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ONCE UPON A TIME, There Were These Snakes in a Box…

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Season 1, episode 10: “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”

Henry & Emma meet at the castle (the playground by the bay), which got hit pretty hard by last week’s storm. Henry’s in a snit, digging underneath to make sure his book is still buried there. Whew. Regina shows up to retrieve Henry for his morning session with Archie. (I’m assuming it’s Saturday.)

MM – Emma at diner (still having the grown-up/kid breakfast). MM gets text from David, rushes off. Sidney – drunk – tells Emma he’s got Regina’s secret. Emma tells him to go home and sleep it off.

Turns out, Sidney is the genie of the lamp (1001 Arabian Nights), and he’s found by Snow White’s father. Now, the main thing I notice here: King seems completely unfazed at finding a genie, and he’s so quick to wish the genie free. This strikes me as a little too pat, too contrived. Surely, any normal person who finds a Genie would be astounded, flabbergasted. Just ask Tony Nelson.

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Now, at this point, I could go into my usual blow-by-blow recap of the episode, but I don’t think I’m going to go that route this time. Mainly because I’m late writing this, and also because I was a little disappointed in the episode as a whole.

C-Story: Mary Margaret and David

First, let’s look at the C-story: Mary Margaret and David, meeting in secret like school kids. Mary Margaret says, “We have to stop doing this.” But she doesn’t stop. Now, if this were a regular show without the fairy tale component, this would be placing the characters on a track to certain doom. Either that, or someone else is going to pay the price. In this case, someone’s going to pay (with magic making the price higher), but it’s OK because MM and Dave are meant to be together. Not sure the ends justify the means, in the real world.

Of course, Mary Margaret uses Sidney’s argument with Emma to rationalize her own behavior, which seems to be putting her slightly on edge. (Feeling guilty, MM?)

B-Story: Genie and the Lamp

So, the Mirror started out as the Genie in the Lamp. And his discovery – and unrealistic immediate acceptance – by King Toby is a nice scene, but it feels rushed. And when Genie talks about wishes going badly a thousand and one times, it seems a bit heavy-handed in the foreshadowing.

Richard Schiff delivers a bit of an “absent-minded professor” vibe as Toby, sliding through his scenes without seeming to pack much punch into his performance.

King Toby still has the hots for his dead wife, and this sends Regina on a down-spiral, and gives Genie a chance to put the moves on her. He thinks she’s the It Girl, and she responds to his advances. But is she playing him? Does she really feel something for Genie? Her diary seems to show that, but Regina is conniving and manipulative. Is Genie the “lost love” Regina spoke of in previous episodes? But since there’s no secret shared with Snow White, maybe there’s another man out there…

Of course, Toby comes to the Genie to find out the identity of the man Regina loves. It’s a cliché, a very tired one, for the guilty party to be selected to investigate his own crime. So, when confronted with the choice between loyalty to the king and his lust for Regina, of course he’s going to go for the hot chick. Right?

[I find it interesting that she’s “Regina” in both realms.]

And then they go all “Body Heat” on us and plot the king’s death, only Regina manipulates Genie into making the suggestion (all the while the snakes from his homeland – how convenient – stay snugly in the open box… uhm, what?), and they plot and scheme. And they kill the king with the CG snakes.

[Badly done snakes, too. I really think the CG is getting a little more loosey-goosey as we get deeper into the season. What’s up with that?]

Of course, Genie gets blamed because the snakes are from his land, and even though it’s obvious Regina just used him, he uses a wish and ends up trapped inside the mirror, because he wants to be with her forever. Be careful what you wish for.

But it’s interesting that Regina spurns Genie the way she does. She gets cold and heartless, just like Snow White did to Prince James – leading me to wonder if Regina really did have feelings for Genie, and she just acted out of a desperate sense of self-preservation.

A-Story: Sidney and the Mayor

Sidney – apparently jobless after he failed to get elected Sheriff – has decided to rebel against Regina and become Emma’s drunken ally. Because he’s drinking a lot and scheming a lot. And he insists that Emma cross a line she shouldn’t – breaking into the mayor’s office to dig up records that could implicate Her Honor Mayor in a scandal involving personal use of city money.

But you know, when Emma confronts Regina in front of the city council meeting, my first niggling question was how $50,000 could pay for a “lavish second home” in Maine. Anything you’d describe as “lavish” is certainly going to cost much more than that.

Of course Regina has an answer for everything. And of course she has the plans for the new city playground handy in her laptop. And of course, it’s all just a big ruse to get Emma thinking she has an ally in Sidney. But she really doesn’t.

Mini-C: Henry and the Book

This plot element took away from the overall story, I felt. Henry’s interaction with Motorcycle Man seems to be in the story simply to keep the actors working. And it’s only slightly a surprise that MotoMan has the book.

Now, some have speculated that MotoMan may be an older version of Henry. Not sure if the evidence supports that yet, although a lot of folks are basing that assumption on the fact that MotoMan claims to be a writer. So. We’ll see.

If Henry’s thread had been reduced (or even eliminated…), I think the episode would have been stronger. The whole thing between Toby and Genie just stretches believability. And for the last wish to backfire so spectacularly, Regina has to know what she’s doing. Right?

Right.

[Official Show Site at ABC]     [Previous recap, “7:15 A.M.”]

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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