"The Stranger" is the 20th episode of Once Upon a Time.
August promises to enlighten Emma and take her on a journey that will show her how she can beat Regina, and possibly take custody of Henry, and with Mary Margaret returning to work, Regina puts a plan in motion to seduce David. Meanwhile, in the fairytale land that was, with the Evil Queen's curse about to strike, Geppetto agrees to a plan that will save Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter, but with a proviso that could also save his own son.
ONCE UPON A TIME
August installs a lock for the ladies.
An old fashioned lock is seen unlatching on Mary Margaret's door as August walks into the apartment, having just installed said lock for Emma and Mary Margaret. He closes the door and locks it, assuring the girls that no one will be able to get through it. Emma jokingly asks him when he's installing the torture chamber and August takes this to mean she doesn't like it, saying that he calls it medieval chic. Mary Margaret says that she doesn't care what it looks like as long as it keeps Regina and her skeleton keys out. Emma comments that the lock-installment is pretty handy for a writer, asking August where he learned to do such a thing, August replies with eighth grade wood shop. This reminds Mary Margaret of school and she tells them that she has to get going. Emma walks over to her as she moves behind the kitchen counter, wondering if she's sure she's ready to go back. Mary Margaret points out that after her time behind bars, a room full of fourth graders doesn't seem too troublesome. She pours herself some coffee before saying that Emma's the one they need to be worried about. Emma wonders why and August, who's packing away, reminds her that she did threaten to take Henry away from Regina. Mary Margaret seems surprised and Emma assures August that it was no threat and that she's hiring Mr. Gold to help build a case against her. Emma turns to a disapproving Mary Margaret before mentioning that Regina framed her for murder, Mary Margaret asks Emma if she realizes what happens if she wins, wondering if she's ready to be Henry's mom. Emma answers positively and Mary Margaret smiles before leaving for work. The walkie-talkie next to Emma is heard as Henry's voice comes out of it, saying, "Code red. Code red..." Emma picks it up and asks him what's wrong, he tells her to meet him at Granny's as it's an "Operation Cobra" emergency. Emma tells the kid that she's on her way.
August asks Emma to take a day off.
Emma is soon seen leaving the building, coat on, walkie-talkie still in hand, when August catches up to her, telling her to wait up. She reminds him that "Operation Cobra" calls but he says that he didn't think she believed any of that. She assures him that she doesn't, but that it's the only way to get through to Henry. He tells her that a custody battle with Regina isn't going to accomplish anything, saying that she needs to look at the big picture as that's the only way she can understand what she's up against and the only way she'll know hoe to defeat Regina. Emma wonders how's that and August requests that she take the day off and come with him so that he can show her. Emma stops, wondering where exactly they would be going on this "magical mystery tour". He explains that if he told her, she would never come. Emma begins to walk on but he calls after her, asking her to take a leap of faith. He says that if she comes with him, he can promise her that she'll find exactly what she's looking for. Emma says that her kid needs her so she doesn't have time for faith. She walks onward and August seems disappointed.
The not-so-secret meeting of "Operation Cobra".
In Granny's Diner, Henry is sitting in a booth, reading from his book. Emma walks in and sees the kid before going over to him, asking him what the emergency is. Henry hushes her, telling her it's sensitive. Emma sits down next to him, asking him why they're at Granny's, out in the open, if it's "sensitive". He says he's hungry. Henry asks Emma who else knows that they hide the book at the sheriff's station, Emma says no one, wondering why. Henry explains that someone changed it and that there's a new story in it. Emma asks why someone would add a story and Henry believed it to be an attempt to tell them something they didn't know about the curse. Emma asks him what that would be, but he doesn't know, saying that the story isn't finished. Emma wonders why someone would go to so much trouble to add a new story and then not bother finishing it. Henry says that that's what's weird as the story's about Pinocchio, but everyone knows how that ends. Emma suggests that that's why it was left out but Henry thinks there's more to it. Emma tells the kid that he's going to be late for school, "Let's go," she says before getting up. Before following Emma, Henry gives the book one last glance, staring at a picture of a small raft sailing in a stormy ocean.
Geppetto and Pinocchio try hard to escape Monstro.
Within the small raft containing Geppetto and the small, wooden puppet, Pinocchio, who are sailing on vicious waves within a rainy and stormy ocean. Geppetto tells Pinocchio to hold on and the puppet tells his father that he's trying as the harsh waves carry them. The tail of a whale is seen sinking into the waters and Pinocchio tells his father to go faster. Geppetto exclaims that he's trying but is almost unable because of the storm, the whale peeks out of the water again as the raft tilts in many directions, both Geppetto and Pinocchio try not to slip off. Geppetto says that they must defend the ship, handing his son a life jacket, saying that it's the only one. Pinocchio refuses, pointing out that he's made of wood and will float, meaning that they will both survive. Geppetto won't risk this and continues to push the life jacket on his son who pushes it away. Soon, Monstro the whale opens his mouth and approaches the raft, Pinocchio tells his father to save himself before diving into the waters. Geppetto calls out for his son as the whale prepares to consume the raft.
