"The Jolly Roger" is the seventeenth episode of Season Three of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by David H. Goodman and directed by Ernest Dickerson. It is the sixty-first episode of the series overall, and premiered on April 13, 2014.
Ariel returns to Storybrooke and pleads with Hook to help her find Prince Eric, who never returned to the town when the new curse was invoked. Emma agrees to let Regina teach her how to use magic so that she can help defeat Zelena, and Mary Margaret and David try to prove that they can be just as much fun as Hook is with Henry—who thinks they are boring. Meanwhile, in Fairy Tale Land during the past year, an angry Ariel confronts Hook over her missing Prince Eric, who she assumes was kidnapped and possibly killed by the swarthy pirate. But when Hook confesses that the Jolly Roger has been stolen and Eric is most likely the thief’s prisoner, Ariel unknowingly provides him with a clue as to who the culprit is, and Hook – with Ariel in tow - goes off in search of his ship.
In fairytale land Hook, dressed in armour, steals a chest full of gold and jewels with the help of Smee and other unknown men. They then celebrate at a tavern, where the crew has paid for a woman to spend the night with Hook. The pirate, however, pays and tells her goodnight. Just after he is ambushed by none other than Ariel, who tells him that "you're going to pay for what you've done."
Back in Storybrooke Emma and David try to assemble a crib for the unborn baby, while Mary Margaret expresses her worry regarding Zelena and Gold. David explaines that the crib is a statement: "we will not lose another baby."
Emma believes that the best strategy is to attack before Zelena does, and therefore asks Regina to teach her again. Regina accepts with the conditions that Emma will take it seriously, and they will be doing it Regina's way.
After Regina leaves, the Charmings offer to watch Henry, but get a shock when Emma confesses that Henry finds them boring because of all the baby talk.
Hook and Smee are at the docks and discuss why they are not teaming up again. Hook explains that Zelena is still a threat, one you should not take lightly, and that there is not a safe passage.
Smee asks him of the location of the Jolly Roger, but Hook says that he has no intention of leaving Storybrooke because of Emma, which is implied as they are walking up to them at the exact moment the words are spoken. Hook warns Smee that if he ever brings up this discussion, there will be consequences.
Emma then asks Hook if he could watch Henry, and Hook flirts with her, and tells her if she wants to get close with him, all she has to do is ask. She tells him about her teaming up with Regina, where Hook comments that "it's the most reasonable plan so far." He tells her that it is about time to embrace the magic that is already a part of her, but Emma only wants to embrace it for the battle against the Wicked Witch of the West, and afterwards she is done with Storybrooke. She wants to give Henry the life she always wanted for him.
Hook advises her that no matter how much you wish you could go back to your old life, you cannot do it.
Mary Margaret and David walk along the shore discussing Henry and what they can do to change his mind, when they see a crowd of people surrounding something. They find Ariel, back into her human form. She too does not remember a thing about the past year, and tells the Charmings that she had been searching for Prince Eric, who has gone missing. She returns to Storybrooke in hopes that she has overlooked something, and the Charmings point her in the direction of Hook.
Back in the Enchanted Forest, Ariel is holding a sword to Hook's neck and accuses him of kidnapping Prince Eric, which Hook denies, and uses her momentary confusion to turn the tables on her. Ariel is not convinced, as one of Prince Eric's crew men had escaped and told them the name of the ship: The Jolly Roger. Hook, not having the ship in his possession, orders her to tell him about the commander of the ship. The crew man got away with the same dagger that Hook was holding against Ariel's neck, engraved BB. Hook then returns to the tavern to get his crew and informs Smee that the commander is Black Beard, the most cutthroat pirate to ever hoist a sail, after Hook of course (Smee corrects himself after Hook glares at him). Smee warns Hook not to tempt fate, and Hook confesses that the ship is the part of him that is missing, and talks about it as if it is a woman.
Ariel then walks up to him and demands to go with him, and despite Hook's warnings, she is allowed as she quotes the pirates' code: "Any valuable information a pirate captain retains, shall be compensated in equal favor."
Back in Storybrooke, Hook is sitting with Henry at the diner, when the Charmings come through the door with Ariel. They tell him of Eric, and Hook lies and tells them that he has not seen him.
