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References and Shipping in Once Upon a Time “Dreamcatcher”

The background symbolism begins to coalesce. Swan Queens get a whole episode all for them. And Merlin is too hot to ship with anybody but yourself.

Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”

The Fisher King

Rumple’s being set up for this and surrounded by its imagery. He fits so well that this has probably been part of the plan from the beginning. He’s got the requisite leg wound that metaphorically suggests his impotence (cowardice) and his son’s gone (a mark of broken fertility). What this episode did was collect the four hallows around him.

  • The broken sword: Excalibur and the Wavy Knife
  • The lance: Merida’s hastily crafted walking staff.
  • The grail: The chipped teacup, symbolically representing love (Belle) and literally his motivation to fight.
  • The dish: the eponymous dreamcatcher.

Morgan le Fey

Violet’s father is Sir Morgan. Given the research the writers have done, that’s no accident. It probably doesn’t mean much for him, but it sets her up as a Mordred figure. While that particular variation is a later one, Disney loves it. Think Gargoyles.

The Secret of NIMH

Nicodemus is back.

“Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater”

And Henry and Emma find him at Peter Peter’s Pumpkin Patch. Happy Halloween. See. Hallows.

5x05 Peter Peter

Star Wars

File this under speculation, but in the same way Darth Vader killed Luke’s father, the first dark one destroyed Merlin’s love.

5x05 Dark ONE

Bonus: Harry Potter – the Dark One looks like a Death Eater.

101 Dalmatians (Queens of Darkness)

The Panther De Ville’s for sale. Remember how Emma killed Cruella?

5x05 Cruella


In the same way they called out Frozen last year, they’re title dropping this with abandon.

Rumplestiltskin: I can never be BRAVE.

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist

“Only You” by Yazoo plays over Henry and Violet’s “date.”


Henry’s got two movies on his phone. The first is a 1985 excuse for an action hero to go on a killing spree. Plot elements include returning a dictator to power and rescuing a child. But that seems coincidental.

5x05 Commando

Harold and Maude

The second is cult comedy from 1971 about a relationship between a teenager and a septaugenarian. Whether this has a bearing on who or what Violet is or simply foreshadows Emma’s control of her, it’s quite provocative. “It’s a good date movie, I think,” indeed.

The Sword in the Stone

Merlin refers to Arthur as the boy who would be king, recalling the child of this film rather than the more mature versions of the story.


“It’s like a carnival in a can”

5x05 Pepsi

Once Upon a Time

Merida gets a look in the book to find Rumple’s weakness.

5x05 Book

“The Apprentice”

They’re leaning pretty hard on 4×04 and have done so over and over again.”Love is a weapon,” was quoted and the tear of heartbreak bracketed “Dreamcatcher.”

Operation Cobra

Emma’s mission is still to bring everyone’s happy ending. Regina will be the savior. Rumple will be a hero.

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Purple Prose comes to the fore! The return of Rumpbelle!


Purple Prose (Henry + Violet)

This is their episode. There are two storylines to their budding romance. The elements of each are interwoven to keep the big reveals for extra special heart-tugging at the end.

In Storybrooke, Henry suggests a dance to give people hope (read: to have an excuse to ask Violet out on a date). Unfortunately for him, she’s in no mood to dance: her horse is lost. Henry vows to find her horse. He figures he can be a hero for Violet, get her to the dance, AND reach the good part still buried somewhere in Emma.

In Camelot, Violet and Henry groom horse and chill, bonding over lost parents. Violet: “I never met anyone I could talk to about this before.” While she’s away for a bit, Henry picks up one of her father’s swords and swings it around a bit pretending to be a knight. To his utter horror, he is discovered by Violet’s father, Sir Morgan, who goes on to condescend to him–how will being a writer protect his daughter against ogres? (AU fantasy: Henry sics his moms on Sir Morgan.)

Back in Storybrooke, Henry tells Emma about how he connected with Violet over the Yaz song. Emma explains how that was Baelfire’s wooing go-to; subtext also explains why Henry would be nuts over an obscure 80’s song. They find the horse at a pumpkin patch.

Back in Camelot, Sir Morgan has effectively shaken Henry’s confidence. His moms build him back up, convince him to use his mysterious other-worlder status to hook her.

So Henry sends her a note to meet him at Granny’s diner where he’s set up a dinner date over leftover lasagne. His ace-in-the-hole: Pepsi. Just when things seem to be heading towards romance, Violet says she just wants to be friends. Henry’s tear of lost love is fresh and powerful enough to free Merlin.

But in Storybrooke, his heroic return of the horse grants him the approval of Sir Morgan and the kiss-on-the-cheek of gratitude from Violet. It seems the second chance granted by the curse’s amnesia brings him romantic success.

The great reveal: this is all Emma’s machinations. In Camelot, she took Violet’s heart to make her break Henry’s. In Storybrooke, she attempts to right that wrong by rigging up the lost horse scenario. At least, that’s what Regina suggests, and it rings with truth.


These last few episodes have been great for reminding us why the OTP’s are what they are. Many of us were so done with Rumpbelle, until Rumpel was freed of the darkness, and now he arrests our sympathies again. He immediately tells Emma, upon her freeing him to transform into a pure-hearted hero, that he needs to see Belle. Later, when he keeps saying he can’t fight, Merida reads his story in the in-town history book and uses the chipped cup to motivate Rumpel to fight. That symbol of the flawed Rumpbelle relationship is so precious to him, he’ll risk his life and overcome his cowardice to protect it–and by extension, Belle.

Meanwhile, Belle leads the Storybrooke Scooby Gang in hunting down where Emma had been keeping Rumpel. She’s on a mission and firing on all cylinders to get ‘er done. It’s pretty hawt.

