Jack Rowand/ABC
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April 30, 2015 at 08:46 PM EDT

Once Upon a Time teaches us many important lessons. Examples: Love conquers all. Everyone deserves redemption. In large enough doses, electrical currents can in fact kill a sentient puppet-man, at least until a kindly nun/fairy transforms him into a 7-year-old Keebler Elf.

But when those lessons are delivered alongside CGI that wouldn’t look out of place in, say, the 1995 CD-ROM game Bad Day on the Midway, they tend to lose just a bit of their punch. There was some good stuff in “Selfless, Brave, and True.” Unfortunately, “wooden” Pinocchio’s appearance was so distracting that it was tough to focus on what the episode did right.

Considering both August’s loooong absence from the show and the Pinocchio storm scene in season 1’s “The Stranger” — which I praised as “the most technically impressive sequence on Once thus far” — this development was doubly disappointing. I almost wish the show’s design team had chosen to represent Pinocchio with an actual wooden contraption. Sure, he’d have been more stiff — but at least he wouldn’t have looked like a refugee from The Sims.

At 8:15 A.M. ICT on the day Emma Swan first appears in Storybrooke, the pleasure-seeker formerly known as Pinocchio awakens in a Phuket bungalow with a shooting pain in his leg. Is his shin smarting because Bai Ling just bestowed some mysterious new ink upon it? No — it aches because it’s suddenly transformed into wood, though the Muggles around the ex-marionette only see a normal, human limb when he rolls up his pant leg for them. August travels away from the island, seeking a cure for his unusual affliction — and in Hong Kong, he learns of a healer who might just be able to treat it. The enchanter’s name? The Dragon. (I’m just gonna leave this here.)

Back in Storybrooke, each of the Charming ladies has a slightly uncomfortable chance encounter. Emma gets roped into sharing bagels and small talk with Henry, Bae, and Bae’s charming fiancee Tamara, who has come from New York City bearing her beau’s stuff. And when Snow White tries to take her mind off of her black, black heart by engaging in a little target practice in the woods, she stumbles upon a not-so-abandoned trailer that contains none other than Pinocchiaugust himself, glassy-eyed and ashamed and still clad in his leather jacket — even though he is now solid wood from top to bottom. Too… many… dirty…. jokes. Must… resist…

August — Pinocchio — whoever — begs Snow not to tell anyone where he is or what he’s become. Snow, naturally, does exactly the opposite. Within moments she finds Emma and Gepetto in Granny’s and leads them to the Blue Fairy, who hopefully will be able to transform August into a human again. Little does the trio know, they’re not the only people interested in Pinocchio’s well being. Another one of the restaurant’s customers has eavesdropped on their conversation: newcomer Tamara, who heads to the trailer by the T[r]oll Bridge to confront August herself. Levels of interconnectivity on this show are approaching Crash-like levels.

NEXT: Hong Kong Phooey

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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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