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Once Upon a Time: The Return

Written by Tricia Long on Tuesday, April 24 2012 and posted in Reviews

The Return of... Once Upon a Time? Logic? R-stilts? You decide!

Welcome back, Once Upon a Time! That was a weird hiatus you took. I mean, really? You were pre-empted for Titanic? That's just shameful. Anyway, on with the recap!

**Warning: Spoilers ahead. Like, big ones. You were warned.**

The last episode, "The Stable Boy", left us with a whopper of a cliffhanger. Kathryn is back! Mary Margaret, I mean, Regina didn't kill her! What will happen next? Well, we aren't going to get the great courtroom scene I was hoping for ("You're out of order, Sherriff Swan." "This whole court is out of order!") but we are treated to the best episode of Once Upon a Time yet.

In the opening, August W. Booth has a seizure. Well, he tries to. I think. I'm honestly not entirely sure why his legs were going crazy, but the ominous music tells me it isn't good. He calls someone and says they have to accelerate their plans. I was hoping for a new conspirator, but instead we get Henry. (Props to the props department: I want that green phone.)

August W. Booth sends Henry into Mr. Gold's shop to find a gift for Mary Margaret, "since she didn't kill that woman." I know there are a lot of rules for gift giving, but is there some hard-and-fast etiquette for a situation like that? Do you go lamp, tea set, or wind chimes? I'm thinking wind chimes. While Henry acts as a diversion, August W. Booth sneaks around Gold's office until his is caught by the man himself. Gold is suspicious of August W. Booth's behavior (I'm sure everyone out there hypothesizing that August W. Booth is Gold's son is just going crazy at this point) and makes him leave.

At the hospital, Emma and Dr. Whale interrogate Kathryn as gently as possible. We learn that she was abducted and kept, drugged, in a basement this whole time. There's some mumbo jumbo about finding out who falsified the DNA results but we, the audience, know they aren't false because MAGIC. After Emma leaves David arrives and creepily tries to kiss Kathryn on the forehead – recalling their parting in "What Happened to Frederick." He apologizes for how their relationship ended and Kathryn is the bigger woman. For someone who was so unbearably bitchy in the beginning she has turned into the best female character. There's some weird leftover stuff between them, but after all they were married.

Speaking of magic, it's time for a confrontation between Gold and Regina. She accuses him of breaking their deal because she implied that he should kill Kathryn. Being the lawyer that he is, Gold insists that intent means nothing. (Ok, he skipped that day in law school.) He also cryptically says that he's only ever broken one deal – I wonder if we're going to find out in this episode what that was? I bet it was to go halfsies on a bill at a restaurant that he wasn't keen on – they really did overcook the roast – so he did a dine and ditch. Now that there are some questions remaining about how Mary Margaret was implicated in all this, Regina knows that everything is going to come back to her. She asks him why he did it, since they've been partners in this unholy endeavor since the beginning. Why did he make the curse that would lead them to this world? In an excellent moment Gold tells her to "figure it out." I love it when that man gets nasty.

Back in the fairy tale world, R-stilts son Baelfire (omg he's so androgynously cute!!) scrapes his knee and inadvertently causes his father to turn a man into a snail and then crush him despite Baelfire's protests. Later during dinner Baelfire expresses his concern for his father's behavior. He has become so evil that it's really cramping Baelfire's style – no one will play with him or invite him to their mud-covered parties or whatever the local kids are into these days. Baelfire wants his father to stop being the Dark One, but the only way they know of is to stab him in the heart – which would kill him and also make another Dark One. However, Baelfire won't give up hope and makes R-stilts promise that, should he find a way, he will give up his power as the Dark One and become simply a man again. I don't know how plausible this is – R-stilts is clearly in love with his power. I think his final test will be to learn how to be courageous; dependence on absolute power, no matter what the cost to your soul, is indeed the act of a coward. Personally, I enjoyed this scene between father and son. Dylan Schmid, who plays Baelfire, is by far my favorite child actor on this show at this point. He brings an old soul quality to his role that I think is missing from Jared Gilmore's performance as Henry.

