Subtitle: I can’t stand Neal but Jennifer Morrison cries beautifully
As I have mentioned before, and like quite a few of you I know, Ariel is MY Disney princess so I was super excited for her appearance. And it was… okay. Joanna Garcia is wonderful and her Ariel is so cute. And MY Ariel was in there somewhere. But… well, I wish we’d met her before she’d met Eric. In The Little Mermaid Ariel is in love with human stuff long before she falls in love with a human, without that exposition her choices become all about Eric instead of about Ariel.
And I get that they are trying to merge Ursula with Pirates of the Caribbean’s Callisto but the jury’s still out on it for me. Especially as yet again the POC is the villain. Also the CGI is so bad. I would really have preferred to see Yvette Nicole Brown in the flesh instead of a gold octopus with attitude.
Meanwhile I still can’t stand Neal but Jennifer Morrison cries beautifully.
We start our evening at Camp Charming where the camera pans up Emma’s toned body to reveal Regina coaching her in the magic arts and I don’t know what but whoever set up that shot (unintentionally) ships Swan Queen. Just saying.
Regina is basically the Anti-Yoda in this scene telling Emma she has to give in to her anger and passion if she wants to connect with her Srs Magic Skillz. Emma is the Actual Anakin thinking that even though Regina has been doing this forever and has already proven capable of literally creating her own world out of nothing but SPITE and her Daddy’s Heart, she, Emma, knows better and talks back as only a Skywalker (or Charming) can. Charming has a bad feeling about this but Snow says Emma should use what she’s got. And she does, setting a fire in the pit with nothing but spite.
Hook comes up to Snowing and proves the naysayers wrong by telling them Pan told him Neal is alive and close straight off.
Snow: We have to tell Emma!
Charming: Or we could lie to her for her own good.
Hook: Didn’t we just spend two or three episodes in a row, not to mention the entire first season of this series, explaining to you specifically why that is a BAD IDEA?
Charming: What’s your point?
Emma: What are you guys on about? You’re missing my magic show.
Snow: Neal is alive!
Snow: Sorry guys, I suck at secrets.
Why does Snow suck at secrets? It has to do with a mermaid she met when she was on the run from the Evil Queen and jumped into the water as a last ditch effort to escape. The mermaid saved her and they became best girlfriends. Like you do.
Ariel: I’m Ariel, I’m a mermaid, I collect stuff and save people. Once I saved a prince from a shipwreck and even though we never spoke and maybe he wasn’t awake? he is my true love.
Snow: You speak really quickly.
Ariel: I have a lot of exposition to get through for the two or three people watching who have never seen The Little Mermaid.
Snow: Oh, okay.
Ariel: Now pay attention, this is new intel. Eric is having a ball tonight to pay tribute to Ursula, the mythical goddess of the sea, wanna go with?
Snow: But… you are a mermaid?
Ariel: I know, but look: legs! Ursula gives us legs for 12 hours once a year or something.
Snow: I thought she was a myth?
Ariel: Semantics. You wanna come or what?
Snow agrees to come and to keep the whole mermaid thing on the down low. But she has a look in her eye that says, Someday I will be unable to keep the fact that a two thousand year old teen boy told a pirate that my daughter’s baby daddy is neither dead nor missing, just trapped on the same godforsaken island as the rest of us, from her for more than three seconds and it will be because of this.
Now we have the most disturbing scene of the episode: Peter Pan and Rumplestiltskin have a little mini war of words mostly about Daddy issues wherein Pan tells Rumple to go home and make a new baby with Belle. Because reasons. Oddly Rumple seems as creeped out by this conversation as I am. Interestingly Pan is actually pulling a Rumplestiltskin ON Rumplestiltskin. And creepy as it is, I have to say I really like Peter Pan. Super scary villain!
Back at Camp Charming Emma is in shock and Regina is on a rampage. Snowing and Hook, for reasons that escape me, think the best course of action is to drop everything and go after Neal. Because Neal, the grown man who has been to Neverland before, is clearly more in need of saving than Henry the eleven year old lost boy. Regina appeals directly to Emma, calling the quest for Neal a trap or at best a waste of time, but Emma is lost in a Neal haze and can’t even answer. So Regina throws in the towel.
Emma: Where are you going?
Regina: To save our son. Somebody has to and you idiots are dancing to Pan’s drums so I guess it’s gonna be me. Queen out.
Emma: Maybe she’s right….
At the ball, Snow and Ariel are wearing matching dresses and it is adorable. Ariel finds a dingelhopper and it is even more adorable. I would probably be okay if this entire episode was Snow and Ariel talking about forks.
But look! It’s Eric. Ariel tries to run over but trips which Eric finds endearing because he’s not aware it is a dreaded trope. He reenacts one of my favourite bits from The American President but I nearly fall asleep because he is so GenEric.
