By Amy Degenstein Hood
In this highly anticipated episode, we finally see the history between Cora and Rumple. A desperate situation forces Snow to make a choice that may haunt her forever; and the clock is ticking for Rumple, who can only be saved by a dark bit of magic hidden in his shop in Storybrooke.
The story begins in FTL of the past. We see a young peasant woman approaching a drunken man sleeping on a stack of milled flour. She wakes the man, who we learn is her father, and tells him that their delivery to the castle is late. She says she wants to be able to eat that week, and leaves to take the milled flour to the palace. Once there, she picks up several bags from her cart and carries them across the room. A young royal sticks her leg out and trips the miller’s daughter on purpose. The king is furious and asks the miller’s daughter her name. “It’s Cora,” she replies. We learn that the girl who tripped her is a princess visiting from a nearby land. The princess’ name is Eva…she is the woman who will become Snow White’s mother. Eva blames Cora and says she ruined her shoes, even though it was she who tripped Cora on purpose. The king makes Cora kneel, and tells her that is where she belongs. She is forced to apologize to Eva, who just smirks. The royals leave as Cora stares after them.
Later, we see that a grand ball is being held in order for the king to find a wife for his son, Prince Henry. Cora has stolen a dress and puts on a mask in order to attend. Prince Henry asks her to dance, but midway through they are interrupted by the king. He recognizes Cora as the miller’s daughter and tells her to leave. She says that the ball to marry Prince Henry off to the highest bidder is pathetic. She lies, and tells the king that she can spin straw into gold. She tells him that because he has been so arrogant to her, he will never get the benefit of her talent. Rather than let her leave, the king announces to the ballroom what Cora has said. He tells her she is to be locked in the highest tower with a room full of straw. If she has spun it to gold by the next morning she can marry Prince Henry, if she has not, she will be killed.
That evening in the tower, Cora searches for a way to escape, but there is none. Suddenly, Rumple appears. He knows what the king has decreed and offers to help Cora. He shows her a contract, but she wants it altered. Instead of him spinning straw to gold for her, she wants to be taught how to do it. The price is her first born child, who Rumple says will become “Quite important to him.” Rumple is intrigued by her spirit and makes the change in the contract. Cora begins her lessons, with much difficulty at first. There is a great deal of chemistry between Cora and Rumple. He tells her that magic is emotion, she must draw from the hate she felt when she was belittled by the king in public. Rumple sits behind her, and helps her recall the emotion and burning anger. Cora looks down to realize she has begun to spin the straw to gold. She asks Rumple what his “moment” is that helps him conjure the magic, and he tells her of the soldier who made him kiss his boot in front of his son.
In the harbor just outside of SB, Neal and Henry are sailing the Jolly Roger into port. Below decks, Emma asks Gold about his dagger. She asks him if Cora could make him kill all of them, to which he says yes. He asks if that changes her resolve to help him get healed, but Emma says they are family now, and she will save him. They are able to get to Gold’s shop. Charming and Snow are also there and they set about preparing to battle Regina and Cora. Gold tells Emma she must cast a protection spell. She is hesitant, but Rumple guides her to use emotion and a shield is cast around the building. Gold also directs Emma to a jar that looks empty, but when she reaches in, she finds invisible chalk. She must draw a line in front of the door to put up another barrier against attack. As she does this, she and Neal talk. She says she is not upset that he is engaged. In the back room of the shop, Gold and Snow are alone. He asks her to open a nearby cabinet. Inside she finds the candle we saw Cora (disguised as the Blue Fairy) give her in the previous episode. Gold tells Snow that the candle is the only way he can be saved. He tells her that Cora’s heart is hidden with her things inside Regina’s vault. The candle must be lit over her heart while her name is whispered, then the heart must be put back in her body. If this is done, Cora will die and Gold will be saved. Snow says she can’t do it, but Gold reminds her of how devastated Henry would be if he lost his grandfather when she could have saved him. As the building begins to shake, Snow runs out the back door and heads to Regina’s vault.
