Ohhhh, man!  After such a promising return from the mid-season hiatus, we’re back to entire episodes that take 42 minutes to tell five minutes worth of story??? BOOOOO.

We open with Mary Margaret waking to an empty bed in the middle of the night.  She goes to check on Prince Neal, and we immediately realize she’s dreaming because the Bad Girls Club is holding a meeting in her living room.  So here’s where she pleads with them not to hurt her family, as seen in the previews for this episode, it’s not real at all.  Not to say that I was looking forward to something happening to baby Neal, but it seems like a toss-away to have built that up in the preview.  Anyway, she wakes up, and finds a sleep-less David also full of anxiety about the villainesses arrival in town.

Flashback to the Enchanted Forest, where Snow and Charming arrive home from their honeymoon to find the entire kingdom under a sleeping curse, and Maleficent, Ursula and Cruella lying in wait for them.  Turns out the bad girls are there to “make a deal.”

In present-day Storybrooke, Ursula and Cruella are saddled up to the bar at Granny’s, who is studiously ignoring them.  It what seems to be an unimportant moment, Will Scarlet arrives for his “usual” – TWO cups of coffee, to go.  Oh ho ho, Will, who are you having coffee with, now that ya boy Robin Hood is off in the great wide somewhere?  Anyway, Regina and Henry come in, and the ladies try to enlist her aid in getting service from Granny, but in dredging up Regina’s less than heroic past in front of Henry, all they accomplish is pissing Regina off.  They leave, and Mary Margaret and David immediately jump on Regina, wanting to know what she’s going to do about the new evil in town.  Regina says she’s too busy with the book to be bothered, it’s a job for the Sheriff’s Department.  Cue Sheriff Emma, walking into Granny’s with Hottie Hook.  They run into Ursula and Cruella, and it’s clear that Ursula and Hook know each other…but when Emma question him, he says she’s just one of many sea creatures he’d encountered in his pirating days.  He doesn’t look too happy, though. David interrupts, and makes Emma go with him to follow the bad girls.

The ladies have gone straight to Gold’s shop, where Belle is behind the counter.   HUH?  What is she doing there?  Isn’t she the librarian??  What’s she doing running Gold’s shop?  She just took it over?  The whole thing makes no sense….anyway, they distract Belle with some snide chat while Ursula’s tentacle snakes through the store and grabs some artifact or other.

Gold is under the library, preparing Maleficent’s ashes to be resurrected.  Yep, it was as weird as it sounds.

Henry’s looking through the book for the millionth time, when Regina notices that some of the pages are different.  Henry explains that August wrote new pages and added them to the book so that Emma would believe.  Regina decides to bring Pinocchio in to see if he retained any of August’s memories.

David and Emma are staking out Gold’s, but despite Emma’s questions, David continues to evade telling her anything about his past interactions with them.  They follow the ladies out of town while we flash back to the meeting between the Charmings and the villains in the Enchanted Castle.  Turns out the ladies are there to get the Charmings to visit the Tree of Wisdom with them, so that they can all find out how to defeat Regina’s curse.  Why the Charmings?  Because the Tree will apparently only reveal it’s wisdom to two of the most valiant heroes.

Back in Storybrooke, Emma calls Belle, who tells them a wooden box is missing from the shop.  They pull the ladies over (“Is there a problem, Sheriff Chiseled Chin?”) and David searches the car (you’d think real villains would know they don’t have to allow the cops to search their car). David finds the box containing the artifact – a dragon’s claw clutching a glass ball – but pockets it on the sly and says he didn’t find anything.

David takes the artifact to Mary Margaret, and they realize that the baddies plan to use it to resurrect Maleficent.  They decide the only way to stop them is to steal Maleficent’s ashes themselves.  In the Enchanted Forest, some uncooperative guards force Maleficent to go all dragon on them, and Charming and Snow don’t like it.  Because I guess we needed a filler scene to remind us that Maleficent is a bad guy.  Or maybe the CGI guys just wanted to show off their dragon.