Eric: I know you, I walked with you once upon a dream.
Ariel: I don’t think that’s me.
Eric: Sure it is, Ursula showed me a vision and it was you.
Eric: Look, I can prove it to you. What’s your dream?
Ariel: I want to see the world.
Eric: I can show you the world! Shining, shimmering, splendid!
Eric: Seriously, I’m leaving on a grand journey tomorrow. You should come with me.
Eric: We’re leaving in the morning. Come to the docks. I’ll wait for you. We’ll travel to new worlds and paint with all the colors of the wind.
Ariel: Why do you keep quoting other movies?
Eric: I’m GenEric.
Ariel runs back to Snow to explain her conundrum. Little do they know that the Evil Queen and her minions are watching. Next time someone leaps to their death be sure they’re dead, she commands before meting out punishments and promotions Darth Vader style. But watching Snow and Ariel she comes up with a new nefarious plan.
Still wandering in Neverland, Rumplestiltskin comes across Faux Belle. He tells her he’s losing hope, she implores him to come home and start a new family. Which is exactly what Pan said so Rumple sees a Red Flag. But Belle is pretty and sweet and saying everything he wants to hear and it is really hard for him to resist until all of sudden she is choking. Rumple is distraught but Regina is on a mission and she proves to him “Belle” has been Peter Pan’s shadow demon all along. Which only makes the interaction between Rumple and Pan CREEPIER.
Also wandering in Neverland, Emma confides in Snow because she hasn’t been paying attention enough to remember that Snow sucks at secrets.
Emma: I kissed him. Hook. Captain Swan happened.
Snow: Oh. Why?
Snow: Did it mean anything?
Snow: I know what you’re doing….you are scared of your happy ending with Neal so you are sabotaging it with Hook but you deserve the happily ever after I have and it starts with hope.
Emma: How did you get all that from Idk?
Back in Eric’s kingdom Snow is dispensing more love advice to Ariel. Tell Eric the truth, she says, if it’s meant to be he’ll understand. Ariel wanders outside to ask the ocean’s opinion and Ursula shows up. Only she looks like Regina and speaks like Sebastian the Crab.
In present Neverland, Rumplestiltskin is still trying to wrap his head around Belle being Pan but Regina has an agenda.
Regina: Pull yourself together.
Rumple: What are you even doing here?
Regina: I’ve been camping with the Charmings for a week and got nowhere. Congrats, you’re plan B.
Rumple: I’m too depressed to quip about that. So instead I will explain my death wish.
Regina: Yawn. I forbid you to die at anyone’s hand but mine. Now, here’s my plan: we team up and kill the teen king.
Rumple: I can’t kill him unless I die. For reasons.
Regina: Fine, we’ll just trap him. So how?
Rumple: I have a magical item but it’s back in my shop.
Regina: So let’s go get it.
Rumple: It’s not as easy as clicking your heels three times you know.
Regina: Wanna bet?
Regina basically wins this episode. I have a saying: “The best villains are heroes who’ve given up trying to please everyone else.” She is so over everyone’s BS. Who even cares about their honor if Henry is left behind? Plus she has the best lines. When Rumple finally comes around in this scene–
Regina, literally: There’s my malevolent imp.
Anyway, back in fairytaleland Ursula who is really Regina gives Ariel a bracelet that makes Snow a mermaid in return for making Ariel a human. Ariel puts it on Snow, unwittingly trapping her for Regina, who shows up to gloat.
Ariel: You lied!
Regina, literally: You went to a long dead octopus for advice and you’re blaming me for your problems?
Regina dismisses Ariel and when she hesitates tells her she better get moving because the Prince won’t wait forever and there are no second chances in true love. What’s interesting in this whole Regina and Ariel interaction is that Regina tells her exactly how it is from her point of view. Her damaged and painfully myopic point of view: you get one chance so don’t screw it up with faith or trust or truth or most especially hope (the show tells us over and over, certainly in this episode, that Snow is hope embodied and Regina hates her). Do whatever you have to do to get what you want for you because hope gets you nothing and truth doesn’t matter. From Regina’s twisted world view she’s doing Ariel a favor.
Ariel is torn but Snow tells her to go to Eric, she still has a chance for a happy ending. Ariel goes and Regina prepares to fillet her nemesis (this bit sheds a whole new light on Snow’s insistence that Regina not hurt the mermaid back in the premiere by the way). But instead Ariel surprises Regina with an attack by FORK (!!!), pulls the bracelet off Snow and with tail intact and princess in tow leaps off the docks to freedom.
Operation Save Neal arrive at Echo Cave where Hook explains if they all tell their deepest darkest secrets to the wind, Neal will be set free. Emma, playing the part of Regina since Actual Regina has abandoned them, says that’s stupid. Hook doesn’t disagree but it is what it is. Pan wants their secrets revealed because he thinks it will expose their weaknesses. But exposing their weaknesses in the name of honor is what Charmings do best so into the cave they go.
