We begin tonight with Regina, being paid a visit by her dear older sis, (bearing a basket of tart green apples, no less). Zelena starts in with her whining and Regina snarks about her envious ways. They hem and haw around each other until Zelena admits why she's really there: as a distraction, so that Rumple can take her heart.
Over in the woods, Rumple is confronting Robin warning him away, when Roland shows up. He tells Robin that he doesn't want to hurt Roland, but when Robin fires his never-miss arrow, Rumple redirects it toward Roland, holding it in mid-air until Robin hands the heart over.
He apologizes, takes the heart and leaves, dropping the arrow before it can hurt Roland. Regina shows up and Robin apologizes out the ass but Regina's just glad Roland is okay. Regina points out that she's still alive, which means Zelena has taken the heart for a far worse purpose.
Over at Gold's Regina is pawing through stuff, trying to find something to defeat Zelena with and she conveniently mentions that Zelena can't control her with her heart because she's protected it against that with a spell of continuity-upholding plot convenience. She begs Belle for help and Belle is a little reticent, in light of their past history. Her response was something like this:
And of course, Regina apologizes all sincere-like and now they're buddies.
Belle thinks it would help if she knew what was so special about Regina's heart. Regina asks Belle for the candle - the double-sided murder candle. Regina says she needs to know more about mama's past.
Cue a flashback to young Cora, looking hot as ever, working part-time as a tavern wench to help make ends meet at the mill. This is obviously before she meets Regina's father, and she's holding her own with lots of spunky attitude against the slobbering drunks around her.
She ends up getting thrown into a handsome man in fine clothes who's been sitting in that seat for the better part of the week. He confesses his deep admiration for her, and the way she carries herself - like a lady. He drops a handkerchief that has a royal crest. Cora recognizes it immediately and he confesses that he's Prince Johnathon, and he's crazy in love with her.
He gives her a ring made of straw and proposes to her on the spot, and Cora (who I previously would never have taken for anybody's fool) agrees. He tells her he'll return in two weeks with a gold ring to replace the crappy one and she offers bang him in his room since they're practically married.
Forward to Regina's library in Storybrooke, where Emma's noting Hook's extreme lack of good humor. Meanwhile, David is balking at naming his firstborn son "Leopold," which Snow reminds him is her father's name. She also suggests Ava, if it's a girl, since that was her mother's name. Did you write that down, kids? There'll be a quiz later.
Regina comes in with a teapot full of poisoned tea, a necessary ingredient to perform a seance. She wants to contact her mother, and in order to do so, she needs the murder weapon and the murderer (or murderess), both conveniently still in Storybrooke.
They all join hands and focus on Cora.
The curtains flutter and a blue CGI cloud opens up and then....nothing. Hook apologizes - he crossed his legs and bumped the table, breaking the spell.
(Sidenote: That was odd. Why would Hook do that? He looked decidedly uncomfortable with the idea of talking to Cora, and you know....they never explained how the two of them knew each other to begin with. I think this is going to be called back to later and possibly because "Prince John" is a relation to our dear Hook. Just my theory...)
Across town, Zelena is loving Regina's battered heart ("that's the point," she tells us). She now has everything she needs for the spell - she's just waiting on the baby.
Flashback to Cora again, waiting in the snow at the crossroads for her prince who never comes, twirling that crappy straw ring and realizing she's been had. She takes off walking and finds him in the Gazebo of ConvenienceTM two months later, only he doesn't look like a prince now. He introduces himself as a gardener.
Cora gets pissed of course, accusing him of taking her heart and her virtue, and he snidely reminds her that she practically climbed on top of him like a rodeo queen the minute he said he was a prince. She lets him know she's knocked up, and she's going to run to the prince and tell him what a scoundrel he is. He attacks her, smacking her down and getting away.
Enter Prince Leopold, young and very gentle. She tells him a sad story of being attacked by a bandit on the road and he offers his assistance. They are having a fine time, swapping funny anecdotes and he's smitten. He sits down to talk with her, confessing his misgivings about being smart enough to be a king. She builds him a fire and he's all kinds of impressed. He mentions that he's engaged to Princess Ava of the Northern Kingdom. He meets her for the first time tonight and he's not looking forward to it.
"What's the use of having power," Cora coos, "If you can't choose whom to wed?"
