We learn that Belle is more than just a pretty face -- as is Hook
Credit: Jack Rowand/ABC

I think we can all agree that this was a pretty stupendous episode — and I’m not just talking about Belle’s wardrobe.

We begin at Storybrooke’s edge with Gold pulling a frightened Smee out of his trunk. Gold’s got a new spell that he thinks will allow people to leave Storybrooke and still remember who they are. Just pour the potion over the object that person holds most dear — for Smee, it’s his red hat, of course — and presto! Their memory remains intact. Gold pushes Smee, and he still remembers his name, as well as all, like, seven hundred of Rumple’s names. Success!

While the town mourns the alleged death of Archie Hopper, Hook questions a tied up Archie. What’s Gold’s biggest weakness?

Why, that would be beautiful Belle — whose lipstick color I have to find — whom we next see hurriedly walking into Rumpel’s shop. Rumpel tells her that he figured out how to leave Storybrooke. His dearest object is Baelfire’s shawl — who else appreciated how many times different characters had to say “shawl” tonight? — and he’s ready to go find his son. Unfortunately, he only has enough potion for one object, so Belle can’t come with him.

Next we cut to the best flashback story we’ve seen in a long time, in my humble opinion. Our beautiful Belle is drinking in a grimy bar and hears talk of adventure. There’s a creature named Yaoguai that has been terrorizing a far away kingdom (which we’ll assume is China) who no man has been able to kill (Um…). Belle looks on dreamily. In steps Grumpy, still known as Dreamy, since he’s in the pre-sadness part of his timeline. He tells her to sally forth — it’s worth the adventure. He also gives Belle some fairy dust (remember that!).

In present day Storybrooke, Belle goes to check on her books in the library. There she finds Hook, probably not really reading a book, but holding one at least. She quickly realizes that he’s the guy who broke into her cell at the queen’s palace. He comes after her, but she pushes a cart of books on him and hides in the elevator. She calls Rumpel for help, but he can’t quite make out what she’s saying. I bet cell reception isn’t this bad in fairytale land.

NEXT: Belle confronts the Yaoguia

Speaking of fairytale land: Flashback Belle tells her travel companions she’s figured out from her book that the best place to find the Yaoguai is by a lake. The punks promptly kick her out of the wagon. She gives a wry grin as the gang of annoying male adventurers head off to the lake. JK, Yaoguais like to hang out in mountain habitats, suckas!

Believing/hoping that the Yaoguai is sleeping, Belle approaches his cave. She accidentally steps on a stick and awakens the creature, who is in full-on rage mode. Luckily, a warrior steps in to fire an arrow and scare off the beast (or… well you’ll see). Duh, it’s Mulan. It’s good to see that Mulan has the same pleasant personality with everyone she meets; she instantly berates Belle for destroying her hunt and tells her to stay out of her way.

In the present day at Archie’s wake, Henry’s too depressed to eat a Pop-Tart and the dwarfs are wondering when everyone gets to go home to the Enchanted Forest. You see, after Regina just straight up killed Archie (allegedly), no one is feeling safe. Plus, everyone’s worried that a stranger could come to town and be a little befuddled by a girl who turns into a wolf or, you know, people who traffic in fairy dust. Grumpy then delivers my favorite line ever: “That doesn’t change the fact that while we might enjoy things like penicillin, we’re a bit homesick.” YES!!! Penicillin is the number one thing I say when defending modern culture — I mean, I could say iPhones, but that would make me sound like a jerk.

Despite the botched cell signal, Rumpel rescues Belle. Needless to say, he’s none too pleased about Hook coming into town and trying to destroy the thing he loves most (besides that shawl). Belle tries to talk Rumple out of doing something he’ll regret. He’s so close to going after his son — why let some crummy pirate mess it up? Rumple tells an abridged version of his history with Hook, but leaves out the very important “I killed my ex-wife by ripping out her heart” detail.

Rumpel and Belle walk into his shop to find it torn apart, the shawl gone! GONE! Hook attacked Belle so that Rumpel would leave the shawl unattended. Wait, is there a reason that Archie would have known about that shawl? Am I missing something? Rumpel smashes a model ship (it’s symbolic!), cursing that darn pirate. He’s going to get back what’s his and he wants Belle out of the way. He gives her a gun — would that he wouldn’t have! Doesn’t he know his Chekhov?

Back in flashback land those two punks who pushed Belle off the wagon are upset that she led them on a useless journey. One holds her over a well, but Mulan comes in to save the day. Once again, people inexplicably can’t tell that Mulan is a woman, even though she has such a feminine frame. No matter, I can link to this clip again.

