Cinderella’s back! Ashley-slash-Ella has returned to Storybrooke, and while she’s still enjoying wedded bliss and mommydom, we’re about to learn a little more about her courtesy of some decadent flashbacks. Fun! Meanwhile, the Evil Queen is still rearing her ugly (oh, please, gorgeous) head, and our Savior dearest is still dealing with some serious hang-ups.
Great minds think alike, and Regina gets a tasty reminder of that fact when she, Snow, and Charming pay a visit to Mr. Hyde in lockdown with lasagna in tow. In theory, he should be so enticed by the scintillating smell of her delicious dish, as opposed to the prison slop he’s currently being offered, that he’ll cough up whatever intel she needs about the Evil Queen’s mysterious comeback. Is she a zombie? A ghost? In debt to Rumple? Or simply alive again? Who knows. And we don’t find out because Evil Queen’s already beaten her to the punch, with a room decor overhaul to match his fine cuisine prize for giving up information. The new price of access to Hyde’s mind, he informs our heroes, is removal of his cuffs.
Meanwhile, newcomers are flooding Storybrooke and Henry’s working his tail off to keep tabs on everyone. Ashley Boyd is back, sans the glass slippers, with her cute kid Alexandra, and she’s opened the doors of her daycare center to anyone with little ones in tow. She asks to see Henry’s list for the sake of scouting out parents in need of her assistance (and leaves her girl in Hook’s surprisingly capable and cute hands), but as soon as she sees Clorinda the not-wicked stepsister’s name on the list, she takes off with her handsome husband’s rifle to do goodness (or badness) knows what.
This is when the Ella-centric flashbacks begin, starting with the Cinderella story we all know and love-hate so well. Ella’s horrible stepmom wants her real daughters to rank tippy top of the eligible bachelorettes in the king-to-be’s list; they’re nasty and burn Ella’s late mother’s prized dress. Ella’s hopeless and sad and has only one friend in the world: an ebullient mouse named Gus. She does find a key like what her mother had described in such platitudes of optimism, but she doesn’t believe in magic, so she stows it away for another day.
Emma’s still dealing with her tremors and flashbacks, and she interrupts one of the seven dwarves’ therapy sessions with Archie to talk about her stifling predicament. The best he can figure, it’s just psychological stress of Hook wanting to shack up that’s taking on a physical manifestation or two (ughhh, shrink stuff), but he does leave her with the little nugget of wisdom that she shouldn’t give up on trying to accomplish her goals just because it’s hard. Maybe he should counsel dalmatians instead of people? Just a thought.
Dr. Jekyll tries to use his science skills to track down the cause of Evil Queen’s resurrection, but without his full lab and equipment, it’s all for naught. That is, until Snow White sees something that everyone else is overlooking among his stash of supplies from the downed dirigible … a partnership with one of the newcomers.
Like daughter, like mother, Snow White is also having something of an existentialist crisis. She’s got a touch of nostalgia going on about the olden days when she was a school teacher, and with so many new faces around town, now seems like the perfect time for her to revisit the profession. You know, after they do away with the Evil Queen. This “defeat and repeat” savior business is for the birds.
On Emma’s end, the situation is two-fold. Not only is she warring with herself and the bleak visions of her grim future, but she’s also afraid of taking the next step with Hook because she knows — or has been told, which is always so reliable — that she has no happy ending ahead. She’s willing to brush that debacle aside to help Ashley/Ella by setting a magic shoe on her trail (an operation tentatively named Operation Cobra, Part II), and that’s when we get another flashback that tells us the second familiar act of Cinderella’s story: the ballroom dance that she’s been readied for by her fairy stepfather Rumplestiltskin at which the prince falls madly in love with her over her unique choice of footwear and her supreme waltzing skills. Only, there’s a twist.
NEXT: Evil step-sister? Not so much …