"I'm a real boy!"
Later, Geppetto is lying on shore, the storm being over, clutching the flotation device used to save him. He soon awakens and calls out for Pinocchio, no response is given. He looks at the flotation device and smiles that his son saved him, before standing up and calling out for him again. Geppetto's smile dissipates when he sees his wooden son lying on the beach, lifeless. He quickly runs to his son, lifting him out of the waters. He crouches down and holds the puppet in his arms, hugging it and crying. "I wish I could save you, my boy..." he says, deeply saddened. A twinkling noise is heard followed by a familiar voice saying, "You still can," as the Blue Fairy flies over to Geppetto. The carpenter asks her help, showing her Pinocchio, begging her to help him. The Blue Fairy is silent for a moment, destroying Geppetto's hope, however, soon enough, she waves her wand and, in a large glow of blue light, Pinocchio is transformed from a wooden puppet to a real boy. Pinocchio opens his eyes, confused, and addresses his father who smiles, as does the Blue Fairy. Geppetto tells his boy to look and Pinocchio inspects himself. "I'm a... real boy... I'm a real boy!" he exclaims, overjoyed. Geppetto hugs his son before thanking the Blue Fairy, saying that he doesn't know how he can ever repay her for giving him all he's ever wanted. The Blue Fairy says that the two of them had found each other before telling them to go and live their life as a family. Geppetto helps his son to his feet before the Blue Fairy tells the boy to remember to be brave, truthful, and unselfish, for so long as he does that he will always remain a real boy. She blows them a kiss before Geppetto places his son's hat upon his head, Pinocchio smiles.
August's affliction is revealed...
In August's room at Granny's Bed & Breakfast, the writer is staring at the very same hat which is perched upon his desk. He looks at it, sadly, before picking up his phone and dialing. Mr. Gold is on the other line and August requests to talk to him about Emma, the pawnbroker apparently obliges and August puts his phone down before standing up. He puts his jacket on but, as he's about to leave the room, a creek is heard, he looks down, seeming annoyed. He stumbles backwards, hopping a little, before sitting down on a chair at the foot of his bed. He shifts his left leg over a little before lifting the leg of his pants to reveal that the entire limb is made of wood. He looks at it, seeming in pain.
Mary Margaret makes an accusation.
Over at Henry's school, kids are seen playing on the grounds as Mary Margaret, who is returning there for the first time since her stay in a cell, stares out at them, smiling to herself. A familiar voice is heard greeting her and Mary Margaret turns to see Regina approaching her, the mayor notes that the former is back. Mary Margaret confirms this, describing it as wonderful, pointing out that everything worked out. Regina pauses, clearly holding back, before going on to say that Henry forgot his lunch, she asks Miss Blanchard if she's seen him. Mary Margaret tells Regina that Henry's with his mother. Regina asks if there's a problem and Mary Margaret denies it, she then reminds Regina that someone went out of their way to make out that she did something horrible, but they failed. Regina states that the true culprit was Sidney Glass before telling the teacher not to worry as he is safely incarcerated. "If it was Sidney..." Mary Margaret says, Regina tells her to ask her roommate as he confessed. "Of course he did..." Mary Margaret tells her. Regina asks the teacher if she's insinuating something and Mary Margaret blatantly tells the mayor that she is, but that she forgives her. She says that even if she can't forget what Regina did, she forgives her anyway, and also that Regina's life must be filled with such incredible loneliness that she can only gain joy by destroying everyone else's happiness. "It's so sad, Mayor Mills, because it's not going to make you happy... it's just going to leave a giant hole in your heart," Mary Margaret finishes.
Henry assures Regina that she will lose.
She walks away and heads inside after pointing out Henry's whereabouts to Regina. Henry then walks over to his mother and asks her what she's doing there. Regina takes out the boy's lunchbox and presents it to him, telling him that he forgot it. Henry thanks her, taking the box, before she walks him over to a bench in the playground and the two of them sit, she tells him that it's time for a change. He doesn't appear to be following and so she goes on to tell him that it's time he moved to a new class with a new teacher. Henry wonders why his mother wants him out of Miss Blanchard's class, wondering if it's because she framed her. Regina appears offended by this, asking him if he really thinks she's capable of doing something so horrible. He answers positively, pointing out that she's the Evil Queen. Regina snaps that fairytales are not real and that Miss Blanchard should never have given him that book and should be grateful that she's not trying to get her fired. Henry stands up out of anger, exclaiming for Regina to go ahead and try as it won't work. "No matter what you do, Snow White will have her happy ending! She and Prince Charming will be together! The curse will end! Good. Will. Win," he assures her before saying that he's not moving classes. He walks away, leaving Regina upset.
