Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Once Upon A Time: "Nasty Habits"

Illustration for article titled Once Upon A Time: "Nasty Habits"

Remember those “If you love someone, set them free. If they come back they're yours; if they don't they never were” posters from the 1970s? Not to inflict bad wall art on anyone, but our OUAT characters could learn a thing or two from that old cliché.

Especially Rumplestiltskin. In this week’s fairyback, he thinks the only way to hold onto Baelfire (Dylan Schmid) is to give him useless presents while keeping him trapped in his own home (“Papa, I told you, I don’t want any more gifts from the people you terrorize.”). This makes Bae susceptible to the call of the Pied Piper of Hamelin: I thought it was really weird that the flute only called pre-pubescent boys until we see who the real culprit is: Pan, of course. Not much of a leap, actually: Pied Piper of Hamelin=pipes of Pan (or the pan flute)=Peter Pan, but it’s welcome nonetheless. Only boys who feel lost and unloved hear Pan’s music, so Baelfire joins Pan’s neverending and apparently superfun circle of fire dance. (Always glad to see Schmid in an episode, but he sure got tall over the summer.)

Rumplestiltskin hunts Bae down in Pan’s group, and tries to get him back. Rumple’s insecurity is what makes him such a great character, especially the way Robert Carlyle portrays him. His fear is what led him to cripple himself, which led him to lose his wife, in the first place. When Pan offers him the opportunity to let Bae choose between them, Rumple takes Bae and bolts instead. But if Rumple had given Bae the chance to choose between him and Neverland, the boy would have chosen him. Now, it seems he’s lost his son to his own doubts and fears. Maybe it was Rumple’s uncertainty about Bae that eventually led him to choose magic over his son?

At any rate, it was still a poor choice, and not one the grownup Bae, now Neal, has forgiven. After hitching a ride on Pan’s shadow last week, Bae winds up in Neverland and faces his father. Rumple is of course overjoyed, and they set off to rescue Henry. They take down Pan in an awesome scene in which Neal shoots him with an arrow covered with a paralyzing poison from a magic squid he’s summoned, knowing Peter would be able to stop it: “I remember plenty,” he boasts, “that’s why I didn’t coat the tip.” But once Pan teases the prophecy of Henry being Rumple’s undoing, Neal no longer trusts Rumple. (“The prophecy remains” is this episode’s “Magic always has a price.”) Unfortunately, Neal distrusts Rumple so much that he takes off with Henry without him. Not the wisest move, and neither is stopping with the unconscious Henry in an open clearing, where they are easily ambushed. Pan has Henry back, and we’re back where we started, except with Neal now Pan’s prisoner. So Rumple has lost Neal/Bae again, who has lost Henry again.

Four weeks in, any kind of progress in Neverland has been absolutely glacial. At this point, logistics are becoming a problem, as we can’t really tell how long our troupe of Emma, Snow, Charming, Regina, and Hook has been on Neverland. How are they surviving? Aren’t they hungry? I would be hungry. Of course, since it’s always dark on Neverland, this could all be taking place on the same, long, endless night, as no one’s mentioned sleeping since a few weeks ago.

The group has taken on Tinkerbell, which still doesn’t help much. Because she won’t assist them without an escape plan, as no one leaves the island without Pan’s OK. So Hook leads them to Bae’s old cave, where the only interesting parts are Bae’s chalk drawings of the Darlings and Hook’s port/starboard from his ship. (Also, Hook trying to spark a light with his hook versus Charming’s lighter.) They find a map that could lead them home, but it’s in code so they can’t use it, not unlike the map they had to decipher only a few weeks ago, and here we are. I guess that’s what’s so frustrating about OUAT this season: In the deep gloominess of Neverland, there is not much to hope for. Pan keeps talking about the specialness of Henry and how he’s going to “save magic,” so we can only pray something intriguing comes out of that.


One positive revelation this week: Rumple says that he and Pan were boys together. Then when Neal and Rumple face Pan, he snarks, “This is a real family reunion,” which seems to hint as Pan’s connection to the Dark One’s lineage? OUAT desperately needs some sort of startling revelation to spice things up in Neverland.

The parents of Hamelin lost their boys to Pan’s flute. Snow and Charming lost Emma, who has now lost Henry. But, as Pan points out, Rumple was actually afraid of a worse fate: that Bae would abandon him, just as his father and wife did. At the end of the episode, Rumple pulls out that doll from his childhood that reminds him of his father. In the last scene, Pan finally coerces Henry into the fire dance, as he reminds him that his father is dead and his mother hasn’t come for him. Will Emma and co. lose Henry to the Lost Boys forever? I highly doubt it, but I think this defection might last for a little while.


Maybe Tinkerbell’s point is a good one: As Pan told Neal who told Emma, never break into something you can’t break out of. Before he found out Neal was alive, Rumplestiltskin was ready to give up his life for Henry’s, but now, with a chance at a real family again, does he have too much to live for? Pan says that the game has changed, and Rumple’s exit strategy may alter as well. Let’s just hope the new game is a more exciting one.

Stray Observations:

  • “This is where they’re keeping Henry: Pan’s compound. According to, uh…” “Tinkerbell.” “Yeah, I know, still weird to say.” “Tink is fine. “Not sure that’s any better.”
  • Like Regina’s half-smile when she hears about Greg’s demolished body. But her blue blazer island outfit is really starting to bug. She looks like a realtor on her way to an open house.
  • “I can’t even imagine the sadness you must be feeling”: Remember those “Shut Up Rory” t-shirts? I want one that says, “Shut Up Snow.”
  • Honestly, Neal, you were a Lost Boy, and you don’t know enough not to stop in an open clearing that looks ripe for an ambush?
  • I don’t know how Pan survives through endless nights of drumming and dancing around the fire. That had to start getting old a few centuries ago.
  • Thanks to Oliver Sava for taking us through the Tinkerbell saga last week!