Swan Queen

Speaking of hot, Swan Queen was on fire this episode. Regina even fires off a fireball to protect Emma’s ability to free Merlin. But prior to that, Regina relived her most painful memory–her mother killing Daniel–to get the true love’s tear needed to break the spell encasing Merlin. Emma was emotionally touched learning it, but then also used it for inspiration with Henry. The two fought side-by-side as magical soulmates against Arthur.

Back in Storybrooke, however, things are more complicated. Emma is at a distance, not opening up to anyone. But Regina has been keeping the hope alive. “There’s nothing you can’t come back from if you just tell us.” Emma remains closed-lipped. Then Regina reveals they’ve seen the dreamcatcher’s memory. Emma attempts to justify it: she broke Henry’s heart “to protect him.” Regina’s having none of it–that’s what her mother said when she killed Daniel. She has to distance herself, going back to calling Emma “Miss Swan” and shutting the door in her face.

Captain Swan

Killian continues to devote himself to freeing Emma from the darkness, though Merlin, when he comes, warns that she must be willing to be free of it. And we already know she’s got mixed feeling about that.

Notably, Killian is so gung-ho, he goes to pull the sword from the stone. Regina stops him because he could turn to dust (and because it’s not 5×10 yet).

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Once Upon a Time “Mother” Previews and Predictions

Coming Tonight: Once Upon a Time 4×20

CAUTION: sneak peaks, spoilers, and speculation

“Mother”Emma returns to Storybrooke to reunite Lily with Maleficent while Regina and Robin struggle to cope with the implications of Zelena’s pregnancy. When Gold’s health takes a turn for the worse, Isaac looks to a new ally for help procuring the magic ink he needs to re-write history. In a Fairy Tale Land flashback, Cora returns from Wonderland to beg Regina’s forgiveness on the anniversary of Daniel’s murder. Cora vows to help her daughter find true love, but Regina remains suspicious of her mother’s intentions, written by Jane Espenson and directed by Ron Underwood.

Here’s the promo:

Lily gets a sample of Regina’s cutting wit in the first sneak peek:

In the second, the Evil Queen crashes a wedding:

Gold keeps seeming like he’s being wrong footed lately. His allies constantly wonder how each new wrinkle will wreck everything. And yet, our One in Dark has been the picture of cool. He’s one or two steps ahead of everyone else. The Rumple we love.

Regina told him straight to his face that she’d never let him turn Emma into a monster. But it’s difficult to imagine him wanting anything else. Regina’s desperate to get a happy ending that’s been doubly denied her and Emma’s faith in herself is renewed.

4x20 Isaac and Regina

It’s pretty clear from the clips we have that Regina’s Isaac’s new ally. She needs his help as much as he needs hers. And if all it takes to get his ink flowing is a little antisavior blood, she’s more than happy to oblige. Because Rumpelstiltskin made her a monster. Just as with the Dark Curse, he’s using her to do the dirty work.

4x20 Blood and Ink

He needs the Evil Queen and he needs the Savior, just as he always has. And he has both. Isaac will likely rewrite Regina’s story tonight and that will change everything, maybe even reversing the heroes and the villains. The finale will be the epic adventure to repair the damage.

Early in the season, Emma embraced her role with the assertion that her job was to get everyone their happy endings. So look for a timeless sacrifice that sets Regina to rights and rejuvenates the Dark One’s heart. trouble is that typically means tribulation for the sacrifice. The writers are usually true to their word. All that darkness has to go somewhere.

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DELAYED: Early Observations about Once Upon a Time 4×20

Normally, The Dinglehopper shares some of the pop cultural references and delights in the ships of the most recent episode of Once Upon a Time on Monday mornings. But today we find ourselves unable to to family business. No not 4×06; we did that one almost six months ago. An illness prevented both a comprehensive watch and any real writing.

We apologize to anyone who came expecting our weekly roundup and we promise it’ll post tomorrow morning.

4x20 The Sorcerer and Merlin

In the meantime, enjoy this comparative study of the Sorcerer and a certain old wizard from The Sword in the Stone.


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Once Upon a Time “Lily” Previews and Predictions

Coming Tonight: Once Upon a Time 4×19

CAUTION: sneak peaks, speculation, and spoilers

“Lily” – Emma’s potential for darkness is looming over everyone, but when Emma realizes Maleficent’s daughter Lily is in fact her closest friend from her foster care days, she resolves to find Lily and reunite her with her mother. Regina joins forces with Emma and together they set out to track down Lily and to warn Robin about Zelena. However, neither of them is prepared for the harsh realities they’ll encounter in the outside world. Meanwhile, in Storybrooke, Gold faces a crisis involving Belle. In a foster care flashback, things are looking up for young Emma with her new family until Lily’s appearance threatens to destabilize everything, written by Andrew Chambliss and Dana Horgan, and directed by Ralph Hemecker.

Here’s the post De Vil promo:

The first sneak peek features a microfilm reader and a role reversal.

In the second, Lily’s trail goes cold.

I think it’s safe to say I was on the right track with the interpretation of the Queens of Darkness last week. Cruella’s death served as the defining moment with regard to corrupting the savior. while it’s arguable whether Emma’s action was evil, it’s important to remember that’s how it’s playing in the context of the show. Emma said to Mary Margaret, “I’m sorry, but if it were me no matter what I would not harm a defenseless person.” And right before she did exactly that, its significance was reinforced when Mary Margaret said, “Cruella can’t kill anyone. She’s defenseless.” Heroes don’t kill.

“Emma’s potential for darkness is looming over everyone”

The Heart of the Savior

With only four hours left in the season, they’re going to be walking the razor’s edge of the will-she-won’t-she question. But look at what’s happening in just a few minutes already. Lily’s been associated with sacral rites and Regina and Emma are talking about beating fate. Because challenging fate has worked out so well for characters in stories for thousands of years.

