This week on Once Upon a Time‘s winter finale, as the Arendelle gang prepared to return home, Regina had a choice to make and Rumplestiltskin set in motion his duplicitous plan, while in flashback we learned of a “deal” Rumple once made with the “Queens of Darkness” aka Maleficent, Ursula and Cruella de Vil.
Forgive me for abandoning my usual recap format, but I’m still busy cheering like an idiot for Belle’s heroic act. Having distracted all the heroes with a shiny object — a portal door hidden inside the sorcerer’s lakeside mansion — Rumple went to the clock tower (duh, of course) to wait for the stars in the sky to align with the stars in the hat, and thus free him of his tie to the dagger. But just before passing through the portal to Arendelle, Anna realizes that Storybrooke’s “Mr. Gold” is Rumplestiltskin, and that their paths have crossed. Realizing that they’ve been played, Emma races to the clock tower to stop Rumple from, among other things, crushing Hook’s heart, but he stops the Savior with a freeze spell. Rumple then goes to crush Hook’s heart… but can’t. Why not?? “Because I commanded you not to,” Belle says from behind, beholding the legit dagger and looking highly pissed.
Belle has Rumple poof! them to the town line to settle this alone. There, she details how when Henry uncovered at the shop the gauntlet Rumple supposedly paid to the Queens of Darkness as her ransom many years ago, she realized that he’d never choose power over love, because his true love is power. Rumple argues that they can “have it all,” but Belle rues having lost her way trying to help him find himself. Because where she once saw the man behind the beast, now all she sees is beast. And on that note, she uses the dagger to compel her husband to cross the town line, fated never to come back!
Flashing forward six weeks, we find Rumple plodding along the streets of New York City and into some low-rent aquarium, where Ursula is shoveling fish food at minimum wage. Rumple eats some crow, having fallen so far, but he hints at a plan to regain their glory, with the help of a man known as The Author — and even if the usual “heroes” stand in their way. “Pack your things,” he tells Ursula. “We have two more stops to make.”
Elsewhere in the episode, Regina returned Marian’s heart to her defrosted body, only to see Robin’s wife collapse later by the lake. She still has a bit of the Snow Queen’s magic in her, Regina deduces, and the only fix is to send her out of Storybrooke into the world without magic — but she cannot go out there alone. Thus, Robin’s choice — originally, a life with Regina — is changed for him. With Marian oblivious on the other side of the town barrier, he steals one last kiss from his true love, then passes through himself.
As for the winter finale’s happy endings:
* Emma and Hook passionately “reunited” after she jammed his pumper back into his chest.
* Anna, Elsa and Kristoff returned to Arendelle and were on the verge of Anna walking down the aisle when Elsa asked her kid sis why she put her life on hold to track down the truth. “I couldn’t walk down the aisle unless I knew you were as happy as I was,” Anna explains.
* As Regina and Emma do (not enough) shots at Granny’s, Henry races in to report that he found at the lakeside mansion a secret room (because apparently he went around fiddling with every wall sconce). Inside it, they discover, is a library full of blank storybooks. Now, with Emma “in” on Operation Mongoose, they just have to find The Author….
Share what you thought of the winter finale and the set-up for Season 4B (premiering March 1), and email any Qs for Adam/Eddy to InsideLine@tvline.com! .