Once Upon A Time: The Jolly Roger (3×17)

Hook: “You can’t just pretend like this never happened. Trust me. I spent the last year trying to do just that – return to the person I used to be – and it didn’t work.”

Emma: “Why? What happened over the last year that you’re not telling me?”

Hook: “It matters not. Just take it from me, just this once. No matter how much you wish you could go back to your old life, you can’t.”

Yo ho, yo ho, it’s an episode starring our favorite dashing rapscallion swashbuckling resident pirate Captain Hook. Ariel appears in Storybrooke suddenly, trying to find the whereabouts of her missing Prince Eric, while we flashback to Hook and Ariel’s adventure in the Enchanted Forest and Hook’s quest to reclaim his ship from the pirate Blackbeard, who like Rapunzel, is more of a cameo appearance for a fantasy historical character. Emma becomes Regina’s padawan in learning magic, and in a ridiculous minor plotline, Charming and Snow try to prove to Henry that they are as cool a babysitter as Hook is. But we have a major heartbreaking twist by the end with something that would have already been important if it happened becomes even more important.

Back in the Enchanted Forest, Hook sans ship (but in lovely armor) is fooling and stealing from travelers on the road, which makes him more of a highway robber than a pirate. But he’s got foolishly loyal Smee by his side, and after a large haul they’re making quite a bit of loot and cheering loudly at taverns, where others are cheering them because… they didn’t get robbed? But Smee sets up a lovely hooker for Hook (pun) but seeing as how Hook is still smitten by Emma (and this is a family show after all), he pays off the woman to tell his boys she had a grand time. (Yes breathe a sigh of relief all you shippers).

But Hook gets knocked out and held at knife-point by Ariel, who accuses him of kidnapping Prince Eric because it was his ship the Jolly Roger that took him. (How many times is Hook going to find himself in this predicament?) He turns the tables soon enough, and gets rather possessive of his ship until Ariel tells him the dagger came from the armory, which belongs to none other than Blackbeard. Hook perks up at this and calls Smee to action. Smee though is not pleased about going after the most “cutthroat pirate who ever lived” (sorry, Hook, I’ll have to agree). But Hook really needs his ship and his pirate’s life (or so he tells himself). Ariel intervenes and brings up the “pirate code,” saying that she helped him now he has to help her, so she’s tagging along.

“I haven’t been myself since we’ve returned. I should have realized the reason why. It’s because I don’t have ‘her.’” – Hook

In Storybrooke the Charmings are doing normal family activities with Daddy and Emma Charming being especially cute and stubborn about building a crib together for the new baby on the way. Regina busts in with a protection spell that cannot be undone by blood magic, but Emma wants to go on the offensive and learn magic from Regina. But Regina wants full commitment this time, and walks away without casting the protection spell. (Advice: do both you guys! It couldn’t hurt).

Snow and Charming look concerned but know that Emma needs to do what she needs to do, and offer to watch Henry for her. Emma slowly breaks it to them that they are not fun with their constant baby tips to Henry, and instead chooses, you guessed it, Hook. Hook is having an argument with Smee over why they aren’t pirating again and leaving Storybrooke. Smee is without memories as well, meaning at some point Hook ditched his entire crew after getting the Jolly Roger. Hook makes excuses about not being safe and getting turned into a giant monkey, and when Smee asks what’s the real reason for staying in Storybrooke, if it wasn’t painfully obvious to the audience at this point (it probably is even to 6-year-olds), Emma shows up in frame with Henry.

Hook gets all flirtatious (oh how I have missed you, sir) until Emma tells him she needs him to take care of Henry so that she can learn magic from Regina and defeat Zelena. Hook is fully supportive, telling her she has great power which he witnessed when Cora tried to steal her heart. (If being unconscious with a glass jaw means he was ‘there,’ then all right). He tells her to embrace being the ‘savior’ and they get into an pivotal conversation with her wanting to leave all this behind when the curse is broken, and him saying she could never return to the person she was. He couldn’t be who he used to be that whole year, and when Emma asks what happened, he refuses to answer. (But we the audience will find out soon enough).

Charming and Snow encounter Ariel washed up on the beach. She’s been searching for Eric who has disappeared. Charming suggests getting Hook’s help since he still has his memories, so then they interrupt Hook’s game of loaded dice with Henry, and introduce him to Ariel, who Hook pretends he doesn’t recognize (and everyone else is too clueless to see it). They seem to want to pawn Ariel off too much on Hook, and it seems to be based more on they want to fulfill Henry’s primary babysitter role than to actually help Ariel. They tell him to search Gold’s shop for something of Eric’s so that they can use the locator spell.

In Regina’s vault the magic lessons begin for Emma the slow-fashioned way. When Regina finds out that Hook is babysitting Henry, she points out that everyone sees the “yearning looks and doe-y” eyes, and Emma either plays clueless or is in denial. (No way she’s been oblivious, right?) Emma gets impatient with reading elvish so Regina follows Rumple’s method and throws her up on a bridge and then starts removing the planks and the ropes. Regina wants to push Emma’s “instincts.” Emma falls, Regina looks stunned, until Emma rises up from the collapsed parts she managed to fuse together. (Wait, was Regina going to let her fall to her death?) Regina is angry that Emma has been wasting her potential all this time. (I’d be a little angry that Regina didn’t think to put a net below the bridge just in case.)

