Once Upon A Time 1.19 "The Return" or "Even Rumples Gets The Blues"

I first watched this at stupid o’clock in the morning and then spent all day at work thinking about it. I’m pretty certain that’s not what I get paid for, but I couldn’t help it. You see, I was starting to feel like I was trapped in Storybrooke, with no new episodes for a hundred years (or something). I was perhaps overly anticipating this one but I’m happy to blame Jane Espenson for that, as she hyped the sweet mother of whatever out of the remaining episodes. I daresay she probably called them a “rollercoaster of emotion” at some point

She’s made no secret of the fact that she loves Rumplestiltskin and this episode was all about him. And Jane’s love for him. And how his man pain was the manliest painiest (shush, it’s a word now, okay?) pain ever. EVER!

We open on Granny’s B&B which, incidentally, reminds me of more than a few shady hotels I’ve stayed in by the seaside. Yes, dear readers, places like that do exist and I’ve been in most of them. Let’s not dwell, shall we?

August is asleep in bed. Any initial thoughts I’d had about his attractiveness are squelched by the fact that I see he’s wearing socks. In bed. Instant turn-off. I mean, come on, at least Graham had the good sense to put his underneath the bed. I do not approve of this blatant display of sockwear, August.

He’s twitching and wakes up in pain, legs akimbo. Falling out of bed, he’s clearly hurting and struggles across the room towards the oddly steampunkish telephone. Oh, honey, I’ve been there. I used to get leg cramps like you wouldn’t believe. Walk it off, dear. Just walk it off.

He makes a phone call to “someone” and tells them that they need to “accelerate the plan”. And instantly we’re on the street with August and Henry. I’m only going to say “stranger danger” once. But I’m going to say it here because…really? A grown man is meeting Henry in subterfuge and nobody thinks that’s weird?

Henry tells August that “Operation Cobra is always ready”, but he’s a tad confused about where this is going. He just wants Emma to believe. But August tells him that other priorities sometimes assert themselves. So you’re not just using the kid to further your own agenda then, August? Jeez. You and Emma both. Poor Henry.

I really like little Jared. He’s a cutie and just cheeky enough to make me believe that people would genuinely like Henry. And the scene between him and Gold is kind of adorable. Gold has this playful manner with him, as though he actually likes the kid, and he approves when Henry tells him he wants to get Miss Blanchard a present “since she didn’t kill that woman.”

Unbeknownst to them, August sneaks in the back of the shop and makes his way around Gold’s shelves, looking for something. Suddenly Gold looms up and tells him that “this is my office”. He’s all threatening and suspicious and kind of scary, to be honest

At the hospital, Emma visits Kathryn and questions her about her abduction. Kathryn says she was kept in a basement with food and water. I’m sorry – was Kathy Bates in Storybrooke and nobody told me? Because that would be awesome. Emma asks if Kathryn remembers any specific details – “…you didn’t hear a voice, smell perfume, cologne…anything?” But Kathryn’s drawing a blank and, I have to say, there aren’t many people who could make that particular camera angle look good, but Anastasia Griffiths pulls it off and manages to look pained and pretty all at the same time.

Emma explains that they think someone was trying to frame Mary Margaret and Kathryn asks “who would do something like that?”

Well, we cut to Regina in Gold’s shop. So…I guess that’s who! I can already tell I’m going to spend the rest of the season dodging those falling anvils. Yes, we KNOW she’s evil, okay? No need to slap me in the face with it, show. It’s beginning to hurt.

“You broke our deal,” Regina tells Gold. He informs her that he’s only ever broken one deal in his life and that it’s not this one. Regina says that Kathryn was supposed to die and Mary Margaret was supposed to get the blame, but Gold wriggles out of the accusation and informs her that something “tragic” happened anyway. He makes a comment about not being able to just “turn someone into a snail and step on them”. Um…what now? That’s not Regina’s style at all, Gold. But I do love the way these two tease one another and indulge in some pretty gratuitous bitchery. Honestly, I’d watch a show that was just these two snarking at one another for 22 episodes.

