An apple a day keeps the doctor away... unless it's a piece of Regina's forbidden fruit
Credit: Jack Rowand/ABC

Roughly seven bajillion people ponied up $13 or more to watch the Avengers assemble in theaters nationwide this weekend. Fairy tale lovers who stayed home Sunday night were treated to a similarly rousing sight: Fairy Land’s own avenging heroes joining forces to save Prince Charming from the wicked King Charles Widmore George. (That expert archer dwarf is Hawkeye. Snow White is Black Widow. Granny is The Hulk.)

Unfortunately — spoiler alert! — the Magical Avengers aren’t quite as successful as their comic book counterparts. Giant alien robot monsters have nothing on the Evil Queen, a villain who knows how to spin wicked gold out of smoke, mirrors, and toxic fruit. The fairybacks in which Regina seemingly conquers Snow lack tension, since we know the princess will eventually prevail — but it’s still a ton of fun to watch Once connect its alternate universe’s multiple dots.

Alas, the Storybrooke storyline still isn’t gelling quite as well. That’s mostly because Emma keeps making rookie mistakes. Regina’s vision of getting accosted by the townsfolk and nearly decapitated by a sword is just a dream. But Emma’s abduction of Henry is regrettably real. Mercifully, it’s also short-lived, thanks to Henry’s fearless steering wheel grab. Good going, Henry! Now there’s something I never thought I’d say during Once‘s first handful of episodes.

In Fairy Land, King George sneers at his “son” before sentencing him to death by guillotine. But as the device’s shiny blade is falling toward the prince’s charming neck, it transforms into a harmless sheet of water — and then Regina struts into the castle’s courtyard, telling the stern king that she’ll trade him any riches for an intact Charming. Looks like someone needs a lasagna taster to complete her dungeon tableau.

Storybrooke Regina isn’t nearly as happy as her past self. Her pet apple tree is dying; it must have heard her claim that it’s producing honeycrisps and decided to wither in protest. Or maybe Emma’s presence is sapping its power away. Regina suggests the second one to Mr. Gold, who notes that the queen might just have to let Emma take Henry if she wants the Savior to leave and the curse to stay intact. But Regina would rather get rid of Emma altogether — a feat that will be difficult to pull off, since killing Emma would apparently break the curse.

She tries to enlist Gold’s help in this endeavor, but Gold shuts the queen down, saying that he’s planning a trip — and that Regina doesn’t have anything he wants. This would be the perfect moment for Regina to play her “I’ve got Nurse Ratched guarding Belle in a super secret asylum” trump card. Instead, she places a white rabbit-emblazoned card on a certain Storybrooke Elementary student’s bike.

The card is a message for the girl’s true father: Mad Hatter Jefferson, who apparently didn’t fall into another dimension at the end of Episode 17. Wait, so where did he go? Hopefully we’ll find out later; for now, Regina recruits the guy to help her retrieve something from Fairy Land via his old hat. In return, she’ll reunite him with his daughter and give them both a fresh start. As they chat, she offers Jefferson a drink, which he refuses. If only Emma had been around to take notes!

NEXT: “I have no interest in cleaning tongue marks off my mirror”

Back in Fairy Land, the Magic Avengers put the finishing touches on Operation: Rescue Charming. Best part: Red reappears after doing some scouting, and Grumpy genially tells her she’s got “someone” on her chin. Regina, meanwhile, gloats at the prince in her own dungeon, revealing that she’s got a fate worse than death planned for Snow. Is she going to sentence her to an eternity in one of those nightmare-colored fairy dresses?

Red howls, and the rest of the reconnaissance crew springs into action. Snow scales the castle’s wall, taking out several guards after she makes the ascension. Since this is a Disney production, her blade is magically unmarred by any blood. She, the dwarfs, and Granny — who is, awesomely, holding a sword in each hand — bring the fight to the courtyard. Just as it seems like they might be outnumbered by George’s white cloaks, there’s a deafening buzzing sound… and, like a swarm of killer bees done up in drag, the Blue Fairy and her pixie brigade appear. They dump glitter bombs onto the battle field; the weapons knock out Snow’s enemies, but don’t affect the warrior princess and her crew. Next time, guys, maybe try deploying that weapon first.

Snow eagerly runs to the dungeon, where Charming is waiting. Well, sort of — the Charming she finds in a cell is only an image in a mirror, since Regina has brought the prince to her evil palace. After giving the lovers a few moments together, the queen cuts them off by replacing James’s image with her own: “I just had to stop you!” she tells Snow with a laugh. “I have no interest in cleaning tongue marks off my mirror.” She asks Snow to meet her for an unarmed parlay, and the princess reluctantly agrees to show.

In Storybrooke, Emma gets shamed by her mom for trying to skip town and reverting back to the person she was before she came to Maine. Also, why won’t she pull her hair back and stop hiding her pretty face? She then gets coffee with Archie, who tells Emma that she doesn’t have a case for custody of Henry — and that she’s got to stop fighting Regina if she really wants to do what’s best for her son. It may also be a good idea to consult a lawyer, rather than a therapist, when in need of legal advice.

