Once Upon a Time recap: 'The Apprentice'
Both Anna and Hook learn, once more, that it's never a good idea to make a deal with Rumpelstiltskin.
Raise your hand—cursed or uncursed, either works—if you’re unable to focus on anything that happened tonight besides the spectacle of Captain Killian Jones in 21st-century street clothes. (Think he and Ichabod Crane went shopping at the same store—Modern-Day Accoutrements for the 200-Plus-Year-Old Gentleman?)
If you spent the rest of the hour swooning, though, you may have missed out on the explication of a few crucial plot points. As its name implies, “The Apprentice” focused on revealing why, exactly, Rumpelstiltskin was so tickled to discover that Sorcerer’s hat in the house where he and Belle honeymooned in season 4’s premiere. As it turns out, the object is more than just a groovily decorated cap—it’s also an artifact of immense power that could have enormous implications for the rest of our heroes. Well, that, or it’s just another magical doohickey that seems important for awhile until it disappears from the narrative without a trace. On this show, anything’s possible!
Before we get to the hat, though, let’s focus on the figure name-checked in the episode’s title: the Sorcerer’s Apprentice himself, an old, wizardly dude we meet in the hour’s cold open. He fights off a cloaked figure referred to as “the Dark One,” leading us to believe that he’s tangling with Rumpel—only for his assailant to reveal himself as Zoso, the guy who had the Dark One gig before Rump. Seems that everyone who’s ever been covered in those glittery scales has visited the Apprentice in an attempt to wrest control of the bamboo steamer box that contains the Sorcerer’s hat; all of them, however, have failed to achieve their goal.
Why? Because the Sorcerer, whoever he was, put an enchantment on the box that protects its contents from anyone who’s ever succumbed to the darkness in his or her heart—which, logically, would rule out anyone who, say, goes by “The Dark One.” But that spell wouldn’t protect against a sunny, fresh-faced teen who still wears her hair in braided pigtails.
Which is why the Rumpel of the Past is practically licking his lips when Anna of Arendelle shows up in his study, searching for answers about her parents. In two shakes of a reindeer’s tail, he’s convinced her to make a deal with him: He’ll tell her why the King and Queen came to the Enchanted Forest if she’ll pour a vial of mysterious liquid into a random hermit’s tea. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?
Yeah, not so much. Anna heads to the house Rumpel told her about. It is, of course, a hut belonging to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice—who’s probably never advanced past the probationary stage of sorcerer-hood because he’s too damn trusting. The Apprentice quickly welcomes Anna into his home, offering her tea and biscuits and conversation. I’m shocked he doesn’t break out the espresso, too. But though Anna’s poised over his teakettle, vial in hand (Doesn’t this guy have magic powers? Is basic perception not part of the package?), she can’t go through with her end of the deal. And naturally, that’s just what Rumpelstiltskin’s been banking on the whole time. When Anna gets back to his Evil Manse, the Dark One reveals that she was actually carrying the antidote to a poison—one Rumpel himself had given the Apprentice a day earlier. (Again, without the Apprentice noticing? This guy deserved to be held back.)
NEXT: Mickey, is that you?
And that’s how Anna helped kill the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Actually, strike that—the “poison” wasn’t poison-poison so much as a potion that transformed the Apprentice into a cute little mouse. Appropriate. (Is this the closest Once will ever get to making Mickey Mouse a flesh-and-blood character? If so, I’m down; it’s a clever nod to this story’s source material, and much less jarring than a human Mickey would have been.)
Anna’s horrified at what she’s accidentally done, furious at Rump for tricking her and sneering that she never should have left her sister—so much so that she picks up a sword. For a tense moment or two, Anna considers jabbing the blade into the Dark One’s chest. (That’s one way to end a deal.) She doesn’t go through with it, of course—and when Anna collapses and cries, aghast at the rage that almost drove her to murder, Rumpel captures one of her tears on his dagger. Now he’s got everything he needs to get the Dumpling Basket of Doom.
Ahh, but not so fast: There’s a third-act twist when Rumpel reemerges with the hat’s vessel. Anna asks him to fulfill his end of the deal; he confirms her worst fears, saying that Elsa and Anna’s parents did come to him looking for a way to get rid of Elsa’s abilities. They didn’t get what they came for, though—because the only object with that sort of power is currently in Rumpelstiltskin’s hands. Turns out the hat is a kind of felt Rogue: It’s enchanted to suck up magical powers. And once it’s got enough magic stored up, the Dark One can use it to break free of his chains—namely, the dagger—without losing his own abilities.
