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ONCE Keeps Things Hopping

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Once_Title
Season 1, episode 5: “That Still Small Voice”

[All images: ABC]

So, we have puppets, crickets, a Dalmatian, and SPOILERS! If you haven’t watched the episode, check it out and come back. Otherwise, we’re giving away stuff. And this might go long, but Jane Espenson has packed a lot into this episode. So, here we go.

Fairy Tale Land: a marionette show makes for a wonderful diversion from the humdrum life of town folk, right? It also makes for a decent distraction whilst a young ginger moppet makes his way ’round the group picking pockets. Yon youngster is none other than Jiminy, who works for his puppeteer parents (Martin & Myrna) in a scam that gets them all sorts of booty. Even a little cricket in a cage. Except Jiminy doesn’t like what he’s doing. He has a conscience about it. But Dad tells him, “Good is another word for weak.” And so young master Jiminy seems destined to continue his life of pilfery.

Thus, we establish that this is Jiminy Cricket’s episode.

Storybrooke: Dr. Archie Hopper is in session with Henry, who makes note of the fact that we never hear crickets in Storybrooke. It’s this kind of world-building in the show that makes it better than “Grimm”. It’s also with this episode that I noticed the opening title card changes to reflect the focus of the episode. This week featured a spinning wheel…

At the sheriff’s office, Emma refuses to put on the Barney Fife outfit, but takes the badge. And as soon as she puts it on her belt… BLAM-O! There’s an earthquake. The phones start ringing off the hook. (Remember, Emma, with great power comes great responsibility…)

So, it’s a cave in at the old mine. Mayor Regina shows up and promptly dismisses Emma, only to find out Emma’s the new deputy. You can bet there are going to be words later. Sheriff Huntsman’s lame defense? “It’s in my budget.” Way to stand up to the boss, mate.

Regina promptly takes control of the situation, speechifying and making sure her new first priority is to take a bulldozer and flatten the old mining tunnels and pave the way for a safer area. Except that Henry thinks something’s down there. Could it be? Is that why Regina is so quick to erase part of the town? And what does she pick up off the ground?

Henry is more insightful than he looks. He knows this is the result of the curse losing its strength, and when he asks Emma if she’s done anything new in the day, she automatically reaches for the shiny new badge. Henry’s convinced there’s something hidden in the tunnels, and it’s up to Operation Cobra (which now includes Dr. Hopper) to find out what secrets lurk beneath the town…

Regina is done with Henry’s malarkey, and tells Hopper to end it, to quit fueling the boy’s delusions or else: “This is my town. You will lose your office, lose your house. I can cut you down to size until you’re a tiny shrunken litle creature, and this” (indicating his umbrella) “will be the only roof over your damn head.” This is a perfect demonstration of how the writers put winks to Fairy Tale Land in the Storybrooke dialogue without sounding campy. It’s completely organic to the situation. Kudos, in this case, to Jane Espenson.

So Archie Hopper faces a crisis of conscience. This is Irony.

Fairy Tale Land: Jiminy is now an adult, wants to quit the family scam. Only Mom & Pop aren’t hearing any of it. The whole “being part of the economy” bit was grin-worthy. Jiminy’s parents would have fit in as the next-door neighbors on shows like “Three’s Company” or “The Jeffersons”. Whilst miserable Jiminy is setting up the show, a kid with an umbrella walks up, talks about how puppets are cool, and isn’t it neat to listen to the crickets? He then gives Jiminy his umbrella. This will figure into the story later, of course, because this show is all about foreshadowing in very subtle ways.

In Storybrooke, Marco/Gepetto shows up just before Henry’s session. And this scene exists primarily to establish that Marco and Archie are best friends. Which is why Henry is convinced that Marco is Gepetto. Because we all know that Jiminy Cricket and Gepetto are close. Of course, feeling the pressure of Regina’s threatening his livelihood, his house, his office, etc., Dr. Hopper loses his professional composure and tells Henry, “This nonsense must end.” Henry storms out. And we all know where he’s going and what he’s about to do. This is more foreshadowing that doesn’t beat us over the head.

We interrupt this episode to bring you this bit from the hospital: Mary Margaret is playing hangman with John Doe, who’s no longer John Doe, but David, and his word for the game is her name. Everyone, together: “Awwwww”. This episode interruption is interrupted by David’s wife, who shows up with a box of photos. Thus, pear in hand, Mary Margaret makes her escape home! Where she and Emma share a drink and misery over married men. These scenes, I’m convinced, are here simply to keep all of the other characters in play while the main story unfolds. This has the effect of moving everyone’s story forward without the characters stepping on each other. Because it’s a big ensemble. So to connect it with the main plot, Henry shows up all distraught and stuff, which sends Emma (not-his-mother) to confront Archie, who’s just miserable. Emma’s not even pretending anymore, folks. She’s more Henry’s mother than Henry’s mother… well… you get the idea.

Speaking of Henry’s mother (adopted-for-real-mother), she calls looking for Henry. He’s disappeared. Bum-bummm. Archie knows where he’s gone. Dun-dunnn. Yep, into the mine tunnels. (That foreshadowing I mentioned earlier? Payoff.)

