Isaac Heller (aka the Author) is a wannabe writer working as an appliance salesman, struggling to talk reluctant customers into taking a chance on color television sets when part one of the season four finale of ABC’s Once Upon a Time begins. It’s December 1966 and Isaac’s fortune is about to change after he opens a letter from a publisher (the Apprentice) and winds up at a nearly empty office where he’s asked to select one of five pens. Isaac chooses the magical pen and the Apprentice tells him he’s now the new Author, replacing the one who just died. Asked if he wants to take a trip, Isaac is given the “most important job in all the realms.” The Apprentice opens the door to another realm, and off Isaac goes to find the answers to all of his questions.
Leap forward to 2015 and Regina (Lana Parrilla) is frustrated because she can’t figure out what the Author’s busy writing and she’s worried she’s going to wake up a frog. Robin (Sean Maguire) and Hook try to calm her down, and Hook says at least she’ll wake up, believing he’s going to be dead come morning and thinking her future is a bit brighter than his. David (Josh Dallas), Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin), Henry (Jared Gilmore) and Emma (Jennifer Morrison) are also trying to figure out the puzzle when August (Eion Bailey) shows up with an idea as to how they can find out what the Author’s writing. August suggests they talk to the Apprentice and shows the group a drawing of the elderly man. Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) recognizes him and says he trapped the Apprentice in the sorcerer’s hat.
Fortunately, Blue (Keegan Connor Tracy) can get him out, using his broom to unlock the box. Out the Apprentice pops and says there isn’t any time to waste. He knows Isaac’s abused his power for too long and things have to be set right. Isaac has to be put back into the book, using the page with the painted door and the key. The page is back in the loft.
Isaac and Gold are deep in conversation about their relationship and why the Author would help him get his happy ending. Isaac is ready to turn the world upside down, but wants to know if Gold wants to forget Baelfire ever existed. Gold says no, but he wants his memories changed to show he did right by his son and was a hero in his eyes. The Author can do that, and is ready to finish the new book.
Emma, the Apprentice, and Regina head out to look for Gold while the rest of the gang look for the missing page. But, it’s too late! The Author writes “The End” and the world as everyone knows it has changed. Henry can’t find his grandparents, Hook’s gone, and the town looks empty. He walks the streets calling out, but no one answers. A record spins and no one is there to return the needle to its cradle. Where are the folks of Storybrooke?!
Henry drives to a diner and asks if the hostess has seen his family. As she calls the cops, he notices a book titled Heroes and Villains on a stand. It’s by Isaac and it’s a bestseller.
Cut away to Isaac on a book tour, with audience members in cosplay. “Heroes and Villains is close to my heart. It’s been a passion project for longer than you would believe. I wrote it because I think people are sick of heroes getting everything in these classic fairy tales,” says Isaac to his audience. “What happens when villains win the day?”
He’s busy signing books and when a fan asks he won’t say whether Regina will ever get her happy ending. Henry’s next in line and he has the drawing with the door. He wants to know what happened to his family and Isaac claims he has no idea where they are. Henry threatens him with the key, and Isaac tells him his family is in his books. They’re fine but they live in the original copy of Heroes and Villains, the book he always wanted to write that’s about an alternate universe. Everyone got the ending they deserved except Emma because Isaac said there was no room for a savior in his new world. Isaac wasn’t supposed to write his own happy ending (that was a rule) so now he’s unable to use the magical pen and change the books. Henry tackles Isaac as he’s trying to leave, grabs the book and uses the key to enter the pages.
Henry’s not sure where he is but it’s not Storybrooke. Isaac has followed him there and knocks him out before he can get his bearings. When Henry comes to he’s tied up and Isaac is going on about how now they’re both trapped in the book. “Let me tell you about this place. It’s cold, there’s no running water, and things are always trying to kill you,” says Isaac, deeply depressed over his predicament. Isaac says it’s his story and no hero gets a happy ending. Henry guesses that if one does, then that will destroy the book. Isaac reveals they’re currently in the last chapter so it doesn’t matter what Henry does. When a bell sounds that will mean they’ve reached the last page.
