Snark Tank; Recap

Dark Swan and the Merlin Tree: Recap of Once Upon a Time’s The Price

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I already knew this episode would feature three things we’ve seen a lot of in five seasons of Once Upon a Time: a ball, a curse and mass amnesia. But The Price made the most of these repetitive plots to craft one of the better episodes the show has done in recent years.


Have you heard? There’s a new curse! So the dwarves assemble at the town line to find out what will happen this time when someone crosses the line. Memory loss?  Flying Monkeys? Benjamin Button Disease?

No! CGI locusts and leaves! That’s right, Dopey crosses the town line and turns into a tree. Regina, David and Snow arrive just in time to see the dwarves barking up the wrong tree. David looks seriously sexy with that stubble. Snow is not wearing a cardigan, and Madam Mayor is Head Bitch in Charge. Squad goals, indeed.

In Camelot, Guinevere descends the steps and we learn immediately that Guinevere is Latina! The entire internet is now locked in a battle, with Oncers on Facebook screaming “She’s supposed to be English!” and Oncers on Twitter saying “If she turns out to be evil…”

King Arthur announces that their arrival fulfills a prophesy and now they’re going to have a prom in their honor!

It looks like almost everyone who is still in the cast and not in a coma made the trip to Camelot, including Belle‘s rose, baby Neal, Henry and Zelena. Speaking of Zelena, Regina silences her sister and makes her the offer of a lifetime: “While we’re here you get to be my new handmaid.” Emma is happy to see Hook, but he’s freaking out because his girlfriend is The Dark One.

Arthur explains that Merlin is now inside a tree and according to prophesy, a Great Savior is the only one who can bust him out without capping a chainsaw in his ass. With respect to this plot twist, Hook said it best: “The most powerful sorcerer in all the lands is stuck inside a bloody tree?”

Arthur says “One of you is the savior, so who is it?”


And of course Regina declares herself Savior. “I’m freeing Merlin from that tree then we’ll take of the dark one…” *looks pointedly at Emma* – “and we’ll all go home.”

In Storybrook Hook and Belle are discussing the perils of True Love’s Kiss. Belle bluntly says Rumple chose power over love and pulled away from her. TLK is pointless when darkness has a hold on someone. And a curse isn’t a curse when person afflicted wants it. This is some high level therapy from Belle (which reminds me, where is Archie?) Hook is super quick to say that Emma doesn’t want a curse, she doesn’t want to be dark. Belle ominously reminds him that it’s hard to love a Dark One.


Henry summons Emma. He apologizes to her by saying “Whatever happened, I’m sorry we failed you” but Emma is quick to shut that down. “Everyone failed me but you.” Regina sashays up and tells Emma to keep her Dark One paws off their son. They have a heated discussion about why Emma can’t just tell the truth. Regina baits her by saying she’s afraid to speak the truth. Emma deflects by saying she learned from Regina that it’s best to create a curse WITHOUT a savior.

Regina sounds just like a Charming when she says “We’ll find a way” to break the curse. Henry backs her up, just as he has since season two when he assured Regina she could become a hero. But the only person whose opinion truly matters to Regina on the Savior issue is Emma. And Emma says she knows for a fact that Regina doesn’t have in her to be the Savior.


Elsewhere in Storybrook, the dwarves run into dudes in chainmail and horses. It’s Arthur! He and his team made the time hop from Camelot to Storybrook. Snow and David show up in time to tell Arthur they lied: dear daughter is the Dark One.

Everyone convenes at Regina’s place to debrief. Regina points out that she totally kill everyone and Snow is like “But don’t!” And Regina is like “Chill Snow, I’m not killing anyone. Also my office still looks fly.” And Snow is like “Don’t you mean OUR office?”


Regina and Emma need to talk about so many things. First up is Emma’s anger at Regina claiming to be the Savior. Regina wields the dark one’s knife in order to make Emma shut up for a second. She wants Emma to remember that the last time she dabbled in magic she lost control. No one can know that Emma is the Dark One. Regina also does not care about any f’ing prophecy. She’s gonna fix it so Emma doesn’t have to use bad magic ever again.

Let’s pause to take this all in. Balls and trees be damned, Regina is concerned first and foremost about Emma’s welfare. She doesn’t care about Merlin being in a tree. Her focus is on her son’s birth mom. See how far we’ve come? Their relationship hasn’t revolved around Henry for two seasons now. Maybe something deeper is going on between them.

Emma certainly thinks so. She gives a sarcastic thanks followed by a real one.


Regina runs to Robin Hood. In this scene he’s her therapist and cheerleader, which is often just what we need from our significant others. She is shaken by her conversation with Emma. She knows she can do more for people than just save the town again and again. “I can be more, there’s one thing to not hate me but another to get them to be led by me.”As a fan of Regina, it is awesome to see that she feels compelled to be a leader.

