Well, well -- Once Upon a Time finally proved that once upon a time the Evil Queen really did have a heart, apparently. "The Stable Boy" finally delivered on the season-long promise to reveal exactly why the Queen hates Snow so much. And while overall I feel like this was a pretty solid episode, I've got to say the reason behind the Queen's grudge left me a bit underwhelmed. So let's discuss. :)
The episode opens with the caption "one week earlier," so apparently all of the Storybrooke action since episode thirteen, when Kathryn disappeared, has taken place in roughly a week's time. A lot can happen in a week here, hmm? :) Apparently before all of the Kathryn shenanigans happened, Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) met with Regina (Lana Parrilla) to cut a deal to get him out of the whole battery case he's facing in court (I kinda forgot about that, honestly). So it was his idea that planted the plan in Regina's mind for Mary Margaret to take the blame for Kathryn's disappearance/murder -- and then if a key was planted in her cell and she escaped, she'd be vaporized or something for trying to leave Storybrooke (of course that didn't turn out exactly as planned, hmm?). It boggles my mind that Regina thinks Gold is actually on her side here, because given everything we've seen this season there's going to be another side to this whole mess -- because there is most definitely no love lost between Rumple and the Queen.
Cut to Fairy Tale Land, and a younger Regina (she wears COLOR and wears here hair DOWN!) is riding her horse bareback over several jumps, having a grand ol' time as her father (Tony Perez) looks proudly on until her mother turns up, and goodness is she a buzzkill. Cora (Barbara Hershey) is a stage mother of the worst order, determined to groom her daughter to make a brilliant marriage, and if that means crushing Regina's dreams and individuality, well so be it. To Regina's credit she tries to stand up to her mother, but that only results in becoming the helpless victim of her mother's magic (which in all fairness would be rather disturbing). A couple of things here -- 1) Was there ever a time when Regina's father wasn't so SPINELESS? Seriously the guy gets on my nerves, and clearly previous episodes have proved that he is SUCH AN ENABLER when it comes to his daughter's schemes. I suppose that could be out of guilt for marrying Crazy Cora? 2) I hope the show revisits this Cora issue to show us how she became so consumed with power, since the script implies that she used to be somewhat normal... 3) Saw the stable boy love story coming a mile away -- but I loved it. If a teenage Regina (how old do we think Regina is supposed to be in the FTL scenes -- late teens, early 20s at the most?) was going to fall in love with a servant she chose an adorable one in Daniel (Noah Bean). :)
In present-day Storybrooke, David (Josh Dallas) has realized that maybe, just maybe casting aspersions on Mary Margaret's (Ginnifer Goodwin) innocence was not his most brilliant move, but the damage has been done as Emma (Jennifer Morrison) informs him that she wants no visitors, i.e. him. At the Sheriff's Station Mary Margaret wakes up to the CREEPTASTIC discovery that Regina was watching her sleep, and to her puzzlement the woman starts to tip her hand, going on and on about how she'll finally be rid of Mary Margaret for good. Cut to FTL, where Regina is having a romantic moment with Daniel, who to his credit wants their relationship out in the open but Regina fears a magical reprisal from her mother. Daniel is all TRUE LOVE FOR THE WIN, but before we can see how Regina responds a terrified girl on a runaway horse dashes by, and Regina rides to the rescue. The girl is, of course, a young Snow White (Bailee Madison), all of ten years old and clearly in awe of her rescuer. Side note: How is Madison NOT RELATED to Goodwin? Not only is their resemblance remarkably similar, but Madison just nails Goodwin's facial expressions and mannerisms. AMAZING bit of casting there...
Back to Storybrooke, and Gold/Regina discussion about ruining Mary Margaret begins to bear fruit. Mr. Gold wants his client to agree to a pre-trial interview with the prosecution, because this is supposed to reinforce the idea that she isn't a killer -- somebody tell me, is there a lot of precedence for this? Because I'm inclined to agree with Emma, the point of an interview like this seems to distinctly favor the prosecution and not the defendant. But whatevs, a law expert I most definitely am not! :P The weaselly Sidney (Giancarlo Esposito) shows up with some flowers (???) on the pretext of telling Emma he's found nothing incriminating against Regina -- we haven't seen them interact in a while but apparently she's still trusting him (SILLY GIRL). Regina then shows up with Spencer, the District Attorney, and we all know this is gonna be a train wreck because Spencer's fairy tale alter-ego is the maniacal King George (Alan Dale). During the interview Spencer is, of course, able to goad Mary Margaret into a passionate and damning admission that she wanted Kathryn gone -- and at this point I'm thinking Mr. Gold is the WORST FRIGGIN' ATTORNEY IN THE WORLD. *sigh*
Back in FTL things are really starting to go south for Regina and her stable boy boyfriend. She's horrified to learn that the girl she saved from the runaway horse is King Leopold's (Richard Schiff) daughter, and apparently her kindness has made him decide that they need to marry ASAP. Leopold has never struck me as the brightest of monarchs and this decision only reinforces that perception. *rollseyes* One heroic moment does not a good stepmother make, hmm?! Anyways, Regina is properly shocked so her MOTHER accepts the king's proposal (and he doesn't think that is weird...this guy has a terminal case of Too Stupid to Live), and then she has a proper freakout and decides she and Daniel must run away ASAP. (Side note: LOVED Regina's dress in this scene, I am a sucker for a good princess-y ball gown!) He is of course properly honorable and proposes, giving her a ring and everything (so it's a brass ring from a saddle, it's the thought that counts, right?). BUT SNOW OVERHEARS EVERYTHING, and is naturally upset because she was all into the idea of her rescuer being her new mom -- until Regina appeals to her romantic heart and extracts a promise from her that she'll tell no one her secret, because she and Daniel must run away since no one, especially her mother, will understand the depth of their love.
