(3.5 out of 5 TVs — I was very entertained by this ep!)
***SPOILERS START HERE***
Short recap: This week, we learn about Hansel and Gretel’s backstory. The Evil Queen deliberately separates them from their father (played by Krycek!) and uses them to infiltrate the “kids only” home of the Blind Witch (played by Anya!) in order to steal a black satchel. Hansel and Gretel complete their mission (no thanks to Hansel), but instead of helping the children find their father (as she promised), the Evil Queen offers to take them in. Still determined to find their father, Gretel rejects the Evil Queen’s kind offer. And since we all know how the Evil Queen hates rejection, she zaps the kids off into the middle of the forest instead of reuniting them with their dad, who the Evil Queen had been holding prisoner.
In our world, the kids, who are still on their own, have never met dad, and dad doesn’t know that they even exist. Emma, who still remembers her horrible experiences in the foster care system, does all that she can to keep these kids out of foster care, which includes tracking down dear old dad. But thanks to the curse, dad had no idea he fathered twelve-year-old twins, so he’s naturally resistant to take them in. Since dad won’t take them and the Queen Mayor has already made arrangements with child services, Emma resigns herself to driving the kids up to Boston in order to be placed in separate foster homes. But on her way out of Storybrooke, her police car breaks down and she calls in the kids’ dear old dad, who just happens to be a mechanic, for some roadside assistance. Lucky for the kids, after one good look at them, dear old dad changes his former ideas about parenthood. Yay! Another happy ending. Oh. And just as Henry says Emma’s really changing things around Storybrooke, a bona fide stranger rolls up with a mysterious (and possibly magical) wooden box. Say what?!
Long a$$ recap: This episode introduces us to Hansel and Gretel, and their backstory. While out in the woods looking for firewood, the kids get separated from their father, Papa Krycek. To make matters worse, they run into the Evil Queen while looking for him. But because they (and by “they,” I mean Gretel) fight back, the Evil Queen makes them a deal–she’ll help them find their father if they steal a black satchel from the Blind Witch’s house. Easy, right? Well, the Blind Witch lives in a gingerbread house that rivals Willy Wonka when it comes to sweets. The Evil Queen warns them not to eat anything, but Hansel is either too stupid or too hungry to listen. But lucky for him, Gretel actually pays attention and knows how to display self-control.
Once inside the sleeping witch’s house, Gretel heads straight for the black satchel. But unfortunately, her dumbass brother heads straight for a cupcake and takes a bite. The bite wakes up the Blind Witch. And the kids are imprisoned, because Hansel has impulse control issues. Gretel devises a plan to get them out, but Hansel is pretty much useless, so Gretel pretends to be him and takes his place as the first one to be taken out of the cage and eaten. Gretel slyly takes the key to their cage out of the witch’s pocket and throws it to Hansel. He manages to get out and grab a weapon. But being the useless boy that he is, he trips before he gets anywhere near the witch and she uses her magical telekinesis to send Hansel’s weapon flying. Lucky for him, the distraction kept the witch from completely typing Gretel’s wrists together, so she frees herself, and the two of them work to throw the Blind Witch into her own oven. Yay! But for some reason, the Blind Witch can’t or doesn’t use her magical telekinesis to get herself out of the oven.
So, the kids run off with the black satchel. And the Evil Queen, who’s been looking on in her Magic Mirror, finishes the Blind Witch off with a fire bolt of some kind.
Hansel and Gretel show up at the Queen’s lair and give her the black satchel. What’s in it, you ask? A shiny red apple. (Wonder what she’s going to use that for.) Useless Hansel whines about all the work that “we” did just for an apple. (“We”? It was all your sister, bro.) But as we know, it’s not just an apple–it’s a weapon.
Anyway, the Evil Queen likes Gretel’s gumption and offers to put them up at her castle, where they wouldn’t want for anything. Hansel’s eyes light up at the prospect, but Gretel (you know, the one who actually has a brain) refuses the Evil Queen’s tempting offer and says that they’re still going to look for their dad–even if he abandoned them. That pisses the Evil Queen off, of course (and we all know how well she handles rejection). So, she sends them off to the middle of the forest. (Well, at least she didn’t kill them.)
We then find out that Papa Krycek didn’t really abandon his kids, but was kidnapped by the Evil Queen. When she asks Papa Krycek why the kids (read: Gretel) would turn down the offer to stay with her at her kick ass CGI castle, Papa Krycek spouts some stuff about family that the Evil Queen honestly doesn’t understand. But at least she doesn’t kill him. Instead, she sends him off saying, “You can all be together…as a family…as soon as you all find one another.”
Which brings us to the real world. At the drug store, Henry thinks an older girl (i.e. a twelve-year-old Ava/Gretel) is hitting on him, but Ava/Gretel is really just distracting him so her “not as useless as in the Enchanted Forest” brother, Nathan/Hansel, can sneak some candy and other items into Henry’s backpack. As soon as they get caught, Henry realizes that he’s been used. (Ain’t love a bitch, Henry?) And Henry’s two moms are called in to sort things out. The Queen Mayor knows her son’s not the thief (and apparently, she thinks Henry doesn’t eat candy–ha!) and takes Henry home. Emma comes in to collect the wonder twins, who try to play the “our family’s so poor that our phone’s been disconnected” routine. Unbeknownst to them, Emma’s superpower has come out of its dormancy and she calls them on their shit. It turns out that they’ve been fending for themselves since their mom died and they have no idea who their father is. Scarred from a life in the system, Emma doesn’t want to call child services. So, Emma takes them to Snow’s house until she can figure something out. However, while trying to find their birth father, she finds out that Queen Mayor has already called child services. And as sheriff, it’s supposedly Emma’s job to drive the kids up to Boston, so they can be placed in separate homes. Yikes. And what? How is that supposed to happen. The Queen Mayor knows that the kids can’t leave, right? Since they’re under her curse and all?
