Emma breaks bad with a little help from Sidney, while Aladdin gets mashed up with Snow White
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Credit: Jack Rowand/ABC

Searching for thrills, chills and two-headed snake kills? Look no further. TV’s hottest show is Once Upon a Time. This place has everything: intrigue, apples, plot twists, a sinister playground, Giancarlo Esposito in a supremely silly genie outfit…

In other words, “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree” was Once in rare form. Tonight’s episode managed to put an interesting spin on the tales of Snow White and Aladdin’s genie while also advancing both the master story and a few important subplots (MM and David! Eeeee!). That’s no small feat, especially considering adventures in wheel-spinning like “True North.”

We begin with Henry and Emma at the kid’s beloved play castle, a wooden structure that’s been devastated by last week’s storm. (Hooray for continuity!) As they’re surveying the damage, another extreme weather event touches down: Hurricane Regina. Ah, yes, it’s time for Regina’s regularly scheduled threatdown with Emma. In this installment, she tells Ms. Swan that the castle is dangerously unsafe, then commands her to start acting like a sheriff. So she should be escorting more juvenile delinquents to Boston, or what?

At Granny’s, Mary Margaret tries to boost her daughter’s spirits — but scurries away as soon as she notices a text from David on her ancient Nokia candy bar phone. (If Storybrooke is stuck 28 years in the past, why does everyone have cell phones? Probably best not to think about these things.) Her still-warm seat is quickly occupied by a drunk and dangerous-sounding Sidney Glass, who’s apparently disgruntled because Regina got him fired from the paper. All it takes is a little unemployment to transform a mild-mannered editor into Gus Fring. Giancarlo Esposito is seriously intense and terrifying in this scene — especially when he hands Emma a business card, telling her to call him when she’s ready to take Regina down.

Cut to Fairy Tale World, where we see Sidney dressed up as… an Aladdin-style genie! It’s a bit of a bummer that he’s not blue, but all the same, this reveal is one of tonight’s greatest moments. After sighing and muttering, “Here we go,” the genie emerges from his shiny, lampy prison to greet his new master: a genial guy by the name of King Leopold. (You might recognize him as the actor who played Toby Ziegler on The West Wing.) As soon as the smoke clears, Genie swiftly and hilariously runs over a few rules: the king gets three wishes, he can’t wish for life or death, and once spoken, a wish can’t be undone. From his tone and his bored demeanor, it’s abundantly clear that he’s had to repeat this spiel waaay too many times.

When he’s done, the stunned king scrunches his face adorably, then gives a little laugh. As luck would have it, he has everything he needs already. At that, Genie rolls his eyes and decides to take a load off. But his seen-it-all attitude dissipates as soon as Leopold reveals his first wish: to set the genie free. “Yahoooo!” shouts Genie. “I’m history! I’m mythology! Nah, I don’t care what I am — I’m freee-eeeee!”

NEXT: Okay, that didn’t really happen

Just kidding. Made ya’ look! In any case, to add the opposite of insult to the opposite of injury, the King uses his second wish to give Genie himself the third wish. Though the turbaned one is touched, he vows never to use that wish; after all, the 1001 wishes he’s granted have all ended poorly. Now Genie will finally be able to seek the one thing that has always eluded him: true love. And what better place to find it than Leopold’s computer-generated castle?

Genie travels with the king to his digital manse — seriously, this might be some of the worst CGI in the history of Once, and that’s saying something — where he meets both Leopold’s daughter, the beautiful Snow, and his wife, Regina. I didn’t realize until now that her name is the same in both Fairy Tale Land and Storybrooke. Genie watches Regina tend her apple tree, and it looks like he’s impressed by more than her gardening skills.

Back in Storybrooke, a distraught Henry watches his own castle get torn down. What’s worse, the storybook he had buried beneath it is missing. That — plus yet another threatdown from Regina — is enough to get Emma to call Sidney and let him know she’s in.

Meanwhile, MM meets David at the T[r]oll Bridge to find that he’s set up an adorable picnic. In January. In Maine. Whatever, suspension of disbelief! She tells him they “have to stop doing this” in a way that indicates she really doesn’t want to, and David replies by saying they’ll figure out what to do tomorrow. I find that tomorrow is always the best time to make important decisions.

