Once Upon A Time 3×17 “The Jolly Roger” Recap

Spoilers Ahead

There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as our favorite charismatic swashbuckler and darling little mermaid teaming up to find lost love, even if things weren’t as they seem, the chemistry between Colin O’Donoghue and JoAnna Garcia-Swisher was outstanding. An episode gorgeously framed around the idea of love grounding the heart at home, they both authenticated the notion that it’s physically, spiritually, and emotionally impossible to be happy when separated from those they care most for. It also makes it harder for people to be the best versions of themselves.

Enchanted Forest Flashbacks: Mr. Smee and the rest of the crew find Hook a wench to pass time with, but he pays her to tell them she enjoyed it then ventures off on his own until he’s attacked by an enraged Ariel who’s searching for the missing Prince Eric. She reveals that she’s after him because she’s been told Eric is held captive in the Jolly Roger, and judging by the knife she’s brought with her, Hook sees that the one who’s Black Beard (Charles Mesure) is the one who’s captained his ship. There’s nothing more thrillingly amusing to watch than a duel among pirates for who’s rightfully entitled to the ship. Moreover, Captain Hook’s love and familiarity with the ship allow him to strategically triumph over the duel and send Black Beard off to walk to the plank. Black Beard then states that he must either choose to give up the Jolly Roger or Eric’s whereabouts die along with him, and Captain Hook, unfortunately, chooses his ship leaving Ariel to venture off on her own to find her missing love.

Present-Day Storybrooke: Prince Charming and Emma Swan could successfully battle a dragon but when it comes to assembling a baby crib, they’re even more clueless than a pirate who believes Jello has medicinal qualities. Regina’s conjured up a new protection spell that cannot even be undone if someone’s blood-related, but Emma asks her to help with her magic in order for their combined efforts to defeat the Wicked Witch. Since it’s revealed that Henry evidently enjoys Hook’s company, Emma asks him to take care of him while Grandma Snow and Grandpa Charming question why they aren’t as cool as the “pirate captain.”

Emma’s training doesn’t go well at first, but Regina pushes her limits and forces her to rely on intuitions and Emma successfully rises above her expectations. Ariel’s back in Storybrooke, and the Charmings ask Hook to help her find Eric when the enchanted cloak used to track him down is swallowed by the sea, Hook’s guilt forces him to tell Ariel the truth about what he’s actually done a year ago. After swearing on Emma’s name as the woman he loves, Zelena reveals that she’d been Ariel all along and curses his lips to remove Emma’s power once they kiss again. He fights back telling her that he’d tell her the truth, but Zelena pushes forward and says that if he doesn’t do so, she’ll kill her loved ones.

Forget what we said about Peter Pan being the nastiest little villain on the block, Zelena definitely takes the crown now.

We don’t know about anyone else, but our favorite parts of this show are the familial moments in which we’re given slight hope that happily ever after is near. Regina and Emma have come so far since the moment they met, and we’ve definitely been enjoying their scenes together. And this week especially, their scenes were delightfully great to watch. Even when Regina wasn’t acting as the kindest teacher, she was still incredibly great at her task, and especially for a woman without a heart, she’s behaving surprisingly well. We’re still laughing at five-year-old Emma Swan touching things when she was warned not to. Additionally, their conversation about Hook was rather interesting as well for Regina was speaking without a heart, but what she said about the captain’s and savior’s lingering looks was spectacular. Surely even a Storybrooke newbie would know there’s something going on with those two simply from the way they gaze into each other’s eyes as though the entire world can be found through them. There was a brief instant when the bridge fully collapsed and a fallen Emma had Regina wearing an awfully terrified expression screaming sadness and regret.

Just last week we learned how much feeling inferior broke Regina, but she masked the pain exquisitely while she helped Emma find the will to shine through. Lana Parrilla not only played Regina’s pain masterfully, but she authenticated her care and pride in Emma’s success in a subtly profound manner.

And just when a silly little Witch bested Emma last week, she demonstrated her strengths by not only surviving the fall but assembling the bridge when all Regina wanted her to do was re-tie the rope. Her abilities even left the former Evil Queen in awe as she states that her anger comes from the fact that Emma’s been wasting her potential instead of embracing it.

When Snow and Charming offer to take care of Henry while Emma learns to control her magic, she tells them that Henry’s enjoyed spending time with Hook and the grandparents aren’t exactly pleased with the fact that they aren’t as “hip.” When they later find out that the only person who can help Ariel is Hook, they offer to babysit Henry, and Charming thinks it’s wise to teach him how to drive a car. While Charming takes a seat in the passenger’s seat, Snow stands back and watches them in disbelief. And though the act is prodigiously dangerous and something no one should ever attempt with a child who’s not of the legal driving age, the Charmings’ attempt to get their groove back provided the episode with necessary, lighthearted fun.

