‘Once Upon A Time’ S3 Ep 7 recap: What’s in the box, Darling?

S3 Ep 7
What’s in the box?! (Photo credit: ABC)

As “Dark Hollow” begins, we realize that much time has not passed during the course of this season. Despite a series of dangerous challenges, Team Save Henry has only been in Neverland for five days. During that time, Belle has been bravely holding down the fort in Storybrooke, while the gang fights to free Henry from Peter Pan’s clutches. Belle has been fearing the worst for her beloved Rumple and living in despair until a finned new friend brings her good news. Once again, worlds and fairytales collide when Ariel makes a splash in Storybrooke and completes a very important mission.

Storybrooke: “I know with the strength of our love, you’ll find it.”

Five days ago, Rumple sailed away from Belle. It was a gut-wrenching scene that we all remember too well, but now we get to see how his absence affects heartbroken Belle. RumBelle parted ways never expecting to see each other again. He was being honest with Belle when he said he would need to die in order to save Henry. Rumple gave Belle a cloaking spell so she can protect Storybrooke from harm, since more baddies would be on the way. The Blue Fairy and Grumpy offer her moral support as she conjures up enough faith to believe that she can cast such a strong spell over Storybrooke. Seconds before the invisible dome seals Storybrooke off from the rest of the world, a couple of young men, “Glasses” and “Keychain”, drive across the border and barely make it into the quaint Maine town. We notice a Teddy Bear keychain hanging from the rear view mirror and put two and two together: Glasses + Teddy Bear = Wendy’s brothers, John and Michael. Could it be true? Why would they work for Peter Pan after parting on such bad terms back in Victorian England? Throughout the episode, we get answers to these questions and much more.

Belle passes up on her fourth burger this week, while Archie tries to offer her some comfort. Rumple left her in charge because he trusts her and needs her help. She is hurt because she fears that Rumple doesn’t need her at all, but Archie assures her that protecting Storybrooke is just as important as being by Rumple’s side. (If only Belle knew how comforting Rumple’s conversations with faux-Belle were for a while in Neverland.) Just then, Grumpy walks in with Ariel, who swam up on shore and surprised the Seven Dwarves. Ariel has her legs for 24 hours, so she quickly gets to the point. She hands Belle a sand dollar sent from Rumple and they go to Gold’s shop to figure what they need to find.

When Belle places the sand dollar under a magnifying glass, a hologram of Rumple appears and he delivers a cryptic message. Rumple speaks of the strength of their love and says that will help her find the object’s hiding place. Belle is delighted to know that Rumple still needs her help and gets to play an important part in saving Henry. Belle picks up Chip and opens Rumple’s cabinet to place the cup back on the saucer where it is supposed to be. Once she sets it down, a hidden door appears on the ground and Belle finds Pandora’s Box. Belle tells Ariel that Pandora’s Box contains the world’s darkest evil and should never be opened. It looks like Rumple and Regina plan to capture Peter Pan and keep him locked away with other evil creatures in the box. However, they run the risk of letting evil out, so I’m not sure how failsafe this plan will be. I’m afraid things will get much worse before they get better. Speaking of things getting worse, Glasses and Keychain ambush Belle and Ariel, then hold them captive Gold’s shop and get a hold of Pandora’s Box.

Glasses and Keychain tie the girls up and hold them at gun-point. Unlike Tamara and Greg, these boys know who they are working for and are privy to Pan’s grand plan. They leave the girls tied up and head to the mines in hopes of destroying the box with one of the dwarf’s magic axes because they can smash almost anything (thanks for the new fun fact.) As soon as Belle learns that Ariel’s bracelet is what has given her legs, she takes it off and tells Ariel to stretch her fins so they can get out and stop the boys.

Ariel and Belle catch Glasses and Keychain in the nick of time. They plead with the boys, saying that Pan has their friends. Unfortunately, the boys are in a similar position. Pan has someone they love held captive. Pan has held Wendy as his prisoner for over a century and there is too much at stake for the boys to betray him now. They tried to defeat Pan and failed, but Belle assures the boys that they can save everyone, including Wendy. The boys then reveal their identities as John and Michael Darling. Who called it from the start? Not super surprising, but it is still a good twist/storyline. We had narrowed down a possible list of captives in Pan’s cage and Wendy was a top choice, especially after seeing her name in the guest star credits listed on the episode synopsis. John and Michael place their faith in Belle, Ariel and Operation Cobra Rescue. Ariel swims back to Neverland to deliver Belle’s message and Pandora’s Box.