Regina says that the “intent was perfectly clear”, but Gold parries with “intent is meaningless”. That’s really the difference between these two, isn’t it? Regina’s hell-bent on torturing Snow because she has FEELINGS about her, whereas Gold just does things for his own gain. “Intent is everything!” Regina tells him, but he shuts her up with a single “please”. I have to wonder – I know Regina promised she would do whatever he said if he used that word, but why? If there’s no magic in Storybrooke then what is it that’s holding her to the bargain? Integrity?

I’m just going to let you think on that for a while.

Regina’s worried about what questions it will raise and Gold reminds her of the skeleton key that appeared in Mary Margaret’s cell. For the first time, Regina seems genuinely rattled, wondering if it will all lead back to her. She grabs her necklace in what I can only assume is the Evil Queen version of clutching her pearls. Oh yeah; she’s scared alright.

She tells Gold that it doesn’t make any sense because they were in it together from the start – that he created the curse for her that brought them to Storybrooke and created the town. Gold says it’s about time she said thank you. Oh…no. No. I don’t trust him at all here. Because when she asks why he did it, he tells her that she’s a “smart woman, your majesty. Figure it out.” I hope she does, and then rips out his heart or something. He played you, Regina. Wise up.

I have a theory that Gold has used Regina all her life. Maybe even before she was born, plotting and planning for his own gain and just waiting for someone foolish enough to play into his hands. Once again, this is one of the biggest differences between them for me: Regina is a slave to her emotions and Gold manipulates them. He can spot a “desperate soul” from a mile away, and, let’s face it, there was nobody more desperate than Regina before she enacted the dark curse.

But I don’t have time to think about that, as we’re suddenly whisked off to Fairy Tale Land and the sounds of children playing. God, they’re happy and loud and…and get off my lawn you pesky kids! Baelfire is playing soccer (wow, it really is an ancient game) with the ball that I think we’ve just seen in Gold’s shop. Sneaky, show. You’re very sneaky. He kicks it in front of a donkey pulling a cart and falls over, hurting his leg. The owner of the donkey starts shouting at him until he realizes who he is and then offers him a chicken in fear. “It was the donkey’s fault.” Well, when isn’t it?

Rumples appears and asks what’s going on. Bae tells him everything is fine, but when Rumples sees that Bae is hurt, he turns the donkey’s owner into a snail and then squishes him. Ohhhh, yes. I understand that comment from earlier on now. But really, what with this and Gaston turning into a rose, I can’t help but feel that Rumples is exerting power for power’s sake. I mean, he just killed a man for nothing! It smacks of a much darker soul than I think a lot of his supporters give him credit for, and if I’m perfectly honest, I’m underwhelmed. I can get behind a tortured soul but someone who’s just plain murderous? Not so much.

Now we’re back in Storybrooke Hospital and David visits Kathryn, leaning over her in a TOTALLY NOT CREEPY way, okay? He tells her he was going to kiss her on her forehead, because he thought it would be “sweet”. Uh, David? She was tied up in a basement. I’m not sure that’s going to help. He apologizes to her for lying and cheating and being an all-round douchebag (I may have interpreted that last part on Kathryn’s behalf). She tells him that what they had “wasn’t it” for him and that she doesn’t blame him for seeing it. He says that she’s “kind of amazing” and she agrees. Score! He says he’s going to give her that kiss on the forehead and she tells him to knock himself out. Yeah, David, why DON’T you. Preferably with a large, blunt object.

There’s a welcome home party for Mary Margaret going on, and suddenly she seems to have a lot of friends. Well, I guess that’s just one of the perks of not being on murderer’s row anymore. All throughout this scene, I couldn’t take my eyes off the dwarfs in the background, giggling away to themselves. I’m pretty sure at least one of them is gay. Just saying.

