IN FAIRY TALE LAND OF THE PAST YEAR…. | Belle, confident that there must be some way to resurrect Rumplestilstkin, searches her beast’s library with Neal. Neal comes to believe in their mission, and that he can also somehow find a way back to Emma, whose necklace he still carries. As Belle lights a candelabra, a face appears in the flames — man named Lumiere, who claims he was “trapped” in this form by The Dark One. But with the promise of being restored to his human self, he agrees to help Belle and Neal, by leading them to a key that will open the Dark One’s vault. But after Belle and Neal exit, it is revealed that Lumiere is doing the Wicked Witch’s bidding.
Later, out in the woods, Neal and Belle find the location of the vault, and just as they are about to open it Belle catches the candelabra in a lie. Lumiere comes clean, but Neal forges ahead with opening the vault (“to hell with the cost”), even as Belle warns that he may end up helping the Wicked Witch control Rumple. As The Dark One’s form rises from the chamber, Neal begins to die. Rumple runs to his boy’s side, and even when the Witch shows up to make him choose — protect the dagger, or Bae — he releases the blade. As Neal then merges with his father, it drives Rumple “mad,” the too many voices in his head. Lumiere then does a solid by distracting Zelena, allowing Belle to escape.
IN STORYBROOKE…. | Belle — now aware of Rumple’s resurrection — hangs back with Hook at Gold’s shop, where Neal comes barging in, faint. At the hospital, Neal relates how after he saw Emma and Henry drive across the town line, he found himself running through the forest, now with an odd brand on his palm. In private with Emma, Neal asks to see Henry, but she shares how their son now has happy memories — and only the worst ones of, as Neal puts it, “the jerk who abandoned him.” Later, Neal and Killian bond over green Jell-O and talk of their past together, in a surprisingly romantic scene. Hook thus allows Neal a head start in fleeing his hospital bed.
Zelena visits Snow White, who’s anxious about not feeling recent baby kicks. But that changes when Z pours her patient a tall glass of OJ. Regina meanwhile bumps into Robin Hood (or, more accurately, one of his arrows), while scouting the farmhouse for intel on her new nemesis. They get to wondering if they’ve met before, and flirt some over talk of whiskey, but Regina abruptly leaves when she spies the tattoo of her “soul mate” on his arm.
Out in the forest, Emma and Charming find Rumple, who’s babbling about there being “no room” in his noggin, and thus is unresponsive to their Qs about the Wicked Witch. Not helping matters is an attack by a flying monkey. As Charming fends off the creature, Emma chases after Rumple, only to find Neal. She updates him on Henry’s NYC life and friends, and her almost-engagement to a flying monkey. He says he just wants her to be happy, with whomever, since they were never able to find Tallahassee. Belle then phones Emma with news of the brand on Neal’s hand and what it likely means: that he opened the Dark One’s vault, and thus can’t possibly be alive. At that instant, Neal doubles over, his face morphing back and forth with his father’s. Neal urges Emma to use her magic to pull Rumple from him, sacrificing his own life so that his father can help in the search for the Wicked Witch. Emma does just that and Rumple returns, quickly ID’ing Zelena as the green one’s alter ego. But Neal’s fate has nevertheless been sealed. And with his dying breaths, he returns Emma’s necklace to her, thanks Rumple for teaching hm the value of a true sacrifice, and asks Emma to tell Henry that, in the end, his father was a good man.
Later in the woods, Rumple taunts Zelena, saying that now that she has been exposed, she’ll never get close to Snow White’s baby or “whatever your unholy desires are.” But she says it’s no matter, since she again has control over his “beautiful brain.”
As the hour closes, Emma meets up with Henry to relay a version of the truth — that she actually came to Storybrooke to help his father, whom bad people wanted to hurt. Alas, she was too late, though his father died “a hero.” As for the culprit? “They got away,” Emma says, oddly not opting for the simple female pronoun. “But I’m going to find them.”
Is Neal indeed gone? Yup. As series cocreators Eddy Kitsis and Adam Horowitz told TVLine in January, a major character would be dying during Season 3B — “for real,” they made clear — at which point his/her portrayer, meaning series regular Michael Raymond James, would leave the show. So, 49 percent of TVLine readers guessed right. (UPDATED: The producers and MRJ answer some burning questions.)
* “You know he tried to kill me.” “Extenuating circumstances.” “Twice.” “Sorry…?”
* “You’ve got yourself a partner.” “I don’t remember asking for one….”
* “You didn’t tell him the price!” “Oops!”