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This article focuses on the Season Five episode.
For the operation named by Henry Mills, see Operation Firebird.

What about Operation Firebird? We can't leave the Underworld without helping the people trapped here.

Henry Mills to Regina Mills

"Firebird" is the twentieth episode of Season Five of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Jane Espenson, and directed by Ron Underwood. It is the one hundred and eighth episode of the series overall, and premiered on May 1, 2016.


Hades turns to the heroes to ask for help with getting Zelena back from Rumplestiltskin and Peter Pan. In return, he offers to take all their names off their tombstones. However, when Hook is still unable to leave, he and Emma must journey into the depths of the Underworld. Meanwhile, Cruella De Vil is determined to keep the heroes trapped in the Underworld. In flashbacks, Emma searches for answers about her family and makes an unexpected friendship.[2]


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

In the Underworld, David and Hook criticize Regina Mills for trusting her sister with Hades when Hades unexpectedly comes to them for help. He reveals Zelena has been kidnapped by Mr. Gold, who wants Hades to void the contract on his unborn child. Emma agrees to help him, after Hades promises that her and her friends' names will be erased from the gravestones, and they will be free to leave the Underworld.

In 2009, Maine, young Emma attempts to receive information about her past and her family. She meets a woman who seems empathic, but turns out to be a bail bondsperson whose job is to bring Emma back to Arizona, where she is supposed to pay a penalty for her crimes, which include various robberies and skipping her bail after getting arrested.

Back in the Underworld, Hades meets Mr. Gold and Peter Pan. He tears up the contract and expects them to fulfill their side of the bargain, but Pan exposes his motive: He wants to come back to life. He is going to take Zelena's heart to this end, but Emma appears just in time to prevent him from achieving what he wants. Gold listens to Emma and departs, after getting what he wanted. Pan, feeling betrayed, understands he won't succeed and leaves right after him. Hades and Zelena reunite, and they share a moment of honesty and faith. With a true love's kiss, Hades' heart starts to beat again, and his banishment to the Underworld has ended, allowing him to finally leave this realm.

In the cemetery of the Underworld, the clock's hands' movements accelerate as it slowly becomes a portal. The heroes prepare to return home: Hades erases their names from the graves, and Regina splits Emma's heart to give Hook the second half. However, it doesn't work, since he has been dead for too long and his body have already decayed. Emma is not willing to give up, and she convinces Hades to reveal if there ever was anyone who managed to resurrect someone from the Underworld.

Back in 2009, Emma tries to escape from Cleo Fox, the bail bondsperson. She takes some money from her purse and sees a picture of Tasha, Cleo's daughter. On her way out, she sees Cleo's laptop is open to a search website for courthouse records. It catches her eye and she stays, hoping she could get Cleo's help in getting any information that will lead her to her family. They close a deal: if Cleo takes her to check her file in the Hancock County Courthouse, Emma will go quietly with her to Arizona.

In the Underworld, Hades tells the heroes the myth about Orpheus, who fed ambrosia, the food of the gods, to his lover Eurydice, thus enabling her to leave the Underworld. He admits he doesn't know what dangers are involved in the mission to get the ambrosia, except that Emma will have to offer up her heart for judgement. After Hades helps take out Emma's heart, he gives it to her for later use. Regina promises to wait for both Emma and Hook until sunset for them to return from the mission, but she is certain they will make it in time anyway.

Meanwhile, in Mr. Gold's shop, he attempts true love's kiss on Belle, but she doesn't wake up, due to the fact that they don't share true love anymore. Peter Pan comes in, pointedly suggesting that while Belle may not accept him fully, he does. He confronts his son for abandoning him earlier, which Mr. Gold is unrepentant about, considering Pan once did the same to him long ago. Pan offers a deal: Mr. Gold will obtain him a living heart for him, and in exchange, he will give him the Pandora's Box, where he can keep Belle safe until her father wakes her up.