4x19 Announcement Microfilm

“Lilith Page, the infant daughter of ????? and Priscilla Page, was baptized Sunday in downtown Minneapolis. After…”

While talking to Isaac about obtaining ink for the quill, Gold noted that, “Once her heart has been blackened, everything I need shall fall into place.” It’s pretty morbid, but Cruella falling to her death might be precisely what he was talking about. It was a bit odd and maybe even anticlimactic when all the spilled ink did was give her parti-colored hair and exaggerated eyebrows. Perhaps she was also a living receptacle from which the ink can now be extracted.

4x19 Cruella Ink


Early Observations about “Sympathy for the De Vil”

We learn that sympathy for De Vil is misplaced. Or is it? The writers appear to be doing some deep literary work. And a fan favorite ship is upturned.

Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”

“Sympathy for the Devil”

The first track on Beggar’s Banquet, 1968, from The Rolling Stones. While the song doesn’t actually generate any sympathy for Lucifer, this episode goes out of its way to empathize with the baddies. Rumple gets played pretty hard. Cruella’s story is structured so that her nature only becomes clear at the end. And the Author’s heart gets broken.

He also stands in for the tempter in several cases. Setting Snow and Charming on the path that lead to Lily’s exile. Giving Cruella her magic. And who knows what else?

But what’s puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

Isaac: Why?
Cruella: That’s the question on everybody’s mind, isn’t it? I wish I had an answer.

One Hundred and One Dalmatians

The title carCruella Smoked featured the running dalmatians from the movie integrated into the standard forest scene. More and more appeared as they ran.

Cruella’s magic, the ability to control animals, manifested as green smoke; an homage to the orginal animated feature and the perpetual cloud surrounding the character.

Cruella: With one whistle I can send a hundred snarling dogs after you.

In this version of the story, Cruella gets the dalmatian coat. In fact, she sews it herself.

4x18 The Dalmatian Coat


It’s not much, but Zelena’s inspiration and tagline gets a quick mention.

Regina: I can handle one wicked sister.


Isaac calls Cruella’s life “a classic Cinderella story.” While that title belongs to Storybrooke’s Ashley back in the Enchanted Forest, it not only makes sense that multiple realms would mean multiple iterations of the same story, it fits with how we classify folktales. Cruella’s an Aarne-Thompson 510A, “The Persecuted Heroine.” She’s got the missing father, the female antagonist, the confinement, and escaping for a magical date. The variation, of course, is that she’s a psychopath.

Murray’s Night Club

4x18 Murray's Club

Cruella and Isaac went to a real place. Well, a place based on a place that actually existed.

Murray’s Night Club opened in London in 1913. While both its format and ownership changed over the years, it remained a durable Beak Street fixture until 1975.

The stand-in in the episode looks almost nothing like existing drawings or photographs, but it’s nonetheless a nice touch. If you’re interested, you can read more here.

Ernest Hemingway / Henry David Thoreaux

Isaac isn’t exactly impressed with Gold’s cabin, first mocking the antlers and then trying to recover with, “makes me feel like Hemingway; or Thoreau.” Both the intensely masculine Hemingway and the anti-establishment Thoreau might have been at home in such a place, writing the Nick Jones stories or Walden.

The Great Gatsby

Makes sense. An Author reading the classics. But it really informs the flashback scenes. The Great Gatsby is the quintessential Jazz Age novel. And he was a contemporary and friend of the aforementioned Hemingway. The text on the Introduction places the edition between 2010 and 2013, which is an eerie detail since it also places it before Frozen. I’m impressed they bothered to note when the season takes place like that.

4x18 The Great Gatzby

Isaac and Ishmael

Something’s missing when you drop Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Thoreau without a fourth name. Another American Romantic or Renaissance writer. I can’t shake the feeling that the Author’s name is Isaac because that missing author, Melville, began his masterwork, Moby Dick, with, “Call me Ishmael.”

Angry Birds

Because she’s not actually going to kill Henry, Cruella sits on her hood and plays the hottest new game app. It’s one of two game references. The logo would have looked like this at the time.

Angry Birds

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

In the 2003 XBox game, in game choices affected your characters position on a spectrum between the light side of the Force and the dark side. Jedi were hale and healthy, tanned and bright eyed. But as Sith slipped toward the dark side, or splashed in and had fun, their skin paled and cracked while their eyes sunk and rimmed with red. That’s pretty much what’s been going on with Emma.

4x18 Evil Emma KotOR

Bonus! Return of the Jedi

I can’t call this one an actual reference because the irreverence would be unusual, but the resemblance is uncanny. Rumple’s heart looks a bit like Boushh’s thermal detonator during the confrontation with Jabba the Hutt. It’s even in a similar position.

4x18 Thermal Detonator

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments



I’d thought I’d lead with Rumpbelle, because they got the biggest high and then the biggest drop kick to the groin.

Regina visits Belle to help her make sure that Gold won’t be a threat to her trip to NYC to save Robin from Zelena. Belle asks what she can do to help. “I’m so glad you asked that.” Cut to next scene. When we return to Belle, she is calling Rumpelstiltskin to the wishing well in the woods. They have a moment of remembrance about what he said to her there–that she had chased the darkness out of him. Well, not quite. She asks why he’s back, what he’s after. Her? Gold pulls his heart out of his chest to show the blackened heart with only a small dot of beating red light in the middle. He explains that centuries of dark deeds take their toll. “Will you die?” she asks. Rumple answers, “In a manner of speaking, yes. I will lose any ability to love, and that goodness you saw inside of me will be gone forever.” Only the Author can reverse the process. “I don’t expect you to understand, of course.” Belle counters, “But I, I do understand.” “You do?” “Sometimes I worry I threw out the chipped tea cup too soon.” THEY KISS. Rumpbelle fans everywhere shout, “OTP!” and throw their hands up in victory.

