We open with a flashback this time, Snow White, in her pre-soggy-salad days running away from the Queen’s guards and, rather than be taken prisoner, jumping off a cliff into the sea. Presumably the fall knocks her unconscious (or she’s really bad at swimming) because she sinks like a stone until she is rescued by a mermaid, Ariel.
So it’s all YOUR fault, Ariel!
Return to the present day in Neverland and Regina is teaching Emma how to use magic! At laaaaast! Including why concentration is important; unfortunately Regina’s advice is to use her anger to focus and Emma shrinks away from the darkness of that. They argue and Emma produces fire, Regina smugly presents her “I told you so” smile. Of course, David hates the whole idea but Mary Margaret of the Wet Lettuce surprisingly thinks Emma needs how to learn how to use her magic rather than fumbling around and hoping.
Hook tells Mary Margaret and David what Pan told him – that Neal is still alive (Pan’s little test to see if hook would tell Emma and sink his little crush). Mary Margaret looks up and sees a bent branch and a trail – she takes this as definite proof Neal is alive and almost runs off all on her own. David stops her. Mary Margaret, you just turned David into the smart one. David. What does this say about you? They all agree not to tell Emma to protect her delicate emotional fee-fees (David) and to not give Pan what he wants (Hook). Mary Margaret is initially resistant but agrees to keep the secret to protect Emma and they’ll all go off and rescue Neal without her. Oh dear.
Flashback to the enchanted forest Ariel tells Snow White her story – she’s on the run to someone – her loved one, Eric, she has never ever spoken to but had insta-fishy-lust on seeing his face. Snow White calls it love at first sight and doesn’t think it’s foolish (I do). Anyway, she’s off to her prince’s ball in the name of Ursula the sea goddess and she does that by changing her tail into legs (and a filmy skirt, because the kiddies may be watching). Apparently Ursula also gives her 12 hours of legs for this particular date (I think because she likes the idea of mermaids who can’t keep track of time floundering around helplessly in dry land). Snow White asks why she just doesn’t get an extension which shows a bizarre lack of knowledge of deities in general, but apparently Ursula hasn’t been seen for a few thousand years. Oh and Eric doesn’t know she’s a mermaid but Snow White will help her find her true love (and by “true love” we mean the guy Ariel is creepily stalking who she’s never spoken to before).
Back in Neverland, Emma and Regina notice that the others are packing to leave; they try to lie which lasts oh 3 seconds which is 1 second less than Mary Margaret can keep a secret and she blurts that Neal is alive.
Elsewhere on the island, Gold can’t see the future because time stands still in Neverland and Pan drops in for breakfast and mockery, extra mocking because Neal has the brains of the squid he killed. And apparently Gold can’t kill Pan without killing himself. Lots of poking gold for how, even if he rescues his son and grandson, they’ll never forgive him – after all, Gold hasn’t forgiven his own father. He tells Gold to return to Belle and have a new child (one more intelligent than Neal, perhaps). I’m getting a little tired of Gold angst.
Return to our heroes and Regina thinks Pan’s playing games with them. Emma waffles and Mary Margaret insists – causing Regina to leave to find Henry, she refuses to be distracted based on what their enemy, known for playing games, tells them.
Flashback – Snow White guides Ariel around the ball and all its human things before Eric arrives wearing either an incredibly elaborate embroidered jacket or possibly one of the rugs. Ariel goes to him prompted by Snow White and she trips – so he invites her to dance (why, to see if she can humiliate herself on the dance floor?) While they dance he recognises her from the shipwreck but she denies it – but he claims that Ursula saved him and showed him a vision of his future – Ariel. He tells her about his plan to see the world, sailing off the next day and he asks her to come with him. he will look for her on the docks the next day if she wants to join him.
Meanwhile all this is being spied on by Evil Queen Regina who is not amused that Snow White survived her plunge from the clifftops. But she has a Cunning Plan.
Back in Neverland, Pan has Neal moved to the “echo caves” and has his own Cunning Plan. Meanwhile Gold is still all angsty and his Belle hallucination arrives, urging him to return to Storybrooke and start a new family (a bit of a twist since the hallucination has been mainly concerned with making Gold do the right thing). He nearly takes her hand – and then she starts choking. Regina emerges from the forest pulling a full Darth Vader death grip on her, scornfully telling Gold to snap out of it. She exposes the Belle hallucination as Pan’s shadow.
She drags Gold out on the carpet for his “amateur hour” failing and gold asks why she cares. Regina “I’ve been camping with the Charmings for a week and getting nowhere!” AMEN! She needs Rumplestiltskin – and surely the Dark One and the Evil Queen together, the most powerful magic users there has ever been, can defeat one smug teenager. Gold repeats that killing Pan means killing him – so Regina thinks outside the box – what about containing him? A fate worse than death rather than just killing him. Gold brings up his previous intention to kill Pan and die and Regina laughs at the idea – she knows his “survival instincts” better than that, but brings him back on topic before he mopes some more; all they need is an item from his shop. Which involves crossing realms.
On to Emma and Mary Margaret with Emma talking about kissing Hook and Mary Margaret splattering gooey hope and tweeness everywhere. Time for a flashback with Snow White also splattering hope and tweeness everywhere. She’s quite messy like that. This time the message is “be honest and open your heart to love.” Hallmark may put that on a card. Ariel goes to the sea to pray to Ursula for an answer (though she doesn’t believe Ursula exists) and she emerges from the water – Regina with tentacles. Seriously is every fairy tale villain Regina now? Where did she find the time?