At Chez Snow White, Emma is throwing Mary Margaret a shindig. Henry perfectly summarizes the spirit of this party with a card that reads "We're so glad you didn't kill Mrs. Nolan." I laughed for five minutes. I had to rewind it. Writers, you are in fine form tonight! Please, take two weeks between ALL THE EPISODES if you are going to write gold like this. Speaking of Gold, everyone's favorite Dark One is snooping around in the background. Henry and August W. Booth are watching him surreptitiously (kind of). They discuss Operation Cobra and I am fascinated by August W. Booth's chest hair. I should explain: I was treated to my first viewing of Jurassic Park this weekend (I know, where have I been the last 20 years) and Jeff Goldblum absolutely nails the dark-clothes-and-chest-hair thing. I was comparing the two. That's my explanation and I'm sticking to it.

Emma takes Henry to the door so she can get him home and they bump into David. Emma won't let David into the party (Mary Margaret doesn't want to see him), but she will let him take Henry home. Oh the family drama! Do you think this will be awkward when they all get back to the fairy tale world? I bet it will be awkward. Gold approaches Emma and comments on how hard it is to let go of your son. (Psst, I bet we're going to talk about his son in this episode. Remember how Baelfire wasn't around for the interlude with Belle? There has to be a reason, right?) Emma gets right to the point and asks if Gold was the one who kidnapped Kathryn and then brought her back. He dodges and deflects, turning the conversation to August W. Booth. "August W. Booth – clearly a false name." Thank you, R-stilts, thank you so much for pointing out the absurdity of that name. Emma tells Gold that she trusts August W. Booth more than she trusts him – I'm not sure that's a wise idea. We pretty much know exactly who Gold is and why he does what he does (or at least, we do by the end of this episode) – how much can she really know about the handsome guy with copious amounts of chest hair? It's like Burt Reynolds mustache in there.

Gold intends to get to the bottom of who August W. Booth really is. He enters August W. Booth's room – probably in a building that he owns – and conducts a little search. He finds a drawing of the Dark One's knife, with his own true name engraved upon it. This seems to confirm for him, and probably for the folks at home, that August W. Booth is Baelfire. Which doesn't make any sense – that sweet-faced little brunette grew into a Norse god? I'll believe many things, Once Upon a Time – including the poorly CGI'd water demon from "What Happened to Frederick" – but that is going a step too far. Maybe R-stilts is just believing what he wants to believe. It's clear at this point that he created the curse to come to Earth/Maine to find his son. (It becomes explicit later.)

Emma, meanwhile, still has a phony murder investigation to clean up. She drops by the diner to see Sidney, who is there being a down-and-out reporter. There's not a lot to do in Storybrooke: it was this or watch soap operas. (I know, the irony is not lost on me.) She confronts him about the bug he hid in the flower vase (he really could have used lessons from Stealthy on that one... RIP Stealthy – Never forget!) and the rest of the charade he's been pulling since he offered to team up with her. Remember that? When they drank beers together? It was at that very same diner. Emma figures out that Sidney is in love with Regina and has the only rational response to that: "Fine, whatever." She threatens him with inevitable downfall. This man killed a king for Regina: I don't think potential conviction of conspiracy will really make him leave her now.

Back in the fairy tale world, R-stilts is paying someone a visit. He leaves Baelfire to play with his friends, who promptly run away in terror... all except a girl I will refer to as Convenient Plot Device. (-30 points, writers. You were doing so well!) She tells Baelfire about the Reul Ghorm, the ancient power that rules the night and is greater than any power – even R-stilts. She flees when R-stilts returns (so much for that "he doesn't scare me" talk) and it's apparent that R-stilts is getting more evil: there's blood all over his boots from killing their maid. She overheard them discussing how the Dark One can be killed, and even though she was a mute R-stilts is overly protective of his power.

