Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Once Upon a Time: "The Return"


And… just when you thought I was going to let another week go by without talking about Once Upon a Time, here I am!! Of course, it’s a day late, but…

So, this week’s episode suggested we would finally discover the identity of August Booth, the writer who showed up in Storybrooke and helped keep Henry reading that book by lovingly saving every page of it after it had been rain-soaked. He has stumped everyone in town (since the last person who showed up out of town was Emma, and since she arrived everything has changed).

The FTW (fairytale world) flashback was for Rumpelstiltskin. And, for the record, I shall continue to spell it that way on the blog even though it’s spelled Rumplestiltskin on the blade of the knife — in a couple of the books it’s spelled “le,” including in the Penguin edition of Selected Tales that I have, but the Grimms spelled it Rumpelstilzchen in the original German, so so I shall use “el” too.

The episode, written by Jane Espenson, opens with August having what appears to be some sort of seizure and falling out of the bed. He makes a phone call and tells someone they need to speed things up because he doesn’t have much time. He approaches Henry (the seizures appear to have passed at this point) and convinces him to go to Gold’s store and distract Gold while he goes in the back. Gold, of course, is all-seeing, and he senses that August is in the store and confronts him. August bumbles his way back out. He’s looking for maps, but we don’t know what kind.

Meanwhile, Regina is FURIOUS that Gold didn’t do as he was told and actually kill Kathryn. Instead he just kept her in a basement and then let her go. Gold is playing both sides at this point — he wants to see Regina get hers, but he’s not about to let anyone else off the hook, either. Emma pieces this together, and outright asks him what his game-plan is. “Are you suggesting I’m working for or against Regina?” he asks her, amused. “I don’t know, maybe… diagonally.” This very Espensonesque line is more accurate than Emma realizes.

Over in love land, Mary Margaret is officially off the hook for killing Kathryn (since, you know, Kathryn is ALIVE and all) but David’s not invited to the party. When she needed him the most, he had a kernel of doubt in his head. Later, in a scene that’s filled with caring and pain, he tells her that Regina was really good at what she did, and he was only human. Poor Mary stands there listening to him, and a part of her wants to go with him. But she also realizes that the equally human Emma never once doubted her. If Emma kept the faith, why couldn’t David have done that? How do you go back to someone who thought that about you? Will David ever be able to get past that moment of doubt? Is there still a Prince Charming in there somewhere?

Over in the FTW, we get the continued devolution of Rumpelstiltskin. He still has his son, Baelfire (we know from future scenes, when he’s all sing-songy and hopping about that his son is nowhere to be seen, so even from the outset we know Bae won’t be around long), who is increasingly concerned about the dark path his father is heading down at this point. He sees how the townsfolk are terrified of his father, and how they treat Bae with kid gloves because of their fear of Rumpel. The other kids want very little to do with him for the same reason. But mostly, Bae just wants his beloved father back. We’ve zipped ahead of “Desperate Souls,” where Rumpel was trying to flee the Ogre Wars with his son, and now time has passed and we discover Rumpel has put an end to the Ogre Wars. But while the land is seemingly at peace, Baelfire’s world is not. He blames magic for turning his father into this beast, and begs his father to stop. His father says he needs to remain powerful to protect Bae. Bae counters that he wouldn’t need to be protected if his father didn’t have the power. And then… they make a deal. If Bae can find a place where they can go with no magic, where power doesn’t matter, then Rumpel will come with him.

Unfortunately, at the beginning of the episode, when Regina confronted Gold about breaking their deal, he says, “I broke one deal in my life, dear, and sadly it wasn’t this one.” We know instantly at the dinner table that this must be the deal he’s going to break.

Back in Storybrooke, Regina does what she does best and takes advantage of someone (shock!) Soon after Emma realizes that Sidney is clearly in love with Regina, hence his constant sticking up for her, Regina marches him into the police station and he confesses everything, standing stiffly with his eyes darting nervously to Regina, clearly delivering a script that had been written by her. Emma isn’t stupid, and sees right through the ruse. By the end of the episode, Emma sticks her nose right in Regina’s face and hisses, “All I care about is what happens to my kid, and you are going to leave him alone. You tried to take away someone I love. And now, I’m going to take away someone YOU love. I’m taking back my son.” Gah!!

