In which we meet a new villain with an ax to grind -- and, eventually, a hook for a hand

By Hillary Busis
April 30, 2015 at 08:53 PM EDT
Jack Rowand/ABC
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Admit it: You let out a little squeal of glee when that pirate ship came lurching out of the shadows during tonight’s title card. A guyliner-festooned Captain Hook just has that effect on people. What else can explain how the pirate garnered a die-hard fan base of “hookers” weeks before he officially appeared on Once? (Word to the wise: Do not Google “once upon a time hookers” unless you’re prepared to deal with the consequences.)

Happily, the captain’s debut lived up to admittedly high expectations. It’s a good thing Colin O’Donoghue was made a series regular earlier this month; something tells me Once‘s fangirls have finally found a dude to fill the Sheriff Skinnyjeans-sized hole in their hearts. Granted, that hole is pretty small, since his jeans were pretty skinny.

But before we discuss Hook — a.k.a. the Hottie of the High Seas — we should turn our attention to poor Belle, who can add “nightmares about boyfriend murdering dwarfs” to her already long list of troubles. After jerking awake, she discovers that while she was sleeping, Rumpelstiltskin has been up to his old tricks — specifically, spinning golden thread and using the result to make potions. He’s hiding the magical equivalent of a meth lab in his basement. Before breakfast, Belle confronts Rump about what she saw, and the imp gives his version of the classic Addict’s Denial Speech: “It was just a couple of spells! What’s the big deal? I can stop anytime I want to; I just don’t want to.” Belle, this is your beau’s brain on magic. Any questions?

Several years before his transformation into the Dark One, Fairyback Rump is having lady problems of his own. His wife, raven-haired Milah, is disgusted by her husband’s cowardice — he had the nerve not to fight and die gloriously during the last last Ogre War. Milah’s dealing with her feelings by drowning her sorrows at a local tavern — the Poison Apple? — playing dice and flirting with a certain handsome stranger before Rumpelstiltskin sheepishly appears to bring her home.

But Milah doesn’t stay at Rump’s Sadness Cottage for long. The next morning, the spinner receives word that the pirates who came to town last night are headed off — with Milah in tow. Rump screws up what little courage he has and heads to the ship, where he and the audience are formally introduced to Milah’s drinking buddy: Killian Jones, a man of wealth and taste. Though he, too, looks down his impeccably shaped nose at Rump, Killian considers himself a man of honor. So he’s willing to give the guy his wife back — provided Rump can beat him in a duel. Naturally, Original Recipe Rump is too scared to pick up a sword, let alone aim it at the charismatic captain. Maybe he should have tried invoking parley, or at least parsnip.

NEXT: Game of Thorns: A Song of Dads and Flowers

In Storybrooke, Rumpelstiltskin comes home to find that Belle is gone — and her father, the town’s resident florist (Game of Thorns — hee!) hasn’t seen her either. Neither man knows that the girl in question is actually downing glass after glass of iced tea at Granny’s while fretting about her future. Having sniffed out Belle’s despair, Red asks if she’s okay, then offers to give her new friend a room at Granny’s. She also gives Belle a hot job tip: Storybrooke’s library has been conveniently closed for an indeterminate amount of time, but bookish Belle might be able to work there as a librarian. Without any training, because being a librarian is totally easy. Still: Hooray for Once finally remembering to give Belle back her most distinctive character trait! Unfortunately, she’s kidnapped by a little goober in a red hat before she can realize her bibliophilic ambitions.

Said goober also pops up in Fairy Land, where he tells a now magical Rumpelstiltskin that he knows where the Dark One can find a bean capable of transporting him to another world. In exchange, Goob wants eternal life. After some light Darth Vader-style strangulation, Rump offers to give Goob his youth back… provided he can deliver on the bean. All thoughts of enchanted legumes suddenly fly out of the Dark One’s mind when he looks up and sees who has just walked into the tavern: Killian Jones himself, complete with an entourage of yes-man buccaneers. Suddenly, Rump is feeling thirsty… for REVENGE!

The imp picks a fight with the captain and his cronies as they’re leaving the bar. Killian laughs at Rump at first, calling him a gutter rat, then changing his mind: “You look more like a crocodile.” But when Rump reveals his true nature, the laughter ceases. Though Killian claims that Milah died a long time ago, the imp still wants his vengeance — he orders Killian to duel him at dawn, or he’ll gut his entire crew “like-a de fish.” What is up with the ridiculous faux-Italian accent Rump just used? Who cares; it was awesome. Hey Rump, do “Les Poissons” next!

Meanwhile, Belle realizes that she’s trapped in a Lifetime movie — her own father was behind her kidnapping. At first, she’s elated to see dear old Dad; they were separated even before the curse, due to Maurice’s deal with Rumpelstiltskin and Regina’s subsequent abduction. Their reunion takes a slightly bittersweet turn when Maurice tries to forbid her from seeing Rumpelstiltskin. It gets full-on crazypants when Maurice has Goob take Belle to the mines below the town, handcuff her to a cart, and send her sailing straight toward Storybrooke’s town limits — because memory erasing is the new grounding.

Luckily, Rump manages to save Belle from going over the border just in the nick of time, thanks to Red’s wolfish tracking skills and Charming’s built biceps. Wait, sorry — I got distracted. Anyway, Belle dismounts Mr. Maurice’s Wild Ride and delivers a variation on Princess Jasmine’s “I am not a prize to be won!” speech. The gist: Dad and Boyfriend are both crazy control freaks, and she doesn’t want to see either of them ever again. You go, girl! Get back some of the spine you left behind in 1991!

