Our Storybrooke gang is making their way through Camelot's potion ingredient reserves in order to find something that will help turn Merlin back into his wizard-form. Regina finds a magical toadstool called Crimson Crown that will allow them to at least communicate with tree-Merlin. King Arthur comes in to check on their progress and tells him that the Crimson Crown is rumored to exist and he believes he knows where they can find it. He warns them though that it would be a treacherous quest.
Charming hears the word "quest" and nearly combusts from excitement. He pretty much tosses his infant son to Snow and leaves with Arthur. Arthur has some pretty sweet weapons and I can just feel Charming begin to become an actual character again when he gazes at them. Like, where have you been, bro?
Arthur shows Charming his famous round table before they begin their quest. He also shows Charming a box of all of the magical items Camelot has in its possession. The most important item they find for their journey is a torch. It's apparently the "unquenchable flame" and it is rumored to be from the burning bush itself. Are we getting biblical? I think we're getting biblical.
Arthur also points out a rather ugly chair at the round table. Lancelot once occupied this special chair called the "Siege Perilous." It is the chair reserved for the most trusted and pure knight of them all. Now, it sits empty because Lancelot betrayed Arthur by falling in love with Guinevere. Arthur eventually gained favor with Guinevere and banished Sir Lancelot from Camelot. Seems extreme but you do you, Arthur.
Over in the plot-line from hell, Regina confronts her sister about the impending baby. Regina believes that Zelena has officially squandered all of her second chances and Regina isn't about to let her run away with Robin's baby. Regina vows to love and protect the child with all of her power but she won't extend that courtesy to her sister. Good. The more important part of this scene, though, is Robin being ever helpful by insisting that he get Regina some tea. Those Brits. Always trying to save disastrous story-lines with the power of tea.
Charming and Arthur, henceforth known as "Charthur", set off on their quest and basically become super bros after only five minutes. They bond over their wives shared skills with a bow and arrow and their similar rags to riches backgrounds. Charming goes all feminist when Arthur suggests they have their wives compete in an arrow shooting contest but Charming doesn't think they'd appreciate being pitted against each other just so the men could feel good about themselves. I'm super into Charming this episode.
When they find the Crimson Crown, Charming volunteers to cross the rickety water bridge to retrieve it. On his way back, pieces of armor rise up from the water and form phantom knights. These beings are hellbent on keeping that mushroom from leaving it's rock. Charming slashes and cuts off limbs but the phantom knights regroup and succeed in pulling him under water.
Arthur takes FOREVER to come to his new BFF's rescue. Like, was he just super distracted or not even at the pond anymore? Why did it take him THAT long to get to his bro? Charthur may not be as solid as I thought, y'all.
Still, Arthur does save him but, in the process, they realize that they lost the Crimson Crown. Arthur wants to search for it but Charming knows it's a lost cause. Charming is disappointed in how this quest turned out. Arthur encourages him and says that the word quest means to seek, not to find. Just because they didn't "find" the toadstool, doesn't mean they failed the quest. Charthur is ALIVE!
Charming has a lot of pride riding on this quest. He doesn't want to always be remembered as "the man who kissed a sleeping princess awake." I rather enjoyed that line and that sentiment. Disney movies and even their fairytale origins focus so much on the female protagonists. So, we as viewers know a lot about those characters. Prince Charming is a pretty bland character in the original Snow White. This allows his counterpart on OUAT to be like a blank slate that can be molded in any way. It gives them space to add a lot of depth to a character that is inherently good and noble. I like it.
Charthur is going strong when Arthur decides that Charming's heroics during their quest deserves a knighthood. Not only that, he deserves to sit in special siege perilous chair! Seems a little too soon but who am I to question this friendship?
Okay, I should question this friendship.
When baby Neil starts to fuss during Charming's celebration, Snow takes him outside to the corridor. She sees someone in the shadows and demands to see their face. It's LANCELOT! Back from the dead! Or maybe he was never dead in the first place? I suppose we'll find out soon. Snow is overjoyed to see that her friend is alive but dismayed to hear his ominous warning. Lancelot tells her that everything is not as it seems in Camelot and that Arthur cannot be trusted. Okay, Lancelot...maybe I don't trust YOU! I don't know anymore but I like this development. It gives a twist to King Arthur and I'm down for that.
