In fairytale land we have a flashback of Regina’s life – her trying to flee before her loveless marriage and her mother determined to keep her with magic. She doesn’t want to marry the king, she wants to be free – but her mother tells her that power is freedom. Later Regina fantasies about telling young Snow White that her true love died because Snow couldn’t keep her secret, how Snow was weak and caused her loved one’s death. But she holds back actually attacking the girl, even as she considers it.
She protests to her father that she needs to get away, that Cora, her mother’s ambition is corrupting Regina, making her like Cora. Her father protests that Cora just wants Regina to have what she didn’t – but Regina wants her own life, not Cora’s. She asks how Cora got this way and he says she met a man before she met him and he gave her the book of spells.
She sneaks into her mother’s room during the night and takes the book. Opening it she finds a name and summons the man who gave it to Cora – Rumplestiltskin. He knows Regina – Regina assumes through Cora and that she looks like Cora did when Cora was young. Rumplestiltskin denies the resemblance. He remarks on her kindness and her potential for power – Regina doesn’t want magic, doesn’t want to become like her mother and doesn’t want to hurt anyone. So Rumple has another option – a portal to help her escape, a giant mirror.
Her mother comes in the next day to spread some spite and lay out her plan for the kingdom – the king is weak she’s sure Regina can take over – and that involves raising taxes and forming an army. Regina tries to push her mother into the mirror but her mother uses magic to stop her. In the mirror Rumple mimes pushing – and in rage, Regina lashes out with her own power, pushing outwards with her magic, knocking Cora into the mirror. After she passes through, the mirror shatters.
She starts to leave again – and runs into Rumple. She gives him his book back (“not a gift, it was mine to start with!”) and he coaxes her into saying how wonderful magic felt. He says he can teach her more, so much more and in return, one day she will do something for him. She worries about becoming her mother – and he says that is entirely up to her.
Leroy/Grumpy is taking the dwarfs on a mission to see if they can… leave Storybrooke! As we’ve seen before, none of the fairytale characters could leave the town – with the curse broken, can they leave? They draw lots and Sneezy steps forward
There’s a panic in the town, the curse breaking caused considerable damage and destruction. Fairy tale characters are finally realising who they are and looking for loved ones. Homes are damaged, people are panicking. Ruby/Red Riding Hood, Mother Superior/Blue Fairy and Archie/Jiminy Cricket are trying to restore calm and order and putting their faith in the Prince to fix things.
Prince Charming/David (ok, this is getting long – fairy tale names from now on) and Regina have a little meeting where the animosity flares – he points out that she’s still having magic trouble despite her wallpaper trick last episode and that the only reason she’s still alive is because Henry wants it. Who’d have thought the rather damp David could pull out the menace? He wants answers about the hat. She wants him to spend more time looking after Henry – he snarks about her raising of him but Regina’s not having that. “I will not take childcare lectures from a man who put his daughter in a box and shipped her to Maine.” LINE OF THE NIGHT. More antagonism and Charming finds his own come back “if you have to use magic to keep your son, you don’t really have him.”
Prince Charming returns to the town, pushing past the many people trying to mob him with questions and pleas for help, to ask the Blue Fairy if it’s possible to use a tree to go to fairy tale world after Emma and Snow, the same way that Snow came to this world. Blue Fairy says it’s impossible without fairy dust – and the dwarfs return with some terrible news. If you leave the city limits, you forget your fairy tale selves, your cursed self becomes all you are and Sneezy has forgotten who he is, he thinks he’s a town chemist again.
People begin to gather and shout, and Charming promises he’ll have a plan in two hours if they’ll just be calm. It settles them down, but as Red asks Charming, he doesn’t actually have a plan and he has 2 hours to find one.
Regina searches Rumplestiltskin’s shop for the book – her mother’s book of spells – to get her power back and to get Henry back. Rumple mocks her for needing a book to get her power back but she says she has no time. He tries to make her leave by invoking their “please” clause, but since the curse has been broken it no longer works. And we find out that the enchanted forest, fairy tale land, still exists – but she and Rumple are keeping it a secret, because Rumple still has business in the real world. She threatens to tell people if she doesn’t get her book – he gives it to her but he has a parting shot; once he said he didn’t think Regina looked like Cora – now he sees the resemblance.