Previously on Once Upon A Time, everyone in Storybrooke had the last year of their lives in the Enchanted Forest obliviated, and Henry has had his whole life—with the exception of the past year in Manhattan—obliviated, all presumably by the Wicked Witch of the West. Na-nana-nananaaa.
We open on Prince Charming, entering Emma’s old nursery, as shiny and new as the day she was born. He looks around, fairly certain that this isn’t right, but unable to put his finger on why. (Spoiler: It’s because they blew their CGI budget on flying monkeys.) Then Emma walks in, wearing the sparkliest gown in the palest of blue, and he’s SURE this isn’t right.
“Do you like my dress? Aria Montgomery helped me make it.”
Princess Emma starts talking about a ball, all smiles, and the two of them begin to waltz. The smile still plastered on her face, Emma tells her father that her failed her. The room goes all Rosewood Doll Shop and Emma gets sucked into the wardrobe that sent her off to the Real World all those years ago. Before she disappeared, she tells Charming not to screw up the next kid.
Charming wakes with a start, and goes to see his visibly pregnant wife, who then tells him that she’s pregnant as though she is not visibly pregnant. He tries to look excited but mostly he looks like he wants to throw up.
In Storybrooke, present day, Team Charming is trying to decide what the next steps in finding the Wicked Witch should be. Regina had already tried to find her via magic to no avail, so they decide to do some good old-fashioned sleuthing. Regina doesn’t want to have to watch Hook hit on both David AND Emma, so she volunteers to watch out for Henry. Emma reminds her that he thinks they’re in Maine because Emma is working a case, a lie that impresses Regina, and then Emma carefully reminds her in the quietest of voices that Henry only thinks she’s the mayor. But she knows. Oh, how she knows.
“You’ll make that one up to me later, Swan.”
Somewhere across town, Zelena goes to see Rumpelstiltskin in his cage, spinning straw into gold. She unlocks his cage and starts soliloquizing, a villain’s favorite pastime. She has the Dark One’s dagger, so she controls ol’ Rumple. She very creepily starts to shave him with it, something she had to do for her hot mess of a father when she was young, because he always told her that no matter how you feel, you always put on your best face. Unfortunately for her, she was green. She couldn’t hide her flaws behind a pretty face. And she knows Rumplestiltskin couldn’t either, with his shiny gold skin back in the Enchanted Forest. Here, though, things are different. Here, no can tell that she’s rotten to the core.
“My pupils are huge because I’m high on dark magic.”
Zelena plans to use this to her advantage to obtain this mysterious things she wants. Clues she gives us about said thing: It’s something that is against Rumple’s nature, something she can’t afford to wait for, and something she expects to have very soon. I can’t tell if this something will be literal (aka a baby, an army of flying monkeys, a girlfriend) or metaphorical (aka a fresh start, true love, unlimited powers) but surely this is not going to end in hugs and puppies.
Zelena goes to Mr. Gold’s shop and oh-so-cruelly asks Belle if she is Mrs. Gold. She then asks for Mr. Gold with such persistence, that Belle has to tell her that he died, and nearly bursts into tears doing so. It’s actually a really sick emotional manipulation.
“I’m not sad Rumple is dead, I’m sad he’s dead and they still haven’t paired me with Ruby.”
Zelena then turns on her brightest smile and tells Belle that she’s here to buy a present for Mary Margaret. Belle skips off to the back room, and Zelena uses a bit of blood she nicked from Rumple while shaving him to open a safe. She roots around until she finds…well, a root. She tucks it away and goes back to innocently smiling behind the counter.
In Regina’s office, David, Hook, and Emma are doing their best Scooby Doo-ing. David, while sadly not holding an over-sized magnifying glass, is the first to find a clue—a large, bright red smear in the very center of the black and white room. He sticks his finger right in it and sniffs it, identifying the now-tampered-with evidence as holly berries. He knows exactly where to find them, and tells them so, but says he has to take a break from playing because he has to meet the midwife his wife found at Granny’s.
Flash back to the Enchanted Forest, where Robin Hood catches Prince Charming sneaking a little hooch in the barn. Robin asks if he’s okay, and Charming admits that he’s been having trouble sleeping because he’s afraid. Instead of going the psychological route, or you know, even the friendship route, Robin tells him of something called Night Root that will help calm all your fears. Charming says, “Hey, that sounds great, I have a great track record with mysterious magical plants, so I’m going to leave immediately to go find some of this Night Root.” Robin shouts something after him about danger and haunted forests, but Charming is long gone.
Present day Storybrooke, in the Charming Loft, Mary Margaret is having some good old-fashioned girl talk with Zelena. David comes home and Zelena turns the charm on even brighter. Mary Margaret is like, “Isn’t this great and totally convenient that this totally sweet lady appeared with the exact skills we needed right when we needed them? And she’s such a good listener, I’ve already told her all of our deepest secrets.”
“Remember when I used to greet people with the business end of an arrow? No? Me either.”
David is rightly suspicious, and as soon as Zelena goes to make them tea, tells Mary Margaret so, loudly, in their open-plan apartment. Zelena puts a little something in his tea and brings it back to them, still smiling her sociopathic smile.
Flash back to Prince Charming digging around in a dark forest for some Night Root. He finds some and is about to get the hell up out of there, having had quite enough of forests in Neverland, but then he hears someone calling for help. He follows the voice and finds a tall tower, and his hero complex hardly gives him a second to reconsider before sending him scaling the ivy. When he gets so high that the ivy doesn’t grow anymore, there is a long, braided rope of…you guessed it, hair.
At the other end of the length of hair is a creature of beauty.
“I’m a princess. Duh.” *points to tiara*
Her name is Rapunzel, and she tells Charming that he’s the first person she’s seen in quite a long time, with about as much excitement as Fiona had upon learning her knight in shining armor was Shrek. Much like I do if I go without human contact for too long, she starts rambling about things that no one asked her about. She tells Charming that she came around here for the Night Root so that she could be brave enough to rule the kingdom after her brother died, but then got chased up into the tower by a hooded witch. David says he can save her, but Rapunzel says that she can’t leave. Every time she tries to leave, the witch blows out all of the candles and starts reenacting The Ring, walking around all glitchy and scaling walls like her limb joints don’t work like ours.