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This article focuses on the Season Three episode, "Ariel".
For the main reality character, see Ariel (character).
For the Wish Realm character, see Ariel (Wish Realm).

Yeah. I'm a mermaid. Name's Ariel.

—Ariel to Snow White

"Ariel" is the sixth episode of Season Three of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz and directed by Ciaran Donnelly. It is the fiftieth episode of the series overall, and premiered on November 3, 2013.


Back in the Fairy Tale Land that was, when Ariel saves Snow White from drowning in the ocean's depths, Snow returns the favor by helping her new friend get acquainted with Prince Eric, with whom she has fallen madly in love with. Meanwhile, Emma, Mary Margaret, David and Hook attempt to save Neal, who is imprisoned in one of Pan's encampments, and Regina and Mr. Gold begrudgingly team up to find a way to take down Pan.[2]


This section is a detailed recap of this episode. There are major spoilers. Click to expand.

While on the run from the Evil Queen's guards, Snow White is chased to a cliff. The guards draw their swords and plan to capture her. But, in desperation, Snow White jumps to the depths below. Unconscious, she starts to sink, when a little white hand grabs her, and swims for the surface. Regaining consciousness, Snow White looks upon her rescuer, and thanks her. When Snow White looks to her feet, she sees a green fishtail instead. Startled, at first, the mermaid reveals her name, Ariel.

Back in at their camp Neverland, Regina is trying to teach Emma how to utilize her magic to start a fire, while her parents look on with unblinking eyes. Emma comments on how difficult it is to focus when Regina is commanding in her ear. Telling her that when the times comes it'll be much harder to concentrate when the wind is blowing in her face, or rain, or trying to dodge arrows, "Yes, concentration's hard, that's the point," she comments. Regina tells her to harness her anger, and use it to control the magic within. Emma succeeds, only after losing her temper a bit, and calling Regina a monster. Hook then comes to David and Mary Margaret and discloses what Peter Pan last told him—Neal is alive! Both men agree telling Emma would only upset her, but Mary Margaret can't stand lying, or even intentionally leaving out details to her own daughter.

Back in the Enchanted Forest, Ariel and Snow White are beached, and talking. Snow White reveals she jumped off the cliff to get away from her murderous stepmother. Ariel reveals, she too, is on the run—but not from someone, but to someone. About a year ago, Ariel saved a prince from drowning. She doubt if he even knows she exists, but she feels love at first sight for him. Snow White is only too happy to help out her new friend, especially with true love. Ariel tells Snow White how, because of her hobby of collecting human keepsakes, she knows there's a ball that very night, honoring the goddess of the sea, and Ariel wants to meet Eric there. Snow brings up the only flaw in the plan: Ariel can't set foot on land with fins. Struck with an idea, Ariel stands, and through some kind of magic, her tail turns into a pair of legs. Shakily, she walks over to sit on a rock beside Snow White. Ariel explains that, according to legend, every year, at the highest tide, the goddess of the sea grants merpeople the ability to walk on dry land until the next high tide, which in twelve hours.

Snow White asks why she cannot simply ask for more time—apparently no one has physically seen Ursula in over a thousand years, and is thought of to be a myth. Snow White declares she's happy to help her rescuer find love. Ariel asks Snow White not to tell Eric that she's a mermaid, at least not until he (hopefully) falls in love with her in return, which Snow White does agree to.

Mary Margaret proves unable to keep a secret from Emma by immediately blurting out that Neal may be alive, leaving Emma dumbfounded.

Using the powers he took from the Seer all those years ago, Mr. Gold is attempting to see the near-future, when he appears, revealing that no one can see the future in Neverland, for it is a place where time stands still. Pan attempts to sweet-talk Rumplestiltskin by offering him cooked eggs in a basket; his favorite breakfast. But, Mr. Gold will have none of it. In a verbal joust, it is made known that Peter Pan cannot die without Mr. Gold dying as well. Pan tells Mr. Gold that even if he did save them—which Pan knows he will not—his son will never forgive him—for Rumplestiltskin still hasn't forgiven his own father for abandoning him. Pan offers him a way out of Neverland, to leave, by himself and go home to Belle, and start life anew with a new family.

Having been informed, Regina refuses to be distracted from Operation Henry any longer, and breaks from the group. Everyone else follows a nearby trail that shows signs of a struggle that could lead to Neal.

