Cinderella climbs the social ladder while Emma hunts a pregnant teen

By Shaunna Murphy
April 30, 2015 at 08:38 PM EDT
Sergei Bachlakov /ABC
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Ginnifer Goodwin had an easy week, huh? This week’s Once Upon A Time took us away from the Snow versus Queen arc in favor of some plot-of-the-week fun, so we didn’t spend too much time with our sweet-faced heroine. Instead, we focused on Mr. Gold/Rumpelstiltskin and our sour-faced heroine (Jennifer Morrison), along with her many leather jackets. I wish I could say that we’re closer to understanding the walking freakshow that is Rumpelstiltskin, but we’re not. All we know at this point is that he values baby theft and drawing up contracts above all else. Don’t ever try to rip him off! Seriously, don’t. Let the tragic tale of Cinderella serve as your warning.

We began in Fairy Tale. There was an epic party going down at Prince Thomas’ castle, but the Brittany Snow look-alike Cinderella wasn’t on the list. Instead, she had to stay home and sweep — poorly. Not much sweeping got done that night. But despite Cinderella’s lack of work ethic, her fabulous Fairy Godmother arrived to promise a better, wealthier life. “This wand has the power to take you to your ball, to your prince, and to a…” KABOOM! She exploded into a ball of fire. Actually, it was more like “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boom.” (Sorry.) Between this and True Blood, this was a really bad year for fairies on TV.

Of course this was all Rumpelstiltskin’s doing, because the Queen was far too busy hating Snow White to meddle in Cinderella’s mess. Rumpel showed up looking like a cross between the Lucky Charms leprechaun and Gollum from Lord of the Rings, supposedly to help Cinderella. He promised her the same life her Fairy Godmother was offering, but with a disclaimer attached: “All magic comes with a price.” A fairly ominous warning, no? Also, this was a person who had just committed murder. But Cinderella didn’t care — she was just a naive social climber who really wanted to go to the ball. This scene made me really appreciate our bold and bright Snow White, who would have made a much wiser decision in this situation. Cinderella signed his shady magical contract without even reading it, and morphed into the beautiful young princess she’d always wanted to be. She was confused about the glass slipper thing, but Rumpel insisted that “every story needs a memorable detail.”

Over in Storybrooke, Emma had to choose between a life of noncommittal leisure and a long-term relationship with Henry. I would stay in Storybrooke just for the chance to crash in Mary Margaret’s sweet exposed-brick pad, but Emma wasn’t so sure. That Henry can be a lot, you know? Sheriff Graham enticed her with a deputy job — dental included, and totally behind Regina’s back — but that still wasn’t enough to sway her. No, it would take Emma’s number one pet peeve, a taunt from Regina, to reverse her ambivalence. Seriously, when is evil genius Regina going to realize that threatening Emma and/or telling her she won’t do something will always yield the opposite of her intended result? Regina’s actions lately have led me to believe that she too has forgotten her identity in Fairy Tale. She isn’t playing the game as well as she could. Leaving Henry alone all of the time with Emma in town? Bad plan. If she can pay for the Benz, she can afford a babysitter.

Anyway, Regina found out that Emma had moved seven times in 10 years. This clearly means that she is flighty and irresponsible, giving Regina nothing to worry about. Smirk. “You carry on your transient life,” she said. Yikes! I just counted and I’ve moved 11 times in 10 years, so what does that make me? Emma encountered Cinderella in the laundry room, but in our universe she’s a sad 19-year-old pregnant maid named Ashley Boyd.

When Ashley complained that nobody thought she could handle her baby, a newly inspired Emma suddenly and unexpectedly launched into a motivational speech.”There are no fairy godmothers in this world,” she insisted. She would know — she was pregnant at 18. Ashley should and could take her life into her own hands. If she wanted to be a mother, then dammit, she would be. Like John Locke, no one could tell her what she couldn’t do. See what I mean about Regina’s words having the opposite intended effect? Emma was talking as much to herself as she was to Ashley, all because Regina confronted her with her own faults.

NEXT: A deal’s a deal, baby{C}The only problem was that Ashley’s version of taking her life into her own hands was breaking and entering. She broke into Mr. Gold’s pawn shop, seeking an unknown object. He attacked her, but she won the battle with pepper spray and escaped. A pregnant teen on the run? Looks like a job for Emma Swan, bail bondsman to the stars!

Gold showed up to Mary Margaret and Emma’s place with the lucrative gig, and he promised that it was in Ashley’s best interest. She had something that was important to him, some valuable merchandise, and “no one wants that baby born in jail.” Emma was clearly spooked by this weirdo, but she went with it — probably because she felt guilty about inspiring the whole thing. Even Henry, who had snuck out on Regina again, hadn’t figured out this Gold character, but he knew that this assignment meant trouble for Ashley. As always, he would have to tag along. “I’m just trying to spend time with you,” he insisted to an objecting Emma. Ha, genius! What can she even say to that?

In Fairy Tale, Cinderella reaped the benefits of her deal with Rumpel. She danced the night away at a royal ball with Thomas, Charming, and Snow, who congratulated her on bettering her position in life. She worked so hard for it, after all. All that sweeping! Ella looked troubled, and with good reason. Rumpel cut in for a dance, visible only to her, and said it was time for her to pay her debt. Her debt being the baby growing in her tummy. See kids, you always need to read the fine print. That’s where they tack on the incidentals, or steal your unborn children.

Much like her Storybrooke counterpart, Ella made the decision to go on the run. Prince Thomas intervened, and actually took the Rumpelstiltskin news surprisingly well. “Magic may have brought us together, but it didn’t create this love,” he said. They would have to fight back and create a new deal.

