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'Once Upon a Time' Winter Finale Recap: Wonderland, Whirlpools, and Welcomes

By Leanne Aguilera, Hollywood.com Staff

The winter finale of Once Upon a Time is exactly what television should be. In a mere 47 minutes, fans were lead through a whirlwind of thrilling adventures, insightful flashbacks, and heart-warming emotions. Let us help you catch up on all the excitement from this week's episode, ""The Queen of Hearts.""

Fairytale Land Flashbacks: 'The episode opens with Killian—aka Captain Hook—taking out two the Regina's guards singlehandedly (literally). At the top of the tower he enters a cell and we see that Belle is being held captaive and by the tally marks on the walls it looks like it's been a while. Hook announces that he is there to rescue her butt they must hurry because her father is in grave danger. Hook admits that he is letting Belle go because he has heard rumors of a magical weapon that is powerful enough to stop The Dark One. Since Belle has spend the most time with him than any one else, surely she would know how to stop him, right? Belle is puzzled and says, "I don't know what you're talking about and I have no idea how to kill Rumplestilskin…and nor would I!" And with that quick confession, Hook smacks Belle across the face, knocking the book-lover out cold saying, "So pretty, and yet so useless." Woah, that's one harsh hottie!

Just as Hook was about to kill Belle, Regina enters the cell and uses her magic to snatch Hook's hook from his arm. Regina looks frighteningly fierce in a dark blue, jewel-encrusted dress and a wild updo. "I know who you are Captain. I know why you came here from Neverland, and I know all about the crocodile you wish to skin." Suddenly the room is filled with intense sexual tension as Regina explains that Belle is a useless but valuable chess piece. "She can't help you kill Rumplestilskin, Hook, but I can. If you do something for me… Care to join me for a drink?" Regina then explains all about the curse she is about to exact on the characters in Fairytale Land. "This new realm, it's a land without magic." Regina happily tells Hook that in this new realm, he'll easily be able to kill The Dark One because Rumple will be stripped of his powers. There's only one problem: Hook must stop the one person Regina doesn't want following her into the new land. Hook questions, "Who is it you want me to dispose of?" Regina's answer is short but not-so sweet, "My mother."

In order to help Hook complete this practically impossible task, she enchants his hook so that he will be able to rip out Cora's heart. "The enchantment will only allow you to rip out one heart, so make sure you do it right." Regina takes out Jefferson's hat and says that Hook must travel to the land where she banished Cora years ago: Wonderland. Hook arrives in the new realm and finds the Cora has appropriately become The Queen of Hearts. After a brief hello, our captain goes in for the kill, but comes up empty handed hookded. Cora laughs, "I'm the Queen of Hearts! Did you really think that I would be so careless as to keep my heart where everyone else does?" Hook admits that is was Regina who send him to Wonderland and Cora looks genuinely devastated and surprised upon hearing that her own daughter wants her dead. Cora and Hook's evil bond begins when she explains the faults in her daughter's plans: "This curse my daughter plans to enact, this new land she's taking everyone to, you won't remember who you are. So tell me Captain, how do you expect to kill someone when you can't even remember them?" Cora decides that the best way to fix the situation is to kill her only daughter. "Get me close to my daughter, and then I'll rip her heart out.

Hook pretends to have killed Cora and brings Regina her body, complete with stone coffin and a sleeping mother. Regina tells Hook that she would like a minute alone with her mother and in a completely uncharacteristic (and slightly suspicious) turn of events, Regina pours her heart out to her pretend mother saying, "Love is weakness," and in the new realm, she is going to need all the strength she can get. Regina then lays a single red rose on her mother's chest and leaves the room. Cora is beyond touched by Regina's kind words and decides not to kill her daughter. Instead Cora takes Hook to their far off corner of Fairytale Land and uses her magic to protect them from Regina's curse.

Good Always Wins: Snow, Emma, Mulan and Aurora have made it to Rumplestilskin's jail cell in hopes of finding the paralyzing squid ink they need to stop Cora. However, the girls first find a note—and it's clearly addressed to one woman: Emma. Rumple had scrawled "Emma" dozens and dozens of times on a piece of parchment and Emma is now officially freaked out. The ladies begin frantically searching the cell for Rumple's super secret ink stash, while Emma just stares dumfounded at her extremely personalized note. Mulan finds a vile buried deep inside one of the rock crevices, but unfortunately it's empty. Aurora—still under Cora's control—takes advantage of the girl's distraction and hits the door's trigger, locking all four within Rumple's cell. Cora and Hook arrive and with a wave of her hand, the compass flies out of Emma's possession and lands neatly in Cora's palm. The wicked witch thanks Aurora for her help and just as the girls begin to turn on the princess, Cora and Hook reveal that they took her heart and they are off to Storybrooke. Emma calls out to Hook and begs him to help her protect her son, but instead Hook just dangles the formerly magic bean that the giant kept at the top of the beanstalk. "This is a symbol, something that was once magical, full of hope, possibility. Now look at it, dried up, dead and useless, much like you."

Once again we're headed back to Lake Nostos and Cora says that is it the perfect portal to Stroybrooke. "The legend says it's waters hold the power to restore what was once lost. It will return magic to what remains of this wardrobe and then we'll be able to cross worlds." The Lake is still just as dry as the last time we left is, but of course all it takes is a quick flick of the wrist = from Cora and a geyser emerges in the middle of the dusty bed. Back in the cell, Emma is trying everything she can to get out of the enchanted cage, but it's no use, they're stuck her spirit is lower than ever, and she listens to her mom for a bit of a pep-talk. Snow then has an epiphany and realizes that Emma's note from Rumplestilskin is actually a spell. She blows on the paper and the words—written with the last of Rumple's squid ink—evaporate the cell bars. Snow smiles at her daughter saying, "Told ya, good always wins."