At the ball, fetchingly draped, Ariel and Eric's eyes meet in a crowded room, and they share a dance. Eric recognizes her face from a vision from his shipwreck. He believes Ursula saved him, and in doing so, sent him a vision of his future—Ariel. The young lovers find they both want to see the world, and as it so happens, Eric is to set sail the very next morning to sail away on an adventure. He asks Ariel to come along, but realizes he's pressuring her, and offers her time to think- if she meets him by the next morning, they will be together; should she decline, he admits he will understand.

Meanwhile, Queen Regina has been watching from her Magic Mirror, and is enraged that Snow White is alive. As punishment for not killing Snow White, Regina kills one of the guards that believed her dead earlier, by magically cracking his neck. Frustrated with her guards, Regina decides to take matters into her own hands, and is suddenly struck with inspiration.

As what's left of the group continues down the trail, Peter Pan spies on them, with a few of the Lost Boys plan to move a sleeping Neal to the Echo Caves, stating "the game is about to get interesting."

The apparition of Belle appears before Mr. Gold once again, and beckons him to leave Neverland, to start a new family, and finally find Rumplestiltskin's happy ending. Just when he's about to give in to his desires, Regina appears, not believing the illusion for a second. She chokes "Belle" into submission until the true form is revealed—the shadow of Peter Pan.

Emma reveals to her mother that she kissed Hook. Mary Margaret is surprised, but insists that Neal will be understanding. She is aware Emma is afraid to believe Neal is actually alive, but doing so will give her a chance of a happy ending.

Back at the ball, Ariel regrets leaving the sea, and feels terrible that she's making Eric chose between her, a girl he's just met, and his dreams of happiness. Snow White, seeing that she's thinking of him first, realizes it's true love, and comforts her, telling her to be honest with him. Ariel decides to use her remaining three hours to think. She heads toward the beach and asks for help from the sea goddess. Then the tides turn, and Regina, in the form of Ursula, arises from the waves.

Regina berates Mr. Gold for his moment of weakness. Angrily, she demands the help of Rumplestiltskin, once again. Mr. Gold hesitates because he knows the only way to kill Pan and save Henry is to sacrifice his life. Regina had never faced Peter Pan, Rumplestiltskin has. Regina tries to find another way, and they realize there is a fate worse than death. But, to succeed they need a particular object back in the pawnshop. As crossing realms is an impossible feat at the present time, they need the help of someone...

Regina, in the form of Ursula, offers Ariel a deal; she gives her a bracelet that will allow her to keep her legs forever, and be a part of his world. Ariel accepts the deal. She puts the bracelet on Snow White, and an exchange occurs; while Ariel gets to keep her legs, Snow White gets becomes a mermaid. Believing she is acting on her friend's best interests, Ariel explains giving Snow White a tail will allow her to escape the Queen by living under the sea. That's when Regina appears to them, in her true form, delighted that Snow White can no longer run away.

Emma, Hook, Mary Margaret and David finally arrive at the end of the trail, the Echo Caves. Hook reveals that the caves gain their power from the saying, "The deeper the lie, the more truth in its echo," meaning that in order to get to Neal, they'd each have to reveal their deepest, darkest secrets to each other. Pan sees the secrets as weaknesses he can use against the inhabitants of Neverland, and that those secrets will eventually be the undoing of the interlopers.

Dawn arises on the scales of Snow White's new found tail. She tries to remove the bracelet, but it's enchanted so that the wearer cannot remove it, only Ariel can, but Regina stands in the way. Snow White demands that Ariel leave her with Regina, so as to be with Eric, and Ariel does leave, apologizing. Having finally detained her victim, Regina uses her magic to try and crush Snow White's throat, but Ariel quickly sneaks an attack on Regina by stabbing her in the neck with a mini-trident (otherwise known as a fork). She throws the bracelet off the dock, immediately regaining her mermaid form, and tells Snow White to hold her breath as they jump into the water, and swim away, leaving Regina as livid as ever.

The group decides they have no choice and enter the cave. In it, Neal is trapped in a cage, on a stone pillar on the other side of a bottomless pit. As the group reveals their secrets to each other, a path appears in front of Neal, and toward them with each truth:

  • Hook's truth is that he kissed Emma, (which itself isn't a secret as Emma told Mary Margaret) but the cave accepts the elaboration that came next– Hook's kiss with Emma gave him hope that he can be happy again after losing his lost love.
  • Mary Margaret's truth is that, despite how proud she is of the woman that her daughter grew into, and how much she loves her, she's deeply upset that she missed out on everything in her daughter's life: She wants to have another baby.
  • David exposes the truth about his poisonous injury to his family, at last. But, he also reveals the price he has to pay in accepting the cure—he can never leave Neverland, not without dying. Needless to say, Mary Margaret is not happy.

