The Dinglehopper

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Early Observations about “Heart of Gold”

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There’s nothing like flashlight beams cutting through trees near Vancouver to evoke the X-Files. The writers dig deep to explain some unusual appearances. And Swan Queen gets a cliffhanger.

Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”

“Heart of Gold” (1972)

Neil Young’s only #1 in the United States.

I want to live,
I want to give
I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold.

Keep me searching for a heart of gold.
You keep me searching and I’m growing old.

Rumpelstiltskin’s heart is failing without is magic to keep him alive. His past misdeeds have shriveled it to a blackened lump. He’s growing old. He wants to live.

There’s also the enduring literary trope of the prostitute or courtesan with a hidden integrity or kindness, the hooker with a heart of gold. Once Upon a Time will occasionally invert a trope to devastating effect. At the end of last season, Hook and Charming had a conversation about love that would have been at home in any chick flick. Uttered between two men, it might have been one of the most revolutionary scenes on network television. Here, Robin is unwilling to take certain actions within the remit of his talents and profession because of his own peculiar integrity, making him a representative of the trope.

‘Cor Aut Mors’

4x17 Cor Aut Mors

Latin: literally “Heart or Death”

It’s a bit odd for a container holding a heart-healing potion, but when you consider it’s symbolic meaning it’s a very writerly addition. It represents a choice between the heart, moral values and integrity, and death, ignominy and disrespect. Robin chooses to help will at his own risk and extends that choice throughout his life.

Midnight Cowboy

As we transition to New York, nine weeks ago, we fade in on a skyline and hear the quotable, “I’m walkin’ here.”


Robin riding a horse down a New York street is reminiscent of Prince Edward’s anacronistic behavior in the city.

The Wizard of Oz

Any episode with the Wicked Witch and the Emerald City is, of course, going to reference this. But there are a couple immediate specific references that deserve mention. Robin exits the magical doorway on the yellow brick road.

4x17 Boots

In addition, the door lands right on top of a guard whose boots stick out in front. And Robin steals them!

The Patchwork Girl of Oz

The seventh book in L. Frank Baum’s Oz series. Unc Nunkie and Margolotte Pipt are turned to marble by the Liquid of Petrifaction. Dr. Pipt sends Ojo on a mission to collect the ingredients needed to restore them to life. One of those ingredients is the rare six-leaved clover of Oz, which grows outside the Emerald City. Queen Ozma has outlawed the picking of the clover and its use in magical transformations in conjuction with her injunction against sorcery.

4x17 Six Leaf Clover

However you feel about the twist, its been Oz cannon for over a century. Honestly, I probably missed half a dozen book references.

The Walt Disney Company

One of the first references in The Wizard of Oak is a set of Mickey Mouse ears cast in steel.

4x17 Mickey Mouse Ears


Robin’s hanging out in front of a poster for Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway while he waits for Gold’s discharge.

4x17 Aladdin Poster

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

After giving Regina an opportunity to call Robin, and asking her to choose between him and Emma, Rumple takes the phone from her and asks the tense iconic, “Is that your final answer?”

Who Wants to BE a Millionaire

Once Upon a Time

2×19 “Lacey”

This episode explains both why Robin Hood looked different, other than because he was originally played by Tom Ellis, in “Lacey” and where he got the bow that never misses.

Round Robin

3×21 “Snow Drifts”

Gold “kills” Zelena. Wile they come back to the events and even reuse footage, there’s a bit where Robin’s lurking outside The Wizard of Oak and says, “Zelena’s no fool.” Gold replies, “No, she wasn’t.”

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Captain Swan

  • Nothing for us here this week, dearies. Except for the flashback to the Captain Swan shippiest episode ever “Snow Drifts” wherein we get to see them dancing around the ballroom again.


  • There are a number of scenes showing us Rumple in regret mode: First of which, his heart is diseased from dark magic. Now that’s certainly less cheesy than dying from a broken heart, but it rings similarly in this situation. The loss of Belle’s love has put him in this position. However, it seems like this might have been good information to tell Belle when she was getting him to give up magic: “My dear, I’d love to give up magic for you, but I’ll literally die.”
  • He tells Robin he didn’t recognize happiness when he had it–what he had in front of him wasn’t enough. Although he’s ambiguous about the when he had happiness, I can only assume he means Belle.
  • But the best of these moments is definitely when he advises Robin: “If you know who and where your happy ending is, you should run to it and not let go.” Sadly, Robin focuses on the previous bit about what is in front of him and not the idea of running off to Regina. But that’s another ship.

Swan Queen

  • When Rumple proves that Zelena has Robin in her clutches and threatens to kill him if Regina doesn’t help Rumple push Emma to the dark side, Regina chooses Emma. She chooses Emma! “You made me a monster. I won’t let you do the same to Emma.” “So you’ve made your choice, have you? You’re choosing the Savior over your beloved Robin Hood?” No, Rumple, she’s choosing her beloved Savior over Robin Hood.

Outlaw Queen

  • We got a replay of the goodbye kiss between Robin and Regina from when Robin, Marian, and Roland left Storybrooke.
  • Gold attempts to use the love between Regina and Robin to manipulate Regina. It doesn’t exactly work, but my theory on why is that Regina respects and loves Robin in part for his honorable code. He makes her a better person because she sees that code as a model to better herself, become a hero.
  • Many Outlaw Queen fans have wanted Marian out of the way since she made her way to Storybrooke, but the way this episode gets rid of her but doesn’t blows chunks. When Marian was the real Marian, she was also a real choice for Robin to make. There was real character turmoil, both for him and the audience. Honor would say stay with your wife and mother of your son. But then there’s true love. Now that Marian is simply Zelena, all that character turmoil disappears, at least for the audience. Now the whole this is a no-brainer running off of dramatic irony only AND they killed off an otherwise pretty awesome woman in Marian. I tell you, writers, we Outlaw Queen fans didn’t need it made easy for us. We knew true love would prevail. We knew Marian’s honor and desire for Robin’s happiness would eventually send him back to Storybrooke.


  • I don’t know if anyone out there was actually rooting for these two. But the episode seemed to set up exactly why you should ship them and then rip the ship right out from under us.
  • First, there’s Robin’s gallant retrieval of Marian’s purse via horseback. (The first two clues of the episode that Marian was Zelena: 1) that a thief’s wife would set down her purse in a busy city, and 2) that a mother would need to set down her bag to pick up her 4-year old.) But the purse’s rescue was pretty darned awesome.
  • Second, the flashbacks to Sherwood Forest include married Marian and Robin exchanging loving looks at each other as she waits tables and he barkeeps. We get just a brief look at the jealousy of the Sheriff of Nottingham. It’s all pretty cute.
  • Third, when Robin joins the Merry Men as an outlaw and dubs himself Robin Hood, Marian is amazingly supportive. “It doesn’t matter where we are or what we face. I want to be with you.”
  • So when all of that gets turned upside down by the reveal that Marian is actually Zelena and has been since before Hook and Emma returned from the Enchanted Forest, anyone who started rooting for these two is heavily disappointed. And the impact of Robin’s decision to try to be the husband Marian deserves is completely undercut.

Author: thedinglehopper

The collective authors of The Dinglehopper, two women married with a toddler and a precocious 5-year-old teetering on the margins of hipster-geekism and too much training in social and literary criticism.

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