We begin back in the Enchanted Forest this evening, with a young boy who's watching a con man rooking passers-by with a card game. Unfortunately, he's caught by a savvy customer, who begins to put a hurt on him. The boy runs forward, screaming that this is father, and the customer takes all the money and leaves. The man reassures the child that he'll figure something out to replace the money, then he calls the boy by name: Rumple.
Forward to Neverland now, and Pan takes Henry to Wendy, who's looking markedly worse. "If you save magic, you'll save us all," he pleads with Henry as Wendy the fakey faker coughs over-dramatically in the background. "We don't have much time," he warns.
Back to the Enchanted Forest again, and Rumple's father is knocking at the door of the local spinsters - and they are truly "spinsters" as the word originates, spinning wool into thread for a living. He asks them to care for Rumple while he goes in search of employment. Young Rumple is clearly afraid and doesn't want to be parted from his father, but Dad reaffirms that once he gets a real job, they'll be together. He presses the now-recognizable straw doll into Rumple's hand, telling him that he now has a friend to watch over him and protect him. He urges Rumple to give the doll a name. "Names always make things better," he says. "They make them real."
And then without a backward glance, he leaves.
Forward to Neverland and the group is on it's way to Pan's compound. Emma is glad to see that her parents have made up, but she's not so happy to hear Mom's moving to Neverland. "Family means being together," she reminds Snow. And despite Snow pointing out to her that there's no way around this, Emma takes a page from the family hero book and swears she'll find one. "There's always a way," she says.
And out of the jungle walk Rumple and Regina. Regina tells them they've got Pandora's box, but Neal lets them all know about the prophecy and that Rumple's not here to Save HenryTM. He's here to murder him. One by one they each draw a weapon on Rumple and Emma makes it clear that if he wants Henry, he'll have to go through all of them.
Back to the Enchanted Forest again, where young Rumple is showing a real gift for spinning, so much so that the spinsters think he could have a career doing it for royalty. And dear old dad? Nowhere to be seen and hasn't been back since he dumped Rumple on their doorstep.
The spinsters seem genuinely kind, and when he says that he'll use his talent to make enough money for he and his papa to live, they gently remind him that too many people know his papa to be a cheat and a coward. If he wants a happy life, he'll have to go someplace where his father's name cannot follow him. They offer him a magic bean, to take him to another realm, and tell him to go without his father.
Then they sadly let him know the truth: his father is at the pub, as he has been every night since he left. "Your father will always be your burden, Rumple," they tell him.
Forward to Neverland, and Rumple is pleading with the others to trust him - he will not harm Henry. Neal demands that he prove it by turning over Pandora's box. Rumple's face is reluctant, but his hand reaches out, handing it over with only a moment's hesitation. Neal warns him that if he performs any magic, he's going in the box along with Pan.
As the group moves on, Rumple holds Neal back, pleading with him to listen, because Neal has no idea who he's up against. Neal asks what really happened between him and Pan, and Rumple tells him that Peter Pan destroyed his father.
Which sends us back to young Rumple, confronting his father in the pub, playing his brace game again. Rumple turns away in disgust and his papa tells him that no one in this town will hire him. Rumple shows him the bean and his father's first impulse is to sell it - it's incredibly rare, after all. Rumple refuses to let him gamble it away.
"This bean can take us someplace where no one knows us," he says passionately. "Where we can be a family."
His father is starting to see the appeal of a fresh start, and Rumple entrusts the bean to him, telling him to pick a place for them to start over. Rumple's dad ponders, telling himself to "think lovely thoughts," when suddenly it comes to him. A place he went to as a boy, in his dreams. A place called Neverland. He tosses the bean and he and Rumple dive into the portal.
Forward to our newly re-formed group, and Emma pulls Hook aside with a firm, "We need to talk."
He sighs and replies: "I've found that when a woman says that, I'm rarely in for a pleasant conversation."
Emma is brainstorming, trying to find a workaround for David with the Dreamshade. "What if we take some water with us?" she asks, only to have Hook remind her that it would only last until the water ran out. Rumple butts into the conversation to let them know that he himself was a victim of Dreamshade once, courtesy of a "cowardly pirate." After that experience he did some research and now believes he can concoct a cure once they get home.
He and Emma start to discuss price when Neal breaks in. He tells Rumple that he's going to save David gratis, and because it's the right thing to do. Rumple is desperate to mend his bridges and prove himself to Neal, so he agrees.
Now the group has reached the perimeter of Pan's camp, so they being to divide up. Rumple takes Hook's cutlass, snarking, "I'm not walking in there with just my good looks." Hook starts to protest, but David throws him a short sword, saying, "Here - in case your good looks fail you."
Anyway, off they all go to their rally points. Regina knocks the Lost Boys out with magic, but Pan is nowhere to be found. They hear Wendy call from her cage and free her. Neal recognizes her, of course, and she confesses that she came to Neverland a all those years ago to save him. Awww.
Back again to young Rumple and his Papa, who have hit the dirt in Neverland. Rumple is thrilled to see that he can wish anything into being, and Papa tells him with glee that he can fly if he wants to. He attempts to demonstrate and ends up face first in the sand, unable to fly as he once remembered doing in his Neverland dreams.
"Maybe you can't fly because you're not a boy anymore," Rumple suggests. And that's when dad remembers pixie dust. As they head off to find some, a malevolent shadow is seen hovering, watching over them.