An ogre attack signals the beginning of the book’s last chapter and Isaac flees leaving Henry to fight for his life. A Knight on a white horse shows up and saves him. The town folk come out and thank the ogre-slayer who turns out to be Rumple! He’s now a hero who tells Henry to run along to his family before heading out to save another village.
Henry takes out the Heroes and Villains book and makes his way through the forest by reading the final chapter to learn where the dangers might lie. Peering into a hollowed-out tree stump, he’s surprised by Regina who holds him at arrow point. He tells her he’s her son.
Isaac goes back and finds the ogre is dead and Henry is gone.
Henry tries to explain to Regina that she’s his mother and they live in Maine, and that they’re characters in a book now. She puts a knife to his throat and demands he tell her who sent him. He says that in his world they are both searching for her happy ending. Laughing, she tells him Operation Mongoose is a silly name. She thinks he’s crazy. He gives her the book they’re trapped in and she’s confused as to how the book knows what she has planned for the day. She tosses the book in the fire and leaves, but Henry follows her. She wants him to go home but he tells her they can’t leave until she finds Robin in a tavern and kisses him: true love’s kiss will fix everything. But Regina’s no fan of Robin Hood in this world. Here, they are competitors in planning robberies. Regina reveals that the Queen wants her dead so she says she has to leave. She admits she ruined the Queen’s life so there’s a valid reason they dislike each other.
Isaac gets caught in a trap which he should have known about since he wrote the book. Out pops the dwarves who work for the Queen and they’re definitely not good guys anymore.
Evil Snow is now the Queen and she has no sympathy for Isaac’s plight. The dwarves show Snow the pin they found on Isaac that reads “Long Live Regina,” which does nothing to put the Author in the Queen’s good graces. He says he’s on Snow’s side and wants to keep her in charge. He tells her about the arrival of Henry and how he wants to change everything. In comes Charming whose relationship with Snow is frosty. Charming’s about to chop off Isaac’s head when he says he knows Snow was first in love with Charming’s twin brother, James. Isaac says a magical book told him everything about this land and he knows that James was killed by Regina so he took Charming’s heart and forced him to be hers. He tells Snow she can still have her happy ending because he knows exactly where to find Regina. In return, he wants Henry killed along with Regina. Snow smiles wickedly and replies, “Gladly.”
Regina robs a royal coach and inside is Evil Snow. Charming and Snow have Regina trapped, and Regina keeps apologizing but Snow doesn’t listen. Snow’s true love is dead and so she grabs Regina’s heart, but Charming stops her. He tells her to find out where the boy is first before she takes Regina’s life. Snow says their feud won’t stop until Regina and all her followers are dead.
Snow’s about to toss fire at Regina when Robin shows up to rescue her. They make their way to a tavern where Regina learns it’s Robin who’s saved her. They flirt/argue before toasting their new relationship. Robin’s getting out of the game and wants Regina to take his place as the leader of the Merry Men, but she declines because she wants out of the game too. She’s kind of feeling some connection with Robin when he tells her he’s about to get married to…wait for it…Zelena (Rebecca Mader) who’s one of the good guys now. Zelena’s super excited to meet Regina and invites her to their wedding which is taking place that day. Regina thanks Robin again and says no to the offer, congratulating the happy couple before leaving the tavern.
Outside, Regina is spotted by Henry who figured she’d be with Robin. Regina says he was wrong about the happy ending thing because Robin’s about to get married. Henry looks through the door and sees Robin and Zelena about to kiss. He tells Regina that’s her sister and says their mother abandoned her when they were babies. But in Regina’s world, she was the one who was abandoned so Henry figures out this is Zelena’s happy ending. Henry wants Regina to admit that she felt something for Robin in their limited time together, but Regina says she’ll never have true love. Henry gave her hope, which is the worst thing ever.
Henry says the wedding bells will signal the end of the book and that they have to stop it or they’ll be trapped in this alternate reality forever. Emma’s not in the book so she can’t help out, but he tells her in his world Emma was the savior and has special magic. Regina pauses and Henry knows that means she’s heard of the savior before. She admits she has, and Henry wants to know where to find her. Regina says Snow White locked her up years ago and no one has seen her since. The prison she’s supposedly held in is impenetrable. And that’s the end of the first half of the two-part “Operation Mongoose” finale.
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