August encounters his father for the first time in a long time.
August walks into Mr. Gold Pawnbroker & Antiquities Dealer and the owner of said establishment welcomes him, saying that he'll be with him in a moment. On second thought, he asks August if it's worth having the clock, the one in which a man is currently inspecting, in his shop. The man, Marco, turns around and August immediately recognizes him as his father, he pauses. Mr. Gold smiles, saying that he'll take August's silence as a "yes". August turns away, still silent, as Marco tells Mr. Gold that things are busy at the moment and he is only a one-man business, but he assures the pawnbroker that he will get to the clock as soon as he can. Marco then leaves with the clock in one arm, wishing August a good day and dossing his cap. After the carpenter has vacated the premises, Gold asks the writer if it's his first time seeing "dear, old dad" since arriving to Storybrooke. Gold says that what he cannot get his head around is why a man who claims to be knocking on death's door can't even muster the courage to talk to his long lost father, asking him what he's so afraid of. August explains that that's his own business and Mr. Gold replies by telling him "fair enough". Gold then suggests that they discuss their business, he reminds August that he claimed to be the one who was to get Miss Swan to believe and do exactly what she was brought there to do, and yet, for a man who's running out of time, he doesn't seem to be in much of a hurry. August assures Gold that it's not him who's slowing things down, it's Emma, as all she can think about right now is getting custody of her kid. Gold says that it sounds like Sheriff Swan needs a course correction and August warns the pawnbroker that she's coming to him for legal advice. Gold wonders if August wants him to steer her towards him and August assures Gold that he can get her there, get her to believe. The writer begs Gold's trust but he replies in laughter, he apologizes, saying that, knowing who August is, in his nature, trust is a big ask. "Fear not, a gentle nudge I shall provide," Gold assures him, stepping out from behind the counter before walking out of the room, August appears agitated.
Pinocchio laughs after having played a prank on Jiminy Cricket.
In the fairytale land that was, a young Pinocchio is tinkering with the same clock previously seen in Mr. Gold's pawn shop. Geppetto is seen behind the boy, instructing him. He tells him to align the gears with the spindle before pressing the springs. Pinocchio does this and the clock begins to work, Geppetto commends his son, saying that he made it work. However, at the point where the clock "cuckoos", Jiminy Cricket, Geppetto's insect buddy, pops out of the mechanism, tied up and struggling. Pinocchio smiles and Geppetto unties his friend, asking his son if he is the culprit, reminding him what the Blue Fairy told him about being a good boy. The cricket goes free and assures his friend that it's okay, saying that Pinocchio meant no harm. Jiminy says that he'd be laughing as well if he wasn't so dizzy. Geppetto giggles before the Blue Fairy flies her way into the room through the window. Pinocchio immediately apologizes to her, saying that he meant to be good. Blue explains that she's not there for Pinocchio but tells the trio that she bears some bad news, at this, Geppetto tells Pinocchio to wait in his room and the young boy obliges, quickly followed by Jiminy. Geppetto goes on to ask the Blue Fairy what her news is and she explains that the Evil Queen has threatened to unleash a curse on the kingdom that shall rip away all that they love. Geppetto says that they must stop her but the Blue Fairy tells him that it's too late for that. Geppetto takes this to mean that all hope is lost but Blue assures him that this is not true as there is prophecy of a child, a child that will save them all in her twenty-eighth year, but only if she can escape the curse. The carpenter wonders how he can protect the child and the Blue Fairy tells him of a enchanted tree, much like the one he carved Pinocchio from, that, if fashioned into a vessel, could protect the child from the Queen's magic, she asks him if he can make such a vessel. Geppetto replies by telling her that he cannot lose his boy, saying that he has lost so much but cannot lose him, too. Blue tells him to build the wardrobe and that way he can save them all. Geppetto hesitates, but soon agrees to do so.
Emma doesn't like what Gold has to say.
Back at Mr. Gold Pawnbroker & Antiquities Dealer, Emma is telling the pawn broker that she has to save Henry by getting him away from Regina. Gold agrees that her intentions are honorable, however, he won't be taking her case. Emma is confused, reminding Gold that he knows what Regina did (referring to the framing of Mary Margaret). Mr. Gold confirms this but says that he cannot prove it, and given the mayor's sway in the town, Emma's proceedings against her would be long-drawn-out and futile. He says that the only certainty is that Henry will suffer and tells Emma that she cannot do that to her boy. She says that the same thing will happen if she leaves him in the same house as "that sociopath". Gold apologizes, but tells her that his mind's made up, however, Emma exclaims for him to change it, saying that the only person she's ever seen go head-to-head with Regina and win is him. He says that that's because he knows how to pick his battles and Emma request that he pick hers. Gold apologizes again before saying that he's not inclined to helping her beat Mayor Mills. "No... you're not," Emma says before turning around and storming out of the shop. Gold smiles at this.
