Once Upon A Time Indulges Its Misty Watercolored Memories
Once Upon A Time delivers possibly the best episode of the season so far, despite a heavy focus on Henry...learning to use a sword.
Merlin told young Emma not to mess with Excalibur; Arthur is the Big Bad; Emma is also the Big Bad.
The Phantom Of Camelot
In Camelot, "many years ago," Merlin uses the dagger to call a pre-Rumple Dark One with a super-badass look. Merlin wants revenge for "destroy[ing] the only woman I ever loved," but he can't go through with stabbing the Dark One and breaks down crying. The Dark One takes a tear with the dagger, which goes all glowy, and Merlin turns into a tree.
Emma sees all this in a dreamcatcher she holds up to the tree in "present" Camelot.
Alert Type: Because I Said So Alert.
Issue: Regina is skeptical of David and Mary Margaret's plan to give the dagger to Arthur. So is Emma, but Regina is equally distrusting of Emma!
Complicating Factors: Emma's the Dark One. She also happens to be right in this case, because David and Mary Margaret have been Sands of Avaloned. But she also freezes them using dark magic right before they take the dagger from Regina, which doesn't exactly win anyone's trust.
Resolution: Emma explains to Regina what we already know: once one blade, spells, yada yada. This extra knowledge tips the scales to Emma's side, and Regina decides to work with her, but warns her about using her magic too freely.
Spoiler: If this turns into a dark-magic-as-drug-addiction storyline, so help me....
She's Been In The Present Three Days And She's Learned "'Sup"?
Who called the meeting? David, presumably, since he's the sheriff.
What's it about? Arthur's squire has disappeared from lock-up.
How'd it go? Arthur says that Griff must have had the missing magic bean and used it to go home on his own. Henry suggests a dance to bring the townspeople's spirits up, and everyone starts teasing him -- not about having his phone clickety-clacks turned on (in case you didn't already think he was the fucking worst), but about his girlfriend. Belle ruins the mood with her terrible wig-line, and also by reporting Rumple's disappearance.
Vanity License Plate Included?
Cruella's car is on the street with "for sale" written on it. Nice touch.
Oh, Just Something I Had Lying Around
This just doesn't seem like the outfit you want on a summer's day in Maine. Emma's not worried about catching that lacy train on those wood stairs?
Plot Lightning Round
Gold essentially tries to talk Emma out of being the dark one. Because that'll work? He says that he always convinced himself that everything he did was for his son, who he then lost anyway. "The more you justify what you're doing, the more you push them away. Take it from me. You will always lose the ones you love the most." Emma's unmoved, and orders Merida to take Gold to the woods "and make me a hero," before heading into a shed out back full of dreamcatchers and crying.
Regina demands to know how Emma knew David and Mary Margaret were under a spell. Emma reluctantly shows her a dreamcatcher and says that she saw it in there. Regina scolds her like a child. "This is dark magic!" (I knew it!) "These things catch more than dreams." They can capture memories, apparently, and Emma's Dark Oneness lets her just use one without having to be near the person whose memories you're watching, like you normally would. She tells Regina about Merlin's tears, and Regina explains that some spells are like snake-bites: you can use the venom to make the antivenom. So they just need another tear of lost love.
Henry and Violet bond over having dead parents while brushing a horse. That is not a euphemism. When Violet steps out, Henry fucks around with a sword, playing at being Violet's hero, but he can't actually lift it because he's a twit, and he falls down. I really thought he was accidentally going to kill Violet's prize horse and it would have been so satisfying. Violet's father arrives and berates Henry for having "no skills with a sword or a horse." That's not a euphemism either but I bet it also is if you know what I mean.
In Storybrooke, Violet's horse has run off (not a...you get it). Henry says he knows just the person to help.
That person is Emma?? (Emma apparently removes the train but leaves the heels for when she's just lounging around the house.) Henry tells Emma that Operation Cobra still isn't over, and asks her to help return Violet's happy ending. NOT A EUPHEMISM.
In the woods, Merida trains Gold to fight. His bum leg makes this challenging. It's unclear why "hero" now equals "fighter," but here we are. "All a man needs is a sword and one good hand." Merida's been watching Game Of Thrones. No longer The Dark One, Gold is back to being the coward he was before. Merida's having none of it, since succeeding here is her only way home.
Henry tells Emma that he likes Violet because they have stuff in common, like music. Well, really just that one song that he played for her. When he tells Emma it was "Only You," she says, "Did your dad teach you that move?" He did, and he said it always works. "It did with me," she says. So, you have one thing in common with your girlfriend, and it's that she can be wooed in the same vaguely creepy manner as your mom. Good start!