At this point, the path has been completed, Emma crosses safely, but she can't open the cage and free Neal without revealing a secret of her own.

  • Emma's secret is that when she first heard that Neal might be alive, she was terrified. Ever since she saw him in Manhattan she knew she'd never stopped loving him, she still does, and "probably always will." But, in spite of all that, she secretly hoped that it wasn't true, and that he was really dead. In tears, she admits it'd be so much easier to put him behind her than to face all the pain all over again.

It works, and Neal is set free, while everyone in the group is forced to live with their new-found truths about each other.

Ariel manages to carry Snow White off to a shore, and Snow White pushes Ariel to leave and find Eric. Ariel happily goes to her true love. He's been waiting as long as he could until she shows up, which she does. Ariel calls out to Eric, but no sound escapes her mouth. Regina reveals she's taken Ariel's voice from her, for the only thing worse than telling your true love how you feel and facing the possibility of rejection is never telling him at all, never getting the chance to be happy, never knowing at all. Heartbroken, Ariel swims away, and Regina returns to her castle. In her magic mirror, the actual goddess, Ursula appears, and threatens Regina to never impersonate her again, or suffer unspeakable consequences.

Mr. Gold and Regina appear on the shores of the giant squid's lair. But this time, instead of blowing into the conch shell and summoning the kraken, Regina whispers to the sea through it, and summons a still mute Ariel. Mermaids have the ability to travel across realms, and they plan on using that ability. For incentive, Regina gives Ariel her voice back, returns the bracelet to her with the promise of legs, and the promise of seeing Eric again. All she has to do is go on a little journey to Storybrooke.



Guest Starring




Production Notes

Event Chronology

Episode Connections


Fairytales and Folklore

Props Notes

  • HIDDEN DETAILS: Ariel carries a blue/purple/bluish-green purse with a fish scale/seaweed design,[14] fitting for a mermaid.
  • PAUSE AND READ: The invitation reads:[16]
His Royal Highness
Prince Eric
cordially invites you to
the Annual
Under the Sea Celebration

At the Royal Castle.
Commencing at
seven of the clock

Set Dressing

  • HERALDRY: Prince Eric's royal crest[17] is a seahorse hauriant (in a vertical position with its head up). In heraldry, the seahorse is a hybrid with the fore quarters of a horse with webbed paws, and the hind part of a fish or dolphin. A scalloped fin runs down the neck and back in place of a mane.[18]
  • HERALDRY: The coat of arms on the castle walls shows a different crest:[20] An eagle displayed (upright with both wings, both legs, and tailfeathers all outstretched). The motto (barely decipherable) is Ad fidem fidelis, Latin for "faithful to the end".[21]

Costume Notes

Filming Locations

  • The exact same beach[26] can also be seen in other TV series:

