"Dark Hollow" is the 51st episode of Once Upon a Time.
Mr. Gold and Regina send Ariel back to Storybrooke with an item that will allow Belle to locate a hidden artifact that could help take down Pan. But unbeknownst to them, two men have broken into the town with the intent to stop them at all costs. Meanwhile, Emma, Neal and Hook attempt to find Dark Hollow, where Peter Pan's shadow dwells, in order to capture it, and Mary Margaret is upset with David for keeping his poisoning a secret from her.
Previously on Once Upon a Time...
Regina coaches Emma on how to use magic, and tells her to find her anger. Emma unknowingly magicks up a small fire. David tells Mary Margaret that he can't leave Neverland; if he does, he'll die. Regina considers other options when it comes to dealing with Peter Pan, besides killing him. Gold says he might have just the thing, and they then get Ariel to help them. The mermaid asks why she would help them, and Regina tells her that Eric is in the place where they're sending her. Pan tells Gold that he has a nice girl waiting for him in Storybrooke: "Belle, is it?" ("Ariel")
Five days ago
Gold and Belle share a goodbye kiss.
Shortly after Henry has been kidnapped by Greg and Tamara, his family goes aboard Hook's ship. Belle plans on doing the same in the company of her lover, Gold, but the latter says that he has to go, and she has to stay there. The confused Belle asks why, since she wants to help, but Gold tells her Greg and Tamara weren't working alone and others will follow. Gold hands a tiny scroll to Belle, and explains that it's a cloaking spell that will shield the town and make it impossible for anyone to find. Belle nods, but asks how Gold will find his way back to her, and the pawnbroker remains silent. She soon realizes that Gold isn't coming back and he says that the prophecy said that the boy is his undoing, but he's also his grandson, and he must save him. Belle begins to tear, placing her hand on Rumple's shoulder and telling him that she understands, "But I also know..." she says, "That the future isn't always what it seems... I will see you again." The two of them exchange a passionate kiss. Then, the ship is seen soaring across the water, and soon enough, it sails on the rim of the portal the crew has opened, before being carried down the portal by a large wave and falling through it. Another final wave crashes and a small burst of magic spreads across the now completely still and calm ocean. (see "And Straight on 'Til Morning")
The bliss is short-lived.
Belle is left crying on the docks. "They did it!" a familiar voice behind her says, as the seven dwarfs, Mother Superior and Archie rush on over to her, each of them blissful over the fact that the town has been saved and their lives spared. "They saved us!" Leroy continues, before noticing Belle's sad look and asking, "They did save us, didn't they?" Belle looks distraught and everyone notices this. Leroy asks if those are tears of joy, and Archie wonders what the matter is, and whether she's okay, and the head nun asks what happened and where everyone is. Belle recounts that they stopped the self-destruct device, but those people that came, Greg and Tamara, kidnapped Henry and took him through a portal. Her company looks glum. Mother Superior asks where the portal led to, and Belle says that she doesn't know, everyone else followed them on Hook's ship. Leroy asks her why she'd stay behind, and Belle responds that she had to, with utter sadness, before she takes out the scroll Gold gave her from her coat's pocket. She takes out a small bottle with magic liquid from inside the scroll and unwraps the piece of paper, spreading it out before Mother Superior, who has a look at it and acknowledges that it's a cloaking spell, and wonders about its purpose. Belle tells them that Rumple said others are coming. Her friends get uneasy. Archie sighs.
It's off to work they go.
Meanwhile, someone is seen making their way to Storybrooke. A red convertible drives through the isolated rural road near the town, and a pair of men is focused on. One wears glasses and side bangs, and the other one, the driver, has a teddy bear keychain hanging from his rearview mirror. The seven dwarfs are then seen entering the mine area, accompanied by Belle, Archie and Mother Superior, and Leroy asks Belle exactly who Gold thinks is coming, and the beauty tells the grumpy dwarf that her lover didn't say specifically. Archie urges them not to panic, because for all they know it's a precaution. The dwarfs take out their pickaxes, and Belle reminds the therapist that Gold did say these "others" are working with the people who tried to destroy the town. Leroy asks, sarcastically, if they can panic now, to which Archie responds, "Yeah. Sure. Maybe, just a little." Belle tells them they'll be fine as long as they get the spell up in time. The gang then keeps on walking through the mines, and Archie and the nun exchange a look. Leroy tells Belle to be careful because mines are a dangerous place, and Belle goes over the instructions on the scroll and tells them they need fairy dust. The Blue Fairy points out that it runs through the walls of the mines, they just need to open up a vein and that'll carry the magic through town. Leroy tells his brothers in arms to get swinging, no time for whistling, and the seven dwarfs start mining.
Welcome to Storybrooke.
Meanwhile, the convertible is still off on its way. The man on the passenger seat holds a map over his lap, with the trail to Storybrooke lined out in black. The miners keep up their work, in the meantime, and Leroy orders them to halt once they reach their goal. Belle admires the fairy dust on the large rock in front of her and then takes out and opens the vial of magic Gold left her, but then pauses. Grumpy asks her about this, and Belle reminds him that she's never cast a spell before. She then turns to the nun and suggests that she do it instead, but the fairy shakes her head and denies this, saying that Mr. Gold entrusted that task to Belle for a reason. "You just need to believe in yourself," she adds. Belle nods, and pours the content of the vial over the rock. Everyone looks on anxiously, but nothing happens. "You might wanna believe a little harder," Leroy tells Belle. She does. And a powerful ray of glowing, bright magic bursts out of the rock and passes through them, making its way out of the mines through a sewer duct entrance (of which the magic blows the lid right off). The cloaking spell shoots through the sky over Storybrooke and starts to form a dome around the town. Meanwhile, the convertible has nearly reached its destination. Once the driver notices the magic dome forming before them, he steps on the gas and speeds off as fast as he can, as the magic curtain descends from the sky, soaring over the limits of the town. The "Entering/Leaving Storybrooke" sign is seen, and the car speeds on over towards the orange line at the border of the town (see "We Are Both"). The car makes it just in the nick of the time, before the spell closes off the perimeter for good, but the back portion of the convertible is still caught by the powerful magic, and the license plate is torn right off. The driver slightly loses control of the car after they've made it inside, and parks it. The two men then look behind at the license plate that's been ripped from their car, but don't really react. They resume their journey.
