Dr. Frankenstein takes center stage in a filler-filled episode
Once Upon A Time
Credit: Jack Rowand/ABC

Hello again, Hookers, Swan Queens, and sundry Oncelers! After taking a week off to live blog the Golden Globes — thanks for filling in, Sarah! — I was eager to return to the world of Storybrooke for tonight’s episode. Unfortunately, “In the Name of the Brother” ended up being an exercise in wheel-spinning that seemed to exist only to set up the show’s next hour… which won’t air until February 10, thanks to the Super Bowl and the heretofore unknown holiday known as January 27. Dangit, Kitsis and Horowitz! Quit playing games with our hearts!

We begin in medias res, right after the mysterious stranger — played by Ethan Embry, of Can’t Hardly Wait fame — has careened into Storybrooke, taking down a certain pirate in his wake. Emma, who’s quickly on the scene, calls for backup even though she’s definitely the town’s only cop; soon enough Hook, an amnesiac Belle, and the stranger are all taken to Storybrooke Grace Mercy West, where they’ll be under the care of a drunken Dr. Victor Frankenstein. Uh oh.

Victor is the night’s focal point; his flashbacks explain in greater detail why he came to Fairy Land in “The Doctor,” as well as what happened after he became the proud owner of Rumpelstiltskin’s telltale heart. The short version: Before stepping down Jefferson’s metaphorical rabbit hole, Victor was a simple scientist in Black and White Steampunk Land with a disapproving father and a loving brother named Gerhardt.

After Daddy Dearest decides to stop funding his work, Frankenstein is about to give up his laboratory — pronounced “lab-ORRR-atory,” no doubt — when he receives a colorful visitor: Rumpelstiltskin, who’s heard that the good doctor knows how to restore life. If Victor can tell the imp how he does that voodoo that he does so well, Rump will give him a pretty penny in return. Then the Dark One conjures up a mountain of gold coins… and disappears before Victor has even had to prove himself. Hey, free money!

Naturally, things aren’t going quite as well in Storybrooke. Belle has been well and truly cursed, and even Rumpelstiltskin’s attempt to bestow Twue Wuv’s Kiss on her isn’t working. (Note to would-be hex-breakers: Please do not smooch a sleeping woman who’s forgotten who she is, let alone who you are. Especially if you’re 300 years older than her.) Hook has been de-clawed and chained to a hospital bed, but he’s still incorrigibly flirting with Emma. And Storybrooke’s very own Justice League is freaking out about Ethan Embry, whose character’s name is actually Greg Mendell — it’s likely that he saw some serious magic before going unconscious. And if regular folk can just crash into Storybrooke all willy-nilly, the town’s peculiarities just might start raising some eyebrows.

The Justice League can’t stop outsiders from barging into their little magical oasis. They can, however, solve their Stranger Problem pretty easily by simply letting Greg succumb to his injuries. Grumpy’s in favor of the idea; Snow and Charming are appalled at his callousness, and tell Frankenstein that he needs to save the interloper. They don’t urge the physician to get sober first, indicating that they know about as much about medicine as they do about law enforcement.

NEXT: Give your hardt a break

Back in his Pawn Shop of Broken Dreams, Rump has nothing left to love but Chip the cup… and things start looking even more dire when Cora shows up uninvited. She says that she’s brought a peace offering to him, as well as the terms of an agreement: If he’ll let her get her daughter back, she’ll help him find his son. The blank globe she’s brought with her should assist Rump in that regard. And then we learn that Cora, like her daughter, was also once Rumpelstiltskin’s pupil…. and the two of them seal their truce “like [they] used to,” with a kiss on the lips. Poor Regina — Cora definitely sold her to Rump once upon a time.

Speaking of tangled family trees: Back in Steampunk Land, Victor and his assistant Eye-gor are busily digging up a grave so that the doctor can prove his worth to the Rump of the past. (Even though he’s already got all those gold coins! Now that’s dedication to one’s craft.) Before long, Perfect Brother Gerhardt shows up and discovers what his creepy sibling’s up to… and then the better Frankenstein ends up with a bullet to the gut. Guess that’s why they call it grave danger.

When Victor tries to reanimate his brother, he discovers that Gerhardt’s hardt isn’t up to the task. Luckily, there’s another world filled with plastic hearts sturdy enough to withstand life-restoring lightning. To the portal!

Meanwhile: Regina, who’s been hiding out below her father’s tomb, is delighted when Henry treks all the way to her fortress of solitude. There’s just one problem: Henry is actually Cora, fresh from snooping through her daughter’s manse yet still looking for forgiveness. Can we take just a moment to imagine how much more awesome Once would be if Cora had been impersonating Henry this entire time?

Initially, Regina’s no dummy. She rejects Cora’s entreaties, saying that she knows her mother framed her for Jiminy Human’s so-called death. Regina also says that she’s going to take Cora into town, where mom will have to confess her lies to the whole of Storybrooke. Considering how one can saw another person in half in this town without getting so much as a strongly worded letter in return, this may not be as damning as Regina hopes it will be. In any case, the younger Mills soon finds herself hesitating when her mother starts the manipulation machine, telling Regina that the two of them might be able to free Henry from the Charming family’s clutches. Well done, sentimental hand print plate: You are literally the first of your kind to ever do something useful.

