‘Once Upon A Time’ S1 Ep 9 recap: Family Matters

S1 Ep 9
Poor Hansel and Gretel. (Photo credit: ABC)

This week’s touching episode “True North” captivated the audience with engaging performances from wonderfully talented guest stars and tugged at the heart-strings with its endearing message of family love and loyalty.

Fairytale Land: “Family always finds one another.”

A hardworking woodcutter sends his lively twins, Hansel and Gretel, on an errand in the woods. Before they leave, he hands Gretel his compass, so that they may always be able to find their way back to him. However, when the kids return, their father is missing and they are startlingly entrapped by the Evil Queen. She is impressed by the kids’ bravery and spunk, so she offers them a deal: if the twins retrieve a black satchel from the Blind Witch’s house, then she will find their father and reunite the family. EQ sends them off with one simple warning: “Don’t eat anything…Not even a lick.”

Hansel and Gretel enter the gingerbread and luckily stumble upon the Blind Witch in the midst of a very deep sleep. As the responsible one, Gretel reminds her mischievous and somewhat dimwitted brother not to taste anything, but of course he can’t help himself and the two wind up in BW’s chopping block.

While Emma Caulfield’s creepy Blind Witch chants her cackling inquiry “Butter or Gravy” and drags the fiery girl out of the cage, Gretel cunningly steals the key so that Hansel can break free. Together they shove BW into the oven and the Evil Queen finished her off from the distance as she sends a bolt of fire from her Magic Mirror into the oven, roasting the Blind Witch for good.

Hansel and Gretel return to the Evil Queen with the black satchel containing the infamous poisonous apple, the ultimate “weapon” that infamously puts Snow White in her deathly coma. EQ is so impressed with the kids that she offers them a life full of riches if they choose to live with her in the castle, but Gretel refuses, insisting that they prefer to be with their father despite the Queen’s claim that he abandoned them. Infuriated, EQ casts them off into the woods, so they can search for their beloved father.

We see the Evil Queen checking her Magic Mirror to surprisingly find Snow White hanging out with seven dwarfs, when she is interrupted by her guards carrying in the woodcutter. He demands to be reunited with his kids and she remains baffled, saying they “still chose uncertainty because of their blind faith in you.” Jealous of the true love and devotion this family has for one another, EQ releases him saying they can be together as a family once they can find each other. And so the twins are left wandering through the forest in hope of one day finding their absent father.

Storybrooke: “Once I saw him, I had to know him.”

In the “real world” Hansel and Gretel are now Nicholas and Ava Zimmer, orphaned twins surviving on their street smarts since their mother died a few years ago. Emma stumbled upon them in the mini-mart after they try framing Henry for their theft. Being an orphan herself, Emma quickly bonds with the kids and wants to help them find their unknown father. She takes them home to Mary Margaret’s so they can hide out while she does some investigating. Her first stop is to check out some document, but she soon learns Regina has beaten her to it.

While Emma is busting her chops to keep the authorities from splitting the twins up in foster care, Regina has already contacted social services and placed them in separate boy and girl group homes in Boston. Outraged, yet determined, Emma sets out to find more leads with Henry’s help.

Henry knows the kids are Hansel and Gretel and he reminds Emma that no one leaves or comes to Storybrooke, so their father must be in town somewhere. He also asks her about his own father, so Emma lies and tells him a story about his fire-fighting father who died a hero when he rescued a family from a burning apartment. When Henry asks she kept anything that belonged to him, she realizes that the kids could have a new lead to follow.

Ava gives Emma their father’s compass and she goes to Mr. Gold to discover its origin. Gold will give the info in exchange for “forgiveness,” but Emma compromises with “tolerance” and finds out their father is Michael Tillman, a local mechanic.

Michael Tillman and Dori Zimmer had a one-night stand while out camping 12 years ago; he never knew he had kids and he doesn’t want them because he doesn’t “know anything about being a dad.” Despite Emma’s persuasive efforts, he refuses to take them in and Emma is forced by Regina to drive the kids to Boston that night.

As they are about to pass the “Leaving Storybrooke” sign, he car stalls and Emma calls for a tow-truck. As Michael approaches, the compass needle spins and stops on his location. Emma set it up so that he could see his twins before they leave town and explains how once she saw Henry she had to know him. One look at his twins caused Michael to change his mind, breaking another one of the Evil Queen’s curses.

When Emma returns home, she confesses Henry’s theory to Mary Margaret and that by being Snow White, she is in fact Emma’s mother. They tease about it, but when MM sees Emma’s baby blanket, we are left hoping that she feels something familiar about it and just maybe she will start to remember her past.

After the mini heart-to-heart Emma takes a breather and goes over her own case file, she is reading an article about how a seven year old boy discovered her as a baby on the side of the road. In the midst of her research Henry stops by to cheer her up with his father’s favorite pie, when suddenly a strange man in black drive into town on a motorcycle. He asks where he can stay in town, but gives Emma no name, leaving her with only another enigma to solve.


  • The mini-mart Clerk Mr. Clark either has severe allergies or is for sure Sneezy’s counterpart.
  • Still love the details in Regina’s black and white office: she has a chest in the shape of the gingerbread house on her desk, the mirror she speaks into when conversing with Emma is a great standout piece, and the only splash of color is the bowl of red apples.
  • The gingerbread house looked deliciously realistic considering how much of this show’s backdrop is full-on green screen.
  • Kudos to Karley Scott Collins’s performance as Gretel/Ava, this girl is so full of smart spunk and sincere emotion, she shined in this role.
  • Another great guest-starring performance by Nicholas Lea as the Woodcutter/ Michael Tillman, he played the contrasting roles so convincingly (if you liked him here, then you should really see him as Elliot Ness in Supernatural’s latest episode “Time After Time” that travels back to the 1940s)
  • Eion Bailey made a badass debut as the mysterious and charismatic stranger who is destined to shake things up in Storybrooke, if you’ve seen him on ‘Covert Affairs’ be prepared for some action-packed scenes from this man in black.

What did you think of “True North”? Do you have any theories on how the Stranger is tied to Storybrooke? Here’s one idea you can mull over this week: Emma was reading about the 7 year old boy who found her when the Stranger appeared, so maybe the Stranger is that boy all grown up. What do you think? Leave your comments below.

Check back here later for more news on upcoming episodes.

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