But then the kiss breaks and Belle continues, “You know what the problem is though…Will is just such a better kisser than you are.” “What?” Rumple asks (as do the Rumpbelle fans who had just been cheering). “You are pathetic. Watching you come grovelling back to me is like a dog begging for scraps.” “Why are you saying this? This isn’t like you, Belle.” (The Rumpbelle contingent nod their heads energetically in agreement.) “But it is so like me,” Regina interrupts from off-screen. The cut to her reveals that Regina has taken Belle’s heart and has been controlling her this whole time. Regina tells Belle to forget this ever happened and scamper off before making her demands clear to Gold, who pretty much just got his black heart run through the cheese grater.

By the way, there’s an upside down ship hanging from the ceiling in Gold’s shop. Symbolic much?

Swan Queen

Emma worries about Regina heading into NYC alone. And since Regina refuses to let Emma join her in NYC, Emma gives her her gun to protect her. (Because giving a gun to a person who has probably never used one before is a good idea. Headcanon fills in that since these two are in a committed relationship, Emma’s certainly taken her out to the woods and shown her how to shoot.)

But wait! Cruella has kidnapped Henry! The two watch their video message together and then share a very intimate, serious look. It reminds me of the look on Ripley’s face in Aliens: “Get away from her, you bitch!”

Making plans to rescue Henry, Regina comments that it’ll be far more satisfying to kill Cruella rather than the Author. When Snow is taken aback by the comment, Regina retorts, “It’s Emma’s heart we’re trying to save, not mine.”

Later, Emma splits the Henry Rescue Posse into two groups: 1) her parents, and 2) everyone else, showing that she trusts Regina and Hook while she doesn’t trust her parents. “So you’re not angry with me for keeping your parents’ secret?” Regina asks. Nah, Emma’s soft spot for Regina foists the blame solely onto her parents. Regina then teams up with Hook to coach Emma into forgiving her parents. Emma points out that while the two of them have been bad guys in the past, they’ve never lied about it and played themselves off as heroes. (And I begin wondering if there’s a name for this OT3. Captain Swan Queen?) The two attempt to reason with Emma using empathy. “Even heroes make mistakes, love,” Hook points out. It’s a cool little switcheroo and also heavy foreshadowing. But Emma doesn’t go for it. She continues her petulant little child act by saying, “You two understand them so well you forgive them.”

Outlaw Queen

Regina makes plans to rescue Robin. She manipulates and endangers Belle to do it. I’m not sure Robin would approve, exactly, but it certainly shows her commitment to her man.

Captain Swan

Other than the OT3 moment mentioned above, there’s just not much overt Captain Swan material in this episode. Hook is always in the background of Emma’s scenes (except when she gives the gun to Regina) and he’s always showing concern and support for her. That’s pretty sweet of him.

But the fact that he’s the one that says, “Even heroes make mistakes, love,” right before she goes off and makes a pretty big mistake foreshadows that he’ll be crucial to keeping her from going full-on darkside or at least bringing her back.

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Once Upon a Time “Sympathy for the De Vil” Previews and Predictions

Coming Tonight: Once Upon a Time 4×18

CAUTION: spoilers, speculations, and sneak peeks

“Sympathy for the De Vil”In fictional 1920s England, viewers meet a young Cruella, whose oppressive mother uses her Dalmatians to terrorize her daughter. Cruella is confined to her mother’s attic until a mysterious stranger arrives and empowers her to challenge her captor. In Storybrooke, Regina gains leverage to keep Gold from interfering with her plan to rescue Robin, but her trip to New York takes the backseat when she and Emma learn that Cruella has kidnapped Henry, written by David H. Goodman and Jerome Schwartz and directed by Romeo Tirone.

Check out the promo that aired after last week’s episode.

In the first sneak peek Cruella puts a dragon to sleep.

In the second, she messes with moms.

And in the third, Emma confronts her parents.

It’s probably safe to assume that the mysterious, empowering stranger is the Author himself. And it’s nice to see the fictional 1920’s England that was Baelfire’s brief stopover between the Enchanted Forest and Neverland. I wonder if they’ll play them as Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald. It’s been on my mind since Rumpelstiltskin smelled gin and desperation.

I was probably wrong about her just wanting Pongo back, though.

4x18 Evil Emma

While I’m excited by all of that, we’re closing in on the end of the season. We’ve seen how Charming and Snow aren’t exactly what we thought they were and where their mean streak originates. But Emma’s gathering darkness is still just on the edges.

I keep wondering what, if anything, the Oscars promo has to do with anything.

At first glance it seems like not much. Like there’s been a bait and switch. We were promised three Queens of Darkness. One of them’s gone. The other’s more interested in her daughter, wich is totally understandable. and they’ve swapped in the Author and Zelena.

But maybe it’s just more subtle than that. Gold’s endgame is changing the rules and blackening Emma’s heart is the method. Maybe Ursula’s happy ending was part of the plan. To show Emma that villains are both deserving and capable of the happily ever after. Maleficent then, was essential to breaking Emma’s relationship with her parents. Making her question the heroes’ happy endings and perhaps even her own.

Cruella could be the final straw. Emma’s been looking slightly darker every episode, but here she’s arming Regina and her face up there is stone cold. Cruella kidnapping Henry could be the catalyst for tarnishing Emma’s heart. If that’s the case, I’m a bit worried for Mrs. Feinberg.

