Flashback to the Enchanted Forest and Hook actually putting together some of his crew again (including Smee) for the purpose of robbing people, of course. Land Pirates! (Also known as Brigands or Bandits, but pirates sound way cooler). He is beloved by his crew, an entire bar and the prostitute they hire at least pretends to be fairly beloveding – but once Hook’s outside he pays the woman off and asks her to leave and lie about what happened. He settles in for a good ol’ angst when Ariel clubs him on the back of the head.
Back to the present! David and Emma are defeated by an Ikea crib and Regina has a protection spell for Mary Margaret’s precious unborn baby. Emma doesn’t want to hide behind a protection spell – she wants to go all aggressive after Regina teaches her how to use her often-forgotten-but-conveniently-reappearing-when-the-story-demands-it-magic.
Regina agrees – but Emma goes all in or goes home – no half measures, no partial commitment. Mary Margaret and David throw around angsty eyes. They don’t criticise but they do object to Emma not having them look after Henry – because Henry, without his memories – finds the Soggy Ones very very very very very boring and baby obsessed and boring. Really Boring. Unlike Hook – who is awesome.
Hook has his own problems – like Smee and his crew demanding they hit the high seas again (Jolly Roger vs Supertanker. That should be fun). Smee just can’t understand why they’re staying in town. But Emma shows up to tell Hook her plan and why she needs him to babysit – but also adds that Henry belongs in the real world and after Zelina’s finished, she’s “done”. Hook thinks this won’t work because Emma can’t just pretend all the magic stuff never happened – he tried in the year he remembered which no-one else does but he refuses to talk about (ominous foreshadowing ahoy)
And Ariel washes up on shore – noticed by Mary Margaret and David taking a walk and lamenting their lack of funness. Wait, didn’t Regina just put a protection spell on their house? Anyway, Ariel has been looking for Prince Eric in all the seas of the world (maybe she should have tried dry land) and failed to find him. Time to ask Hook – because in that year of randomness, I’m sure he was keeping track of fishy love interests.
Time to pick up the flashback – Ariel thought Hook had kidnapped Eric because Eric was kidnapped by pirates on the Jolly Roger – except Hook doesn’t have his ship any more. But he does want it back. The only clue to the identity of the people who have the Roger and Eric is the dagger Ariel has – with 2 Bs on the hilt.
Blackbeard. And Smee isn’t eager to go against him for the ship, but Hook is convinced he needs it to feel whole again (anyone laying odds that the reason Hook doesn’t feel right is the lack of Emma, not the ship?)
Back to Storybrooke where Hook denies all knowledge of Prince Eric. Of course he doesn’t get away with it that easy and the Charmings insist on dragging him into the search, sending him off with Ariel to search Rumple’s shop for something that Eric owned. That calls for a flashback drawing attention to the cloak Eric left Ariel (and Hook’s deep ambivalence about being considered a hero and his passionate insistence that he’s still a pirate. Honest).
Having found the cloak we get another flashback of Hook, Ariel and Smee finding the Jolly Roger and Hook challenging Black Beard over ownership of the ship – eyeliner vs eyeliner! They fight (classic silhouette homage!) and Hook wins – by superior knowledge of the ship. But Ariel stops him slicing and dicing until Hook gets news of Eric. Blackbeard takers this as proof that Hook has gone soft and is no longer a ruthless pirate: his price for Eric’s location is the Roger.
And to the present where the locator spell on Eric’s cloak leads them to the harbour – and to it instantly sinking in the water. Ariel assumes Eric has drown – and Hook looks all angsty. She tells him what a nice man Hook is.
Flashback to that niceman putting Blackbeard on the plank while Ariel begs him to spare the other pirate for Eric’s sake. Blackbeard is pushed off the plank and Hook has a new crew. Ariel slaps him and jumps over the side looking for Eric.