Regina and Emma are in the vault, and the queen's plan is to "create a solid fundation first and then build your skills from the ground up", but Emma is not paying attention to her words, but rather the things in the vault. Regina comments that Henry and Hook have been spending a lot of time together, and tells Emma that Hook has been sending her "yearning looks", which Emma denies.
At first, Regina tries to teach her by books, but then from inspiration from Rumplestiltskin, she transports them to a bridge, where she'll be teaching Emma how to swim (Regina mentions that Rumple would make his students learn how to swim, and if they couldn't, they'd drown).
Back at the diner, the quartet (Hook, Mary Margaret, David and Ariel) decides that Hook and Ariel should head over to Mr. Gold's shop, as many of the items they had in Fairytale land have been returned to his shop. Eric's items might be there too and could be used to track him with a locator spell.
Returning to the Fairytale Land flashback, while walking, Ariel's cloak gets stuck in some bushes, and Hook rips it by using his hook to free her. She angrily says that it was Eric's cloak which he had asked Ariel to keep safe and to have a piece of him with her. Hook then tells her that it doesn't matter as Eric's probably dead, because when meeting Black Beard, one should prepare for the worst. Ariel admits that she was surprised over the fact that Hook might have been responsible for kidnapping her prince, as he had reunited Snow White with her family in Neverland, but Hook tells her that he is not a hero, he is a pirate.
In present-day Storybrooke, Ariel reunites with Belle, who has started to sort through some of the things, and they start looking for clues. Hook goes into the back room and discovers, through his telescope, Eric's cloak. He then lies to Ariel and says that he remembered Eric being from a Maritime Kingdom. This proves that Eric has made the journey back to Storybrooke, and an ecstatic Ariel hugs Hook.
Back at the bridge Regina explains that by pushing Emma's instincts to the furhest, her magic will be mastered. Regina then starts removing the boards of the bridge and making it collapse. Emma begs her to stop and Regina yells at her to stop denying what's inside of her.
Emma then falls, and for a moment Regina fears that she is gone, when Emma rises up by collecting the boards and making them float in the air. Regina is however not pleased as Emma has been wasting her potential.
Belle pours the locator spell on the cloak, and the trio follow it.
Back in Fairytale Land, Hook, Ariel and Smee board the Jolly Roger, and Black Beard duels Hook for the ship, while Ariel tries to find Eric, to no avail. Hook wins the duel and is about to kill him, when Ariel informs him that he has to get Black Beard to reveal the location of Prince Eric. Black Beard comments that Hook has gone soft, and gives Hook two choices: surrender the Jolly Roger and earn the location of Prince Eric or kill Black Beard, thus killing Prince Eric too.
Back in Storybrooke, Ariel and Hook are following the cloak until it sinks underwater. Ariel breaks down and Hook apologizes.
Mary Margaret and David go to extremes to appear cool to Henry by allowing him to drive a car, and they succeed in destroying a mail box.
At the docks Ariel thanks Hook for finding the cloak and tells him that he has a true heart and she is grateful for his help.
In Fairytale Land, Hook has made his decision and makes Black Beard walk the plank. Ariel then comments that she was wrong about him and that his empty heart will bring nothing but wasted years. She then dives into the water to search for Eric.
In Storybrooke, Hook catches up with Ariel and tells her that they have met before in the missing year and tells her about their adventure. He apologizes and swears to her that he believes in love because of Emma Swan, the woman who broke his heart. Ariel then thanks him and transforms into Zelena.
She tells him that Ariel had found Eric and they had been together ever since. Zelena wants to corrupt him and curses Hook, so the next time Emma and Hook kiss, she will lose her magic. Hook warns her that he will tell Emma about it, but Zelena threatens to hurt the people around her like Henry. Hook later visits Emma to check on Henry, but at Emma's questioning he tells her about the supposed day he had with "Ariel". Emma then uses magic on a mirror, which shows the reuniting of Ariel and Eric.
The Charmings and Henry return to the apartment and tell them about their day, where Regina reacts quite strongly against the fact that they have been teaching him to drive, covering it up by taking on the role as the mayor.
Emma then tells him that it doesn't matter what happened the past year, as she is tired of living in the past, and so is he. Regina, Henry, Emma, Mary Margaret and David then eat at the diner, while Hook is across the street looking at Emma through his telescope.
- The title card features David's truck.