In FTL of the past, Cora is spinning straw into gold for the king. He is astonished, but honors his agreement to allow her to marry the prince. Prince Henry kneels and asks Cora to marry him. The king is thrilled that his kingdom will be rich again with all the gold Cora will spin. Later, we see Cora trying on her wedding dress. Rumple appears and says he likes the dress. Cora tells him that a bride should “be snow white.” Rumple laughs, telling her that there is irony everywhere when you can see the future like he can. They embrace and kiss. It is obvious that they have been carrying on together. Cora and Rumple are cut from the same cloth. Both have a darkness, both desire power and have been wronged by those supposedly above them. At this point in his story, Rumple has already lost Bae. He has been alone for a very long time and seems to have found a companion. Cora says she thought she wanted the admiration, but it isn’t enough. Rumple says he can only give her darkness, isolation…and love. She says that is what she wants. Rumple asks to amend the contract again, and to change the wording so that it says he can have his own first born child that Cora will carry. She agrees and he does so immediately. He tells her that she doesn’t have to marry Prince Henry, she can choose to be with Rumple. She can choose love and companionship. Cora is thrilled, but she says she must do something first. She wants to confront the king, tear out his heart and crush it in front of him. She wants him to pay for what he has done. Rumple agrees, and they kiss again before they part, agreeing to meet later that night in the forest.
In Gold’s shop, Regina and Cora are able to break in. There is a fight, and David is tossed out the front door. Emma and Neal are able to move to the secure back room. Suddenly Cora can feel that someone is near her heart. She tells Regina that she must go and protect the heart. Regina runs out, headed towards her vault below the tomb. Meanwhile, inside the vault, Snow has found the heart. She lights both ends of the candle over it, and whispers Cora’s name twice. She quickly blows out the candle and slams the box shut. A few moments later, Regina arrives. Snow shocks her by offering her the box with her mother’s heart. Snow tells Regina that her mother can’t love her as long as she has no heart in her body. She tells Regina she can finally have her mother’s love, but it will never happen, they will never be a family if Cora doesn’t have her heart. Regina has no idea that Snow has cast the candle spell, and she takes the heart. Regina leaves, and a while later David finds Snow there at the tomb. She is shaken and upset. “What have you done?” he asks her.
In a treasure room of the palace in FTL past, Cora finds the king. She tells him she does not love Prince Henry. The king already knows this. He tells her that she could choose to run off with “that imp you think no one knows you’ve been carrying on with”, or she can marry Prince Henry and be royalty with people kneeling at her feet. He tells her that love is weakness. He says it isn’t for hard women like her. She moves her hand to place it on his chest over his heart. “If the choice is love or power, then having a heart is a liability, don’t you think?” she asks the king as she moves her hand across his chest. A moment later we see her holding a box containing a heart.
In SB, Gold is becoming weaker. He says he must talk to Belle. He calls her and says that he knows she doesn’t remember, but that she was a hero. He says she saved her people and that she was a beautiful woman who loved an ugly man. He says she finds goodness in others, and that she made him want to go back and be the best version of himself. “When you look in the mirror, and don’t know who you are…that’s who you are.” He hangs up the phone and Neal says he didn’t know that he had that in him. Gold tells Neal he knows he’s still angry but that he spent a lifetime looking for him, and he’s sorry. Neal says he never thought he would go back on their deal, but he grabs his father’s hand and presses his head against his. Gold is very close to death.
In FTL of the past, Cora meets Rumple in the forest. He is happy to see her, until she begins to speak. She tells him that she cannot run away with him. Love is weakness, and she cannot afford to be weak. She tells him that the heart in the box is not the king’s heart, it’s hers. He reminds her of their agreement, but she tells him the contract says he gets HIS first born child that she bares. Since she will not be running away with him, we are left to assume that her first born will not be his. In this scene, if Cora is not already pregnant, then Regina would have to be Henry’s child. Rumple seems devastated, and they part ways. The story fast forwards and we see many months later that she is being introduced as Princess Cora, and welcoming her baby daughter Regina into the world. Cora says she has named her Regina because she would one day be queen.
In SB, Cora finally breaks through the protection spell. She is able to get to the back room where Rumple is. She quickly casts a spell and transports Emma and Neal to the forest. She is left alone with Rumple, who is too weak to move. He says he saw this in a vision but can’t see what he really wants to know. He asks Cora if she ever really loved him. “Why do you think I had to rip my own heart out? You were my weakness, the only man I ever truly loved.” She raises the dagger above her head and as she is about to plunge it into Gold, she jerks from behind. Regina has pushed Cora’s heart back into her chest. Cora is overcome with the love and emotion of finally seeing her daughter through eyes of a woman with a heart. Regina smiles with tears, “Mother.” They smile and begin to hug, but Cora collapses. “This would have been enough…you would have been enough.” Cora says, as she dies in Regina’s arms. Gold stands, healed. Snow runs into the shop shouting for Regina not to put her mother’s heart in to her body. As she reaches the back room, she sees it’s too late. “You did this.” Regina says, as she holds her mother’s lifeless body close to her.