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Early Observations about “Heart of Gold”

There’s nothing like flashlight beams cutting through trees near Vancouver to evoke the X-Files. The writers dig deep to explain some unusual appearances. And Swan Queen gets a cliffhanger.

Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”

“Heart of Gold” (1972)

Neil Young’s only #1 in the United States.

I want to live,
I want to give
I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold.

Keep me searching for a heart of gold.
You keep me searching and I’m growing old.

Rumpelstiltskin’s heart is failing without is magic to keep him alive. His past misdeeds have shriveled it to a blackened lump. He’s growing old. He wants to live.

There’s also the enduring literary trope of the prostitute or courtesan with a hidden integrity or kindness, the hooker with a heart of gold. Once Upon a Time will occasionally invert a trope to devastating effect. At the end of last season, Hook and Charming had a conversation about love that would have been at home in any chick flick. Uttered between two men, it might have been one of the most revolutionary scenes on network television. Here, Robin is unwilling to take certain actions within the remit of his talents and profession because of his own peculiar integrity, making him a representative of the trope.

‘Cor Aut Mors’

4x17 Cor Aut Mors

Latin: literally “Heart or Death”

It’s a bit odd for a container holding a heart-healing potion, but when you consider it’s symbolic meaning it’s a very writerly addition. It represents a choice between the heart, moral values and integrity, and death, ignominy and disrespect. Robin chooses to help will at his own risk and extends that choice throughout his life.

Midnight Cowboy

As we transition to New York, nine weeks ago, we fade in on a skyline and hear the quotable, “I’m walkin’ here.”


Robin riding a horse down a New York street is reminiscent of Prince Edward’s anacronistic behavior in the city.

The Wizard of Oz

Any episode with the Wicked Witch and the Emerald City is, of course, going to reference this. But there are a couple immediate specific references that deserve mention. Robin exits the magical doorway on the yellow brick road.

4x17 Boots

In addition, the door lands right on top of a guard whose boots stick out in front. And Robin steals them!

The Patchwork Girl of Oz

The seventh book in L. Frank Baum’s Oz series. Unc Nunkie and Margolotte Pipt are turned to marble by the Liquid of Petrifaction. Dr. Pipt sends Ojo on a mission to collect the ingredients needed to restore them to life. One of those ingredients is the rare six-leaved clover of Oz, which grows outside the Emerald City. Queen Ozma has outlawed the picking of the clover and its use in magical transformations in conjuction with her injunction against sorcery.

4x17 Six Leaf Clover

However you feel about the twist, its been Oz cannon for over a century. Honestly, I probably missed half a dozen book references.

The Walt Disney Company

One of the first references in The Wizard of Oak is a set of Mickey Mouse ears cast in steel.

4x17 Mickey Mouse Ears


Robin’s hanging out in front of a poster for Disney’s Aladdin on Broadway while he waits for Gold’s discharge.

4x17 Aladdin Poster

Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?

After giving Regina an opportunity to call Robin, and asking her to choose between him and Emma, Rumple takes the phone from her and asks the tense iconic, “Is that your final answer?”

Who Wants to BE a Millionaire

Once Upon a Time

2×19 “Lacey”

This episode explains both why Robin Hood looked different, other than because he was originally played by Tom Ellis, in “Lacey” and where he got the bow that never misses.

Round Robin

3×21 “Snow Drifts”

Gold “kills” Zelena. Wile they come back to the events and even reuse footage, there’s a bit where Robin’s lurking outside The Wizard of Oak and says, “Zelena’s no fool.” Gold replies, “No, she wasn’t.”

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Captain Swan

  • Nothing for us here this week, dearies. Except for the flashback to the Captain Swan shippiest episode ever “Snow Drifts” wherein we get to see them dancing around the ballroom again.


  • There are a number of scenes showing us Rumple in regret mode: First of which, his heart is diseased from dark magic. Now that’s certainly less cheesy than dying from a broken heart, but it rings similarly in this situation. The loss of Belle’s love has put him in this position. However, it seems like this might have been good information to tell Belle when she was getting him to give up magic: “My dear, I’d love to give up magic for you, but I’ll literally die.”
  • He tells Robin he didn’t recognize happiness when he had it–what he had in front of him wasn’t enough. Although he’s ambiguous about the when he had happiness, I can only assume he means Belle.
  • But the best of these moments is definitely when he advises Robin: “If you know who and where your happy ending is, you should run to it and not let go.” Sadly, Robin focuses on the previous bit about what is in front of him and not the idea of running off to Regina. But that’s another ship.

Swan Queen

  • When Rumple proves that Zelena has Robin in her clutches and threatens to kill him if Regina doesn’t help Rumple push Emma to the dark side, Regina chooses Emma. She chooses Emma! “You made me a monster. I won’t let you do the same to Emma.” “So you’ve made your choice, have you? You’re choosing the Savior over your beloved Robin Hood?” No, Rumple, she’s choosing her beloved Savior over Robin Hood.

Outlaw Queen

  • We got a replay of the goodbye kiss between Robin and Regina from when Robin, Marian, and Roland left Storybrooke.
  • Gold attempts to use the love between Regina and Robin to manipulate Regina. It doesn’t exactly work, but my theory on why is that Regina respects and loves Robin in part for his honorable code. He makes her a better person because she sees that code as a model to better herself, become a hero.
  • Many Outlaw Queen fans have wanted Marian out of the way since she made her way to Storybrooke, but the way this episode gets rid of her but doesn’t blows chunks. When Marian was the real Marian, she was also a real choice for Robin to make. There was real character turmoil, both for him and the audience. Honor would say stay with your wife and mother of your son. But then there’s true love. Now that Marian is simply Zelena, all that character turmoil disappears, at least for the audience. Now the whole this is a no-brainer running off of dramatic irony only AND they killed off an otherwise pretty awesome woman in Marian. I tell you, writers, we Outlaw Queen fans didn’t need it made easy for us. We knew true love would prevail. We knew Marian’s honor and desire for Robin’s happiness would eventually send him back to Storybrooke.