She dismisses Snow White’s advice and instead gives her a new solution – a bracelet that will let her have legs permanently, allowing her to stay with Eric and he will never ever have to know she’s a mermaid. Ariel runs to Snow White with her new gift – it has an added bonus of also letting Snow White permanently escape the Evil Queen: it turns Ariel human and Snow White into a mermaid. While Snow is flopping about Regina arrives, with legs not tentacles
The heroes arrive at the Echo Caves where Neal is being held and Hook expositions the place for us: to get in the caves you have to reveal a truth about yourself that you would never tell to anyone. This is Pan’s plot – forcing them to reveal their secrets which will then destroy them
Flashback again: Ariel is horrified that Regina tricked her and Regina hits back with an awesome slap down:
“you went to a long dead octopus for advice and you’re blaming me for your problems?”
Regina and Snow both tell Ariel to run to Eric – Regina asking if she’s really going to give up the love of her life for a friend (actually it’s more give up a complete stranger for another complete stranger) and Snow urging her to get her happily ever after. Regina starts to magically choke Snow White (argh, just throw a fireball!) And Ariel runs up from behind and stabs her in the neck with a fork. Ariel takes the chance to pull off the bracelet from Snow White, restoring them to their true forms. They jump into the sea.
Back to the present and our heroes enter the cave – and find Neal across a chasm in a cage. Hook starts the big secret reveal with “I kissed Emma”. Seriously, you’re a pirate and this is your biggest, darkest secret? David starts to explode (seriously, this whole protective vagina-guard-daddy would be sickening even if they weren’t of the same age) until Mary Margaret tells him it’s not the time. And Emma says it doesn’t count as a secret because she told Mary Margaret. Hook follows up on it by the fact he has got over his first love to find a new love – Emma.
Ok, better but I still think a pirate should have better secrets than a crush. I’m just saying.
His secret revelation causes a bridge to extend part way over the chasm. Mary Margaret’s turn: she loves Emma and is proud of Emma but she hates that she missed Emma growing up, she hates that Emma is an adult, it’s not what she wanted and she wants another baby when they’re back at Storybrooke. That’s a deep dark secret? Guys you lot are seriously boring if this is the quality of your deep dark secrets. David’s secret is more of a gut kick – about his poisoning and how he can never leave Neverland so that whole go back to Storybrooke and have kids is a non-starter. The chasm bridge is completed.
Emma crosses the bridge and starts hacking on his cage but Neal stops her, telling her that’s not how it works (too right it isn’t – try working on a join Emma). Of course, she has to reveal a secret: that she loves Neal and has always loved Neal but she was hoping his survival was a trick because
Everyone leaves the cave and, of course, with Neal they don’t need to translate his star maps, Neal can get them home so they can take their plan to Tinkerbell. Emma apologises to Neal for her feelings but she dismisses the need and adds that he’s going to keep fighting for her. Hook looks on angstily from the jungle. And Mary Margaret has the severe hump with David.
Flashback and Snow swims back to shore and tells Ariel to hurry back to Eric and tell him the truth for her HEA. She swims back to Eric, sees him waiting for her overlooking the water and calls to him – but cannot speak. Regina on the dock reveals she stole Ariel’s voice so she can never tell her prince how she feels.
Regina returns to her castle and a bass relief of Ursula grabs her (much to Regina’s shock since she thought Ursula was a myth) and angrily warns her against ever imitating her again.
Back in Neverland, Regina and Gold go to the water’s edge and Regina whispers into a conch shell. Ariel appears – Gold confirms mermaids can cross realms but can’t be trusted. But Regina is sure Ariel can – she gives Ariel back her voice and tells her she can give Ariel legs. And she will send her to where Prince Eric is: Storybrooke.
One of the things that annoys me so much about David and Mary Margaret is that in any sensible narrative they’d be wrong. In any sensible narrative, their twee and rainbows and kittens way of looking at the world would have them murdered and dropped into a hole round about episode 3. But it’s not – they are always right even when they really shouldn’t be. Like this episode – Regina should be right. The enemy drops in to deliver some misinformation, an enemy already well known for mind games – it’s foolish, it’s ridiculous, it’s farcical to believe him and act on that information.
Regina snapped Gold out of it! Thank you, I was getting so beyond tired of Gold’s angst – and him just accepting his Belle hallucinations! And Regina’s speech to him is epic – and shows just how much all of these wretched plot tangles have been about Mary Margaret being right all the time even when common sense says she’s so far out there it’s unreal. Regina delivering a reality check to Gold? That works and is awesome. But to Mary Margaret? No – because reality doesn’t apply to Mary Margaret, it’s all tweeness and extolling the virtue of hope to everyone around her because disappointment and failure isn’t in her lexicon – because any “defeat” in Mary Margaret’s narrative is a temporary set back because she got her Happily Ever After but never realised that not everyone is so lucky (despite having several people around her who have seen their HEAs collapse)
And the sad things is? The sad thing is that Regina and Gold have formed a coalition and a plan based on intelligence, power, strategy and actually staying on target for more than a few minutes; and it will fail. It will fail and instead be replaced by Mary Margaret and Emma swanning in with no plan, reacting to whatever Pan does like good little puppets, while singing of hope and goodness and light along the way.
My opinion on this is summed up by a quote from Terry Pratchett (who is always awesome):
“If you trust in yourself. . .and believe in your dreams. . .and follow your star. . . you'll still get beaten by people who spent their time working hard and learning things and weren't so lazy.”