Before Grumpy was Grumpy, he was just a dwarf, standing in front of a fairy, asking her to love him

By Hillary Busis
April 30, 2015 at 08:48 PM EDT
Chris Helcermanas-Benge/ABC
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I think the writers of Once have seen Disney’s version of Aida one too many times. On this show, every story’s a love story — heck, even the dwarf who would be Grumpy has his very own heterosexual soul mate. Between tonight’s saga, Snow and Charming, Rump and Belle, Abigail and Frederick and even, in some sense, Regina and the Genie, Once has dipped into the “star-crossed lovers” well a few times too many. It was frustrating when Lost got obsessed with pairing its characters into neat, perfect couples; I’d love if OUAT could find a way to avoid a similar pitfall.

On to tonight’s tale of inter-species romance. Back in Episode 10, Grumpy told Snow that he had once loved and lost a girl “beautiful as a fairy.” In “Dreamy,” we learn that the lady in question was Nova, a kindly pixie played by Angel‘s adorable Amy Acker. Nova fits squarely into Mindy Kaling’s taxonomy of rom-com heroines — she’s beautiful but so clumsy that she makes Bella Swan look like Michelle Kwan. As our story begins, the klutzy sprite accidentally spills a bit of the fairy dust she’s carrying across Care-a-Lot. It drifts to earth in a sparkly, pink-purple cloud, finally landing on top of a giant egg.

Soon, a fist punches through the shell — Humpty Dumpty, could that be you? Nope; it’s the fellow we know as Grumpy, wearing an uncharacteristically excited look. The hatchling is quickly dressed and trimmed by Bossy, an older fellow who runs him through the basics of dwarfdom. There are, evidently, no female dwarfs, which is why the lads hatch out of eggs. Like members of the Night’s Watch, they neither marry nor have children — their sole task is mining diamonds, which are then crushed to make fairy dust.

“Do we like it?” asks New Dwarf, with regards to mining. “We love it! We even whistle while we do it,” Bossy replies without winking. He sends New Dwarf into the quarry with seven companions — the diminutive fellows we know from Snow White, plus a happy and healthy Stealthy. Moment of silence, please. Before they go to work, each one is granted a pickaxe that’s magically inscribed with his true dwarf name. (A cute touch: We don’t see Bashful’s face when he takes his own blade.) After our hero grabs his implement, it reveals that he’ll be called Dreamy.

Back in Storybrooke, Mary Margaret is trying to round up volunteers to sell nun-crafted candles with her at the upcoming Miners Day festival. Unfortunately, her invisible scarlet letter — plus the visible scarlet letters that are still decorating her car — means that nobody’s eager to join her cause. MM attempts to recruit Leroy, the constantly drunk custodian who happens to be Dreamy/Grumpy’s alter ego. Leroy rudely brushes her off, saying that she’s the only person Storybrookites hate more than him. Maybe his dwarf name actually should have been Meany.

But all it takes for Leroy to change his tune is a pretty face — and some substitute fairy dust. As he’s walking past the Miners Day preparations, a snowy substance falls on his head. The lady standing on the ladder above Leroy apologizes. She’s Astrid, a Storybrooke nun — yes, there is a convent in Storybrooke — who’s trying to rig the fair’s lighting system. Leroy is instantly smitten. He helps her out with the lights, and before he knows it, he’s also confessing that he’s always dreamed of sailing away from Maine and seeing the world. With a smile, Astrid tells him to climb every mountain: “Someone once told me that a person can do anything, as long as they can dream it. I bet you could do anything.”

NEXT: Oh yeah, Kathryn? Still gone.

Remember how the last promo we saw made it seem like tonight’s show would be all about Kathryn’s disappearance? Yeah, not so much. But we do get the start of an investigation. Emma takes pictures of the car’s wreck and is swiftly joined by Sidney, who claims to be doing some freelance reporting. Next, Emma’s planning to check Kathryn’s phone records to see who she spoke with before crashing. Sidney offers to use one of his old contacts at the phone company to get the records faster; Emma, who can supposedly tell when a person’s being deceitful, accepts his help without a second thought. Maybe she should stop bragging about her supposed superpower; Sidney’s contact is, of course, Regina, who wastes no time printing false records.

Leroy approaches MM at the volunteer center and offers his services. As he’s signing up, another nun is castigating Sister Astrid for accidentally ordering 12 times as much helium as they need. Wait, don’t return it, guys — you could make an Up house! Alas, buying the noble gas has accidentally bankrupted the convent; now they won’t have enough money to pay their rent. When Leroy learns about Astrid’s plight, the compact curmudgeon vows to save her home by selling every last candle.

Meanwhile, Nova and Dreamy are officially meeting cute in the mine. He helps save her brand-new bag of fairy dust from meeting a fiery end, then listens patiently as she moans about how her clumsiness will prevent her from ever becoming a fairy godmother. Dreamy tells Nova to cheer up: “You can do anything you want, as long as you can dream it.” I’m sensing a pattern. Besotted, Nova slyly tries to invite him to meet her at Firefly Hill — what are the chances of this being a Joss Whedon reference? — that evening. The implication goes right over poor, dense Dreamy’s head, which makes sense, since he’s around five feet tall.

That evening, the dwarfs unwind at Fairy Land’s version of the Star Wars cantina. But Dreamy doesn’t join in, even when his pals use a dinglehopper to arouse Sleepy from his rest. He’s dazed, he’s pale, he’s sick, he’s sore — what could possibly be the matter? Luckily, there’s someone at the next table who recognizes a fellow lovefool: a wistful Belle, who must have recently left Rumpelstiltskin’s castle. She diagnoses Dreamy’s affliction and tells him that he should go meet up with Nova. Dreamy takes the inexplicable Aussie at her word and sets off to find his winged paramour.

