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Once Upon a Time: "The Shepherd"

Written by Tricia Long on Tuesday, December 06 2011 and posted in Reviews

Did you want to see David and Mary Margaret end up together tonight? Too bad.

Not every episode can be "That Still Small Voice," which is admittedly a tough act to follow. Initially, I was really excited for this episode given how much I love Snow and James (and by extension the chemistry between Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas). But, after a few confusing choices, "The Shepherd" ends in the worst way possible. Let's explore, shall we?

The story opens with David's homecoming party. Katharine reminisces about when they first bought the house – there was a windmill in the yard that kept David from wanting to buy it. I immediately expected a Don Quixote reference, but was brutally disappointed. No "Dream the Impossible Dream", Once Upon a Time writers? David still remembers none of it, however. According to Henry the Curse has not had time to implant false memories in his mind, so they have a window of opportunity to get him together with Mary Margaret and jog his memory.

Things are awkward as he is reintroduced to everyone he's supposed to know from his former life, including the jerk doctor from the hospital (I'm not yet sure what fairy tale character he is, but it can't be a good one) [Editor's Note: The doctor's name is Doctor Whale.  Put your guesses in the comments!], but the only people he remembers are Emma and Henry. Mary Margaret is conspicuously absent, despite receiving an invite. Katharine and Regina bond over lost loves and loud lipsticks in the kitchen, reminding us all once more that Regina cast this Curse in vengeance for the death of her lost love and making me ask WHAT HAPPENED ALREADY? If they're smart, ABC will save that for next season.

David flees the party to seek out Mary Margaret. He helps her hang up a bird house (innuendo not intended... not that I'm even sure what that would mean) and questions her motives for quitting her volunteering position. David confesses that he would rather be with Mary Margaret than his wife, and being the good girl that she is Mary Margaret turns him down.

In the fantasy world, James fights a hulking brute with one hell of a spear. He defeats him, through cleverness, and is congratulated by his father and King Midas. Side note: after seeing James' father, I realized that James and Thomas (the prince married to Cinderella in "The Price of Gold") are not brothers. Cousins, maybe? Anyway, Midas asks James to slay the dragon that plagues his land. In exchange, he will give their country a lot of gold. Question: why didn't he simply turn the dragon to gold? I think this would save a lot of time and effort.

Unfortunately, it's an effort that James won't get to make because he's skewered by the brute we all thought was dead. James's father has to keep Midas from finding out, so he summons Rumplestiltskin. Dude has his fingers in all sorts of pies. We learn that Rumplestiltskin made a deal with the King years ago to help them conceive an heir, and being a crafty imp he made sure that James had a twin. His price? The wand of a certain fairy godmother who exploded into fairy dust in "The Price of Gold."

James's identical, though less elegantly coiffed, twin is a farmhand. He lives with his mother on a farm, working as a shepherd. His mother tries to set him up with a well-endowed woman, but he insists on marrying for love instead of money. Rumplestiltskin shows up to whisk Fake James (hereafter referred to as James) off to the King. In exchange for slaying the dragon, the King will save James's farm and let him come home after. Does that last part seem realistic? Yeah, didn't think so.

Emma and Mary Margaret have a heart to heart about David. She advises Mary Margaret to have a drink and stay the course – let David figure out his own path. Getting involved with married men is never good, and following your conscience is always the best path. At David's house, Katharine propositions David. She kisses him and everything, but he doesn't think that it's right. Clearly, he still has Mary Margaret on the brain.

At the diner, the jerk Doctor confronts Mary Margaret over her resignation. He offers to go on another date with her, assuming that she quit because of him. For me, this would be even less of a reason to date him. Moving on, quickly, Regina sashays in and serves up a nice heaping plate of guilt. She accuses Mary Margaret of stealing David, who has left his wife. Mary Margaret denies knowledge of his decision; Regina all but threatens Mary Margaret to stay away from him before he regains his memories.

In the fantasy world, James tags along on the mission to slay the dragon. As his unnamed minion reminds him after refastening a piece of armor, "You may have the title of hero, but not the job." I had a Monty Python flashback as the knights went to confront the dragon and fully expected to see a vicious rabbit. But no, it was a real CGI dragon. James foolishly wants to help save everyone because, like James, he is inordinately brave. He saves the day by using his mad shepherding skills to corral and kill the dragon (called it). Who says you have to be literate to be a hero?

