Since Mary Margaret's release from prison, Regina's carefully-crafted facade of control and power have started to crack. Case in point: her first encounter with her would-be victim when she goes school to drop off Henry's forgotten lunchbox. The whole wrongfully-accused thing has put some of Snow's steel in Mary Margaret's spine, and she refuses to cow before Regina, actually going so far as to tell her that she forgives and pities her -- you have to think the pity comment stung, to say the least! Henry follows suit by openly defying Regina's desire to see him transferred from Mary Margaret's classroom -- correct me if I'm wrong, but this is the first time Henry really lets loose on his adoptive mother, and you can see that it stings. Thus far I've had little sympathy for Regina, but this scene suggests that she really wants to love Henry -- but being who she is, she doesn't know how, and of course there's the question of if she's even capable of true, selfless, sacrificial love.
Regina's day just goes from bad to worse when her car dies -- conveniently in front of David's workplace and full of groceries in danger of spoiling. David (Josh Dallas), ever the gallant, offers her a ride home, and when they arrive she finds a note stating Henry won't be home for dinner -- so of course would David like to stay? This exchange is interesting, because clearly Regina staged the whole encounter in a desperate bid to supplant Mary Margaret in David's affections (the camera reveals Henry's "note" to be blank). She plays the lonely single mom card TO THE HILT, reliving the moment she found the him comatose on the side of the road -- THEY SEEM TO BE BONDING!! But just when she goes for a kiss David pulls back and plays the "we should just be friends line." There's a small part of Regina that I think really hoped to make a connection with David, but with her once iron grip weakening over the citizens of Storybrooke, she's finally reaping what she's sown -- the curse blocks her ability to love, to make actual, meaningful connections with people because she traded love for power.
Back in Fairy Tale Land, the Blue Fairy brings news of Regina's impending curse to Geppetto and Pinocchio (I have got to say, rewatching this episode I was struck afresh by the hilarity that people had so much time to "prepare" for Regina to cast her spell...). She wants Geppetto to carve a protective vessel from the last magic tree that will keep Snow's as-yet-unborn child, the Savior, safe -- the only hope for those who stand against Regina's machinations. Blue tells Geppetto, Pinocchio, and Jiminy (Raphael Sbarge) that the enchanted tree possesses enough magic to keep two people safe -- she's of course thinking of Charming and the pregnant Snow (I haven't rewatched the pilot -- doesn't she state the tree can only hold one in the premiere? whatevs...). But Geppetto is playing hardball, and refuses to craft the vessel unless his son is one of the two individuals transported to safety.
But this plan goes all to heck when Snow goes into labor early, right as the smoke monster curse is covering the land. And here is where Geppetto makes a call that changes everything for Emma and his son -- defying the Blue Fairy's orders that Snow and her baby enter the wardrobe, he withholds his knowledge of the tree's magical limitations and hides his son inside, leaving Charming and Snow with the assumption that the tree will only hold their baby. While I TOTALLY GET Geppetto's passion to save his son, the fact remains that he is trusting a SMALL CHILD who STARTED LIFE AS A FRIGGIN' BLOCK OF WOOD with the care of an infant. Even if Pinocchio hadn't started life as a TREE, that responsibility would be a heavy burden for one so young to carry -- especially one rather famous for fibbing. (Jumping ahead to season two for a second -- I have to wonder if there is going to be any repercussions against Geppetto when/if it is revealed that he is responsible for sending Emma to Maine, alone and defenseless?)
Cut to Emma and August, where they pull up outside a little diner -- a seemingly innocuous scene that enrages Emma. It turns out she was found by the side of the road at this very location, and she thinks August is messing with her when he reveals that he was the child in the news report who found her. Now this is something Emma can perhaps believe, even though it leaves her rattled -- but August goes all in, explaining how they were both sent to main through a tree (the scene showing their arrival, and August's Pinocchio clothes, really left me wondering what people made of him when he was found!), and how he was tasked with protecting her because the whole town is depending on her to break the curse. Of course Emma thinks the whole tree transport thing is rubbish, but August's story finally gets her to admit the thing she is most afraid of -- having people depend on her. BROKE MY HEART.
A final flashback to the young Pinocchio and Emma reveals how they were separated as children -- Pinocchio makes the choice to leave the orphanage with several other children, leaving Emma to fend for herself. Bailey really plays the adult August's guilt over failing his commission to "protect the Savior" extraordinarily well -- if Pinocchio is a character whose Achilles' heel was never taking responsibility for his actions, this storyline has the adult version paying for that shortcoming tenfold. Once August shares their collective history, he then pulls up his pant leg to show Emma the proof he's sure she can't deny -- his wooden leg. But he's completely disheartened when Emma just thinks he's even nuttier since her denial is so strongly rooted in her fears of connection and abandonment issues that she can't see his physical proof.
The final scenes, where August returns to Storybrooke, resigned to his imminent death, are heart-breaking. He goes to visit his father, and without admitting to their connection for fear of being rejected, he volunteers to help around the shop because he just wants to "fix things." The short talk between father and son brought tears to my eyes, especially when Marco assuages August's guilt over failing to protect Emma and raise her with the knowledge of her destiny, by stating something along the lines of that no matter what his son had or hadn't done, he would still love him -- and then Eion Bailey RIPPED MY HEART OUT with his SOULFUL EYES. I may or may not have screamed at the television JUST HUG YOUR DADDY ALREADY, DANGIT!!
But while August reaching the end of his proverbial rope has prompted him to reach out to his father, Emma swings in the other direction and takes more drastic action. Calling an emergency meeting with Henry in the middle of the night, she meets him outside in her car and asks if he wants to be with her -- and when he says yes, she hits the gas pedal and heads for the city limits. Oh Emma, kidnapping is not the way to go!
Thoughts on this episode? I think it was one of the most emotionally powerful, well-crafted hours of the first season.