"Best Laid Plans" is the 82nd episode of Once Upon a Time.
Hook tells Emma that Gold's plan puts her fate at stake while Regina leads the villains on a wild goose chase. Henry makes a breakthrough in his search for the Author, but Mary Margaret and David need a moment to reconsider the best course of action. In an Enchanted Forest flashback, Snow and Charming search for a way to ensure their child will grow up to be a hero; when a traveling peddler directs them to visit a kindly old hermit, the two valiant leaders are presented with a choice that could secure their child's goodness, but at a price that will haunt them for years to come.
Previously on Once Upon a Time...
Regina and Mary Margaret meet covertly, and the former asks the latter what exactly she did the Maleficent, leading the "valiant hero" to confess that, thanks to she and Charming, Maleficent lost her child. ("Unforgiven") Before she leaves Storybrooke with her father, Ursula explains Gold's plan to Hook, saying that the Dark One intends to fill Emma's heart with darkness forever. ("Poor Unfortunate Soul") While looking at the illustration of the door, August explains to Emma, Henry and Regina that it's more than it appears: the Author is trapped inside the book. ("Poor Unfortunate Soul")
Snow and Charming befriend a unicorn.
We are treated to a shot of the calm forest floor, before Snow White frantically runs across it, bow and arrow in tow, quickly followed by her husband, Prince Charming. They hurriedly make their way through the woods, jumping over logs and ducking under branches, apparently tracking something via its footprints. Snow finds just such a print and stops in her tracks, leading Charming to ask what's wrong; she shushes him, for whatever they're tracking is close, and she gestures towards just what that is - a unicorn. The princess wants to get this over as fast as possible, but her husband stops her, saying that he knows she's worried about Maleficent's predictions. She asks if he isn't as well, for if the dark sorceress is right then their child could end up with a dark heart, but he points out that she also said that it could grow up to be a powerful hero, besides, they don't know if they can even trust her. "We'll find out," Snow tells him, approaching the peaceful white creature as she withdraws a green apple from her satchel, "According to legend, all we need to do is touch its horn, and we get a glimpse of our child's future." The unicorn happily accepts the apple, and the royal couple turn to one another and nod assuredly before reaching out and grabbing the now-glowing horn together. We zoom in on Charming's eye.
Charming's glimpse of the future.
In his vision, he is standing in some sort of woodland clearing, different to the one he and his wife were running through, and in said clearing is a beautifully-decorated basket containing a baby. It's Charming's child, and he approaches it, picking it up with loving arms. He cradles it close and comments on how beautiful it is, smiling happily.
He is then pulled out of the vision, and he lets go of the unicorn's horn, telling Snow that it's alright; everything's going to be alright. However, she is still holding on, and we now zoom in on her eye.
Snow's glimpse of the future.
Snow is standing in the same mysterious woodland clearing as Charming in her vision, and she begins to wander through it, eventually being met by a teenage Emma dressed in a princess gown. Like her husband, she comments on her daughter's beauty, but Emma stares at her mother stoically, and takes an eerie few steps forward. Snow is confused, and then her daughter plunges her hand into her mother's chest - much to her shock - and rips out her heart. "What are you doing?" asks a bewildered Snow, "Please... I'm your mother!" "I don't care," Emma states with malice in her eye, proceeding to crush her mother's heart to dust. Snow falls to the floor, dead.
Her vision then ends and she appears uneasy; an ecstatic Charming asks if she saw what he saw, saying that their child is going to be just fine... but his wife utters, "No. No it's not... It's evil."
ONE UPON A TIME
Henry tries to warn his mothers.
"How the hell is the Author trapped inside the book?" Regina is left asking after August's recent revelation, staring down at the page which depicts the door. Emma is at a loss, pointing out that Regina is the magic expert, and, from behind them, Henry stands up in order to warn his mothers of something apparently urgent. However, Regina is too busy lamenting the insanity of the situation, wondering if they should perhaps draw a key, but Emma replies that all they need to do is figure it out before Gold does. Henry finally manages to catch his parents' attention and they ask him what's wrong, leading him to reveal that there's something the matter with August, who lies unconscious on the couch. Emma tries to wake him but he's unresponsive, and she tells Regina that they have to get him help.
August is doing poorly.
We are next shown the Storybrooke nunnery, with August apparently having been relocated there. Mother Superior is looking over him as he remains unconscious in bed, and she tells Emma, Regina and Henry that he's been through a lot, for he's been changed by magic many times and will need to be very strong if he's going to survive this. Regina, wanting to be somewhat delicate, reminds Emma that they have a bigger problem, and the savior turns to the Mayor with eyes that have welled up with tears for her friend's condition.
The two of them, along with Henry, are next seen wandering the nunnery, with Regina pointing out to Emma that Maleficent, Cruella and Gold are expecting her, having sent her on a mission to get that page from the book, and she can't show up empty-handed or else whatever suspicions they have about her will be confirmed. "Then give them this," Emma says, stopping and holding out her hand. With her magic, a forgery of the page appears, and Henry commends his biological mother on getting good at magic. She reveals that she's been practicing, and Regina takes the page, pretty sure that Rumplestiltskin will be able to tell if it's a fake. Emma advises her to pull out of this undercover mission, promising to protect her if she does, but Regina is reluctant to do so because they still don't know what the villains are up to, and it's a bigger risk not to know.
Strike a page.
