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Once Upon a Time Recap: 4×17 “Best Laid Plans”

Two warnings before I begin the recap of last night’s Once Upon a Time. Firstly, this is the only time in 4 seasons when I’ve watched an episode and thought “What the heck just happened? Where are they going with this??” in a slightly negative way. Don’t get me wrong! This wasn’t a bad episode. It just left me emotionally drained and confused at the end. This has led to my “secondly,” which is that today’s recap will be a little different than the previous ones as there will be some editorializing because, in the immortal words of tumblr looking at kittens, “I can’t even.”

So in one of the most painful cold openings of OUAT history we find Charming and Snow plying a unicorn with an apple so they can touch its horn and gain a vision of their child’s future. Charming sees hearts and stars and finds Emma in a basket Martha Stewart decorated. Meanwhile over in Snow’s vision quest, she’s getting her heart ripped out by a sinister teenaged Emma. Charming hurries to reassure Snow, but his wife is convinced their daughter is evil. No speculation that seeing the future out of context might cause a few jarring visions. Nope. Evil.

ABC Screenshot
Cue the title card with the Unicorn… Who we never see again this hour.

Picking up where Emma, Regina, Henry, and August left off last episode in the apartment, Regina and Emma argue over the plausibility of the Author being trapped inside the Book. August is getting worse, so they take him to see Mother Superior. She warns that he’s been changed by magic too many times. Regina reminds Emma they have a bigger problem and they step outside to discuss how Regina can complete her mission and not blow her cover. Emma magics a forgery of the page with the Door on it, much to Henry’s surprise and Regina’s skepticism. They argue about Gold being able to tell it’s a fake until Regina takes a picture with her cellphone. Since Gold doesn’t know the page is really the actual Door, maybe this will keep him searching and buy time.

Emma returns home to find Killian and her parents looking somber. He explains what Ursula told him before she left: Gold and the Witches plan to turn Emma dark to eliminate the Savior from the game, probably using the Author to do it. Emma scoffs saying she’s simply not going dark, but Killian warns her that the darkness likes to creep up in you. Emma very ironically insists that no one, NO ONE, MOM AND DAD CAN YOU HEAR ME? NO ONE – gets to decide who she is. As Emma hugs Killian, Mary Margaret have a stage whispered conversation RIGHT BEHIND HER about how they totally did something to affect her fate, and they have to do something without Emma finding out the truth. Mary Margaret leaves quickly and in no way suspiciously, and David follows. P.S. Henry was within about 2 feet of them the whole time, and never once did his nosey kid ears perk up and go, “Wait, WHAT? What did you do to my mom?”

Regina, armed with the photo of the Door, returns to Gold’s cabin where he is waiting with Cruella and Maleficent. Regina says the Book is under a protection spell and was interrupted by Emma before she could retrieve it. “But here’s a photo which I somehow managed to get despite the protection spell that I couldn’t break,” she should have said. Cruella mocks her amateur photography skills stating that the glare obstructs a clear view of the Door. Gold recognizes the glare as magic sealing the Door. Regina realizes she just made it super easier for Gold to figure out what and where the Door is. I couldn’t tell you why Regina didn’t check the photo after taking it. Chalk it up to being from a land of horse drawn carriages and pixie dust. And probably cholera.

ABC screenshot
If you play back the scene at top volume, you can actually hear the $#!+ hitting the fan.

Killian inquires as to August’s health, obviously letting his insecurities show a little. Emma says he’s not good, but reassures Killian that there’s nothing to be jealous of and tries to explain her relationship with August. Emma gives a popular fan theory a nod as she mentions Lily, her first and best friend whom she pushed away forever. Before they can discuss the matter any further, a telltale purple wave engulfs the town, putting Killian and Emma to sleep.

As they leave the unicorn, Charming and Snow run into a totally not suspicious peddler whose cart is stuck in the mud. After being given a bottle of brandy to warm him up, the pedler warns them that Maleficent is terrorizing the Western kingdoms. I don’t know how to really say this, so I just will: Maleficent… laid an egg.

That’s a real thing I just wrote.

The cave where she made a nest is conveniently marked by scorched earth and other dragonny things. The peddler suggests they go East through the Infinite Forest (which I guess is in another ZIP code than the Enchanted Forest?) If they stay on the path then they will find a cottage with a kind old man who will “help them get where they need to be.” Again, the otherwise smart Charmings don’t bother to ask for any elaboration on such a vague yet cryptic statement. Unweirdly and absolutely not pointedly, the old man at the cottage says he’s been waiting for them and senses they are at a loss over their child. He invites them in for tea with a promise to explain everything. From off in the distance they hear Maleficent roar.

Gold and Maleficent go over her end of the plan, but Maleficent decides to alter their deal as she feels she’s just that valuable to Gold’s quest. Gold listens patiently, probably already knowing what’s coming. Maleficent demands to know what happened to her child after “those two heroes got rid of it,” and once Gold delivers this info, she’ll get the page with the Door, they’ll get their happy endings, and “those heroes will pay!”