While waiting for Emma and Hook to return, Henry suggests they use the time efficiently with "Operation Firebird" to help the Underworld residents with their unfinished business. Robin Hood enters with Baby Hood in his arms, and he is alarmed to see Zelena and Hades with Regina and her family. Regina persuades him that the pair can be trusted, and she updates him on news about the portal. Although the portal will open soon, Regina wants to stay a little long to help with Operation Firebird, so she tries to send Robin and his baby to the portal first. When he refuses, she asks him to give the baby to Zelena instead. Despite that he still mistrusts Zelena, he relents out of trust for Regina. After Zelena, the baby and Hades leave to wait by the portal, Robin disappears into another room to cool off, where Mr. Gold rips out his heart and makes him forget about it.

Back in 2009, Emma and Cleo reach a dead end in their search over Emma's files. They argue, and Cleo emphasizes the fact that Emma should keep her part of the deal, after Cleo has kept hers.

In the Underworld, Henry writes stories for the residents, so they will know what their unfinished business are. Suddenly, Cruella interrupt and declares herself the new ruler of the Underworld. She vows to keep the heroes from returning home, and while she doesn't have magic to do it, the Blind Witch does. The witch then traps the heroes in the library building to prevent them from leaving the realm.

Emma and Hook reach to the place where the ambrosia grows, and they put Emma's heart on a weighing scale, in hope they will prove themselves worthy of eating it. Emma falls in pain, and Hook tries to lift her heart from the scale to stop her pain. Before he get it, flames surround him and he starts to burn. Emma throws herself on him, thus proving she loves him more than herself, and the door to the ambrosia opens.

In Maine, Emma is determined to not give up on her search. She breaks into the courthouse to look at more files, but Cleo tries to convince her to stop. When the police unexpectedly show up, they are forced to flee. Cleo punches out a window, which she jumps through, followed by Emma, before they both take off running.

Unfortunately for Hook and Emma, they find out that the ambrosia tree has been cut off. They recognize this as a trick from Hades, who sent them in a false quest, because he didn't want them to return with him to Storybrooke. In contrast, Regina wonders why she can't break the Blind Witch's spell, and then she understands that it's probably not hers, but Hades's spell, which is intended to trap them in the Underworld.

After the clock face has opened into a portal, Zelena worries over Regina and her friends' continued absence. Hades ensures her the heroes will make it on time because if he couldn't stop them, nothing possibly can. With this reassurance, Zelena takes her baby and follows Hades into the portal.

When Mr. Gold return to his shop, Pan wonders what took him so long. He is concerned about the closure of the portal, due to the intensity of the quakes that the portal is currently causing. Mr. Gold tells him to have patience because the timing is important.

Emma is desperate to find anything left from the ambrosia tree, but her attempts are fruitless. The quakes endangers them, and the columns of the place start to crumble. Hook promises they will find another way to save him, and convinces Emma to leave this place.

In Maine, as Cleo is running down an alleyway with Emma, she collapses, bleeding from a wound after the glass from the window punctured her earlier. Emma wants to turn herself in so the cops can save Cleo, but Cleo tells her to save herself. Cleo admits she has no family, and that she once gave her daughter away. She observes that Emma holds on too tight, and she should let go. When the sound of nearby sirens grow louder, Emma listens to Cleo's advice and runs away.

In the Underworld, Emma and Hook get to the elevator to get back up to the library, and to the portal. Hook stops in front of the elevator and tells Emma that he's not going back with her. They won't find anything that will bring him back to life, and he admits that he promised this just to get her out of the dangerous place. When Emma doesn't accept that, Hook says they don't have a choice. Unwillingly, they say goodbye: He makes her promise not to wear her armor again just because she's going to lose him, and she asks him to not let her be his unfinished business. Although it is painful, they know they must let go. They say "I love you" one last time and kiss for goodbye. Emma takes the elevator go upstairs alone.

In Boston, 2010, a year after what happened in Maine, Emma is in a trial period and she has started working as a bail bondsperson. After a conversation with her boss, she enters a shop and presents the saleswoman the picture of Tasha, Cleo's daughter. After confirming that she is indeed Tasha, she gives her documents and pictures of Cleo that she collected, saying she thought Tasha might want to know where she came from. She also reveals the fact that Cleo has passed away. Tasha thanks her. On her way out of the shop, Emma sees a red jacket, similar to Cleo's, the one she called "her armor". She buys it, making it her own armor.

