This week's episode was an adventure for many of our characters. It was a strong week for Belle, who got to show her wits in both our land and Camelot. The title (which was the original title of Disney's Brave prior to its theatrical release) suggests that Merida would be the one to find her bravery this week. What we actually saw was several characters, in both big and small ways, find their voices and their hearts, leading them to stand up and be BRAVE. In our Camelot flashback, we see Merlin, with the help of Belle (who suggests a spell from a book she's studying), dissipate the cell bars and free both Lancelot and Merida. (Score one for the smart girls!) As the group heads out, Merida lags behind in what we find out is a plan to Bellenap...er, kidnap Belle. She bonks her on the head and they sail for the shores of Merida's kingdom. Belle wakes up, a wee bit unhappy, but a fast friendship is struck when she hears Merida's story. It turns out that Merida was captured by Shady-As-Heck Arthur when she stole one of his boats to try and get home to save her brothers. This tale takes place about ten years after Brave, Merida's father has died, and the hot Scot with an attitude has convinced the other clans that Merida is not fit to be queen. Yes, you are thinking, weren't these guys all super cool with Merida by the end of Brave? Aye, lassie, they were. But in the time that has passed, Merida no longer feels Brave. What we have not seen is that Merida shot an arrow to save her father from an attacker, and missed. (Something is shady here. Merida wouldn't miss). The attacker was able to kill her father, and Merida has blamed herself ever since.
Belle and Merida make it to the Witch's cottage. (The same one from the movie Brave, of course). They see in the cauldron that Merida's brothers are soon to be killed and Belle helps her make a potion that will turn her into a bear. Merida is sure to be able to defeat her brothers' captors and set them free with this. They head off, potion in hand, to save her brothers.
Just as her brothers are about to be executed, Merida drinks the potion. Nothing happens. Belle has switched it with water and tells Merida to have faith in herself. Merida aims her bow, steadies herself, and then shoots. Her arrow is true, and splits all three of the arrows flying toward her brothers. The clans realize Merida is strong, and fit to be queen. They drop their weapons and kneel.
In the forest of Present-Day Storybrooke, Rumple is tied up with his precious chipped cup nearby. While out of Merida's view, he kisses the cup, and then smashes it using the sharp edge to free himself. When it is discovered that he is gone, Dark Swan Emma commands Merida to put an arrow through Belle's heart, which she feels will force Rumple to become a hero and protect her.
In town, Belle finds Rumple, hiding in the library elevator. He tells her he can't be brave, and that Merida will come after her. Belle has faith in Rumple, as he has shown that he can be brave in the past. He confesses to her that he did not cripple himself in the Ogre Wars so he could return and protect Baelfire, but rather because he was afraid. Merida shows up and in the end Rumple resorts to his flight instinct, driving to the town line. Belle is having none of it and gets out of the car to walk away. Not too far down the road she meets up with Merida, to whom Emma has given the bear potion. Merida changes into a huge black bear and tries to kill Belle. Rumple shows up, and just before sacrificing himself to save Belle, he tosses a bag of magic dust into the bear's mouth. She turns back into Merida, Rumple has proven himself a hero and saved Belle.
While all this is going on, Dark Swan Emma is bribing Zelena with a batch of Granny's onion rings. She wants to make a deal, but Zelena won't agree. In probably the best, most wicked line of the night, Zelena says "Hey, I killed Neal. You ready to kiss and make up?" Emma poofs her back to her cell and then heads to her Harry Potter and the Broken Sword closet where she tells Rumple to pull Excalibur from the stone. He professes his love for Belle, saying he wishes things would have been different, and she tells him they still can be. Rumbelle fans rejoice!
Meanwhile, in town, Shady Shadester Arthur has lied and tried to burn a crimson crown mushroom rather than use it to communicate with Merlin. The Scooby...um, Charming, gang find out and Henry (being one of Merlin's chosen ones) attempts the communication. Instead of Merlin, they get a pre-recorded, 3-D voicemail Merlin, who says that the Dark One has come for him. They all assume it is Emma, me...not so much.
One of the important things to note here is Rumple's transformation. In this episode, he became a hero. He became Brave, but not for the obvious reason. It was not his facing of the bear that changed him, that was an after-effect. Throughout their relationship, Belle only wanted Rumple to be truthful with her, which he could never, or would never, do. In a moment of complete acceptance and trust, he chose to tell Belle the truth about why he crippled himself. All along he had feared that the truth would be the thing that drove people away from him. But in the end, it made him a hero...it made him BRAVE.