Soon, Emma thoroughly bangs upon August's door and paces in the hallway until the writer soon opens up. She immediately walks in and he asks her to take it easy, wondering if everything's okay. She answers negatively, saying that she is just about out of options. August questions the "just about" and Emma reminds him that he told her that in order to beat Regina, she needs to see the big picture. "Show it to me," she requests.
David helps Regina with car trouble.
David is seen locking the door to the pet shelter when he turns to see Regina struggling with her car, standing around the front with the bonnet up, inspecting her engine. She raises her head and accidentally hits it on the bonnet, she clutches the back of her head as David walks over to her, asking about her car trouble. Regina tells him that it won't start, saying that the car is full of groceries and that it hasn't exactly been a banner day. David inspects the car further and looks inside, tinkering with something on the dashboard. He emerges and tells the mayor that the battery's dead, she is confused at this and David goes on to say that he has no more jumper cables but offers to give her a ride home in his truck. Regina thanks him but refuses, saying that she cannot impose, however, David insists. Regina soon finds herself taking him up on his offer.
David helps Regina out some more.
Soon, Regina and David are seen carrying the former's groceries to her house, she thanks David for being her knight in shining armor. David jokes that his armor is more like flannel but thanks her nonetheless, Regina laughs. When the reach the front door, she suggests that David stay for dinner, saying that she bought more than enough for her and Henry and she's making lasagna. David pauses, saying that he shouldn't, mentioning that it's getting late and he has to get up early the next day for work. Regina nods sadly before unlocking the door and opening it, after David enters her house, she closes the door, seeming disappointed. She directs him as to where to set the grocery bags once inside and David obliges. Regina soon sees a note on the table from Henry, addressed to her, she snatches it up and reads it, David asks what it is and Regina explains that Henry is having dinner with Archie after his session instead of coming home. She sighs and David apologizes for her, she says that lately it seems like Henry will do anything to avoid spending time with her. David pauses but Regina tells him that she shouldn't be burdening him with her problems as he's already helped her enough for one day. She thanks him and he begins to leave, however, as Regina stares down at Henry's note, David stops in his tracks and turns back to her. He reapproaches her and informs her that he loves lasagna, Regina smiles.
Geppetto is shown the enchanted tree.
In the fairytale land that was, Geppetto and Pinocchio are walking through the Enchanted Forest with the Blue Fairy flying alongside them. She explains that the Evil Queen will stop at nothing to destroy Snow White and Prince Charming's happiness. Jiminy Cricket flies down and lands on Pinocchio's shoulder as they trek on and the Blue Fairy says that they must stop at nothing to undo the Queen's curse. Geppetto looks in awe of the enchanted tree, describing it as beautiful, and the Blue Fairy informs him that it is the last in the entire realm. Geppetto says that he will be able to make a beautiful wardrobe out of it and Blue goes on to say that the tree contains enough magic to protect two from the Queen's curse and that before the curse strikes, before Snow gives birth to her child, she and the prince will enter the wardrobe and travel to a distant land, a land without magic, where Snow will give birth to her child, then, when she reaches her twenty-eighth year, she will begin to battle that will defeat the Evil Queen. She asks Geppetto if he sees how vital it is that he complete the task at hand. Geppetto mentions that Pinocchio wasn't always a real boy and asks when the curse strikes and the things they love are ripped away from them, if he will be turned back into wood again. The Blue Fairy tells him that it's impossible to say and Jiminy clears his throat, telling them that they're frightening the boy.
Geppetto wants to protect Pinocchio.
Geppetto kneels down to face Pinocchio, he tells Blue that he will build the wardrobe on one condition, that Pinocchio can take the second spot in it. Jiminy lands on Geppetto's shoulder as the latter stands up, telling his friend that he cannot bargain like this with the entire kingdom at stake. Geppetto says that if he doesn't, he will lose his boy, maybe forever, and that Snow can raise her child without her husband. Jiminy asks Geppetto to think about the example he's setting for Pinocchio, and, at this, the old man swats the cricket from his shoulder, saying that he may be a conscience but that he has not earned the right to tell him what to do. Jiminy professes that he's only trying to help. "Help?!" Geppetto exclaims, "Help like you helped my parents?!" he demands, rendering Jiminy speechless. He says that the insect's debt to him can never be fulfilled, but a start would be staying out of the situation. Jiminy hangs his head, saying that he understands. Pinocchio runs into his father's arms and Geppetto states that Pinocchio shall go though the wardrobe, or no one shall. The Blue Fairy asks what they will tell the prince and Snow White and Geppetto says that they will tell them that the wardrobe only takes one. Geppetto then asks, "Do we have a deal or not?"
