‘Once Upon A Time’ Recap: Straight Outta Storybrooke

Written by Michelle Salvatore 

After six episodes of build-up and exposition, Once’s “Dark Hollow” had some fun last night. Am I crazy for still watching this show? Yes, but making it to Season Three marks a commitment akin to marriage as far as I’m concerned. I’m in this ‘til the bitter end; even when Prince Charming is overweight, unemployed, and hitting the dog track on weeknights.

First good sign of the evening was when the episode opened in Storybrooke. Sweet, quirky Storybrooke, how I’ve missed thee. We flashback five days ago to when The Charmings et al. left Maine for Neverland to rescue Henry and– Oh my god, it’s only been five days? It has felt like forever. How is Henry not 36 years old yet? Anyway, this week we’re checking in on how Belle and the rest of Freaktown USA have been dealing with the gang’s heroic departure – and I won’t try to sum it up better than my new favourite sassy-dwarf (after CeeLo Green) Happy did:

Oh you bad, gurl.

Rumpel had instructed Belle to cast a protection spell over the town to prevent more intruders after they left, and since then things have been pretty chill. But wait! Chill doesn’t necessarily mean happy for everyone! (except, of course, for Happy)

Her boyfriend’s ominous farewell has left Belle heartbroken. She now fills her time wandering the streets asking people where her baby is and kicking over trash cans and screaming “I’m fine!” at wildlife (well, I imagine so). She is, however, confirmed not-eating the cheeseburgers she’s been ordering at Granny’s Diner – so that’s a red flag for the blues right there. Even though I’ve rolled my eyes at all the Belle-hullucinations that Rumpel has been having this season, I feel bad for the IRL Belle. She doesn’t understand why she was left behind, and has lost the confidence she needs to move forward.

“Have you maybe considered that second-base wasn’t enough for him?”

But the melancholy ends when Ariel swims into town this week. Mermaids can travel across dimensions (everybody knows that), so Rumpel and Regina have recruited Aqua-Barbie to deliver a message to Belle in exchange for some perma-legs. Belle quickly loans Ariel one of her many V-cut blouses, and the two become natural besties while bonding over their early 90s-era theatrical releases. Ariel delivers Rumpel’s “enchanted sand dollar” which gives her incredibly cryptic instructions. I can’t find a picture of that scene online but it basically looked like this:

“Hey boo, save me a cheeseburger.”

Meanwhile, back in Neverland, it was a banner week for tension-filled walks in the jungle!

En route to Tinkerbell’s treehouse, Snow White has been giving Prince Charming the silent treatment since she learned that he lied about being cursed, but they inevitably break into their trademark “I love you more” “NU-UH, I LOVE YOU MORE!” “STOP IT I LOVE YOU MORE THAN THE MOST NO BACKSIES!” argument. Good news everyone, they still love each other. Because the couple that overcomes Ginny Goodwin’s haircut can overcome anything.

The Mom-est of the Mom-cuts.

Emma, Neal, and Hook venture to the other side of the island to hunt down Pan’s shadow and, more importantly, some good old fashioned love-triangle shenanigans! Hook, of course, has the experiential advantage here since he was just in a love triangle with Neal’s mom and dad last season. However, Neal does have a strong comeback with “remember that time I put a baby inside of Emma?” so it’s really anyone’s win at this point.

They manage to ensnare Pan’s shadow in Neal’s magic coconut candle (I don’t feel that needs further explanation, and neither did Once), but not without a near failure due to love-triangulation. Neal and Hook fight over a lighter to impress Emma with their candle-lighting abilities, which gives Pan’s shadow an opportune moment to attack them.

Boys! Boys! Stop it, you flirts!

Like many women in this situation, Emma just resolves to get the fire started herself and Pan’s shadow is captured. Then she announces that when it comes down to it, she’d really just rather be a single mom. Or something like that – sorry, I was distracted thinking about what schtooping a guy with a hook-hand would be like.

Speaking of! I have to give credit where it’s due; the chemistry did pick up. Maybe it’s because he didn’t have Charming there to distract him, but Hook’s little speech for Emma was actually…kind of…hot…right? Colin O’Donoghue is really trying.

Back in Storybrooke, Belle and Ariel somehow manage to follow Rumpel’s vague message and retrieve Pandora’s Box from under the floorboards. Now that we’ve breached Greek Mythology on this show, there is absolutely no excuse for missing out on a Michael Bolton cameo in the near future. Make it happen, ABC – before he gets too busy!

Just before Ariel can swim the danger-box back to Rumpel, it turns out that protection spell didn’t keep all of the riffraff out of town as intended. The girls are taken hostage by none other than Michael and John Darling, who are under the orders of that douchebag Peter Pan. We discover that Pan has been keeping Wendy held captive in cage for over a hundred years, and the boys have also been kept alive to do his bidding in hopes that Pan will one day release her. I’m so curious as to what redeemable qualities will be revealed in Pan’s backstory because, as my mother puts it, “he is not very nice.”

The thing about being an asshole though, is that it makes it very easy for people to unite in their dislike for you behind your back. This is what happens between the Darlings and the girls, who are freed on the condition that Pan gets taken down.

Ariel tosses Pandora’s Box – the container of the darkest, most evil power in the universe – into her Claire’s sequin purse and swims it back to Neverland. In return, Regina rewards her with the ability to walk on land so that she can find Prince Eric in Storybrooke and have him talk at her some more. Because #TruLuv4Eva.

Finally, Henry has fallen for Peter Pan’s painfully obvious ruse to convince him that magic is dying on the island, which included (but was not limited to) letting Wendy out of the cage for an hour to pretend she was ill from not-having-magic-ness.

“Are you dying?” “Only inside.”

I can’t pretend to be surprised that Henry fell for this nonsense, or that Pan said some more pseudo-sexual predator things, but what the hell is with this keeping a girl locked in a cage for a hundred years? Is Peter Pan Buffalo Bill now too? There are easier ways to make friends than this. Didn’t his mother ever- Oh, right.

ICYMI Recaps:
3.6 Ariel
3.4 Nasty Habits
3.3 Quite A Common Fairy

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