David goes to the school to see Mary Margaret. He explains to her that he doesn't want to be with Katharine because he isn't in love with her, he's in love with Mary Margaret. Regina's speech has obviously done some damage, though, because Mary Margaret doesn't want to wreck his marriage and life. He asks Mary Margaret to meet him at the T(r)oll Bridge, to make a decision. I'm really curious to see if Snow and James had a similar conversation in the fantasy world, but I guess that's a question for another day.

At the police station, the Sheriff brings in donuts to bribe Emma to work the night shift so he can "volunteer at the animal shelter." Mary Margaret shows up and tells Emma that David left his wife and wants to meet her tonight. Emma tells her to meet him because he actually left his wife and it will piss off Regina.

James brings the dragon's head back to Midas, and the King tactfully reminds Midas of the reward he offered. Midas offers treasure as well as his bitch daughter – the fiancée from "Snow Falls" who is, rather unfortunately, named Abigail. I'm pretty sure she was eyefucking her dad in one scene, and she says that James "will do." James wants to turn everything done, but the King threatens both him and his mother's farm.

David has checked into the Storybrooke hotel and goes in search of the bridge. Regina misdirects him to the road behind Mr. Gold's store. Lost, he enters Gold's store and we get a few teasers for future episodes: the puppets from "That Still Small Voice" make an appearance, the tea set from Beauty and the Beast (or maybe Alice in Wonderland), the Seven Dwarves' beer steins and the glass unicorns from above Emma's crib in the fairy tale world. David becomes mesmerized by the windmill that used to be in front of his house, which causes his memories to return. (Side note: Robert Carlyle looks very strange without the Rumplestiltskin makeup.) What are those memories? We don't find out, and that is something I find really frustrating. So much is already being held back, at least let us in on what David's false memories are.

James returns to the farm to say goodbye. He tells his mother of his choice and that they can never see each other again. She gives him a ring that will lead him to his true love, the same ring that Mary Margaret wears in Storybrooke and that Snow White tried on in "Snow Falls." At the toll bridge, David tells Mary Margaret that he has to go back to Katharine. He doesn't know if he loves her, but he knows that he has to do the right thing by Katharine. Hello, it's called DIVORCE. Loveless marriages never work, buddy; look it up. Mary Margaret, to her everlasting credit, berates him for leading her on. I can't wait until she goes all badass Snow White on us.

Back in Storybrooke, Emma is doing rounds when she sees someone exiting through the window from Regina's house. Surprise! It's the Sheriff, leaving his nightly assignation. Emma is understandably upset, saying "This is disgusting." Couldn't agree more, girl – this is heartbreaking episode. She throws him the keys and declares that she's done working nights.

David shows up at his house to talk to Katharine about the mysterious reasons why they didn't get along and how they'll make their loveless relationship work in the future. Did they not get along because she was a bitch? I'm guessing so because we cut back to the fantasy world, where Abigail and James are leaving for the palace and an unplanned meeting with Snow White.

In the diner, jerk Doctor approaches Mary Margaret and buys her a drink. The music implies a happy ending, but we all know this is part of Regina's plan. The Doctor was in on keeping David in his vegetative state, and now he's in on keeping them apart. (This is in no way a reflection on the title of "Doctor." There is only one Gallifreyan worthy of that title, and you are not him sir.) It's in the name of doing the "unexpected" but I really hope this is all part of leading to Snow White badassery.

So, still more questions than answers. While I'm happy that the show's writers are leaving so much to be explained, I don't understand why the reasons for Katharine and David's falling out were left unsaid. But hey, get excited for next week! Emma and the Sherriff kiss, he might be a werewolf, and he starts to remember everything about the fairy tale world.

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, @sundrops33, because I usually live tweet during the show. They're slightly more... uncensored opinions.

Written or Contributed by: Tricia Long

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About the Author - The Resident

The Resident seems pretty ok: we have no idea having never met him (her?).  Um, S/He likes TV and walks in the sand.  The Outhouse is pretty sure that Her/His twitter handle is @sundrops33.  Why do we keep around a staff member we cannot identify? Those lovely unique hits her/his  reviews of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic brings us.  The Resident has done more to generate ad revenue than all other writers combined, totaling over $12 in the year s/he’s been writing for us.  Keep up the good work!


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