The Great Once Upon a Time Rewatch | Episode 20: The Stranger

August frantically tries to get Emma to believe. In the Enchanted Forest, Geppetto agrees to save Snow White’s daughter, but he wants something in return.

Starring Ginnifer Goodwin, Jennifer Morrison, Lana Parrilla, Josh Dallas, Eion Bailey, Jared S. Gilmore, Raphael Sbarge, and Robert Carlyle

Season 1
Episode 20: The Stranger

The Enchanted Forest

After fighting a storm on their raft in the ocean, Geppetto wakes up on the shore without Pinocchio. He discovers that Pinocchio, who gave Geppetto the only life jacket so that Geppetto could live, is lying lifeless and face down in the water. While he weeps for the loss of his son, the Blue Fairy appears and assures Geppetto that Pinocchio can still be saved, using her wand to transform Pinocchio into a real boy. She assures Pinocchio that he needs to remain brave, truthful and unselfish in order to remain a real boy. Days later, the Blue Fairy informs Geppetto of the Evil Queen’s curse, and tasks him with creating a wardrobe to protect the saviour using the last enchanted tree in the realm. Though he is tasked with creating a wardrobe that will allow Snow, Charming and their unborn daughter to be protected from the curse, Geppetto agrees to create the wardrobe only if Pinnochio be permitted to go through as well. This causes the Blue Fairy to lie to the other members of the War Council, telling them that the wardrobe will only be able to transport one.

When Snow gives birth to Emma before the curse, the Blue Fairy informs Geppetto that Pinocchio can no longer go since Snow needs to look after her daughter. Geppetto, however, is preoccupied with Pinnochio’s fate and instead puts Pinnochio into the wardrobe, transporting him to the real world. When Pinnochio tries to return to the wardrobe, to travel back to the Enchanted Forest, he is pushed back by a wind that signals the arrival of baby Emma.

In a Boston foster home, Pinocchio looks after baby Emma. One of the other kids comes by with cash stolen from their foster parent and it is enough to buy the foster kids bus tickets away, but they cannot take Emma as they cannot look after her. Pinocchio apologises to Emma, and then leaves with the other kids.


Emma wants to hire Mr Gold to build a case against Regina to gain custody of Henry. August, however, reminds her that a custody battle won’t defeat Regina, and she needs to think of the bigger picture. He attempts to persuade her to take the day off so that he can show it to her, but she refuses. At Granny’s, Henry tells Emma that somebody has changed the book to add in an additional story, but it is left without an ending. August desperately phones Mr Gold for help with Emma, and stumbles as he walks out of his room, revealing that his leg has turned to wood, and confirming his identity as Pinocchio. August laments with Mr Gold about how Emma is too focused on gaining custody of Henry, and that he needs Mr Gold to nudge her towards him, which Mr Gold agrees to. When Emma comes to Mr Gold for help, he refuses her case, leading to Emma agreeing to seeing the big picture with August.

August promises to tell Emma his story, taking her on his bike to a diner on the side of a road, telling her that this was the diner where she was found. He reveals that he was the 7-year-old boy who found her, and leads her into the woods to reveal the exact spot. Emma doesn’t believe him, as the newspaper report claims that she was found on the side of the road, but August shows her the tree that brought her into this world, and also tells her that she was swaddled in a blanket with her name embroidered upon it. As this wasn’t in the newspaper report, Emma believes his tale that he found her. August goes on to reveal that he is Pinocchio and tells her that he was the one who altered Henry’s book, and that the book’s ending comes with her believing. Emma believes that August is insane and goes to leave. August collapses in pain when he follows her, but when he shows her his leg, she cannot see the wood, but rather an ordinary human leg, further cementing her belief that he is crazy. August also mentions that turning into wood only happened when Emma entered Storybrooke, reminding him of the promise he made to look after her. Emma is adamant that she doesn’t want the responsibility of saving the whole town. August tells her that she is Storybrooke’s only hope, to which Emma retorts, “Then you’re all screwed.” When August returns to Storybrooke, he runs into Marco and offers his help in his workshop for no pay. Meanwhile, Emma asks Henry whether he wants to leave Regina, and she starts driving out of town with Henry to start a new life together.