The girls (minus Aurora) rush over to a whirlpool-like Lake Nostos and break out into a battle royale. Emma is sword fighting/flirting with Hook, Mulan is deflecting Cora's magic with an enchanted sword, and Snow is shooting arrows around like a badass. At one point Hook saves Aurora's heart before it is lost in the whirlpool and Mulan rushes off to return it to the princess that she swore to protect. Things get slightly hot and awkward when Hook and Emma are rolling on the ground. Hook whispers, "Normally I prefer to do other, more enjoyable activities with a woman on her back. With my life on the line you've left me no choice. A bit of advice, when I jab you with my sword, you'll feel it, you might want to quit." But Emma passes on the super sexual innuendos and distracts Hook with the compass before promptly knocking him out.

Now it's just Cora versus Emma and Snow. The princess begs to know why she so desperately wants to get to Storybrooke and Cora responds, "Because my daughter needs me, and I'm going to give her the one thing she's always wanted: your heart. Goodbye Snow." Just then, Emma lunges in front of her mother and Cora's hands wrap around our "savior's" heart. "Oh you foolish girl, don't you know? Love is weakness." But when Cora can not physically rip the heart from Emma's chest, Emma firmly says, "No, love is strength." She then pushes Cora back with a strong inner force that she (and we) never knew she had. "That is a great subject for discussion when we get home," Snow says with a smile and then grabs her daughter's hand and they jump into the swirling Lake Nostos and set off on the final leg of their quest back to Storybrooke. Mulan returns and places Aurora's heart in her chest where it belongs. Now the two girls are set to embark on their newest mission: rescue Prince Philip's soul from the wraith and return it to their beloved's body.

Storybrooke Salutations: Charming still hasn't woken up from his sleeping curse and Regina and Rumple are beginning to fear the worst. "We have to consider the possibility that when that portal opens, it wont be his family that comes through, it'll be Cora." Rumple says bluntly. So here's the new plan: find the portal where they will be coming through and destroy it. "But whoever came through would die," Regina realizes. Rumple is way ahead of her saying that no matter who were to die in the portal is would be a win-win. "If we stop Cora, you are protected from your mother's wrath, if on the other hand we stop Snow and Emma, well you become the only mother in your son's life no don't you?" Regina refuses to go along with Rumple's beyond-harsh plan explaining that she is trying to be a better and more honest mother. But of course, Rumple gets inside his former pupil's head snarling, 'If you truly want to be a good mother to Henry, to protect him, if you want to be better, prove it."

Regina tells Henry to babysit the sleeping prince and full on lies to her son's face saying that she and Rumple are going to prepare for Snow and Emma's safe arrival back to Storybrooke. In reality she and Rumple travel down into the dwarves' mines and steal all of the magic from the diamonds they discovered a few weeks back. Rumple and Regina travel to the middle of the forest until they reach a well. Rumple explains that this is the portal that will connect to Fairytale Land, "This is where things once lost will return to us." The dynamic duo summons all their wicked powers and send some bright green and very intimidating lightning down into the well. "Doesn't matter who comes through now, no one can survive this," Rumple mutters darkly. Henry arrives at the well and pleads with his mother to stop this curse, and after making her feel super guilty, ("You said you wanted to change, to be better, this is how.") Regina absorbs all of the dark magic and lifts the curse they set on the well.

It seems like it's too late but then all of the sudden, Emma and Snow hop out of the well and Henry rushes forward to greet his biological mother and grandmother. Emma and Regina share a sweet moment and Snow rushes off to the back of Mr. Gold's shop where Charming is waiting to be awoken with true love's kiss. Snow kisses her husband all of the cuteness is restored back in Storybrooke. Emma confronts Rumple and asks why everyone considered her to be the savior, when in reality she was just a pawn in all of The Dark One's plans. Rumple reveals, "I created the curse dearie, but I didn't make you. I merely took advantage of what you are, the product of true love that's why you're powerful." Rumple then helps Emma to realize that the force that knocked Cora back was indeed magic and it looks like we've got ourselves a new potential witch on our hands.

Regina and Henry are sharing a sweet mother-son hug when Emma invites him to come with her to Granny's for dinner. Everyone leaves the room and it's clear that Regina is crushed that she was not invited to dinner with her son, considering the fact that she just saved Snow and Emma's lives. Rumple seizes the opportunity to rub salt in her wounds sneering, "Congratulations, you've just reunited mother and son, maybe one day they'll even invite you for dinner." The Charming family, Ruby and all the dwarves are happily walking down the streets of Storybrooke and all seems right in the world. But of course it's not. Off in the distance, a ship has just entered the Storybrooke harbor. Captain Hook and Cora used the dried up magical bean from the giant and traveled to this new realm, each on a mission to exact their revenge, but the people of Stroybrooke have absolutely no idea they are here.

What did you think of the Once Upon a Time winter finale? How long do you think it will be before Cora and Hook reveal their whereabouts? Think Emma and Hook would be a hot couple? Cast your spell in the comments below!

Follow Leanne on Twitter @LeanneAguilera

[Photo Credit: ABC]

MORE:

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