This episode, which officially kicks off the second arc of season 3, really plays out like a quasi-pilot episode. Just look how it opens up, with Phillip riding his horse through the Enchanted Forest in order to join the pregnant Aurora for a picnic. It’s very reminiscent of how the show first began, with Charming riding his horse to reach Snow White’s glass coffin. Phillip and Aurora’s lunch date is interrupted when a purple cloud rolls in. Upon seeing it, Phillip and Aurora are both reasonably fearful, but when the cloud dissipates, they’re greeted by the appearance of the people of Storybrooke, who have all been returned to the Enchanted Forest after the town was erased from existence. In an attempt to move forward, Snow and Charming decide to return to the Evil Queen Regina’s castle in order to take it back, only this time, Regina will be a part of their group. The former Storybrookers all set off on their journey, with the exception of Killian, who instead elects to head off on his own to locate the Jolly Roger, which Regina stated has also been returned to the Enchanted Forest. However, a new danger is lurking in the Enchanted Forest. A danger Phillip and Aurora know all about, as they are left with the knowledge that they had to inform someone that the Storybrookers have returned. Otherwise, the new threat will most likely come after them and their unborn baby. The former Storybookers become aware of the threat after Regina attempts to slip away unnoticed to literally bury her heart, wanting to dull the pain she feels after losing Henry for what she feels is forever. Snow, upon noticing Regina’s absence, goes after her and convinces her stepmother to reconsider, pointing out that she has also had to say goodbye to her daughter for the second time. Before they can rejoin the others, they are attacked. By a flying monkey. (Can you see where this is going yet? I thought so.) The two women are saved by the timely arrival of Robin Hood and his men. However, where exactly is Mulan? Didn’t she join Robin’s band at the start of the season? But she doesn’t even get a passing mention. Not even a quick ‘oh, she’s off spearheading the Eastern Division of the Merry Men.’ What happened to Mulan, show writers? At least we do get to see Robin acknowledging Belle, showing that they haven’t forgotten they’ve met before. What is particularly interesting is seeing the interactions between Regina and Robin as they meet for the first time. Because we already know that Robin is the man with the lion tattoo who Tinkerbell tried to set up with Regina way back when. Snow, whose True Love radar seems to be working again, seems to pick up on something, as she initiates some ‘girl talk time’ by trying to discuss their new traveling companion with Regina. Further discussion is cut off when they discover someone has placed a barrier over the land surrounding the castle, preventing anyone from getting near it. In the final moments, we’re shown the proof of what everyone was suspecting the moment they saw the flying monkeys enter the picture. The new big bad for this arc is none other than the Wicked Witch of Wizard of Oz fame. (Well, we've already gotten enough hints that Oz was a real place in past episodes, so, why not actually go there?)
Meanwhile, in New York, Emma is once again approached by Killian while she is on a date with Walsh, a furniture salesman she had been dating for the past 8 months. Killian again informs her that her parents need her help and instructs her to go to a particular address, telling her that doing so will most likely convince her to hear him out. After some hesitation, Emma decides to go to the address, and is visibly shaken when she finds herself at Neal’s old apartment, particularly after she finds Henry’s camera still sitting on the table. My major question is, how is this apartment still remaining as Neal left it? Because of Neal going back to the Enchanted Forest with the rest of Storybrooke, that apartment has been vacant for a year now. Who’s still paying rent on it? I doubt there are any cross-dimensional banks or post offices in the Enchanted Forest, so Neal couldn’t have been sending rent checks out, and his ex-fiance, Tamara the Psychopath, is most likely still lying dead in Neverland. You’d think by now the landlord would have confiscated all of Neal’s belongings and leased the apartment out to someone else. Unless Neal somehow had enough money to outright own the apartment? Even so, his utilities would have been cut off after he stopped paying his bills. Rambling aside, after the discovery of the camera, Emma heads of to Central Park to confront Killian, but she still refuses to hear him out, or accept the bottle of memory-restoring potion he offers her. Instead she, possibly pulling some of her bail bondsperson strings, has him arrested for harassment. However, after having the pictures in Henry’s camera developed and finding photographs of her and Henry in Storybooke, she returns to bail Killian out. Here, we get Killian bemoaning about how barbaric modern day prisons can be, particularly after ‘they force-fed me something called bologna.’ Combine that with his obvious confusion when Emma asks him if he’d photoshopped the pictures she found (you can alter the images on undeveloped film?). I will never get enough of Killian vs. the Modern World moments. This time, Killian convinces Emma to take a chance and drink the potion by telling her to trust her gut, something Henry is always telling her to do. The moment she drinks the potion, her memories return.