Not to be left out, Rumpelstiltskin is in this episode spinning at his wheel, the one that turns straw into gold. And the one we saw in this week’s title card. Jiminy brings him stuff, and as ol’ Rump generally does, he decides to meddle. Giving Jiminy a magic potion, he promises freedom for the young man. In exchange, Jiminy has to bring his parents to the elf. Jiminy agrees. We know this will be a Very Bad Thing (more of that ol’ foreshadowing…)

Outside the tunnel: Emma, Archie and Pongo the Dalmatian. Yes. Pongo.

Inside the tunnel: Henry, finding another piece of stylized glass similar to what he saw his mother retrieve earlier. What could it be? And just as Archie gets inside the tunnel, there’s a cave-in! They’re trapped. Oh, noes! And what does the young imp do when faced with the danger of dying in the collapsing tunnel? He goes deeper into the collapsing tunnel. Because he has something to prove.

FTL: Jiminy and his folks scam a young pretty couple out of most of their valuables by claiming to have a little “Elf Tonic” to prevent the plague from the next town over. Only the “Elf Tonic” actually turns out to be the potion Rumpelstiltskin made up, and instead of hitting his parents with it, Jiminy discovers that it’s taken effect on the couple – turning them into marionettes.

And to add insult to injury, guess what little boy belongs to this couple? Yep. The boy with the umbrella, who freaks out.

Inside the tunnel: Archie catches up with Henry, while Emma and Regina confront each other on the outside, with Emma blaming Regina for Henry’s predicament. The whole while, Pongo (yes, Pongo) is barking incessantly because he’s found an air shaft. This is something Archie and Henry can hear, and they follow the sound to an old elevator shaft. And just as they get the elevator car moving… the good folks of Storybrooke blow up the mine!

Well, OK. It’s supposed to open the tunnel, except it doesn’t.

Meanwhile, over at the hospital for our b-story: Mary Margaret gets recruited to help David with physical therapy. He needs someone to walk with him. So as they’re walking, all innocent-like, he drops the bomb: she’s the only thing that seems real in his life. He feels like he woke up in a strange land (well, uhm… he did), and just as he’s about the seal the deal with a lip-lock that neither one of them should want but do, the “Mrs.” shows up with more photos.

Meanwhile, too, Regina is having kittens because nothing is working yet. Emma gets Pongo, who’s barking still. They find the top of the elevator shaft. And down the shaft in the elevator car, Henry apologized to Archie for causing trouble. And Archie comes clean that he doesn’t think Henry’s crazy, but Regina has her own designs for things, and she’s a strong-willed woman… Of course, Henry still thinks Archie is Jiminy Cricket, but it’s taking the man longer to realize who he really is because of the curse.

Up topside, Marco has the tow cable out, aided by Ruby, who’s only job this week is to stand around looking sexy in a punk sort of way. Regina’s all set to go, but Emma jumps in, reminding the mayor that she’s been behind a desk for the last ten years. (Funny… she doesn’t look it…)

Anyhoo… Here’s where we get to the quote of the week. Archie asks Henry why it’s so important for the fairy tale to be true. Henry’s answer: “This can’t be all there is.” How many of us have said that? Numerous times, I’ll bet.

Then it’s Emma to the rescue! And just as she gets her arms around Henry, the elevator lets go. And we have one brief moment where it looks as if we’ve lost Dr. Archie Hopper, but no! He’s hanging on for dear life by the handle of the umbrella, which has snagged a cable hook on Emma’s harness. So they’re all up and out and safe.

But not unchanged. Archie gets his back up and tells Regina that he’ll continue to treat Henry as his conscience tells him. Because at some point Regina may face a custody hearing (more foreshadowing?), and the court always consults an expert. And it would listen very closely to the one expert who’s treating the boy’s condition.

At this point, I want to make a note for the record: Lana Parrilla, Jennifer Morrison and Ginnifer Goodwin are delivering some master-class performances. Watch their faces, the subtle reactions and facial tics that just barely give something away.

So, Dr. Archie Hopper finds who he is, in a way. And over in Fariy Tale Land, Jiminy makes a wish on a star. The Blue Fairy arrives, saying she can’t bring back the boy’s parents, but she can help Jiminy find a way to help the boy. Jiminy makes a new wish to change who he is, and becomes the loveable little conscience we all know and love.

And in a moment of “Of Course”-ism, it turns out the boy’s name… is Gepetto. And the Blue Fairy tells Jiminy he’ll live as long as he needs to in order to help Gepetto get on in life. So it makes perfect sense that Archie and Marco are best friends in Storybrooke, because how long do you think they’ve been friends since the beginning? And in the aftermath of the tunnel collapse, they finally hear crickets in Storybrooke.

Now, there’s a little throwaway scene with Mr. Gold, who’s closing up shop and walks past a counter, where… he has the puppet parents. I’m telling you, Gold knows more than he’s letting on.

And Mary Margaret resigns from the hospital.

And Regina drops her little piece of glass into the elevator shaft, where it lands among the rest of the debris. Glass everywhere. And according to writer Jane Espenson on her Twitter account, that’s Snow White’s glass coffin.

Dun-dun-dunnnnnnnn.

[Raphael Sbarge on Twitter]   [Jane Espenson on Twitter]   [Ginnifer Goodwin on Twitter]

[Lana Parrilla on Twitter]   [Jennifer Morrison on Twitter]

[Official Show Site at ABC]   [Previous Episode Recap: “The Price of Gold”]

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.

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