ONCE UPON A TIME
Rumple wants Ariel to take a souvenir to Storybrooke.
In Neverland, Rumplestiltskin is seen drawing lines on the beach sand with a stick, indicating to Ariel, the mermaid, what Storybrooke looks like and how to go there. Ariel asks if that's the town, and Gold asks her if she can get there. The mermaid tells him it's far and she'll have to cross over realms, but yes, she can make it. Gold theorizes that, if all went according to plan, Storybrooke will be surrounded by a cloaking spell. He says this as he picks up a sand dollar from the ground. He suggests that, when she arrives, she surface close to the shore, so that she is around its bounds. Ariel asks what they would like her to bring them back, and the Dark One explains that it's an object that will help them defeat Pan. Ariel says she's going to need a little more than that to go on. Gold apologizes, as he drops the stick, and points out that Pan has ears everywhere, so they can't risk telling her. He enchants the sand dollar, and Ariel asks how she's gonna go about doing the task. He tells her to find a woman named Belle and give her the sand dollar. He throws it at the mermaid, who promptly catches it in one hand. Gold tells her Belle will know exactly what to do. "Belle. Storybrooke. Got it," Ariel says, somewhat excitedly, "And Eric?" she then asks Regina, wondering where she will find him in this new world. The Queen tells her that comes after she's succeeded, for incentives are important: the bracelet will only give her legs for 24 hours. Ariel asks how she will know Regina will uphold her end of the bargain when she's back, to which the Mayor of Storybrooke simply responds, "Guess you'll just have to trust me." Ariel sets off on her journey.
What a feeling. Being's believing.
Elsewhere, on the island still, Pan and Felix are sharpening sticks and suddenly the leader of the Lost Boys reacts to something, something exterior to him... Felix asks what it is, and the villain tells him someone's leaving Neverland. Felix asks where, and how they should stop them, and Pan says it's too late, but urges his minion not to worry, for they simply need to get word to their friends on the ground. "In Storybrooke?" Felix asks, not convinced, and Pan states that they can handle this, and adds that all it does is move up their timetable a touch. "We need to get Henry ready," he then says, before standing up and adding, "And I need to have a chat with our friend in the other cage." This said, he looks back to face the cage that hangs high up above the ground behind them. Felix does the same and grins.
Neal has a plan. A risky one.
"Pan's shadow?" Emma asks, as she sits side by side with Neal in their compound, "That's your way off the island?" In front of them are David and Mary Margaret, and Neal answers that that's the only way. David comments that they thought he learned how to navigate stars. Hook makes himself appear, and Neal says he does, but he can't fly. Mary Margaret guesses that that's where the shadow comes in, and Neal confirms this, saying it's why they have to capture it. Emma doesn't respond well to this, since they've never even been within ten feet of Pan unless he wanted them to be, so sneaking up on him to steal his shadow sounds insane. However, Hook jumps in and explains that Pan's shadow is rarely with him, it's an entity unto itself, and can carry out Pan's will from miles away. David asks what that means for them, and Neal says it means they can get Pan's shadow without being anywhere near him, as long as they know where to look - which he does. Emma then says, as she stands up, that she and Neal are on shadow duty. Hook offers his services as well, saying the trek won't be easy so they could use another veteran of the island as well. Neal thanks him, and Charming says he and his wife will give Tinker Bell a heads-up in the meantime, see if she can make good on her promise to get them into Pan's camp. Emma says they'll meet back at Tink's then, and afterwards they get Henry and get back to Storybrooke. Her mother nods and David reaches out his hand to help her up, but she ignores this, hurting him. They part ways.
Do you ever feel like somebody's watching you?
Meanwhile, back in Storybrooke, the seven dwarfs are having lunch by the beach. Grumpy sits alone out front, on a fallen log, eating a sandwich. Sleepy sits on another log behind him, and the remaining five dwarfs all sit at a picnic table. Happy starts to comment that he loves Snow and Charming, but it's kinda nice not having them around. Leroy calls him out on his candor, and Happy justifies himself by saying that, although it has only been five days, it's been the first five days without any killing. "No wraiths," Sneezy says; "No giants stepping on my Miata," Doc jumps in. Sleepy agrees that it has been peaceful, and Leroy, bemused, says, "Enough! I don't want to hear any more of this. Snow and Charming are coming back, and everything will remain normal." This said, his attention is caught by the bottom of a fin slapping the ocean waves. He looks on at what is happening, and Ariel's face emerges from the sea and greets them. Leroy stands up, with surprise and confusion, and Ariel introduces herself, before putting on her bracelet and transforming. The seven dwarfs make their way to her, as she comes out of the ocean, her tail now having been transformed into legs and a wavy skirt. Ariel approaches them and asks if they know where she can find someone named Belle. Leroy nods in affirmation, as the two are observed through a pair of binoculars... In the distance, the two strangers who were seen entering Storybrooke look on at the mermaid meeting the dwarfs. Keychain holds up the binoculars, and tells his partner that the home office was right - she's there. He asks what happens now, as his partner stands beside him. Glasses then says they follow their orders, find out why she came, and make sure she never leaves that town again.
Eat your damn burger!