Pinocchio's safety is assured.
The enchanted tree is carried by guards into a meeting of the royal council as the Blue Fairy hovers over the table, explaining the the tree is enchanted and if fashioned into a vessel, it can ward off any curse. She asks Geppetto if he can build such a thing and he says that he and his boy can do it, stroking the top of Pinocchio's hat who is sitting beside Geppetto's chair carving a wooden whale. Blue says that it shall work and that they all must have faith, Jiminy looks to Geppetto, seeming guilty. The Blue Fairy goes on to tell Snow and Charming that there is, however, a catch. The enchantment is indeed powerful, but all power has its limits, she says that the tree can protect only one. The royal couple appear disappointed and the Blue Fairy looks to Geppetto disapprovingly, telling Snow White and the prince that a choice must be made. Geppetto looks down to Pinocchio who smiles as his father. (see "Pilot")
On the streets near Storybrooke's forest, August rides his motorcycle through them with Emma sitting behind him. He brakes and she asks if he's going to tell her where they're going and how it's going to help her beat Regina. August tells Emma that they're going on a trip so that he can tell her somebody's story. "Whose story?" she wonders. "Mine," he tells her before speeding off on the motorcycle, driving past a sign which reads "Leaving Storybrooke".
Regina attempts to seduce David.
At Regina's house, her and David are eating dinner together and the former smiles and asks him how he liked it. David describes it as the best lasagna he's ever had, telling her that she really knows how to work some magic. She is silent before David offers to get the dishes, saying it's the least he can do. Regina comments on how it doesn't seem right that earlier he saved her from having to call a tow truck and now he's doing her dishes. David walks into the kitchen with the dishes and over to the sink, followed by Regina, saying that the last couple weeks haven't been easy and that she's always been there. As David begins to rinse the dishes, Regina explains that she can't help but feel responsible for him ever since she found him. He dries his hand with a dishcloth and says that after all this time, no one's ever told him the story. Regina wonders to which story he's referring and he asks to know how she found him. Regina smiles, saying that he's never heard it because she's the only one who knows it. She laughs, "I was working late, it was a cold night, must've been ten below, and on my drive home, I realized I'd left my phone at the office. I remember thinking just to forget about it and I didn't really need it, but... something inside of me told me to turn around and go back." David asks if that's when he saw her. "You were on the side of the road," she says, "Unconscious. So cold, you felt like ice. The doctor said if I found you ten minutes later, it would've been too late. It's amazing, isn't it? If I hadn't forgotten my phone, I wouldn't have been on the road at that time." David mentions that it's almost as though the universe wanted her to find him. At this, Regina stares into David's eyes before leaning in to kiss him, however, David moves back, avoiding the kiss, Regina appears disappointed.
He apologizes, saying that he hopes she didn't get the wrong idea and Regina apologizes herself, explaining that she got caught up in the moment. David explains that their relationship is great like it is and Regina nods and smiles in agreement. David walks out into the entrance hall and Regina follows, he thanks her once more for dinner before leaving. Once the door closes behind him, Regina's smile dissipates before she finishes her glass of wine. She stares at herself in the mirror as she pulls the glass away from her lips before proceeding to throw it at the mirror, smashing both objects.
The baby's coming early.
In the fairytale land that was, Queen Regina is seen riding in her carriage with the Dark Curse traveling not far behind her as she smiles in glee whilst approaching Snow White and Prince Charming's castle.
Inside the castle, Snow is seen screaming in pain, the prince at her side, as she gives birth to her baby on her bed. Doc dabs her forehead and Charming asks the dwarf to do something whilst at the same time assuring his wife that everything shall be okay, saying that the wardrobe is almost complete and that she just needs to hold on. (see "Pilot")
The Blue Fairy gives Geppetto a set of specific instructions.
In Geppetto's workshop, the Blue Fairy flies in urgently, telling him that circumstances have changed. Geppetto asks her what she means and she explains that Snow White is going into labor early and that the savior will be born at any moment. She says that Pinocchio can't go as Snow White must accompany her daughter or all will be lost. She says that the baby must be protected as this is a land with no magic and she will need someone to guide her, someone to make her believe in her destiny and that her mother is the best option. Geppetto asks about the deal they made but Blue tells him that there's no time to argue as the curse is almost upon them and she must return to the fairies to make final preparations. Blue says it's vital that Geppetto tells Snow what she just told him as her child must be safe as she's the only one who can save them. Geppetto asks what will happen to Pinocchio and Blue says that all they can hope for is that one day the savior will return all that they will have lost. She nods before flying away. Pinocchio asks if they should tell Snow White, but, after a pause, Geppetto answers negatively. Pinocchio is surprised and his father tells him to get in the wardrobe.
