We begin this evening in Regina’s vault, where the Evil Queen and Zelena go to grab a generic but decorative box of magic. The Evil Queen wants to use it to teach Regina that she "can’t escape who she is."
Snow and David are organizing food and lodging for all the new arrivals and mayor Regina gives an inspirational speech about fresh starts. In walks Belle (to everyone's surprise), and she’s looking for a place to stay. Hook decides to rescue a damsel in distress and suddenly makes it his personal mission to find her lodgings, because Emma wouldn’t wish the mattresses at Granny's on her worst enemy, (she says in front of all the people they just gave room keys to).
Then she mentions to Killian that she's decided to talk to Archie about her issues. Killian is glad to hear she's talking to someone, even if it's someone who hasn't shown their face for a few years and cannot possibly know the things that trouble her like the people she's lived through them with. But what do I know, right?
After everyone disperses, in walks brooding blonde guy with a wicked scar.
Henry offers to find his story, but the man assures him he’s not important enough to have his own tale. He disappears. leaving a fancy-schmancy calligraphy envelope addressed to Snow and Charming behind on the counter.
Henry brings the letter to Snow and David, who are perplexed by its content. They don't know this "Count" of Monte Cristo. Regina steps forward to let them know that she contracted the young count to kill them back when she was the evil queen. Clearly, he's determined to see the task done. Regina decides to meet him at the dirigible as the note requested to tell him the deal is off.
Flashback to a ball being held in a ballroom with a magnificent CGI chandelier. In walks the young blonde – a.k.a. the Count of Monte Cristo, who thanks his guests - one of whom is a Baron of some renown. The count outs himself as one Edmond Dantés, a man bent on vengeance for the Baron’s part in ruining his life. He demands the Baron tell him who helped him do his dastardly deeds but for some reason he decides to skewer him before waiting for the answer.
And in the background sits Regina, or should I say “The Evil Queen.” And ooooh, I loooove that outfit and that hair!
The Evil Queen tells Edmond she has the names of every person who wronged him and his late fiancée. She’s willing to give him the list in return for some help with her own revenge.
We then see Enchanted Forest Snow and David touring a village that's been razed by the Evil Queen, where they find a sole survivor (à la Hook) - and it's Edmond, of course. They introduce him to Charlotte, Snow’s handmaid (as in "Tale") and Edmond is clearly gobsmacked at the sight of her eyes because she has two of them, just like his late fiancée. Edmond wants revenge against the Evil Queen for slaughtering his village, but Snow tells him that’s not a good plan. Instead, they offer him a job as wine steward.
Forward now to Storybrooke, and Emma is unloading on Archie about her visions. She talks about the battle on Main street, how she almost wins against the hooded figure, and then her hand starts shaking and she gets stabbed instead. Archie wants to know why she hasn’t told her family and she walks out on him because she's decided to forget absolutely every bit of character growth since season one.
On the other side of town, David, Snow and Regina check out the Count’s room at Granny’s and question Regina a little further about this murderous plot that they never knew about. “Do you really want to hear about every time I tried to kill you?” Regina snaps. I would imagine that list would get a bit tedious.
Regina meets up with Edmond at the dirigible and tells him to let go of the vengeance thing and look for his happiness instead. "You don’t need revenge to get over the person you loved," she tells him. He responds by throwing his sword (because that's so much more accurate than slashing or stabbing someone who's unarmed doncha know...) Regina stops his blade with magic, but he once again, he's gone.
Now we finally catch up with Killian, who kindly offers Belle a berth on the Jolly Roger. When she points out this won't go over so well with Rumple, Killian cheekily replies: "His wrath would be an added bonus..." Belle is more than a bit confused and wants to know why he's doing this. Killian, roiling with remorse, sincerely and ashamedly apologizes for trying to kill her. Twice. Belle responds as any of us would:
Just kidding. Belle accepts his seething, sexy apology. She's finally got him groveling and could pretty much ask him for anything, but instead she just forgives him and accepts his offer of a place to stay. Sheesh.
And now we go to Emma, who must've hit her head on the way out of Archie's door because she's bent on taking her parents out of town and runs into the old “you can’t leave Storybrooke thing.” DUH.
Regina shows up, and she can tell the protection spell is the same one she put up in Season 1, which means someone broke the blood magic seal on her vault to get the ingredients for the spell. She calls Zelena (who delivers a great line about the general uselessness of automobiles when you can poof yourself somewhere). Regina blames her instantly for the barrier, but not before Zelena clues her in that there may be someone else who could do it.
Flashback again to the Evil Queen and the Count. She gives him the venom of the Agrabah viper to use on Snow and David, but he’s starting to soften to them. He questions her need to kill them, but still takes the venom before he leaves so that he can get that list, and his eventual revenge.