She rests the fake page on the book, which Henry has just opened, and answers her ringing cell phone. The villains are on the other line and she screens their call, knowing that they'll be wondering where she is, and Henry tells his adoptive mother that the forgery is good, holding it and the real page side by side so that she can compare. Regina says that it's not good enough, proceeding to suggest that what they need is a different kind of copy. She then uses her phone to take a photograph of the door, and Emma realizes, "Because Gold and those witches don't know that the page contains the actual door; all they care about is what the door looks like." Regina hopes that this photo will keep them on their wild goose-chase around town, pocketing the phone, and she tells Henry that she has to get going, bidding him goodbye with a long, deep hug. "Okay, mom..." he ends up saying, and she apologizes, not being sure when she'll be back to see him; when he appears frightened, she tells him not to worry, assuring him that she'll be fine. She gives him another brief hug goodbye.
The loudest whisperers ever.
Emma and Henry soon enter the apartment where Hook has just broken some news to David and Mary Margaret, and the blonde asks her boyfriend what's wrong. He explains that Ursula told him before she left what the villains have planned: to get their happy endings, they intend to darken the savior's heart - to turn her into a villain so that she'll no longer be the savior. This surprises Henry, who doesn't believe that one can simply "un-savior the savior", but Hook relays from Ursula that Gold has a way, and he can use the Author to do it. Emma's parents look particularly alarmed by the revelation, but Emma herself finds it ridiculous, promising everyone that she's not going dark, Author or no Author. "Darkness is a funny thing," Hook explains, "It creeps up on you." Again, Emma's parents look upset while she approaches the pirate and assures him that no one - not Rumplestiltskin, nor some Author - is to decide who she is. They share a comforting hug, while Mary Margaret asks her husband via whisper if he really thinks it's possible that Emma could go dark after what they did. David is sure that it's impossible, reminding her that they were told that they had to guide her; that her fate rested with them. Mary Margaret points out that this Author has the power to change everything; if he's going to write the villains happy endings, who knows what he could do to Emma? "We have to do something," Snow finally decides, "Without Emma finding out the truth." She proceeds to leave, rather conspicuously, and Emma turns to her father for a clue as to what's wrong. David merely assures his daughter that Mary Margaret will be fine, and exits the apartment in wake of her.
Regina, meanwhile, heads inside Gold's cabin, where he is waiting with Maleficent and Cruella. The latter comments that she feels as though she's aged a decade waiting for her, at which Regina retorts she certainly looks like it, and an impatient Maleficent asks her old friend where the page is. She pauses and Gold hopes she hasn't failed, but the Mayor lies and tells them that the page was under a protection spell - something cooked up by the savior, who almost caught her trying to break it, meaning she had to flee. Gold asks if she's sure that's what happened, clearly suspicious, and Regina answers positively. He points out that she's been gone an awfully long time, and yet she's returned empty-handed; however, she reveals that she's not empty-handed, lifting her cell phone to reveal the photograph she took of the door. Cruella snatches the phone almost immediately and calls the photo incompetent, saying that the glare blocks any clear view of the door, but Rumple takes the phone and concludes that it's not a glare... it's magic. "This door has been sealed by it," he figures out, "This is the door we've been looking for." "You think the Author is trapped in an illustration?" asks Maleficent, "But that would mean..." "The Sorcerer imprisoned him in the book... we need to get it. Bring us the page," Gold orders Regina, but she tells him that that won't be easy because the savior isn't about to let it out of her sight. However, Maleficent says that they don't have to worry about Emma, for she has just the thing.
Time for some YOLO sleep.
Emma and Hook are seen sitting on the couch in the apartment when the latter asks how "he" was, referring to August. Emma worriedly replies that he's not doing great, and the pirate deduces based on how she's acted that she cares for him, leading her to realize that he's jealous; she tells him that now is not the time for it. He wonders why he would be jealous, although he does know she's partial to men in leather jackets, but Emma assures him that August is just a friend. "Of course," he says, and she goes on to ask if he remembers that video he showed her from the foster home of she and her friend Lily (see "Breaking Glass"). He does, and she explains how she was her first and best friend and she pushed her away forever, and, after that, she just wasn't great at making friends - August was the rare exception, and that's why he's so important to her; there's nothing else going on. However, he becomes distracted by something outside the window, and she asks him what it is. He moves the curtain and tells her to look, but it's too late. The purple wave emanating through the town comes through the window and passes over the two of them, causing them both to fall asleep before Emma can so much as ask what the hell it is.
On the outskirts of Storybrooke, Maleficent, Gold, Cruella and Regina are all lined up while the former emanates multiple of these purple waves from her magic staff, thus putting the entire town to sleep. "It's done," she declares once the final wave has passed over, "Now let's get to work."
The Charmings help out a stranger in need.
Snow and Charming are trekking through the Enchanted Forest woodlands when the latter demands that his wife tell him what she saw in her vision. She refuses, for saying it out loud would make it too real, and declares that they just have to find a way to save their child's future. "Pardon me!" exclaims a nearby peddler who's having some trouble getting his wagon up a hill; he asks the Charmings if they could please lend him a hand. The prince offers to help and the peddler apologizes, saying that it's heavy and over-loaded with trinkets. He adds that he's a peddler, if they haven't already guessed, but apparently not a very good one, and Charming smiles as he eventually manages to get the wagon unstuck from its position and successfully up the small slope. The peddler says that it just needed a little elbow grease and thanks the royals for their help, proceeding to shiver and comment that it's "colder than a witch's... foot out here, isn't it?". Charming offers him a flask full of brandy to warm him on his journey, and the peddler assures the prince that he never turns down brandy, taking the flask and tasting some of its contents.
