This episode began how every dream of mine begins, with Hook bursting through a door looking all dashing and beautiful. He and Charming clear a path in Camelot's dungeons so Merlin can come strutting though. Coincidently, this is also a dream of mine.
The group makes their way to Lancelot's cell where the imprisoned knight is clearly glad to see Merlin. Across the dungeon, Merida is equally as glad to see the group and demands her own rescue. Merlin has a slight problem with the magic lacing the prison bars. Belle quickly comes to his aid and the wizard praises her cleverness.
Merida is also impressed with Belle's ability to decipher the spells enclosed in her magic book. She's so impressed she decides to get Belle away from the rest of the group, smash a rock over her head and kidnap her. This is like when a superfan goes too far to be near the person they fangirl over.
Merida needs Belle to help her rescue her brothers and reclaim her rightful crown. Belle knows how to use magic and Merida believes that her best option is to magic the crap out of the clansmen trying to overthrow her rule. The clans want Merida to marry one of three men in order to keep her crown. Merida knows that she doesn't need a man to be the epic Queen that we all know she can be.
Belle believes in Merida because, let's be real, Belle believes in EVERYONE. Even her former-Dark One and probably still cray husband. But Belle doesn't think Merida needs magic to prove herself. She believes that Merida can prove her ability to lead her people by her own merit and that that will have a greater impact on her rule than magic ever will. But magic is SO cool, Belle. Wouldn't the clansmen be super impressed? I would.
She still helps Merida "nip" inside a vacant witch's house to whip up a potion to help change Merida's brothers' fates. Changing someone's fate seems to always mess up someone else's life, so YAY.
The duo find the clansmen and see that they have Merida's brother's tied up for execution. Belle once again pleads that Merida find a way without magic but Merida is insistent. She tells Belle that her people were attacked by rival groups. A knight approached her father for the kill and Merida lined up her shot to take him out. She missed and her father was murdered. Merida lost both her father and the trust of her clan that day. She also lost her confidence. This is why she believes that she needs magic.
Belle finally relents and gives her the potion. Merida approaches the clan and threatens them. She drinks the potion but nothing happens. Belle then confesses that she switched the potion with water.
The clansmen basically scoff at Merida's antics and shoot three arrows at the brothers. Merida either finds her confidence or just goes for broke and shoots her own arrow. It manages to pierce through all three and she saves her brothers. The clansmen are impressed and they should be. Even the most reluctant of them bow to her awesomeness and apparently reinstate her as Queen.
Over in Granny's diner, Merlin eyes some Apollo chocolate bars. Emma has deja vu while watching him and realizes that he is the theater usher that gave her an ominous warning when she was a wee lass.
Merlin implores that she heed that warning now more than ever. Do not mess with excalibur. C'mon, Merlin. Don't tell Emma not to do something. She's probably going to do it.
Regina, Hook, Belle and the Charmings are trying to figure out how to communicate with Merlin now that they are back in Storybrooke. Regina whips up a potion using the Crimson Crown magic toadstool because it can open up a communication portal. They need someone Merlin has "chosen" in order to reach him, though. They decide to ask Arthur, who they still believe is trustworthy at this point.
Belle is irked and tells them that they should find Rumple and have him help instead. Kill two birds with one stone, right Belle? The others note that Rumple is the reason the curse was released and that Emma had to turn into the Dark One in the first place. Belle shoots back that both Rumple and Emma are to blame. Um? Because Emma is embracing the darkness? Belle, you're cool and all but no. Emma was essentially forced to take this on in order to protect the ones she loves. Rumple forced her hand even if it was unintentional.
In the forest, Rumple reluctantly breaks Belle's teacup in order to cut through his binding. He's gone when Merida brings Dark Emma to the site. Dark Emma is mad but realizes that Rumple will still fight for Belle. So, she commands Merida to kill Belle in order to force Rumple to perform a heroic act.
Belle randomly finds Rumple in the library elevator shaft. He is on edge but thanks her for giving him the will to live while he was in his coma. The two deduce that Dark Emma will come after Belle and that they need to get to Gold's shop in order to better protect themselves.
Merida finds them at the shop and fires a few arrows at Belle. Belle and Rumple narrowly escape when Belle pulls the rug out from under Merida and knocks her out. She's not just a bookworm, guys.
Rumple decides that their best option is to leave town altogether. Belle gets super pissed and demands that he stops. She believes that they cannot leave the people they care about behind. Rumple stops after Belle tries to open her door while the car is still moving. Rumple tells her that he cannot be a hero. She throws back that he's been one before.
That's when Rumple comes clean about his time in the Ogre Wars. Instead of being injured on the battlefield, he injured his own leg in order to get out of the war altogether. He is simply a coward. Belle leaves him and heads off on her own. That's probably a good idea.
Merida intercepts Belle on the road. She drinks a potion that turns her into a BEAR. A fairly decent CGI bear, I might add. This is why you have a buddy system, Belle.
Bear-Merida chases Belle through the forest and almost has her when Rumple shows up and provides a distraction. Bear-Merida swipes Rumple to the ground but Rumple is a quick thinker and throws some magic powder he had from his shop into Bear-Merida's mouth. This turns her back into a human and saves them from being mauled.
Belle thanks him for saving her but Rumple tells her that it was she that saved him. Look at this guy becoming a hero. I don't know how I feel about that yet.
Belle and Rumple take Merida back to Dark Emma's cave. Rumple agrees to pull Excalibur from the stone only if Dark Emma gives Merida back her heart and helps her find her brothers. This is perhaps the most heroic thing that Rumple has done in a while. Putting someone he has literally no feelings toward first. I can get on that character-redeeming train.
Rumple is able to pull Excalibur from the stone, but not before apologizing to Belle and telling her that he should have always strived to be the man that she deserves. Cute. Before he walks away, he tells Dark Emma that it was a mistake turning him into a hero. She says that the heroes haven't been able to stop her thus far but Rumple throws back that she has yet to deal with him. Be a morally gray hero, Rumple! that makes more sense to me anyway.
Meanwhile, the rest of our cast regulars are inviting Arthur to their Crimson Crown party. Arthur asks for some privacy because he'd rather reconnect with Merlin one-on-one. When the others leave, though, Arthur throws the toadstool into the fire and then tells the group that the spell didn't work.
Luckily, the group is suspicious. They FINALLY confirm that Arthur is shady when Charming finds a burned, but not gone, Crimson Crown toadstool. They use it to make another spell. Regina is a quick thinker and realizes that Merlin "chose" Henry to be the Author last season so Henry is able to speak with Merlin through the Crimson Crown.
What they find is less than inspiring however. Merlin is unavailable but has left a message. He is clearly frightened when he tells them that they need to find Nimue. Well, okay. Before he can give any more helpful information he hears a knock and ends the message saying that she already found him.
Hook realizes that the "she" is Emma and wonders aloud what the hell she did to Merlin. Hook is speaking for all of us. EMMA. WHAT DID YOU DO TO THAT PRECIOUS WIZARD?