  • I don’t know if anyone out there was actually rooting for these two. But the episode seemed to set up exactly why you should ship them and then rip the ship right out from under us.
  • First, there’s Robin’s gallant retrieval of Marian’s purse via horseback. (The first two clues of the episode that Marian was Zelena: 1) that a thief’s wife would set down her purse in a busy city, and 2) that a mother would need to set down her bag to pick up her 4-year old.) But the purse’s rescue was pretty darned awesome.
  • Second, the flashbacks to Sherwood Forest include married Marian and Robin exchanging loving looks at each other as she waits tables and he barkeeps. We get just a brief look at the jealousy of the Sheriff of Nottingham. It’s all pretty cute.
  • Third, when Robin joins the Merry Men as an outlaw and dubs himself Robin Hood, Marian is amazingly supportive. “It doesn’t matter where we are or what we face. I want to be with you.”
  • So when all of that gets turned upside down by the reveal that Marian is actually Zelena and has been since before Hook and Emma returned from the Enchanted Forest, anyone who started rooting for these two is heavily disappointed. And the impact of Robin’s decision to try to be the husband Marian deserves is completely undercut.

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Once Upon a Time “Heart of Gold” Previews and Predictions

Coming Tonight: Once Upon a Time 4×17

CAUTION: sneak peeks, spoilers, and speculations

“Heart of Gold”Emma is still reeling after learning the truth of her parents’ history with Maleficent, but she must focus on finding the Author, who is running loose in Storybrooke, before Gold does. When Gold’s quest for his happy ending grows more urgent, he blackmails Regina into helping him. In a Fairy Tale Land flashback, Robin Hood learns what it means to be an honorable thief when he accepts a proposition by Rumpelstiltskin to travel to Oz to steal a valuable magic elixir from the Wicked Witch, written by Scott Nimerfro & Tze Chun and directed by Billy Gierhart.

Here’s the Promo that aired two weeks ago:

In the first sneak peek, Rumpelstiltskin offers Robin relief from penury.

In the second, Robin foils a purse snatcher.

Okay, first let’s clarify something about the last episode. Writer Jane Espenson noted on Twitter that the Author only controlled the Apprentice. So what Snow and Charming did was, and is, on them. Our toddler, who watched the first half of the season for Anna and Elsa, walked away from this one head shaking and asking a question we couldn’t answer. “Why would they do that to a baby?”

It makes their in-your-face self-righteousness and Charming’s Leroy Jenkins style understandable. They’re always struggling with themselves and desperate to do the right thing. Ultimately, it makes them deeper characters. But it’s hard to root for them.

I think that’s the point. To the extent that the heroes are undermined, that we understand them to have made questionable choices, they and the villains come to occupy similar symbolic spaces. A reversal of fortunes thus seems more sensible.

For the curious or obsessive, here’s the final page the author was transcribing. It details the last scene with Snow and Charming in the Enchanted Forest.

4x16 page

There was no way we could have known. The Apprentice hid the truth from us,” the prince tried once again to assure her. Inside, he felt as she did, but pangs of helplessness at the sight of his love so forlorn compelled him to comfort her. She was about to reply when a bluebird settled on a branch up ahead. The princess averted her gaze. She imagined its whispers of judgment in her ear echoing her own disappointment in her actions and was relieved when the bird flew off rather than perch on her shoulder. She had thought before that she had known true depths of sorrow with the heinousness of the evil queen’s betrayal of her family. But in that moment the princess knew that the greatest betrayal of all is that of a hero.

There are a couple frames in the preview that imply Zelena’s back in Storybrooke, so we could see the return of both the Wicked Witch and Robin as well as their flashback. Of course it could be recycled imagery from season three. But Zelena could have worked  a failsafe into Snow’s curse when she tainted it.

4x17 Clocktower

It makes some sense. The Queens of Darkness seem to be getting happy endings that are fairly pedestrian. Ursula’s reunion with her father. Maleficent’s with her child. I’m calling it now; Cruella just misses Pongo. Their reunion will choke up dog lovers everywhere.

Zelena constitutes a real threat to the Dark One and everyone else. If he’s as vulnerable as he seemed last episode, and as the preview implies, someone else will have to take her on. My guess is that Emma will end up with the “wavy knife” in order to defeat her.

In this episode, I think her confusion and feeling of betrayal will work against her pursuit of the Author. Gold and Regina will find him first. Whether they’re able to compel him to do what they want is a mystery.

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Early Observations about “Best Laid Plans”

The Author shines a light on things and brings down the curtain. Even our toddler has had it with Snow White and Prince Charming. And Rumpbelle is resurrected.

Michael’s “Always… no, no… never… forget to check your references.”

“To A Mouse, On Turning Her Up In Her Nest With The Plough” (1785) – Robert Burns

This classic poem draws parallels between a farmer’s situation and that of a mouse whose home is destroyed as he plows. It’s a leveling of the field, as it were, ennobling the mouse and humbling the farmer. While the tone of the poem is companionable and its message universal, it’s useful to Once Upon a Time because it reverses the existing order, the theme of 4B.

I’m truly sorry man’s dominion,
Has broken nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
                    Which makes thee startle         10
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
                    An’ fellow-mortal!

Specific to this episode, “Best Laid Plans,” references lines 39 and 40, often translated into modern English as, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” We’re meant to note that for all Snowing’s efforts to ensure Emma’s future, they still ended up at the same verbal exchange Snow witnessed in her vision. It’s extra special because the Apprentice, our mouse, was involved.

