‘Once Upon A Time’ S4 Ep 16 recap: Heavy hearts and unfortunate souls

“Poor Unfortunate Soul” reveals Ursula’s complicated past and exposes her Daddy Issues. (Photo credit: Disney/ABC Press/Eike Schroter)

Team Heroes made some epic progress and struck a blow by taking out one of the Villains’ key players in “Poor Unfortunate Soul.” Fan favorites return and guide our Heroes in the right direction, inching them closer to defeating the Villains and finding the Author. Fairytale Land flashbacks reveal how Poseidon and Hook wronged Ursula, prompting her to become the fearsome sea witch of legend. In the present day, Hook sets out to right those wrongs, while Regina tries to covertly protect August during Rumple’s intense interrogation. Honestly, Sunday’s (March 22) “Once Upon A Time” has been the best and most enjoyable episode in the Queens of Darkness arc so far.

Fairytale Land, past: “You don’t need to protect me, father. You need to fear me.”

Captain Hook helms the Jolly Roger when a siren’s song (that sounds nearly identical to Ariel’s serenade in “The Little Mermaid”) steers the ship towards the rocky shore. Suddenly, the pirates’ trance is broken and the men are saved from a fatal shipwreck. Fathoms below the sea, Poseidon chastises his daughter, Ursula, for saving those scoundrels. We quickly learn that Ursula inherited her mother’s beautiful singing voice. Sadly, like most Disney tales, Ursula’s mother was taken from the child far too soon and pirates were the cause of her untimely death. Since that tragic day, Poseidon forces Ursula to use her gift as a weapon and kill pirates as payback for her mother’s murder.

Ursula loves to sing because it makes her feel like she is keeping her mother’s spirit alive. Unfortunately, she has to sneak away to the mainland to gleefully sing without her father’s menacing presence. One day Hook recognizes her magical and soothing voice while dining at a tavern. He approaches Ursula and thanks her for saving his life. She tells him her life’s story and shares her dreams. Hook happily offers to help. Ursula’s voice is a rare treasure that brings peace to those who hear it. For a brief moment, Hook even forgot about his vendetta against Rumple. So he promises to sail her to a far away land where she can fulfill her dreams of singing for the pure joy of it.

Poseidon catches onto their plan and makes Hook an offer he can’t refuse. The King of the Sea will give Hook squid ink with which he can kill the Dark One once and for all. In return, Hook must capture Ursula’s singing voice inside an enchanted seashell. Hmm, sounds familiar…

That night, Ursula meets Hook aboard the Jolly Roger and he reveals Poseidon’s scheme. Despite the temptation, Hook lives by a code of honor and wants to do right by Ursula. Hook makes a deal with the mermaid in which they both get what they want. Ursula sneaks into her father’s chamber, retrieves the squid ink and brings it to Hook. Then he will sail her off into the proverbial sunset with her voice still intact. Infuriatingly, Poseidon catches on to what Ursula has done and he crashes their pow-wow.

Poseidon destroys the squid ink and Hook’s chance at revenge, so the livid pirate does the unthinkable. Hook steals Ursula’s voice just to spite the Sea King and he keeps the shell. Now, Ursula will hate her father forever and he will never be able to hear that beautiful voice again. Oh Hook, that is low. Poor form! Of course, Ursula is the one who suffers greatly under these circumstances.

Poseidon and Ursula return home. The young mermaid is rightfully devastated. Hook was a jerk, but the King of the Sea initiated all of this. He abused his power and brutally ripped away the only connection she had left with her mother. Ursula furiously snatches the trident out of her father’s hand, aims them at her tail and magically transforms herself into the powerful eight tentacled sea witch of legend. After all it is her namesake, plus this transformation ensures that Poseidon will never be able to control her again.

Whoa! Talk about a tale of woe. It is easy to understand why Ursula became a villain after that kind of betrayal. Luckily, her sad story eventually has a happy ending.

Storybrooke, present: “As long as there is a Savior the villains can’t get their happy endings.”

The Villains have August in custody and are going to torture him for information on the Author’s whereabouts. Rumple uses his magical mojo to reactivate Pinocchio’s built-in lie detector, his growing wooden nose. August’s jarring transformation into a wooden man is still one of the best graphics ever to be seen on “Once Upon A Time,” it gives us chills every time. Once Rumple’s spell takes hold, August remains human, but his nose grows when he lies. The Dark One holds August close to the fire and begins grilling him. Poor August’s nose lengthens into the embers as he tries protecting the Author’s secrets. Eventually, August and Regina offer up a lead.

Once August learns that Regina has the illustration of the door, he confirms that it will lead them to the Author. The door is in Storybrooke, but August honestly doesn’t know where it is located. So Rumple takes Regina along to search for the door in the Sorcerer’s mansion and leaves Cruella behind as August’s guard dog. Luckily, Regina has a chance to sneak a message out to the Heroes.

Regina sends a smoke signal to the gang out in the woods. In an equally creepy and cool scene, Regina briefly possesses Mary Margaret to convey a message: August is back and needs to be rescued from the Villains’ clutches. Hearing Regina’s voice come out of MM’s mouth is eerie, but kudos to the reformed Evil Queen for finding a clever and covert way to contact the Heroes. While the Charmings work on a way to save August, Hook undergoes his own mission to give Ursula the happy ending she’s always wanted in exchange for the Villains’ endgame.