In strolls Rumplestiltskin, and thanks to him we now realize this is set after Rumple gave Snow and David the magic that protects them from the Evil Queen, which is a wonky bit of timeline jumping, but whatever. She's using the Count to get around that, obviously, and she's further spiked Rumple's guns and put a protection spell on the Count to protect him from Rumple.
Next we see the count about to serve the tainted wine to Snow and David. They also offer some to Charlotte as a goodbye toast - she's leaving to care for her mother. David tells Edmond to pour the wine but Edmond knows he’ll kill Charlotte in the process - he makes an excuse and takes the goblets away before they can drink.
Rumple showing up as the Count is reconsidering his ways. It turns out that Rumple has already poisoned Charlotte and he now offers to stop the poison by sending the two of them to the land of untold stories. If they ever leave there, her story and the poison shall resume.
Edmond takes the offer, and off they go through the magic CGI door.
Forward to Storybrooke now, where Gold is back in his shop. The Evil Queen pops in (which surprises him not one bit), having taken a tin coin from Rumple’s case. He agrees to a deal: she gets the coin if Belle and his unborn son are spared from whatever evil she’s visiting on the town. And then my face twists into a look of disgust as she makes a play for Rumple.
Yech. He banged yer mom, honey. DAYum. That's just....yech!
Regina goes back to the dirigible with Henry and they find Charlotte’s dead body, poisoned by the viper venom. When Regina tries to touch the body, it disappears and with a joyous "Hi Sweetie, Mommy’s back!" The Evil Queen finally reveals herself.
It turns out she laced the handmaid's cloak with a magic dampening spell that's thwarting Regina's fireballs. She’s also got the Count’s heart, and she’s going to make sure he kills the Charmings, who are right now battling the Count at the docks. They fight back like a couple of badasses - David even grabs a garbage can lid in a total nod to his alma mater, the Marvel Universe.
The Count tells them that the Evil Queen has his heart and they realize that she is still around. Then he cuts a rope that swings a big thing that knocks them both right out with no ill effects when they mutually recover. Before that, though, he gets ready to kill them.
Regina shows up to save them just in the nick of time. The Count won't listen to her pleas (he can't when someone controls his heart and she knows this) so Regina ends up having to send a sword through the middle of him which kills him dead despite the fact that he...you know....doesn't have a heart. Regina is beside herself over it, and the Evil Queen shows up to taunt her.
“We do like it rough, don’t we?” she purrs, reminding her other half that "No matter what you do, the darkness will always be inside." Then she gleefully informs them all that they've only touched the surface of everyone's untold stories, Regina is going to destroy their happy endings, and she just can’t wait to watch them tear themselves apart.
Henry tries to start an amusing conversation with Killian about movie sequels that apparently weren't available on Neverland Netflix. He thinks they need to find out why everyone ran from their stories.
Then David opens an envelope left on the barstool and finds the tin coin that the Evil Queen left for him. He is freaked out at the sight of it and rushes outside where she's waiting for him. She wanted to remind him of his own “untold” story. We learn that the coin was a good luck charm formerly owned by David's drunken father, who died in a cart accident. “Are you sure it was an accident?” the Evil Queen asks shrewdly, and then she disappears for dramatic effect.
Over at the farmhouse, Zelena hears the baby cry and finds the Evil Queen holding baby Robin. She’s got a rattle that Cora used to use with her, and she hands it over to Zelena as a thank you for keeping her a secret from Regina. Zelena is an odd mix of wariness and gratitude for having a sister that seems to truly appreciate her.
And we end tonight with Emma busting in on Archie again to say that he’s right – she should tell her family about her visions.
Furthermore, she thinks that the person in the hood is Regina. Archie asks for clarification: Regina, or the Evil Queen? Emma answers with an ominous: "I don't know."
I'm giving this one five storybooks out of five - mostly for the spectacular cleavage and snappy banter of the Evil Queen and Regina.
Tonight was a little bouncy between the then and the now, but I am so loving the Evil Queen. And just a few other thoughts:
- Hook's remorseful speech was long overdue (and probably in response to viewer response to him making a joke when Belle reminded him last season that he tried to kill her twice), and moving her onto the Jolly Roger is going to go over SO badly with Rumple - I can't wait to see that come down.
- The Count's story was rather blah, I must say. I didn't get invested in this guy, and Charlotte the handmaid who worked for Snow for all of five minutes wasn't any more compelling.
- I still say there's something up with Archie. He's creeping me out.
- I'm not sure Zelena's buying what the Evil Queen is selling.
- I'm loving the Enchanted Forest years flashbacks. Can we please see a Huntsman again? Pretty please?