At Granny's Diner, Granny puts a burger platter down on the counter before Belle, who sits there looking glum. She then finally turns her eyes to the food, and Granny asks what the matter is, whether the burger maybe has too many pickles or not enough of them. Belle chuckles lightly and says that she's just not hungry. This said, Granny nods at Archie, who makes a move for it: he gets closer to Belle and reminds her that that's the fourth cheeseburger she's turned down that week. He asks if it's about Gold - to which Granny retorts that it certainly isn't her cooking. Archie points out that Belle misses him, which she confirms, before adding that he said he was going off to his death, and she wishes she was able to help him, help save Henry. Archie reminds her that she protected Storybrooke, which is just as important. Belle says that all she did was pour a potion over some rocks, and the dwarfs did all the hard work. Archie says she wanted to be a hero, and it sounds like she was, she kept the bad guys out. "What bad guys?" Belle asks, "Come on, face it, nobody's coming here." She then says, while we hear the door opening and the little bell tingling, that she wasn't on that ship because he doesn't need her. From the door, Leroy then says, "Beg to differ, sister..." We see that he is accompanied by Ariel, as the dwarf tells the beauty that Ariel swam a long way to find her. Granny notices Ariel's attire - or lack thereof - and points out that her sign says, "No shirt, no shoes, no service". Leroy snarks at Granny for suddenly having a dress code, since he recalls some of Ruby's outfits that are seared into his brain. Granny gives him a look. Belle asks the new girl who she is and why she is there, and Ariel tells her she came from Neverland, sent by Rumplestiltskin. This triggers a reaction in Belle, who asks if he is alive, and the mermaid confirms this, and takes out the sand dollar from her satchel, giving it to Belle, for the Dark One wanted it so. Belle takes it and looks at it with confusion.
Hello? Is anybody there?
"A sand dollar?" Belle asks, now in Gold's shop, "What am I supposed to do with it?" Ariel, who in the meantime is getting dressed in some new clothes she was given, tells the beauty not to ask her, as she's just the delivery girl. Belle notices a magnifying glass on the counter and picks it up, aiming it at the sand dollar. This triggers a reaction: waves of yellow magic emanate from the object. Ariel comments that it looks like she figured it out, and a magic hologram of Gold appears, talking to his girlfriend. Belle is delighted to see him again. Rumple says he hopes she raised the cloaking spell, because the people headed for town are far more dangerous than even he first believed; they're unwitting pawns in Pan's game. Gold then reminds her that he said he was going to his death, but he found another way. He can and will defeat Pan, but only if she gets him something from the shop. He explains that the object he needs is hidden, but he knows that with the strength of their love, she will be able to find it. The hologram disappears, and Belle is left anxious. She picks it up, and Ariel comments that the Dark One really is into being cryptic. However, Belle is excited, because her lover wants her help: he wants her to save him, Henry, everyone.
Let's talk about boys.
Mary Margaret is seen putting away her arrows into her backpack. David notices her hassle and asks if she needs help, but she quickly shuts him off, saying she can handle her pack. She gets up, and he calls out her name, but she ignores him and walks over towards her daughter. Emma, having noticed this, asks how long this is going to go on, this thing with them not talking to each other. The blonde comments that she gets her father not wanting to tell them about his illness so that everyone kept their focus on the mission at hand. Mary Margaret sarcastically replies that it's good to see Emma's inherited his tunnel vision, and she asks him what that means. "Nothing," she says. They both get up and Emma tells her she says a lot with "nothing". Mary Margaret inhales and tells her to be careful with Hook and Neal. Emma says that the one they need to be careful with is the shadow, but Mary Margaret explains that the fact that they both have feelings for her is dangerous too. Emma looks back at both of the men in her life who are interested in her, and tells her mother that none of that matters, for all she cares about is getting her son back.
Henry isn't in the mood.
"There you are," Pan says, as he approaches Henry at his compound. He asks the young man if he would care to take a stroll, for there is someplace special he'd like to show him. Henry, not getting up or looking back, tells the villain that he's not going anywhere with him. Pan kneels down and asks why not, and Henry replies that he thinks Pan's lying to him, because his family is in Neverland. Pan asks what makes him so sure, and Henry asks if it matters. Pan grins and says it doesn't, but he'd be remiss if he didn't point out what does: "If your family's here, Henry, why haven't they come for you?" Henry turns around and says that maybe he's keeping them from him. Peter promises him that he's not holding his family prisoner, and Henry asks why he keeps disappearing into the jungle. The kid says Pan is hiding something from him, and he's going to find out what it is. He gets up and walks off into the jungle. Felix approaches his leader and comments that it would appear they're losing the boy. Pan says Henry just requires some effort. "Given his lineage, I'd expect nothing less," he adds. Felix asks if he should bring the cage there, and Pan denies this, claiming to have another idea.
Hook puts a lantern down over the table of Baelfire's old hideout in the island. He, Neal and Emma are now there, looking for something, and the pirate tells his old acquaintance that something tells him they won't find Pan's shadow there. Neal explains that they're looking for something else, a coconut that's carved in two, one part holds a candle and the other part goes on top of it. Emma remembers the star map they found, and says they hid it and she'll go grab it. She leaves to get the coconut, and Hook tells Neal he owes him thanks, for being so understanding. After some pause, Neal asks about what. "Emma and me," Hook says. "Emma and you?" Neal asks, confused. Hook brings up their dalliance, which provokes no reaction from Neal other than further confusion. Hook realizes that he doesn't know. He calls the moment awkward before explaining that the two of them shared a kiss, and apologizes again, claiming to have presumed she'd told him. Neal is clearly upset, but tries to mask it and brush off the situation, saying that it probably slipped her mind, since they are focused on getting their son back. "Of course," Hook says. Emma shows up with the coconut, notices their awkward silence and asks if everything is alright. She hands the coconut shell to him, calling it a star map again, and Neal tells her that's not what it is, but rather what they're gonna use to trap Pan's shadow. Hook asks him if he's daft, to which Neal replies, "You came to Neverland on a pirate ship through a portal, but you draw the line at a magic coconut?" Hook says that's fair enough, and asks what their next stop is on this mission. "Dark Hollow," Neal says, provoking a reaction in Hook. "Really?" Emma says, "Why couldn't it be called something like Sunshine Valley or Rainbow Cove. What exactly is it?" Hook tells her it's just what it sounds like, the darkest spot on the entire island; any light that makes its way in is snuffed out by the shadows that call it home. He then says even he managed to avoid it. Emma tells him it's time to break tradition, for they're going to Dark Hollow to find Pan's shadow. Neal confirms this, and says it's the only way they're ever going to get back to Storybrooke. He then leaves, awkwardly, and Emma picks up on this. Hook looks down and picks up his lantern.