They find Neal in a cage on the other side of a gaping hole. Emma and Neal lock eyes and Hook declares it the moment of truth, literally.
Hook: I kissed Emma.
Charming: What?! What happened to Bros before Snows?!?
Hook: She’s not a Snow, she’s an Emmmmmmmaaahhh.
Charming: Don’t ever say that about my daughter again!
Snow: This is not the time or place!
Emma: That’s a stupid secret anyway.
Hook: That’s not my secret, that’s my intro. I never thought I’d get over my first love or all the pain and suffering it brought me but you, Emma, are my new dream.
Bridge: EXPANDS TOWARDS NEAL.
Charming: Okay, so–
Snow: Nope, my turn. Emma, you are everything I want in a daughter but I expected a baby and I got someone my own age and that’s unique but not good enough. I want a baby. Once Operation Save Neal and Operation Save Henry are done I want to get to Operation Snowing Baby ASAP.
Bridge: EXPANDS TOWARDS NEAL.
Charming: I really wish you’d let me go first cuz now I feel even worse about telling you I can’t ever leave the island because I lied about being poisoned and almost dying and drinking Pan’s Kool Aid so if you wanna have another baby it’s gotta be with another partner. If I leave Neverlandland I’ll die.
Bridge: REACHES NEAL.
Emma runs across and starts whacking at Neal’s cage with a vengeance but Neals tells her it won’t work. The only way to break the bars is to finish the game of Truth or Truth.
Neal: It’s okay you can tell me anything.
Emma: I never stopped loving you. I love you, I probably always will, but my secret is I was hoping this was a trick, that you would be dead….it would easier than going through the pain all over again.
The cage falls apart, Neal and Emma embrace, Swanfire shippers have a party while Captain Swan shippers cry into their cups
Here is where I point out that Hook’s and Emma’s confessions were terribly similar but Hook has found hope. Anyway to recap:
Hook: I love Emma.
Snow: I want a baby.
Charming: I’m a liar.
Emma: Love hurts.
Oh right, Neal doesn’t have to confess anything because Neal is the worst. Okay, that’s not fair, but this would have been the perfect place for Neal to admit yes he DID hurt Emma and he knows it and he’s going to work really hard at never doing it again. He said something similar back on the beach in Storybrooke but it was all mixed up with the Tamara debacle and Emma had not admitted any of her own feelings and it would have been great, for me, to hear Neal say it here in front of her parents and Hook and Pan. Instead we get the heartfelt but patronizing You can tell me anything and then I’ll never stop fighting for you. Both these lines were delivered beautifully, Michael Raymond James is wonderful and I desperately want to root for Neal, and Neal & Emma, but they make it so hard!!
Anyway, Operation Save Neal is a success and he can read his map so they can get Tink (YAY) and enact the plan to (FINALLY) Save Henry. Emma is sorry, not sorry about telling Neal she secretly wished he was dead but he’s okay with it because he will never stop fighting for her and since that is super romantic and not at all stalkery he’s secure in the belief he’ll win her over. Hook watches them from the bushes, which is ALSO super romantic and not at all stalkery, and it is all of a sudden very Teen Paranormal Romance in this jungle.
Back in time Ariel is a mermaid again but Snow tells her not to let that keep her from true love and implores her to tell Eric the truth. This is exhibit three hundred thousand in Charming Should Stop Lying to His Wife. Ariel swims off with a hopeful heart and Eric is waiting past the agreed upon time with an equally hopeful heart but Regina pops in to stomp all over their hearts by stealing Ariel’s voice.
Regina: I told you there’d be no second chances. The only thing worse than losing your love is never having a chance. Time to swim back home little mermaid.
Ariel swims dejectedly away but Regina can’t gloat for long because the Real Ursula appears in her mirror to warn her to never impersonate her again. I hope we get to learn that history someday!
In Neverland now, Regina and Rumple are walking on the beach by moonlight. Rumple tries to taunt Regina but she is so in charge of this episode it just slides off her back like rain. She whistles into a shell and Ariel appears. Rumple provides the clunky exposition that he knows mermaids can travel between realms, obviously, but why would one help them? Regina explains she has history with this one. She gives Ariel back her voice (so Ariel loses and regains her voice within about three minutes of episode time but it is thirtysomething years out of her life – and they wonder why it’s hard for us to connect to various character’s suffering) and asks for her assistance in retrieving Rumple’s Pan Trap.
Ariel: Why would I help you?
Regina: You can call me Queen B and baby I’ll rule, I’ll rule, I’ll rule. Let me live that fantasy.
Regina: I can give you what you want.
She tosses Ariel the magic bracelet and tells her Eric is in the same place as the magic device: Storybrooke.
Who’s excited to get back to Storybrooke?