So this week's episode takes a step back from the angst of the Charming and Emma's turning to darkness, and looks at the backstories of... Robin and Zelena the Wicked Witch?
Actually, the episode was somewhat of a throwback to the first couple of seasons, when we found out about people like Ruby and Grumpy and Tinkerbell and Aurora. Instead of every flashback showing us some dark secret or vital life lesson of the Charming family or Rumplestiltskin. Granted, we had a lot of Frozen flashbacks early on, but Disney marketing, right? And at least they were new people to have flashbacks about. Even if there was a 'Forrest Gump' like quality to them having met Charming, and Rumplestiltskin, and who can remember who else among the main characters.
So we basically find out why Robin (Sean Maguire) is a good guy, and was a thief for a while and then a barkeep, and then a heroic thief. It involves a trip to Oz and a meeting with the underused Will (Michael Socha), transferred over from the defunct 'Once Upon a Time in Wonderland' for what must be a very expensive welfare program based on how little he's done on 'OUaT' so far.
As for bringing Zelena back into the fold, it seems an an odd but not surprising choice. She seemed to be a popular villainess, and the current crop of Maleficent, Cruella (Cruella?), and Ursula (i.e., half The Little Mermaid's origin story) just haven't been cutting it as female bad guys this half season. While Kristin Bauer isn't bad as Maleficent, she doesn't chew up the scenery the way that Rebecca Mader does.
So there was a whole lot of backstory, and Zelena thoughtfully explaining her whole convoluter resurrection to Gold. Whether this is just a breather until the big rush of season-finale episodes, or we're going to get another breather or two in the next couple of weeks (Cruella-centric and Lily-centric episodes?), we'll see.
Emma runs into the woods, still searching for the Author. David and Mary Margaret catch up to their daughter and Emma admits that they lost him. Mary Margaret explains that the Author was the one who put them on the path to Maleficent losing her child. Furious, Emma says that they lied to her and David admits that they did, but they did it out of fear. Focusing on the problem at hand, Emma says that they have to find the Author before Gold does.
The Author continues through the woods until he finds a suitable branch. He breaks it off, carves the tip with his knife to make a quill, and then continues on. Gold finds him and says that magic quills must be carved from enchanted trees. Furious, the Author breaks the twig and sees Emma and the others following him. Gold offers to hide him and the Author wonders why he should, and Gold takes out a pen. The Author wonders what he wants, and Gold says that he wants him to write a new bunch of happy endings. After a moment, the Author realizes he has no choice and Gold teleports them both away. Emma and the others arrive a few seconds later and pass by.
Regina wakes up at the vault and discovers that she's manacled. Gold is there and says that her magic is negated, and explains that he has both her and the Author. He admits that there are limits to the affection he has for Regina, and says that he lost everything... and so will Regina if she doesn't do what he says. Gold found Robin's phone number on her and frees her, and then tells Regina to call and find out what happened to Robin.
Nine Weeks Ago
Robin, Roland, and Marian cross over the town border and take a bus to New York City. Regina gave Robin the keys to Neal's apartment, and as they head there, a purse snatcher grabs Marian's purse and runs off. Robin "borrows" a horse from a nearby carriage and rides after the thief as he escapes on a bike. Once he gets close enough, Robin tackles the purse snatcher and says that a thief who steals from those in need he has no honor, and then recovers Marian's purse as the man runs off.
Sherwood Forest: Many Years Ago
Marian and Robin are working at a tavern and Little John comes in. He tells Robin that he has a fresh lead on a robbery, but Robin insists that he's made a new start since he married Marian. The Sheriff of Nottingham comes in, amused to see Robin as an honest man. He takes a drink and has his man post an overdue tax notice up, and Robin says that he needs time. The Sheriff gives him two days and warns that once Robin is jail, he will have Marian for himself.
Nine Weeks Ago
At Neal's apartment, Marian tends to Robin's injuries. He assures her that they'll find a way to get by, but she blames herself for what happened. Robin assures her that he chose to go with her, but Marian says that his honor is the reason that he left Regina for her. As they talk, someone tries the door. Robin grabs a knife just as Gold lets himself in, and is surprised to see them in his son's apartment. Gold orders them out but Robin says that it's their home now. When Gold says that he's there to find his happiness, Robin knows that he's looking for the Author. Gold points out that if he finds the Author then it will be good for Robin as well, but Robin refuses to cooperate with him. As they talk, Gold clutches at his chest and then collapses.
Robin is cleaning the tavern floor when Rumplestiltskin comes in and says that he needs the best thief in the land. He's seen the tax notice and says that he can solve all of Robin's problems. After taking out several broom straws, Rumpelstiltskin says that he needs Robin to go to a distant land and steal the Elixir of the Wounded Heart from a secure vault. Robin wonders where he's going, and Rumplestiltskin says that he is traveling to Oz.
Nine Weeks Ago
As Robin waits at the hospital, he brings up Regina's number on his cell phone but doesn't dial. The nurse calls him to Gold's room, and Gold says that his problem isn't physical. The dark deeds that he's done have poisoned his heart. Without his magic, he can't protect himself. Robin points out that there's no magic there, but Gold says that they can use magical items from elsewhere. He reminds Robin of the Elixir and says that he knows where some of it exists in New York City. When Robin wonders why he should help him, Gold grabs him and says that Robin is a man of honor, and that's why he'll save him.