International Titles



  1. Sunday Final Ratings: ‘The Amazing Race’ Adjusted Up; ‘The Simpsons’ Adjusted Down + Final NFL Numbers. TV by the Numbers (November 5, 2013). “Once Upon a Time (...) 7.55”
  2. 2.0 2.1 LISTINGS: ONCE UPON A TIME. The Futon Critic. “Air Date: Sunday, November 03, 2013. Time Slot: 8:00 PM-9:00 PM EST on ABC. Episode Title: (#306) "Ariel".”
  3. File:306Title.png
  4. TwitterLogo.svg @AdamHorowitzLA (Adam Horowitz) on Twitter (August 27, 2013). "Wonder what this one is about..." (screenshot)
  5. King's castle: File:104Waltz.png
    King Xavier's castle: File:216RoyalCourt.png
    Prince Eric's castle: File:306Waltz2.png
  6. King Xavier's castle: File:216AllHailRegina.png
    Prince Eric's castle: File:306Arrival.png
  7. King Xavier's castle: File:216AllHailRegina.png
    Prince Eric's castle: File:306Arrival.png
    Camelot castle:File:502BallBegins.png
    King's castle: File:603BeginningToDance.png
    Prince's castle: File:701Ball.png
  8. Once Upon A Fan Interview Gil McKinney (Prince Eric). YouTube (December 12, 2013).
  9. TwitterLogo.svg @GilMcKinney (Gil McKinney) on Twitter (November 4, 2013). "how long did the scene take to film n learn the dance? #AskGil - It took us about 8 hours to shoot that entire dance sequence." (screenshot)
  10. Lana Parrilla talks about playing Ursula on Ouat - FairyTales2 - 22 juin - France. YouTube (June 27, 2014).
  11. TwitterLogo.svg @YNB (Yvette Nicole Brown) on Twitter (June 29, 2015). "Well I auditioned for Helen. Voicing Ursula was a gift the kind creators of #OUAT gave me for being IN LOVE with the show ;)" (screenshot)
  12. Mitovich, Matt Webb (August 29, 2013). Matt's Inside Line: Scoop on' NCIS: LA, Once, Covert Affairs, Five-0, Big Bang, Haven and More!. TVLine. “Is there any way that Once Upon a Time's Ariel and Regina already met? Assuming that the "certain mermaid" Regina referred to in Episode 1×12, "Skin Deep," was Ariel? –Mirza I suspect you are onto something, though cocreator Adam Horowitz will only say that “we might” flash back to that aforementioned encounter during JoAnna Garcia's turn as the Little Mermaid.”
  13. Trident. Merriam-Webster. Retrieved on November 15, 2021. “: a 3-pronged spear serving in classical mythology as the attribute of a sea god (such as Neptune)”
  14. File:306ArielTransforms.png
  15. File:306Interesting2.png
  16. File:306TheresABall.png
    Concept art: File:306ConceptArt4.png
  17. File:306WasAPrincess.png
  18. Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art, by John Vinycomb, (1909), at sacred-texts.com, p. 270: "The Sea Horse". Internet Sacred Text Archive. Retrieved on October 21, 2018.
  19. File:310FamiliarFace.png
  20. File:306Wow.png
  21. The Routledge Dictionary of Latin Quotations: The Illiterati's Guide to Latin Maxims, Mottoes, Proverbs, and Sayings, Jo. R. Stone, Routledge, 2005, p. 134. Facsimile by Google Books.
  22. File:306ArielStumbles.png
  23. File:306WasAPrincess.png
  24. File:710ThankYouAll.png
  25. ONCE UPON A TIME. Medicina. Retrieved on October 21, 2018. “ARIEL the LITTLE MERMAID. I was so excited to be given the honor to make an accessory for another beloved character from Disney – Ariel the Little Mermaid! I made her magical bracelet that could give her human legs to walk amongst the humans. This bracelet was shared with Snow White who was able to become a mermaid momentarily on the show!”
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Instagram filming report for the Neverland beach scene with Hook, Liam and Pan in "Good Form": InstagramIcon.png vfxsup (Craig Clarke). October 10, 2015. "Britannia Beach" (archive copy)
    File:305WhatExactly.png (screenshot from "Good Form")
    File:308WeMadeIt!.png (screenshot from "Think Lovely Thoughts"
    File:306AnEvilQueen.png (screenshot from this episode, for comparison)
    File:W102TurtleSwimmingAway.png (screenshot from "Trust Me", for comparison)
    File:W102WalkingUpBeach.png (another screenshot from "Trust Me" for comparison)

    Note that in the Season Three Blu-ray/DVD Audio Commentary for "Think Lovely Thoughts", David H. Goodman, Robert Hull and Robert Carlyle confirm that the beach scenes in "Ariel" and "Think Lovely Thoughts" were filmed in the same location, but refer to the filming location as Minaty Bay; Minaty Bay is where Britannia Beach is located (source)
  27. Movies Filmed at Minaty Bay. MovieMaps. Retrieved on April 2, 2020. “Arrow: Purgatory. Jim Corrigan has Oliver relive all of his previous battles to prepare him for his final fight against the Anti-Monitor in episode 8x08 "Crisis on Infinite Earths: Part Four". Jim Corrigan sits across from Oliver and tells him why he showed him all of his past battles.Oliver asks why he was forced to relive all of his past trauma.Jim Corrigan talks to Oliver about what must be done as they walk along the shore. Lian Yu: From episode 8x06 "Reset". From episode 8x07 "Purgatory".” (Screenshot from Arrow: "Reset")
  28. Movies Filmed at Minaty Bay. MovieMaps. Retrieved on April 2, 2020. “Ryn, Maddie, and Ben all independently converge to save several beached whales and later they track Ryn to the beach after the sonic disruption and find several of her kin washed ashore in episode 2x01 "The Arrival".” (Screenshot from Siren: "Arrival")
  29. 29.0 29.1 Chan, Kenneth (February 6, 2018). 16 locations in Vancouver where Netflix's Altered Carbon was filmed (PHOTOS). Daily Hive. “Minaty Bay at Britannia Beach as an escape during Kovacs' past with Quellcrist Falconer.”
    Screenshot from Altered Carbon: "Nora Inu" #1"
    Screenshot from Altered Carbon: "Nora Inu" #2"
    Takeshi Kovacs and Quellcrist Falconer return to the exact same beach in "Bury Me Dead"