But! Back to the main plot. Now that August has invaded his shop, Gold is suspicious of the man in Storybrooke. Before now he was just a curiosity; now he’s invaded Gold’s personal space. He begins asking questions, and, just like the original fairytale where the queen had to figure out Rumpelstiltskin’s name to save her firstborn child, now he has to figure out who August Wayne Booth REALLY is… and he soon believes it’s his firstborn child.

In the FTW, we see little Bae speak to the Blue Fairy to get a magic bean, and he uses that to open a portal to a world without magic (presumably our world). Holding onto his father’s hand, he tells him they need to complete the deal, and must jump through the portal to the other world together. “What kind of world is a world without magic?” Rumpel asks him, horrified. To which Bae replies, “A better one.” Rumpelstiltskin looks truly terrified, digging his dagger into the ground and holding onto it, as if the very power that dagger personifies is also his sense of security. And, turns out… it is. For, in a moment that he will regret forever, he holds fast to the dagger, and lets go of his son’s hand. His son flies through the portal, and he never sees him again. We can presume that it was after this moment Rumpel began to go mad, hence the high-pitched talking and weird gesturing that we’ve often see go hand in hand with the little man.

In Storybrooke, Gold thinks he might have the chance to be reunited. What follows is a trip to the psychiatrist’s office (yay, Archie’s back! Even if the scene didn’t feel very sincere; knowing how secretive Gold is, why would he go and tell a therapist everything when he already knows the answer he’s looking for?) with one of my favourite back and forth moments of the show:

Gold: “I think he might still be very angry.”
Archie: “Anger between a parent and a child is the most natural thing in the world.”
Gold: “I think he might be here to kill me.”
Archie: “Ah. That’s not.”

And finally, Gold goes out into the woods and finds August, who turns to him with a sneer and calls him “Papa.” We see Gold vulnerable for the very first time, falling apart and holding onto his child like he never wants to let go, looking at him from afar and up close, but even as this was happening I kept thinking, “We’re only partway through the episode. And it just seems too easy.” And guess what? It was too easy. For after Gold finds someone he can trust for the first time in 30 years, and digs up the knife (for THAT is what Gold was burying in the woods, and not the jewelry box with the heart in it) and hands it over, the man holds the knife out to Gold and begins chanting a curse to get rid of Rumpel; a curse that would normally put the power onto the man holding the dagger. Gold sees through him immediately and turns the tables, and the man admits he’s dying and needs to finish this.

Gold’s not one to let an opportunity slide, Bae or no Bae. August tells him that what he needs to do is convince the “savior” to believe in the book, and if that happens they can all return to their world. Gold thinks for a nanosecond and realizes that if he CAN go back to the other world, he’ll be powerful again. So he tells August he’ll let him live, and he needs to convince Emma to believe in Henry.

This episode finally gave us the motivation for why Rumpelstiltskin would help the Evil Queen take everyone to Storybrooke: He created the curse that would take them to a place with no magic, hoping to find his son. It also promised us we’d find out who the son was, and then that didn’t happen. Which means (happily) that we get to continue to speculate!

He’s a Grimm
One of the earliest and strongest theories is that he’s one of the Brothers Grimm. That’s still a remote possibility, if one believes that the Grimms were different (see Grimm, the OTHER FTW TV show on right now). Perhaps he could time travel or he doesn’t age and he’s followed the creatures here. Or, he lived in their world and zipped through with them. Another possibility in this vein is that he’s an assistant or someone who worked with the Grimms.

