So what, exactly, will Hook be distracting? None other than Maleficent, who apparently survived her battle with Emma in last year's finale -- though in the intervening time, she's transformed into some sort of giant, shrieking Nazgul thing. In fact, as Hook soon learns, there's a spell in the caverns that makes the beast pretty much invincible. (Please, please let this mean we can expect to see Kristin Bauer van Straten again!) Yo ho ho ho -- a pirate's death for Hook?
As her ex-partner's life hangs in the balance, Fairyback Regina is on the mend, thanks to Snow's careful care. She still hasn't quite got the whole "acting like a peasant" thing down -- but even so, Snow's too innocent to sniff through her stepmother's B.S. The princess treats her patient -- "Wilma" -- like a cherished friend, telling her all about the kind woman who once saved Snow's own life when she was just a round-faced child.
Regina drinks in the story like a woman dying of thirst, thrilled to know that Snow once loved her -- and that the princess hopes the old Regina will reemerge some day. Just like that, all thoughts of murder fly out of her transmogrified head. There's only one thing love-starved Regina wants now: to get Snow's forgiveness. And she might have a shot at securing it, too... if the two hadn't happened upon the pile of people Regina ordered slain for sheltering Snow. The princess, horrified, takes back everything she's just said about her stepmother: "It is too late for her! I could never forgive her! There's no good in that woman!"
Strong words -- but when "Wilma" accidentally reveals that she's actually Regina, Snow stops short of putting the queen out of her misery. Why? Well, because the show wouldn't exist if she had killed Regina, that's why. Regina runs off to Rumpelstiltskin's castle, where she decides that if she'll never be loved, she might as well fully embrace being feared. Hey, this whole subplot could have been avoided if she had just read "The Prince"!
Back in Storybrooke, a triumphant Regina -- gem-shaped fail-safe in hand -- has her victory bubble burst when she finds that Hook has somehow survived his encounter with Maleficent. On top of that, he found a way to beat her back to the clock tower. Oh, and did I mention that all of a sudden, Regina's magical hand flourishes aren't exactly so magical?
Enter Growen and Tamara, still a free woman even though Emma's getting wise to her "innocent" act. (The sheriff can't find any hard evidence proving that Tamara is the "she" August tried to warn everybody about, but she still thinks something's up with Bae's lady -- and hey, at least Henry believes her.) Hook explains that the pair has developed something that can block magic; whatever it is, Regina unwittingly put it on when she took Hook's cuff. And she won't be able to take the contraption off, either: "You might be able to get rid of the leather, but inside are the toughest metals and machinery known to man," Growen helpfully and nonsensically declaims. "And right now they're counteracting every magic bone in your body." Oh, okay, that explains everything.
NEXT: Tamara's hit list (curiously Henry-free)