Ahead now to Regina's house. The seance has broken up, but Snow stays behind to have some girltime with Regina. Snow admits her remorse over Cora's death, and Regina graciously agrees that the whole muddle between her mother and Snow's - and their relationship because of it - makes things complicated.
Suddenly, they hear a sound from an empty room in the house and when Regina opens the door, it's full on Poltergeist.
Meanwhile, at Granny's, Emma's practicing magic and Hook's sitting there like a grumpy bear while she's giggling like a schoolgirl over her antics. Belle breaks in with a book under her arm, frantically announcing that she knows Zelena's plan.
Speaking of Zelena, she's holding Rumple hostage at dinner and monologing about her devious plan. She tells Rumple she's going back in time and he poo-poos that right off. Nobody's ever cracked the laws of time travel. She assures him that she can do it, and what's more, she can take him with her. He can find Bae and never give him up.
Back in the Enchanted Forest, young Cora is admiring her new engagement ring from Prince Leopold when Gardener John shows up,
"I had to see if the commoner who said 'yes' to Prince Leopold is the same one who said it to me," he tells her. "Several times. In one night. It was quite impressive."
Well damn, son.
Anyway, the jerk is demanding to be paid off or he's going to let Leopold know Cora's carrying his baby. He tells her to steal whatever she can get her hands on, and he takes off, but not before Princess Ava, who was spying on her competition, heard everything.
Back at Regina's shit's going Ghostbusters and Cora's targeting Snow. Regina stands between them, holding her off. Snow begs Cora for forgiveness but it doesn't help. Cora possesses Snow, showing her everything that we've just seen.
Which takes us back to the Enchanted Forest, where Cora's roaming the great hall. Leopold confronts her about the pregnancy. She denies it and he's willing to believe her, as long as he knows he can trust her. Ava comes out of the shadows and tells Leopold to check Cora's pockets. He does so finding the jewels she's stolen and he leaves, heartbroken (with Princess Ava who's only too happen to comfort him).
Ahead again, and Regina manages to pull Cora out of Snow just as the others show up. Belle lets them all know that Zelena's planning on going back in time. If Zelena kills Princess Ava, Cora would have never given her up. Snow and Regina (and Emma, and Henry) would have never been born, and Rumple would have used Zelena to cast the curse.
Flashback to Cora giving birth, then taking the baby out into the woods and leaving her for the animals to feast on.She mimics Snow's speech from Season One, and tells Zelena she's giving her away "to give me my best chance." Then she leaves and doesn't even come back when a freak cyclone shows up to sweep the baby away.
Forward to Zelena's farmhouse, where a contrite Rumple is pouring some wine and apologizing prettily to Zelena, admitting that he wronged her. He's in full seduction mode, kissing on her neck and she's like a cat in heat over it until she realizes he's gong for the dagger. She gets pissed off and tells him he's out of the deal now. She's going back in time on her own.
Over at Regina's Snow is helping with the cleanup, and agreeing with Regina's summation. Things are complicated. They're also discussing Princess Ava's surprising dark side, and I for one, am wondering WTF they're talking about. This is a girl who was royalty, betrothed from birth to a Prince, gets tossed aside for a skanky, money-grubbin', knocked up ho who's trying to pass her baby off as the Prince's, and all Ava did was intervene and save Leopold from this woman's clutches. How is that dark in any way? Yeah, maybe she was a little immature about it, but she's very young and she's clearly trying to do the right thing. And as for her "revealing a secret" just like Snow did, if Cora wanted the baby to be a secret, she shouldn't be fighting about it loudly out in a public Gazebo of ConvenienceTM. Twat.
Anyway, Snow and Regina mend fences and they're now besties. "Sooner or later, your heart will find its way to happiness," Snow tells her. "Don't let anything hold you back."
And we finish tonight with Regina heading to the forest, where Robin apologizes again, and vows to get her heart back. Regina steps forward and plants her lips on his, and he draws back, befuddled and then kisses her again. We close as they're making out like high-schoolers under the bleachers somewhere.
I'm giving this one four hooks out of five.
I'm not loving this explanation of how Zelena came to be. Cora was nobody's fool and even blinded by greed, she would have seen through this poser. I also thought the girl talk between Snow and Regina was way too Ava bashing, considering the real criminal in that story was Cora. And grumpy Hook is starting to get on my nerves.