Back in the Underworld, Emma get back to the library. She doesn't explain about Hook, but helps Regina to break the spell that has trapped them there. Henry leaves the storybook for the Underworld citizens to find, and then, he and his family leave to find the portal.

In Mr. Gold's shop, he inserts the heart in Pan's chest. When Pan falls in agonizing pain, Mr. Gold reveals that, while he did take Robin's heart, this was only a showy display in case Pan or his Shadow were watching, and while Pan was distracted, Mr. Gold later returned the heart to Robin. Instead of a real heart, Mr. Gold explains he has given Pan a wineskin he had filled with water from the River of Souls and glamoured as a heart. After Pan melts away into green smoke, Mr. Gold puts Belle in Pandora's Box and crosses the portal to Storybrooke.

Henry, Regina, Robin, David and Emma run to the portal. David and Emma are the last to stay, and Emma glances back with sadness. She tells David that her jacket was supposed to be a shield that protects her from being hurt by the people she loves, but now, it is a reminder that she has to protect them in order not to lose any more people. She debates whether she did all she could do to save Hook, and then vows never to lose another loved one again. After David and Emma cross the portal, it closes for good.

Deleted Scenes


This scene is included on Once Upon a Time: The Complete Fifth Season.

While Hades is still waiting for Zelena to come to their date, the Blind Witch comes in, saying that even she can see she's not coming, and Hades shoots back, saying that he begins to understand why those children tossed her into the oven. The witch tries to flirt with him, but Hades rejects her. Then he finds the note that the witch put on his table.



Guest Starring





  • The title card features Emma's yellow bug.[3]
  • The title of this episode was announced by Adam Horowitz via his Twitter account on February 17, 2016.[4]
  • The title of this episode is a reference to "Operation Firebird", the name Henry gives to the rescue mission in the Underworld, and to two mythological birds:
    • The firebird from Slavic mythology, a magical bird from a faraway land which is both a blessing and a bringer of doom to its captor.
    • The phoenix from Greek mythology, a long-living bird associated with fire and the sun. It is cyclically regenerated or reborn, as it obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor.
    • ABANDONED IDEAS: The red bird from Season Six was originally going to be a giant phoenix, but this idea was cut due to script changes.[5]

Production Notes

  • REAL WORLD FACTS: While often associated with evil and the devil, the pentacle and the pentagram are also seen as positive and spiritual images. These symbols have been used by major world religions, and can be found in ancient scriptures of Christianity and even Judaism. In earlier times, Christians have widely used the pentagram as a personal charm and a protective amulet, and at one time, the pentagram was used to symbolize the five wounds of Jesus when he was hanged on the cross. The pentagram and the pentacle have also been used by occult faiths and magicians, and today, the pentagram is used as a symbol for Wicca, Witchcraft, and Paganism. It is also said that the five points of the pentagram represent the five elements, fire, earth, water, air and spirit.[9]
  • The platform over the River of Lost Souls from "Devil's Due" was also shaped like a pentacle.[10]

Event Chronology

Episode Connections

  • Cruella De Vil asked Henry to write her back to life in "Labor of Love".
  • David pushed James into the Acheron in "Sisters".
  • The Blind Witch brings up how Regina tricked Hansel and Gretel into burning her in her own oven in "True North".
  • Hook wonders why Emma can only admit how she feels about him when one of them is facing certain death, referring to events in "Operation Mongoose Part 2" and "Swan Song".
  • What happened to the storybook after Henry placed it in the library, is revealed in "Last Rites".
  • Hook says that Emma should have let him go in Camelot, referring to the events in "Birth".
  • Emma says to Hook that she is not good at saying goodbye. She said the same thing in "Ruby Slippers".
  • After Mr. Gold fools Pan into taking water from the Acheron, he once again tells him that "villains don't get happy endings", just like he said when he killed him in "Going Home".
  • Hook comes back to life and is reunited with Emma in "Last Rites".




