Emma is never going to get laid.
As a good friend of mine stated, my dedication to Emma's sex life is profound. I share in her losses (Sheriff! Lancelot!), her triumphs (of which there are few) and, lately, her frustrations. I'm going to tell you the only two things you need to know about this episode: Neal is Peter Pan, and he's engaged to what I think is the NYC equivalent of Tiger Lily. I don't know how many more backstory stackings I can take.
Now that that is out of the way, time for a plot summary. In New York, Henry is still pissed at his mom for lying about the death of his non-firefighting father. It's been like four hours, so I guess he has every right to still be mad. How would Emma have even explained that to him, though? Everyone needs to take a deep breath, grab some pizza together, and let bygones be bygones. No one listens to me, though, because that would not make for gripping television.
R-stilts wants Emma to convince his son to come back to Maine with them. Neal at first declines (due to the aforementioned lady friend), but after Hook arrives in New York and stabs R-stilts he has no choice but to help them return to Storybrooke. By stealing a pirate ship. Which he knows how to sail. Because he's Peter Pan. Hopefully our cast will be reunited sooner rather than later in the beautifully foggy landscape of Maine, where other events are afoot!
In “The Queen is Dead” a queen dies, but not the one you think. Enter Snow's beautiful and unnamed mother, who died suddenly of tuberculosis right before Snow's birthday. In addition to making Snow averse to that particular celebration, her mother's death also enforced the necessity of being good. Snow had the chance to save her mother's life using some dark magic given to her by Cora, who was impersonating the Blue Fairy at the time, but does not because the price of the magic is someone else's life. She lets her mother die and has to attend a funeral instead of a ball, which is actually pretty sad.
After the mourners have dispersed, Cora sneaks into the hall and gloats over the queen's dead body. There are some hints that Cora had her own beef with the dead Queen – I'm sure we'll find out what those were, one day – and Cora promises to turn Snow White as evil as possible to kill the Queen's legacy. She obviously didn't think that Snow would have children, or that one of them would be Henry. He may be annoying, but that kid will likely never be evil. He's not that interesting.
Self-sacrifice becomes a theme in Snow's life from this point forward, proving that magic is not the only force in the universe with horrible consequences, and this birthday is no exception. She stumbles on to Cora and Regina's plan to retrieve the Dark One's dagger for yet-unknown purposes. Are they going to control R-stilts or kill him? Playing for time, she tries to win over Regina in the most condescending way possible. A day with her and I'd break out the slinky dresses and universe-altering magics too. Regina makes a good point – no one will forgive her, and she doesn't want to feel like she needs to be forgiven, so why try? It's actually quite a life-affirming viewpoint, if it didn't involve her potentially becoming the devil.
David and Snow send an SOS to Emma – they need to know the location of R-stilts' dagger, pronto, since it's probably not in the hole made by Regina and Cora in the woods. He tells them after some earnest talk by his sort-of daughter-in-law – it's hidden behind one of the hands of the town clocktower (clever crocodile, protected by a clock... clockodile). The Not-So-Charmings find the knife and are quickly found themselves by Cora and Regina, who came prepared to negotiate for the dagger. They brought along Johanna, an old nurse of Snow White's who might not make it out of the episode alive since we only just met her. Regina grabs Johanna's heart right out of her chest, forcing Snow to another awful decision – the dagger, or Johanna's life.
Because this isn't the season finale, she chooses to give Cora the dagger instead of watching her one remaining connection to her mother die. Unfortunately, once the Bitches have the dagger, they throw Johanna from the clocktower and leave Snow and David to their grief. Why not just make a clean job of it? Seriously, why doesn't Cora just kill the most pompous couple this side of Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag? I don't understand supervillians sometimes.
The end of the episode finds Snow and David graveside. Wouldn't you know that Snow is becoming self-aware? She's starting to wonder what would happen if she went a little dark – maybe she wouldn't be getting hurt all of the time. Would she be happier, would her life be easier? I can't believe it. Snow just became interesting, and she's going to kill Cora.
Next week: Someone dies. Start your death pools now!