Right at the opening we see August laying in his room at Granny's, writhing in apparent severe pain. He barely manages to make it to the phone where he places a call, cryptically urging the person on the other end of the line to "accelerate the plan." Clearly, the clock is ticking for my favorite motorcycle, leather-wearing mystery of a writer. In short order it is revealed that August called a meeting with Henry (Jared Gilmore), who really rather idolizes him since he's the only adult who believes the curse exists. While Henry enters Mr. Gold's shop, ostensibly to purchase a gift for Mary Margaret, August sneaks in through the back door and begins scouring the shelves of Gold's office, clearly looking for something specific. His search is interrupted by Mr. Gold, who orders him out, but not before there is a tense moment that reads like possible recognition between the two men -- is there a connection? what could it be? Well played, writers, well played.
Meanwhile Emma (Jennifer Morrison) heads to the hospital to interview the not dead yet Kathryn (Anastasia Griffith). Poor woman has no idea who took her or where she's been, only that she was chained in a dark basement, fed, and then inexplicably freed. I was rather relieved that she thought it was ridiculous that Mary Margaret would want to kill her (I was afraid the show might go down that road, relieved when they chose instead to move on), especially since she had come to the realization that her marriage was over and left David her "blessing" (which Regina conveniently BURNED). Dr. Whale (David Anders) is attending during this exchange, and interestingly enough at one point they share a look seeming to suggest that they both share an idea of who would want Mary Margaret framed for murder. I am DYING to know Whale's fairy tale identity, especially since earlier in the season his appearances seemed to suggest he might be Regina's ally, while the season two opener is a 180-degree turn in the opposite direction. (Side note: Wasn't David's visit with Kathryn kinda sweet? I liked that it showed his compassionate side, without suggesting that he YET AGAIN wants to maintain the farce of a marriage that he doesn't know is a CURSE.)
Things get REALLY interesting when Regina (Lana Parrilla) visits Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) and angrily accuses him of reneging on their deal to frame Mary Margaret for murder. Seeing Regina lose it like this, admitting she's such an evil witch, that was a sweet moment. And nevermind that Mr. Gold is not exactly a hero, because I LOVE HIM, and watching him rattle Regina's cage, is indescribably satisfying. She's made what could be a fatal error in assuming that Gold was on her side, since he created the curse at her behest -- but as we've seen thus far in the season, Gold never has less than six possible reasons for doing anything (ha!). Gold's almost off-hand comment that he only broke one deal in his life and that it wasn't Regina's is the segway into Fairy Tale Land where we see Baelfire (Dylan Schmid) playing with a ball. When the boy is nearly hit by a donkey cart, he hurts his leg (which immediately made me think that HERE was the confirmation I'd been wanting that August was Bael! sneaky writers...) -- and when Rumple sees the wound, he uses his dark magic to transform the driver of the cart into a snail which he then squashes, to the horror of his son and the townspeople.
At this point, let's catch up on the Storybrooke action. The townspeople have thrown an impromptu getting out of jail party for Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin), who is a bit peeved that she suddenly has TONS of friends. :-P During the party, August drops the cryptic remark to Henry that he thinks what he's looking for will find him. Shortly after that Jennifer sends Henry home with a bereft David (Josh Dallas) to avoid an awkward conversation with Mary Margaret, she confronts Gold with her suspicion that he's responsible for Kathryn's reappearance. I love how he's all "I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU'D ASK ME THAT." :-P He's more interested in her opinion of August (I love how she describes him as "a typewriter wrapped in an enigma wrapped in stubble"!). Later a pensive Mr. Gold picks the lock to August's room and searches through his things -- and under a carved donkey figure, he finds a piece of paper with a drawing of a knife identical to the Fairy Tale Land relic that denotes his status as the Dark One. It was only after it was confirmed that August wasn't Bael that I remembered the donkey figure, and how those animals featured in the Pinocchio film. Well played once again, writers. I love how you keep messing with my mind, seeming to hint by Gold's visit to the "fairy" convent, and August's questions about his father, that you're taking the story one direction when in fact you've quite a different path in store for a character.
That pivot, where Gold's all-too-brief joy was replaced by rage is just heart-wrenching. The Storybrooke scenes, where he urges the dying and desperately in need of magic August to push Emma harder to believe -- a task that up to this point has proved distinctly unrewarding, but interestingly enough Gold comments that if August can get Emma to believe him, he may "get" something out of August's death that he wouldn't if he'd simply killed him outright. In Fairy Tale Land, following Bael's disappearance, Rumple calls on the Blue Fairy to reappear. Rumple is ENRAGED, determined to do anything to regain his son, even if that means sacrificing the entire world. While the Blue Fairy seems to believe that type of magic is beyond even the Dark One, Rumple keeps yelling "I will find him" -- and I only realized after rewatching that episode for this post how that declaration eerily echoes Charming's promise to always find Snow. Two lost loves, one pure, one bent on destruction -- both hearts bruised by loss, determined to find the missing pieces.
While August and Mr. Gold OWNED this episode, there are a few other scenes that bear mentioning. First of all, there's David and Mary Margaret's first meeting following her release from jail. Mary Margaret's palpable heartache at David's betrayal, his refusal to believe in her innocence when all the evidence pointed otherwise is crushing. And David's grief, his palpable desire to make it up to her (his TEARS! Dallas can cry really, really well) BROKE MY HEART. Also, Emma's meeting with Sidney Glass (Giancarlo Esposito), where she confronts him with the bug as proof of his complicity with Regina's schemes -- that was a lot of fun. And the concluding scene, where Regina's convinced him to take the rap for Kathryn's kidnapping was pretty contrived -- but worked as well as anything to write the Glass character off the show (since he'd been cast in Revolution - he was my least favorite character, so it isn't a great loss IMO). But the icing on the proverbial cake was Emma's declaration of war on Regina, her promise that she would get her son back, no matter what it took -- that moment made me cheer. Long time coming Emma, long time coming.