Once Upon a Time Recap: Crocodile Rocked! Plus, Is That [Spoiler] in the New Promo?!
We start in Storybrooke, where Rumple gifts Belle with a necklace. The occasion? “Us.” But before he can take her on a tour of the (lame) local nightlife, Grumpy barges in demanding his axe and the men scuffle. When Belle calls out, Rumple whips around to reveal his scaly, wicked self aka The Dark One. Though it turns out to be just a dream, Belle spies Rumple spinning straw into gold in the name of creating a potion. Confronted, he says it’s nothing to be concerned about. Still, she still fears he’s savoring power out of a lack of courage to let her into his heart. When Belle later vanishes, Rumple checks in with her father Moe (of the Game of Thorns flower shop), but he knows nothing — yet he’s obviously determined to keep his daughter from this “monster.” Belle meanwhile is at the diner enjoying the miraculous deliciousness of iced tea when Ruby suggests that she reopen the town library, given her love of books. But no sooner does Belle scout out the property than she is grabbed and dragged away by Smee.
In the fairtytale land that was, Rumpelstiltskin tracks down his MIA wife Milah at the local tavern, where she’s enjoying grog and games with the pirate Kilian Jones and his crew. Milah describes Rumple as “just my husband,” then digs the knife deeper by lamenting her lot to not be an ogres war widow but “lashed to the village coward.” Ouch. The next morning, Rumple is alerted that Jones’ crew took Milah, so he races to the pirate’s ship. Jones challenges Rumple to a swordfight to the death, but finds no taker. “A man not wiling to fight for what he wants deserves what he gets,” Jones warns.
We then jump ahead in time to after Rumple has become The Dark One and lost his son Bae to the other realm. Smee shows up at a tavern to say he has access to a magic bean that can open a portal. (Fun moment: When Smee alludes to Rumple’s cowardly origins, he promptly gets Darth Vader’d.) Later in the alley outside, Jones taunts the “crocodile” of a man who bumps into him, then realizes it’s Rumple/The Dark One. After Jones reports that Milah died a long time ago, Rumple says they will finally have their duel.
Back in Storybrooke, Rumplestiltskin beseeches Charming to help search for Belle, and Ruby pitches in, too, using her wolf-ly sniffer. Belle, it turns out, was brought by Smee to her father’s shop, where she explains that Mr. Gold “wasn’t holding me captive; I chose to be with him.” “Then I have no choice,” Moe says, ordering Smee to move ahead with Plan B — to strap Belle inside a mining car and push her down the track and across the cursed town line, thus sapping her of her memory. Rumple arrives in time to use magic to reel the mine car back up the track (to which Ruby amusingly remarks, “That is seriously wow“). But Belle wants to see neither Rumple or her father ever again.
Nonetheless, she and Rumple soon enough reunite when he arranges for the library to be hers. After Rumple admits his shortcomings — how he tried to make up for his cowardice by amassing power — and after he explains that the magic he’s working on is to undo the curse so he can leave town and find Bae, which became his mission in life after losing Belle, his beauty invites him out for a Grannysburger sometime.
In fairytale land, Rumple and Jones duel, and just as the imp is about to yank his rival’s heart from his chest, Milah shows up to stop him, explaining that she lied about dying because she’d fallen in love with Jones. She offers the magic bean Smee spoke of in trade for their lives, but when Rumple goes to collect the next day on Jones’ ship — and after Milah reveals that she never loved him — he plucks out her heart and crushes it, to make Jones know what it feels like to lose something he loves. When Jones refuses to hand over the bean, Rumple slashes off the guy’s left mitt and makes off with it. Later, though, Rumple realizes he’d been duped — the severed hand was empty — while Jones uses the bean to open a portal in the sea and sail his ship to a place where no one ever ages: “Neverland!” And on that cue, he brandishes his new hook-for-a-hand.