In "The Jolly Roger, " Sunday's episode of "Once Upon a Time," the question of who is the most ruthless scourge of the fairy tale seven seas is answered, and our lovable Captain Hook comes out on top over Blackbeard.
Yes, the heavy-eye-lined duo duels for controls of Hook's ship, while Ariel briefly swims back into our lives and Charming wins the popularity contest with Henry.
So much fun, but Emma Swan and Regina Mills are all about business. Regina is going to begin teaching Emma magic. That'll be fun. But because she needs to concentrate on her lessons, she needs someone to look after Henry.
Grandparents? No, they're not fun enough. Snow and Charming are a little hurt, but they know it's true, and their minds are on other things. Emma asks Hook to take care of Henry, because he's the fun guy -- teaching him how to steal (borrow) boats and things.
Hook agrees, but he's having a conversation beforehand, telling Smee (not a rat anymore!) that the Jolly Roger is no longer in Storybrooke, but he won't say why. Interesting.
Ariel's back! Yay! The popular princess was out searching for Prince Eric. Again. In a year-back switcheroo, we see Ariel and Hook meet up after the curse brought everyone back to the Enchanted Forest.
Ariel makes her way into the captain's quarters masquerading as a prostitute. She pulls a weapon on him, but a quick dagger switch and Ariel is on defense against Hook.
Ariel unknowingly gives Hook the clue (symbol on the dagger) that Blackbeard has taken the Jolly Roger. Hook scrambles Smee and the crew, determined to take back his ship, even though Blackbeard strikes fear into the hearts of even his own hearty mates.
Back in Storybrooke, Ariel enlists the help of Snow, Charming and Hook to find Eric. Searching Mr. Gold's shop, Hook sees a cloak that he's seen before on Ariel, and it's Eric's.
He deftly plays it off as a coincidental discovery, and for some reason is covering up the fact the he knows of Eric. Belle does a locator spell, and the cloak floats to find its owner, who seems to be at the bottom of the bay. Ariel is heartbroken. Hook is consoling, a guilt-ridden consoling.
Back to Regina's tough-love tutoring. Using the Rumpelstiltskin educational method, Regina decides to put Emma on a collapsing rope bridge hoping to force her latent magical power to awaken. If not, she plunges to her death in the chasm below.
Somehow, Emma is able to collect all of the boards and make something of a platform to save herself. Regina, like any teacher, is angry with Emma because she has all this untapped potential and has never tried to explore it. We're all a little mad at her too, Regina.
So Charming and Snow took Henry off Hook's hands as he helped Ariel search for Eric. And they decide to show Henry that they're fun people too.
So what's really fun to a teenage boy? No, not that: Charming decides to teach him how to drive. No permit? No problem. Charming is the sheriff. One mangled mailbox later, Charming and Snow are the cool couple (grandparents, of course). Of course, Emma and Regina are not as happy about the situation.
Back to Hook's story: Hook's crew, which only consists of Smee and Ariel for some reason, boards the Jolly Roger, with Hook challenging Blackbeard for control of the ship. Ariel got to come along because of a technicality in the Pirates' Code (where can I get a copy?), and she leaves to search the ship while Hook and Blackbeard fight.
Swashbuckling swordplay ensues, and even though Hook has his hook, he doesn't really have the upper hand to begin with. But this was Hook's ship, and he knows every rope and loose board, which he uses to ensnare Blackbeard and best him.
That sneaky Blackbeard, though, won't tell them which island he's marooned Eric on unless Hook gives up the ship. Hook is a hero now, but not when it comes to his ship. He makes Blackbeard walk the plank with a bloody back to entice the sharks. Ariel will never forgive him.
And neither, it seems, will Hook forgive himself. He's wracked with guilt, and finally tells Ariel in present-day Storybrooke what he did. She, like everyone, doesn't remember the last year, but is mad.
Using his guilt, she forces him to swear on who he loves the most (and broke his heart) that he is ashamed and sorry for his deed. He does, and it's Emma Swan that he invokes. Then comes the gut punch. Ariel is no more, and Zelena the wicked witch stands in her place.
Ariel never came back to Storybrooke, and ended up finding Eric herself. Dang it. I both love and hate that I didn't see that coming.
Zelena puts a curse on Hook so that if his lips ever touch Emma's, she will lose all of her magical power. Hook deduces that apparently Zelena can't destroy Emma for some reason. Another twist.
Hook must now keep his distance, despite becoming even more popular with the group when they find that Ariel has reunited with Eric due in some small part (to them) to Hook's help. Tragedy overload. Now, even with no Neal, a kid who actually likes him, and Emma softening, Hook will have to withdraw.
And we still don't exactly know what happened to the Jolly Roger in the year after Hook got it back. Mystery.