Back in Storybrooke, deadbeat dad Sean (Prince Thomas) wasn’t there to help. Instead AshleyElla had to rely on Ruby, who was getting her car prepped by a guy named Billy. Any bets on his Fairy Tale identity? The wolf? For now I’d say the wolf. Ruby told Emma and Henry about Sean, and also mentioned the fact that Ashley lived with her absent stepmother and stepsisters. Guess who jumped at that news?

Mother and son headed to Sean’s manse, where they learned that Sean’s desertion came at the instruction of his tyrannical father. Tyrant-dad had arranged a special deal with Mr. Gold, wherein Ashley would sacrifice their baby for a hefty sum. “Ashley agreed to give up the child, and she’s being paid very well to do so,” he sneered. At this point, Emma was officially peeved. The trip to Sean’s was a diversion, allowing Ruby to successfully send Ashley on her way to Boston. “Bad things will happen if she leaves!” Henry panicked. If you remember, Regina’s curse has a Truman Show clause that doesn’t allow the cursed to leave town.

NEXT: Labor of loveAs Henry predicted, they found Ruby’s car totaled on the side of the road. Ashley, unharmed, was now in labor. Emma and Henry drove her back to the hospital, and Emma used the ride as an opportunity to tell Ashley that she would have to step up if she wanted to be a mother. “You have to grow up,” she said. “You can’t ever leave… you have to know it’s you that will give your baby its best chance.” Clearly, Emma had been doing some soul-searching. Henry was riveted, and I thought his face showed that he was finally accepting the reason behind his own abandonment. Emma was only doing what she thought was best for him, even if it didn’t quite work out that way.

In Fairy Tale, the royal couple and Grumpy met in the special magic-free prison they’d designed for Rumpel. Now, Thomas explained, there was a plan. “His strength is also his weakness — deals.” They would present Rumpel with a new contract, promising Ella’s fictional set of twins in exchange for more wealth and power. So they made up a second baby. If he signed, the contract would zap away his magic, leaving him impotent.

At night, Rumpel met Ella in a beautiful rose garden. She said that poverty and famine had led her to a make an impossible decision. She could make more babies, but not food to feed a nation. This is the one percent, standing with the 99. “Your debt to me would only grow…” Rumpel said, rightly suspicious. But the promise of an extra baby was too much for Rumpel to bear. He fondled her growing belly, and it was uncomfortable. Is he building a child army? Why does he want all of these children? They stole children for ambiguous reasons on Lost too, and never really explained it. I’m really hoping that there is legitimate reason for it on this show, because this could get dark and twisted and really fun.

Anyway, Rumpel actually read the contract, because he’s smart. But the spell was in the quill, and when he signed, the whole gang showed up to entrap him. He wasn’t happy. “No matter what you do, no matter what life you find yourself in, I will have your baby,” he shrieked. Okay, so this line was clearly put there to make us think that Mr. Gold is fully cognizant of what is going on. At this point it seems more likely that he does than Regina, but I’m confused as to why he helped out by bringing Henry to Storybrooke. Rumpelstiltskin — hammy evil overlord, or hammy benevolent father figure? Only time will tell. The arrow is currently pointed towards the former, as Thomas is now missing. Rumpel promised Ella that she wouldn’t see her love until he had his baby. “In this world or the next, Cinderella.” Terrible. I thought everyone had happy endings in Fairy Tale?

NEXT: Quit playing games with my heart!

Not so much in Storybrooke, where Emma was dealing with a hospital visit from the treacherous Mr. Gold. “Thank you for bringing me my merchandise,” he said. Yes, he called the baby merchandise. He also threatened to call the police, effectively throwing the baby into the system that had oh-so damaged Emma. Emma was willing to accept those odds, because clearly his cash-for-baby contract would never hold up in a court of law. Mr. Gold was beaten, but also was impressed by Emma’s chutzpah.

So Mr. Gold offered her a deal — he’d back off Ashley if Emma could owe him a favor, effectively transferring the debt to her. We don’t know what this debt is yet, though I reckon it’s no good. Emma agreed, because for the first time in her life she’s choosing to put the needs of others above her own. Ashley and her newborn daughter, Alexandra, reunited with Sean in the delivery room. It was sweet and joyous. I think the point of this sequence was to show us that people can change, but I can’t help but nitpick here. Aren’t people supposed to have happy endings in Fairy Tale, and miserable lives over in Storybrooke? They’re not supposed to be happy until they can remember who they were. That’s the accepted mythology, and now this is giving us something different. But Cinderella will recur this season, so maybe the situation will change in coming episodes.

Finally, my heart broke. We saw Regina, largely absent throughout the episode, crawling out of a man’s bed after a sex romp. Her suitor’s identity was hidden; our only clues were his missing socks and the fact that he was on some sort of council. My notes say “Sean’s crappy dad,” but I was wrong. Sadly, terribly wrong.

Alas, we then flashed to a newly inspired Emma, picking up the phone to call Sheriff Graham. Looks like Emma’s getting a gun! She decided to take the job, because putting down some roots couldn’t be that bad. How great, I thought. Time for more sexual chemistry between Emma and the hipster sheriff of my dreams. But then we saw the lover reaching under the bed to retrieve his missing socks — it was Sheriff Graham. He’s playing both sides. As much as I want to be upset about this, his actions are pretty appropriate for his conflicted-soul character. Also, it will be great to see how Regina reacts when he finally chooses Emma. He will choose Emma, right? He has to.

What did you think of episode 4, viewers? Are you getting a clearer picture of Rumpelstiltskin, or are you still as confused as ever? Do you want to see more of Cinderella? Let us know in the comments!

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Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.
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