Welcome to Once Upon A Time Observations — your weekly observations and connections guide through the ABC‘s fantasy series. This week we slice into “The Stranger”.


  • This episode’s title clue is Jiminy Cricket in the Enchanted forest of Enchantment, foreshadowing his involvement in Pinocchio’s story.

  • As intimated in “Hat Trick“, Henry has noticed changes made to his One Book. “There’s a new story in it,” confirming August’s shenanigans in WHTF.

  • Henry’s wise to the fact that the new story is there to “tell us something we need to know about the curse.”
  • The story August added was of course his own — that of Pinocchio — which, it turns out, has close ties with the curse and even closer ties with Emma’s origins story.
  • Interesting, though, that the narrator (the search goes on!) decided to omit Pinocchio’s story from the One Book in the first place. Dramatically it works for the show, but could there be another reason? What other stories have gone untold?
  • While August may not be the narrator, he has played that kind of role by adding his story to the book. Intriguingly, the book now has more than one narrator, if it didn’t already.

  • It seems as though the ship picture in the previous episode was indeed a foreshadowing clue to the Pinocchio story.

  • Monstro makes an appearance, though it remains to be seen whether Mr. Whale is his Storybrooke counterpart.

At this point in the journey, it’s worth establishing the different methods of travel between FTL and the various ‘other’ realms:

1. The Enchanted Tree of Enchantment to Earth (Opening episodes, “The Stranger”).

2. The Curse to end all Curses to Earth (Opening episodes)

3. Jefferson’s Magic Hat to Wonderland/multiple dimensions (“Hat Trick”)

4. The Magic Bean of Magic to ‘world without magic’ (“The Return”)

  • So, aside from ‘memory’ or the book itself, if you want to get really meta, there are currently four established means of getting from FTL to these other realms.
  • The fact that only one tree remained raises the question of whether Rumples used the others (minus the one Geppetto used to make his son) in his efforts to find Baelfire?

  • Regina smashes her mirror (next she’ll be burning apples), nicely contrasting her broken veneer with the transparent confidence as she’s about to strike the FTLies with all her wrath.

  • It’s confirmed that the 7 year old kid who ‘found Emma by the roadside’ was none other than Pinocchio/August himself.
  • Interesting little narrative trick when Pinocchio is knocked unconscious and a flashback is inserted to bridge the amount of time it would have taken for Emma to be born and placed in the wardrobe. The writers could have had her arrive immediately behind Pinocchio and made a statement about time running differently between the two realms. But we can assume that time in FTL and Earth runs the same. At least until something comes along to contradict that.

  • The parallel between the wooden vessel that brought Emma to Earth and August, who was meant to protect her, is crystallized when he shows her his leg.
  • He recalls the shooting pain that he felt in his leg “at 8:15 in the morning” when Emma decided to stay in Storybrooke (8:15 PM).