He’s Henry
This possibility was raised recently (we Losties love thinking that time travel possible ALL THE TIME). He’s grown up and time traveled back to this moment to try to tell everyone how important it is to listen to his younger self and believe him, before it’s too late. He knows all the stories from the book inside and out because Henry always did know them, and was good at picking who was who. And, when Gold says to him, “You’re from our world, aren’t you?” he replies, “If you’re asking me that, then you already know the answer.” Notice he doesn’t say yes or no. AND, you can’t forget, he wasn’t in Storybrooke and he’s come in via bike. If he was in the fairytale world, how was he able to enter Storybrooke from outside it? (And, the reason I didn’t think it was Bae is because he’s grown up, but Hansel and Gretel are still children so why would Bae have grown up in this world?) But if it’s Henry, why is he sick? And why would he pick up the dagger and speak magic, knowing that there’s no magic in this world?

He’s Pinocchio
When the Blue Fairy popped up in this episode, and at the very end Rumpel swung his dagger at her, the look on her face suggested she wasn’t going to let that transgression grow. August has clearly said he won’t lie, and while they didn’t cast an actor with a particularly big nose, I think this might be a big possibility. He needs magic because Pinocchio was once a wooden puppet who was turned into a real boy. The fairytale suggests that he became a real boy because Geppetto wanted a real boy so badly, so it happened out of love. But it also happened because the Blue Fairy let it happen with her magic. Now he’s in this world. Perhaps he’s grown up unlike Hansel and Gretel because he wasn’t a real boy to begin with. Or perhaps when he helped fashion the tree that he and Geppetto made that acted as a vessel for Emma, he climbed into it too. That would explain why Geppetto is alone in Storybrooke, and it would also offer an explanation for how a child from the FTW (like Emma) could come to our world and actually get older. AND it would explain why he’s sick: he needs the magic or he’s going to turn to wood. The seizures could actually be his bones and muscles turning back into wood, and he needs help desperately. We’ve yet to see Pinocchio in this world, and with the Blue Fairy, the fact he could come and go from Storybrooke, the fact that he had access to the special tree, and his knowledge of the FTW (and his morally upright centre, given his upbringing with his conscience, Jiminy Cricket), AND the fact that Archie was brought into this episode of all episodes, I’m thinking that’s where it’s going.

Things I Noticed: 
  • In the opening sequence, you usually see a fairytale creature, either dwarfs or Red Riding Hood, but in this one you saw August on his motorbike, as if that’s how he also appeared in that world, which was strange.
  • Oh, Granny. Your B&B seriously has rotary phones??? You really haven’t updated that décor since you first arrived, have you?
  • And as I say that, I’m thinking I’ve never seen the Storybrooke characters using a cellphone. Even Regina always relies on phones in her office or at home.
  • Couldn’t they have worked the Mad Hatter into even ONE scene? ;)
  • When August wakes up with the seizure, the first thing he does is look down at his foot. And yes, I thought of John Locke.
  • When Henry is talking to Gold at his pawn shop, Gold is holding the very football that Bae had kicked under the donkey.
  • David kisses Kathryn on the forehead; in the FTW, you have to kiss your true love on the lips to wake her up. It was just a subtle reminder that she’s not his true love.
  • My favourite line in the episode was Emma describing August as “a typewriter wrapped in an enigma wrapped in stubble.” Under Jane Espenson’s deft writing, Emma is a FAR more interesting character. But… would she have really said that? (Don’t care; that line was brilliant.)
  • Loved the line about writers and pseudonyms. Again, I don’t know why.
  • August had a donkey paperweight. Is that a Shrekian reference to the Ogre Wars? (hehe….)
  • Whenever Rumpelstiltskin called his son “Bae,” it sounded like a Newfoundlander saying, “b’y”
  • After Rumpel kills the housekeeper and Bae points out she’s a mute, Rumpel says, “Even mutes can draw a picture,” but he does it in that other, higher, Rumpelstiltskin voice
  • Again we’re reminded of who’s who when Gold, for no real reason, goes to see the Mother Superior, just to remind us she’s also the Blue Fairy
  • When Bae comes in to tell Rumpel he’s found a way, Rumpel is spinning thread.
  • Archie: “Mr Gold, are you here for the rent?” “Why does everyone ask that??” Haha!
  • “Ever since you crossed the barriers of time and space, in every waking moment, I’ve been looking for you.” First, does this sound like a Lost line or what? Secondly, it’s not true. Has Gold ever appeared to be looking for his son, either in the FTW or here? He’s always off doing other things, but never seemed to be doing that.
A great episode. Any other theories on who August might be?   