Neverland: “I choose Henry. He’s the only love I have room for in my life.”

As Rumple and Regina wait for Ariel he quips that Regina is jealous of his romance with Belle. He has someone and she doesn’t, which makes you wonder if Robin Hood will pop up and woo her at some point this season. They are soulmates, after all.

Ariel surfaces with the box and Regina keeps her half of the deal. With a wave of her hand, Ariel can have legs whenever she wishes just by using the bracelet. She is free to return to Storybrooke and search for her beloved Prince Eric now that her mission is complete. She then gives Rumple a message from Belle: Pan has Wendy and they must save her. Rumple gives Ariel a sweet message to take back to Belle: “Tell Belle I love her and she’s right, I will see her again.” Aww. Now that Rumple and Regina’s plan is in place, let’s see what the others have been up to.

Tensions are seriously running high on Pan’s island. Neal and Hook bicker over Emma’s affections like a couple of lovesick school boys, Mary Margaret gives David the silent treatment for lying, and Pan takes manipulation to a whole new level.

Emma, Hook and Neal plan to capture Peter’s shadow, while Mary Margaret and David go to track down Tinker Bell and bring her on board for their covert attack on Pan’s camp. Before MM leaves, she warns Emma to be careful with Hook and Neal because it is dangerous when they both have strong feelings for her. Sure enough, Mama Charming is right. Right off the bat, Hook stirs up some trouble by instigating Neal.

When the two of them are alone, Hook apologizes for his dalliance with Emma. Neither of them knew Neal was still alive, so he should take no offense. Hook then realizes that Neal did not overhear the secret he shouted back in the Echo Caves. Oops! Although this is unsettling news to Neal, he plays it off like everything is just fine. When Emma walks in with Neal’s coconut star map, the guy pretend that they’re all good and then we learn the master plan. Neal’s coconut thingy is not a map; it is mean to capture Pan’s shadow. They will venture into Dark Hollow where all the shadows dwell. When you light the candle inside, it will attract the shadow and you can trap it in the magic coconut. (Sounds silly when you put it like that, but hey, it works.) Things start to get even more awkward on their way to Dark Hollow.

Neal and Hook’s overtures lead to more conflict, as each one tries to stake their claim on Emma’s heart. Emma levels with Hook: she appreciates his honesty about Neal. Hook chose to save his friend rather than betray him over winning a girl’s heart. (It is sometimes easy to forget that Neal and Hook have a juicy history. What happened between Bae and Hook back then? It is sweet to see that Hook still considers him as a friend. But I don’t think Neal feels quite the same.) Once again, Hook steps up and lays all of his cards out on the table for Emma: Killian Jones believes in good form. Saving Neal was the right thing to do. As he woos Emma, he will do so in good form. Hook vows never to give up and says, “When I win your heart Emma, and I will win it. It won’t be because of any trickery. It will be because you want me.” After Emma succeeds in saving Henry, the real fun begins because she will have to choose which man she truly loves. Well, Hook just earned extra bonus points for his take-charge declaration of persistent pursuit of Emma’s love. You have to admit, it is quite swoon-worthy. Is it really going to be that hard of a decision for Emma? Hook seems to be making it an easy choice. (But then again, I am biased towards Hook over Neal…a lot.) Okay, moving on to dangerous Dark Hollow.

This creepy place is where the shadows of Pan’s victims all dwell. Neal and Hook fight over the Zippo lighter to ignite the candle as shadows start to approach them. As they argue over this being an inopportune time to impress Emma, the Zippo lighter gets tossed and they are left without a light. Evil shadows attack and start ripping Hook and Neal’s shadows out of their bodies. Luckily, Regina’s training comes in handy and Emma channels her frustration and anger into magically lighting the candle and trapping Pan’s shadow. She saves the guys and admits to learning a thing or two from Regina. Then they quickly bust out of there.

After their escapades in Dark Hollow, Emma chastises them for arguing over a lighter. Hook quips, “It wasn’t a lighter we were fighting over, Love.” Emma stops in her tracks and sets them both straight. She tells Neal and Hook, “I choose Henry. He’s the only love I have room for in my life.” Men, you have been warned, don’t mess with a Charming woman scorned! While, Emma has been thwarting off overtures from Hook and Neal, David has been begging to get back into Mary Margaret’s good graces.

