Once Upon a Time Recap: Arrested Developments

This week on ABC’s Once Upon a Time, there were big (if not giant) revelations about Emma’s past and that Mystery Man in New York City. Also, a nightmare scenario suggested a connection between two unlikely characters.

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IN THE FAIRYTALE LAND THAT IS…. | Hook explains to Emma and Snow that there are no more magic beans to open a portal, that they were all destroyed in a war that felled all but one giant, who now lives atop the beanstalk. The enchanted compass that is among the giant’s treasure, however, can get them back to Storybrooke — if coupled with the wardrobe ashes in Cora’s possession. (What’s more, the captain pledges his allegiance to whomever gets him to Storybrooke first.) He and Emma climb the stalk, sharing stories of love and loss along the way, then find many a grim skeleton outside the giant’s residence. Hook summons the big guy (played by Lost‘s Jorge Garcia), and Emma promptly KOs him with sleeping powder. They root around for treasure some, with Hook tempted to plunder, but the roused giant interrupts their plan. After Hook is pinned under rubble, Emma scrambles for the sword that belonged to ill-fated Jack (of “___ and the Beanstalk” lore), and uses it to trap the giant in a cage. He soon escapes, but spares Emma since she spared him. Emma frees and then cuffs Hook to the wall, explaining, “I can’t take the chance I’m wrong about you.” Emma returns to her mother just as Snow is tackling Mulan, who was acting on orders to chop down the stalk after 10 hours. “We go back together — that is the only way!” mother tells daughter.

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IN, WELL, PORTLAND…. | Flashing back 11 years, we find an adorkable Emma jimmying open a yellow VW bug, only to discover a man named Neal Cassidy (Michael Raymond-James) — aka the Mystery Man we sorta met in the season premiere — in the back seat. And he’s not the vehicle’s owner, either! They fall in love, pinch the occasional Apollo bar and Native American dream-catcher (as spied in Neal’s NYC apartment) during their spree of small-time crime, until they decide to find a “real place to live,” together. No sooner do they decide on Tallahassee (aka “Not in Portland,” heh) does Neal discover the heat is still on for a jewelry heist he previously pulled. Emma offers to and succeeds in retrieving Neal’s stash of pricey watches, but just before they are to rendezvous and build a life together, Neal is chased down and tackled by… August! He who is also known as Pinocchio explains Emma’s destiny and his role as her “guardian angel,” and says that Neal will only get in the way of her important fate. Neal agrees to stand up Emma, who is instead met by a cop tipped off to her fetching of the watches.

Months later, the gents convene in Vancouver (where Once is filmed, natch). Neal agrees to remain away from Emma’s life, provided that once the coast is clear and her fantastical duty is fulfilled, he gets the nod. “I’ll send you a postcard,” August agrees. (A-ha! A man of his wood. Er, word.). Later, we see Emma serving 11 months in a Phoenix lockup, where she gets mail from Phuket — the VW key left to her by Neal, sent by August — just as she realizes she is pregnant with he-who-shall-be-Henry. Cut to….

IN STORYBROOKE…. | Henry wakes from a nasty dream, and Charming runs in to soothe the lad and light a candle to “catch the nightmares” (just as Snow White told Aurora the prince did for her after she had trouble bouncing back from the Evil Queen’s sleeping spell). As Henry describes the night terror, we realize it is the exact same one that Aurora still is having, involving a red, windowless room with curtains that are on fire. In Aurora’s version, she says a “he” is looking across the room at her, while Henry alludes to a “she.” Hmmm….

What did you think of this blast from Emma’s past? Did August’s appearance surprise and/or delight you? Are we to surmise that his typewriter “magically” compelled Neal to be a believer? And is there more to the Henry/Aurora connection other than just a shared side effect of the sleeping curse (along with, we presume, the usual nausea and headaches)?