In the tunnel beneath them, Emma drives to meet Sidney, who’s all dressed up for an Afternoon of Intrigue in a trench and kicky hat. He reveals the dirt he dug up on Regina: $50,000 are missing from the town’s budget, and he has reason to believe the Mayor is responsible. In order to find out what she’s up to, Sidney is willing to tap her phone, “GPS” her car and hack into her e-mail — yikes, did he work for the Daily Mirror or News of the World? Emma, though, wants to do things by the book.

In FTW, Leopold appears to be celebrating his birthday. He tells his guests that any gifts would pale in comparison to his darling Snow White. After all, the girl is pretty darn fair. As he dotes on Snow — even saying that she reminds him of her dearly departed mother — Regina watches, looking like her heart is breaking. Uh-oh, is Once seriously going to make me feel sorry for the Queen? Bold move, show. Bold move.

Regina leaves the banquet hall and heads for her tree. Genie follows her. She reveals how unhappy she is: Leopold will never love her like he loved his first wife. Maybe this castle’s true name is Manderley. Then again, it looks like someone else might just love her — someone with a goofy vest and Jafar-like facial hair. Genie pulls out a mirror and gives it to her, saying that she should use it to see herself the way he sees her. Aww!

NEXT: Dear diary, today I saw a genie…

Emma and Sidney sift through town records as MM bursts through the door, still flushed from her time with David. Sidney’s still trying to convince Emma to toss the legal system aside in order to bring Regina down. After all, they’d just be doing something bad for a good reason. “Yeah!” Mary Margaret chimes in breathlessly. “I mean maybe you’re doing something wrong but if it’s what’s meant to be if it’s what’s right does that really make you a bad person??” Thus concludes tonight’s installment of Justification Theater. In the end, Emma decides to go with Sidney and plants a bug beneath Regina’s desk.

Things just got complicated in FTW as well. King Leopold reads his queen’s diary and discovers that her heart belongs to a mysterious man who gave her a mirror. He puts Genie in charge of finding out just who that man was. Okay, little quibble: Why make these flashbacks all take place in a span of two days? This storyline would make a lot more sense if we found out that, say, a month had passed since the genie had arrived at the castle, and during that time, he and Regina fell (or at least seemed to fall) in love. Anyhow.

Via Emma’s tap, the sheriff and Sidney learn that Regina’s planning to pay someone off in the middle of the night. When darkness falls, the fearsome twosome head to the woods to see what the mayor’s up to. But as they’re driving, Emma loses control of her car and slams into a signpost. Turns out someone has tampered with her brakes; Regina’s work, no doubt.

Then Mr. Gold, toting a suitcase full of cash, emerges from the fog. He tells E and S that he just sold Regina a bit of land, then warns the two of them to be careful while on their crusade. You know he’s just jealous that they didn’t invite him to their scheme-ganza.

Fairyback: Genie stands at the apple tree, waiting to meet Regina — only to find that her father (Henry I) has come instead. Henry tells Genie that Leopold has locked the queen in her chambers, then gives him a mysterious box. He says it contains the only thing that can set his daughter free from this wretched life. Ooo, I hope it’s a typewriter!

NEXT: How to steal $50,000 without anyone getting mad at you

Emma leads an uneasy Sidney to Regina’s office. She figures the two of them will have a few minutes to rifle through the mayor’s things before getting caught. Though Emma and Sidney find the documents they seek, they’re interrupted by Regina before Emma can search for Henry’s lost storybook. A shocked Regina asks what on Earth they’re doing in her office. Emma’s awesome response? “Some kids broke in. I heard the alarms and I’m checking it out… ’cause… I’m sheriff.” Trust me, typing doesn’t do justice to Jennifer Morrison’s delivery. Regina doesn’t ask Emma to arrest herself; though she’s clearly suspicious, she lets Sidney and his new pal leave.

In the land of Happily Ever After, Genie comes to his love’s chambers bearing her father’s box. We learn that only thing that can release Regina from her wretched life is…death. The box contains an Agrahbahn Viper, or possibly two; I can’t tell if it’s a pair of snakes or one snake with a pair of heads. Let’s go with the latter, since that’s infinitely cooler. One bite from this beast, and the Queen will be free! Genie, though, has another plan — one that involves giving the snake another victim. Things are going from zero to murder in record time.

