The following recap, by the very definition of the word recap, contains major spoilers from this Sunday’s Once Upon a Time.
This week on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, Mr. Gold found his son in New York City, Emma ran into a familiar face, Cora and Regina revealed their wicked endgame and a pivotal piece of Rumplestiltskin’s backstory was revealed.
IN THE FAIRYTALE LAND THAT WAS…. | Though Milah fears for his life, Rumplestiltskin is jazzed to be called to the front line of the Ogre Wars, so that he might escape his father’s cowardly shadow. Reporting for duty, he is tasked with guarding someone who could “change the tide” of the war — a young, blind seer. For starters, the lass reveals that Milah is with child. She also warns Rumple that his actions on the battlefield will leave his son fatherless. Rumple is skeptical, but when the girl’s other vision — that the army will ride into war on “cows” (which wound up meaning cowhide saddles) — holds true, he hobbles himself to escape the war and return home, where Milah introduces their newborn son Baelfire. When Rumple comments on the “strong name,” Milah says he’ll need it, being the son of a coward. “I did this all for the boy,” Rumple explains, “to save him from growing up without a father!” Mean, mean Milah retorts that Bae is consigned to a worse fate, “as your son,” and says she’d rather her husband had fought and died. Alone with his boy, Rumplestiltskin promises, “I will never leave you.” (Has Robert Carlyle ever been better?)
IN NEW YORK CITY…. | Arriving at Baelfire’s apartment building — whose exterior and vestibule didn’t match the one filmed in New York City for the season premiere — with Mr. Gold and Henry, Emma rings the one unmarked buzzer, announcing a delivery into the intercom, then hears someone accessing the fire escape. They hurry outside to spy a hoodied guy scurrying down the sidewalk. Gold tells Emma he wants to cash in on his favor: “Get him to talk to me!” A footchase ends with Emma tackling… baby daddy Neal Cassidy! (Non-surprise!) Emma has so many questions, including 1) whether Neal is the son of Rumplestiltskin (answer: yes) and 2) if he knew who/what Emma was when they first met.
Sitting in a bar, Neal insists he had no idea who Emma was and in fact has labored to “get away from all that crap.” Neal relates how August showed him his typewriter (a-ha!) with a piece of paper that read “I know you are Baelfire” to prove their shared past when arguing that Neal needed to walk away from Emma. (“You let me go to prison because Pinocchio told you to??”) Even so, Neal believes that while “there’s not a ton about my father that doesn’t suck,” he always said there were no coincidences, so, “Maybe we met for a reason? Maybe something good came of it?” “Nothing that I can think of,” Emma utters, withholding the Henry news, as she hands back the keychain gift she’d been wearing as a necklace. Wonderful work by Jennifer Morrison.
After Emma reports back that Bae “got away,” Gold breaks into the apartment. As they snoop around, Gold gleans that Emma is lying about Bae. “We had a deal!” Gold roars, as Neal comes barreling in to make sure Emma is OK. “You two know each other…? How?!” Gold asks. Sure ’nuff, Neal’s curiosity about Henry/his age puts the pieces together for everyone involved. Shocked to learn that the story of his dead fireman dad was a lie, Henry sulks on the fire escape, while Gold calls dibs on his convo with Bae.
Outside, Emma explains to Henry that his father “was a thief, a liar who broke my heart, a part of my life I wanted to forget” — to which the boy counters, “You’re just like Regina; she always lied to me too.” Inside, Rumple admits to Bae that he made mistakes and “there is no greater pain than regret. Let me make it up to you.” Neal/Bae can’t imagine how, and quickly shoots down his dad’s offer to turn him back into a 14-year-old (!). “You have no idea what I’ve lived with,” Neal says, revealing that not a night goes by that he doesn’t see Rumple releasing his grip, letting Bae fall through the portal alone. “Now I’m letting you go.” Touché. And a really nice job by Michael-Raymond James, making the unreal feel real.
MEANWHILE IN STORYBROOKE…. | Mary Margaret and David marvel over Emma’s news that Rumple’s son Bae turned out to be Henry’s father. “It’s a good thing we don’t have Thanksgiving in our land,” David comments, “because that dinner would suck“…. Cora consoles Regina, who’s missing Henry. Overhearing, Hook notes that if Rumple is out of town, he’s powerless and can be killed: “I deserve my vengeance!” Cora suggests they instead search for The Dark One’s dagger. Using a Dewey decimal clue (literally) lifted from Belle’s handbag, Cora, Regina and Hook find in the library a map that leads to the dagger… and then the ladies KO the captain. With the dagger, Cora tells her daughter, they can command Rumple to kill their enemies while leaving Regina’s hands clean. Meanwhile, hospital patient Greg iPhoned the display of magic Regina used in Belle’s room and emailed it to his lady friend. (Dude. YouTube that noise!)
BACK IN THE FAIRYTALE LAND THAT WAS…. | Rumplestiltskin aka The Dark One confronts the grown-up seer and fills her in on his lousy lot in life — all because of the “pesky details” she left out last time around. She explains that Rumple will find his son, but that it won’t be easy. It will require a curse to be cast, and broken, and then a young boy will lead him to Bae. “But beware,” the seer says with her dying breath, “because the boy is more than he appears. The boy will be your undoing.”
Rumple shrugs, “Then I’ll just have to kill him!” as we cut back to New York City, where Gold eyeballs Henry talking to Neal on the (Bael)fire escape.
What’s your take on “Manhattan”? The foregone conclusion of Bae’s identity aside, did it entertain? Remember: I’ll be moderating the Once Upon a Time Paleyfest panel the day of the next new episode, March 3, so send along a Q or two you’d like considered.