David chases an upset Mary Margaret through town. She reminds him that they made a vow to be GOOD, but since Cruella and Ursula showed up, they’ve gone against their vow every step of the way. If they aren’t careful, she warns, they’ll end up helping the Witches and Gold turn Emma dark. They realize then that there are townspeople face down in their sandwiches on Granny’s patio, and inside is no better. They speculate a sleeping curse which they would be immune to since they’d already both been under one. They bolt from the diner worrying about who hasn’t.

Back in the apartment, Maleficent and Cruella do their best Batman villain impressions at they talk about how much they’d like to kill their unconscious Savior who can’t possibly fight back or escape, but never do more than sneer because plot. Also Regina tells them to back off. Gold, tired of looking in the apartment to the page which is obviously not there, suggests they might want to check with “a resourceful young man who is wide awake” thanks to already having been put under a sleeping curse.

I know not everyone likes Henry these days. It’s true, he’s gotten older and lost that puppy charm. He’s been the Wesley Crusher once or thrice, saving the day when all hope seemed lost. But I say this honestly: Bless Henry for knowing what was going on and for being proactive and getting the page to relative safety after Emma and Killian passed out.

Thankfully I had another growth spurt over hiatus and now have the gait of a Manute Bol.
Thankfully I had another growth spurt over hiatus and now have the gait of a Manute Bol.

Regina warns the other Witches to stay away from Henry, that she will retrieve the page. Of course Gold sends the women along after her while Mary Margaret and David look on. Henry calls them from the Sorcerer’s mansion, and his grandparents promise to come help him immediately.

David hesitates as he thinks ahead to what they might face when they get to the mansion. He says that they put a stop to all of this, suggesting that if they destroy the page, Gold couldn’t use the Author to turn Emma dark. Mary Margaret worries that could kill the Author, or trap him for eternity, and Regina wouldn’t get her happy ending. But David says they don’t know any of that for sure and that their priority is to protect Emma. I dunno, but it seems to me this episode has the Charmings believing in a lot of hearsay and hypotheticals. Which is my new band name, by the way.

I can’t even begin to tell you how much I dislike Mary Margaret and David this season. Also, WHO IS WATCHING NEAL, OMG!

The Sorcerer says that both outcomes the soon-to-be parents saw are possibilities as everyone is born a blank slate. The potential of good and evil and the gift of free will lets us choose and makes us who we are. Snow, adamant to ensure their child’s goodness, demands options. The Sorcerer offers a way, with a high price Snow immediately approves. As magic cannot be destroyed, it must be transferred and the recipient banished. If Charming and Snow want this so badly, they will have to procure “another blank slate.”

 The Sorcerer leaves to allow the heroes to think it over. Charming insists that they can’t possibly take another life because it’s WRONG, but the eerie music says that Snow’s wheels are turning. “What if it doesn’t have to be a child?” There’s that egg, that Maleficent is sitting on. Besides, she reasons, Maleficent is terrible in all forms; there’s no way she’s going to spawn anything less than a monster!

ABC, Screencap
Snow is cold. Like, stone cold. Selfishly, bone-chillingly cold.

Henry is hiding in plain sight under a table when he sees a light come from the page with the Door on it. It points to a drawer where he finds an old key. Regina arrives, followed by Maleficent and Cruella issuing threats. Regina and Henry share A LOOK, and Henry hands her a page. The Witches leave.

 Charming and Snow take out Cruella and Ursula who are standing guard outside Maleficent’s maternity cave. Inside Charming kicks a familiar baby rattle on the ground, wondering why there’s a baby rattle in there at all. They spy a nest made of charcoal and a super obvious-if-they-would-just-look-at-it dragon’s tail. Maleficent wakes and Charming passes the egg to Snow before getting creamed against a wall. Snow shouts that if the dragon burns them, the egg burns too. JEEZ SNOW. The dragon turns back into Maleficent, who is mostly obviously the picture of (somewhat evil) motherhood. She’s practically in jammies. She asks the question we’re all thinking, which is “What kind of people ARE you, threatening a child?” Snow scoffs at the child part, insisting it will become a monster. Maleficent actually literally begs Snow to have mercy. Snow’s mercy extends as far as promising to bring the egg back “when they’re done with it.” Again: COLD. As the heroes make their retreat amongst dark magic, Snow steps on and breaks the baby rattle.

If you’re writing an essay about metaphor, this is an acceptable example to use.
If you’re writing an essay about metaphor, this is an acceptable example to use.

Mary Margaret and David arrive at the mansion moments after the Witches leave. Henry explains he found the key, and as he tries to open the Door, David snaps at him that it’s too dangerous. Henry leaves in a huff, and Snow is more wracked with more guilt.

Gold visits a sleeping Belle and talks about how there are changes happening, and he’ll come back for her IF he can. Outside the Witches arrive with the forged page, which Gold identifies immediately. He magics Regina to sleep for her betrayal and tells the Witches to take her to the vault.