He deduces the "nutmeg-y" flavor of the drink, and Snow tells him to keep it, wishing him good luck before proceeding on her trek, clearly in a hurry. However, the peddler tells her to wait, realizing that they're going West, and Snow says that that is where their home is. The peddler warns them of a terrible sorceress who's taken up residence down that way; they call her Maleficent, and she's just awful. Charming assures the peddler that he and his wife are well-aware of just how awful she is, having crossed paths with her before, and the peddler wonders if they heard what happened: "She turned herself into a heinous dragon and laid an egg." "An egg?" Snow questions, and the peddler confirms it, explaining that the beast made her nest in a cave, having scorched all the earth around it to mark her territory. Everyone fled, including him, and he recommends that the two of them go East. Charming realizes that this would lead them to the Infinite Forest, and Snow worries that they could get lost for days, but the peddler instructs them to stick to the path until they come upon a cottage; there's a kind old man who'll help them get to where they need to be. "Trust me." Snow thanks the stranger, who wishes her and her husband a safe journey as they begin to head East. As they walk, he takes a swig of the brandy, still shivering due to the cold.
Get off my lawn!
We are shown a bird's-eye view of the Infinite Forest in all of its massive entirety, before being shown the Charmings as they wander through it, sticking to the path just like the peddler told them to do. Eventually, Charming manages to spot the cottage that the stranger told them about, and he points it out to his wife. Snow turns her head and notices it also, and the married couple approach together. Charming goes to knock on the wooden door, but it opens before he has the chance, and the Sorcerer's apprentice on the other side comments that he was wondering when they would arrive. "You were expecting us?" Snow questions, and he explains that he sensed them coming, as well as the fact that they were at a loss over their child. They are surprised by his intimate foreknowledge, and he proceeds to invite them inside for tea so that he can explain everything properly. As he heads inside, the screeching of a dragon can be heard from afar, and Snow, worried along with her husband, asks if that was Maleficent. "Oh, yes, yes," the apprentice says, clearly unworried, "Do come in, you don't have to worry about her here."
Maleficent discusses her deal with Gold.
Maleficent is walking back through the woods of Storybrooke in the present day along with Cruella, Regina and Gold, the latter of which is right beside her and asks her if she knows what she has to do. "Quite well," she assures him, her staff still in tow, "The question is: do you?" He reminds her that the terms of their deal involved her helping him find the Author and their happiness thus being secured, but she tells him that she's altering the deal, pointing out that he needs that page from the book to get the Author and, to do that, he needs her. He questions this, and she says that she just put the town to sleep, so she's useful; plus, they both know that Cruella and Ursula were merely a means to an end, and that end is her. That's why the Dark One hasn't shed a single tear over their "tentacled friend's" departure, because he has Maleficent, and to have Maleficent means he has to give her what she wants - "It's oh so simple. I need to know what happened to my child after those two 'heroes' got rid of it! I need to know its fate... In return, I'll get us both the Author. We'll get you the page, and, once I know what they really did to my child, those 'heroes' will pay."
Mary Margaret, meanwhile, is walking teary-eyed down Main Street as David follows her, calling out to his despondent wife to no avail. He asks if she's okay and she eventually turns around, angrily exclaiming that no, she's not, reminding him that they made a vow to be good and ever since Cruella and Ursula have arrived they've done nothing but lie. David points out that they want to turn Emma dark, and Mary Margaret is aware of this, but says that if they're not careful then they're going to end up helping them do that. There is a pause, and then Mary Margaret notices something strange across the street: people sleeping outside Granny's Diner. She tells her husband to look and he does, and they're next seen heading inside, seeing that every single customer is unconscious. "Why aren't we?" David wonders, and Snow deduces that they must be immune, having both been under sleeping curses before. "But Emma hasn't..." the prince realizes, and both of them exit Granny's in a worried manner.
Cruella wants to kill the savior.
Emma remains sleeping on the couch beside Hook, and Maleficent comments that the savior looks a lot less threatening in this state, having broken into the apartment along with her usual associates. Cruella says that she'd be lying if she said she wasn't tempted to rain her scrawny neck right now, but Regina orders her not to even think about it, leading the chic diva, as well as Maleficent and Gold, to stare at her. The former Evil Queen saves herself by saying that she thinks they can all agree killing the savior at this point would be ill-advised, and the Dark One tells her that she's right about that, but wrong about the location of the page. She says that they just have to keep looking, for the page was here two hours ago and can't have just grown legs and walked out of there on its own. "Unless someone walked out of here with it," Gold theorizes, at which Maleficent reminds him that she put the whole town to sleep. Rumple knows this, but also knows that those who have been under a sleeping curse before are immune, which means he may know of a resourceful young man who's wide-awake.
Henry protects the book at all costs.
We are shown Henry, clutching the storybook, running as fast as he can through a field, wanting to keep it and the page hidden from the town's villains.
"...one who's very protective of the storybook and all its contents," Gold continues saying back at the apartment, and Regina looks deeply worried for her son. "One who's gonna test his mother's commitment towards helping me," Rumple finishes.