The show then soldifies Arthur's new shadiness by showing us that he actually has possession of the Crimson Crown. So, he lied to Charming. Charthur is OVER. This is the worst.
Six weeks later, in Storybrooke, our characters find themselves paralleling many of the adventures they have conveniently forgotten about from Camelot. But first, we find the dwarves (sans Dopey who is still a tree) back in their mine happily working away. The mood quickly changes when Dark Emma pops in and takes Happy's ax. He really shouldn't leave that thing laying around.
Dark Emma then unsuccessfully tries to use the ax to get Excalibur from the stone. I kind of feel like Dark Emma is still holding back from going full on dark. Her sub-conscience Rumple once again reiterates that she needs a hero to pull the sword from the stone. Yet, instead of just going out to find a hero, she tries every other option first. It's like she's trying to avoid the option of manipulating some poor soul until she REALLY has too.
The people she is probably avoiding are still attempting to figure out what it is they were doing in Camelot during those forgotten weeks. While thinking it through, the dwarves burst into the sheriffs station to complain about Dark Emma. This entire series of events is deeply troubling to Charming. He begins to blame himself for being useless during all of this. He believes that it's his duty as a father to help Emma out of the darkness but she won't even speak to him. He also feels as if he has nothing to contribute to the town at this point and Snow very lovingly points out that he is her hero in any world. Adorable.
Rather conveniently, King Arthur shows up and proceeds to give Charming a purpose again. The box containing Camelot's magical relics has been broken into. Inside the box was a magic bean that could transport them all back home and Arthur is desperate to get it back. Is the unquenchable flame gone too? Wouldn't that be easy-ish to track down? Just like in Camelot, Charming is instantly energized and sets off to help Arthur retrieve his stolen goods.
Meanwhile, Hook is still being angsty because his girlfriend is the Dark One. It's a legitimate reason to be angsty. He meets up with Robin at Granny's diner so they can chat about their super awkward love lives. Seriously, Robin is looking at a sonogram of his and Zelena's baby and it's sweet that he is a bit excited but overall...NO. At least he actively recognizes that the situation is SUPER MESSY. So, he has that going for him. It WAS hilarious when he said, "I'm looking at a picture from up inside Zelena" and Hook responds with a, "WOAH, mate!" I like this friendship.
Granny sees the two chatting and brings Hook his order. The thing is, he didn't order anything. Turns out, Dark Emma ordered the food and proceeds to order him to meet her at the Jolly Roger. He begrudgingly goes and the entire scene is super tense.
Dark Emma thinks that they can still be together. She makes herself look like she did on their first date because maybe it'll help encourage Hook to talk to her. She tries to reason that she is still Emma but with less fear and emotional walls around her. She compares herself to Rumple when he was just a coward before becoming the Dark One. Is she trying to convince him that becoming the Dark One was somehow good for Rumple? He found confidence and true love after he turned so therefore it's a good thing?
Hook is rightly suspicious and outright asks her what it is that she is fishing for. He tells her that he was the reason Rumple became the Dark One. That HE was the villain in the situation and simply help set up the events leading to a nice, family-man becoming the Dark One. It all started when he held a sword to Rumple's throat. I like that Hook is finally owning up to this. It's a nice moment of character growth for him.
What is the opposite of a nice moment is when Emma asks him if he loves her anymore. If he says no, she'll leave him be. He looks her right in the eyes and says, "I loved you." THE PAST TENSE IS NOT SUPPOSED TO BE THIS PAINFUL. Whatever, they'll work it out. Anyway, Dark Emma stays true to her word and let's him leave.
Back in Gold's shop, Belle is looking for something to complete a healing potion for Rumple. She needs an object that he touched before he became the Dark One. Oh....oh....the sword that Hook just pointed out on his ship. That's why he told that story. Maybe that's what Emma was fishing for. Maybe I should stop guessing and just let it unfold.
Anyway, Belle can't find anything but she does manage to help Charming and Arthur who are looking to see if any Camelot people recently tried to pawn off some stolen magical relics. Belle says no but before they go, Charming grabs a chalice that is seemingly important. It's apparently leftover from Doc's Doctoberfest. I wish we could have seen that event.