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Sunnybrooke". That's nice :)

Surely there's also a Storydale somwhere.

Dusk said...

The saviour is Emma. That'swhat Rumple told Snow and Charming about their child in the beginning episodes and Henry wouldn't need to believe, since he already does.

August in not Future Henry, debunked by the writers at Palyfest, and I am glad, otherwise it makes the ride he took Emma on a tad creepy.

My orginal theory I forgot to post is that Bae went to the Blue Fairy after Rumple became too twisted and she turned him into a wooden boy to hide him from his father. I was partially right.

Jane said on Twitter, their have been several Ogre Wars, the one effecting Belle is centuries after the one Rumple stopped, and since Bae bent time and space, he could be pretty much any age the writers want him to be, Gold wasn't even sure.

Jane also apparently said August did call Henry. That was my big question. Henry seemed too obvious, and it seems like a risk to call Regina's house, and the way August spoke didn't sound like it was to Henry. I thought it was Mother Superior.

I also wonder since she was the Blue Fairy in the other world, and she is supposed to have great magical power like Rumpelstiltskin and Regina, maybe she got to keep her memories too? And was the one who told August what to say and how to act to trick Mr. Gold. She did smile to herself when he started to ask her about August. If she's close to August, it also adds favor to the theroy he is Pinnochio.

So now we finally know what Gold buried and why he played along with the curse. Clever, he got Regina to activate it, so she paid the price not him, and he set her up to suffer at the hands of Snow and Charming's child eventually, so he set himself up to find Bae and get revenge on Regina for her role in Belle's "death". It also makes Rumple more sympathetic for pushing Belle away, when he hadn't found Bae yet.

People now think Bae might be Henry's Dad. I'm not sure. If he was then wouldn't Gold have seen him when he got baby Henry for Regina? Unless Emma never told anyone about the father, which is possible...she's letting Henry think he's dead and hasn't even told Mary yet. It's also possible the Dad doesn't know about Henry even.

I hope Bae didn't become an ass, but after what Rumple did, he has a good reason.

Some say Katheryn is letting David off the hook to easily, and if this were real, then yeas she is. But she already wrote and called him to tell him to be with Mary, and she literally has no real reason to feel anything for David. Plus MM is his actual wife.

If he is, Henry has the coolest grandparents ever.

Lexie said...

Seconding what Dusk said (also August said something to the affect of 'I need to get the savoir to listen, but that woman is too stubborn'...I don't have the episode with me to quote exactly unfortunately).

Well on the one hand Bae could be Henry's dad--there's subtle things in the show that pretty amount to 'there are no coincidences', so its possible that because they're both born in the FTW, but were sent here Emma and Bae found themselves drawn together and as the Sheriff found out if you're a FTW'er making out with Emma leads you to remember the truth.

Or in Bae's case, since memory loss may not have been part of the 'blessing' from the Blue Fairy, he saw who Emma truly is and how she came to be in the 'Real World' (ergo seeing what his Father did).

Lexie said...

Also also, I forgot this part, Kathryn did let David off too easily, but Kathryn in FTW was also very understanding. For her it was done and over with--plus she seemed to be doing a lot of hindsighting about her and David's relationship.

Jessica said...

"Again we’re reminded of who’s who when Gold, for no real reason, goes to see the Mother Superior, just to remind us she’s also the Blue Fairy"

Now, it's Tuesday and I watched OUAT after a late starting GOT on Sunday- but didn't August go to see The Blue Fairy/Head Nun and Gold was just following him to see what he was up to after he caught him in the back of the shop?