Henry, meanwhile, runs to August’s rented room and urges the writer to make Emma believe in the curse. But as August tells the kid, he’s already tried to do that and failed — and soon, he won’t be able to do anything, because his body is gradually petrifying. He offers to show Henry the “unvarnished truth” of his condition, and for a moment I’m convinced he’s going to pull down his pants in front of the 10-year-old — but nope, August just rolls up his sleeve. Phew! Anyway, the takeaway is that if Henry wants Emma to see the light, he’ll have to convince her himself.

NEXT: Oh hey, remember Hansel and Gretel? They’re sort of relevant again!

Regina leads Jefferson to her father’s tomb, where the last of her magic trinkets are stored. She’s got gadgets and gizmos aplenty, she’s got whosits and whatsits galore — but none of them has enough magic juice to get the hat spinning. Finally, the mayor removes the One Ring Daniel gave her before his untimely death — and while it can’t quite open a portal to Fairy Land, it can help Jefferson retrieve a small object. Something like, say, an incredibly symbolic piece of fruit.

After dumping all her weapons — girl has like, seven daggers on her at any given time — and bidding her friends farewell, Snow goes to Regina’s old stables to parlay with the queen. Regina leads her to the spot where she and the stable boy once had their rendezvous; now it’s also home to her lost love’s grave. Snow is shocked — all this time, she had no idea that Cora ripped Daniel’s heart out. And then Regina pulls out that poisoned apple she had Hansel and Gretel nab lo those many episodes ago. If Snow eats it, she’ll be trapped in her own body, with nothing but regret-filled dreams to keep her company. But its magic will only work if the victim takes the fruit willingly.

There is, of course, another catch: Regina will kill Prince James if Snow rejects the apple. So as her eyes fill with tears, Snow tells the queen that she’s won — then takes a big bite. Poor princess; that Red Delicious must be mealy as well as toxic. She collapses, and Charming instantly revives, calling for his comatose paramour. The suddenly computer animated apple falls from her limp fingers, then bounces down the hill… and all the way into the wormhole Jefferson and Storybrooke Regina have created. Oh, neat! So these portals span time as well as space. That opens up a lot of possibilities for where (or when) Baelfire might have ended up.

Storybrooke Regina channels Bree Van de Kamp, transforming the once-bitten fruit into a scrumptious-looking turnover. Before she delivers the treat to her mark, Emma herself shows up at the mayor’s house and gives her the gift of surrender. She tells Regina that she’s going to leave town, on the condition that Regina will still let her be a part of Henry’s life.

Regina gladly accepts those terms — but instead of letting Emma be on her not-so-merry way, she removes the turnover from the oven and places it into a plastic container, presenting it to Emma as a token of goodwill. Though Emma eyes the baked good suspiciously at first, she accepts it willingly. For being this boneheaded, I hope she eats the thing and washes it down with a glass of Jefferson’s Knockout Tea.

NEXT: Henry takes turnovers into his own hands; plus, Breadcrumbs!

Regina goes to Gold’s pawn shop to gloat, saying that she used “an old reliable solution” to take care of the sheriff. Since it didn’t exactly take last time, I’m not sure why she puts so much stock in the whole apple thing — but whatever, Regina, it’s your fantasy. Henry, meanwhile, shows up at his biological mom’s pad, where she tells him that she’s skipping town once and for all. His protestations about heroism and curses fall on deaf ears hidden behind Emma’s luscious mane of shampoo commercial hair, which has only grown more beautiful and terrible throughout Once‘s first season.

But when Henry has finally decided to accept Emma’s decision, he spies Regina’s turnover on her counter. He immediately goes back into Operation Cobra mode, telling Emma that the treat is poisoned — as are most Storybrooke foodstuffs that don’t come from Granny’s kitchen. Emma, of course, still doesn’t believe him. So after taking a deep breath, Henry decides to show her the error of her ways by taking a bite — and, after a moment, collapsing dramatically. If Emma doesn’t reevaluate her skeptical stance now, I’m going to have to call in the fairies for backup.


– I’m still not clear on why Gold/Rumpelstiltskin wants to break the curse. He came to Earth to find Baelfire, and he still hasn’t achieved that goal — why go back to Fairy Land now?

– Another burning question: How did Regina get Jefferson from Wonderland to Earth?

– And a third: Where is Gold planning to go?

– Regina’s dream about a big unruly mob giving her some comeuppance had a pretty sweet “Kill the Beast!” vibe.

– Grumpy tells the Magical Avengers that he can get help from someone who owes him a favor — evidently, that’s the Blue Fairy. Does she owe him because by rejecting Nova, he allowed the pixie to keep her wings?

– Gone, but not forgotten: As the crew is getting ready to have fun storming the castle, Grumpy says wistfully, “I miss Stealthy.”

– Red, proving that her wolf senses give her truly superhuman powers of deduction: “I don’t like this. I don’t trust that queen.”

– Charlize Theron and Lana Parrilla enter a Wicked Queen-off. Who wins?

– Seriously, though, how delicious did that turnover look? Regina could give Martha a run for her money in the Evil Homemaker department.

Next week, Henry will fight for his life as Once fights to the finish — and we learn whether Emma has finally decided to ditch the cynicism and embrace her destiny. I have a feeling that the finale might end with a group of characters trapped in Fairy Land, with no obvious portal back to Storybrooke. (The Fairy Landish Six, maybe?) But that’s just one gal’s opinion. What do you think will happen in next week’s finale? What do you want to happen? And how pumped are you to see a few familiar faces — i.e. Sheriff Graham and Belle — pop up again?

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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