Speaking of bonding with Henry, he and Killian have formed quite a relationship. It’s no longer just about Emma, but it’s about her loved ones as well, who are slowly but surely becoming his as well. The amount of comfort present within them as they played with dice and placed what seemed to be bets on French Fries was heartwarming. But what stood out most to us is that even though he admitted to cheating at times during the game, when he momentarily left him behind to speak with the Charming, he told him to keep practicing. At the end of the day, Hook knows the difference between right and wrong, and though nobody is perfect, we respect the fact that at the end of the tale, he made certain to show Henry that the honorable method is preferable.

None of which occurred in this episode came as a shock to us because it’s been time and time again proven that when separated from the one they love most, people tend to resort to old habits. What we’ve always loved most about Once Upon A Time is the fact that it’s always done a fantastic job of establishing the idea that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as one learns from them. Even though this is a series of Fairy Tale characters, it’s done a fantastic job of making everyone flawed just as people in the real world are. While Hook’s actions back at the Enchanted Forest are certainly inexcusable – a wrong act is still terrible no matter who it comes from, his genuine remorse is what makes him honorable. If he were nothing but a dastardly villain, the hauntingly possessing guilt he’s dealt with wouldn’t encourage him to tell Ariel the cold, hard truth. Because he’s a man who’s always valued honesty above all things, his cowardly and terrible act is unforgivable to him more than anyone else. He’s a man who’s continuously identified himself as “the worst human around,” believing that his soul is beyond repair and that he isn’t worthy of anything but the pirate life.

When he lost Liam under the rule of a corrupt king that forced them to venture off into Neverland for the first time, the noble Lieutenant concealed his heart from the world in an attempt to detach himself from anything but a life of fighting for order. When he fell in love with Milah and had her taken away from him, he left everything behind and focused on vengeance. But it was meeting and falling in love with Emma Swan that instilled hope and life back into his heart. It was her drive, audaciousness, and genuinely kind heart that inspired him to believe that if he tried to be the man he used to be, he’d be worthy of loving her. However, being separated from her, not being able to love her, and losing the hope that she’d evoked in him causes him to believe that a life of piracy will mend the emptiness left behind in his heart.

Colin O’Donoghue ceaselessly leaves us in awe, but his tearful confession to Ariel this week had us crying as well. The sincerity and heartfelt remorse he was able to project onto Hook’s expression is remarkably commendable. You could feel the guilt that haunted his year alone through the pain in his voice and the heartbreak in his eyes. O’Donoghue delivered those scenes beautifully, and even before Hook apologizes to Ariel, that same pain is present in his expression as she jumps off the ship, and the guilt of what he’d done immediately makes its way into his heart thus, projecting the instant regret he felt over his actions. Additionally, the genuine concern in his voice when Zelena revealed that Ariel had found Eric was endearing—once more, the heartfelt need to be certain that his mistake didn’t ruin a couple’s happiness forever was immediately felt because of O’Donoghue’s performance.

Fundamentally, Hook could not go back to the life of a pirate because his love for Emma is too deeply embedded in him. And no woman, no matter how gorgeous or how desperate he may be, could tamper with his loyalty to Emma. Just as Mr. Smee pointed out, he spoke of the Jolly Roger as though it were a woman, but it’s painfully evident that he chose to focus on finding his ship because he believed it was the only way to heal while remaining steadfast to his love for Emma. Hook’s lost love before, but it’s never been as bad as the year without Emma. While back then he gave up on the possibility of a happy ending, he told Ariel that no matter what’s occurred he still believes in love–above all things, he still believes in Emma.

It’s been continually proven that making mistakes is inevitable but ever since Hook’s found Emma and returned her home, he’s done everything in his ability to redeem himself from the mistakes in the past. And although no one is perfect, he’s made his primary focus on Emma’s happiness, hence demonstrating that he’s actually perfect for her. Emma Swan deserves the kind of man who’ll do everything in his ability to encourage and respect her while making sure she perpetually feels loved.

Hook knows what it’s like to be alone inside one’s own mind, and because he’s never had anyone force him to continue fighting, he does everything in his ability to make sure Emma knows he’s by her side to help her embrace the things that’ll make her life easier. What Once Upon A Time has also shown us is that sometimes things sound different coming from one’s partner as there’s a deeper connection that makes believing much a much simpler task.

Love is the most powerful magic and force of all—its ability to inspire, support, strengthen, and give has been proven to be the rarest of emotions. In order for Hook to try and heal his broken heart, he had to convince himself that the life of a pirate is the only life for him. Even though Ariel tried to influence him to accept the hero he’s become and continue to do the good he’s previously done, he refused to listen to it because he knew that if he’d given in, he wouldn’t know how to deal with the pain of losing Emma.