"Look at this stuff," Ariel says, with excitement, as she rummages around the items on the back of Gold's shop, while Belle looks around trying to find whatever it is her lover was referring to. Belle comments that Gold is a bit of a collector, and Ariel holds up a corkscrew to be told what it is. Belle tells her what it is and adds that it's not what Rumple needs. Ariel then finds a button. Belle tells her what it is, and again says it's not what Rumple needs, and Ariel acknowledges that she knows this, but Eric had one just like it on his jacket when she rescued him. We see that the button is decorated with the engraving of an anchor. Belle asks who Eric is, and the mermaid tells her he's a prince, the kind with legs. Belle chuckles and the mermaid recounts that she fell in love with him a long time ago, but it didn't work out. Belle asks if it was because she's a mermaid, to which the redhead tells her, "Something like that," whilst storing the button in her pocket. Belle tells her that's just one more reason that they need to succeed. She retells what Rumple said, that she'd find the hiding space with the strength of their love. She looks around a bit more and notices something which brings out a response from her: the chipped cup. She says that can only be the thing he was talking about. Ariel tells her the teacup is chipped, and Belle smiles longingly and explains that she knows, but no matter how much that thing has been through, it's survived, just like their love. Ariel asks what now, if they make tea, and Belle says she's not sure, and then moves to the cabinet next to her, saying that Rumple used to keep it in there. She opens it and places the teacup on its dish, and a ray of yellow magic suddenly appears and moves towards the floor, uncovering a small hidden door. The two women are pleased, and Belle explains that he enchanted it, it's a key. She removes the lid from the floor and inside finds a small box, with a red gem on its lid. Belle picks it up with amazement, and says she read about it in her books but she didn't realize it was real, or that Rumple had it. Ariel asks what it is, and Belle explains that it's Pandora's box; legend says it contains the world's darkest evil. "Shouldn't you be wearing gloves or something?" Ariel asks, and Belle denies this, saying they're fine as long as they don't open it. "Oh. Yeah. Sure. So what do you think's inside of it?" the redhead then says, and Belle says that whatever it is, it's what Rumple's gonna use to defeat Pan. A handgun is then heard being cocked, and the two beauties turn around to face Glasses and Keychain, the two men who came into town, pointing their guns at them. "All that trouble for a box?" Glasses asks. Belle asks who they are, putting the box behind her back, to which Keychain responds, "The people you tried to keep out of Storybrooke."
Belle and Ariel play the chair game.
Keychain finishes tying up Belle and Ariel to chairs, sitting back to back with each other. Belle struggles to break free but is unable to. All the while, Glasses points his gun at them. Glasses tells them to stand still, and Ariel doesn't understand why they keep doing what the two men tell them. Belle explains that he has a gun; Ariel asks what a gun is, and Glasses tells her she doesn't want to find out. Keychain finishes tying them up and stands up, picking up the box afterwards. He starts to move, holding the box, and Belle looks worried... but then the man walks past her and towards Ariel, since she's the one who was sent to get it, and asks her what Rumplestiltskin told her about the item. Ariel says he's not afraid of them or their gun, and not just because she doesn't know what it is. Glasses coldly suggests that they demonstrate, which frightens Belle, and he asks again what the box is. Belle replies that it's magic; she comments that they're only gonna destroy it anyway, and asks why they even care then. Keychain responds that their boss wants to know, and Belle grins at this, claiming that they don't even know what this is all about, or who they're really working for. "Peter Pan," Glasses says, which surprises her. Keychain adds that they know exactly who they're working for, and Belle starts to tell them what Rumple said, but she's interrupted by Glasses, who explains that Greg and Tamara didn't know; they were patsies. They, on the other hand, are aware of the real mission. Belle asks what it is, and Keychain says, seeing that her Rumple fails, and that the box never makes it back to Neverland.
Pan walks with Felix through the woods of Neverland, and the leader tells his lackey to head to the other side of the island and deliver the supplies. Felix says, "Understood," and asks if there is anything else. Pan tells him to just be certain Henry doesn't find out what he's up to. Felix walks on, and Pan leaves. Then, Henry shows up from behind a tree and sneakily goes after Felix
David drinks from his water pouch as he treks through the wild scenery of Neverland. He tries to hand his wife some water for herself, but she tells him she's okay, walking past him. "Are you?!" he asks, seeing as how she's hardly said two words to him since the caves. He starts to say that he knows she's upset that he didn't tell her he was poisoned, and even though that might seem like it isn't fair, that was all he was trying to do: be fair. Mary Margaret ignores him and says, "I think... Tinker Bell's is that way." She points in a direction and heads towards it; David sighs.
Heart to heart.