Henry asks August if he found what he was looking for in Gold’s shop; August says no, but that he’s pretty sure it will find him. I’m kind of lost here, to be honest. Things finding people? Why doesn’t that ever happen when I only have one sock of a pair in the laundry basket? Henry gives a card and gift to Mary Margaret; the card says “We’re so glad you didn’t kill Mrs Nolan”. Honestly. Kids these days…

Emma tells Henry that they have to get him home before his mom finds out because “that won’t be pretty”. LIES. Regina is always pretty. It’s the law in Storybrooke. As they open the door, David is lurking outside and wants to see Mary Margaret, who declines the offer. I love how Emma’s got Mary Margaret’s back – the show is doing a great job of building up their relationship and yes, I know they’re “roommates” but I have mother/daughter feelings about them that just won’t go away, okay?

Henry leaves with David and Gold creeps up behind Emma saying that it’s “hard to let him go”. Emma agrees, saying it’s pretty much the hardest thing. Riiiight. But that’s not how you felt ten years ago, is it, Emma? I have to say, I’m finding Emma’s sudden spurt of maternalistic intent pretty hard to believe. I don’t know whether it’s that Jen Morrison doesn’t sell it to me, or whether it’s the writing, but I’m just not buying it. I think Emma’s fond of Henry, but feeling angsty over him? Meh. It’s not really working for me.

Emma has suspicions about Gold’s involvement in Kathryn’s abduction. And tonight’s award for “Miss Obvious of ObviousTown” goes to…

Gold asks if Emma thinks he’s working with Regina or against her. Emma says she doesn’t know. “…maybe diagonally…” Hee. Oh, Emma. And now I love you again. Gold questions Emma about August, all suspicious like. He says that if there’s one thing he knows about, it’s names. Yes, show. We KNOW. But Emma says she trusts August – more than she does Gold, anyway.

Back in FTL, Rumples and Bae come home. Oh, he has a maid. Someone else in indentured servitude. Fairy Tale Land sucks, doesn’t it? Rumples offers to heal Bae’s boo-boo with magic, but Bae refuses. He tells Rumples that he’s different now – “you hurt people all the time” – but Rumples says that he forged a truce in the Ogre Wars and saved a thousand lives. Bae says that he can stop using magic now, but Rumples says he can’t, that he needs more power to protect Bae. I like how Robert Carlyle plays him here, his voice changes and is more like his old self…less Rumples, you know?

He tells Bae that he can’t get rid of his power and Bae asks if he’s tried. Rumples shows him the knife and says that if someone kills him with it, then they gain the power and he’s sure that that’s not what Bae wants. As they argue, the maid comes back in and Rumples hides the knife. Bae asks if Rumples would give up his power if he can find a way to get rid of it that won’t hurt anyone and Rumples agrees. All he wants is his son’s happiness. Awwww. Wait – hey! Turned a man into a snail and squished him. I can’t forget that.

They strike a deal and shake on it. And we all know what happens when you make a deal with Rumplestiltskin, right? But Bae looks happy and that stew looks tasty, so we’re all okay again.

Gold breaks into August’s room back in Storybrooke and goes through his belongings. See that paperweight? It’s a donkey. Call me an ass if you want, but doesn’t that point to August being Pinocchio?

There’s a sheaf of papers on August’s desk, and as Gold turns a page, he sees a picture of the knife with his name written across it. I love Robert Carlyle’s face here: it’s a perfect mixture of horror, realization and worry. And he also looks dangerous – I’ve always loved how sinister Carlyle can be.

At Granny’s, Emma confronts Sidney about the bug she found in her office. “Eventually there are things that even a blind Sheriff cannot ignore.” Um…okay. But what about everything else that’s staring you in the face that you just don’t see, Emma? Seriously, woman. Come ON. Emma calls Regina “sick” and “crazy”. No, Emma, tell us how you really feel. Sidney defends Regina and calls her “amazing”. Yeah, you and me both, Sidney. “Are you in love with her?” Emma asks, incredulous. Please. Have you seen Madam Mayor lately? Who isn’t in love with her?

Outside, August gets on his retro bike and rolls away, Gold following him.