In Camelot, Emma and Regina walk in on Henry practicing with his sword (STILL not a euphemism) and give him a pep talk about not changing who he is for someone else. Emma reminds him that in Camelot he's a mysterious stranger from an exotic land, which gives Henry confidence, for some reason (it's the Middle Ages; don't they burn mysterious strangers from exotic lands at the stake?). Regina reminds him that she was into her first love Daniel precisely because he was so different from everyone else she knew, which gives her an idea.
In the dreamcatcher, Regina and Emma watch Cora kill Daniel, Regina's first love. Regina cries "like it was happening all over again," and Emma takes a tear.
That Quote"When this kingdom is attacked by ogres, will you protect my daughter with your pen?"- Sir Morgan, still not a euphemism -
Love, Hate & Everything In Between
Can't Take No More
Henry lays out a candlelight dinner for Violet at the diner (in Camelot -- having this same set in both worlds is very confusing), while "Only You" plays. Look, I know you upped the wig and CGI budget this season, show, but there are other songs. From this album, even.
Henry gives Violet Pepsi (she's never had fluoride! her teeth will fall out!), explains heated-up lasagna, and suggests that, after dinner, they watch a movie on his phone (he only has Commando and Harold & Maude). This is horrible product placement, horrible movie choices, and should pretty much make Violet's medieval head explode. She doesn't even know what a date is, but eventually figures out that it means he's courting her, and not very gently explains that she doesn't like him That Way and just wants to be friends.
Place Of Interest
Try To Overlook The Wife-Murder
Opened after the First Curse, Peter Peter's is the perfect secluded getaway spot to visit if you like loud parties, or if you're a runaway horse whose favorite food is pumpkins.
Plot Lightning Round
Nicodemus wants nothing to do with Dark Emma, but Henry is able to lure him with a bit of pumpkin. He looks WAY too smug about it.
Regina, Robin, Hook, and Belle go to Emma's house, knowing she's occupied with Henry. There's a protection spell on it, but it doesn't apply to Henry, so Regina covers her hand with his scarf to open the door. Good spell, all-powerful Dark One. They find the sword in the stone in the basement and immediately recognize the pattern of the dagger on it.
On their way out of the house, Hook spots a box on a table and finds a dreamcatcher inside. Regina guesses that's how Emma took their memories.
In Camelot, Emma and Regina make their potion, but it doesn't work. It seems Regina's heartbreak wasn't strong enough because she's moved on and healed. Enter Henry, fresh off his friend-zoning, crying fresh tears of whiny teen pain. Before Regina can use one, Arthur and his men arrive and order them to stay away from the tree.
A Wizard Did It
A Wizard's Gonna Get It Done
Regina distracts Arthur with a fireball while Emma runs to the potion with Henry's Kleenex. Smoke (or light or goo or whatever the CGI representation of magic is supposed to be -- no shade, it's pretty!) swirls around and through her, and she directs what appears to be both light and dark magic into the tree.
Heeeeyyy, hottie Merlin!
What's the occasion? Just your typical "everyone's under a curse again so let's boost morale" carnival. (Looks like Henry's dance idea got vetoed/evolved.)
What are the refreshments? Look, not to be Realism Cop on a show about fairy tales, but where do they get the resources for any of this? No one can see the town from the outside, remember? You can't order party supplies on Amazon if UPS has to leave those little yellow stickies on your magical force field.
Whose embarrassing public scene will everyone be talking about tomorrow? Hook and the gang fill Arthur in on their discovery in Emma's basement. Arthur finally makes explicit that the restored blade can either destroy all dark magic or all light magic forever, depending on who's wielding it. But the real party animal is Henry, who shows up riding Violet's horse, just to be as douchey about it as possible. It's a pony, dude, you're not the Mother of Dragons. Sir Morgan tells him he'll make a fine night someday, and Violet kisses him on the cheek.
Wrap It Up
Merida found the storybook and read up on Rumple, then stole Chip, and now she's using it to make Gold fight her for something he really cares about.
Regina took the dreamcatcher, and uses it to try to figure out what happened in Camelot. It turns out this one contains Violet's memories, and before her date with Henry, Emma ripped her heart out and ordered her to break Henry's heart because she needed the tear. At least she seemed sad about about it? Henry walks in and sees the memory too.
Merlin disenchants David and Mary Margaret. Merlin explains that he can free Emma from the Darkness, but only if she truly wants to be free.
Regina confronts Emma about her insanely convoluted plan, revealing that she knows about Violet's heart. Emma insists that she has her reasons, and lets it slip that Merlin was freed. Regina wants to know why Emma's still the Dark One then, and Emma shuts down the conversation. Henry, until now her only defender, is over it.