NEXT: Nuns not having fun

It turns out that Leroy’s earlier assumption was right: Nobody wants to buy candles from the town harlot and the town drunk. After a discouraging attempt to sell their wares door to door, Leroy approaches Astrid to deliver the bad news. But he can’t bear to disappoint her, so he ends up pulling a Seacrest instead: “The bad news is… you nuns are going to be real busy making candles, because YOU’RE GOING TO HOLLYWOOD me and Mary Margaret just sold them all!” Though MM’s aghast at his lie, Leroy snarls that she shouldn’t judge him for falling for someone who’s unavailable — and says he’ll rustle up the $5,000 he promised Astrid.

At Firefly Hill, Dreamy and Nova admire the kingdom and sigh about how they’d love to see it up close. Suddenly, Dreamy’s impulsively proposing that they sail away together and go exploring — and Nova is just as impulsively saying yes. Pretty little picture, yes?

Speaking of boats: Leroy tries to sell his to Mr. Gold, but Storybrooke’s most powerful man isn’t prepared to meet his price. When Gold finds out that Leroy is trying to help the nuns, he’s even less inclined to hand over cash — apparently, he’s got a “long and complicated history” with them, and he’s looking forward to the day they’re forced to leave town. So Gold doesn’t like The Sound of Music? He really is a monster. Disappointment piles atop disappointment when Astrid soon shows up, bearing a pie for her candle-selling hero — only to discover that Leroy lied to her. She sadly walks away, leaving Leroy with only an entire pie for comfort. Which, if you think about it, isn’t actually so bad.

The Mystery of the Missing Blonde deepens. Emma discovers that Kathryn never showed up at her law school in Boston. What’s more, Sidney’s phone records show that Kathryn had an eight-minute conversation with her husband shortly before she disappeared — even though when questioned, David told Emma that he hadn’t spoken with Kathryn since they split up.

Dreamy’s seven small pals wish him luck as he leaves to go meet Nova. But on the way, he’s stopped by Bossy, who tells him that he’s shirking his responsibility — especially since dwarfs are incapable of love. The message is reinforced by the Blue Fairy, who also happens to be Nova’s mentor. She tells Dreamy that if he runs away with Nova, she’ll lose her wings. I’m guessing that ringing a bell wouldn’t make them grow back. Like Rump and Snow before him, Dreamy ends up pushing his love away. More like happily never after, am I right?

At Granny’s, Leroy and MM drown their sorrows. He moans that his whole life, people have been trying to tell him what he can’t do — but Astrid believed in him. MM mopes about her pariah status. But suddenly, Leroy is resolved to make a change. He climbs up to the roof of a building overlooking the Miners Day festivities and thrusts a pickaxe — wait, where did he get that? — into a nearby transformer. Storybrooke is plunged into darkness… which is pretty convenient for a duo that’s trying to sell candles.

NEXT: “It’s out again! Sorry ’bout your friend” — plus Breadcrumbs

A droopy Dreamy heads back to the mine and gets to work, viciously hacking at a diamond-studded rock. He attacks the stone so hard that he breaks his ax — and when Bossy hands him a new tool, the name that appears on it is Grumpy instead of Dreamy. Cue Debbie Downer “whomp whomp” noise.

At least someone gets a happy ending tonight. Storybrooke’s powerless citizens buy all of MM and Leroy’s candles, leaving them with the $5,000 the nuns need to pay their rent. When Leroy delivers the good news to Astrid, he even finds the courage to tell her that he’s going to fix up his dilapidated boat — and that he’d like her to be his first passenger. As they chat, the candles flicker like Fairy Land’s long-lost fireflies. Mary Margaret, too, seems close to getting back into the townspeople’s good graces. Instead of riding away in her Trampmobile, she heads back into the festival. Granny even lights her candle. (She knows MM — she’s shivering.)

But things aren’t looking quite so bright and shiny for David. After a good old-fashioned threatening from Regina, Emma reluctantly approaches the adulterer at the fairground. The entire town watches as he climbs into the back of her squad car. Goodbye, Prince Charming — hello, Prince Incarcerated.

Breadcrumbs:

– Yikes, those fairy costumes! Five words: Tutus festooned with Ribbon Dancers.

– Tonight’s episode is going to lead to some uncomfortable conversations for the show’s family viewers: “Mommy, where do dwarf eggs come from?”

– So what, exactly does fairy dust do — besides turning dwarfs into romantics and helping English children fly?

– I loved the smash cut from Dreamy hatching to Leroy attacking his breakfast. Ditto this weird, wonderful exchange between Nova and Dreamy in the mine: “You’re one?” “I know. I look young for my age.”

– Like me, Emma doesn’t get why there’s a mine in Storybrooke: “Coal? In Maine? If they were mining for lobster, I would understand.”

– Pssst, Losties: The nuns sold 42 candles last year.

– MM and Leroy attempt to sell a candle to a tall, thin guy eating a carrot and his squat wife. I think we’ve just met Mr. and Mrs. Jack Sprat.

– What I wouldn’t give to see the maps inside Nova’s boat! How many kingdoms are there in Fairy Land, anyway? And does the realm have an actual name?

– I sure hope Nova actually got to be a fairy godmother — though given what happened to Cinderella’s, it seems like a pretty high-risk profession.

– One more fantastic moment: The way Grumpy savagely said “heigh ho” before decimating his original ax.

Next Sunday: Hey there, Little Red Riding Hood! You sure are looking good. In the meantime, let’s talk “Dreamy.” How did you like the love story? What about Amy Acker’s performance? And would you take medical advice from a doctor who got certified by a pickaxe?

Hillary on Twitter

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