- The title of this episode was announced by Adam Horowitz via his Twitter account on January 27, 2014.
- After Hook lost the Jolly Roger, the show writers originally considered having him use another ship. It was eventually decided that he and his crew would become land pirates instead.
- The scene where Ariel attacks Captain Hook was originally supposed to take place later in the episode, but was moved to the beginning of the episode during editing.
- The scene where Emma falls from the bridge and levitates herself back up, was originally written as two scenes, with the first one ending with Emma falling, and her levitating herself back up in the the second scene. It was edited into one scene in post-production.
- Originally, Emma was supposed to conjure up a magical dragon to lift herself up from the gorge, but everyone thought that was pushing the character too far in terms of her magical abilities. It was changed to Emma using vines to levitate herself up, but the show makers then decided to let the visual effects people create something for them instead, and the fallen boards were added in post-production.
- JoAnna Garcia Swisher had never slapped anyone on-screen before, so when they were shooting the scenes where Ariel slapped Hook, Colin O'Donoghue told her to go for it. At one point during filming, she slapped him on the neck instead of his face.
- Hangman's Island, where Prince Eric is imprisoned, is a real-world location near Boston.
- The Enchanted Forest flashbacks occur after "Quiet Minds" and around the same time as the opening scene of "The Tower", and nine months before the casting of the new curse in part two of "A Curious Thing". (For more details, see the Enchanted Forest timeline)
- The present Enchanted Forest scene with Ariel and Prince Eric takes place after "A Curious Thing" and before "Fall".
- The Land Without Magic events occur after "It's Not Easy Being Green" and before "Bleeding Through". (For more details, see the Land Without Magic timeline)
- This episode reveals what happened to Hook during the last year, and what he has been keeping from Emma, something that was alluded to in "New York City Serenade" and "The Tower".
- The tavern where Hook and his crew celebrate, is the same tavern where Cora used to work as a waitress several decades earlier in "Bleeding Through".
- The flute music playing in the tavern, is also playing in the tavern that Anton visits in "Tiny", the tavern where Emma meets past Hook in "Snow Drifts", the tavern where young Cora is working in "Bleeding Through", and Robin Hood's tavern in "Heart of Gold". It can also be heard in the tent camp that Snow White visits in "Heartless".
- The new baby crib has been put together in "Snow Drifts".
- Hook, William Smee and Emma all mention how Smee was transformed into a rat, which occurred in "The Outsider".
- Regina casts a protective spell around Mary Margaret's apartment, which Emma planned to ask of her after discovering Zelena's true identity in "Quiet Minds".
- Regina refers to how Zelena was able to break her blood magic, which occurred in "Witch Hunt".
- Regina first began teaching Emma magic in "Ariel".
- Regina mentions how she "barely outwitted" Zelena yesterday, referring to events in "It's Not Easy Being Green".
- Emma talks about the last time David and Mary Margaret looked after Henry, which occurred in "Witch Hunt".
- Hook talks about how the people who try to leave Storybrooke are attacked and turned into Flying Monkeys, which was shown in "Witch Hunt".
- Smee's question about what happened to Hook's ship, is answered in "There's No Place Like Home".
- Hook mentions how he was there when Cora failed at ripping Emma's heart out, which occurred in "Queen of Hearts".
- Emma talks about Henry's old life in New York City, which was shown in "Going Home" and "New York City Serenade".
- This is not the first time Regina notices Hook's feelings for Emma; she made a similar comment in "Quite a Common Fairy" and "Save Henry".
- When Regina shows Emma roots of incantation from the Book of Spells, two of the pages are the same ones that Mr. Gold was reading in "Going Home".
- Regina mentions Rumplestiltskin teaching her how to use magic. Their lessons began in "The Doctor".
- Ariel and Prince Eric first met in "Ariel", and became a couple in "The New Neverland".
- Ariel is wearing the magic bracelet Regina gave her in "Ariel".
- Hook first set out to find the Jolly Roger in "New York City Serenade".
- Other people have held a knife to Hook's throat and "lived to tell the tale"; including Emma in "The Doctor" and Tinker Bell in "Going Home".
- The locator spell that Belle used on Eric's cloak is the same spell that was used on Jefferson's Hat in "We Are Both" and on Ruth's ring in "A Land Without Magic".