Neal, Emma and Hook brave through the woods of the island as well, to try and find Dark Hollow, and Neal suddenly stops and says they're gonna have to cut their way through. At this, Emma promptly unsheathes the blade Hook gave her and hands it to her former lover - almost hitting Hook in the process. Neal recognizes it as his cutlass, and asks her if she found it in the cave, to which the blonde tells him that Hook gave it to her. Neal asks Hook since when he is sentimental, and the pirate tells him he thought Emma would wish to have something to remember him by. "Oh. Thanks. She's got me now," Neal says. He cuts his way through the jungle and Emma, confused, turns to Hook and asks him what that was about. Hook sighs and explains that he assumed Neal had heard his secret, and also that Emma had told him of their shared moment. The savior asks him why he would assume that, to which the captain replies, "Because I was hoping it meant something." Emma tells him that what meant something was that he told them Neal was still alive. She thanks him, for she realizes he could have kept Pan's information to himself. Hook asks why he would have done that, and Emma says she doesn't know, and theorizes that maybe Pan offered him a deal, wondering then why else he would have told Hook. The latter explains that it was a test; Pan wanted to see if he would let an old friend to die, even if the old friend happened to be vying for the same woman that he is. Emma says, "And you chose your friend." Hook smiles and asks if that surprises her, to which she reminds him that he's a pirate. "Yeah, that I am," he says, before looking down. "But I also believe in good form," he adds, moving in closer to her, "So when I win your heart, Emma... and I will win it... it will not be because of any trickery. It will be because you want me." She is caught off-guard, and tells him, lowly, that this is not a contest, to which he makes it clear it is, and says that she's gonna have to choose, because neither one of them is gonna give up. Emma puts her defenses up, stating that the only thing she has to choose is the best way to get her son back. Hook tells her she will, to which she says, "You think so?" He adds that he has yet to see her fail, and when she does succeed... that's when the fun begins. Neal calls out for them and comes back. He hands the cutlass back to Emma and says that he thinks he found it. Neither one of them looks too pleased. They all move ahead, however, with Neal leading the way through the plants, and enter a dark area that consists of naked tree stumps and trunks. Its light is a dark orange, and a sudden gust of wind blows through, stunting Emma. Bizarre sounds are heard. "Dark Hollow," Neal says, and Hook says that this is where the victims of Pan's shadow reside. Neal confirms this, adding that they're forced to spend eternity in that darkness. He keeps on moving, with the others walking behind him, and tells them to be sure they don't join them.
Ariel shakes her fin and the girls break free.
Back in Gold's shop, Belle struggles to break free from her ropes, but they're too tight. Ariel tells her they'll find a way out, and Belle asks her what makes her so sure, to which the mermaid responds that she's an optimist. Belle says that she wishes she could be, but every time she tries to be a hero, it feels like it backfires. She then expresses sorrow that Ariel won't get to be with Eric, and the mermaid brushes this off, telling her not to worry about her, because even after the magic wears off her bracelet - the mention of the item triggers a reaction in Belle - she'll find him and tell him how she feels... as long as he lives near the beach. Belle asks if her bracelet is what turned her tail into legs, and Ariel confirms this, and Belle, now excited, thinks they can get out of there if Ariel stretches her fins. She asks if Ariel can get her bracelet off, and the mermaid tries, but the ropes around her wrists are too tight and she is unable to. However, Belle is able to, after some effort, and as soon as the bracelet comes off, Ariel's legs turn back into a tail. They tumble to the side and loosen up the ropes. Ariel then tells Belle that didn't backfire.
Where are those pesky bandits now?
The two girls exit the shop. Ariel asks her companion where the bad guys went, and Belle points out that the protection spell is still up, so they can't leave Storybrooke. Ariel asks what they are gonna do with the box then, and Belle theorizes that they will destroy it, to make sure it never ends up in Neverland. They start walking and Ariel wonders how one destroys something so powerful. Belle explains that they need something just as strong. Ariel wonders if she means more magic, and Belle denies this, being reminded instead of a dwarf's pickaxe, the kind that can smash a diamond and that their friends who took Henry used to start all this trouble. They're off on their way to the mines.
The supercouple overcomes yet another obstacle.
David and Mary Margaret continue their journey towards the shelter of Tinker Bell, back in Neverland, and the charming hero tells his wife that he thinks they're almost at Tink's. He then can see why the former fairy picked that area, a nice quiet jungle, and comments that it might make a good spot for a hut, asking for his wife's opinion afterwards. Snow looks annoyed, and doesn't reply. He then suggests a tree house, if she prefers it, and calls out for her, by Mary Margaret. She keeps on walking and he calls out for her, using Snow instead. He asks when she's gonna start talking to him again, and states that she needs to say something. She stops, turns back and tells him, "Why?! You didn't! You didn't tell me anything!" He starts to explain himself, saying that at first he was hoping that he could find a cure for the poison, and if he could then he figured there was no reason to worry her. Snow reminds him that he did find a cure, but he still didn't tell her. He acknowledges this, and she asks if he was afraid to worry her again. He denies this, and starts to say that he didn't think... Snow interrupts him, angrily saying that he didn't think she had a right to know he could never leave that island. "Why didn't you tell me?!" "I was scared!" he finally tells her. She asks him if he thought she wouldn't stay there with him, after everything they've been through, whether he thought she would ever leave his side. David denies this, saying that he knew she wouldn't, and that's what scared him, he didn't want that for her, he didn't want her to be stuck on that island with him. The price of the cure was something he didn't want to force on her. Snow tells him love means being together, and Charming says it also means sacrifice, and protecting the person you love. "How could a part of me not want you to leave this place?" he asks her, tears in his eyes, and she points out that she would happily build a tree house and spend the rest of her days dodging poison arrows and Lost Boys as long as she had him by her side. He stops. "But you should have told me," she says, with utter sadness. He says that he knows, and apologizes. She then moves in for an embrace. He holds his wife in his arms and she tells him, "You didn't believe, David. You needed to believe in us." He kisses her.