In FTL, Rumples tells Bae to go and play with the other kids as he has some “business” to take care of, but the children don’t want to play with Bae. Kids. They can be so cruel, can’t they? Except for the girl who was taken away in episode 8. She takes pity on Bae, who’s kind of becoming a bit of an emo kid. Ah well, I suppose that’s what happens when your father is becoming evil incarnate. She reminds Bae that Rumples was “like a miracle” on the battlefield and that Bae should call on the Blue Fairy for help – “the original power”. So there’s something out there with greater power than Rumples? Hm. Interesting.

When Rumples returns, he has blood splattered on his boots. Turns out he’s killed the mute maid in case she spills about him. Well…okay. So that’s another one to add to the list. Can I just point out here that at least Regina didn’t make a mess? No? Okay then, moving on.

August is at the nunnery, talking with the Mother Superior. She tells him to climb every mountain and ford every – no. Wait. She doesn’t. I have to wonder at the fact that this is the second “The Sound of Music” reference I’ve made in as many recaps. Weird.

Gold demands that the Mother Superior tells him what August wanted. He threatens doubling the rent if she doesn’t and she says that August is looking for his father. She says that “it was a difficult parting” and that “there are many issues to be resolved between them”. Well, yeah, because if your dad is evil, I would imagine a simple “hey pops” probably won’t do…

Bae finds the Blue Fairy and asks for help. She says that “there is good magic and dark magic and I’m on the right side”. Way to tell me something without telling me anything, Blue Fairy. She tells Bae that they must go where they can escape “this wretched curse” and that Bae is the one who keeps Rumples human. She gives Bae a magic bean that glows. Yeah, someone gave me one of those once in a nightclub and it didn’t end well. But she tells Bae that it will save him and his father, and take them to another world. Which, I guess, is this one. Or Wonderland. Or Oz. Or Middle Earth. I mean, how did she know it would be THIS world?

David chases after Mary Margaret and apologizes to her for being…well, David. I like Mary Margaret in this scene; she’s pretty hardcore. She stands her ground and is becoming more like Snow every day. I approve. She tells him that “when the world sort of blows you backwards and the one person you always thought would be there to catch you…he isn’t there”. Oh, my heart. That hurt. And I seem to have something in my eye. Or allergies. Shut up.

Douchey Dave blames the details of the set up for not believing she was innocent and says they have to move on, but Mary Margaret says they can’t, that it’s like something in their world doesn’t want them to be together. “Dark forces?” David asks. Yep, there’s that anvil again. Almost caught my shoulder that time.

Mary Margaret talks about “poison” between them and having “good memories” replaced by bad moments and I can barely type due to the anvils falling all around me. Jeez, show, way to make a point. I see what you’re doing but sometimes too much is…well, too much.

“But I love you!” David tells her, and I fall in love with Josh Dallas’ FACE. Those puppy dog eyes and the fact that he’s crying make me want to give him a big hug.

“I know,” says Mary Margaret. “And that is what makes it all so sad.” Dammit, you two! Stop CRYING at one another and just figure it out, for the love of all things Charming.

Rumples is spinning at his wheel when Bae comes home and shows him his bean. And yes, typing it out didn’t make it sound any better than it did in my head. Rumples tells Bae that fairy magic doesn’t mix well with what he has. And when Bae says they can go to a place without magic, Rumples is dismissive, saying he’d be “powerless” and “weak”. Bae says that they could be happy and it wouldn’t matter, that it will work. He reminds Rumples of the deal they made and asks if he’s backing out, to which Rumples says “no”. Hm. We’ll see, right?

Gold visits Archie Hopper and talks about having a son. What’s interesting about this conversation is that Gold KNOWS he needs to be forgiven, and expresses real regret about being separated from Bae. He talks about “conflict” and then confesses that he thinks his son is trying to kill him, and that he might “still be very angry”. Archie tells him that “anger between a parent and a child is the most natural thing in the world”. I like this, because it goes right back to the show’s basic premise – the relationships between parents and children, and I can’t help but think about Henry and the way he feels about Regina here. Seems like Gold and Regina both struggled with forming positive relationships with their kids and there’s that whole notion of the struggle between wanting power and wanting familial love. It feels like nobody can have both and that one must needs be sacrificed in order to be happy.

