This week on Once Upon A Time, Emma saves Neal and Rumpelstiltskin and Regina join forces to defeat Peter Pan once and for all in “Ariel.”

In a flashback to Fairytale Land, Snow (Ginnifer Goodwin) is running from the Evil Queen’s men and is forced to jump off a cliff into the volatile waters below to escape. She almost dies, in fact, the Queen’s men believe she does, but Ariel (JoAnna Garcia Swisher), a mermaid, rescues her.

What is this mermaid doing so far away from home? Ariel tells Snow that she is in love with a human, Prince Eric (Gil McKinney), whom she saved from a shipwreck. The two decide to crash a ball at Prince Eric’s that night so that Ariel can have a chance with her one true love. Thanks to the legendary goddess of the sea, Ursula, and Ursula’s legendary highest tide that allows merpeople to have legs instead of fins for 12 hours, Ariel and Snow are able to walk hand in hand right into the ball. Prince Eric is instantly taken with Ariel, and invites her to join him on an adventure to see the world.

Unfortunately, Ariel knows her legs will not last long enough for her to run away with her Prince and, saddened, she turns to the mythical Ursula for help. Ariel is shocked when Ursula appears – the mysterious goddess has not been seen for hundreds of years and is believed to be completely mythical. Ariel is right to be shocked; Ursula isn’t Ursula at all, but Evil Queen Regina (Lana Parrilla) in disguise.

Believing she has found the answer to her prayers, Ariel rushes off to meet with Snow on the docks. Ursula gave her a magic bracelet, she says, that has the power to exchange her mermaid tail for Snow’s legs as long as Snow wears the bracelet. This will allow Snow to travel to other realms where Regina cannot find her, and Ariel to be with Prince Eric. Snow is shocked, and less than pleased, but before she can get a word in, Regina appears, ready to kill. Ariel quickly figures out that she has been duped and stabs Regina with a fork she stole at the ball (a.k.a. a dinglehopper) and grabs the bracelet from Snow’s wrist. With her tail in tact, Ariel takes Snow and swims away from Regina.

Once the two Princesses are safely out of Regina’s reach, Snow convinces Ariel to go back to Prince Eric and tell him who she really is. Ariel, filled with hope, rushes to the docks hoping to catch Prince Eric before he embarks on his journey, but when she gets there, Regina is waiting. Just as Ariel screams out for her Prince, Regina takes her voice away out of spite. The only thing worse than being rejected is never being able to have the chance. When Regina returns to her castle, she receives an ominous warning from Ursula herself. She cautions the Evil Queen not to impersonate her ever again.

Meanwhile, in Never Land, Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) wastes no time in telling Snow and Charming (Josh Dallas) about his visit from Pan (Robbie Kay). He cautions them against telling Emma (Jennifer Morrison) that Neal (Michael Raymond-James) could be alive, saying that that is exactly what Pan wants them to do. The three prepare to embark on a journey to find Neal in secret and leave Emma with Regina to learn to use her magic, but they are all horrible liars and Snow tells her daughter the truth. They decide to make rescuing Neal their priority – after all, he knows how to escape Never Land, and they will need him if they ever rescue Henry. Regina is not on board with the new plan and she splits off to find Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle). Regina is done playing nice. She wants to do this her way – the magical way.

Rumpel resists at first, and is close to giving up on the mission entirely. His vision of Belle (Emilie de Ravin) tells him that he will never succeed in winning back Neal’s love, and he would be better off returning to Storybrooke and starting a new family with her. Regina appears just in time to snap Rumpel out of his trance. It’s not a vision of Belle at all, but a trick from Pan, or Pan’s shadow, to be more precise.

Charming, Snow, Hook and Emma track Neal to the Echo Caves, a magical prison. To reach Neal safely, each person will have to reveal their deepest secrets to the cave, and to each other. Hook says Pan believes that their secrets will tear them apart, but, with no other choice, they all enter.

Hook goes first and tells the group that his kiss with Emma showed him that he could love again. Next, Snow makes a teary confession to Charming and Emma: she wants another baby. She loves her daughter, but feels cheated out of really experiencing all of motherhood and she wants another shot. Her hopes are dashed when Charming reveals his secret: he can never leave Never Land. After his secret brush with death, Hook cured him, but he will only remain cured on the island.

Those secrets are enough to create a magical bridge to Neal’s cage. Emma goes to meet him and tries to get out of telling a secret by using her magical sword on the cage, but it doesn’t work.

Neal assures Emma that she can tell him anything, and so she tells him her secret: when she found out that Pan had told Hook he was alive, she had hoped that it was a trick for fear of potentially feeling the pain of his loss once again. The cage disappears, and Neal hugs Emma tight. He tells her he will never stop fighting for her.

The group leaves the cave in awkward silence, but are all still focused on Operation Rescue Henry. With Regina and Rumpel working together and a Neal-provided escape route, it looks like the plan might be a success, but first, Regina has to mend some fences.

Using a magical shell, Regina calls Ariel to Never Land and gives her back her voice and the magical bracelet in return for her help. Mermaids can travel realms freely, and Regina wants to send Ariel to Storybrooke to retrieve something from Rumpel’s shop. This something has the power to sentence Pan to a fate worse than death; therefore, Pan would be defeated and Rumpelstiltskin will not have to die to save Henry.

Regina promises Ariel that this time, there is no trick. Ariel will have full control over her legs and voice. As an added incentive, Regina tells Ariel that her beloved Prince Eric was transported to Storybrooke by the curse.

Once Upon A Time returns Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC with “Dark Hollow.”

Olivia Truffaut-Wong

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