Neal, Emma and Hook reach a sort of clearing in Dark Hollow. The female asks if they just wait for Pan's shadow to show up, which Neal confirms. He takes the coconut shell out of his bag as he says that when it does they'll be prepared, and Emma asks to be told how the coconut works. Neal explains to her that they light the candle and the shadow is drawn to it. He places the coconut on a fallen log and adds that if it gets close to the flame, it gets sucked in, so they just close the lid, and it's trapped. Hook tells them it sounds like a fine plan except for one thing: their lanterns went out. This said, he puts his lantern down, and asks how they're gonna ignite the candle. "Welcome to the 21st century," Neal says, holding up a pocket lighter. He tries to turn it on, but is unable to. Emma asks them how it's coming, and Neal tells her to hang on. Hook offers to help, and Neal refuses his help, saying he's got it. Hook says that he's only got one hand and he can do better than that, to which Neal retorts that now is not the time to try and impress Emma. Hook asks him if he thinks that's what he's doing, and Emma reprehends them for doing that now. Hook tries to call Neal to reason, and snatches the lighter from Neal. He tries to set it off, but can't either, to which Neal comments that it's harder than it looks, with snide. They struggle to get control of the lighter, and eventually accidentally throw it into a mass of branches, losing sight of it. Emma tells them they don't have time for this, and both of them move to try and find the lighter, while Emma picks up both halves of the coconut shell. Then, an ominous sound is heard, and the blonde is caught off-guard. She quickly unsheathes her blade at the sight of a shadow descending from high above, as she shouts that they really don't have time for that. She asks if that's Pan's shadow, and Neal confirms it, but two other shadows appear alongside the main one, and Hook asks about them, unsheathing his own blade. The shadows start swarming around them, disorienting the group, as they try to evade them. A shadow starts to taunt Emma, who cowers against a tree stump, and another shadow pins Hook against a tree. Emma calls out for him, but yet another shadow pins Neal against another tree, as he calls out for her. Emma crouches down and Pan's shadow soars right next to her.
Emma saves the day. Again. She's used to it.
Emma is scared out of her mind. She cowers down against a tree stump, holding the coconut shell and her cutlass, as the shadow soars over her. It flies down to attack her, but she gets it off of her. The shadows attacking both men start to rip their own shadows from them, and they scream in agony. Neal screams at Emma to get out of there, but Emma opens up the coconut shell and decides to try and use her magical abilities to ignite the candle. She tries hard to concentrate, as the men get their shadows almost removed, and she flicks her hand and the candle is set ablaze. The shadow's attention is then drawn to it. Emma holds the coconut shell up, and the shadow is unwillingly sucked in. She closes the lid, and the other two shadows disappear, reuniting both Neal and Hook with their own shadows and causing them both to fall on the ground. Neal asks her how she did that. They try to recompose themselves, as Emma recuperates from her fright, and then tells him, "Regina." Neal asks if she's teaching her magic, to which the blonde responds, "Yeah, I guess she is."
Henry continues sneaking through the woods, following Felix very closely. The Lost Boy stops to turn around once, but Henry is nowhere to be seen. He keeps on walking and Henry comes out from behind the tree he hid next to. He continues his chase.
The Darlings reveal themselves.
Holding a flashlight, Belle enters the Storybrooke mines, followed by Ariel, and tells her that they're probably just ahead. Ariel asks if they shouldn't wait for the dwarfs, and Belle says they don't have time. One of the guys they're looking for is heard telling the other one to use a particular pickaxe, and Belle rushes to stop them, telling them they can't do that. Ahead of them, Glasses is almost ready to smash Pandora's box with a pickaxe. Keychain takes out his gun, and Belle tells them that if they destroy that box, people they really care about will die. Glasses tells her that they have something in common then, because if they don't destroy it someone they care about will die. Belle asks what he's talking about, to which Keychain tells her it's none of her concern, before ordering her to step back. He says they don't want to hurt them, but Glasses adds that they will, before saying they should know when to walk away. Belle says, "Never!", and pulls the lever that sets off the mining cart in motion. She and Ariel then hide, away from the range of Keychain's gun, and Glasses prepares to smash the box, ignoring the cart that's heading towards them. They eventually try to dodge it, but are unable to. Belle then rushes to retrieve the box from the anvil they had it on, and kicks the gun away from their reach, while the pair of men who attacked them try to recover from what just happened. Glasses tells Belle that she's making a terrible error, for there is too much at stake. "Destroying magic?" the beauty asks, which he denies, claiming that they don't care about magic. Belle asks what they were trying to do then, and he explains that they're trying to save their sister. Ariel asks about her, and he says she's been Pan's prisoner for a long time. "Over a century," Keychain adds, to which Belle responds that that's impossible, for they'd be... "Dead," Glasses says, "We're well aware." He goes on to tell her that Pan has kept them alive to do his bidding, and as long as they do, she lives. Keychain adds that once they're done, he'll free her, and them. "But now..." "Now is your best chance," Belle says, because they can beat Pan, and their sister can finally be set free. Glasses asks if she thinks she's the first person who thought they could beat him, and Belle asks him if they've tried, which he confirms, saying that they failed, which is how their sister ended up his prisoner in the first place. Keychain explains that they tried to be heroes, but it just made things worse. Glasses then says, in a depressed tone, that now that they've failed, he'll kill her. Belle, holding up the box before her now, says that if they get that back to Neverland, Pan is gonna have much bigger things to worry about. Glasses asks if they can really stop him, and Belle states that she thinks they can. She adds that if what they're saying is true, they will save their sister. Ariel asks who she is, and the brothers exchange a look, and Keychain then answers: "Her name is Wendy. Wendy Darling. If you see her, tell her John and Michael are waiting for her."
Back in Neverland, Peter Pan is seen unlocking the ominous cage that had been hinted at several times before, finally revealing the prisoner he kept inside of it: Wendy Darling, who looks exactly like she did when we last properly saw her (see "Second Star to the Right"). "Am I... am I free?" she asks, with a hint of fear in her voice, as Pan reaches out his hand to her. "Not yet, Wendy," he tells her, and helps her out of the cage. She stands up before him as he says, "But that doesn't mean you can't come out and play." Wendy looks at him, worried and confused.
Belle and Ariel part ways.
Belle and Ariel are seen by the seashore of Storybrooke, the latter now dressed in the attire she wore when she first emerged from the sea to find the former. Ariel stores Pandora's box in her satchel and, before they part ways, with some sadness, Belle tells her to remember what she told her. Ariel tells her not to worry, that she'll deliver her message to Gold. Belle puts her hands over the mermaid's shoulders and wishes her good luck. They smile at each other, and then the redhead walks closer to the waters, removes her bracelet and is set on her way, tail slapping the ocean. Belle smiles and leaves.
Henry falls for Pan's trick.