Pinocchio is placed into the wardrobe.
Jiminy tells Geppetto that he can't as things have changed and the savior needs her mother. Geppetto corrects him in saying that she needs someone to protect her and make her believe in her destiny. He says that his boy can do that but Pinocchio doesn't understand, reminding his father what the Blue Fairy said. However, Geppetto says that he does not care what she said as all that matter's is that he is safe. Pinocchio reminds him that he told him to be honest and not to lie but his father tells him that sometimes, we have to lie to protect the people we love. He tells his son that he must look out for the child and this new land and that he must protect her. Pinocchio says that he doesn't want to go and he doesn't want to leave Geppetto, before hugging him. Geppetto tells Pinocchio that he must remember what the Blue Fairy said, that in twenty-eight years, he must make sure the savior believes, asking him to promise him he'll do that, saying it's the only way that they will see each other again. Pinocchio pauses, "I promise..." he says, making his father proud. Jiminy Cricket flies down and warns Pinocchio that there will be many temptations in this new world, but as long as he remains truthful and unselfish, he will not fail. Geppetto opens the wardrobe doors and Pinocchio sits inside it, sadly. The former says that the boy will find him again and that on that day, he will look upon his son with pride. He tells Pinocchio that he will be a great man before sharing with him one last hug. Pinocchio begins to cry before sitting back in the wardrobe and, soon enough, Geppetto closes the door. There is a minor earth tremor as the wardrobe's magic works itself and the doors are opened once more to reveal that Pinocchio is gone. Geppetto begins to weep over the loss of his son.
August tells his story, one that is also Emma's...
August's motorcycle continues to drive further away from Storybrooke with Emma still sitting on the back of it. The vehicle comes to an eventual stop outside of an all-night-diner and Emma steps off wondering what the hell August is playing at. The writer removes his helmet before replying that the last time he checked, it was a diner. She demands no more "screwing around", saying that she's not a character in one of his books and asking what they're doing there. He tells her that he thinks she knows before proceeding to take a newspaper clipping from his pocket and presenting it to her. The headline of "7 YEAR OLD BOY FINDS BABY ON SIDE OF ROAD" is visible and August tells the blonde that she's been there before, saying that it's the diner that she was brought to as a baby. Emma wonders why he found an article about her when the trip was supposed to be about him. He says that it is, gesturing the article as being part of his story, and her story. She asks him how that is and August explains that the seven-year-old boy that found her, was him. Emma steps back from August, surprised and confused.
Pinocchio is knocked out.
In the modern day world that was, the shot moves around a forest and centers on a particular tree, soon enough, a large chunk of trunk is exploded from the tree. Through the smoke, we are shown that Pinocchio is sitting in it, he pokes his head out and looks around, and, once the smoke clears, he jumps out. He looks around at the forest in Maine and seems confused and worried. Soon, he hears a loud noise from the sky and cowers in fear as an airplane passes overhead, not knowing what it is. Pinocchio looks back to the hole on the tree but is suddenly blown backwards by an invisible force and knocked to the floor.
Whilst on the floor, Pinocchio has flashes to his father telling him that he must protect the child in this new world as he sees himself in his father's arm soon after becoming a real boy followed by him having fixed the clock with Geppetto's help. He sees Jiminy poking out of the clock as it "cuckoos" followed by Geppetto telling him to promise to do as he just asked as it is the only way they will be able to see each other again. "I promise," he says before the flash changes to him being placed into the wardrobe, crying, and his father shutting the doors.
Emma is found.
Pinocchio is then waking up in the Maine forest once more and soon stands up from the woodland floor, placing his famed red hat back upon his head. Soon, a burst of magic is seen pulsating from the tree and Pinocchio stumbles, confused. He turns back to the tree in question only to see a crying baby, wrapped up in a blanket, lying in the same hole that he himself had appeared in. Pinocchio proceeds to pick Emma up, shushing her, trying to stop her from crying. She does not, and Pinocchio looks out at the unfamiliar forest with a baby in his arms, uncertain of what to do.
August continues to try to get Emma to believe.