Hook can retrieve the seashell with Ursula’s singing voice, but he needs her help to do it. The enchanted shell remained aboard the Jolly Roger, so Ursula opens a portal with her tentacle and the ship rises to the surface. Unfortunately, there’s a catch. Hook’s vessel has been miniaturized and contained in a bottle. With a drop of growing potion and a double entendre quip from Will, the Jolly Roger is soon restored to its former glory.

When Hook tries restoring Ursula’s voice, the shell does not work. Ursula is enraged and violently throws the pirate overboard. Surprisingly, a friendly familiar face surfaces from the sea and saves Hook’s life. As it turns out, Ariel was trapped in the bottle with the Jolly Roger. Although her appearance is shorter than we’d like, the little mermaid makes a big splash with the tiny bit of screen time she’s allotted.

Ariel believes that Hook needs to start acting, thinking and feeling like a true Hero. He needs to go above and beyond to help Ursula get her happy ending. The Villains won’t get their happy endings if they go about it the wrong way, so this is another chance for Hook to add a check to the hero column. It seems like the seashell will only work when used by the one who enchanted it. If Hook really wants to give Ursula her happy ending, they will need to find Poseidon.

Fast forward to the moment of truth. Team Heroes has assembled in Gold’s cabin and successfully disarmed the worst guard dog in Storybrooke history. August is safe and happy to see his friends. Another battle has been won, but they still need Ursula’s essential intel to help win this war. Fortunately, Hook pulls through on fulfilling his promise.

Thanks to Ariel, Poseidon and Ursula have a much needed family reunion. In a touching scene, wonderfully acted by Ernie Hudson and Merrin Dungy, the Sea King and Sea Witch make amends. Poseidon apologizes for all the pain he caused his precious little mermaid and Ursula admits that despite everything he did, she has missed him very much. Sigh. Poseidon restores her beautifully singing voice and Ursula decides to return home with her father. Now that she’s attained her happy ending, she doesn’t need to evil it up with the Villains.

Once the room has cleared out, Hook stays behind with Emma. She’s proud of what he’s accomplished, but he feels uneasy. He has been a villain for so long and he’s afraid of losing his happy ending. Wait…does this mean he has his happy ending?! Seriously, why hasn’t Emma gotten the memo yet? Hook has made it abundantly clear, but he still needs to spell it out for the Savior. Emma is Hook’s happy ending. Awww. True Love like the kind he shared with Milah is all Hook has been really searching for. Now that he finally has it, he’s terrified of losing it again. Sadly, Hook is given even more reason to worry.

Before she leaves town, Ursula upholds her end of the deal and delivers some troubling news to Hook. Rumple’s plan is to darken Emma’s heart and turn her into a villain. As long as Emma remains a pure hearted Savior, the Villains won’t be able to get their happy endings.

Dun dun dun! Good luck sharing that news with the gang. How will Emma react when Hook tells her the truth? Will Snow and David finally come clean about Emma’s potential for darkness once she learns of Rumple’s plan? Will they try to stop Hook from telling Emma the truth?

At the end of the day, the gang of goodies regroup at the Charmings’ place. August is still a little weary from Rumple’s interrogation, but he still manages to share some crucial info before dosing off. The door in the illustration is the actual door which contains the Author. He’s been trapped in the book? Twist! They still need to find a way to open the magic door, but at least the Heroes have the Author in their possession. Now Regina just needs to figure out how to keep it that way without blowing her cover.


This was a great episode, Oncers. Although it is a shame to see Ursula leave so soon, she was certainly sent out with a blast. It was nice to see her whole story unfold in one episode. We saw how and why she became a villain, but most importantly, she’s proof now that Villains really can get their happy endings. Both Hook and Poseidon found redemption in restoring her beautiful voice. Having attained what she’s been longing for, Ursula keeps her word and assists the heroes with a massive warning. Although we will miss Merrin Dungey, it was sweet to see the full circle of Ursula’s story. Plus, we’ve learned never to say never when it comes to “Once Upon A Time’s” growing list of classic characters.

Case in point: August is back! It is a delight to have Eion Bailey reprise this role. He has always been a crucial part of Emma’s journey and she could use a friend like him now more than ever. Plus, if he knows where the Author has been all this time, it makes you wonder what other secrets the little wooden boy has been harboring. Speaking of secrets…

Hook has the burden of sharing Ursula’s info with Emma and it won’t be easy. That is some harsh and disturbing news to deliver, especially to someone who has finally embraced her true, magical self. Hook seems to be carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. He clearly has guilt over betraying Ursula and he is always wary of the darkness buried deep within his heart. Rumple showed how easily that darkness can take hold and he’s been extra careful ever since then. Hook doesn’t want anything to jeopardize his happy ending with Emma. So far he’s racked up a lot of points in the hero column, just like Regina.

The former Evil Queen has held her own against the Villains and remains loyal to the Heroes. She has a very strong sense of self and is careful to keep herself in check. Despite her strength, we all know Regina has her weaknesses. If the right buttons are pushed, Regina may just lose her heroic cool. Perhaps Regina’s dream of Robin Hood is an indication of her potential fall from grace. She believes the Evil Queen appears to save Robin. If Rumple’s theory is true, then maybe Regina is willing to go dark again to reunite with or save Robin Hood.

What did you all think of “Poor Unfortunate Soul”? Were you surprised by Ursula’s past with Hook? Do you think we will see Ursula again? Are you happy to see August back? Do you hope he sticks around for a while? Do you wish we got to see more of Ariel? Are you worried about Hook, Regina and now Emma’s potential to go dark? Share your thoughts below!

“Once Upon A Time” airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.