Say what you will about the story quality of Once Upon A Time, but there’s no denying that this show understands the importance of casting very attractive men in a series whose target audience seems to be teenage girls. Captain Hook gets a hottie makeover in “The Crocodile,” with Irish stud Colin O’Donoghue bringing some Jack Sparrow sexiness (and guyliner) to the role. Turns out Captain Killian Jones has a secret history with Rumpelstiltskin, who’s scaly greenish skin earns him the nickname that is also the episode’s title.
Written by David H. Goodman and Robert Hull (the latter an alum of Gossip Girl and Alcatraz), this episode does for Rumpelstiltskin what “We Are Both” did for Regina, putting him on the path to redemption when his relationship with Belle falls apart. After waking up from a nightmare, Belle spies Rumpelstiltskin using his gold spinning wheel for some sort of magic spell (it’s magic because it’s fuchsia). When she confronts him about using magic when she explicitly asked him not to, he responds with his usual canned answers, and his continued reluctance to speak the truth is what finally pushes Belle away.
As his current girl runs off, the fairyback details the last time Rumpelstiltskin lost a woman that was close to him: his ex-wife Milla. Disgusted by her coward husband who never fought in the Ogre Wars, Milla hangs around the local bars hitting on men like Captain Jones, who brings her aboard his ship to be a companion to his men. Rumpelstiltskin could always duel the captain for his wife, but the pathetic old man has no chance against the expert swordsmanship and general swoon-worthiness of his opponent. It’s always nice to look at the sad man Rumpelstilstkin was before becoming “the Dark One”—and it helps illuminate the actions of his Storybrooke self—who will never be that powerless person again.
When Belle disappears, Rumpelstiltskin begins his search at her father’s flower shop. Moe continues to despise the bastard for taking his daughter away from him, and hearing that Belle’s on the run is good news for an angry father. Rumpelstiltskin really should have tried looking around town before going to Moe, because Belle is just hanging out at Granny’s Diner sucking down iced teas. The writers bring some attention to the supporting ladies with this episode’s focus on Belle and Ruby, the latter of whom is getting more screen time now that Meghan Ory has been promoted to a series regular. Belle doesn’t know what to do with her life, and Ruby asks her what she likes to do. Belle says she likes books, and it just so happens that Storybrooke has a shut-down library that could use a new head librarian.
Belle goes to explore her prospective workplace when a creepy man in a red hat grabs her, the same man who tells Rumpelstiltskin that he can get him magical bean in the fairyback. (It continues to be incredibly difficult to take any discussion of magic beans seriously on this show. It sounds so silly out loud.) It’s years after the first pirate-ship incident, and the weak Rumpelstiltskin of the past has given way to the hammy, scaly “Dark One,” who can make Mr. Red Hat a child again if he brings him the magic bean. Then Captain Jones walk into the bar, and Rumpelstiltskin decides that it’s time to get some revenge.
Rumpelstiltskin bumps into the pirate on the street, and is called a rat when he doesn’t show any manners. “Not like a rat at all. More like a crocodile,” Jones says when he sees the imp’s flesh. It’s a fun twist on Captain Hook’s greatest fear, and the new Rumpelstiltskin proves that he has bite. He asks Jones what happened to Milla and is casually told that she died, so he finally takes up the pirate on that offer of a duel from years back. He takes down the captain after a smoothly choreographed sword fight, but as he’s about to pull out his enemy’s heart, Milla appears, alive and definitely a pirate now. She tells her former husband that she has the magic bean and that she’ll give it to him in exchange for Jones’ life, so he takes her up on the offer.
Lurky McRedHat is a man who procures hard to find objects, and he grabbed Belle off the street for her father, who wants to keep her away from Rumpelstiltskin. After Belle explains that she willingly stayed with Rumpelstiltskin and has fallen in love with him, her father goes to desperate measures to make sure his daughter forgets about the beast, sending her to a mineshaft where she’ll go over the city limits and have her mind erased. Meanwhile, Rumpelstiltskin goes to Prince Charming for help considering he knows what it’s like to lose the women in his life, and ends up asking for some relationship advice as well. He wants to know how Charming made it work with Snow, and Charming tells him that it’s all about honesty, because that’s the exact thing that Rumpelstiltskin’s relationship doesn’t have. The duo’s search takes them to Granny’s, where Ruby reluctantly tells them about Belle visiting earlier, offering her recently enhanced lupine senses as assistance. She tracks Belle’s scent to Moe’s flower shop, where the trio learns that Belle has been sent to a level from a 1990s side-scroller videogame to have her memory erased.
Over in the fairyback, Milla, Jones, and Rumpelstiltskin have their final showdown aboard a pirate ship. Rumpelstiltskin is angered that Milla abandoned Baelfire, but he’s even more furious that she left him with the responsibility of telling their son that his mother was gone. Ultimately, there’s always a selfish motivation behind Rumpelstiltskin’s actions, and now that he has the power, he decides to get his payback by ripping out his ex-wife’s heart in front of her lover. Captain Jones still has the magic bean, and rather than kill the pirate, Rumpelstiltskin takes Jones’ hand holding the bean. Handicapped, Jones digs a hook into Rumpelstiltskin’s chest, and while it doesn’t do much damage, it gives him an idea for what he should do to replace his missing right hand.
In Storybrooke, Rumpelstiltskin uses his magic to rescue Belle at the last minute, but it’s not enough to put him in her good graces. Her father asks her to come with him, but considering that he just sent her down a mineshaft to give her amnesia, she turns him down. She decides that she won’t let anyone tell her what to do or how to feel anymore, and tells the two of them she doesn’t want to see them ever again. A free woman, Belle returns to Granny’s Diner, where she takes Ruby up on an offer of a room until she gets back on her feet. There’s also a key to the library waiting for her left by Rumpelstiltskin, who is waiting for her in the empty building. So never seeing the guy again didn’t last very long. Taking Prince Charming’s advice, Rumpelstiltskin tells her all about his past, finally sharing everything about Baelfire and his misery now that he can’t be with his son. The spell is broken, but if he goes looking for his son, he won’t remember the thing he’s looking for. He didn’t want to lose Belle again without her knowing everything, and his honesty reawakens her affections. She asks him to have a hamburger with her at Granny’s, because now Belle bonds over food.
The episode ends with a Captain Hook epilogue, revealing that Red Hat is Hook’s right-hand-man Smee as they sail off to Neverland. For once, this show has let the scruffy hottie survive, and it looks like he’ll be around for a while. Back in Storybrooke, Rumpelstiltskin interrogates Smee about what happened to Hook, but when the curse hit, he was never pulled to Storybrooke. Where is he? Hanging out in the Enchanted Forest, ready to start some shit with Cora. With the ash from the magic wardrobe, Hook is one step closer to getting his chance to skin a crocodile, and one thing is certain: He’s going to look damn good doing it.
- I love that Ruby delivers a basket full of pastries to the mine workers.
- Game of Thorns is the name of Maurice’s flower shop. Nice one, OUAT writers.
- Could Milla be Esmerelda from The Hunchback Of Notre Dame? Her early costume definitely looks very gypsy.
- Speaking of costuming, Ruby looks like she’s walked out of a music video from 1987. Is that supposed to be hip?
- Belle: “I do like books.” Ruby: “The library!” Job hunting in Storybrooke.
- “Do you remember turning a butcher into a pig?” There are some very interesting grudges now that the curse is broken.