In those same woods in the present day, Emma and August are walking through them and the former asks why they're there. August explains that he's taking her to the spot where he found her and she tells him that he's not that seven-year-old boy as she wasn't found in the woods, she was found on the side of a highway. August asks her why that is, suggesting that it's because she read it in a newspaper. He asks if it ever occurred to her that maybe that seven-year-old boy lied about where he found her. Emma answers negatively, saying that it occurs to her that August has been lying to her about everything. August stops and turns to her just as she tells him that she's done listening. Emma begins to walk away and, as she does, August tells her that when he found her, she was wrapped in a blanket and the name "Emma" was embroidered along the bottom of it. Emma turns around, surprised, and reapproaches him, he says that that wasn't in the article, asking how he'd know that unless he was there. Emma wonders, if he was that kid, why he lied about where he found her. He says that he lied to protect her and she asks from what. "That," he says, pointing at a tree behind him. Emma is confused and August asks her if she's read Henry's book, saying that she knows about the curse and her role in it. He tells her it's true and that they both came into this world through the tree that he pointed out, he begins to walk around it. Emma walks over to the tree and wonders if August is asking her to believe that he is a fairytale character. He nods, telling her that he's Pinocchio, but Emma laughs at this, saying that it explains all the lying. After a pause, she realizes that he's the one who added the story to Henry's book and he explains that he needed her to know the truth. Emma says that the truth is, he is out of his mind, and that he is not even a very good writer, wondering why he didn't write the end to that story. August explains that they're in the ending and are writing it right now. Emma asks how the story ends. "With you believing," he tells her, however, Emma shakes her head, saying that that's not going to happen. She turns around and begins to walk away, August is stunned as her walk becomes a run and he begins to chase after her, calling her name.
August goes to extensive measures...
He soon grasps his leg and falls over and Emma stops and turns to him, demanding to know what is wrong with his leg. He ignores this and says that he's failed, she asks what he's talking about and he says it doesn't matter as she doesn't believe. She approaches him, telling him that making her feel sorry for him won't change a thing as he attempts to stand up. He gets to his feet, telling her that he's not screwing around and that whatever she believes, or doesn't, his leg trouble is real and he is sick. Emma says that that's an understatement before he asks her if she's ever been to Phuket, describing it as an amazing and beautiful island, filled with pleasures, the perfect place to lose one's self. Emma shakes her head and August tells her that that's where he was when she decided to stay in Storybrooke. Emma asks him how he knows when she decided to stay in Storybrooke and he says that it was 8:15 in the morning, he woke up with a shooting pain in his leg, which was 8:15 night in Storybrooke, asking her if it sounds familiar, saying that that's when time there started moving forward again. He says he was supposed to be there for her, but he wasn't, and, because he was halfway around the world, he got a painful reminder of just how far he had strayed. "If that tree won't make you believe, then maybe this will..." lifting up his left pant leg to reveal that the entire limb is wooden. Emma, who only sees an ordinary leg, asks him how that proves a thing. He looks down at his wooden leg and tells her to look, she says that she is looking, but all she sees is a leg. He realizes that she doesn't see it but she wonders what she's meant to be seeing. He says that her denial is more powerful than he thought and that it's preventing her from seeing the truth. Emma tells him that one of them is losing it and it's not her. He realizes that she doesn't want to believe, after everything she's seen, he asks why she can't just do it.
"I didn't ask for that, I don't want it!"
Emma demands to know why it is so important to him that she does. He exclaims that he, the town, everyone, needs her. She yells that she doesn't want them to need him but he tells her that that's too bad, because they all do. "You're saying that I am responsible for everyone's happiness?! That is crap! I didn't ask for that, I don't want it!" she shouts, tearing up. He says that she doesn't want it "right now", reminding her that a little while ago, she didn't want Henry either, but then he came to her and now she is fighting like hell for him. "For him! Because that is all I can handle right now! And I'm not even doing a good job at that! Now you're telling me that I have to save everyone?! That is beyond ridiculous! I don't want any of it!" a hysterical Emma exclaims. He tells her again that that's too bad as it doesn't change what's real. He approaches her, telling her that she's their only hope. She looks at him, "Then you're all screwed." Emma then turns away from August and walks away from him.
"I'm sorry, Emma."