We see now that Henry is running towards the Sorcerer's mansion.
As the four of them make their way back through the town, Regina tells Gold, Maleficent and Cruella that no one but her is to go near Henry, and if any of them have a problem with that then they can take it up with one of her fireballs. She proceeds to separate from the group, walking with haste to her adoptive son's location, and once she's out of earshot Rumple orders the two remaining Queens of Darkness to follow the Mayor and make sure she does whatever's necessary to convince the boy. The page in his possession is their key, and he doesn't want to lose it while they're this close. He then begins walking away and Cruella wonders where he's off to, to which he replies that he has other business to attend to. Maleficent stares after the Dark One while Cruella just sighs and heads into the driver's seat of her car; Maleficent joins her in the passenger's seat. David and Mary Margaret, meanwhile, are watching this whole scene unfold from behind the corner of a building, wondering what the town's villains could be after if clearly not Emma. Snow's cell phone then rings and she answers it as fast as she can, relieved to find that Henry is on the other line.
David wants to destroy the page... ugh, this guy.
She worriedly asks if he's okay and where he is and he reveals that he's at the Sorcerer's mansion; when everyone fell asleep he figured the bad guys were up to something and that he better get the page somewhere safe. Mary Margaret warns him not to do anything, assuring the young man that they're on their way and warning him further that as long as he has that page he's in danger. David tells him to sit tight, for they're heading his way now, and Snow hangs up, wanting to go right away and trying to think up the quickest route. However, Charming doesn't budge, and so she backtracks in order to figure out what's wrong with her husband. He explains that he thinks there is a way to put a stop to everything: they have to destroy the page. Mary Margaret is shocked, but the prince continues in explaining that if they destroy it then Gold can never free the Author and use him to turn Emma dark. "The Author could be trapped inside the book forever! Or we could kill him... Regina wouldn't get her happy ending," his wife rejects, but Charming points out that they don't know that; all they'd know for sure is that she wouldn't get it from the Author - "We've gone too far down this path, we have to protect Emma!" Snow continues to look unsure.
The apprentice spouts some exposition.
In flashback, the apprentice is pouring himself a cup of tea, having already done so for the Charmings sitting opposite him. Snow explains to the wizard that her husband saw happiness for their child whereas she saw pure terror, and she wants to know how they can tell which of the visions is real. The apprentice says that they both are, explaining how we are all born as blank slates with the potential for good and evil and with the gift of free will so that we can choose between the two, which is why there is an equal chance that either of their visions will come true. "If the future I saw comes to pass," says Snow, "Our child's life will be bleak, full of pain and darkness, is there nothing we can do to ensure our child's goodness?!" The old man sitting across from her pauses, eventually telling the royal couple that there is a way to banish the potential for darkness from their child, and he stands up as he says this; the Charmings grow relieved. He goes on to inform them that, as with all magic, it comes with a price, but Snow immediately responds that they shall pay said price, whatever it is.
A choice must be made.
The apprentice explains that the laws of magic prevent him from simply being able to send their child's darkness away: another living vessel must absorb it; a vessel that is also a blank slate unformed in the ways of good and evil... just like their baby. If they wish for him to perform this magic then they must secure such a vessel. He advises them to discuss this among themselves and make sure they want to proceed, because once the spell has been enacted... "It cannot be reversed." He walks away, leaving them alone to consider what he's just told them, and Charming says that banishing the darkness from their child into another, even if it is to save their own, is wrong. Snow, however, simply asks if this vessel necessarily has to be a child, reminding her husband that the peddler said Maleficent laid an egg, which might be usable. She adds that they've seen what the dark sorceress is like in human and dragon form and doubts that her dragon offspring will be any different. Charming nods, finding what his wife is saying agreeable.
The page finds its key.
Henry is hiding under a table in the Sorcerer's mansion, staring at the open book which he's propped up against a chair, displaying the page with the door on it. He grabs his cell phone in order to check it, but there's nothing new, and then a shred of light appears from underneath the door. Henry notices this and stares intently at it, then seeing another light beam emanate from the door's drawn-in keyhole. The light is clearly trying to move past him, and he turns around to see that it's shining onto a nearby drawer, projecting the shape of a keyhole onto it. It then begins flashing and Henry smiles, grabbing the book and crawling out from underneath the table; he proceeds to approach the drawer and open it, revealing a key to be inside. "No way!" he exclaims before picking it up, but then he hears people coming and so pockets it. At first he thinks it's Mary Margaret and David, however, it is Regina, and he wonders what she's doing there. She apologizes, not having wanted it to come to this, and Maleficent comments that it looks like she and Cruella are there just in time as the two of them arrive together.
Regina recalls telling them that she could handle this, clearly angry, but Cruella says that they're not sure she has it in her to be a true disciplinarian. "I'd say you shouldn't be alarmed, darling," she tells the boy, "But I'd be lying." "Lay a hand on my son and I'll end you," Regina threatens, but Maleficent assures her that she won't have to do anything so long as he cooperates, leading the former Evil Queen to demand that her son give her the page. Henry boldly refuses, at which his adoptive mother yells, "Henry Daniel Mills! You will do as I say." She gives him a look as she does this, and he stares back at her. Her look grows more intense, and Henry figures his mother out, proceeding to slide a page from out of his book and hand it to her. "As promised," she says as she passes it to Maleficent, proceeding to suggest that the three of them find Gold and set this Author free. Cruella and Maleficent then exit the room and Regina gives Henry one final look before following on from them.
