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ONCE UPON A TIME There Was a Babe in the Woods

Episode 1.20 “The Stranger”

This week, some fans get to say “See? I told you!” while others get to say “See? I told you!” when it comes to the identity of August Wayne Booth.

Wait. What?


This episode pays off a few setups we’ve had along the way – most notably the answer to what August was doing to Henry’s book. Besides repairing it, he added a new story, and Henry’s a bit freaked out because it’s Pinocchio’s story – without an ending? What does this mean?

It means things are coming to a head. August is running out of time because of his condition – which leaves him a little… wooden. He’s got to get Emma to believe this whole “curse” thing before time runs out for everyone.

Y’see… August is Pinocchio.

And August is also the boy who “found” Emma.

“See? I told you so,” you say. I figured he’d be the Bridegroom Thief, and I missed that. When the shin splints first showed up, there was a big hint there on who this guy is. A lot of folks started correctly guessing about August’s true identity after the scene at the toll bridge (some had it pegged earlier).

This is where we get a lot of back-story for August and a little bit more for Emma.

As the curse looms large in Fairy Tale Land, the buxom Blue Fairy comes to Gepetto with a request to make a wardrobe out of the last enchanted tree in all the land. (This has to be a nod to C.S. Lewis. Otherwise, we’re establishing that only wardrobes can provide transportation to other realms.) Gepetto, knowing that the curse is going to result in the elimination of magic, is freaked out because Pinocchio is now a real boy, and what will happen to him when magic is gone?

This leads to Gepetto acting like a panicky father instead of a loyal vassal of the realm. Which completely makes sense, but this again goes back to the “running away leads to disaster” meme for this show. As the curse descends on Fairy Tale Land, Gepetto sends his boy through the wardrobe first, leaving only enough magic for Emma to go through.

So, now we have a tow-headed moppet – freaked out over seeing the Oceanic airplane – in the woods of Maine with a squalling baby in his arms. Just how prepared for this is he?

Not much, because he and the baby end up in foster care. In a house run by a mean man. Where the other kids decide they’re going to run away. Of course, Pinocchio – overwhelmed by the whole notion of taking care of the Savior in the first place – abandons Emma.

See? Disaster.

On a side note, I don’t think this show is playing out a “foster care is bad” theme. Many have commented on other sites that the writers seem to have it out for foster care. I don’t think that’s the case. I’m pretty sure it can be argued that all of the depictions of foster care in Once have all been related to Emma’s experience – clearly, not a good one.

August, of course, is turning back into a wooden doll as a result of all this, because he has neglected his charge from the Blue Fairy, who told him he’d stay “real” as long as he was honest, brave and selfless.

Trying to make up for lost time, August takes Emma back to the tree, but he can’t convince her. She’s in Major Denial, apparently, and is completely snockered by the notion that she’s got to save everyone in the town.Way too much responsibility for her. Remember where she started at the beginning of the season: emotionally closed off, walls up, no friends, no family. She’s come a long way in wanting to take custody of Henry, but the idea that she’s got the whole town counting on her (even if they don’t know it) just is too much for her to handle.

Some really nice work from Tony Amendola this week. His emotional arc in Gepetto is spot on. The idea of losing your child is a major emotional upheaval – especially since he thought Pinocchio was dead after the Time They Were Swallowed By A Whale (for full effect, read that in Aquaman’s voice). His deal with the Blue Fairy shows his divided loyalties. He’s got to make a choice, a very bad one in his mind. There’s no guarantee the Savior will succeed, and there’s no guarantee success will mean Pinocchio will make it out. So he changes the conditions of the test, and cheats.

The other bit this week provides a little wrap-up on the “frame Mary Margaret for a murder that didn’t happen” arc, as Mary Margaret returns to school and forgives Regina. I think Mary Margaret pities Regina more than anything, even though she doesn’t understand the motivation behind the frame-up.

So, Regina goes after David, trying to seduce him with lasagna and Miss Lonely Hearts. I guess she figures if David cheats once, he could cheat again, right? Only he doesn’t take the bait. This leaves Regina in search of a scheme that will keep MM and David apart.

Of course, if Emma cuts her head off next episode, it’s all academic. Right?


[Official Show Site at ABC]     [Previous recap: “The Return”]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

2 thoughts on “ONCE UPON A TIME There Was a Babe in the Woods

  • I think that all the information August piled on Emma was just too much. And in much the same way that August ran away from his responsibility as a kid charged with caring for infant Emma, Emma runs away with Henry. Nice cliff hanger for the episode.

  • Love this show – every week needs more Rumple though 🙂

    That was a lot of info to dump on someone who is a skeptic to start with. Did August really think that Emma was going to just say okay and buy into it all just with a visit to the tree and dinner? August and Emma are too cute so she does have to find a way to save him.

    Oh and Baby Emma – a-freakin’-dorable!


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