The Sorcerer assures that the egg will suffice, then proceeds to magically transfer the potential for evil from Snow’s baby into the egg. During his incantation he mentions “distant shores,” and Charming, the pointer-outter of significant details, wonders what that means. The Sorcerer says that they don’t want the concentrated evil in their world so he’s sending it where it can’t hurt anyone in their realm. Charming and Snow protest NOW because banishing the egg is the worst thing they’ve done today. A portal opens, and at the most inconvenient time a baby arm breaks through the shell. Horrified, the heroes try to get to the egg, but with classic hired thug timing Cruella and Ursula show up and accidently block them. The egg, baby and all, is sucked through the portal. And for, like, no good reason, so are Cruella and Ursula.

ABC Screenshot
This is what happens when you click “Accept” before reading all the terms and conditions.

When the dust settles, the Sorcerer congratulates them, saying their child is now “pure of intent and heroic of spirit.” But it’s now up to them to “guide it, and keep it in the light.” Which are two contradictory statements IMHO. And now that the deed is done, Snow realizes they’ve made a terrible mistake. Now.

In the mansion, Mary Margaret and David dither over burning the page, worrying about the lies and denying Regina a happy ending if they destroy the Author. Mary Margaret realizes her own heart has had darkness it for a very long time. She then channels Dumbledore as she lectures David about how heroes have to do what’s right, not easy.

Blubber. Nitwit. Oddment. Tweak.
Blubber. Nitwit. Oddment. Tweak.

In the apartment, Emma, full of harsh realization, sits with Killian across from her parents. She realizes that she’s been right, they’ve been lying, and she is obvi crushed. David insists they were just trying to protect her, but she shakingly rises to leave. As Mary Margaret pleads with Emma and reminds her “I’m your mother!” Emma looks back with the same darkness from Snow’s unicorn vision and says plainly, “I don’t’ care.”

When did the sleeping curse wear off? Why is Killian awake?

In the vault, the remaining Witches stand over Regina’s sleeping body and debate on how to dispose of her, but Gold shuts them down. Apparently he knows the thing that will get her to help them without fail.

That awkward moment when you get locked in your own vault. Again.
That awkward moment when you get locked in your own vault. Again.

Pensive Emma is down by the docks when Killian approaches with news of August’s waking. Emma admits  that she wouldn’t have listened to her parents if they had come to tell her the news.

Sneezy helps Snow decorate the nursery with a familiar crystal unicorn mobile sent by Cinderella. She’s overcome with the reminder that her unicorn vision caused them to rip away Maleficent’s baby. Charming uses the “Maybe Maleficent deserved us being terrible people to her and her baby” argument. Well, maybe you lost Emma to another dimension because you guys stole and cursed a baby! *achem* Snow realizes that you stop being a hero when you do the brave thing without doing the kind thing. They can’t fix it, Snow says, but Charming says they need to fix themselves. Snow doubts their redemption, but Charming says he has to believe in grace and being the best people they can by spreading hope and faith. Snow realizes the unicorns will serve as a good reminder.

You can get it from the Disney store, but you have to give up your first born. Or someone else’s. Doesn’t matter.
You can get it from the Disney store, but you have to give up your first born. Or someone else’s. Doesn’t matter.

In a scene that makes me love Maleficent much more than I should, she asks Gold to show her her child’s fate, despite his warnings that such knowledge might feed her pain. She hands him the restored rattle, and he shows her thirty years ago. A familiar father is having his adoption finalized and holding a newborn girl, who he says they will name Lilith, or Lily. Gold says she is in this world, and Maleficent says she must find her.

The scene that made fans feel more vindicated than that time Serenity got made.
The scene that made fans feel more vindicated than that time Serenity got made.

Emma shows up at August’s bedside at the convent. He knows something is obviously wrong. Emma distracts him with the news of the key. Though she hurries to unlock the door, Snow reminds her that freeing the Author is what Gold wanted, but Emma snaps that she’s not worried about it. In a reveal that August really could have gotten around to earlier, we’re told that the Author isn’t just a man, but also a “sacred job,” held by great women and men, from Plato to some guy named Walt.

ABC Screencap
It’s a living.

The Author’s job has been to record, but this last Author manipulated as well. The Sorcerer approaches the Author in the forest and demands back the magic quill he’s using. The Sorcerer asks how the Author could “force him do that to that child?” and the Author casually says “it makes for a better story.” The Sorcerer says the Author has forsaken his holy duty and traps him in the Book as punishment for his transgressions.

Emma, full of determination, uses the key and frees the Author, who David recognizes as the peddler who told them about Maleficent’s egg. Emma says they have a lot of questions, but the Author pulls down the curtains on all of them and flees. Emma gives chase out to the streets of Storybrooke, but there is no sign of the man.

How did I get here? The Convent isn’t on Main Street?
How did I get here? The Convent isn’t on Main Street.


What was the best or worst part of the episode?

What do you think is the harshest cold opening of the series?

When and how do you think we’ll see Lily next? 



All screen captures are property of ABC.

ABC. “Images,” March 29, 2015. Television. March 29, 2015.

The Disney Company. Walt at the Drawing Board. 1966. Photograph. Los Angeles. The Walt Disney Company. Web. March 29, 2015.–1969-12-31

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