Ursula and Cruella are standing outside Maleficent's resident cave in flashback, apparently keeping guard, when the former comments that the least their dragon friend could do in return for them doing this favor for her is to throw a little of her fiery breath their way; this then leads Cruella to comment that if she had know it was going to be this cold then she would have grabbed two more puppies and made mittens. Suddenly, there is the sound of someone collapsing to the ground, and Cruella turns to see Ursula unconscious on the floor, deeply confused. "Darling?" she questions, at which Snow White pops up and says, "Over here," before blowing a powder made from poppies in her face. Cruella is knocked out instantly and Charming draws his sword, suggesting to his wife that they should hurry because the powder won't last long. They head inside the cave, weapons at the ready.
The beast is awoken.
We are treated to an interior shot of the cave and see that it houses many treasures such as silver coins and trinkets, as well as things like shields and pieces of armor. Snow and Charming enter cautiously and the former accidentally kicks the dragon-claw rattle that Maleficent has prepared for her child. Charming questions what it is and Snow replies that it seems as though the dark sorceress likes anything silver, before spotting a large egg nestled in a nest of rocks and pointing it out to her husband. The prince advises that they be careful as they put away their weapons and begin to approach, for the egg could be as dangerous as the woman who laid it, and after a small while of walking around the nest, Charming finally reaches out to remove the egg from its proper place. Before he can, however, the nest starts to move, and it soon becomes apparent that the egg wasn't just rested on rocks - but on Maleficent's dragon tail, which slithers backwards as the dragon herself emerges from the cave's shadowy edges. The Charmings stare up at Maleficent in fear and awe while her face portrays pure rage, and she lets out a mighty roar as the prince seizes her egg and quickly passes it to Snow, being knocked aside by the dragon's tail as he does so.
Snow makes a promise, mother-to-mother.
Snow begins running for the cave's exit and Charming soon follows, but they're interrupted when Maleficent breathes fire at them. The princess points out that if the dragon burns them then she'll be burning her egg as well, and so the creature retreats into purple smoke form, and it isn't long before Maleficent is standing before them as a human, clutching her magical staff and looking deeply disheartened. She questions what kind of people they are to threaten a child, but Snow insists that the egg in her arms is no child; it will become a monster, just like its mother. "And what are you?" Maleficent asks as she approaches, but all Snow can say is, "I'm sorry." They begin to walk away and Maleficent begs them to wait; she addresses Snow White mother-to-mother, hoping that she will have mercy and not take her child away. Although Snow does appear guilty, she tells Maleficent that they'll bring the egg back once they're done with it, and then she leaves, stepping again on the rattle as she does so; this time it snaps in half. "No!" Maleficent exclaims, firing a ball of purple energy from her staff. It hits the rocks above the cave's exit and causes it to collapse in on itself, but Snow and Charming have already made it through with the egg in tow, and Maleficent is left simply devastated. The shot zooms in on the snapped rattle on the floor.
David yells at his grandson.
Mary Margaret and David enter the secret room of the Sorcerer's mansion in search of Henry, who's hiding behind a corner with his storybook in tow. They look relieved as he emerges, and his grandmother encourages him to come with them quickly because the villains are on their way. However, he reveals that they've already been there, and Charming is shocked, asking if they took the page. Henry explains that they think they did, except Regina; she just gave him a look and he knew exactly what she meant. David realizes that the young man surrendered the forged page Emma made and Mary Margaret commends her grandson on being smart, proceeding to question the whereabouts of the real one. He looks to one of the blank storybooks on the shelves and pulls it out, sliding the page with the door on it out from between the pages. David takes it, promising to keep it safe, but Henry says that there's something else: he found the key. He holds it up and exclaims excitedly that they can free the Author, going to put the key in the illustration's glowing keyhole, but Charming quickly snaps the book it's in shut, telling his grandson to hold on. Henry wonders why and David points out that they don't know what's going to happen and so he should just let the adults handle things. When the boy tries arguing, David exclaims that it's too dangerous and tells his grandson to go, holding out his hand as he does so in order to receive the key. After an awkward pause, Henry begrudgingly hands it over before leaving the room upset, and Mary Margaret appears incredibly guilty, pointing out that now they're lying to Henry. "If we keep this up," she says, "We're no different than Gold."
Belle's husband pervs on her.
Mr. Gold enters his own shop and sees instantly that Belle is unconscious behind the counter, thanks to Maleficent's widespread spell. He stares at her, and closes the door behind him.
Gold is next seen carrying the sleeping Belle to a bed in the back room, laying her down so that she's in a more comfortable and dignified position. He addresses her as his love and proceeds to sit down beside her, needing to tell her something important while it still matters. "All magic comes at a cost," he starts to say, even though she cannot hear him, "As you know... and I have racked up so much debt, I can never be clear of it. Unless I find a way to change the rules. But now... here's the hard truth: something else is changing," he clutches his chest as he says this part, "So if I'm gonna change the rules, I'm gonna have to do so quickly." He then hears the sound of Cruella's car pulling up outside and knows he has to leave, taking Belle's hand in his before he does so and kissing it, adding that he will come back for her if he can.
She's a knockout.