But, Mousie, thou art no thy lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
                    Gang aft agley,         40
An’lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
                    For promis’d joy!

The title is also, again, an hilarious pun. Maleficent’s best laid egg…

Bonus: Jacob Grimm, the elder of the Brothers Grimm who recorded scores of household tales including many of those reinterpreted in Once Upon a Time, was born in 1785.

Was he an Author?

August: There have been many Authors throughout time. It’s a job, not a person. And the one trapped in here was just the last tasked with the great responsibility.
Emma: Which is?
August: To record–to witness the greatest stories of all time and record them for posterity. the job has gone back eons,1 from the man who watched shadows dance across cave walls and developed an entire philosophy,2 to a playwright who told tales in poetry,3 to a man named Walt.4 Many have had this sacred job–great women and men who took on the responsibility with the gravity that it deserved… until this last one.

Eion Baily1

August Booth is played by actor Eion Baily. There’s a chance, however slight, that the word choice here was subtly hinting that he’s the current author or at least a journeyman in training. after all, he was able to add his own story to Henry’s Once Upon a Time book. And he knows more about the Author(s) than anyone outside the Apprentice or the tricksie Peddler himself.


In The Republic, Plato has Socrates desPlato's Cavecribe a gathering of people who have lived chained to the wall of a cave all of their lives, facing a blank wall. The people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them, and begin to designate names to these shadows. The shadows are as close as the prisoners get to viewing reality. He then explains how the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and comes to understand that the shadows on the wall do not make up reality at all, as he can perceive the true form of reality rather than the mere shadows seen by the prisoners.

William Shakespeare3

William Shakespeare was an English poet, playwright, and actor, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world’s pre-eminent dramatist. His works have been translated into every major living language. His inclusion in the mythology opens up a huge roster of potential background characters.

Walt Disney4

Often suggested as the Author who’d appear this season, Walt Disney founded the company that owns ABC and has produced several popular interpretations of classic fairy tales. But you knew that.

It’s not entirely unreasonable to suggest that the Author trapped in the book is James Lapine, writer of the postmodern revisionist Into the Woods, the film version of which Disney released last year. It makes Charming’s, “As long as we have each other, we can be the best versions of ourselves,” slyly metatextual.

The Tragedy of Macbeth

Snow White plays Lady Macbeth pretty much straight here. Unable to shake her vision, she pushes herself and her husband to ever more egregious acts of evil until, eventually, she cannot take the consequences anymore.

Isaiah 34:14

Lilith, variously a female demon or wicked fairy. In Jewish folklore she became Adam’s first, equal, wife who refused to submit and rejected Eden. So Maleficent’s exiled daughter has a powerful, resonant, ominous name.

Paradise Lost

Finally, some of the juxtapositions in the Comic-Con trailer make sense. What had been useful as a broad metaphor now has specific referents. The first portion in particular.

Snow: I’ve loved you since the first moment I saw you.
Charming: And I’ll love you until my last

Out of our evil seek to bring forth good,(163)
Our labour must be to pervert that end,(164)

Emma: It’s time for all of us to believe; to believe in each other

And out of good still to find means of evil;(165)

Zelena: I tried to be good once but it wasn’t in the cards.

Snowing sought to secure Emma’s good destiny through an act of evil. Zelena managed to twist several benevolent acts toward her own ends. And, of course, as long as you’ve seen the preview, she’s coming back.

The Poetic Edda

For whatever reason, the building to the left of Gold’s Pawn Shop, if you’re facing it, is fronted with “gudrun.” It could have been there all along, but I only remember seeing it twice this season. In one of the stories in the Edda, Guðrún feeds her husband their sons and burns down his hall.

Once Upon a Time

The non-Frozen portions of 4A really come back in force this episode. We revisit “The Apprentice,” “Breaking Glass,” and “Smash the Mirror” all weigh pretty heavily here. But since we open on Snowing tracking a unicorn for clairvoyant visions, I want to focus on that.

Emma Swan has always been associated with the unicorn and it’s nice to see it brought back into the mythology and reality of the show. The unicorn is a traditional Christian salvific symbol, so it’s entirely appropriate that it be involved with every aspect of her story.

1×01 “Pilot”

This is where we first see the unicorn mobile.  It reappears in Gold’s shop in 1×06 “The Shepherd.”

Unicorn Mobile

In addition to the potential Into the Woods connection above, the acknowledgement that the mobile was a gift from Cinderella opens her, via the recent live action Disney release, as a potential focus next season.

1×02 “The Thing You Love Most”

When Regina confronts Maleficent in order to retrieve The Dark Curse, Mal has a diminutive pet unicorn by her side. Ultimately, it’s her concern for this pet that decides the fight against her. It’s interesting that the other unicorn in the story is at least tangentially linked to Swan’s counterpart, Lily.

Unicorn Title Card1×12 “Skin Deep”

This episode reuses the title card from “Skin Deep.” In that episode the unicorns appear on tapestries in Rumpelstiltskin’s Dark Castle.

The first “Sight” from the series The Lady and the Unicorn. The second only appears after Belle attempts to break Rumple’s curse with true love’s kiss. He tears the cover from the mirror and rants at Regina while “The Unicorn in Captivity and No Longer Dead” from the series The Hunt of the Unicorn overwhelms the background. It’s a subtle scenery clue that the savior is integral to his convoluted plans.

At this point, Rumpelstiltskin, Ingrid, the Sorcerer, the Apprentice, Snowing, and the Author all have designs on Emma Swan. With all that pressure, how much control does she have over her own destiny?