That night, Baelfire summons the Reul Ghorm, which turns out to be the Blue Fairy. He tells her of his problem, and she (oh so insightfully notes) that Baelfire is the only thing keeping the human side of R-stilts alive. She thinks there is a way for them to go to a world without magic, where R-stilts would be a man once more. She gives Baelfire a magic bean, the last of all the magic beans they ever had, and tells him it will get them to another world. I'm suspicious of the Jack and the Beanstalk overtones; I don't think Once Upon a Time has the CGI budget to support that.

In Storybrooke, Gold has followed August W. Booth to the outskirts of town and the makeshift convent that stands there. August W. Booth consults with one of the nuns – the one who is the Blue Fairy in the fairy tale world – and leaves. Gold questions her and learns that August W. Booth was looking for counsel about how to approach his father, who he parted with on bad terms. Again, the implication is there that August W. Booth is Baelfire and at this point I'm even starting to believe it.

Back on the main street, David exhibits more stalker-like behavior as he accosts Mary Margaret on her way to her car. They talk in highly poetic terms about David's betrayal and how it hurt Mary Margaret – almost enough for me to care. Mary Margaret says that she thinks some power is keeping them apart, poisoning their love and keeping them from ever being together. She would rather break up now with their happy memories still intact than let that poison take over everything. Way to be a quitter, Mary Margaret. You're way more like Snow White than I thought.

Back in the fairy tale world, Baelfire goes to R-stilts and shows him the bean. R-stilts is reluctant, and even terrified, to go with his son to this new world where he will be powerless ("just like everyone else") again. The question now is does he love his power more than his son? R-stilts agrees to go with Baelfire despite his misgivings, but when the bean creates a blue wormhole to another world, R-stilts cowardice gets the best of him. He lets his son slide into another world without him. Desperate, he calls on the Blue Fairy to help him. She cannot, since that was the last bean. He swears that he will make a curse powerful enough to take him to the world where his son went. So the question remains: where is Baelfire now? Could he be in Storybrooke?

Gold pays a visit to Archie (Archie! YAY!), who asks some very perceptive questions *about* perception. He explicitly asks if Gold recognizes this man (August W. Booth) and Gold says "Maybe". Um, he's your son. I think you would recognize him. But, love and guilt often blind us and keep us from seeing the truth – I think that's one of the big messages of tonight's episode, at least for R-stilts. Archie encourages Gold to be honest with his son and apologize for the wrongdoings of the past. Moment of insight: remember how R-stilts pushed Belle away in "Skin Deep"? He couldn't fall in love and lose his power because he had to find Baelfire! It all makes sense now, guys!

What follows next is a really heartwrenching scene between Gold and August W. Booth. If you watch nothing else from this episode, watch this scene. I'm beginning my campaign for Robert Carlyle's Emmy right freaking now. They decide together to get the Dark One's knife and see if it still has R-stilts name on it, because if it did then he wouldn't have changed at all. They dig up the knife and August W. Booth promptly points it at Gold and tries to command him... which is odd because that is the last thing that Baelfire would do. The house of cards starts tumbling down as we realize that August W. Booth is not Baelfire, he is someone else. Gold is pissed and really almost kills him, but is stopped by the fact that August W. Booth is already dying. He was trying to make Emma, "the Savior", believe in the magic so he can be cured. Because it serves his own ends, Gold lets August W. Booth live.

But we're not done yet, folks! Back at the station, Regina gets Sidney to confess to the kidnapping of Kathryn. He looks so forlorn and broken as he does this that I don't blame Emma for not believing him, even if she did know that he was head over heels for Regina. She pulls Regina out into the hallway and basically says that the jig is up. Emma decides to stop playing nice – she's going to take Henry away from Regina. The dream for the court scene lives on!

Next week: Emma gets a sword AND is Obi-Wan Kenobi! The Star Wars references are getting out of hand – please tell me I'm not the only one who saw Gold as Vader. Tune in next week!

Written or Contributed by: Tricia Long

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