Can a coward become a hero? That’s the question in this episode of Once Upon a Time, “The Bear and the Bow,” as Emma’s determination to make Mr. Gold into what he has never been puts Belle’s life in danger in Storybrooke, all in the hope that he can pull Excalibur from its stone.

As for the Camelot flashbacks, Belle finds herself being Merida’s (unwilling, at least at first) helper as the archer sets off to save her brothers by any means necessary. Plus, in the present, Regina, Mary Margaret, David and Hook realize that they may be trusting the wrong person.

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Girls’ Day Out, OUAT/Flashback-Style

With Merlin leading the charge with his magic — “Just like riding a bike,” he proclaims, hinting that there’s more than just luck to all his prophecies coming true when David questions how he knows what a bike is — David, Hook and Belle break into Camelot’s dungeon to free Lancelot. With a bit of help from Belle, he frees not only Lancelot, but Merida as well, from their cells and assures the archer that they’ll find another way to rescue her brothers since Arthur took her wisp. (It turns out she tried to steal Arthur’s ship. Bad move, Merida.)

Not wanting to risk getting a “no” on a request for their help to save her brothers, Merida chooses to knock Belle out and kidnap her instead to enlist her help to show the clans they’re messing with the wrong queen. And Merida’s plan? To use the witch’s magic to change her fate so she can rescue her brothers before the clans execute them for her treachery. Belle argues that she doesn’t need magic to change her fate (especially magic that will turn her into a bear), pointing to the fact that Merida can easily split arrows. (Her father taught her to remember what she’s fighting for and she’ll never miss her target.) Merida’s still not sold.

It’s not until they reach where the clans are holding her brothers that Merida confesses she did miss her target when a knight was going after her father. Her father is dead because of her, and after that, the clans lost faith in her and her ability to lead. Belle gives her the potion, but when Merida drinks it down while facing off against the clans, nothing happens. That would be because Belle switched the potion with water. Merida needs to defeat the clans as a queen, Belle argues, and that’s exactly what she does, firing one arrow that cuts down the three heading straight for her brothers. After that, everyone bows to her, Merida is reunited with her brothers and Belle returns to the others.
Remember That Time Merlin was a Movie Theater Usher?

Emma gets the strangest sense of deja vu while the others hang in Granny’s in Camelot and Merlin picks up an Apollo chocolate bar, and no, it’s not because she binged Lost on Netflix recently. She remembers that he was the usher and asks how that was even possible. It doesn’t matter how he got the message to her, he tells her, but rather that she remember what he said — and it’s even more important that she heeds his warning: “Leave Excalibur alone. The fate of everyone you love rests upon it.”

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Can Mr. Gold Overcome His Cowardice?

Mr. Gold manages to escape Merida’s camp in the woods, using a broken piece of the teacup to free his hands, but that doesn’t mean Emma’s just going to let him or Merida go. She’s confirmed that he’s willing to fight for Belle, and if he wants to stop Merida from killing Belle, he’s going to have to be a hero. With that, Emma sends Merida to put an arrow through Belle’s heart.

Mr. Gold finds Belle in the library and thanks her for being the voice that stopped him from letting go while he was in a coma. Even after everything he’s done to her, she stood by him, and if not for her, he wouldn’t be alive. It’s a touching speech, but they don’t exactly have time for touching speeches. Instead, they should be more concerned about Emma finding them, and Mr. Gold knows that he’s going to be forced to protect Belle, to become the hero that Emma needs, but he can’t. He can’t even bring himself to go the 100 yards across the street to his shop, admitting to Belle that it’s his leg, a reminder of what he was, what he still is: a coward. Enter Belle, the motivational speaker; she’s always seen the man behind the beat and now she sees a hero as well. He just needs to see that too.

Moments after they finally make it to his shop, Merida shows up, gunning (or, rather, arrowing in this case?) for Belle, who is the one to pull the rug out from under her to aid in their escaper. On their way out of the shop, Mr. Gold grabs a bag from the safe and drives for the town line. The bag will keep them safe from the effects of leaving Storybrooke, he explains, but she refuses to leave with people she still cares about there, going so far as to try to get out of the car while he’s still driving until he stops the car. Running never made anyone a hero, she argues, and he’s been brave before. He disagrees, admitting that he crippled himself not to get back to his son but because he was scared of dying. He’s a coward and “that’s never going to change,” he insists. This is the only way he knows how to protect her, but she tells him that he’s just protecting himself and walks away.

Unfortunately for Belle, she walks right into Merida’s path, and Emma, not willing to take chances, makes her drink a potion that turns her into a bear. Belle does the only thing she can do and runs. When Mr. Gold limps over to them, Belle tells him to run, but he refuses to, even after Merida the bear knocks him to the ground. “Do your worst,” he tells her and then throws his bag into her mouth, which turns her back. “I knew you had it in you,” Belle tells him. “You saved me.” But he thinks she’s the one who saved him.

Mr. Gold returns, with Belle and Merida, to Emma because, as a former Dark One, he knows she won’t stop wreaking havoc until he does what she wants, but he makes a deal first: he’ll pull Excalibur from its stone in exchange for Emma giving Merida her heart back. Emma does (and reveals that Merida’s brothers are safe), but Mr. Gold hesitates before touching Excalibur. In case it doesn’t work, he wants Belle to know he’s sorry for everything, and if he had to do it all over again, he’d make sure he was the man she deserved from the start. “I would change everything for you,” he says. With that, he does pull Excalibur (safely) from the stone, but he warns Emma as he leaves that she made one mistake: she made him a hero. None of the other heroes in this town have been able to stop him, she reminds him. “That’s because none of them are me,” he informs her.

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Calling Merlin…

Regina was able to figure out the spell they need to use to communicate with Merlin using the Crimson Crown, but not just anyone can summon him. He will only appear to someone chosen by him, and so they get Arthur. Once they bring him in, he tells them that Merlin only delivered his prophecies to him when they were alone, so it’s best he’s alone now, and once they leave him, he puts the toadstool in the fire beneath the cauldron and tells everyone that it didn’t work.

What he wasn’t counting on, however, is the fact that magical toadstools don’t burn (they only char), and David finds it in the fire. So they finally know not to trust Arthur, but they still need to figure out a way to talk to Merlin/someone chosen by him. Fortunately, they have one: the Author. Henry’s on board — the person who ripped out Violet‘s heart isn’t his mother, he contends, but Emma is still in there somewhere and he’ll do anything to get her back — but it seems that they get, as Regina puts it, Merlin’s voicemail. It begins in that cliche way that these types of messages tend to: “If you’re receiving this message, then things are worse…” Basically, only one person can help defeat the Dark One now: Nimue. The rest of the message is cut off when the Dark One finds him. What did Emma do to Merlin?

Once Upon a Time season 5 airs Sundays at 8pm on ABC.

(Image courtesy of ABC)

Meredith Jacobs

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV

If it’s on TV — especially if it’s a procedural or superhero show — chances are Meredith watches it. She has a love for all things fiction, starting from a young age with ER and The X-Files on the small screen and the Nancy Drew books. Arrow kicked off the Arrowverse and her true passion for all things heroes. She’s enjoyed getting into the minds of serial killers since Criminal Minds, so it should be no surprise that her latest obsession is Prodigal Son.