Forward now to the group as Wendy confesses that Pan has John and Michael, but Neal promises to save them. She tells them that Pan has taken Henry to Skull Rock, and there he plans to take Henry's heart. It turns out Pan is dying, and only Henry's heart can regenerate him. And once he does, he'll be immortal, and Henry will be dead. The group splits up, with Regina, Emma, Neal and Rumple heading off to get Henry while the others guard the Lost Boys and ready the ship.
Back to young Rumple and his papa now as they search for pixie dust, and papa explains that when you believe in its power, it glows. He finds the tallest tree where the magical pixie dust flowers grow, but Rumple balks. He's not so sure about this magic thing. He's also really not sure about climbing a tree that tall. Dad tells him to wait down below and he'll climb instead. He promises Rumple he'll be right back and up he goes.
When he gets to the top, he finds but one lone flower with the dust, and despite sprinkling it on himself, he still can't fly. Worse, the shadow is strafing him. The shadow explains that it is tied to the island, and he cannot activate the dust because he doesn't belong.
Over to the group again, and we see Emma, Regina, Neal and Rumple arrive at Skull Rock. The protection spell throws Emma and the others back, but Rumple can walk through. Pan set the protection spell to keep anyone with a shadow out, and he doesn't qualify. Neal realizes his father was telling the truth about ripping his shadow free and Rumple reaffirms that he's here to save Henry. Neal hands over the box, finally trusting him.
Rumple heads off to find Pan, and Emma wonders if there isn't some way to get rid of their shadows. After all, the moonlight is what's making them visible. Regina suggests an eclipse, but she's going to need Emma's help to do it. They start to work together, and the moon begins to darken.
Pan brings Henry to the center of the cave, where there's a giant hourglass marking how much time Neverland has left. Pan is visibly getting weaker, and he sits Henry down, telling him to wait while he "takes care of something."
Back to young Rumple again, who is clutching his straw doll and sobbing at the foot of the tree after hours of waiting for his father. Papa finally shows up, but doesn't come down the tree - he's walking up from somewhere else instead. Rumple asks about the pixie dust and Dad replies that Neverland is just for children - adults don't belong and therefore he can't use it. Rumple suggests they leave and go somewhere else, but his papa shakes his head and tells him it's no use. He'll just go back to his old ways. He's too weak.
Then his eyes light up as he tells Rumple that there is a way he can stay - a way to get the pixie dust to light up and work again. He only has to let go of the thing that's holding him back.
And in swoops the shadow, ripping Rumple away.
"If I stay here, I need to believe that I'm young again," his papa says, "and with you here to remind me I can't."
Rumple pleads, but it's no use. His father lets the shadow take him.
"I was never meant to be a father," he says, as the glow of pixie dust overtakes him, turning him young, turning him into Peter Pan!
Forward to Neverland now, and Pan is confronting Rumple with a smug, "Hello laddie."
Peter calls Rumple a coward, telling him that he'll never have the guts to put his own flesh and blood in that box. He offers Rumple a deal: forget this nonsense and stay with him. They can start over.
"Neither one of us was cut out to be a father, my boy," Pan says.
Rumple disagrees, telling Pan he's regretted every moment he lost with his son. Peter says the same. "Why do you think I call myself Peter Pan?" he asks.
Rumple is under no illusions, even though Peter tries to reassure him that he cares. He begs Rumple to put down the box. Rumple doesn't buy into his horseshit and tries to open the box to no avail. It turns out Pan has switched the box for a fake, easy enough to do in Neverland where anything appears at your whim. He's got the real box, however, and he uses it, imprisoning Rumple inside.
Back again to young Rumple, sad and crying at the door of the spinster's house. They soothe him, not terribly surprised that his father abandoned him. They reassure him that he'll always have a home there.
"Where's your doll?" they ask. And when Rumple tells them he lost it, they offer to make him another. He can even give it the same name.
"No," Rumple says sadly. "Peter Pan is gone forever."
We see his Papa - now Peter Pan - arriving at Skull Rock, which was created when he made the decision to stay. The shadow lets him know that the magic inside the hourglass has a finite amount of time. That won't do. Peter wants a way to stay young forever.
Forward now to Pan, who's telling Henry he has to give up his heart - literally give up his heart to fuel magic. Henry's not a stooge.
"I know all magic comes with a price," he says.
Pan tells him that he has to stay on the island, and Henry tilts that chin up and says that heroes have to make sacrifices. Pan enchants his hand so that he can rip out his own heart. Henry does so just as Neal, Emma and Regina show up. They start trying to talk Henry out of what he's doing, but Pan plays the "Every hero gets tested," and "You're big enough to make your own decisions," cards to great effect.
"Why would they lie?" Henry second-guesses and Pan, the diabolical little shit, remind Henry that that is what adults do. They lie.
Henry looks at Regina and Emma, two people who've lied to him in a big way, and he gives Pan his heart. Henry drops like a rock and a wave of big, green magic morphs over Neverland as Pan grins like a maniac.
I'm giving this one an emphatic five stars out of five.
This episode has some of the finest acting of any episode of the series. Young Rumple was extraordinary, and the actors playing Rumple's father and the spinsters were incredible. The tension between Neal and his father and Rumple and Pan was so well played. This was just an outstanding episode all around.