Robin gives Regina something she has rarely had since Tink – a true confidant. He encourages her. I don’t think the show is saying Regina couldn’t change without Robin. She did change without Robin, but it’s so much easier to move forward toward the light when you have people who believe in her. This entire episode shows that the Charmings, Henry, Robin and even the dwarves believe in Regina.

In Storybrook Guin and Arthur reunite. Guin immediately looks down at Arthur’s tool belt and she’s like “Where is it?”


Um what the heck is she looking for?! Oh. Excalibur. He doesn’t have it but needs it if all their plans and hard work are to succeed. If you’re looking for a clue about whether these two are on the up and up, you just got it.

Then a super scary extra from the movie Alien dives straight over Robin Hood and the Merry Men RV Park and carries Robin away. And also there’s ROLAND!!!!!!!!!!! How much more terror can this kid experience? Ask Henry, kid – a lot more terror.


Hook is talking to Emma’s yellow bug and accidentally summon her. She looks like she’s in a punk rock band and she’s apparating all over the place and generally looking HOT. Emma apparates them both to her house. OH now Emma has a house? You mean the entire town stopped shacking up in Snow and David’s two-bedroom apartment? I feel cheated out of a House Hunters episode featuring Emma as she searches for a house with Henry, Hook, Regina and her parents in tow.

Let me see if I can summarize what happens between Emma and Hook delicately. Hook is concerned about Emma, and Emma is essentially saying “Just because I’m the dark one doesn’t mean we can’t bonk.” In a turnabout from seasons 3 and 4, Emma is the one giving Hook the booze. She’s into his pirate side. Although this is seductive to Hook and everyone with a pulse, Hook just tries for the TLK. It fails. Sadz!

Because Colin O’Donoghue is a good actor, I think it’s fair to assume Hook has mixed emotions about Emma wanting his body and loving his pirate side. Because he wants her to like “me for me….”

Meanwhile, the alien is flying around with Robin. Regina is like I LOVE THE HARD WAY BITCH and she tries to fry her with fireballs but she gets knocked in the head. Snow/David come to her rescue want her to go to the hospital to get checked out. Regina is all “I can just rub some dirt on it!” But the Charmings are too worried to let her back out there alone.

I’m verklempt.

coffetalk        talk

Ok, I”m fine.

Back in Camelot, Arthur wants Regina to wear a special Savior pendant and go to the dance!

But Regina isn’t going to the ball. “I’m not foxtrotting my way across Club Med-ieval.” Then we learn that Regina doesn’t know how to dance! This idea that Regina doesn’t know how to dance might not be realistic, because lets face it, Cora named her Queen, but I don’t even care because this scene is so cute. Regina magics up an evil ball gown, which Snow automatically rejects because it’s too Evil Queen and Her Cleavage. Why aren’t these two on an episode of Say Yes to the Dress? Then David teaches Regina how to dance and I’m pretty sure the entire fandom is having a meltdown of feels.


But elsewhere, evil bad guy sees this entire conversation via the necklace and now he knows she was the Evil Queen.


Then Snow goes to talk to the other bride. She’s telling Emma all about her very first ball and putting Emma in a white wedding dress with killer hair. I feel like somewhere in these two scenes Snow figured out Regina loves her daughter, but that just means my Inner Shipper is screaming to break free. Sometimes I think this show will go full on Swan Queen, because look at what they actually write!


But then Rational Alex silences the Inner Shipper and reminds her that these two have boyfriends.

Editor’s note: There is never a Rational Alex.

Speaking of that, Emma gets introduced and Killian is into it. Regina is introduced as the Savior and Robin is very excited. Both actors here do a great job of being totally gobsmacked at their women.

In Storybrook, Regina storms in to confront Rumple. He’s in a coma but she is going to stand in her truth. “You’re the reason for the Evil Queen, you made me like this! I’m going to prove them all wrong.” You go girl! We have about 100 podcast episodes explaining the complicated dynamic between Regina and Rumple. Regina’s evil deeds are her fault, but they’re also Rumple’s fault. It’s at least a case of contributory negligence.

Regina is interrupted by Belle who was hard at work researching their problems. This reminded me of a scene straight out of Buffy. Hey Giles, Belle found a Fury! A demon is here to drag Robin to the underworld. Which means someone has to give their life….

Back to the Ball. Belle has to moon over the stupid glass rose. Really? She’s gotta tote that through portals and balls? Grumpy tries to cheer her up and they dance. Is their ship name Grelle?

We are at the ball and OMG Henry is looking toward a GIRL. David seizes the moment and gives the totally dad advice of “just introduce yourself?” Teen Angst Henry think this is insane, but David tells Henry that he’s from a mysterious land with Saviors and magic and he can make that work for him.