After a throwaway scene in which Henry and the Stranger, a.k.a. Holden, have another circular conversation, Sidney and Emma go over blueprints and bank statements. Regina’s building something, though they can’t tell what. Still, it’s enough evidence to get Emma and Sidney to interrupt a town council meeting. Emma announces to the townspeople that she has proof Regina stole money to build a lavish home in the woods. Uh-oh, the Queen’s going down!

Well, not quite. Regina explains to those assembled that she did steal money, and she is building a house: a playhouse for the town’s children, one inspired by a drawing she found in one of Henry’s books. Emma sure looks sheepish now. Except wait, doesn’t it still matter that Regina stole $50,000? Even if she did use it to Help the Children? Oops, sorry — there goes my suspension of disbelief again.

Box in hand, the Genie sneaks into Leopold’s bedchamber. With a flick of the wrist, his evil task is done — the snake bites, and the King is dying. As life leaves him, the Genie explains that he did what he did for love. With his last breath, Leopold replies, “You were right. I never should have made a wish.” Yup, there are those consequences you were warned about.

NEXT: Twists aplenty, plus breadcrumbs

In the aftermath of the City Council meeting, Regina tells Emma once again to stay away from Henry; this time, it seems Emma’s going to obey. She tells Henry as much via walkie-talkie when she stops by the new playground. (That thing sure was built fast. Did Kaboom lend a hand?) At least when Emma subsequently goes to Granny’s to drown her sorrows, she finds that Sidney still wants to help her take Regina down.

Of course, that’s not really the end of the story — not in Storybrooke or Fairy World. After murdering the king, Genie learns that the palace guards know what he’s done. Regina tells Genie to flee from her kingdom. And then he puts everything together. She never loved him; she just wanted him to do her dirty work for her. So it turns out Regina really is eeeevil through and through. I’m torn by this revelation — while I think bad guys with souls are much more complicated and interesting, it’s also sort of fun to watch someone who truly has no redeeming qualities.

The heartbroken genie tells Regina he can’t live without her, then realizes he doesn’t have to. He pulls out his lamp and wishes to be with the queen forever and to look upon her face always. Genie, come on! You of all people should know how to properly word a wish. This one is granted, as we all could have guessed, by Genie getting trapped in the mirror he gave the queen. You don’t have to tell us who’s the biggest fool of all.

And in yet another twist — who among you guessed that Sidney was really working for Regina the whole time? Yeah, you get a cookie. After showing the mayor that he taped the conversation he just had with Emma, she smiles an evil smile: “Now she trusts you. Now we can have some fun.” I. Can’t. Wait.


– The most important breadcrumb of all: Holden-the Stranger has Henry’s book!

– Emma tells Henry that they can get Marco to help fix the castle; Marco, as you may remember, is Gepetto’s Storybrooke alter ego. He’s the town’s handyman. (Do not trust the Once wiki that tells you Marco is a jailer; thank you, eagle-eyed commenter.)

– How did the genie’s lamp get in that random river? Were the producers too cheap to spring for a Cave of Wonders set piece?

– Before she became a wild woodland creature, did Snow White only wear white? In tonight’s flashbacks, she always looked like she was going to either a debutante ball or her own wedding.

– The first thing we overhear on Emma’s tap is Regina saying, “Miss Ginger, I really don’t have more time for complaints about working conditions. Air temperature is not one of my areas.” Think that might be important? [Update: Commenters are pointing out that this might be a reference to the Blind Witch’s Storybrooke persona. I’m crossing my fingers that you’re right.]

– So is that sheriff’s car just chilling in the woods now? Maybe Mechanic Michael will tow it out.

– Do the keys Emma uncovered in Regina’s desk have something to do with the mayor’s heart room?

– The Genie whispers “forgive me” before sending the snake to do its dirty deed — shades of the mournful, dearly departed Huntsman?

– Gold will not let up on that whole “alliance” thing. Why does he want Emma to join forces with him so badly?

Next week In two weeks — dumb Super Bowl — we’ll be introduced to Belle, who’s being paired with a most unusual Beast: Rumpelstiltskin. Iiiiiiinteresting. In the meantime, did you love tonight’s episode as much as I did?

Episode Recaps

Once Upon a Time

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

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