There’s nothing Lady Tremaine won’t do for her family (and by family, that’s actually just Anastasia), and pretty much everyone in her life has to find that out the hard way on tonight’s Once Upon a Time.
The episode begins with a flashback to Rapunzel desperately trying to lead her family to food and, as a result, finds herself trapped in Mother Gothel’s snares. What she thought was just a nice patch of root veggies just ripe for the plucking is actually an elaborate trap for Gothel to try to capture the ultimate do-gooder. And since Rapunzel is willing to give up “anything” to save Marcus and her daughters Anastasia and Drizella, she inadvertently agrees to be locked up in a tower with the promise that she’ll never see her family ever again. All this for some lousy radishes, too. Blech.
Back at Hyperion Heights, Victoria is wheeling her own deals at the jailhouse, too. First, she has a face-to-face with Drizella, who makes her contempt for her mother even more clearly known as she quests to stop her from resurrecting sister dearest from her perfectly preserved state of non-life. After Drizzy leaves wounded by some sick burns, Detective Weaver comes in to antagonize her a little himself but ends up in full deal-making form after she lets him know she’s in on his secret — and even uses his full fairy tale name to prove it. She dangles a carrot of intel in his long search for the Guardian — and picks on him a bit about the torch he’s been carrying for Belle — and bam! He’s putty in her hands and a chauffeur as she’s let free on account of an “unwarranted arrest” by Killian. But he also lets her know that he knows of her true title: Rapunzel.
Killian’s not happy to see Weaver and Victoria in such cahoots, so he starts to snoop around his private storage room and proceeds to discover a whole box full of files with everyone’s faces on them — Victoria, Drizella, himself, and even Jacinda. Yes, yes, what is Weaver doing?
Victoria’s first stop on the freedom train is to Jacinda’s house to deliver paperwork solidifying her deal to return custody of Lucy. Lucy likes it there and desperately hopes her mom’s going to finally invite Henry over again. (P.S.: He’s out of town.) Victoria says that all her cruel treatment of Jacinda was a test to see how much she was willing to fight and while she might have failed at first — by not slapping that custody agreement right out of her cold, spindly little fingers — she’s now passed. “Family is worth fighting for. I’m so very proud that you never gave up,” she says. And while that sounds wayyyyyy too hokey for Madame Belfrey, there’s a backstory that threatens to earn her some sympathy.
See, back when she was still just plain old Rapunzel trying to do right by her brood, she ended up trapped in Gothel’s tower for six years and ticked off every single day on the wall until she saw some lanterns floating by that gave her an idea. One pair of scissors and a massive braid-rope later, and she’s managed to free herself. But it’s not a happy homecoming.
Yes, it’s been Anastasia that’s kept a torch lit for her — literally speaking here — all this time, but Marcus has moved on. He’s now married to a woman named Cecilia, and raising her daughter Ella, and what’s worse is that Drizella’s connection to her mother has been tainted by time, too.
Marcus says he still loves her, but he also loves Cecilia and has no interest in giving up his new life for her. She’ll have to assimilate, no matter how many years she’s spent pining for him and him alone. That’s when Mother Gothel shows up and pretends to admire her resourcefulness in escaping the tower at last. She vaguely points out that although she’s been physically reunited with her family, the emotional disconnect is so vast she might as well still be marking down the days of solitude on that tower wall.
The answer, Gothel says, is to use her poison mushroom to take Cecelia out of the picture. Rapunzel declines at first, throwing the offering into the fire and reminding Gothel that Cecelia is innocent in all of this, but Gothel puts a new unburnt one on her mantle for when the time is right, assuring that yes, the time will be right at some point.
Back at H2, Jacinda consults with Nick to see if the paperwork Victoria has delivered on Lucy is the real deal or if it’s a trick. Given her history, it’s not hard to understand why she has such concern, but, surprisingly enough, the documents check out. She’s enthralled and finds herself kissing him for the briefest of seconds before pulling away; she wants Lucy to have a relationship with him, but they’re not going to be some swoony romantic item all of a sudden. Especially while she’s got Mr. Mixtape waiting in the wings.