The following things happened tonight on Once Upon a Time, a Disney-approved program about fairy tale characters that airs during the family-friendly 8 p.m. hour:
– A bunch of pirates bought their captain a night with a very friendly prostitute.
– A mermaid held a knife to that captain’s throat, then dared him to kill her once he turned the tables.
– The captain murdered a man in cold blood by pushing him off a ship and into a school of hungry sharks.
– A 12-year-old drove a truck, causing major property damage; the local sherif, who has absolutely no training in the field of law enforcement, simply laughed it off.
– A wicked witch threatened mass murder.
– This sentence: “The number of spells involving baby parts would surprise you.”
– Oh, and this one: “The only thing soft will be your guts, spilling on this deck!”
The takeaway: When it’s a Captain Hook episode, maybe plop the kids in front of Liv and Maddie instead.
For the rest of us, “The Jolly Roger” was an appropriately exciting hour of television — complete with the sort of confounding, frustrating final twist that Once should consider having trademarked. All that, plus the return of JoAnna Garcia Swisher’s delightfully daffy Ariel? Batten down the hatches; we’ve got a lot of recappin’ to do.
As you can tell from the list above, tonight’s Once was all about Hook — or Killian, as more than one member of the Charming family has taken to calling him. Let’s begin with our fairyback, which checks in on Hook during everyone else’s lost year in the Enchanted Forest. All things considered, he’s having a gay old time stealing treasure, further corroding his liver, and gallantly turning down Ye Olde Escorte Service. (Major missed opportunity: At no point does a pirate point to the hooker and yell, “Yo, ho!”) Evidently, in this millieu, one needn’t have a ship to be a pirate — though if we’re going to split hairs, what Hook’s fallen into seems more like good, old-fashioned thievery. (Maybe he also sells sketchy DVDs of new releases or something?)
Anyhow, everything changes for Hook when he’s assaulted by history’s greatest fork enthusiast: none other than Little Mermaid/Regular Person Ariel, who thinks the captain has something to do with the disappearance of her Prince Eric. (Eric always needs rescuing! Ariel totally wears the breeches in this relationship.) This is one crime that Hook can’t take credit for… until he learns 1. that Eric is being held captive on his old ship, the Jolly Roger, and 2. that the vessel has fallen into the hands of the dastardly buccaneer Blackbeard. Spoiler: Blackbeard is not played by John Malkovich.
NEXT: Black is the color of my true love’s soul patch