Fairytales and Folklore


Orpheus was the best lyre player in all the land. The only thing
he loved more than music was his beautiful wife, Eurydice.
Their marriage only lasted a short time as Eurydice was bitten
by a venomous snake and fell into a deadly sleep. Orpheus played his lyre
over her and made every sacrifice to the gods, but nothing helped and
Eurydice soon lay dead.

Orpheus was laid low by his grief, and for some time, he did nothing but mourn.
One day, however, he managed to forge his sadness into his song. Everyone
who heard him play his lyre was greatly moved. The doors of every [illegible word],
from lowly hovel to grand palace, opened to him as everyone wanted to
hear his lyre, even though the sound moved all who heard it to tears.

Even the doors of the Underworld opened to him and Orpheus realized that
this had been the reason for his song. He was not only to let go of his
wife, and that emotion had shone out of his instrument.

He descended into the Underworld, even charming Cerberus with his lyre along
the way. He was told that his lyre playing had earned him a [four illegible words]
chance to take his dead wife from this world back to the world of the living.

The body of Eurydice had been buried, so he was granted a change to the
spirit form by means of ambrosia, the food of the gods, which grew [image ends]
on a single sacred tree deep in the Underworld. But if his love [image ends]
were not true, he would not be allowed to leave with her [image ends]
The test of true love, and he found the tree with [image ends]

He was told that, having eaten from the [image ends]
follow him from the realm of the [image ends]
look back over his shoulder [image ends]
started out, but he [image ends]
in fact, the [image ends]
steps had [image ends]

  • The accompanying illustration, shows the moment from the Greek myth where Orpheus is being yanked out into the daylight, while Eurydice is forced to stay behind in the Underworld forever.[20]

Popular Culture

  • REUSED PROPS: Howard Ruff from A to Z is also sitting on Neal's bookshelf in "Only You",[22] indicating that it's a re-used prop.

Props Notes

Baby found by Chantey's Lobster House.
A local boy discovers a newborn wrapped in a blanket on
a roadside. Police ask public for any information
regarding parents' identity.
Yesterday afternoon, a young boy
found a newborn infant by the side of
the interstate highway when taking a
shortcut home from school.
The boy, whose identity is not being
released, first thought that the baby
girl was a plastic toy, but upon
further examination he realized it
[illegible word] fact a child. "I didn't
hear any crying so I thought it was
[three illegible words] kid," he said,
"but when I got closer I saw its hand
[illegible word] I [illegible word] home and called
the [illegible word]".
[two illegible words] that the baby was
wrapped in a blanket with the name
"Emma" embroidered into it. The
[three illegible words] immediately to the
[three illegible words] inspection and
[two illegible words] appears to be
[illegible word].
[three illegible words] being referred to as
[two illegible words]" was but hours old
[five illegible words] any of
the local hospitals and it did appear
that the birth took place at the scene.
Authorities also are looking into early
departures of pregnant patients from
area hospitals but none have been
reported at this time.
A search is underway for the child's
parents and the sheriff’s department is
asking for the public’s help in identify-
ing her. Anyone with information
regarding the identity of either [obscured]
mother or the father of Baby [obscured]
should contact the police inf[obscured]
The mother will not n[obscured]
charged if she is loca[obscured]
Sheriff's department. [obscured]
would like to make [obscured]
talk to her about th[obscured]
birth. The immedi[obscured]
insight into the ch[obscured]
Baby Emma is e[obscured]
Of the local sheriff’s [obscured]
being looked after at [obscured]
more information co[illegible] [obscured]

  • CREW NAMES ON PROPS: The name of the news reporter is "M. Soparlo", a reference to Mark Soparlo, a member of the production staff on the show.
  • PAUSE AND READ: Emma's file contains Pinocchio's statement to the police:[26]

I was riding my bike after school on a side street by
the highway. On this street there is a food place called
Chantey's [illegible word] seafood spot my friend's [sic] meet from time
to time. As I past [sic] the [illegible word] table by the shack, I saw a
weird doll lying on the ground. So I went to pick it up, but
it wasn't a doll at all. It was a small baby girl. She
was wrapped in a blanket with the word Emma on it. I
was super shocked. I didn't know what to do so I rushed
home and told my mom. She called the police and got help.