NEXT: Daring sword fights! No prince in disguise.

Fairyback: Rump and Killian begin their sword fight to the death. It seems like the captain will lose his appendage any moment– I keep expecting  a Princess Bride-style “I am not left-handed!” “Well, now you’re no-handed!” dialogue exchange. But Killian makes it through the fight in one piece, thanks to Milah — who, as it turns out, is very much alive. Rump’s ex-wife explains that she fell in love with the captain that night in the tavern — and she offers to give Rump the magic bean in exchange for him not killing her or her pirate paramour.

Milah leads the Dark One to Killian’s ship, which contains a bound-up Goob and, yes, a tiny, glassy bean. A bean! A special bean! Milah tosses the seed to Killian, then asks whether she and Rump can go their separate ways. Alas, her old spouse isn’t prepared to let her go quite that easily — and when his badgering about her leaving Baelfire drives Milah to hiss that she never loved Rumpelstiltskin in the first place, he reaches into her chest and straight up rips out her heart. Oh, so that‘s where Regina learned that neat party trick. For good measure, Rump also cuts off Killian’s left fist — the hand that’s still clutching that all-important bean.

Except… it isn’t. Killian tricked Rumpelstiltskin; he had the bean in his other mitt all along. And now he’s going to use it to travel to a land where he’ll never age, the perfect spot to lie low for a few hundred years and plan his revenge on Rumpelstiltskin: Never Land. So, with Goob in tow — the guy’s name, we all now know, is actually Smee, but I really like Goob — the behanded captain squints his kohl-rimmed eyes and commands his crew to sail on to a world of pixies, mermaids, and racially insensitive depictions of Native American tribes. Yo ho ho ho, a pirate’s life for he!

After living through that underground ordeal, Belle is rewarded with a gigantic breakfast — and a key to Storybrooke’s mysteriously closed library. When she enters the building, it’s just like that scene in Beauty and the Beast… especially when Rumpelstiltskin appears, quoting John Lubbock and finally sharing his feelings. “I am a coward,” he tells Belle. “I have been my entire life. I tried to make up for it by collecting power, and the power became so important that I couldn’t let go. Not even when hat meant losing the most important person in my life.” He’s referring to Baelfire, but Belle knows he’s really talking about her as well. As he turns to go, Belle softens and calls after him, asking if he’d like to get a burger with her at Granny’s sometime. What, she got tired of peanut butter?

Ah, but perhaps it’s a good thing that Belle didn’t take Rump back right away. Within his magical meth lab, he’s also storing a tied-up Smee — indicating that the Dark One isn’t really ready to turn over a new leaf. The pirate swears that he doesn’t know where his captain is, and claims that Hook must have been left behind in Fairy Land when the curse struck. A likely story…

NEXT: A villain summit, and a scattering of Breadcrumbs

… one that turns out to be 100% true. (So when and how did the captain get from Never Land to Fairy Land? Eh, I guess it’ll all be explained in good time.) In present-day FL, Hook meets with none other than Cora, who shows him a jar filled with her newest glowing acquisition. “Sparkly dirt. Wonderful,” Killian deadpans. He gets a little more interested when Cora explains that it’s the remains of a magical wardrobe — and while this dust can’t get them all the way to Storybrooke, it’s a  start. “Excellent,” says Hook. He can’t wait to come to our world — because somewhere, through  the portal, lies a certain crocodile he can’t wait to skin.

Breadcrumbs:

– Raise your hand if when Rump gave Belle that necklace during her dream, you were expecting her to say she wanted him to draw her wearing this — wearing only this.

– A note for timeline hounds: Robert Carlyle told EW that Rumpelstiltskin is 300 years old. Let’s hope Bae found his way to Never Land, or through a portal that dumped him in ’80s-era Real World.

– Oh, speaking of: Did you guys read our awesome Once cover story?

– Among the film credits of Rachel Shelley (Milah) is a movie called Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India.

– Note how when Rump is serving Milah tea, he does so in an un-chipped cup. This is not the cup of Twue Wuv!

– The captain, telling Rumpelstitlskin how to fence: “It’s quite simple, really. The pointy end goes in the other guy.” Did he get lessons from Arya Stark or what?

– My actual notes, from that scene where we see Grumpy and co. looking for fairy dust in the mines: “Hey, who’s that hot dwarf? Oh, it’s Charming!” Good to see that he’s basically given up on getting Henry to go to school.

– If Belle had seen The Princess Bride, she would have known not to fall for Smee’s “Is anyone coming to meet you?” ruse.

– Storybrooke characters, why must you insist on occasionally calling yourselves by your fake names?

– When Rump asks Charming for dating advice — hilarious/weird! — Charming sighs, then answers, “Honesty. That’s how [Mary Margaret and I] did it.” Um… was that before or after you were cheating on your wife with her?

– Red’s wolfy senses are tingling! Does that mean she’s in for a transformation when the next full moon hits?

And speaking of spooooky things: Next week’s Halloween-ready episode will apparently reveal that Dr. Whale is, in fact, Dr. Victor Frankenstein, and that he once attempted to bring Regina’s beloved Daniel back to life. Should Dr. Frankenstein count as a storybook character in the same way that the Mad Hatter or Pinocchio does? More pressingly — how did you like Captain Hook’s big debut?

Hillary on Twitter

Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.
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