Raise your hand—cursed or uncursed, either works—if you’re unable to focus on anything that happened tonight besides the spectacle of Captain Killian Jones in 21st-century street clothes. (Think he and Ichabod Crane went shopping at the same store—Modern-Day Accoutrements for the 200-Plus-Year-Old Gentleman?)
If you spent the rest of the hour swooning, though, you may have missed out on the explication of a few crucial plot points. As its name implies, “The Apprentice” focused on revealing why, exactly, Rumpelstiltskin was so tickled to discover that Sorcerer’s hat in the house where he and Belle honeymooned in season 4’s premiere. As it turns out, the object is more than just a groovily decorated cap—it’s also an artifact of immense power that could have enormous implications for the rest of our heroes. Well, that, or it’s just another magical doohickey that seems important for awhile until it disappears from the narrative without a trace. On this show, anything’s possible!
Before we get to the hat, though, let’s focus on the figure name-checked in the episode’s title: the Sorcerer’s Apprentice himself, an old, wizardly dude we meet in the hour’s cold open. He fights off a cloaked figure referred to as “the Dark One,” leading us to believe that he’s tangling with Rumpel—only for his assailant to reveal himself as Zoso, the guy who had the Dark One gig before Rump. Seems that everyone who’s ever been covered in those glittery scales has visited the Apprentice in an attempt to wrest control of the bamboo steamer box that contains the Sorcerer’s hat; all of them, however, have failed to achieve their goal.
Why? Because the Sorcerer, whoever he was, put an enchantment on the box that protects its contents from anyone who’s ever succumbed to the darkness in his or her heart—which, logically, would rule out anyone who, say, goes by “The Dark One.” But that spell wouldn’t protect against a sunny, fresh-faced teen who still wears her hair in braided pigtails.
Which is why the Rumpel of the Past is practically licking his lips when Anna of Arendelle shows up in his study, searching for answers about her parents. In two shakes of a reindeer’s tail, he’s convinced her to make a deal with him: He’ll tell her why the King and Queen came to the Enchanted Forest if she’ll pour a vial of mysterious liquid into a random hermit’s tea. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?
Yeah, not so much. Anna heads to the house Rumpel told her about. It is, of course, a hut belonging to the Sorcerer’s Apprentice—who’s probably never advanced past the probationary stage of sorcerer-hood because he’s too damn trusting. The Apprentice quickly welcomes Anna into his home, offering her tea and biscuits and conversation. I’m shocked he doesn’t break out the espresso, too. But though Anna’s poised over his teakettle, vial in hand (Doesn’t this guy have magic powers? Is basic perception not part of the package?), she can’t go through with her end of the deal. And naturally, that’s just what Rumpelstiltskin’s been banking on the whole time. When Anna gets back to his Evil Manse, the Dark One reveals that she was actually carrying the antidote to a poison—one Rumpel himself had given the Apprentice a day earlier. (Again, without the Apprentice noticing? This guy deserved to be held back.)
NEXT: Mickey, is that you?