But Snow has a weakness, and that is missing her mother -- perfectly understandable, particularly in a young child. So when Cora starts to ask questions about Snow's friendship with Regina, who can blame the girl for wanting to believe Cora's professed good intentions? SHE'S A KID, seriously of COURSE she's going to get played by a master manipulator like Cora. And this is where I really start to question Regina's sanity, because this whole Evil Queen/Snow White grudge match came about BECAUSE A FLIPPING TEN-YEAR-OLD couldn't keep a promise? I mean REALLY REGINA. If we're going to be angry at people let's at least direct said anger at the appropriate target(s)...
In Storybrooke, Emma is quite disheartened over how bleak things are looking for Mary Margaret -- I mean things are SO BAD she's reading Henry's storybook! August (Eion Bailey) shows up to give her a pep talk about looking at the case from a new perspective (and for the record, his face is a pep talk all its own, just sayin'!). He offers to help out and really, like Emma's gonna say no to a motorcycle ride (*wink*), so they return to the spot by the toll bridge where the human heart was discovered. All of a sudden August can't walk right and starts complaining of shin splints (he's gotta be Pinocchio, right?!), but all of that is forgotten when Emma finds the piece of a broken shovel in the dirt. So whoever owns this shovel must be the culprit, right? Later Henry (Jared Gilmore) keeps a lookout while they search Regina's garage, and NO SURPRISE there's a broken shovel. Of course they can't act until Emma has a warrant -- and in that short amount of time Regina's broken shovel has been replaced, the evidence gone. Emma's only thought (and a perfectly reasonable one at that) is that she's been betrayed by August, who insists he hasn't betrayed her and that he's not lying. Between the lying thing and the shin splints...HE HAS TO BE PINOCCHIO, RIGHT?!
Of course there's still a possible connection to Rumple/Rumple's son, since the preview for next week's episode reveals that maybe, just maybe, August is in Storybrooke to try and kill Mr. Gold. Now, this could either be in revenge for some act Rumple committed in FTL, or...OR...is it possible that, given how horrified Rumple Jr. was by his father's transformation into "the Dark One" that he tries to knock him off for some reason?? I'm not willing to let go of the possibility quite yet that August could be Rumple's son, since the IMDB reveals that the title for next week's episode is "The Return" with this summary: "What happened to Baelfire, Rumplestiltskin's son, after he ran away is revealed, on the day his father became The Dark One." LET THE THEORIES COMMENCE! :)
Back in FTL, now that Cora weaselled the truth about Regina's plans out of Snow, she confronts the lovers just as they're preparing to flee. For one brief moment Cora seems to acquiesce to her daughter's deepest wish, but that was only to allow her to get close enough to Daniel to RIP HIS HEART OUT OF HIS CHEST AND CRUSH IT TO DUST. This is, admittedly, horrific, but HOW THE HECK DOES THIS TRANSLATE TO HATING A TEN YEAR OLD GIRL?! This in no way mitigages Regina's actions, to my thinking at any rate -- YES, she was obviously mentally and emotionally abused but blaming Snow for her mother's actions and manipulation is a cop-out. I'm still waiting for Graham's death to be avenged!!! Yes Once writers, I AM STILL UPSET ABOUT THAT! *whew* And anyways, in Storybrooke when Regina's whispering "we've got her Daniel" -- what the heck about Daniel makes her think he'd approve of this?! Yeesh. :P (Side note: LOVED Regina's wedding dress!)
So wrapping up...just when Emma thinks things couldn't be worse for Mary Margaret, Gold urges her to "keep the faith" -- and this is a relief because Rumple may be morally ambiguous but dangit at least he's got a sympathetic backstory!!! Emma loses it at that point and breaks the vase containing Sidney's flowers, which SURPRISE SURPRISE contains a surveillance bug!! The puzzle pieces start falling into place, leading Emma to apologize to August, which makes me ridiculously happy. And then that magic Mr. Gold mentioned happens -- Ruby (Meghan Ory) starts screaming about finding someone in the alley behind the diner -- and lo and behold it's Kathryn (Anastasia Griffith). Is she crazy now? I'm seriously hoping her time in the woods doesn't mean she was somehow programmed to blame Mary Margaret for the wreck...can't wait to see how this plays out, because after the conversation in the jail when Regina admitted she knew Mary Margaret didn't kill Kathryn, and she DIDN'T CARE, I have to think she is going to be ticked when she shows back up. Can. Not. WAIT. :)