Elsewhere, in this episode, Mary Margaret prepares to go back to work, where she confronts Regina over framing her, though ultimately saying that she forgives Regina, as she must be sorely lonely if she can only derive happiness by ruining others’ lives. This makes Regina want to transfer Henry away from Mary Margaret’s class, but Henry tells her that she framed Mary Margaret. Regina is shocked and wants to know if Henry truly believes what he is saying, and Henry says that he does. He says that she is the Evil Queen and that Snow White and Prince Charming will end up together, and that good will triumph over evil.

Meanwhile, Regina attempts to seduce David in a last-ditch attempt to ruin his and Snow’s relationship, but she fails.

In Short

  • Geppetto used the magical wardrobe to save his son, Pinocchio, from the Dark Curse, and tasked Pinocchio with looking after Emma until she was old enough to break it.
  • Pinocchio ultimately abandoned Emma, growing up to become August.
  • August comes clean about the full story to Emma, who does not believe him.
  • Scared at the responsibility of being a “saviour”, Emma flees Storybrooke with Henry.


  • Let’s play Where’s Raphael Sbarge this week? He’s present this week, though only in voice form.
  • It’s a highly satisfying payoff to the August mystery, as well as lending some extra context to the idea that only Emma could go through the wardrobe as we saw in the pilot.
  • Could August’s wooden affliction come from the fact that he’s not acting in the way that he had agreed with the Blue Fairy? He assured her that he would be brave, truthful and unselfish, but his actions since arriving in the mortal realm haven’t exactly reflected this. With Emma’s presence in Storybrooke weakening the curse, then perhaps he just needs to demonstrate these qualities once more to stop his wooden affliction?
  • I cannot help but feel that Geppetto was incredibly selfish here. Sure, we all have families to protect from the curse (I say, as if I were involved in the curse in any way), but ultimately he stripped Emma, Snow and Charming from the life that they should have shared together as a family, just because he was worried about what was going to happen to Pinocchio. Likely, Pinocchio would have just been an actual boy in his cursed form or, at least, once the curse had been broken, there would have been some magic that could have made him alive once more. So don’t be selfish Geppetto.
  • Also, I’m confused as to how Geppetto came up with such an affected Italian accent. When he was a small boy he did not speak in this way, nor did his parents, who were turned into dolls. And he certainly didn’t learn it from Jiminy, who raised him. So that’s a bizarre choice, and that’s all I’m going to say on that. It also begs the question why Pinocchio doesn’t speak in an Italian accent, considering this Italian man raised him. Understand accents, people. I grow weary.
  • Some very interesting development from Emma here. Though she starts initially by saying that the entire thing sounds crazy, I think the scariest thing for her at the moment is the fact that she is being relied upon, which is something that she is not used to doing. Emma is used to relying upon herself and going wherever she pleased. She is not used to relying on other people, as they have consistently let her down, so it is an alien sensation to be needed and to be tied down in the way that is being expected of her here, and it’s nice to see her resisting this call and this destiny. It defies the trope in a way. So many people are so eager to be that figure, but Emma wants to be thoroughly absolved of the responsibility.
  • There has been some sizeable for Emma in her relationship towards Henry. While she was eager to depart his life in the pilot and to leave him behind in this new life, she makes sure to take him with her before she leaves, showing that she is ready to be a mother – or at least thinks that she is – and is willing to make that commitment, even if an entire town relying on her seems scary. This is also picked up by Mary Margaret, as Emma strives to liberate Henry from Regina’s clutches.
  • I loved Mary Margaret turning the tables on Regina, and calling her out on her pettiness here. Regina didn’t quite know what to do with being pitied. She’s used to being hated, but being viewed as lesser than instead of just evil is something that is so delightfully disarming.
  • Regina’s ploy to seduce David reeks of desperation. She can see everything falling apart around her, but her gambits are running out. It’s such a shame. The Dark Curse could have been an opportunity for Regina to reset her existence and do her life over with a clean slate, and do things as she wished she had done. However, she marred the entire experience by being intent upon destroying the lives of those who had wronged her in the past.
  • 2 episodes left now! How will that curse be broken, and will Henry and Emma actually flee Storybrooke?

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