  • The fact that Emma can’t see August’s wood is interesting. Aside from bearing a few similarities to a certain LOST conceit, it helps convey Emma’s current lack of faith — which is far more effective than characters in the show constantly talking about faith.
  • It also does more to position Emma differently to the rest of the characters, by having her see what she wants to see. Though it further quashes the notion that she can always tell when someone is pulling her leg (hahaha). Though in truth, that might have been hammered in recent episodes as a clue towards August’s identity.
  • Emma’s resistance enables us to see things through her eyes, which I feel is important since she’s supposedly the protagonist. For her, the likes of Jefferson and August must come across as slightly mad, yet deep down she knows there’s a truth to what they’re saying, and she might want to believe in the mad notions, if only for the connection it has fostered with her son.
  • So, the concept of Emma’s struggle to take a “leap of faith” is starting to work a bit better. To start fulfilling her purpose she has to believe in madness. In a sense, she has to let go of ‘our world’ to save theirs, and believing is only the first step.
  • As much stick as I’ve given Emma, my feelings towards her did mellow slightly when she told August that fighting for Henry is all she can handle right now. In many ways the burden of curse, of believing, is unfair to her. At the same time, her willingness to believe in the fairytale may hinge on how much she’s willing to believe in Henry. It might just come in a fleeting moment that opens her eyes to the truth.
  • There were a number of LOST easter eggs in this one — including Oceanic 815, Phuket, and others. Check them all out in our constantly updated LOST/OUAT Easter Eggs Guide.
  • Did Geppetto make a wrong gamble? This episode raises the notion that if Pinocchio had been in FTL when the curse hit, he would have remained a ‘real boy’. After all, he didn’t turn into wood when arriving to Earth through the Enchanted tree of Enchantment, and Archie isn’t exactly a cricket in Storybrooke.
  • Given how August added his own story to the One Book, it makes it seem more like a personal account of the FTLies interconnected lives, like a big fat mutual diary. (or history book, as Jefferson might call it).
  • Remember how last week I said the fallout was all the Blue Fairy’s fault? Double it! 😉 Can we re-name her The Arbitrary Fairy?
  • Serious question: Was Geppetto the only carpenter in the whole of FTL?
  • “The tree contains enough magic to protect two from the curse.” other than the fact that TBF probably pulled that number from thin air, technically, wouldn’t that have been three?
  • Why is the Enchanted tree of Enchantment linked to Earth? Is only linked to earth, or other lands without magic?
  • I do wonder whether TBF knew that this ‘land without magic’ was also the same land that the Queen’s curse would transport them to. Perhaps she didn’t know all of the details, but then I’d ask why she even knew as much as she did.
  • Love Geppetto reminding the fairy who turned Pinocchio into a real boy that Pinocchio wasn’t always a real boy.
  • I think Jiminy was getting hot under the collar when Geps questioned whether his son would be turned back into wood upon the curse striking. He must have been questioning his own fate, and his interjection gives just enough indication of that. “you’re frightening the boy.” Aw, Jiminy!
  • Perhaps too pointedly, but I’m glad Geps referenced his parents being turned into puppets. I can’t remember whether I made the connection first time round, but it’s a pretty neat cycle. Intriguingly, Geps may not have thought to make Pinocchio had his parents not befallen such a stiffly fate; from great pain sprang great love.
  • Another question: why is Emma the saviour, aside from the fact that she is? Given the structure of the story, I think it could yet be explained by Snow and Charming’s tangle with Regina. We know that Rumples captured the potion of love from their DNA, so as well as possibly shedding light on the curse properties, it may also explain Emma’s apparent magical skillz; given that her parents are not masters of the magic arts themselves.
  • While TBF and Geppetto are my new ‘problem’ characters ahead of Emma and Mary, I do like the idea of their grand deception at the war council meeting. At least the show isn’t completely painting them as innocent characters, and it’s neat that this was foreshadowed back in the first episode.
  • I love that TBF informs Geps that Pinocchio’s spot in the wardrobe has been revoked, their deal broken, and entrusts him to convey that message to Snow because she’s too busy to do it herself. And I thought Nova was the off-key fairy!
  • Did Geps have to make the wardrobe look pretty, or could he have slammed anything together to get the job done faster, given that a deathly curse was about to strike? As touched on above, I’m just not convinced that his role in all of this was as vital as TBF seemed to think.
  • Props to those who nailed the fact that August is Pinocchio!

 Previously on Once Upon A Time Observations: 1.19 “The Return”


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  1. edgesight says

    “The fact that Emma can’t see August’s wood is interesting.”
    I wonder if she will… 😉

    Like: Thumb up 2

  2. edgesight says

    “Interesting, though, that the narrator (the search goes on!) decided to omit Pinocchio’s story from the One Book in the first place.”

    That is as simple as why Emma’s story is not in the book also. They were both transported to Earth before the curse which would mean that the book appeared with all the stories of characters affected by the curse.

    Like: Thumb up 1

    • says

      @edgesight – good point, that works. I’m still intrigued as to why the book only included those affected by the curse (dramatic reasons aside). Who is the narrator trying to help here? Or is s/he neutral? Of course, the show might not delve into the origins of the book, but along with the curse itself, I find it’s properties quite intriguing.

      Like: Thumb up 1

    • says

      Wasn’t Emma’s story originally in the book, though? I thought Henry showed it to her to explain why she’s Snow White’s kid and then tore it out to stay one step ahead of Regina. Yes?

      Like: Thumb up 0

  3. edgesight says

    I still believe that Dr. Whale is Gulliver. Although that character isn’t all that interesting to keep a secret all this time.