In Charming babysitting adventures, David wants to prove his coolness by letting Henry drive his truck down Main Street. Isn’t Henry 11 or 12? Not such a great move for a soon-to-be dad and the town sheriff. Henry predictably kills a mailbox. In a town that huge clearly it would have been easy to find a dirt road, but no let’s do it down the one street in town. Or I don’t know, do any other sort of legal activity. Bad form, David!

Back in the Enchanted Forest, Hook, Ariel and Smee are trudging through the woods when Ariel catches her cape on a bush and Hook hastily cuts it free, and then Ariel points out it was her only possession from Eric and now he’s ruined it. Hook tells her to prepare for the worst with Eric because pirates are bad(!), and Ariel points out the stories about Hook’s latest adventures in Neverland and helping Snow White, but he doesn’t want any mention of his good deeds. He’s a pirate – always has been. (Heard that before).

Hook, Ariel and Smee get way too close and within earshot of the Jolly Roger when Hook shows them his master plan for getting his ship back. He walks straight onto it and challenges the captain. (That’s it??) He and wannabe Captain Sparrow Blackbeard have a duel, which honestly could have gone on a lot longer if they just omitted David’s bad parenting skills. (But bonus for iconic Disney Peter Pan imagery of the fighting silhouettes on the sails). Actually Blackbeard looks like a cross between Jack Sparrow and the original animated Captain Hook, which makes him sound a lot more interesting than he winds up being. Hook gets Blackbeard caught in a wobbly plank, and is about to finish him off when Ariel stops him because Eric isn’t on the ship. Blackbeard gives him an ultimatum, surrender the ship for the location (and prove he’s gone soft and is no longer a pirate), or kill Blackbeard and never find Eric.

Hook makes Blackbeard walk the plank and Ariel pleads to let him live because they made a deal. Hook says all he needs is his ship, that nothing good ever comes of love, and drops Blackbeard to his death. Ariel is disappointed to say the least, and gives him both a physical and verbal slap to the face before continuing her search for Eric. Bad form, Hook, but on the other hand this was a woman you never met who held you up at knife-point. Also can you really trust Blackbeard to tell the truth? It’s a bit of a gray area – more selfish than evil, which fits Hook’s anti-hero character at this point. I’m okay with him doing this, and relieved that he regrets his decision afterwards.

“I was wrong about you, Captain. You’re selfish, and you’re heartless. And that is what will bring you wasted years and endless torment. I feel sorry for you. You’ll never be happy.” – Ariel

In Gold’s shop Belle and Ariel look search the main area when Hook immediately goes to the backroom and finds his spyglass, and then finds Eric’s cloak – the same cloak he cut in the Enchanted Forest. Ariel gets excited and huggy, but Hook is having none of that. Belle pours the locator spell on the cloak, and it flies away towards the water, and then dives into the ocean. Ariel oddly enough doesn’t follow it and says he’s dead. (But… the other realms are that way? Just jump in the water and see where it goes!) In any case she doesn’t move and instead gives another guilt hug to Hook.

Ariel thanks Hook for finding Eric’s cloak and bringing closure to her searching. Then she tells him he has a true heart and that she only wishes she knew what happened to Eric. Guilt trip! Hook caves and chases after her, admitting what he did in the Enchanted Forest and how he wishes he could take it all back. He breaks down in a heartbreaking manner and Ariel slaps (that’s twice now) and chastises him and Hook pleads for forgiveness until she makes him swear on the woman’s name who broke his heart. Because he still believes in love. *sniff* And boom! It turns out it was Zelena the whole time. The real Ariel found Eric and escaped the curse, but Zelena knew that Hook still felt guilty and used this against him to curse him. His kiss, more specifically. (Yeah I know, it’s too heavy-handed and the green sparkle lipstick was too much but I’m letting them get away with it ‘cause I ship it). So the next time Hook kisses Emma, all the parts that makes her a savior will be taken from her. If Hook tells Emma, Zelena says she will kill her. Hook plays some game theory with Zelena, knowing that if Zelena could have killed Emma, she would have done so already. Zelena then counters with killing everyone that Emma loves instead. Checkmate.

Hook heads to the Charmings but finds Emma and Regina there instead. (Was he planning on telling them what happened with Zelena?) He tells them he was helping Ariel locate her missing prince. Regina doesn’t trust him with this news, so tells Emma to create a magic mirror to look in on them. And fortunately for Hook, the mirror catches them in the Little Mermaid moment of Eric picking Ariel up in her blue dress and twirling her around. (Man is Hook fortunate they didn’t catch them arguing over who was going to wash the dishes. Also Emma and Regina are fortunate that Eric and Ariel weren’t doing something more… intimate). Regina looks incredibly disappointed that Hook wasn’t lying (or at least caught lying). Emma also looks at Hook with more “doe-y” eyes than usual after thinking he humbly reunited Ariel with her true love. The Charmings and Henry return home, and all seems well. They all head to dinner and Hook conspicuously declines, and before he leaves Emma tells him she doesn’t care what he did in that year; she’s tired of living in the past. He agrees but still walks away with the weight of the secret. Angst!

So Hook is the one to tell Emma to embrace her power as the savior, and now after he witnesses her using magic he might be the one to take it away. He was the one who brought her back to Storybrooke but can’t force himself to tell her what happened or why he brought her back, even when she tells him that she doesn’t care what he did. This seems like obvious setup for true love’s kiss, however the premise of rebooting time seems too intriguing for next season to have it fail completely. So I’m thinking they’ll be able to prevent some of it or create some loophole, we’ll see our favorite characters in unfamiliar (but parallel) situations, and then the curse will be broken.

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