Zelena drops in on dear sister Regina so they can snark at each other. Regina is much better at it. Cora does make points about Regina never appreciating what she has or taking a chance for happiness but Regina dispenses with the verbal fencing and just cuts to the bone. But she’s there to check on Regina because if Regina is there, she isn’t defending her heart from Rumple
And Rumple is facing off against Robin Hood. All the power of the Dark One vs… a crossbow. Place your bets now! Rumple really doesn’t want to hurt them, but he has little choice. With Robin’s son threatened and Rumple just controlling all the merry men with a gesture, Robin gives up the heart. Regina arrives but doesn’t blame anyone – she’s just happy no-one was hurt, especially the child. But she’s worried too – because Zelena must be planning something with her heart if she isn’t just going to crush it.
She goes to Rumple’s store to try and find something to help (and don’t worry, Zelena can’t control Regina with her heart because she already protected it from that. Obviously – you silly people. Did I mention Regina is awesome?) Belle is not willing to help and gives a laundry list of the many many things Regina did to her (it’s actually an impressive list. Belle has more reasons to hate Regina than just about anyone) but while Regina is truly and genuinely sorry, she has no time for a guilt spiral – she needs to take out Zelena, green witch, controlling Belle’s super-powerful boyfriend, so bury your issues, gets some priorities in order and get on board team Regina.
Because Regina is awesome.
Still the question is what spell does Zelena intend to cast – and what’s so special about Regina’s heart rather than anyone else’s? Answer – use the candle that Mary Margaret used to kill Cora. It’s magic is spent but this is apparently to find out how Cora lived.
Why that sounds like a cue for a flashback!
Cora, working as a barmaid, finishing her shift and being invited to sit down and be flattered by a prince who has been slumming and staring wistfully at her. He’s Prince Jonathon, exposed by his embroidered handkerchief (because being undercover doesn’t mean he wants to be THAT undercover) who wants a woman to love him for who he is (a man with a very upper class accent clueing everyone in that he’s rich and important so don’t get too common. Sorry, I always find these prince and the pauper themes snark worthy, like the peasantry doesn’t notice a noble slumming). He wants to marry her and will totally back with a real ring but until then here’s some straw (guy can carry fancy snot-rags but not jewels? Watch yourself Cora, doesn’t take a genius to stitch a fancy pattern on an M&S hanky). Cora decides to go to his room.
To the present and Emma warning Hook not to eat apples in Regina’s house. While other people may be focused on fighting the wicked witch, David and Mary Margaret are talking baby names. And being soggy. Anyway, Regina arrives with poison tea for summoning the dark forces (what else would you serve?) The plan is to summon Cora to learn more about Zelena’s past. Oh dear you reminded Mary Margaret about killing Cora – someone get her a pillow, she will now Take To Her Bed. Especially since for this spell to even work you need the murder weapon and the murderer (Mary Margaret’s gasp of horror. Oh fetch a futon someone!) Actually I think the real reason why the spell is rarely used is because you have to light the murder weapon at both ends and candle-committed homicides are rare.
The portal opens –but Cora doesn’t come through, she apparently doesn’t want to talk to Regina. Ouch. A flashback gives us a hint as to why – Prince Jonathon is actually lying gardener Jonathon who calls her a harlot because he lied to get in her bed. He doesn’t care she’s pregnant and runs off. Leaving her desolate and alone – except for Actual Prince Leopold (that would be Snow White’s father), who helps her up.
In the present everyone leaves except Mary Margaret who stays to inflict more sogginess on Regina. And the front door disappears which is rather unusual.
More flashbacks and Leopold likes Cora but has a dilemma – when she’s cold he can’t build a fire. This troubles him because he wants to be a good King whose a man of the people but he can’t even do a basic task any commoner in his kingdom does daily. She shows him how and they bond and he reveals his plans to marry a Princess Eva (oooh not bitter at all, there Cora) but he’s not thrilled because it’s not his choice, he hasn’t even met her.
Anyway, Mary Margaret apologises for killing Cora and Regina takes a deep, very patient breath and acknowledges that Cora herself killed Mary Margaret’s mother so the whole thing is… complicated. Regina is also torn after learning that these was such a massive secret Zelena kept from her – a sister! When they hear a noise, they go upstairs to the source and find… Cora, a young ghostly Cora, spinning away at a spinning wheel.
Unfortunately ghostly Cora is more interested in killing her murderer than answering questions. Regina steps up to Mary Margaret’s defence, magic blazing – but she can’t hold the ghost forever
This calls for a flashback. And now Cora (betrothed to Leopold) admires her jewellery when gardener John drops in. He blackmails her, threatening to reveal their baby if she doesn’t pay him off. Unfortunately for Cora, all of this was overheard by Princess Eva.