In the present, guilty Hook confesses all to Ariel who slaps him again. He promises to do anything she wants to help – and she asks him to swear on the name of the woman he loves: Emma Swan. And then there’s a puff of green magic – Ariel was never here it was Zelena all along plotting to get Hook to make that oath – which means next time he kisses Emma, she will lose all of her magic. Hook resolves not to kiss her so Zelena threatens her with the Dark One; but Hook’s not a fool. If she could have just killed Emma, she would have; she wouldn’t have left her alive and watched by Flying Monkies. So she threatens Henry instead.
Apparently Eric and Ariel found each other long before and they’re pretty happy now outside the curse
In the storylines-no-one-cares-about category, David teaches 12 year old Henry how to drive to prove he can be fun too. (Mary Margaret drips soggily from the sidelines).
And Regina and Emma have their tutor session with a side order of Regina questioning whether a villainous pirate should really be top of the go-to list for babysitters for their son. Anyway, back to teaching which Regina takes very sensibly but Emma is frustrated at the concept of book learning after 3 seconds and demands Rumple’s way – fine, but that way is harsh, brutal and involves Regina teleporting Emma on top of a rickety rope bridge over a ravine. Which she then destroys – at the last second Emma puts together a floating raft with the falling wood. Regina is pissed – because Emma has all this magic skill and power and she hasn’t developed it.
Hook goes to see Emma and for some bizarre reason he doesn’t tell her and Regina what Zelena did. Instead he makes up a story which Regina insists on checking out, using Emma’s super magic and a mirror. They do see Ariel and Eric together – not realising they have just been reunited.
Ebveryone distracted by David and Henry coming home with the soggy one and talking how fun underaged, unlicensed driving is (Regina is not amused). Before Hook leaves them to their little celebration (angst cannot party!) Emma tells him she’s not bothered by whatever he did during the year only he can remember. For MOAR angst. He decides to stalk her from afar instead for mooooooore angst.
Can I say again how very wrong Emma’s decision to return to the “real world” after defeating Zelina is? She’s expecting Henry to settle for an entirely fictional past for the sake of peace of mind, which is rather disrespectful – and more woundingly, she’s denying Henry access to an entire family he doesn’t even know he has. He has 3 living grandparents he doesn’t even know and, more importantly, there’s Regina with far more claim to motherhood over Henry than ever Emma had – after this show finally backtracked on seasons of extremely questionable depictions of Regina’s motherhood, they started to pull it back and give Regina the respect and parentage she deserved – and now amnesia is unwriting that. And Emma takes this amnesia as carte blanche to deny Regina any part in Henry’s life? To decide she gets to choose who is and isn’t Henry’s family?
Also – make Emma powerfully magic? Sure. But more powerful than Regina? Why? Why do this? Why must Regina be supplanted not once, not twice, but three times in the thing she excels at. I could just about stomach Rumple because that was the inherent core of the show (though it is a problem we will expand on), Zelena is the antagonist and would fail badly if Regina could just win – but Emma too?
As for the episode – meh and shenanigans. I call shenanigans that Hook would decide to angst in a corner and not tell the gang Zelena’s latest plot. And I call shenanigans on Regina demanding Emma’s total commitment then seconds later Emma declaring she’s going to abandon Storybrooke for New York AND she gives up on study after 3 seconds. I call shenanigans that it was even plausible that Ariel would need Hook’s help specifically to search Rumple’s shop. Seriously, are the Charmings so useless now they can’t show Ariel to a shop (no-one expected Hook to be able to recognise the cloak because of his lies)?
And I call shenanigans on the Charmings. Why were they even here?
The ending somewhat undid the meh because it added actual meaning to what a painfully pointless episode until this point (did anyone actually care about Ariel? Was Hook’s growth and change not already implied? Hook is no longer an evil pirate – well, he swapped sides from Cora to fighting against Pan. Yeah, I think we got that memo). And yes it was all made relevant after the fact – but a pertinent ending doesn’t change 40 minutes of “I’m sorry, do we care?”