We then see him exiting the shop where he's met by Maleficent, Regina and Cruella, the latter of which asks him what he was doing in there. Gold quickly warns her to mind her own business and wonders if they were able to find Henry. Maleficent says that they were and hands Gold the page, but Regina makes clear that it was she who found him so as to prove her commitment to the cause. As soon as Rumple takes the page he announces that it's rubbish, and Regina feigns surprise. He says that it's a fake and that Regina, having spent so much time with the book, should know the difference. She assures him that the heroes tricked her but Gold ignores what she has to say, tearing up the page as he expresses the anticipation he's been feeling towards this moment. "Maleficent?" he requests, and before Regina has the chance to explain, the dragon witch places a hand on the former Evil Queen's shoulder and she falls asleep like the rest of the town. "Bring her to her vault," Rumple requests.
Too late to turn back.
The Sorcerer's apprentice is holding Maleficent's egg, assuring Snow and Charming that it will work as an empty vessel to siphon their child's potential for darkness into as he sets it down on the floor of the forest clearing they're in. The wizard takes out a wand and begins encircling the egg with it, chanting a spell as he does so. Snow clutches her belly upon the mention of "womb", and Charming goes on to question the words "distant shore", wondering what he could mean by that. He comes to the end of his incantation and waves his hand, causing a pink-red light to blast into the ground beneath the egg. Snow makes sure that all they're doing is sending darkness into the vessel, but the apprentice assures the princess that she wouldn't want anything so evil living in her realm - he is sending it where it belongs; where it can hurt none of them. The Charmings react badly: "What?!" "No!" "You didn't tell us that!" "We promised the mother we'd bring it back!" There's a sudden flash of lightning and the apprentice says it's too late; as he told them before, once the spell has been enacted it cannot be reversed. Snow insists that there must be something he can do, but the royal couple are forced to take a step back as a portal opens in the ground beneath them. The egg is right next to it, and it begins to hatch.
A baby is in the egg.
A baby's arm reaches out and its cry is heard, leading Snow to realize that an innocent human child was inside of it all along. Charming believes it still in hope of saving and he and his wife run around the portal in order to do so; however, Cruella and Ursula come running towards them at that very moment, shocked by what the 'heroes' have done. They begin screaming at them, questioning their despicable actions, but Snow assures them that they didn't know what was going to happen. The egg rolls a little and the baby is swept into the portal. Ursula then feels a pull from behind and she falls in as well, followed by Cruella. Snow tries her best to prevent this but to no avail, and the portal soon closes. The prince demands to know what happened to them and where they went, and the apprentice says that they're all where they belong. Snow declares that they have to get the baby back, but the apprentice informs her that it's lost to her forever - "But congratulations. Your child is now pure of intent, and heroic in spirit. It is now up to the two of you to guide it... and keep it in the light." He heads into his nearby cottage as Snow stands there, clutching her womb and shaking her head. She laments the promise she made to Maleficent, that the child would be returned, but Charming points out that they didn't know what would happen. She says that they've made a terrible mistake, and the two of them are left standing there to deal with the gravity of what they've done.
Mary Margaret reaches a moral epiphany.
David prepares to burn the page in a fireplace at the Sorcerer's mansion as Mary Margaret stands behind him, looking deeply unsure. He reminds his wife that they have to do it, and she remains blank, asking stoically what they're going to tell Henry. After a pause, David concocts a story about the key being wrong and the page having disintegrated, adding afterward that they'll figure something out but, for now, they should just burn it and worry about it later. "More lies..." Snow utters, and Charming falters, watching as his true love comes to the realization that she can't do this: "I gave Henry that book to give him hope, and now I'm gonna lie and take it away? And what about Regina? She's finally becoming a friend... I went to her for help with Emma, with our secret; she's kept it. She's risked her life for us, and we're going to repay her by destroying her chance at a happy ending?" Charming suggests that maybe there's another way, only for Mary Margaret to exclaim, "No, David! When Regina showed me my heart after Cora - after I killed Cora... my heart was dark. Regina thought it was because of what I did to her mother, but that darkness started long ago. We have to tell Emma the truth, because heroes do what's right, not what's easy." David stares intently at his wife, clearly deep in contemplation, and she's begun to shed tears over the matter.
Emma rejects her mother.
Back at the apartment, Emma is seen clutching the key to the door, sitting opposite her parents after having just been told their secret. She is clearly very upset by the news, and she realizes aloud that she's been right this whole time - they were lying to her. They have nothing to say in response, just stewing in their shame, and the blonde utters that she wanted to believe them; she wanted to believe in them. Mary Margaret is teary-eyed, and David finally says to his daughter that they were just trying to protect her. Hook, who's sitting beside his girlfriend, asks if she's alright, going to take her hand in his. However, she quickly slides it away in defiance, answering his question negatively. She takes the page and the key and she announces that she's going to go, but Mary Margaret gets up after her and begs her to stop, holding the door once her daughter has opened it. "I'm your mother!" she tries, only for Emma to tell her (just like in the vision all those years ago), "I don't care." She proceeds to leave, and Mary Margaret is deeply disheartened.
We are shown the exterior of the Mills family mausoleum before being taken down to the vault beneath, where Mr. Gold, Maleficent and Cruella De Vil are all towering over an unconscious Regina. Cruella wants to just slit the Mayor's throat now and get it over with, but Rumple refuses, leading her to suggest that the dragon witch can incinerate her instead and leave less of a mess. Gold insists that they do nothing of the sort, and Maleficent assures the Dark One that her old friend will never help them. He disagrees, going on to reveal that he has something that, the moment she sees it, will make Regina do his bidding forever.