The scene that follows the return of Emma’s memories has the two of them discussing what comes next. (Interestingly enough, the scene when Emma drinks the potion takes place during the day, but when she and Killian are at her New York apartment, it’s clearly nighttime. Meaning they’d spent a bit of time together off-screen. Wonder what they got up to during that time.) Emma knows that she has a responsibility to return to Storybrooke, which has come back into existence with a brand new curse. At the same time, she is mournful for the knowledge that she has to give up the life she’s found in New York. Even now that she knows that life was founded on a false past, she still had loved it. As if to pour salt on her wounds, when she meets with Walsh in an attempt to amicably break up with him, she learns that he was a flying monkey in disguise and was undoubtedly placed in her life on purpose to make sure she’d stay ignorant of what was going on back in the Enchanted Forest/Storybrooke. (In fact, I think he’s the same monkey we see in the flashback. When Robin ends up saving Snow and Regina, he shoots the monkey with one of his arrows. And in some shots, we can see Walsh has a distinct scar on his neck, in the same place the arrow hit. Nice subtle foreshadowing there, makeup crew.) This discovery only intensifies the state of mind Emma has been developing since the last episode- the belief that her role as the Savior will forever deny her the opportunity to have a life of her own. We’ll see her continuing to have this mindset throughout the remainder of the season.
As for Killian, he is also torn over the return of Emma’s memories. He knows that he did the right thing by getting Emma to drink the potion, particularly since he knows her well enough to know the real Emma would not be happy to live a life founded on false memories, and that she would want to go back if her parents were in trouble. At the same time, he can’t help but feel guilty for forcing Emma into a position where she’d have to give up the life she’s built for herself in New York. He can see how much Emma loves this version of reality, and he hates how he’s possibly causing her pain. Even more so when their conversation turns to Walsh, who they have yet to realize isn’t what he seems. It’s visibly tormenting to him to think of Emma finding happiness with another man, but at the same time, we’ve already seen the proof that Killian would willingly put his feelings aside and step back if being with someone else would be what made Emma happy.
Despite the emotional turmoil, it is touching to see how they’re both still so open with each other and aren’t afraid to make themselves vulnerable. Killian isn’t apologetic in informing Emma that, in not so many words, that he didn’t have anything in the Enchanted Forest without her there. At the same time, Emma doesn’t hesitate to voice her feelings with Killian about how conflicted she is about giving up her life in New York, and in return, Killian does what he can to try and reassure her. He knows he cannot take back what he did. All he can do is remind Emma that she still has Henry, who he knows is the most important aspect of her life and that he brought her the potion for the sole purpose of saving her from a life based on lies. He didn’t do it because of her parents or anyone else in the Enchanted Forest/Storybrooke. He did it all for her, and only her.
When Emma, Killian and Henry, who wasn’t able to get his memories restored, make it back to Storybooke, the first thing Emma does is seek out her parents. But not before trusting a sleeping Henry to Killian’s care, something we’ll see her continue to do throughout this story arc. When Emma locates Snow and Charming, she learns the new curse did more than just return everyone to Storybrooke. While everyone remembers who they are, they have completely forgotten everything that has happened in the past year. The last thing they remember is watching Emma and Henry driving off at the end of the last episode. However, they do realize that they’re missing an entire years’ worth of memories, which is proven by the fact that Snow is visibly pregnant again.
I do have to give the people in charge of costuming brownie points for this episode, simply for the continuity that was at work when everyone returned to the Enchanted Forest. Just look at Charming’s shirt. It still has the bloodstains from when he got stabbed while putting Baby Emma into the magical wardrobe in the pilot episode. Someone obviously went back and re-watched that scene when they were filming this episode, and I highly appreciate it. On the other side of the costuming coin, Emma, I’m sorry, but… what is with the plaid pants? While I don’t claim to be a fashionista, those pants are just hideous! They just are. If anyone out there disagrees with me, more power to you. I suppose I just have a thing against plaid, as I can’t look at it without thinking Scottish Kilt. Or Lumberjack Shirt. (Come on, show writers! Give us Paul Bunyan and Babe!)