When one’s separated from their true love, and in a hopeless stage of grief, they aren’t the best versions of themselves, and the only time they can be is when they’re reunited with them or given some ounce of hope that their time together isn’t over. And we can only assume that the only time he felt a glimmer of hope since being separated from Emma was when he was told her life was in danger, and he needed to go find her. Thus, the tables turned and it became all about Emma’s happiness and safety which we’ve seen is the one thing Hook needs as far as pushes go.

During their conversation at the docks, Hook makes it clear that though the desire to resort to the life of a pirate was incredibly strong, he couldn’t do it because it isn’t who he is anymore. Hook understands Emma more than anyone else, hence when he tells her that she can’t pack up and leave he’s telling her the very words he wishes she’d be there to tell him. As previously said, it’s been constantly substantiated that everyone has their person whose words and presence will uplift even in the darkest times. And just as Regina said, everyone could see their yearning glances. But what Hook did most beautifully in this week’s heartbreakingly painful episode, is he did everything in his ability to uplift Emma. He made sure she knew how proud of her he was by letting her know that the magic which comes from her gorgeously loving heart makes her the savior. He knows that she’s worthy of the greatest things in life and by helping her understand that she should embrace the things that make her special, he once again proves how unwavering his adoration and appreciation for her entire being are. Not to mention the fact that he knows her heart can’t be taken as he saw Cora’s failed attempt also proves that he threw their duel at the lake that day.

After the witch’s treacherous curse, Hook visits the Charmings at their home in hopes of what seems to be to tell Charming about what’s occurred; however, unexpectedly seeing Emma takes him by surprise. When he tells her about being with Ariel and helping her reunite with Eric, Emma uses her powers to see the happy couple through the mirror. She then asks Hook if he did this, and he truthfully tells her that it was Ariel’s belief in true love which did so, and Emma takes it as him trying to be modest.

As the Charmings enter and lighten the atmosphere even more with their adventures of knocking down a mailbox, Hook decides he needs to be on his own and chooses to leave.

On a much lighter note, in an episode so heavy, the momentary laughs brought by Charming’s “what can I say I’ve got a reckless, carefree … fun side” was undoubtedly exquisite and certainly needed in such a moment. Josh Dallas’, Ginnifer Goodwin’s, and Jennifer Morrison’s raw and effortless chemistry outpoured stunningly at that moment.

Just as Hook was on his way out, Emma decides to let him know that she’s done living in the past, and that the secret he’s keeping doesn’t matter. Jennifer Morrison conveyed that scene with such comfort in her voice and expression that it was certainly evident Emma’s made the decision to embrace the kind of life she’s now living instead of wanting to go back. Since they’ve returned to Storybrooke, Hook and Emma have spent a good amount of time together, thus they’ve gotten used to each other’s company. Morrison wore a kind of concern on her face we’ve yet to see.

There’s no denying that she’s grateful for everything Hook’s done, but there was a great amount of wonder painted on her face in regards to why Hook’s not staying. And though Emma denied the yearning glances, Morrison’s expression as she watched Hook leave valorized the fact that she does indeed long for the kind of comfort and love he’s constantly made her feel through his unwavering devotion. Hook’s presence undoubtedly provides Emma with the kind of ease she needs as the savior, and when he walked away, the look in her eyes authenticated just how much she longs for the comforting feeling that’s begun to feel like home.

As if O’Donoghue’s expressions weren’t already painful throughout the episode, he broke our hearts once more as he was watching Emma laugh, with the knowledge that he’ll have to take a part of that smile away from her soon. As though temporarily delaying the process of Ariel and Eric reuniting didn’t destroy him enough, knowing he’s about to do something terrible to the woman he loves more than anything breaks him in a way nothing ever has.

Speaking of the diner scene, it’s incredibly heartwarming to see people who’ve hated each other have dinner together like a family. And while there may still be bad blood lingering, they’ve come so far from their days as the Evil Queen trying to ruin the happy family’s life. Regina’s doing everything in her ability to protect the new baby and they’ve all welcomed her with open arms because, at the end of the day, forgiveness and love are all that matters. And this has been the heart of this week’s episode–while people have made treacherous mistakes in the past, when they’re on the road to redemption, welcoming them with forgiveness and love is the most gracefully beautiful way to do so. It helps all parties grow for the better.

These characters are beginning to challenge each other in the most glorious ways, and it truly makes for impeccable television. The Charmings once again demonstrate their honor and wear their hearts on their sleeves as they allow their family to expand with those who’ve once tried to destroy them. And our hearts continue to melt with happiness as the family gets bigger and they fight together for the greater good.

Something tells us that Hook will most certainly tell Emma the truth about what he needs to do, and knowing she could lose her family she’ll welcome the kiss. Perhaps the Wicked Witch truly doesn’t know who she’s dealing with because since Emma’s heart can’t be taken, what are the chances that her powers can be too, and even if they are, there’s no denying that because hers is so raw and a result of being born from true love, it’ll be a temporary thing.

Next week, our heroes learn about Zelena’s desire to turn back time and they call upon a deceased Cora in need of assistance.

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