Emma needs time to deal.
A reeling Emma is sitting alone on a bench at the docks, staring down at the page in her hand as she mauls over what her parents did. Hook soon approaches, and the blonde tells him that she's just going to need some time, but the pirate's true reason for coming is to inform her that August is awake and David and Mary Margaret are with him. Stunned, Emma stands up, asking how he is, and Hook assures her that he's going to be fine; "Your friend... is gonna be fine." She takes a moment and hugs her boyfriend, going on to wonder why her parents sent him. He says that they didn't think she'd listen to them, and she says in turn that they were right.
Snow is horrified to discover what Cinderella sent in the mail.
We are treated to an exterior shot of Prince Charming's castle as, inside her child's nursery, a heavily pregnant Snow is ordering Sneezy to remove the unicorn-decorated mobile he's just installed over the crib, for she doesn't want it. Charming soon enters, wondering what's going on, and Snow takes one of the unicorn ornaments from the dwarf, telling her husband to look at what Cinderella sent. When she complains about the unicorns, Sneezy tries telling her that he likes them, sneezing as he does so, and the prince requests that the dwarf give them a minute. He leaves the room, and Charming tells his wife that it's just a mobile. She recounts for him that a unicorn gave her a vision which led to them ripping Maleficent's child away - she doesn't want a reminder of that literally hanging over their baby. She adds that what they did is already with her every night when she tries to sleep, leading her husband to reveal that he's been going through the same thing; however, he decides that maybe Maleficent deserves what happened, and for all they know she lied about Regina having the Dark Curse since it's been months and she hasn't even tried using it. Maybe her threat (see "Pilot") was just words. Snow tells him that none of that matters in comparison to what they did, sitting down as her true love kneels before her. "I thought we were doing something brave for our child," she says, "And we were brave... but we weren't kind."
The Charmings decide to be the best versions of themselves.
She appends that they were selfish and are not heroes anymore, and Charming wonders how they fix it. Snow says they can't, for Maleficent's child is gone, to which he points out, "But Snow... we're still here. So how do we fix us? The people we are now, weighed down by all of this, is that how we want to raise our child?" She responds negatively, asking if he really thinks redemption is possible, and he does; he has to believe they can earn forgiveness - a chance at grace. But, to get there, they have to be the best people they can; work and spread hope and faith everyday because otherwise what they did will stain them forever. "And affect our child," Snow realizes after having stood up along with the prince, "The very person we fought so hard to save." She stares down at the ornament in her hand and decides that maybe these unicorns are a good thing. Maybe they're there to remind them of how easy it can be to lose their way. And, as Charming adds, as long as they have each other then they can be the best versions of themselves. It won't happen overnight, but they can take the long, hard path. He takes the ornament from her and hangs it in its proper place on the mobile, then looking to his wife, who smiles. The Charmings exchange a hug and the shot drifts over to the unicorns hanging beside them.
Maleficent needs answers.
Maleficent clutches her baby's rattle as she makes her way down into Regina's vault, wondering if it's not time to take care of her needs now that the Dark One is so confident that the former Evil Queen has been taken care of. He points out that she didn't get him the page and thus didn't earn her answer - that was the deal - and she admits this, but after all she's been through she believes that she's more than earned it. Rumple knows this, and he wants to give her a last chance to preserve what she has. Maleficent tells him that what she has is pain, and he turns around to be face-to-face in order to assure her that pain fades, unless one feeds it, and this could be the meal she really doesn't want. Getting teary-eyed, she says that she's never seen her child, not even knowing if she had a boy or girl; she doesn't care how much it hurts to know its fate because she needs this. She holds up the rattle and Rumple takes it, telling her to remember that what she's about to see took place thirty years ago as he waves his hand over it. The orb in the dragon-claw totem begins to showcase the past.
Maleficent's baby is crying, and an adoption agent congratulates the man she's handing it over to, revealing the sex of the baby to be female. The man takes her in his arms and the adoption agent wonders what he will name her, to which he replies, "Lilith. We wanna name her Lily." He smiles as he stares down at his new daughter, who continues to cry in his arms. We drift out of this flashback.
Maleficent cries as she stares down at the rattle, closing her eyes and taking a sigh of relief over the fact that her daughter is alive, as well as in this world. "I must find her," she declares, "There has to be a way. If she's out there... someone must know her."
Emma, with the page and key in tow, enters August's room in the nunnery where he remains bedridden, but awake. David and Mary Margaret are standing with him, and their daughter appears awkward as she approaches her friend, asking how he is. He says that he's tired, but better, and senses that something's wrong, asking Emma in turn how she is. She assures him that she's fine, at which he points out that she forgets he knows lying, and she says that it's a long story and one that's not worth getting into right now - especially when she has a surprise for him. She presents the page, and the key, and tells him that Henry found it, suggesting that they let out the Author because she has some questions for him. Mary Margaret begs her daughter to think about this, reminding her that this isn't just what Regina wanted but Gold wanted it too, having been doing it to turn her dark. "I'm not worried about it, are you?" Emma fires back sharply, and neither Mary Margaret nor David has anything to say in response.
August talks about the nature of Authors.