Darius was a wood troll who was
unfortunate insofar as he had an
irrational and severe phobia: the
mere sight of miscellaneous
bugs that were wont to crawl
across the wooden floor would
cause poor Darius to run, arms
flailing, in [illegible word] of wild panic. It was, to say the
least, a most debilitating condition, especially for one such
as he, whose natural habitat was the deciduous woodlands
of the North Riding.

Darius' behavior was a pressing concern among the Coun-
cil of the Elders. One of them, a well-known hedge-witch
called Chief Maggie, made a potion that, she main-
tained, would diminish Darius' affliction.
Darius did indeed take the potion, but he was told that its
efficacy would be improved if he was able to harness the
innate bravery in his soul.
Darius decided to be brave and eventually he was able to
let woodlice run a jamboree up his arm without so much
as a flinch.

  • MYSTERIOUS WRITINGS: The inscription on the true love scale[30] reads "ΜΟΝΟ ΜΙΑ ΚΑΡΔΙΑ ΓΕΜΑΤΗ ΜΕ ΑΛΗΘΙΝE [sic] ΑΓΑΠE ΜΠΟΡΕΙ", which is Greek for "only a heart full of true love can pass". (Note that "ΑΛΗΘΙΝE" is a misspelling of "ΑΛΗΘΙΝΗ", the Greek word for "true".)
  • HIDDEN DETAILS: The scale rests on top of an Ionic column,[16] which are characterized by scroll-shaped ornaments at the top.[31] Ionic is one of three column styles used by builders in Ancient Greece. The Ambrosia temple columns are also Ionic.[32]
  • PAUSE AND READ: According to Emma's file, Cleo Fox was declared dead on February 12, 2009, at 10:31 A.M. She was cremated at Ellsworth Crematory in Ellsworth, Maine.[33]

Set Dressing

Costume Notes

  • BRAND INFO: Regina is wearing[36] a Mackage Isabel-F5 Black Belted Solid Wool Coat[37] (no longer available).
  • USE IT AGAIN: She wears the same coat in the next episode, "Last Rites".[38]