Best boyfriend ever Hook arrives at the Sheriff’s office with a grilled cheese for Emma, but she decides it’s the perfect time to keep questioning him about his past with Ursula.  Naturally, she’s dissatisfied with his answer, and he leaves with his tail between his legs.  AGAIN.  She does not deserve that man, I tell you.  Anyway, Emma watches some security footage that show Ursula with the box from Gold’s shop, so she runs off to tell mom and dad, who totes blow her off because they’re getting ready to go spelunking under the library.

Emma goes to Regina’s office just in time to witness Regina brow-beating young Pinocchio.  Awkward!  Pinoch can’t remember anything, and Geppetto gets all Papa Bear on Regina and takes him home.  I know that Regina is newly-nice, but I really didn’t buy her yelling at the little kid like that.

Poor Pinocchio, about to feel Regina's wrath...

Poor unsuspecting Pinocchio, about to feel Regina’s wrath…

David and Mary Margaret are under the library, and we flash back to the Enchanted Forest, where they have given the Bad Girls Club the slip and set out for the Tree of Wisdom on their own.  The villains catch up to the heroes just in time to see the Tree reject them, and Maleficent realizes that Snow is pregnant – the Tree won’t talk to them because they don’t know if her baby will be good or bad.  They’re all, of course she’ll be good, and Mal’s all, nope, she could be really heroic OR really evil.  Which is not news – Gold explained the same thing to us last week.  Anyway, MM and David arrive at the cave under the library and think they’re about to save the day, when Ursula knocks them out.

Regina visits Geppetto and apologizes for going all Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon on his kid.  Geppetto has a huge change of heart and gives her August’s saddlebags, in case there’s something in them that she can use.  ??

Gold is delighted to see the unconscious Charmings.  He makes the point of confirming that no one, including Belle, suspects he’s involved, then gives Cruella a knife and leaves.  Cruella slices MM and David’s hands open, and mixes their blood into the ashes.  SURPRISE!  They didn’t need the artifact at all, it was a ploy to get MM and David down to the cave.  What they really needed was the blood of the “people who robbed her most.”  A nifty CGI sequence later, and Maleficent’s back.  She tells the Charmings she’s going to make them suffer as she has suffered.

Back in the Sheriff’s office, Emma is still raking Hook over the coals about the whole Ursula thing.  He confesses that he’s lying, he does remember his past with Ursula, but it’s so horrible, what he did to her, that he can’t bring himself to tell Emma about it.  She all of a sudden changes her tune, though, as just in time for Snow and Charming to eavesdrop, she tells Hook that she’s going to take a cue from her parents and choose to see the best in him.  David and MM now can’t bring themselves to tell her their big secret, although they do tell her that Maleficent is back.

Your weekly photo of Hook.  I'm excited that it looks like he's actually going to get some storyline!

Your weekly photo of Hook. I’m excited that it looks like he’s actually going to get some storyline!

In the final flashback, Snow wakes to find Maleficent in her chamber in the middle of the night.  Maleficent tells her that she is also about to become a mother, and that’s why they need to work together to defeat Regina. Snow turns her down, though, saying she and David will win, but she will not succumb to darkness, and they won’t compromise who they are.

Finally, Mary Margaret meets Regina for an odd secret meeting in the rain, just so she can, at great, snooze-inducing length, explain ONCE AGAIN, that Emma has the capacity for great evil as well as great heroism.  Anyway, MM wants Regina to go undercover and infiltrate the Bad Girls Club and help the good guys win.  I honestly tuned MM’s voice-over out because what was happing on screen was fairly interesting:  a) Henry finds a drawing in August’s bag, like an illustration from the book, of a door, and it’s labeled “Author?” and B) Gold, WHO IS SUPPOSEDLY IN HIDING, is once again standing right out on the street, across from his shop, spying on Belle……WHO IS KISSING WILL SCARLET!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Okay, totes did not see that coming, although now we know who the other coffee was for.

Mary Margaret managed to snag my attention again right at the end, by confessing to Regina that she and David caused Maleficent to lose her child.  Okay, I will admit, that’s a pretty good secret…..but did it really require an entire episode of not much at all to get to that reveal?  (Oh, yeah, turns out the dragon-claw artifact thingy was a piece of a super-creepy baby rattle.)

Here’s  hoping for a more action-packed installment next week!


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