Emma says that now she has some questions about herself, and the Author can answer them for her. "If he's the one who wrote your story," adds August, and the blonde wonders what he's talking about. "Something you need to know about this Author... he wasn't the only one," Pinocchio reveals, "There have been many Authors throughout time. It's a job, not a person, and the one trapped in here is just... the last, tasked with the great responsibility." Emma wonders what this responsibility is, and her friend tells her, "To record. To witness the greatest stories of all time and record them for posterity. The job has gone back eons, from the man who watched shadows dance across cave walls and developed an entire philosophy, to playwrights who tell tales and poetry, to a man named 'Walt'. Many have had this sacred job. Great women and men who took on the responsibility with the gravity that it deserved. Until this last one: he started to manipulate rather than record. He did something, I don't know exactly what, but something that pushed them over the edge..."
The Author is trapped inside the book.
As August narrates in the present, we drift into the fairytale land that was, moving our way through the forest and seeing, from behind, the Author as he uses an enchanted pen in order to record a story in what will someday be Henry's book. The Sorcerer's apprentice approaches him and asks him how he dared to force him to do what he did to Maleficent's child, to which the Author replies that it makes for a better story. The apprentice orders him to return the quill, for he's ill-suited for this job, having abused all the rules; he has lied and deceived them and forsaken his holy duty, and now he must be punished. With that, the old wizard takes out his wand and waves it swiftly, causing an illustration of a door to open up and absorb the Author into it, thus trapping him inside a page of the book, which promptly drops to the floor with the quill on top of it.
The Author, soon before running away.
"That's why the Sorcerer and his apprentice put him in there," August is still explaining, "They're the ones who choose the Author, and they took responsibility for their error." Emma wonders if the Author would still have the ability to alter the course of things, but all August can say to this is that she sure has come a long way from the woman who wouldn't believe. She smiles, knowing this, and proceeds to stand up, resting the page down on the bed and inserting the key into the now-glowing lock. She turns it, and the door opens up, allowing the Author to form from the yellow light emanated on the other side of the bed. He is kneeling, and so he gets to his feet - it's the peddler, the one who directed Snow and Charming back in the Enchanted Forest. He tells those in attendance that it was cramped in there, and he couldn't even reach his flask of brandy (given to him by David). He tastes it, and David wonders where he got it, clearly recognizing the man that stands before him. The Author replies that a nice young couple he met on the road gave it to him, and he once again comments upon the "nutmeg-y" flavor. Mary Margaret then realizes where she knows him from, shocked that he's the Author, and Charming reaches the same conclusion; "The peddler...?" he asks. Emma tells him that they have a lot of questions, and the Author is sure of this... proceeding to grab the nearby curtains and pull them down along with the railing, knocking all three Charmings off their feet as he runs away. He makes his way through the nunnery and it isn't long before Emma is running after him; however, once she makes it outside into the streets of Storybrooke, the Author is absolutely nowhere to be seen.
- The title card of this episode features a unicorn.
- The same title card was featured in "The Thing You Love Most".
- Although credited, Michael Socha (Will Scarlet) is absent from this episode.
- The title of this episode was confirmed by executive producer/co-creator Adam Horowitz, via his Twitter account, on January 14, 2015.
The episode saw a 11% drop from the previous episode, as it posted a 1.7/5 among 18-49s with 5.40 million viewers tuning in. The drop was attributed to increased competition from the NCAA Men's Basketball playoffs on CBS (which pushed the start of the network's lineup back by 17 minutes) and the iHeart Radio Music Awards on NBC.
The episode was met with excellent reviews.
- Amy Ratcliffe of IGN said of the episode, "The revelations about the way Maleficent lost her child and the role of the Author were satisfying and neatly tied together various plot threads. Fitting all the puzzle pieces into the past so they affect the present without disrupting it can't be simple, but this episode is a great example of how the flashbacks we see can give us a better understanding of characters we've known for a few years." Ratcliffe gave the episode a 8.7 rating out of 10.
- Hilary Busis of Entertainment Weekly noted that the outing was well outlined to keep viewers wanting to know what will happen as the series took a two-week break so ABC can air The Ten Commandments: "So it’s a good thing that tonight’s episode gave us both big answers and a bit of a cliffhanger, all the better to keep us both satisfied and intrigued during the next 14 days." She also added "Normally, when an episode of television is titled “Best Laid Plans,” it’s because someone in the cast is going to get lucky."
- In a review from Rickey.org, Nick Roman cites "Best Laid Plans" "is one of the better Once Upon A Time episodes to engage with this theme in some time. So, for that reason, I feel like this episode is well worth checking out."
Gallery of photographic stills released to promote the episode.
- ↑ Adam Horowitz tweet.
- ↑ "TV Ratings Sunday: 'Once Upon A Time', 'The Last Man on Earth', 'Secrets & Lies' & Revenge' Down, 'The iHeartRadioMusic Awards' Steady" from TV By The Numbers/Zap2It (March 30, 2015)
- ↑ Once Upon a Time: "Best Laid Plans" Review, by Amy Ratcliffe, IGN (March 29, 2015)
- ↑ "Once Upon a Time recap: 'Best Laid Plans'", by Hilary Busis, Entertainment Weekly (March 29, 2015)
- ↑ "‘Once Upon A Time’ Review: The Author Is Revealed In 'Best Laid Plans'", by Nik Roman, Rickey.org (March 29, 2015)