Anyway, Gold says he let his son go and that he’s spent his entire life trying to fix it. Archie suggests that he be honest. But Gold says that “honesty’s never been the best color” on him. Archie says that it’s the “only way”.

Out in the woods, Gold meets August and it’s all misty and spooky. He tells August that he knows who he is and what he’s looking for. August says that he guesses “all the lying can stop…papa”. Oooh!

Bae takes Rumples out into the woods and throws the bean onto the ground. It creates this kind of vortex thing that glows all green and starts to suck them into it. Rumples seems terrified by it – much more so than Bae. He says it’s a trick and that it will tear them apart. As Bae is dragged into the vortex, Rumples digs his knife into the ground and tries to hang on, saying that he can’t go. Bae screams at him that he’s a coward and he broke their deal, then disappears as the vortex closes. Rumples is left hanging onto his knife with both hands and I’m reminded of when he told Belle that he would choose his power over her. It’s seductive, right, Rumples? And in the moment when you had to give it up, it meant more to you than Bae. Sad.

Rumples starts shouting for his son and scrabbling at the ground, saying that he wants to go with him. It’s…well, it’s kind of heartbreaking, really. But the moments we regret the most are usually the ones we can’t ever take back or make right. And I can understand now why Rumples went as bad as he did. He lost the one thing he loved the most. I hear that can make someone do unspeakable things…

Gold tells August that he was “right” and admits to being a coward. He says that since Bae “crossed the barriers of time and space” he’s been looking for him. Carlyle is magnificent in this scene and it’s a pretty great monologue as he asks August to be the “bigger man” and forgive him. Oh, stop it, Carlyle. Why do all the men cry so well on this show?

August says he was looking for the knife and thought that if Gold still had it then it would mean he hadn’t changed. Gold takes him to dig it up – he’d buried it shortly after Emma came to town and things started changing. He didn’t want to take the chance on Regina finding out. So…you think she’d kill you? What about the whole “please” thing? This show doesn’t make any sense sometimes.

They find the knife and Gold gives it to August, saying that he chose it once but now he chooses his son. August takes the knife and tries to bring Gold under his control. By the power of Grayskull!

Gold realizes in that moment that August isn’t his son. He says that his son would never try to use him and the knife cannot harness any magic in this world because there IS no magic in this world. His voice here is brilliant, definite shades of Rumples. Good job, Carlyle. He wants to know how August knows about the knife and discovers that August is from Fairy Tale World. Gold wants to know who told him about the knife. August says it was a little fairy. I bet it was. They’re pesky, those fairies.

“If you know who I am, you know who I am,” Gold says as he holds the knife to August’s throat. But our mysterious hero is not to be frightened so easily, as he says he’s going to die anyway. He’s sick and needs magic. Well that explains the cramp, then. He calls Emma “the savior” – it’s been a while since anyone’s done that, right? Gold says that Emma trusts him and that it might be enough, that August should try again and that by letting him live, he might stand to get something out of it.

Rumples calls on the Blue Fairy and wants to know how to follow Bae. The fairy tells him that there’s no way he can do that, and she doesn’t have any more magic beans. Heh, magic beans. I think this show is going to make me wish for some magic beans by the end of the season.

It’s only when Rumples suggests a curse that she relents slightly and says that might work. “Of course you would think of a curse instead of a blessing; your magic is limited by its own rotten core, Rumplestiltskin”. Hm. Interesting. A curse, you say? Now where would we find one of those and get someone to enact it…

The Blue Fairy says that it would come at a great price, that he would need to sacrifice this world for the next. She says that it’s beyond his abilities but he says that he has all the time in the world. “I will do nothing else. I will love nothing else.” So Belle was a threat to him, rather than something he gave up. Ouch. Rumples blames the fairy for taking his son, but she tells him that he drove him away. I guess that explains Gold’s hatred of the nuns, then, right?

Rumples makes a vow to find his son. I like the symmetry here with Snow and Charming. “I will find him.” There’s a whole bunch of people just looking for something, isn’t there? And how many times have we heard the phrase “I hope you find what you’re looking for” in the show? Let’s think, which character is the one who made a whole career out of finding people, hm? Interesting. But you know, every week, all this show does is present me with more questions than answers and it’s starting to grate. I want to know stuff, show! Tell me things!