David finally snaps at “Snow” and asks her to speak, so she lets him have it. Why did he lie?! How could he keep something so important from her? Would he not think she’d stay with him on this God-forsaken island of doom? Therein lays Charming’s dilemma. David knew that Snow would never leave his side and he did not want her be trapped in Neverland because of him. Snow doesn’t care. Love means being together, no matter where you are. She’d rather shack up in a hut or tree-house in the jungle on Neverland than live without him. So sweet! Still, David should’ve been honest with her from the start. She would have stood by his side throughout this terrifying ordeal, just like she chooses to stay with him now even though it means being stuck in Neverland. Finally, David and Mary Margaret make up and move on to find Tinker Bell.

In perfect timing, the gang reunites at Tink’s and tells her that they are ready to take down Pan because they have his shadow. Now it is time for Tinker Bell to do her part. I can’t wait to see what that entails. Neal played a crucial role in helping them prepare to save Henry, so Emma shows him some appreciation. She had a little heart-to-heart with Hook, so it is only fair to give Neal some face-time. Emma tells Neal that he did right by having Henry. Whatever happens, Henry will be something wonderful that they will always share. Meanwhile, poor Henry is getting suckered into another one of Pan’s master manipulations.

Henry confronts Pan and says he knows his family is there to rescue him, but Pan has found a way to keep them from succeeding. Pan is getting desperate so he moves onto phase two. He has a “secret” conversation with Felix, telling his right hand guy to take supplies to the other side of the island. Naturally, Henry follows Felix and discovers a huge surprise. Wendy is still in Neverland! (Again, we called it, so not too surprising.) Pan has taken her out of the cage, taunting her to “come out and play.” He sets her up in a tree-house and forces her to go along with is plan to trick Henry. Wendy pretends to be ill and acts like Pan has been trying to help cure her. Sadly, the magic on the island is too weak to help save her life. She tells Henry that he looks like Bae. She says they were friends long ago and he helped save her brothers. Wendy fears magic will not be enough to save her, so Henry promises to find a way to help her out. After all, he has the heart of the truest believer. If he believes it, magical will come.

Pan’s plan succeeds. We learn that he doesn’t just want Henry; he wants to control Henry’s belief. Pan puts the pressure of saving Wendy’s life on Henry’s shoulders. When the sweet boy asks how he can save magic, Pan replies, not how, but where. Pan points to Skull Rock and says salvation waits inside. Heroism comes with sacrifice. Is Henry up to the task? Of course he is! Too bad it is all a trick. Curse you, Peter Pan!


“Dark Hollow” was a good episode, which moved quite a few storylines along. It was wonderful to see Belle and Ariel become friends. Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to see Ariel find Eric in Storybrooke. It is always fun to watch romance blossom between our fairytale favorites. How will Eric react to the truth? If Belle grew to love a “monster” like Rumple, surely fins can be that big of a deterrent. RumBelle is still going strong and they are sweeter than ever. I missed Belle so much. She is such a rich character and it was nice to have the focus shift back to how she is really doing. Robert Carlyle and Emilie de Ravin work so beautifully together and have established such a moving, powerful, and loving relationship on this show. They are one of my favorite couples. Rumple calls Regina out on being green with jealousy, but who knows, she might meet her soulmate sooner than she thinks. David and Mary Margaret made up after a much needed confrontation which cleared the air. Honesty is always the best policy. David should’ve listened to Hook and used some good form. But no matter how many mistakes they make, nothing will rattle the deep love Snow and Charming have for each other. Once their score starts playing in the background, you know Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas will be giving you a goose-bump worthy scene. There’s nothing like True Love.

As for the CaptainSwanFire love triangle, I have mixed feelings. I’d like to see Emma, Neal and Henry as one big happy family. Henry will always keep Emma and Neal connected and reminds them of the good that came from their relationship. But I prefer Hook over Neal and think he is doing a better job of fighting for Emma’s affections right now. Seriously, Colin O’Donoghue has upped the ante on swoon-worthy moments on this show. He is playing Hook with such earnestness and has revealed a lot of complexity to his always intriguing character. However, Hook has changed. Although I love Killian’s sincerity and nobility, I kind of miss the old Hook a little bit. He still has biting wit, but he is one the cusp of turning into a lovesick puppy. We know Hook is in love with Emma and that comes with some gravitas, but what happened to the daring fun flirtation? Hook needs to get some of his edginess back, within the boundaries of his honorable good form.

What do you think, Oncers? What was your favorite part of “Dark Hollow”? How do you feel about CaptainSwanFire? Do you think Henry will realize Pan is tricking him? Will Ariel find Eric in Storybrooke? Were you surprised to see the Darlings? Are you prepared for Sunday’s epic showdown?

Share your thoughts below and stay tuned for more news!

‘Once Upon A Time’ airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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