Not a huge issue... just trying to verify my own clarity/sanity! LOL!

Aeryl said...

Booth has a donkey paperweight because he's Pinocchio!

I wondered about the Blue Fairy and her possible memory retention, too. I mean she was considered the most powerful creature to plead for magical assistance from, what's the likelihood the curse could take all of that away, especially as she was aware the curse was coming(centuries later, but Rumple straight up admitted that we was gonna try, it wouldn't have been very forethoughtful to take measures to protect against it).

Plus, you'll notice that if Booth is Pinocchio, she didn't actually lie to Gold at all. What she said about Booth applies to Pinocchio as well. And if he remembers FTW and Gepetto doesn't even remember ever having a son, really complicates Booth attempting to approach him.

I do like that it was finally explained why Rumple has sucha grudge against the fairies.

The Question Mark said...

I had no clue where to start when it came to speculating on August's identity, but after reading this post & all of the comments, I'm now pretty darn certain that Pinocchio is the right answer!

Dusk said...

Gold first went to Mother Superior because August spoke to her. What they said, all I could hear say at the start of the scene was "Don't do anything rash..."

Oh yeah, MM has an old-style cell phone when she got a text from David to have a picnic.

Funny moment in the episode pctures for Red Handed, both Ginnifer and Megan where in full fairytale garb looking at their phones, then smiling in the next picture when they noticed it in front of them.

Sara said...

August had a donkey paperweight. Is that a Shrekian reference to the Ogre Wars? (hehe….)

Something's ringing a bell... didn't Pinocchio start to turn into a donkey during his quest to become a real boy?

Nikki Stafford said...

Ack! Part of me just wants to delete my entire post, since I seem to have gotten 5 or 6 things wrong! (And you wonder why I don't post often anymore... apparently when I try to do it quickly before bed, I just cock up everything.) Sigh.

Yes! Good observation on the donkey. When Pinocchio was taken over to the "school" he began to turn into a donkey. Other boys made the full-on transformation into jackasses, but Pinocchio just had the tail and big ears and he escaped. I think the paperweight further solidifies the Pinocchio theory!

And now I shall go bury my head in the sand for "Sunnybrooke." Sigh.

Anonymous said...

My theory on people like Emma and possibly Bae aging is that they were transported to our world before the curse set in. I would think that only the people sent here by the curse are stuck in time. If your idea about August as Pinocchio and hitching a ride with baby Emma is correct, then he would have come here before the curse as well and would have been able to age.

Suzanne said...

Nikki, please don't feel that way about your posts! I delighted in reading it last night at the end of a very long day. I think we all come here to engage in a wonderful discussion led by you, so no one is expecting you to have the magic decoder ring (an expression one of my college profs used to use to say there was no right answer to literature).

Not having thought of any of these theories myself, I really enjoyed reading yours and those of other commentors in this post.

Blam said...


I loved "He's a typewriter wrapped inside an enigma wrapped inside stubble." Jane Espenson continues to be the porridge.

So the whole town had turned on Mary Margaret when her home-wrecking affair with David was revealed, but now that she's cleared of murder charges everyone loves her again? I can actually see that happening — they're so relieved, they realize they were overreacting — but there should have been some lip service to how MM's dire straits (and in fact the likelihood that she was being railroaded) brought folks to their senses. 'Cause MM was shunned in that Grumpy candle episode.

I watched on TV Sunday night this week instead of on Hulu later, because I could, and I have to say that the coming attractions sure pointed in a particular direction regarding August's identity.

eve said...

Yes, Nikki, I also agree with Suzanne, we love your posts. I for one am so happy to be able to read your thoughts. I loved you when you talked about LOST and I'm lovin coming here to read about OUAT. Since alot of us are leaning towards August being Pinocchio, it seems too easy. Maybe I'm using my LOST mentality or maybe a duck is a duck? Anyway Nikki, thanks for all your good work.

Kristen Romanelli said...

I've been riding the Pinocchio theory ever since he told Emma that he'd never lie. :)