Mulan’s ready to team up. Belle will track the beast. Mulan will kill it. Let’s just hope that leg injury that they both make a big deal about doesn’t stop her from doing so…

NEXT: Belle, the detective

In the present day, Belle is cleaning up the mess of books in the library and finds a knot. She references it with a book in her library and figures out that Hook brought his ship to Storybrooke. If only it were a nautical-themed pashmina afghan that she found! Usually, I’d snark here about how unwise it is for any character to ever go off alone without telling anybody where she’s going and what new information she found out. However, I’m so impressed with the way Belle handles herself throughout this episode that I believe she knows that she could hold her own against anything.

At the dock, Belle does some amazing detective work and discovers that the boat is invisible. She throws some sand and finds the stairs. Stepping onto the ship, she looks around, fearlessly. While she’s doing this, Rumpel is using the force/ threatening Smee to find out where the shawl is. He then turns Scmee into a rat. (But that hat stays the same! The greatest injustice!)

Meanwhile, Belle continues to fearlessly explore the ship. She finds Archie and grabs a sword to free him from his restraints. The number of times I typed “BELLE IS AWESOME” into my notes this episode is probably unhealthy. Belle tells Archie to go and tell Gold where she is. SO AWESOME!

Elsewhere in Storybrooke, Henry’s been calling Archie’s office and just generally dealing with his grief in his own way. Emma tries to help by bringing Pongo to stay with the whole team. However, the dog also prompts Snow to say that maybe they need to find a bigger place. Like a castle. Or like, a nice four bedroom.

Later, Snow and Charming look at house listings at Granny’s. But Charming isn’t too into it. He has decided he wants to go back to the Enchanted Forest too. He wants to fight. “I’m tired of fighting,” says an exasperated Snow. One of the most striking scenes this season was when Snow saw Emma’s crib and her chin trembled just a little at the thought of the life she never got to have.

Back to Belle. She finds a chest, thinking it has the shawl in it. She opens it up — and is somehow disappointed to find a bunch of gold instead. “Looking for this?” asks Hook. They both reach for the gun, but Hook gets it and points it at her face.

In flashback land, that leg injury has proven to be a thing, and Mulan is sending Belle to fight the Yaoguai instead. People used to think Mulan wasn’t a warrior, but she proved them wrong and so can Belle. Once you find something worth fighting for, you have to fight for it. Wow, you really don’t meet a girl like this every dynasty.

NEXT: Belle and Hook face off

Back in present day, Belle tells Hook she’s not afraid of him. Hook plays this scene very sexually, but Belle stands her ground. Was anyone else a little put off by Hook pointing with the gun in this scene? Anyway, Hook tells Belle that Rumpel was the one who killed his wife. But she still stands by her man, saying that she still believes there is good in him. His heart is true. Not so for Hook, whom she bests, knocking him over with an oar on the ceiling. BELLE!!!!

Belle tries to escape the ship, but Hook knows his way around a boat — if you know what I mean — and he catches up to her. Luckily, Archie did his job and Rumpel is there too. Hook calls him a coward with a limp, which prompts Rumpel to start beating Hook mercilessly with his cane. Wonderful Belle is able to convince Rumpel not to kill Hook. She still sees the good in Rumpel, after all. Rumpel warns Hook to get out of town.

Back in fairytale world, Belle confronts the Yaoguai. She lures the creature into a trap and douses it with water. As we watch the sad creature struggling, no one wants to see it killed. But Belle notices that it’s spelling “save me” in the ground. She sprinkles fairy dust on the creature. Voila: It’s actually Prince Phillip. Darn that Maleficent!

We get to see Mulan and Phillip’s meet cute (though I will still ship Aurora and Mulan forever after). Belle is going back to Rumpel. But the celebration is cut short when Regina — girl, where have you been — confronts Belle in the woods and kidnaps her.

In present day, Henry is drawing his plans for the apartment if Snow and Charming move out. He wants an armory so that he and Emma can be protected from Regina. Man, this kid needs a good therapist. Oh wait, who’s that knocking at the door? Archie’s back! Regina didn’t do it. Well, this is going to be awkward next week.

Throughout this episode, Belle kicked butt as an awesome warrior — but she did it on her own terms, by using her wits and her kindness to solve all of her problems. That’s what makes this ending completely devastating. Rumpel puts the potion on his shawl and crosses the city limit line. He smiles warmly at Belle. He’s off to find his son, and he knows she’ll be there when he returns… but not if Hook has anything to say about it. The pirate shoots Belle and she falls across the dividing line. She’ll live — but she won’t remember who she is. Now that we’ve seen how powerful Belle can be, how can we watch her become helpless again?

Rumpel is going to make Hook suffer. He conjures up a fireball. But before he can throw it, a car driven by a mysterious stranger comes bounding into town, hitting Hook. We see a Pennsylvania license plate: “2KFL 138.” Horowitz and Kitsis, you sly dogs! What do we think it means? Let me know your guesses in the comments.

Episode Recaps

Once Upon a Time

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

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