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'Once Upon a Time' recap: 'Best Laid Plans'

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Jack Rowand/ABC

Once Upon a Time

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
run date:
Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla
Fantasy, Drama

Next week, Once will be preempted for a very special Eastover showing of The Ten Commandments—so it’s a good thing that tonight’s episode gave us both big answers and a bit of a cliffhanger, all the better to keep us both satisfied and intrigued during the next 14 days. Ursula and Cruella fell into the real world while trying to save Maleficent’s baby! Maleficent’s baby is, in fact, Lily, the Earth-dweller Emma befriended as a wayward youth! And the coup de grâce: The Author is none other than cuckolded midcentury Utz Potato Chip spokesman Jimmy Barrett!

Normally, when an episode of television is titled “Best Laid Plans,” it’s because someone in the cast is going to get lucky. On OUAT, though, the name refers to the elaborately decorated egg that Fairyback Maleficent has just laid—one she’s stowing in a nest made of rocks (charming!), guarded by her best pals, Cruella and Ursula. Fairyback Snow and Charming first learn about the draconian ovum from a humble peddler with some killer eyebrows. He informs them of its whereabouts, then suggests that they consider moving in the opposite direction—not only because Mal has decimated everything surrounding her cozy rock nest, but also because the other path just happens to wind past a certain cottage, where lives a man who might be able to tell them exactly where they need to be.

Snow and Charming are in a particularly vulnerable spot right now, mostly because they’ve just had a pair of unicorn-assisted visions. See, according to Enchanted Forest legend, touching a unicorn’s horn will give expectant parents a cryptic vision of their child’s future, staged entirely within leftover fronds from the Never Land set. Sure, why not! Upon touching the creature, Charming sees nothing but a sweet, happy baby. Snow, however, sees Surly Teenage Emma in a pretty pink princess dress, who proceeds to backtalk her mom before ripping her heart out. Damn—that’s usually a thing teenage girls only do to their parents metaphorically. (Also: Leave it to Mom to see only the worst in her daughter.)

So the royals take a stroll down the eastern road, where they do indeed find just the man they need: the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, who happens to know a thing or two about juvenile good/evil composition. The magical Dr. Spock assures Charming and Snow that having a baby with the potential for great evil is perfectly normal. But being typically anxious first-time parents, the couple’s not quite soothed by his words. Instead, they perk up when he reluctantly explains that there is a way to ensure that their child is nothing but sweetness and light: by transporting all her dark potential into “another vessel.” In sum: The only way to make a perfectly good baby is by turning another baby evil.

Which, to Snow and Charming, seems like a perfectly good deal—especially since they know where to find a baby who’s, like, probably already going to be plenty evil. (Like, how much more black could she be? The answer is “none.” None more black.) Cut to the duo overpowering Cruelsula and egg-napping Mal’s kid, not pausing even after the sorceress changes back into her human form—clad in her nightie and with her hair down, for maximum vulnerability. “Please, mother to mother: Have mercy,” she pleads with Snow. Snow responds by coldly turning her back and delivering the egg to the Apprentice.

The fetal wicked-ectomy goes off without a hitch, until the Apprentice conjures up a portal. Why? Because he can’t in good conscience leave a baby this evil in a land filled with magic. (It might, like, spit up all over everybody.) Snow and Charming are distraught by this turn of events, especially after the egg cracks and they see that the thing inside it is a regular-looking human infant rather than a lizard beast. But there’s nothing they can do to stop it—and there’s nothing Cruelsula can do either, when they appear to try to get Maleficent’s baby back. The two baddies fall through the whirlpool and into the real world, as does the bouncing dragonbaby. Snow and Charming are left with nothing but guilt—and, of course, the perfectly heroic soul in Snow’s womb. Silver lining?

NEXT: Author, author! [pagebreak]

Back to the future! Regina’s been on sabbatical from the Queens and Rump for too long; she has to deliver them a picture of a door, or they’ll know she’s actually on the up-and-up. Emma conjures up a convincing duplicate of the real picture, but Regina’s worried that Rumple will see right through it; instead, she takes a crappy cell phone shot of the drawing and hopes that’ll be enough to stall them. 

The good news: The bad guys don’t have their hands on the real photo. The bad news: The magic encased within the real door drawing is so bright that it shows up in Regina’s snapshot, which allows the bad guys to deduce that the files are in the computer. (Too bad she didn’t take a picture of the forgery, right?) And they’re tired of waiting around for Regina to get said picture for them.