Filming Locations

International Titles



  1. Porter, Rick (May 1, 2016). Sunday final ratings: ‘Little Big Shots’ adjusts up, ‘Carmichael,’ ‘Crowded’ and ACC Awards adjust down. TV by the Numbers. “Once Upon a Time (ABC) (...) 3.77”
  2. 2.0 2.1 LISTINGS: ONCE UPON A TIME. The Futon Critic. “Air Date: Sunday, May 01, 2016. Time Slot: 8:00 PM-9:00 PM EST on ABC. Episode Title: (#520) "Firebird".”
  3. File:520Title.png
  4. TwitterLogo.svg @AdamHorowitzLA (Adam Horowitz) on Twitter (February 17, 2016). "Here's another #OnceUponATime #titlespoiler -- hope to see ya March 6th for the spring premiere!" (screenshot)
  5. ZOIC STUDIOS VANCOUVER CREATURE DEPARTMENT. Reo Prendergast. Retrieved on January 31, 2019. “ONCE UPON A TIME - SEASON 6 - UNUSED CONCEPT - Approved concept design of a Phoenix Bird that unfortunatly [sic] was cut due to script changes.”
    REO PRENDERGAST. ArtStation (2018). “Once Upon a Time - Red Bird. Approved "Red Bird" creature design for ABC's Once Upon a Time, sadly the creature was cut from the script.”
  6. Perkins, Martha (July 5, 2018). Vancouver acting community rallies behind couple who lost everything in Kitsilano fire. Vancouver Courier.
  7. File:520CutTree.png
  8. File:512CoraLeaves2.png
  9. Difference Between Pentacle and Pentagram. DifferenceBetween.com. Retrieved on January 11, 2019.
    Kraig, Donald Michael (June 4, 2010). Is the Inverted Pentagram Evil or Satanic?. Llewellyn Unbound.
  10. File:514ReachTheWater.png
  11. File:520IJustThought.png
  12. File:109Articles.png
  13. File:120ThingYouKnow.png
  14. File:406NewspaperClipping.png
  15. File:520HereYouGoFlippedCrop.png (cropped and flipped)
    File:520HereYouGo.png (original screenshot)
  16. 16.0 16.1 File:520TempleDoorsOpen.png
  17. File:520Clocktower815.png
  18. File:520Clocktower816.png
  19. File:520OrpheusAndEurydice.png
  20. File:520OrpheusAndEurydice.png
  21. File:520UnderbrookeStorybook.png
    File:520UnderbrookeStorybookFlipped.png (flipped screenshot)
  22. File:522WhereTheyveGone2.png
  23. File:109Articles.png
  24. File:214ItShouldBeHere.png
  25. File:422Newspaper.png
  26. File:520SameDamnArticle.png
  27. File:520ThatsRight.png
  28. File:503ThisQuestionMark2.png
  29. File:612TellMeIfYou.png
  30. File:520ScaleTable.png
  31. Craven, Jackie (March 22, 2017). What Is an Ionic Column?. ThoughtCo.
  32. File:520HookOnFire2.png
  33. File:520SomeRecords.png
  34. File:512KillianJonesGrave.png
  35. File:520ItsOpenNow.png
  36. File:520ShutDownBelow.png
  37. Isabel-F5 Black Belted Solid Wool Coat. Outerwear Shop. Archived from the original on February 20, 2017.
  38. File:521YourOwnPeril4.png
  39. File:520TakeAnotherLook.png
  40. Wilfred SONORE DRESS. Aritzia. Archived from the original on April 27, 2016.
  41. ISO Aritzia Wilfred SONORE dress. Poshmark. Retrieved on January 31, 2019. “IN SEARCH OF Aritzia Wilfred Sonore Dress in oak (white), blush, or black.”
  42. File:520EmmaEntersShop.png
  43. JAMES PERSE Vintage Fleece Hoodie. Boutique 1. Archived from the original on February 20, 2017.
  44. File:520ThinkingEmma.png
  45. Collarless Moto Jacket. Lucky Brand. Retrieved on January 31, 2019. (alternately colored version)
  46. Movies Filmed at Whytecliff Park. MovieMaps. Retrieved on January 31, 2019.
  47. TwitterLogo.svg @leafladygreens (Sarah McCulloch) on Twitter (February 26, 2016). "Where were we here????? How beautiful is this..... Wed set" (screenshot)
    Jordan Wright (@JNWsinger) (February 26, 2016). whytecliff beach!!!! One of my favorite spots when I visited Vancouver!. Twitter. Archived from the original on September 28, 2018. (screenshot) (note that at the time of August 6, 2019, the original tweet is only available to followers)
  48. File:TWmuzli113-520.png
  49. Movies Filmed at Riverview Hospital. MovieMaps. Retrieved on September 2, 2018.
  50. Once Upon a Time Filming Locations. MovieMaps. Retrieved on October 13, 2018. “East Lawn Building (Riverview Hospital). Storybrooke General Hospital. Hospital where various characters are treated throughout the season first seen in episode 1x03 "Snow Falls".”
  51. File:520HowHardIsThat.png
  52. File:119Hospital.png
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    TwitterLogo.svg @WhatsFilming (What's Filming) on Twitter (March 7, 2016). "#OnceUponATime is filming at Riverview today." (screenshot)
    TwitterLogo.svg @bonbuffy (Lexi) on Twitter (March 7, 2016, from Coquitlam, British Columbia). "one last scene to film in the tunnels" (screenshot)
    TwitterLogo.svg @bonbuffy (Lexi) on Twitter (May 3, 2016). "they also used the tunnels below to film that day" (screenshot)
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    External image of the interior of The Block
  59. File:520BlockShop.png (notice the identical flooring, windows and furniture)