Henry approaches and gives the girl some punch. I’m going to assume it’s punch because David is a dad through-and-through, and wouldn’t encourage teenage drinking. She informs him that’s she’s totally bored and Henry calls the prom lame and she says they do this, like, every night or something. He shows her the iPod he earned for saving the world and calls himself a writer. Squeeeeeeeee!


There’s a beautiful and strangely emotionally charged moment when Emma and Regina are dancing with Robin and Hood and looking at each other meaningfully, causing the planets to align and us to simultaneously ship all the couples, canon and non-canon. That gets ruined quickly when the evil guy, Percival, wants to dance with Regina. He quickly tells her when he was a boy, she slaughtered his whole village.

Wait, Percival is Callisto from Xena??


Percival stabs Robin and then Charming saves Robin and Regina by killing Percival-Callisto!

Back to Storybrook again, where Regina has invited herself over to Emma’s for a housewarming party. Emma wants to know where the wine is. (I guess they’ve done this before.) Emma is disappointed because like Hook, Regina is not there for a game of advanced knife play. Regina wants Emma to fix the problem with the Fury. She says she won’t sacrifice someone else’s life to save Robin.

That’s big of you Regina, but laying this problem at Emma’s doorstep is a bad call. Everyone (including Regina) is learning how much they actually lean on Emma. Regina tries to appeal to Emma’s non-dark side, saying “I know you, the good you,” which is actually something Emma said to Regina way back when. Emma is done fixing Regina’s problems or watching Regina blame others for her problems.

Message – step up and save him yourself.

In Camelot Regina tries in vain to save Robin – Percival’s sword was enchanted to kill her.


Regina asks Emma to use dark magic to save Robin. The key point is that Regina is appealing to Emma’s humanity and love, not using the dagger to force her to take that action. Emma agrees and uses magic to save Robin. Rumple appears – “Embrace your darkness… there will be a price.” Emma says Regina asked for the magic, so she has to pay.

Emma is not ok. She’s needs to lay down. That act, motivated by love, somehow brings on the darkness. Does this make sense to you, viewers? Or is there still too much unknown about the Dark One’s magic?

Then Rumple says “You know TLK didn’t work for Robin and Regina.” Huh. What is he saying? That Robin and Regina are not true loves? That Robin is destined to die? I need to re-watch the episode.


The Robin situation is mirrored in Storybrook, when Regina, Charmings and Grumpy unite to stop Robin from being dragged to the underworld. They all hold hands, and the Fury sucks their souls combined with some glowing effects from the Disney budget. Basically, the group does the Care Bear Stare – and it totally works! Regina wants to know how Snow knew that would work. Snow was a kindergarten teacher, she probably spent 30 years studying the Care Bears.


Robin is pumped up because Regina has believers! Aw Robin, you’re being cute, that probably means you’re going to die. David says they were NOT going to let Regina go! And Grumpy of all people says “Sister, that monster proved if anyone going to save this town, it’s you.”

Belle and Hook are continuing their discussion of how to love emotionally unavailable people. Hook is confused and determined. He feels he can wait it out. Belle is a little more jaded. She’s like – K.

We learn that Henry’s girl is Violet. He shows her that if you put a coin in the jukebox it’ll sing for you. They play that song.

Snow and David are talking about their sitch. Snow realizes that if they win, that means Emma has to lose. Nice way to set the stakes.

In the past, Arthur apologizes for Percival. Regina says “Well I was the Evil Queen.” Arthur’s reaction was the same weird one that Robin gave when he found out Regina killed Marian – oh well. Arthur figures since she saved Robin, she really is the Savior.

Guin and Arthur have a fireside chat later, where she reveals that SHE IS SO OVER listening to her hubby’s talk about the prophesy. Shorter Guinevere: “Percival is dead, these strangers are weird, where’s Lancelot?” Arthur says he needs the dagger to make Excalibur or they’ll lose everything.

Finally, in Storybrook Belle and Hook are clinking glasses and toasting their refusal to give up on their Big Bads. The difference here is that Emma hasn’t done anything to abuse Hook (yet), whereas all Belle got for her trouble was a worthless wedding ring and heaps of betrayal. Plus that sweet rose-under-glass, I guess.

At Emma’s house Coma-Rumple is up and about tempting Emma with that delicious dagger. He shows her all the bad stuffed locked in her downstairs closet. He echoes Belle in saying that friends and family can hold you back from going full on Evil, so turn off that impulse to protect those who love you! “Emma, you can change that. Here’s Excalibur – use it to snuff out the light!” She tries but it repels her. She has to pay the price.


Dead: 1 (Percy)
Magically Undead: 1 (Robin)
Magical Objects: 3 (Excalibur, Rose and Percy’s Enchanted Sword)
True Love’s Kiss: 1 failed, 3 considered.

What did you think? Was this better than the premiere? How are you feeling about Dark Emma? Leave us know!

Don’t forget to listen to our reaction episode on the podcast.



Alex is a lawyer and opinionated.

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