Erin’s Happy Shipper Moments

Captain Swan

  • Killian is clearly deeply concerned about the plan to turn Emma into a villain. Emma emphatically reassures him she will not go dark, though Killian speaks from experience when he tells her darkness can creep up on a person. The two share a long comfort hug where clearly they are oblivious to everyone else around them because one foot away Charming and Snow are discussing the thing which cannot be told to Emma and use Emma’s name. That’s a helluva hug.
  • Killian asks how “the wooden man-child” was as a dual conversation starter. Certainly he knows she’s thinking about August’s well-being, but he’s also attempting to dig a little into her feelings for August. Emma sees immediately what he’s up to and tells him, “Now is not the time to be jealous.” “Why would I be jealous?” Killian responds, adding that he knows she’s partial to men in leather jackets. Emma explains that August is just a friend, but since she’s had a rough time making friends, she holds him dear. Then they notice the sleeping curse coming at them and land in the cutest sleeping pose possible, with Emma laying on Killian’s chest.
  • When her parents finally come clean, Killian attempts to comfort Emma by asking if she’s alright and moving to hold her hand, but she pulls it away quickly before he can touch her. She leaves shortly after.
  • Killian finds her later by the pier. She tells him she just needs some time. He knows to skip the discussion of how she’s doing and goes straight to what will relieve some of her anxiety: “August is awake. Your parents are with him.” “Is he?” “He’s going to be fine. Your friend is going to be fine.” Then she hugs him, bringing back the intimacy and comfort she had rejected earlier and allowing him to carry her emotional burden. It’s quite sweet and says much about how much vulnerability she has allowed herself to have with him.


  • Finally, a truly substantive moment for the Rumpbelle shippers out there. Rumple takes his opportunity to be close to Belle during Maleficent’s sleeping spell. He lovingly moves her from the floor to a divan, holds her hand, and speaks softly. “My love,” he begins. He goes on to confess that all magic comes with a cost and he’s wracked up so much magical debt, he’ll never be free of it. He has to change the rules altogether, and quickly. He promises to come back for her if he can and kisses her hand before leaving.

Runaways (Emma/Lily)

  • Emma explains the dearness with which she carries August by reminding Killian of her lost friendship with Lily. Later we find out Lily is Maleficent’s child and thus also Emma’s heart of darkness mate. They are now officially two halves to a whole! The two are meant to be together.

Swan Queen

  • Regina intervenes on Emma’s behalf when Cruella makes a comment about wanting to wring her neck while she sleeps.


  • Although the role these two play in the episode is largely antagonistic, that doesn’t mean that their intentions weren’t motivated by love. The concern they share for their child’s well-being brings them together. In all actions, they are united, though their visions of the child diverge.
  • After they go through with the nefarious plan to imbue another child (Maleficent’s baby) with their child’s darkness, they are haunted by what they’ve done. Snow notes they are no longer heroes, but Charming is more concerned with their relationship: “But we’re still here, so how do we fix us?” Snow again shows her concern is with them being good again. She asks, “Do you really think redemption is possible?” Charming says they must “spread hope and faith everyday” and be the best version of themselves. The two commit to being better heroes to raise their child and keep her on the right track.

Wooden Swan 

  • August falls ill from so many recent magical transformations. Emma is deeply concerned. She is so concerned, in fact, Killian becomes jealous.
  • When August wakes and Emma returns, he asks her what’s going on. She dodges the question, but he sees right through it, reminding her that he knows lying. When she makes a connection about the powers the Author would still have, he comments that she’s come a long way from the woman who wouldn’t believe. There is clear affection and intimacy in his understanding of who Emma is

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Once Upon a Time “Best Laid Plans” Previews and Predictions


 Coming Tonight: Once Upon a Time 4×16

CAUTION: spoilers (no, really, the sneak peeks are wild)

“Best Laid Plans”Hook tells Emma that her fate is at stake in Gold’s plan while Regina leads the villains on a wild goose chase. Henry makes a breakthrough in his search to find the Author, but Mary Margaret and David need a moment to reconsider the best course of action. In a Fairy Tale Land flashback, Snow and Charming search for a way to ensure their child will grow-up to be a hero. When a travelling peddler directs them to visit a kindly old hermit, Snow and Charming are presented with a choice that could secure their child’s goodness, but at a price that will haunt them for years to come,  written by Kalinda Vazquez and Jane Espenson and directed by Ron Underwood.

Here’s the ABC promo:

In the first sneak peek, Snow and Charming seek some equestrian augury.

In the second, Henry discovers a secret.

If those are the scenes they’re teasing us with, the episode should be dense and surprising. In fact, they’ve already given away a pair of the complementary moments. Snow’s, “I’m your mother,” and Emma’s, “I don’t care,” are present in the unicorn-induced vision and in present day Storybrooke.

Once Upon a Time’s social media accounts released this image yesterday, which is another spoilery bit.

4x16 Emma Poster

She’s totally going dark. I don’t know if she’ll undergo a full transformation tonight, but it’s coming. And whatever Snow and Charming did, it was ultimately their best laid plans, and those of a certain mousy magician, that lead to this.

The season’s been teasing it. The first half ended with a curse that brought out the worst in everyone followed by devastating heartbreak for both of the show’s primary antagonists. It was also heavy on mirror imagery. And in a sense that’s what we’re seeing now. Rumple’s renounced romance and redoubled his quest for power. A happy ending no matter what the cost.

I’m reminded of the trailer shown at ComiCon.

There’s a lot to unpack, but the notable quotes are, “Evil isn’t born. It’s made.” and “Magic isn’t about what you seem. It’s about what you feel, inside.” The extent of her parents’ betrayals (that’s an egg they’re stealing from Maleficent in the promo) in her name will sour the savior. This episode is the first step toward a situation where the heroes and villains swap positions. Rumpelstiltskin and Maleficent are going to succeed. They’ll find the Author and the stories will change.