We are treated to a view of Boston before being shown the inside of a foster home where we see children making their beds. Little baby Emma is seen crying in her crib before Pinocchio stands over her, trying to shush her, telling her not to cry. He pulls a series of funny faces which Emma stares at before her crying stops. Pinocchio smiles at the baby, saying that that's better. He proceeds to kneel down beside a leg of the crib with a tool box, seemingly about to repair something. A man is heard entering and he very sternly asks Pinocchio if those tools belong to him. Pinocchio professes that he was just trying to fix the crib, saying that he wouldn't want Emma to fall out and hurt herself. The man kneels down as well and roughly grabs the boy's arm, instructing him to never touch anything in the house again as nothing belongs to him. "Yes, Mr. Raskind..." Pinocchio replies, typically. Raskind then takes the tool box away from the boy before standing up and leaving the room. Pinocchio looks at Emma, sadly, before another boy, Gordie, walks into the room. He greets Pinocchio before asking him if he can keep a secret. Pinocchio nods and Gordie then takes a wad of cash from his pocket and presents it to the former puppet. He is amazed and asks Gordie where he got it from, he explains that he stole it from the sock drawer and that it's enough to buy them all bus tickets out of away from where they are. Pinocchio asks when Gordie's leaving, "Right now," he tells him before asking him if he wants to come. Pinocchio looks over to Emma in her crib, he tells Gordie that he told his father he'd take care of her, asking if she can come to. "We can't take care of a baby! You wanna stay here for the rest of your life? Be my guest," Gordie says before leaving the room. Pinocchio seems disappointed at this before asking the boy to wait. He turns back to Emma and stands over her crib once more. "I'm sorry, Emma," he whispers in all sincerity. He kisses his hand before placing it upon the baby's forehead, he then follows on with the other children.
August finally has the reunion he hoped for.
August approaches Marco's workshop in Storybrooke where the latter is fixing the clock that Mr. Gold previously asked him to repair. August pauses before telling Marco to align the gear on the spindle and then press the spring (as Geppetto had told him as a child). Marco does as August suggested and the clock begins working, cuckoos and all. Marco smiles, asking August who told him that, the writer replies that it was his father. Marco says that he taught him well and that he must be very proud. "Oh, I don't know about that..." August tells him, "I don't think I became the man he wanted me to be." Marco asks if he's tried to make it up to him and August explains that he made him a promise a long time ago and when the time came around to make good on it, it was too late. Marco points out that August kept his promise as he realized his mistake and tried to fix it and that's important. "If I had a son, that would be enough for me," he says. Marco goes back to the clock and August suddenly notices something on his shelves - the wooden whale that he carved as a child. He says Marco looks like he might be short-handed, but the carpenter assures him that he gets by. August asks how the old man would feel about taking on an assistant. Marco smiles, but informs the writer that he cannot pay him, however, August tells him that that's okay as he simply feels like fixing things. Marco extends a hand and beckons August inside, the latter does so and the two of them begin to inspect the clock together.
Emma kidnaps Henry...
In Henry's bedroom, the young boy is shown sleeping before he is awoken by the sound of a walkie-talkie. Emma is on the other line, alerting Henry of a "code red". Henry takes the device from under his pillow and asks Emma what's wrong. She says she needs to talk to him and Henry wonders if it's about "Operation Cobra". Emma answers negatively, saying that it's about "us" and that he needs to meet her outside. Henry proceeds to step out of bed and grab his coat.
Outside, Henry and Emma are seen sitting inside the latter's car. He says that if his mom sees them, out there talking, she'll get really mad, but Emma ignores this, telling Henry that she needs to ask him something very important. "Do you want to get away from Regina? Do you want to come and live with me?" she asks. Henry replies that he wants that more than anything and so Emma tells him to buckle up. He obliges and she does the same before Henry asks where they're going. "We're leaving Storybrooke," Emma tells him before starting the engine and driving away.
- This marks the fourth writing credit for both Ian Goldberg and Andrew Chambliss. It also marks the first directing credit for Gwyneth Horder-Payton.
The episode posted a slight increase from the previous outing to a 3.0/9 among 18-49s with 9.20 million viewers tuning in, once again winning its timeslot for the third week in a row and giving ABC's Sunday night lineup a major win among 18-49s across the board.
In Canada, the episode finished in sixteenth place with an estimated 1.407 million viewers, a decrease from the 1.473 million of the previous episode.
- In a review from Entertainment Weekly, writer Hilary Busis noted that this installment was good and that it finally gave viewers the answer they been waiting for about August being revealed as Pinocchio, but adds that the surprise twists and reveals in this storyline needed more life, noting that the series "is normally so overstuffed that recapping any given episode can be a real challenge. But tonight's installment can be summed up with a few short sentences: August is Pinocchio -- commenters [referring to fans who had been posting their guesses on websites and message boards], give yourselves a pat on the collective back! -- as well as the boy who 'found' baby Emma after she traveled out of Fairy Land. Emma still refuses to believe in the curse. And Regina wants to seduce David, for some reason. That's ... basically it, excluding a truly frustrating concluding twist. When will Snow White's line learn that running away is almost guaranteed to make a problem worse?" Busis also went on to say, "It's a shame that there wasn't more to 'The Stranger,' especially considering we've only got two episodes left in Once's first season. I'd hoped that by this point, Emma would finally be able to get over her stubborn skepticism. Watching her refuse to believe even after she sees and experiences ridiculous things week after week has gotten as old as seeing Mary Margaret and David have that same 'We want to be together but we can't be together' conversation over and over."
Gallery of photographic stills released to promote the episode.