Rumpel reveals all this to Anna… then briefly, crucially drops his dagger when Mickey leaps down from the hut’s rafters and nips his hand. Anna takes this opportunity to grab the knife, using it to command that he a) send her and the hat back to Arendelle, b) never hurt her or her sister, and c) turn the mouse back into a man. Fuming, Rump complies—though since Anna didn’t specify that he had to transport the dagger to Arendelle as well, he gets control of it again as soon as she disappears.
All of this information will be very important in a moment. But first, an interlude: Emma and Hook are going on a date! To Tony’s Town Square Restaurant!!
Big deal #1: Emma is the one who asks Hook out, not vice versa. Big deal #2: Hook decides that he needs a special accessory for the big night—namely, his currently detached left hand. Why? Because he wants to be able to hold Emma properly, of course. Awww.
Luckily, severed pirate extremities are exactly the sort of thing Rumpel has lying around in his pawn shop. Hook blackmails his old adversary into reattaching the hand, even though the Dark One warns him that it’s a mistake—the hand, he explains, belongs to the man Hook once was, not the reformed antihero he’s become. Because Hook’s never seen The Hands of Orlac or even Idle Hands—this is why Netflix is important, people!—he tells Rumpel to go forward with the (surprisingly quick) magical surgery anyway.
NEXT: Yeah, bad call.
As you can probably guess, the rehandification turns out to be a mistake. Hook and Emma both look lovely as they head to Storybrooke’s other restaurant (didja know there were two?), but the pirate’s sinister appendage is a five-fingered font of rage. It almost drives Hook to attack Will Scarlet when the Knave literally bumps into the couple at dinner; it’s getting uncomfortably close to Emma’s neck when they kiss at the end of the night. And when Hook runs into Will again on the streets of Storybrooke, he finally snaps, giving the ex-Merry Man a mean black eye.
That’s about when Hook decides he’s had enough of being even-handed. He ambushes Rumpel, asking for an emergency handectomy; Rumpel agrees, but only if Hook will do him a favor in return. Which is how the pirate finds himself with his old enemy the next morning, following a sentient broom (you knew it was coming) to the spot where the Sorcerer’s Apprentice has apparently been hiding.
Hook holds the old man back as Rumpelstiltskin prepares to do his dirty work. The box comes out; the hat is conjured; the Apprentice’s magic is summarily sucked away, as though he were receiving a Dementor’s kiss. Hook’s done enough to get his offending hand safely removed—but as Rumpel summarily informs him, the Dark One has no intention of letting the pirate out of his service. If Hook tries to ruin his relationship with Belle by telling her the truth about Rumpel’s dagger deception, Rumpel will go ahead and tell Emma that Hook has resorted to his old, dastardly ways… and Hook won’t be able to use the cursed hand as an excuse because, according to Rumpel, the damn thing was never cursed in the first place. All along, Hook’s actions have been his own; there’s still a darkness within him, threatening to breach the surface at any moment. The two of them are now in business together, Rumpel smugly informs the pirate. Looks like a new sorcerer has gained a new apprentice.
Actually, make that two: The episode ends with Henry coming to his paternal grandfather and asking for an after-school job in the pawn shop. His real mission: To figure out whether Rumpel knows who wrote the story book that Regina’s still fixated on. But Rumpel, evidently, doesn’t know that part yet. He just gives his grandson a broom—a very familiar-looking one—and tells him to start out by sweeping the floor.
–Was anyone else disappointed at tonight’s appalling Nicolas Cage deficit?
–”I don’t pillage and plunder on the first date, just so you know.” “That’s because you haven’t been out with me yet.” Banter!
–Why was Will Scarlet breaking into Storybrooke’s library? To find a copy of Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories—and tear out an illustration of the Red Queen, whom OUAT in Wonderland viewers will recognize as the Knave’s true love, Anastasia.
–I liked Elsa’s line about Emma’s date night dress—”Is that just the corset? Where’s the rest of it?”—but it would have made more sense if Emma’s demure outfit had been at all revealing.
–Snow and Charming’s ecstatic response to seeing their daughter date—snapping Polaroids, waiting up for her to return home, grilling her about every detail—was absolutely adorable.
–Queen Frostine has been following Emma around, an act that may strengthen the argument of those who think she may have been one of the savior’s foster parents. Thanks to census-combing, the Charmings also realize this week that Frostine came to Storybrooke of her own volition—not via either Curse 1 or Curse 2.
–Excellent seduction strategy: “Would you like to come in and have coffee with my parents, a newborn, and a human ice-maker?”
–Rumpel presents Hook with a security video recorded on a huge-ass VHS tape. Storybrooke’s technological state continues to boggle the mind.
— Storybrooke’s weather man gives two forecasts: one for the town, and one for the area around the ice wall. Ha!
–When will this show get the spin-off it truly deserves: Once Upon a Time in Svenderland?
Once Upon a Time
Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.