his lost love, and he took his grief to a dark place instead of being comforted by what she’d left behind.

Ursula’s voice is restored. Father and daughter have a beautiful reunion and swear to leave Storybrooke in peace. Everyone is crying. Or, I am crying enough for everyone.

Then they realize that Cruella managed to slip off. David and Mary Margaret help August out of the cabin while Killian and Emma stand to catch their breath after all the drama. Emma is grateful that Killian helped Ursula, but Killian is concerned. Villains don’t get happy endings, and he used to be a villain. He isn’t sure what’s going to happen now that he has found his happy ending for real.

Emma is confused. What’s his happy ending?

Well, it’s Emma, of course. And he’s afraid that since Regina reformed as a villain but lost Robin Hood anyway, that the same thing will happen to them. More crying. Lots of kissing. And Emma is The Savior and she won’t let that happen, even if Killian isn’t so sure.

Cruella has taken off to find Gold and Regina and tell them what has happened. She arrives at the mansion and tells the story, right down to Ursula’s happy ending. Gold is furious but Cruella insists it wasn’t her fault. Someone must have told the heroes where August was being held! Except she assumes it was Ursula because she managed to get a happy ending out of it.

Annoyed but not discouraged, he sends Regina to take the illustration of the door from Henry to see what information they can get out of it while he and Cruella return to the cabin with Maleficent to regroup.

Hook is seeing off Ursula and Poseidon, who are going to travel through mermaid portals back to their own realm. She’s overjoyed to have her voice back and moved that Killian tried so hard to keep up his part of their bargain. So, she decides to honor her part as well. It’s not just The Author that Gold needs for the villain happy endings. Since things work differently here, The Author can’t grant any happy endings since he wasn’t the one who gave them. Emma, The Savior, did that. And as long as there’s still a Savior, The Author won’t be able to do anything for them. Rumpelstiltskin knows of Emma’s capacity for darkness and evil, and plans to fill her with it. They’re going to have their work cut out for them.

But maybe they have more on their side than they know. Regina has gone to The Charmings’ loft to retrieve the illustration from Henry, and she’s there as August recovers enough to tell them what he learned of Gold’s plot. He’s suspicious of Regina, but she assures him she’s working undercover.

So, August reveals that he was a little more flexible with the truth than Gold thought he was. He only knew that the door was “somewhere in Storybrooke” because he didn’t know where Henry was keeping that picture. Yeah, it’s not an illustration of the door. It IS the door. The Sorcerer trapped The Author in the book.

Dramatic Music! The End! We’ll need an entire week just to recover from that mass amount of plot movements! At least things are happening!

The Story Continues Next Sunday Night at 8:00 pm on ABC.