Anyway, Emma now has a ticking clock and scrambles to find the twins’ father. She finally gets a lead when she takes their dad’s compass (the same one Papa Krycek gave Gretel in the Enchanted Forest) to Mr. Gold’s, and Mr. Gold pretends to look up who “bought” the compass from him and gives Emma the name (although totally knew who it belonged to as soon as he saw it).
Emma catches up with Papa Krycek, who is now a mechanic, and finds out that in our world, the twins were the result of a one night stand, and Papa Krycek never knew that their mom had gotten pregnant. Since he never even knew he was a father, he’s naturally hesitant to take in a pair of twelve-year-old twins that he’s never seen before in his life. Emma still tries to convince him otherwise (and drops the bomb: “I don’t have my kid, because I don’t have a choice.”), but Papa Krycek isn’t ready to go from zero to single parent of two preteens in one scene.
Meanwhile, the kids are still at Snow’s (“Yes, hiding the twelve-year-olds is a good plan.” Ha!), so the Queen Mayor tells Emma to do her job and take the kids to Boston. Emma reluctantly complies, but doesn’t make it that far (or even out of town) before the patrol car engine craps out on her. And who does she call? Papa Krycek, of course. And we know that it’s meant to be, because Ava/Gretel’s compass goes haywire as soon as Papa Krycek’s pickup truck arrives on the scene. He’s hesitant at first, but once he gets a good luck at them (and Emma tells him about her experiences with Henry), it’s all good. One more happy ending for the inhabitants of Storybrooke. Yay!
Afterwards, when Emma recaps the night’s events to Mama Snow, she finally tells her about Henry’s theory that Snow is really Snow White and that Emma’s her daughter. Snow jokes that she’d remember if she had a child. Funny thing is, she didn’t joke about how her child could look older than her. Anyway, Snow sees Emma’s baby blanket (the one that Snow wrapped Emma in before they put her in the magical wardrobe) and sniffs it. We see just a flicker of some kind of recognition before Snow blinks it away.
The day’s events have hit a little too close to home, so Emma goes out to the patrol car to think and go over her own case file (she was found on the side of the road by a seven-year-old?!). Henry stops by with some pumpkin pie (earlier in the episode, Emma told Henry a little lie about his father and it involved pumpkin pie) and chats with his mom about what she did for the wonder twins. ”What you did with Ava and Nicholas… You really are changing things.” On cue, a bona fide stranger rides on up on a motorcycle, asking for a place to stay. Dang. Things really are a changin’ in Storybrooke!
Overall: I liked this episode better than last week’s. Overall, it had a much more complete storyline. Things got personal for Emma on multiple levels–as an abandoned child, who grew up in the system, and as a young mother, who gave her child up for adoption. And it’s the first time that we really get a sense that Emma would like to actually raise Henry (and not just pal around with him from time to time). Snow continues to be quietly awesome and such a rock for Emma. We even got another glimpse of how incomplete a person the Evil Queen was, even before this whole curse nonsense. I wish we would’ve seen more of Emma Caulfield as the Blind Witch, though.
Finally! Emma tells Mary Margaret that Henry thinks she’s Snow White…and Emma’s mother. ”I have a kid. You’d think I’d remember that.” Ha!
But… Not much else happened. Snow does sniff Emma’s baby blanket (the one she made for Emma) and for a second, there’s a flicker of recognition or something. But she instantly goes back to normal. Damn. Is Emma going to have to kiss everyone one by one in order to completely break the curse?
Haven’t seen that in a while: Emma’s lie detecting superpower is back! Then again, she didn’t really need it to tell that Ava/Gretel was lying about their home situation.
But… Emma can’t tell when Rumpelstiltskin is being dishonest with her. (Like when he told her that he didn’t have the compass owner’s name committed to memory, but he totally did.) Is that because of the deal that Snow made with Rumpelstiltskin back in the Enchanted Forest? (“Just a name, but I generally find that’s all one needs.”)
Favorite Queen Mayor lines: “Now she’s cavorting with dwarves? When did that happen?” “I would’ve gone gravy.”
All isn’t forgiven…yet:
Emma: “What’s your price?”
Emma: “How about tolerance?’
Rumpelstiltskin: “Well, that’s a start.”
Final thoughts: Who is the mysterious stranger? What’s in his wooden box? Is the existence of Storybrooke common knowledge in the outside world? What other changes are in store for Storybrooke? And when are we going to find out the truth about Henry’s dad?
Next time on Once Upon a Time, stranger danger! Oh. And it looks like Snow and Charming get it on (or at least try to) in our world. On the Enchanted Forest side of things, Charming’s a-hole adoptive father, King George, is back, trying to keep Snow and Charming apart. Anyone else cheering for forbidden love?