    Like: Thumb up 1

  4. Sherr says

    OK, so Emma is the “loophole” that Rumpel built into the Curse, using the True Love (most powerful magic of all) DNA strand he gleaned from Snow and Charming. Since he created the Curse and the loophole, he obviously knew Emma would be the savior in her 28th year because that’s the way he formulated the recipe. But how did the Blue Fairy know about Emma? Had she been spying on Rumpel through hundreds of years? More importatly, why was the Enchanted Forest down to the last of its enchanted beans and the last enchanted tree? What happened to the force that used to enchant everything? I sense an off-screen pattern here, but I have my doubts all will become clear this season.

    Like: Thumb up 1

    • says

      Sherr, thanks for raising the Emma/loophole idea, very interesting, and you could be onto something.

      The Blue Fairy is quite baffling isn’t she? I’m not sure how she knew Emma would return in her 28th year, yet was unable to find another carpenter (etc). Perhaps she’s ‘special’ in that way? It’s not a great answer, but I guess she could have certain powers of foresight.

      I’m hoping the EfoE gets explained at some point, I agree that there’s potential to do that in subsequent seasons, as the forest seems important to the story and could make for some interesting FTL backstory.

      Like: Thumb up 0

      • says

        Everyone knew Emma would be the Saviour because Snow went down to see Rumplestiltskin and he told her so in the pilot, as I remember it. Which is not to say The Blue Fairy isn’t fishy. I’d say the only reason she didn’t include the Pinocchio story is because she doesn’t want people knowing she can go around changing wood into real people, or that she didn’t monitor the real boy as she said she would (judging by his pranks on Jiminy with the clock). I suspect she’s the narrator of the book, now that I think about it. She did mention making “last minute preparations” that seemed so important she couldn’t even talk to Snow about going in the wardrobe.

        Like: Thumb up 1

    • Peanut says

      It sounds as if Fairy Tale Land was being subjected to some kind of blight (maybe like Fringe’s red/altworld). That would account for the scarcity of enchanted beans & trees. Maybe FTL was already under another curse or suffering from deterioration, for some reason, before the big curse struck–in other words, maybe the big curse was more effective because FTL was already weakened?

      Like: Thumb up 0

  5. Noru says

    I love reading your observations. Thanks for posting…a comment, though:

    “So, aside from ‘memory’ or the book itself, if you want to get really meta, there are currently four established means of getting from FTL to these other realms.”

    This made me wonder about Regina’s staircase to the heart cabinet. I assume that is still in FTL? So can she go back anytime?

    Like: Thumb up 3

    • lost_stef says

      yes interesting point.

      Roco, i also question why and how Emma is the saviour. aside the fact the she is the daughter of Snow and Charming i to am unsure.

      Like: Thumb up 0

      • says

        @stef — I hear ya, hopefully this is explored at some point. I think it could be quite interesting and make the character less arbitrary.

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      • Greyseer says

        It seems very important that Snow and Charming stay apart for the Queen. Could there be something more to it than just revenge?

        Could Emma accepting the truth and convincing Snow & Charming about their supposed happy family be THE true love that can break the curse?

        Would explain Emma’s role and why everyone wants her to believe.

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    • says

      @Noru — interesting idea. I came to the conclusion that the the heart vault had transported with the FTLies to Storybrooke (along with the sinkhole, Snow’s broken coffin, etc). But I have to say, the idea that these underground locations are still in FTL is very intriguing. It gives the sense that the two universes are overlapping.

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  6. Peanut says

    That darn Blue Fairy!

    So, the big problem was that Emma had no mentor. She was supposed to have had a parent with her or Pinocchio/August. I don’t fault August for not sticking around when he was a child, but he could have set aside some Emma time, say, 10 years ago or so, to prepare her.

    Presumably, August has retained his memories of FTL because he was already in the real world precurse. So why was he affected by the unraveling of the curse if he left before it took effect? And the unraveling is not a good thing for him what with the leg turning to wood & all.

    As always, thanks for observing OUAT, Roco.

    Like: Thumb up 1

  7. says

    This was the best episode yet.. It made the audience feel as though reality really was part of the fairy tale world, as though the life they were living was a fairy tale worth remembering just like all the other stories. The convergence was brilliant. Also, juxtaposing Pinnochio with Snow White’s daughter.. So imaginative and what an odd and cool pairing!

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