- Ariel talks about how Hook helped Mary Margaret's family in Neverland; a journey which began in "The Heart of the Truest Believer" and concluded in "Save Henry".
- Ariel's human legs were given to her by Regina in "Dark Hollow".
- After reclaiming his ship, Hook uses it for a future purpose in "There's No Place Like Home".
- Hook says to Ariel that "love brings nothing but wasted years and endless torment"; alluding to how he lost Milah in "The Crocodile" and was separated from Emma in "Going Home".
- Black Beard actually survived being thrown to the sharks, thanks to Ariel, who rescued him. This is revealed in "Fall".
- Emma learns of Zelena's curse on Hook's lips in "A Curious Thing" and loses her magical powers in "Kansas".
- Hook mentions Walsh was working for Zelena by keeping an eye on Emma, which is shown in "New York City Serenade".
- When Emma sees Ariel and Eric through the mirror, the couple reenacts the beach scene from The Little Mermaid.
Fairytales and Folklore
- This episode features Hook and William Smee from the Peter Pan story as well as the mermaid and her prince from The Little Mermaid fairy tale.
- Regina mentions Elvish, a fictional language invented by J. R. R. Tolkien, author of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.
- This episode features Black Beard, the infamous English pirate who is the figure most often associated with the Golden Age of Piracy in the Caribbean. He is the first Enchanted Forest character—or indeed, any character in the series—to be adapted from an actual historical person.
- Emma says they just checked on Ariel on "Skype", a reference to the popular computer software which specializes in providing video and voice calls over the Internet.
- While filming the scene where Hook re-enters the tavern after his encounter with Ariel, Colin O'Donoghue kicked the door so hard it broke. This happened two times.
- According to writer David H. Goodman, the item that Emma picks up in Regina's vault is a monkey's paw. In the script, the item was simply referred to as a "magical totem".
- The page with roots of incantations in Regina's spell book shows the Tree of Life from Kabbalah. This symbol represents, as a series of divine emanations, God's creation, the nature of revealed divinity, the human soul, and the spiritual path of ascent by man.
- The characters on the Tree of Life are not actually Elvish, but symbols for alchemical processes—Abstraction, Putrefication, Digestion 1, Purification 1, Pulverise 1, Purification 2, Pulverise 2, Reverberation 2, Coagulation 1 and Reverberation 1. The symbols for Fire of Circulation 3 and Fire of Rotation are printed on the opposite page.
- Many of the strange symbols on the pages that Regina shows Emma are characters from the reconstruction of the Emerald Tablet, an ancient, mysterious tablet which is one of the pillars of Western alchemy, and is said to be inscribed with the secrets of the universe. One interpretation suggests that the inscription describes seven stages of alchemical transformation — calcination, dissolution, separation, conjunction, fermentation, distillation and coagulation.
- The astrological symbols for Taurus (♉) and Gemini (♊)—the second and third astrological signs in the Zodiac—can be glimpsed on the opposite page. When Mr. Gold looks through the book in "Going Home", the first sign, Aries (♈), is also on the page.
- While shooting the scene where Ariel, Hook and Smee are walking through the woods, Christopher Gauthier, who plays Smee, would use his ax to chop at the trees between takes. However, since the prop was made of plastic, he ended up taking a chunk out of his ax.
- As Hook leaves the loft, he has his arm behind his back so that Henry is not able to see his hook.
- As David and Mary Margaret are walking through Main Street, the top of the Nikka Fishing & Marine, the building which doubles as the Storybrooke Clock Tower for the show, can be seen behind a building. The top two layers of the clock tower is CGI, and the top of the real building, looks completely different from Storybrooke's clock tower.
- The scene where David and Mary Margaret find "Ariel", was filmed on a closed set on a beach in Vancouver's Stanley Park.  The beach also doubles as Hangman's Island for the scene with Ariel and Prince Eric. The same beach was used to film the scene where Emma and Neal ran into Tamara in "Second Star to the Right".
|Finnish||"Merirosvon kunnia"||"Pirates Honor"|
|French||"Le Choix du Capitaine Crochet"||"The Choice of Captain Hook"|
|German||"Captain Black Beard und die Jolly Roger"||"Captain Black Beard and the Jolly Roger"|
|Italian||"La Jolly Roger"||"The Jolly Roger"|
|Portuguese||"Jolly Roger"||"Jolly Roger"|