So Maleficent casts a sleeping curse over the whole town, which should give the goon squad carte blanche to find the page without anyone getting in their way. Well, except for the fact that sleeping curses are like chickenpox: Once you’ve awoken from one, you can never be felled by another. (Meaning everyone in Storybrooke’s immune to this particular hex by the end of the episode. Looks like Mal might need to find a new trick.) And you know who’s already been magically put to bed? Snow and Charming—as well as Henry, currently sprinting the real picture to the safety of the Sorcerer’s manse.

Rumple doesn’t take long to realize their evil plan’s Achilles heel. He sends the gals off to track down Henry; meanwhile, he’s going to take this golden opportunity to stroke Sleeping Belle’s hair and assure her that he is not a horrible creep. Good thinking, Rump.

It’s lucky that the Dark One didn’t go along with his minions to the mansion—because he’d have seen right through what happens next. Regina arrives at the mansion and demands Henry to hand over the drawing; Cruelsula watch as he complies. When a breathless Snow and Charming appear moments later to warn their grandson that the baddies are on their way, he informs them that they’re too late… and that, of course, he gave the Queens the fake page rather than the real one. The actually enchanted drawing has been safely stowed in one of the Sorcerer’s many books. What’s more, while hanging out underneath one of the mansion’s tables (wha? Is Henry a Dave Matthews fan?), the kid discovered the literal key to literally unlocking the illustration. One quick turn, and the Author will be free once more.

Charming’s natural reaction? Burn the page! Burn them all!! He figures that this will prevent Rump from using the Author to turn Emma evil. (But… how would he even do that if Emma’s potential for darkness was wiped away by the Apprentice 30 years ago? Details!) Snow, though, has finally grown weary of lying to everyone about Emma’s nature and what they did to Maleficent’s unhatched progeny. So she vetoes Charming’s vote and elects instead to deliver both the page and the truth to Emma.

At first, the savior is pissed—enough that she echoes the words Vision Emma once said to Vision Snow way back when. (“I’m your mother.” “I don’t care!” She’s gonna meet Teenage Ursula at the mall!) After a bit of brooding, though, she decides to bring the illustration to the fairies’ convent, where an ailing Augustocchio is recovering from his recent trauma-induced embiggening. Emma shows him the key and the page, but before she can pull the trigger, her friend gives her a little bit of backstory on the Author—as well as a warning. The long and short of it: This author is only the latest in a long line of men and women who’ve been tasked with “witness[ing] the greatest stories of all time and record[ing] them for posterity.” And it’s no accident that he’s trapped within the book’s pages: The Sorcerer and his Apprentice, who are the Giles to the Authors’ Buffy, decided to stash this most recent Author in there after realizing that he had begun to manipulate the stories he was supposed to be simply documenting.

Knowing all this, Emma decides that maybe it’d be a good idea to hold off on releasing the Author until she and her allies get ahold of the Apprentice, so that he can tell them why, exactly, he chose to imprison the Author.

Kidding! Of course she opens up the door anyway, and of course when the Author appears, he’s none other than the peddler Snow and Charming met on the road to the Apprentice’s house all those years ago. (Could nudging the Charmings into stealing Maleficent’s baby be the manipulation August was referring to—or is this incident just the tip of the iceberg?) A third “of course”: Shortly after Emma releases him, the Author bolts, easily evading the woman who once got paid specifically to make sure people didn’t run away from her. See you next week (maybe), Jimmy!


  • Oh, and by the way: When Rumple finally meets up with the Queens and they hand over the forged page, he decides to finally stop buying Regina’s evil act. When last we see her, she’s been put under by Mal and dumped in her vault—and Rumple is promising to show her something that’ll make her “do [his] bidding forever.” Given the scenes from next episode included a glimpse at Robin Hood, we might be able to guess what that something is.
  • One of those past authors? He was named Walt. Naturally.
  • Rumple reveals via rattle-vision not only that Lily is Maleficent’s baby—but also that her full name is “Lilith.” Yup, someone’s evil
  • Want to know more about the process behind the Lily reveal? Check out Natalie Abrams’ most recent Kitsis/Horowitz interview.
  • “We have to do something, without Emma finding out the truth,” Snow stage whispers, as her daughter stands maybe one foot away. Come on, princess!
  • This should probably go without saying, but: Author/Jimmy Barrett/Patrick Fischler also appeared on Lost.
  • Maleficent tells Rumple that she knows she’s more important to his plans than Cruella or Ursula, and he doesn’t contradict her. Iiiiinteresting.
  • The Queens muse that Emma looks “a lot less threatening” when she’s asleep. Emma looks many things, but I’m not sure “threatening” has ever been one of them.
  • Did we know before tonight that Henry’s middle name is Daniel? Because it is. Aww, that’s sweet.
  • Droll Cruella line that’s making me look forward to her flashback ep: “If I’d known it would be this cold, darling, I’d have killed two more puppies and made mittens.”