NEXT: Rumpelstiltskin makes Emma an offer she literally can’t refuse

After the events of “The Doctor,” Gerhardt is aliiiiive! Well, sort of — he’s walking with jerky zombie movements, he’s grunting intermittently rather than speaking in full sentences (did someone say “puddinontheriiiiiiiz”?), and he also seems to have developed an aversion to fire. Also, he just killed Disapproving Father Frankenstein. What’s the matter with kids today, eh? Victor knows he should do away with the monster he’s created, but he just can’t bring himself to end Gerhardt’s second life — even when Gerhardt encourages him to do so. Instead, Victor promises to find a way to save his bro. Is this how the doctor ended up in Storybrooke?

Storybrooke’s Frankenstein, who’s apparently been in a bad place ever since Regina’s Daniel pulled off his arm — understandable — has run away from the hospital, intending to do himself in. He goes to the harbor, tosses Greg’s watch — which reminds him of his brother’s old one — into the abyss, and readies himself to join the trinket. But before Victor himself can pull a full Javert, he’s nabbed by Red, who has tracked him down using her super wolf powers. After the save, the pair have a monster-to-monster chat. The most important part of it comes when Meghan Ory manages to say the following with a straight face: “Look, you’re Frankenstein. And I’m a werewolf. I… ate my boyfriend.”

That’s enough of a pep talk to get Victor back to the hospital, where he finally does that surgery poor Greg has been waiting for all night. Even though there’s (presumably) no lightning involved, the operation goes well, and Emma’s given the okay to go talk to the stranger and learn what he saw when he came to Storybrooke. The answer to that question seems to be “nothing”: Greg tells the sheriff that he crashed simply because he was texting and driving (has Quinn Fabray taught us nothing?!), and magic doesn’t ever figure into the conversation. Relieved, Emma lets him off with nothing more than a warning, even though he hit somebody with his car while breaking the law. Storybrooke’s town motto should be “A Land Without Consequences.”

Soon, Emma learns that she’s got bigger things to worry about. Rump has used Cora’s magical globe gizmo to determine that Baelfire is apparently located in New York City, or maybe New Jersey, or possibly Delaware (the first state!). [Update: Upon further examination, the map may have been pointing more toward the Maryland/Virginia area. Or possibly Pennsylvania, where Greg is from. Go ahead and thank me for helping to narrow this down.]

Either way, the Dark One wants to waste no time going to find his long-lost son… and he’s using that favor Emma’s owed him ever since the Cinderella episode to command Sheriff Swan to come with him. Oh, and if anyone harms Amnesiac Belle when they’re gone, Rump’s going to kill the entire Charming family. Say what you will about Rumpelstiltskin, but the man knows how to make an exit.

Erm, also — Stranger Greg appears to know more than he let on. As the episode draws to a close, he calls the woman who’s been trying to get in touch with him since he came to the hospital — a person identified only as “Her” — and tells her that she won’t believe what he saw in Storybrooke. If Jennifer Love Hewitt is on the other end of that phone call, I am going to give my firstborn child to Jane Espenson.

NEXT: Breadcrumbs!


– It can be no coincidence that Stranger Greg’s full name evokes Gregor Mendel, the geneticist best known to 9th graders everywhere as “that monk with the peas.” Could this be a clue to his importance as a character, or is it just Once‘s writers having Lost-style fun with historical monikers?

– More fun with names: Gerhardt evidently means “strong and brave spear-wearer.” Father Frankenstein’s first name is Alphonse, which means “noble and brave.” Victor itself means “he who conquers.” I’m sensing a pattern here.

– Even debilitating injuries can’t stop Hook from flirting up a storm. His best line came after the pirate asked Emma to restore his signature curved appendage — “Or is there another attachment you prefer?” Pretty saucy for a program rated TV-PG.

– Oh no, Belle’s murdered poor Chip! At least now he won’t have to sleep in the cupboard.

– Greg’s ringtone is the theme from Star Wars. Synergy!

– So wait, is the true love’s kiss cure-all as much of a myth as Emma’s lie detecting powers?

– Rump tells Victor that his name is “Rumpel von Stiltskin.” Is he just messing with the Germanic doc, or did he actually have a first and last name once? Does that mean Bae’s last name is von Stiltskin? How badly did that poor kid get teased before his dad became the Dark One?

– Think Cora picked up anything else of note when she was snooping through Regina’s house?

– Henry learns who Dr. Frankenstein really is, then brings up a good point: “If the curse went to places with other stories, then who knows what else is in this town?” T-minus three episodes until Captain Ahab, Hester Prynne, and Holden Caulfield show up.

Baelfire seems to be in New York City. Neal Cassidy, father of Henry, also lives in New York City. Coincidence? Someone with a better sense of geography than me: Where the heck did the globe send Rump? I tried comparing a screen shot to a map, but damnit, I’m a recapper, not a cartographer.

In three weeks — three weeks!Once will return with a new episode featuring the return of Giant Hurley (hooray!) and the delightful visual of Rumpelstiltskin going through airport security (double hooray!). Let’s try to get through the hiatus by dissecting tonight’s episode: What did you think of “In the Name of the Brother”?

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