At least we know now that Rumples was invested in Snow and Charming so that he could create the Dark Curse. And that he obviously manipulated the Evil Queen into enacting it for him. To make it work, she had to kill the thing she loved most and Rumples had already lost that for himself. But damn, that’s harsh. He basically created the Evil Queen as an instrument for his own gain, never mind how much she suffered or lost to become what he needed. And I know that Regina’s “evil” but in this episode, I can’t help feeling like we’ve seen the true evil on the show. It’s kind of ironic, really, that Rumples is the one who’s heartless, in the end.

Emma enters the Sheriff’s office to find Regina sitting on a desk. Oh my, Mrs Robinson, are you trying to seduce me? If so, then go right ahead. I keep forgetting how gorgeous Lana Parilla is until I see her onscreen and my brain kind of shorts out.

Regina tells Emma that she’s about to get a big break in her case and that she’s just got herself a confession. Ooh, is it that you love me, Regina? Please say yes. Regina calls Sidney into the office and he confesses that he kidnapped Kathryn. He wanted to get his job back and a book and movie deal by playing hero and “finding her” after the conviction. Regina’s coaching him all the way, including getting him to say that he “borrowed” Regina’s skeleton keys.

“I can’t help but feel personally violated by that part.” Oh, Regina. You’re such a troll. Stop it. No, wait. Don’t.

Emma doesn’t believe him. Regina says that Sidney’s suffered some kind of mental break, and that Emma’s so “sold on her rush to judge” her that she can’t see the truth anymore. You know, Lana Parilla cracks me up in this scene. Her sympathetic looks to Sidney are just perfect. She’s totally trolling and it’s brilliant. I want more of this.

Emma wants “a word” in the hallway with Regina. I have several suggestions as to what that word might be but none of them are printable.

She tells Regina that Sidney’s confession is “the biggest load of crap” she’s ever heard. She says that she knows Regina’s behind it and that she has set the game, but that it’s time for a new one. She says she doesn’t care about what happens to either of them, but that she cares what happens to her kid. Um, Emma? Not YOUR kid. You gave him up, remember?

Calling Regina a “sociopath” (nice work, Miss Manners), Emma tells Regina that “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.”

I have feelings about this. Many feelings. See, what this episode proved is that Rumples is the true Big Bad in the show. He’s plotted and schemed and manipulated EVERYONE to get to this world, giving himself a caveat of Emma being the savior so that when he finds Bae, she’ll break the curse and send them all back to Fairy Tale World. But in doing so, he’s made Regina a victim. And for all the bad things she’s done, I still can’t help feeling sorry for her because she’s Gold’s shield that he hides behind, setting her up for a fall.

I also want to slap Emma around a bit until she realizes that a closed adoption means she shouldn’t be anywhere near Henry, never mind threatening to take him back. Seems to me she might be overstepping the mark a little. Or a great big honkin’ lot.

Overall, I wasn’t blown away by this episode. I’m not sure what I expected, but I was left feeling anxious for the final episodes of the season. I kind of like what the show is doing with reference to the theme of love, though, and also the idea of what makes people evil. That whole “evil isn’t born, it’s made” statement rings true for most of the “bad” characters. And, being a bit of a romantic, I’m choosing to have faith in a happy ending for SOMEONE. Please, for the love of God, make it happen? But not you, Espenson. Not you.



  1. I love your analysis of the characters–I’m looking at Regina in a different way after reading this and last week’s recap. And I also love the push-pull between Gold and Regina. While at this point, it looks like Gold/Rumple is the ultimate Big Bad (although my opinion on that changes almost weekly), I still have some sympathy for him too, despite the murderousness. As you said, everyone on this show is looking for something that they’ve lost, and I think that in addition to losing Baelfyre, Gold is aware that he also lost his soul.

    Or maybe I’m just fanwanking because Carlyle is just so freaking good in this role. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *