This evening we begin on a tropical island, circa 2011. Morning has broken, and August (who is laying in bed next to a beautiful naked Thai girl) is sporting some morning wood.
Unfortunately for him, not the good kind. The clock struck 8:15, he got a shooting pain in his leg, and he is literally turning into wood. He tries to convince his companion that he’s turning to wood, but she only sees a normal leg.
Having originally come from a magical realm (and having started life as an inanimate object), August knows full well something is afoot. Or a leg. Whatever it is, it ain’t good.
Now we head over to present-day the loft apartment, where David is making poor widdle Snow some happy breakfast in an effort to try to get her out of bed. Emma doesn’t give a crap if mom is clinically depressed – she tells David to stop mollycoddling her.
Snow overhears and gets out of bed after Emma leaves. Snow packs a ton of food in a bag and says she’s going out to wander the woods. David’s not thrilled with that plan, but he lets her go.
Emma, meantime drops Henry off with his father, and Neal drops the bomb: his fiancee is coming to visit Storybrooke. In addition to that, Tamara went to Neal’s storage unit (where they stashed a certain unconscious and achingly handsome pirate) and now Hook is missing. Emma brushes that off, considering him harmless.
Then she starts tearing Neal a new one over bringing yet another outsider into town, who could out them all. He begs Emma just to give Tamara a chance – and invites her to sit down for bagels with the girl. Emma tells him that he needs to come clean with Tamara – tell her the truth about fairy tales, Storybrooke, his past…everything.
Over in the woods, Snow is listening to “Bad Reputation” and firing off CGI arrows like nobody’s business. One of the arrows goes awry and she follows it, right to a beat-up airstream trailer out in the middle of the woods. The place looks like the perfect rape-cave/serial killer meat processing plant, but she decides to go in and check it out anyway.
And that’s where she finds August, who is still made of wood, despite the fact that the curse broke. He asks about his papa, and Snow tries to convince him to return to town. He learns that Neal is back in town and it makes him feel even worse about all the bad things he’s done. Snow assures him he can start over.
“You’ve never had to worry about forgiveness or redemption,” he scoffs. And of course, Snow begs to disagree. August asks her to leave and not tell anyone she saw him.
Flashback to Hong Kong, 2011, and a terrified August is consulting a doctor about his invisible wooden leg. He tries to prove it by ramming a scalpel into the leg. The doctor thinks he’s nuts, of course and is trying to arrange some “special” help for him, when he runs away – right into a secretive man, who says he knows someone who can help August.
Now we move forward to a very stilted breakfast of bagels in Neal’s room at Granny’s. Henry asks how Neal and Tamara met, and she tells a charming story of how he spilled coffee on her and gave her his scarf. She’s warm and friendly and clearly handling this “Hey my fiance has a kid and an ex I didn’t know about” thing really well.
Emma and Henry leave, and Neal takes a stab at telling Tamara the truth about magic and Storybrooke. She freaks out on him, telling him that if he wants to break up with her and get back with his ex he should just grow some balls and say so, then she storms out.
Back again to Hong Kong, and August is being led through a seedy back-ally to meet the man they call “The Dragon.” There is a line of people outside waiting to get in, and one of them drops a cellphone. August helpfully picks it up and she turns to thank him – and it’s Tamara.
Once again, we see randomly unrelated people showing up as pieces in an as-yet unseen puzzle.
Forward now to Granny’s, where Greg Mendell (a.k.a. Owen Flynn) is digging into some mighty tasty looking peach pie, courtesy of Regina, who just stopped by to thank him for his call alerting her about Henry.
Regina steps to the door and in walks Snow. They come face-to-face, and Snow freezes. Regina breaks into a slow, catlike smile and delivers a killer line before making her exit:
“If I were you, I’d try the fish special,” she purrs. “It’s right up your alley: blackened sole.”
(That line is far better heard than read…)
Snow quickly finds Emma and Marco, and because she’s incapable of keeping anybody’s secret ever, she lets them know that August is rotting away (literally!) in a ramshackle rape-cave in the woods. She suggests that Blue might be able to fix what’s wrong with August, and off they go.
All of this was overheard by Tamara, who’s sitting at the end of the counter, and she’s not looking too pleased.
Flashback to Hong Kong, and Tamara is leaving The Dragon, wishing August luck as she passes him. He makes his way into the room, and The Dragon, a middle-aged Asian man, can clearly see August’s wooden leg. He also knows August’s real name. He tells August that he can help him, but he needs two things: an item of great personal value (in this case, the puppet string he wears around his neck – and The Dragon knows that he used to be a puppet) and ten thousand dollars.
August is noticeably stricken – he clearly doesn’t have that kind of money and he just gave up the one thing that ties him to his papa.
Forward to Storybrooke, where Blue, bitch that she is, superciliously (I love that word) tells Marco that she can’t do a thing for Pinocchio/August. He’s turning to wood because he isn’t being what he swore to be: selfless, brave and truthful. Snow pleads for her to give him another chance. Blue tells them that August has to find the right path for himself.
Flashback to Hong Kong again, and August sees Tamara sitting at the end of a bar. She offers to buy him a drink, and when she pays, she flashes the enormous wad of cash in her purse.
She tells him her story; she’s dying of cancer and The Dragon has offered to cure her. August tells her he has a “skin condition” that is also fatal, and she’s being genuinely sweet and seems like an all-around terrific human being. She leaves to take a phone call, asking August to watch her bag.
Bad move, Tamara. August takes off with her cash, and presumably, her only chance at a cure. He runs all the way to The Dragon, who gives him a magical vial of cure, and August takes off, clutching it in his hand. He’s intercepted by Tamara, who chases him and runs him down, taking the vial back and letting him know what an asshole he is for doing that to her.
Forward to Storybrooke, where Tamara is now at Augusts rape-cave. He asks what she’s doing in town and she tells him it’s none of his business. She does remind him that he owes her after his behavior in Hong Kong. All she wants from him is for August to leave town. She explains that she’s not a magical person, but she believes in magic because The Dragon cured her.
She still has some of the cure at her apartment in New York, and August can have it if he’ll just leave. August puts two and two together, realizes she’s Neal’s fiancee, and now he’s really suspicious. He asks her if she and Neal are trying to steal the magic from Storybrooke, and she makes it clear that she’s acting alone on whatever her agenda is.
Across town, Greg Mendell lets himself into his room at Granny’s, and there stands Regina. She’s figured out that he’s really Owen Flynn because this semi-bald middle-aged man looks so much like the eight year old she once knew for a week twenty-eight years ago, He remarks that she looks exactly the same and she doesn’t miss a beat when she explains it away with her “monthly juice cleanse.”
Owen tells her he’s in Storybrooke for one reason: he wants to find his Dad. Regina says Kurt Flynn left town right after Owen did, and if he doesn’t leave town on his own, he’s in danger of disappearing as well.
Over in the woods, Snow, Marco and Emma are on their way to the rape-cave when Marco confesses his dark deed: he could have sent Snow in the wardrobe with Emma, but chose his son instead. Snow smacks him right across the choppers for that one, then immediately apologizes. They get to the trailer but it’s too late – August is gone.
Flashback to The Dragon, who is not being confronted by Tamara, who, it turns out, has lied about having cancer. She’s been on a search for magic, and hitting fraud after fraud until she found The Dragon. She’s analyzed his “cure” and found not a single element that belongs in this world.
Then she pulls out a taser, and he gets all magical, red smoke curling out his nostrils and levitating all over the place. He taunts her, telling her that she hasn’t met him in his true form, and then she uses the taser of death and his body drops to the floor.
Forward to Storybrooke again, and August, who was heading for the town line, changes his mind and heads for the Sheriff’s office instead, hoping to warn Emma. He calls her cellphone from the landline there, only to have Tamara interrupt the call by cutting the line.
August tells her that he knows she killed The Dragon, because he went back a few days after she left and found his remarkably undecomposed corpse sitting in a room in a tropical climate without a hint of maggots or foul smell. He tells her he’s tired of being selfish, cowardly and dishonest, but she counters with the taser of death.
Emma, Marco, David, Henry, Neal and Snow show up at the station after Tamara leaves, and August staggers out and falls at their feet (in a perfect “Family Guy” fall!). He manages to whisper the word, “She…” before he expires.
But it turns out he’s only mostly dead. Blue shows up, and Henry reminds her that August just did something unselfish, brave and truthful. She’s able to change him back to a real person – but just like before, he becomes a boy, not a man. And unfortunately, this young Pinocchio has no memory of ever having been August.
Tamara, the lying bitch, shows up and heaves a big sigh of relief that Pinocchio has no memory. She tells Neal that she now believes in magic, and he tells her he was so lucky that day that he met her. “We were both lucky,” she coos. And then we see the scene in flashback as it really happened:
We see August talking to Neal, shortly after he was in Hong Kong, preparing to travel to Storybrooke. We see Tamara, who has clearly followed August, watching them from a distance. Then we see Tamara holding coffee, waiting for exactly the right moment to “accidentally” crash into Neal. It was a setup, and she’s clearly got a bigger agenda than we thought.
Back at the loft, Emma pulls Henry aside and makes him a promise that she will never lie to him again. She begs him not to push her away, and they hug.
In the other room, Snow is finally going to tell David what the hell is going on with her. I can sit here and describe this, but I just can’t do these performances justice. The love is so real and tangible in this scene, I’m going to let Josh and Ginny play it out:
Oh, the feels. the feels.
Anyway, I’m going to give this one four mystical dragons out of five.
Mostly, this is for that wonderful Snow and Charming scene, because it really has annoyed the hell out of me that we met this mysterious dragon and he’s never been reinvestigated. So far…