Felix continues walking through the woods of Neverland, and not-so-subtly drops his bag, and continues walking, as though he hasn't noticed it. Henry peeks from behind a tree, and notices a hideout up front, with some stairs leading up. He moves in to search the bag, and finds an apple inside. Coughing sounds are heard. Henry puts the bag on his shoulder and then climbs up the stairs, only to find a small bedroom at the end of them, with a blonde girl - Wendy - lying in bed, all by herself. Henry stands in the bedroom and asks her who she is, and she tells him he's not supposed to be there. Henry says he knows, and moves towards the bed, telling her that he thought Pan might be keeping his family there. He asks why she's so far away from the camp, and the girl tells him she's sick, and Pan's afraid someone might catch it. Henry asks who she is, and she tells him her name is Wendy. "Wendy Darling?" Henry asks, deducing who she is, and she nods, confirming this. Henry moves around the frame of the bed and sits on it, next to her, introducing himself and asking what's wrong. Wendy tells him it's the island: its power is fading. She states that she's been there a long time, but for some reason it's affecting her more than the others. She then tells Henry he looks like him... Henry asks who, and she tells him, "Your father." Henry asks if she knew his father, and she says they were friends, a long time ago, when he was just a little bit older than Henry is today. She explains to him that Baelfire saved her brothers from danger, and would do anything for her family. She then coughs again, and Henry asks her if she's going to be okay. Wendy tells him he should go, and Henry thinks that maybe there's something he could do to help. Wendy insists that he go, because she doesn't want him to catch what she has, and Pan is already doing everything that he can. But she fears that the magic there is not enough. Henry says that there has to be a way, and Wendy urges him to go, before he too becomes ill. Henry leaves the bag on her bed and gets up, but promises her that he'll come back for her. He leaves. Once he's gone back to the compound, a familiar voice in the bedroom is heard saying, "Well done. I couldn't have played the part better myself." Wendy looks annoyed. She sits up on the bed and Pan makes himself appear, having come from his hiding place behind some curtains. "Oh, and that bit about dear old dad," he says, "Excellent job." Wendy says that she doesn't like lying to Henry, and Pan tells her not to think of it as lying, but rather as providing motivation. She asks what for, and he answers that it's for him to do what needs to be done, for all of them. He explains to her that Henry has the heart of the truest believer, and Pan needs to control that belief. Wendy asks him what he needs Henry to believe in. And the villain tells her: "Me." She looks down, and he says, "Now back to your cage."
Regina fulfills her end of the bargain.
Gold and Regina play the waiting game by the shore of Neverland, and the witch asks the wizard if he really thinks Belle can succeed. He thinks about it for a short while and answers positively. She asks if he's sure it's not his feelings blinding him, and he suggests that perhaps it's his feelings illuminating him. "You really love her," Regina deduces, as though she's realizing this for the first time. Gold turns to her and asks if that is jealousy. "Of Belle?" she scoffs, "I think not." Gold denies this, saying that it's rather jealousy of having someone. Regina can't reply. Suddenly, Ariel shows up, and apologizes for being late, claiming that they ran into a few complications. Gold drops his cane and he and Regina move closer to the waters. The Dark One asks the mermaid if she got it, and she swims closer to them and takes out Pandora's box from her satchel, handing it over to him. "Excellent," Regina says, "You fulfilled your end of the bargain." Gold admires the box, and Ariel holds up her bracelet. Regina enchants it further and says that now she can have legs whenever she wants. Or a fin. Whatever Eric is into these days. Ariel thanks her, and Gold tells her to seek him out when she returns to Storybrooke; the rest is up to her. Before she goes, Ariel has something to say: Belle wanted her to let him know that Pan has a prisoner on the island, a girl named Wendy. Her brothers are back in Storybrooke, and Belle doesn't wanna let them down, she wants him to make sure that Wendy is okay. Regina tells her that all that matters is Henry, and the mermaid points out that now they have a chance to save them, thanks to her and Belle, so rescuing that girl is the least they can do. Gold tells her they'll try their best, despite Regina's bemusement, and then Gold asks Ariel that, when she returns, she tell Belle he loves her, and that she was right: he will see her again. Regina is annoyed. Ariel smiles and heads off on her way.
Emma makes a decision regarding her love life.
Emma leads the way for her and the two men who accompanied her to Dark Hollow, as they make their way back to meet the rest of the gang, and she looks annoyed. Neal moves in closer, apologizing and acknowledging that he screwed up, and Emma turns around and confirms that he did, they both did, they almost lost their shot at capturing the shadow because the two of them were fighting over a lighter. Hook points out the obvious, that they weren't fighting over the lighter. Emma takes the opportunity to be very clear about something: if she had to choose someone... she chooses Henry. He's the only love she has room for in her life. She resumes walking, and the two men look defeated, and follow after her.
An escape plan is finally mapped out.
Mary Margaret and David stand in wait by Tinker Bell's hideout, and the former fairy finally shows up, bringing with her freshly-collected supplies. She comments that she was wondering if she'd see them again, but starts to add that if they've come to talk her into helping them before they've found a way off the island... David interrupts her, saying they found one, or are about to. Tink says she's not sure she likes the sound of "about to". Mary Margaret jumps in, all cheerful, to point out that Emma went with Hook and Neal to collect Pan's shadow, and that's their way off the island. Tink says she's not lifting one finger until she sees some proof that they've actually succeeded. However, the three scavengers show up, and Neal holds up the sealed coconut and tells her it's all the proof she needs, before telling her that it's been a long time. Tink moves in towards him, smiling. "Bae? Is it really you?" He confirms it, but states that most people call him Neal now. Hook, slightly annoyed, interrupts the reunion by saying that they did it, and asking Tink if she's finally ready to do her part. The former fairy confirms this, with slight determination. The gang is off on their way then. However, Neal stops Emma, and she isn't really up for a talk, but he tells her she's right, about Henry, he is all that matters, and if he is the only thing that came from them being together, they did all right. Emma says, "Yeah," with a smile, and adds, "Now let's go get our son back." They keep walking.