The flashback continues after the ghostly Cora possesses Mary Margaret, revealing Cora’s exposure when she tried to pay off gardener John. She lies to him and he says he doesn’t care so long as he can trust her. Eva arrives to expose Cora’s lies, Cora tries to bullshit, but checking her pockets (wow, this princess gown has pockets!) and finds the gems she was going to use to pay off John. Leopold and Eva leave with Eva assuring Leopold he will find a wife “as pure as snow”
At Granny’s, Emma is playing with her magic while Hook is mopey – doubly so when she teleports away his Hook. Emma tries to poke out why Hook is angsty – but Belle barges in with news, her research has paid off, she knows Zelena’s plan.
Zelena, meanwhile, torments Rumple. Something I’m fairly sure she will come to regret. Anyway she makes him dress up for dinner (meat pie, just like she tried to bake to win him over before, the food the women who raised him cooked). Zelena repeats her plan to change the past and, of course, doing that she can bring back Rumple’s son; but Rumple reminds us all that time travel is against the fundamental laws of magic. But she’s sure she can break it, go back and get the life she’s always wanted and take Rumple with her to get his son back.
Meet up, Regina banishes Cora as everyone else arrives and Mary Margaret gasps that it wasn’t an attack, Cora was trying to communicate (fine print for the spell is needed, clearly). But Mary Margaret is too zonked to tell them anything – Belle does tell them about the time travel plan, though. Mary Margaret wakes up – her mother told Cora’s secret that ruined her life, in the same way Snow White told Regina’s secrets that spoiled her life. The revelation forced Cora to give up Zelena and stopped Zelena being a princess. So Zelena is going back in time to kill Princess Eva (Mary Margaret’s Mother) to ensure the secret is kept and Zelena is raised as Leopold’s daughter.
Couldn’t she go back in time and kill, say, John? After conception so she doesn’t die – but before the blackmail?
Regina follows the logic (because Emma briefly thinks Regina will like this plan) and points out that Snow White won’t have been born therefore nor will Emma, therefore nor will Henry. So that’s a no for Regina (there’s also a chance Regina won’t be born as well, though that’s less certain – but Cora won’t end up marrying Prince Henry, Regina’s father). David realises that time travel needs their super-duper-awesome-baby because it’s so special and shiny.
Flashback to Cora giving birth then giving up her baby – because it’s her only chance of being more than a Miller’s daughter; where she’s grabbed by the strange green tornado (now what caused that?)
And back at Zelena’s hut, Rumple is playing nice with Zelena, apologising for wronging her. And seduces her – well, to try and reach for his dagger she has secreted about her person. Alas, it doesn’t work – nice try though. He’s not bribed by his son – because his son gave his life to stop Zelena. To honour his son’s death, he has to kill Zelena.
Mary Margaret and Regina have another bonding moment “you have a less damaging relationship with my mother than I do – and you killed her.” Regina always has the best lines. They bond over Mary Margaret learning nasty things about her mother and the many times Regina’s tried to kill Mary Margaret. Hey it’s bonding at least. And Mary Margaret throws lots of hope all round to counter Regina’s despair with lots of affirmations about feeling things and being resilient (which Regina certainly is)
And Regina goes to see Robin Hood. And she kisses him.
Aaargh, what happened to Cora’s acting?! She killed it in Miller’s Daughter and now we get this? Was she drunk filming this? Did she hate the fact that this incredibly strong, determined, ambitious woman was apparently brought low by a man threatening to slut-shame her and decided to throw out only a half-assed performance at the episode in retaliation?
Among with the icky shaming of Cora, we have more of a revelation of why Cora focused on Leopold and why she killed Snow White’s mother. I’m not happy how it played out – sure John was presented as wrong for the way he treated Cora. And Eva was treated as wrong for revealing Cora’s secret. But what about Leopold rejecting a woman he apparently/supposedly loved because she had the temerity not to be a virgin? To be pregnant? Revealing the secret and the blackmail would have both been irrelevant if they didn’t rest on an already sexist premise. And if that sexist premise has to exist in fairy tale world (and don’t anyone buzz in with “that’s how it was back then” because if you can accept fairies and dwarfs exist and there is apparently an entire kingdom of people who think Snow White and Prince Charming actually will make good rulers then you can accept a world where non-virginal women are not poison for marriage) someone needs to speak up – Emma, Mary Margaret, Regina, anyone – and say what bullshit it is rather than focus on evil Eva and her spilling secrets, that heifer.
Why is Eva the villain of this piece?