Charming takes the chalice back to the Camelot people and tells them that it is a magical chalice meant to tell if someone is lying. He wants to ask each person if they stole the relics and the chalice will tell if they are lying. Ironically, it is Charming that is lying. The chalice is a ruse but it is a ruse that works. The thief runs after hearing this story and Charming and Arthur follow.
Here's the deal. I am willing to suspend some disbelief for the next scene because it might be one of my favorites. Ever. Charming and Arthur take off in Charming's truck, chasing the thief who is on horseback. The thief's hood falls down and we see that it is one of Arthur's squires! Loyalty is hard to find these days. Anyway, as they chase the squire, Charming asks Arthur to take the wheel as he climbs out the window and into the bed of the truck. HE ASKS ARTHUR TO TAKE THE WHEEL. Arthur has never driven a car. NEVER. How is he driving perfectly at like 45 mph? HAHA.
All of this is okay because Charming manages to get Arthur to circle around to where he is now facing the squire and his horse. Charming lifts up a large piece of wood from the bed of the truck and all of a sudden we have a joust between a truck and a horse. WHAT EVEN. I love it. So Much.
Charming wins the joust and Arthur somehow doesn't kill them with his newfound driving skills. They ask the squire why he stole the goods and he says it's because he feels like he and the other workers are never appreciated and he hates it. He wanted to get back at King Arthur and this was how he chose to do it. They discover that they magic bean was not in the box, however. So, really this seems pointless.
They do however find the Crimson Crown. The one they lost in Camelot. And Charming even recognizes it. Baby steps! Regina also recognizes it from her Camelot notes and now they know that they were trying to communicate with tree-Merlin via magic toadstool.
While they all pat themselves on the back, Arthur visits his recently-jailed squire. Turns out, Arthur is shady in Storybrooke too. He set the whole theft up with the squire. There never was a magic bean. They only wanted to gain the trust of Charming and make him think that they had one. Arthur knows that there is no way back to Camelot and he is pissed that the Storybrooke people brought the Dark One into his kingdom in the first place. He then asks the squire to drink poison because he knows that these people will eventually find ways to get the truth from him. The squire takes one for Team Camelot and does as he is asked.
Arthur's not trying to be a super villain. He's just trying to do what he thinks is best for his Kingdom and that is to make Storybrooke the new Camelot. Arthur only seems villainy because his perceived destiny is shrouded in selfish intent. But honestly, our Storybrooke gang did kind of ruin everything for the people of Camelot. But he was also kind of shady before the were transported back to our realm? Who are you, King Arthur!?
Realizing that his relationship is in fail mode, Hook once again goes to Robin for some guy talk. Or really, he tells Robin that he needs a thief because he wants to break into whatever Dark Emma is hiding behind that secret door in her house. Forget Charthur. They are dead to me. CaptainHood is now my number one.
Belle is also in Granny's and as she gets her usual lunch special, she notices that the flower she has been toting around is fully intact. That means that Rumple is alive. In sheer joy she runs back to his shop but discovers that he is gone.
Dark Emma is in her cave with the still comatose Rumple. She takes out the sword that she swiped from Hook's ship. The sword that he used on Rumple before Rumple turned into the Dark One. With that, she is able to fully heal Rumple (or I guess Gold) and wake him up.
Now that Rumple is no longer the Dark One he is also not a hero. He is in between and that somehow makes him a blank slate. So, Dark Emma is planning to make Rumple into something he has never been before: a hero. The purest hero around. Then, he can pull Excalibur from the stone. I honestly just figured she could get Henry to do it. Wouldn't he qualify? Oh well. Dark Emma can do what she wants.
Side note: At the end of the episode sub-conscience Rumple sees Emma with Hook's sword and says that she must have crushed Hook's heart more. MORE. Did I hear that right? Am I questioning this line too much? Is it only a metaphor because she crushed his heart when he "lost" the woman he loved. Or did something happen in Camelot that we don't know about? They got back to Storybrooke seemingly via a curse. Those require hearts of the one you love most. If she crushed his heart in Camelot to make this curse, Imma flip some tables. I will only accept it if she inevitably saves herself and his heart through the biggest friggin' true loves kiss the world has ever seen. If not, Dark Emma can just crush my heart too because I'll be done.