The rouse continues.
Henry tries to find his way back to Pan's compound, and is stopped by the latter's voice asking him, "Why so glum, chum?" Henry stops and turns around to find Pan sitting down next to him. The latter stands up and they move in closer, and Henry reminds him that he said he wasn't keeping any secrets, but he lied. Henry says that he found Wendy. Pan tells him he can explain, and Henry asks if she's dying, to which Pan tells him he's afraid she is, like much of the island, because the magic there is slipping away. He then says that he would have told Henry, but he didn't want him to have that weight on his shoulders, knowing that a young girl's life depends on him. "So I'm the only one who can save magic?" Henry asks, and Pan confirms this. Henry is silent for a few seconds before asking how he can do it, and Pan tells him the question isn't "how" - it's "where". He tells Henry to follow him, which he does.
Henry "Facepalm" Mills is ready to save magic.
Pan takes Henry to a remote place in the island, a rocky cliff from which Skull Rock can be seen, in the far-off distance: an island unto itself, distanced from the rest of Neverland. Pan asks if he sees that, and Henry, always the wiser when it comes to fairytale elements, asks if that is Skull Rock, which Pan confirms, before saying that inside is where their salvation awaits, a salvation that only the heart of the truest believer can bring. "Me?" Henry asks. Pan says that's right, but he won't lie to him, it won't be easy: it will require heroism, and sacrifice. The only question is whether he's up to the task. Henry looks on over to Skull Rock, ponders about this, and says, "Yes." Pan grins.
- The title card of this episode features the Storybrooke clock tower.
- The same title card was featured in "The Queen Is Dead".
- When Ariel and Belle are in Mr. Gold's shop, a bottle of McCutcheon scotch is seen resting on the table: a fictional brand of alcohol featured on Lost.
- The title of this episode was confirmed by executive producer/co-creator Adam Horowitz, via his Twitter account, on September 15, 2013, along with a photograph of the script's cover.
After a two week increase in the ratings, the episode posted a 2.1/5 among 18-49s, with 6.71 million viewers tuning in. On this night with the exception of NFL Football, a majority of Sunday night programming were also down across the board as well.
- The episode received positive reviews from critics, starting with Hillary Busis of Entertainment Weekly who commented positively on the episode's pace and change of scenery, saying "After weeks of running in place, tonight's episode felt pretty action-packed from start to finish. What's more, it actually advanced season 3's master plot. Thanks to the events of "Dark Hollow," Rumpel and Regina have secured a tool that can defeat Pan; the MBC has secured a way to leave Never Land; and Pan has secured the help of Henry, who's been tricked into finally helping the ageless boy save Never Land's magic—or whatever Pan is actually using Henry to do. What's more, Ariel got legs, Belle got a renewed sense of hope, and we got a peak inside Pan's other bamboo box. (Welcome to the game, Wendy!)"
- Amy Ratcliffe of IGN gave the episode a 7.7 out of 10, signaling generally positive reviews, saying "Tonight's return to Storybrooke was needed both for the change of setting and the comfort of seeing familiar faces. The delivery felt clunky, but we had some fun scenes with Ariel and Belle and the return of the Darlings was an enjoyable surprise. The characters on the island had some moments, especially Hook, but it looks like the real action will happen next week." She also commented highly on Ariel's return, saying "JoAnna Garcia continues to be a bright spot as Ariel and she and Belle working together could kill audiences with adorableness. Ariel hits the exact innocent note you'd expect, making me just want to pinch her cheeks repeatedly. Her optimism and spunk is infectious. Plus, Ariel pairs well with Belle - both as actors and as characters;" though was a little more critical on the episode's effects, saying " the effects in "Dark Hollow" weren't bad. The red lighting effectively communicated the creepy vibe, and the shadows looked menacing. The creatures were a little rough around the edges but only a bit. And since they’re fantasy shadows, it worked okay. Since this episode only had a few of the horrible digital backgrounds, it gets extra points from me."
- Gwen Ihnat of The A.V. Club graded the episode a B-, signaling moderate reviews, and commenting positively on the Storybrooke subplot, saying
Joanna Garcia Swisher continues her delightful portrayal as the slightly clueless Ariel, and the adventure-minded Belle (Emilie de Ravin) proves herself to be a good choice as Rumplestiltskin’s girlfriend: Just this week she has to perform a cloaking spell, find Pandora’s box, and get held up by fugitives from the Darling family. It’s nice to see Storybrooke again (we get to see some daylight!), even though our neighbors are now limited to Jiminy Cricket, the Blue Fairy, Grandma, and the dwarves. But just when we thought we were safe from never hearing the words “Home Office” again, we find that our village interlopers are John and Michael Darling, who for some reason have aged a bit more than their sister, who is the other person in the cage (for about a hundred years). The John and Michael reveal is a welcome surprise, especially since it leads to a reappearance of Freya Tingley as Wendy, who was so entrancing in her scenes with the young Bae last season.She was, however, more critical of the events in Neverland, specifically on the love triangle between Emma, Hook, and Neal, saying "I had higher hopes for this triangle, especially considering Neal’s time on Hook’s ship when he was a boy, but it has descended into an extremely trite storyline not even soap-worthy." She also commented negatively on the season's pace, saying "I’m almost feeling as dragged along as Henry is. OUAT is past the point of needing to bring the Save Henry saga to a close. Let’s hope next week leads to a showdown of sorts: More action, less traipsing through the neverending island greenery."
- Christine Orlando of TV Fanatic gave the episode a 4.5 out of 5, stating that "I found Ariel a lot more fun this week. Perhaps it was the fish out of water scenario she personified," but then added "My biggest complaint about the entire episode was that there was so little Regina, but that didn't stop her presence from being felt. Her teaching skills already have Emma starting fires in the middle of windstorms. There's no telling how powerful these two women could be if they ever truly teamed up."
Gallery of photographic stills released to promote the episode.