Robin passes through the magic door and finds himself on the Yellow Brick Road. He discovers that the door landed on a guard, who was holding Will prisoner. Robin frees Will and explains why he's there, and Will warns him that he's risking his life. He figures that a woman is involved and says that if Robin gets him some of the Elixir then he'll make sure the guard doesn't sound an alarm. Robin agrees and asks Will to help him remove the guard's uniform.
Nine Weeks Ago
Gold directs Robin to the Wizard of Oak used furniture store, and explains that Zelena sent him to keep an eye on Emma. He warns that Zelena would have sent him with suitable magic protections. Robin breaks into the store and an alarm goes off. Searching the place, Robin finds a hidden drawer in a desk. The potion is among the items inside, and Robin takes it just as the police arrive. He leaps out a rear window and runs off.
At home, Robin tells Marian what happened and insists that he had to do it for them. Marian is angry that he let his code of honor save Gold, and warns that everything has changed. Robin says that he hasn't changed and walks away.
Disguised as a guard, Robin sneaks into Zelena's palace and searches for the Elixir. As he takes it, Zelena arrives and realizes that he's an imposter. Robin snatches up a bow and arrow and tries to shoot her, but Zelena creates two images of herself and advances. She realizes that Rumplestiltskin sent him and asks why, and then notices Robin aiming at a nearby vial of green fluid. The two images disappear and Zelena throws a fireball, but Robin shoots the vial, releasing a cloud of smoke. By the time it clears, Robin is gone.
Robin runs back to the door and tells Will that he failed. Will walks off, disappointed, and Robin checks to make sure the vial holding the Elixir is undamaged.
Nine Weeks Ago
Robin takes the Elixir to the hospital, and insists that Gold agree to give them Neal's apartment and leave them alone. Gold agrees and Robin walks off, and Gold drinks the potion. Nothing happens, and Marian comes in with the real vial. She admits that she switched the vials, and negates a six-leaf clover's glamor spell to reveal that she's actually Zelena. Zelena explains that her life force fled her body when Gold stabbed her, and she followed Emma through the time portal. Once she realized what Emma was doing, Zelena killed Marian and used the clover to take her form. She gloats over Gold failing as his heart stops, and steps aside as the doctors run in and revive him.
Later, Gold wakes up and finds Zelena tending to him. She plays with his breathing tube but then releases it and continues describing her plan. Zelena admits that she planned to win Robin and ruin Regina's life forever. She's realized that she can't because there's some barrier that is ruining her happiness. Zelena plans to find the Author and have him force a happy ending for her, and she figures that Gold can do it. In return she'll get him home so he can use his magic to stabilize his condition. Gold has no choice but to agree.
Before Robin goes back through the door, Will thanks him for trying to help him. He says that it was an inspiration and assures Robin that Marian will know what's in his heart when he returns home. Will explains that his sister knew him as Marian knows Robin, and Robin realizes that Will wanted the Elixir to mend his own heart. They embrace and wish each other luck, and Robin goes back through the portal. Meanwhile, Will realizes that Robin slipped the vial of Elixir into his pocket.
Nine Weeks Ago
Gold leaves the hospital and finds Robin waiting. He then gives him a box with Neal's things, but Gold says that they're reminders of the things that Neal had when he was stranded in New York because his father was a reminder. Gold doesn't want a reminder of the happiness he had and couldn't recognize, and Robin says that Marian is like a stranger to him now. He admits that he married Marian because he thought she would be his happy ending, but now he doesn't know. Gold tells him that if he knows where and who his happy ending is with, then Robin should grasp it and never let it go.
The Sheriff and his men return to the tavern and find Robin alone. Robin says that he has no money for him, but the Merry Men step out and Robin says that he's learned the answer to being a thief with honor. He's decided to take money from those who have it and give it to those who don't.
Later, the Merry Men distribute the stolen tax money among the villagers. Marian warns that Robin will now be a walking target, and Robin says that he will now be known as Robin Hood. She warns that Rumplestiltskin will kill him if he ever sees him, and Robin takes out the six-leaf clover he stole and explains that he plans to use it to disguise himself. As they walk off, Robin apologizes for not telling her what he was doing. He admits that he went to Oz to steal something to keep the tavern, but has realized that he's a thief rather than a barkeep. Robin has learned that his thieving can be used to become a hero. Marian assures Robin that she wants to stay with him and is sure that they'll face things together from now on.
Nine Weeks Ago
At the apartment, Robin is taking a shower when "Marian" calls him out. She's found his phone with Regina's number, and Robin admits that he wants to be with her. Marian tells him that he needs to make a choice, and says that she and Roland are fine so he can go if he wants. Robin says that he loves her and wants to be with her, and asks if she remembers what he said to her. "Marion" has him repeat it, and Robin says that she gave up everything to be with her and now that he wants to do the same. With that, Robin deletes Regina's phone number and kisses Marian... unaware of who she really is.
Regina calls Robin but gets Marian. Zelena undoes the glamour and greets Regina, and says that all she has done is honor Robin as her husband. She promises that they'll see each other soon and hangs up, and Gold tells Regina that she'll do what he wants or he'll call Zelena and have her murder Robin. He admits that he and Zelena have come to an understanding, and now he needs Regina to help her turn Emma toward darkness. When Regina refuses, Gold takes the phone and asks if that's her final answer.