‘Once Upon A Time’ S1 Ep 17 recap: Do you believe in magic?

S1 Ep 17
Sebastian Stan guest stars as The Mad Hatter. (Photo credit: ABC/Jack Rowand)

This week’s “Hat Trick” took us on a trip down the hat-hole and through the looking glass, which revealed the surprising life Jefferson led before he grew “mad” in Wonderland. Meanwhile in Storybrooke, Emma’s bewildering experience as Jefferson’s hostage eventually opens her mind to the possibility that Henry’s fairytales are true.

Fairytale Land: “You don’t abandon family.”

Jefferson returns to his humble cottage after playing with his daughter Grace in the woods and they are both shocked to find Regina waiting for him. Regina has come to Jefferson because she needs a favor; she knows he has “hung up his hat,” but she promises that he and Grace will have a better life if he helps her one last time. Jefferson resists, saying that the last time he lost his wife and he will not make the same mistake of abandoning his family again. Naturally, Regina causes him to change his mind through a clever scheme.

The next day at a bazaar Grace wants to get a stuffed white rabbit from an old gypsy woman (Regina in disguise), but Jefferson can’t afford it and she doesn’t accommodate his price although she admires how he is willing to spend all of his money just to make Grace happy. The next morning we see that Jefferson made Grace a white rabbit and she adds it to her tea party. Jefferson tells her that he must leave for a special job and she begs him not to go work for the Evil Queen, but he says he must and sends her off with the neighbors.

Jefferson meets with Regina and makes her guarantee that Grace will never want for anything, so she agrees. He spins his magic top hat on the floor and we realize that it is the portal to Wonderland. They both jump in and land in room surrounded by doors and mirrors; before stepping through the looking glass Jefferson reminds the Queen of Wonderland’s rule, the number of people who enter must be the same as the number who leave. They enter Wonderland and appear to be smaller than a blade of grass.

The hookah-smoking caterpillar (voiced by Roger Daltrey) lounging on top of a mushroom greets them with a funny wink at one of The Who’s most famous songs by asking, “Who are you? Who? Who? ” Then Jefferson mumbles in response, “I hate Wonderland.” They venture further in until they reach the Queen of Hearts’ labyrinth; Regina uses magic to burn their way through to the center. There she finds the Queen of Hearts’ crypt, which looks just like the one in the Storybrooke cemetery. Regina opens the doors to reveal the same vault we last saw her place Sheriff Graham’s heart in; although it is terrible, you still need to admit that storing hearts in a vault stolen from the Queen of Hearts is ironically a-pro-pot. Regina takes one of the boxes out and uses her magic again to help them escape the Queen’s knights. Once they reach the looking glass, Regina discloses what is in the box.

The Queen of Hearts had captured and trapped Regina’s father, Henry in the little box, so she came to rescue him. She knowingly set Jefferson up to be stranded in Wonderland forever and she cruelly rubs it in his face, saying that if he truly loved Grace, then he would not have taken the job and abandoned her in the first place. With those vicious words, she leaves Jefferson at the mercy of the Queen of Hearts.

As he stands before the Queen, she whispers “off with his head” and the Queen’s men swing an axe through Jefferson’s neck, but he surprising survives the blow as his body lies lifeless on the checkered floor. He begs the Queen to let him go home, but she says the only way he can leave is if he creates another magic hat that will get him out. Thus, the Mad Hatter is born out of years of frustrating failure and agonizing regret for leaving his dear Grace.

Storybrooke: “Maybe if I want magic, I have to start believing.”

Mary Margaret runs through the woods after her prison break; Henry sits outside the jail waiting for Emma with the storybook. He thinks Emma and Mr. Gold planned MM’s escape, but the two are shocked to see she is missing. They have to get her back by 8 A.M. the next morning for her arraignment, so Emma heads out to find her despite Mr. Gold’s cautionary warning. She tells him, “I’d rather lose my job than my friend.”

While she speeds down the highway, Emma nearly runs over Jefferson. He sprains his ankle, so she offers to drive him home and steps in for a cup of tea. She realizes soon enough that she has been drugged and awakes to find herself in duct-tape hand-cuffs. Luckily, she is resourceful, so she breaks out and starts exploring the house. The first thing she notices is the telescope pointed at her office, so he obviously did his research. She enters a room and finds MM bound to a chair, but Jefferson catches them before they can escape. He makes Emma tie MM up again and tells her she needs to do something for him.

He sits Emma down and explains how he was saving MM’s life by keeping her from leaving Storybrooke. He sounds just like Henry when he talks about the curse and how Emma is different; he says to Emma, “You’re special. You brought something precious to Storybrooke…Magic.” However, Emma still does not believe, even after everything she has seen during her time there. He thinks it is about time she wakes up and acknowledges the curse and magic at play; especially since he needs her to make him a hat that will break the curse and take him back to the Fairytale world. Emma continues to shrug his ramblings off as a joke, saying that they are simply imaginary stories. Yet Jefferson continues to argue, he compares the storybook to history books and says that even imagination must come from somewhere. He believes that Storybrooke is “a” real world, but there are infinite worlds, some with magic and some without. Jefferson reasons with Emma, pleading for magic in this world so that he can be reunited with Grace in the Fairytale world.

Jefferson reveals his past and shows Emma his daughter, her Storybrooke name is Page, and he watches her as she lives with another family. He explains that his curse is remembering the life they shared in the past, but Page has no idea, nor would he want her to. Jefferson believes it would be cruel to “inflict that awareness” on her and then he begs for Emma to help him. Emma appears to accept the curse as reality, but it is only to throw him off-guard. She smacks him with the telescope and runs to free MM; Jefferson catches up with them and in the struggle we see the scar left on his neck from the Queen’s decapitation. Mary Margaret suddenly strikes him with a croquet mallet and the blow sends him flying out the window.

MM and Emma run outside to find his hat, but Jefferson himself has mysteriously disappeared. Emma sees her car and gives MM the chance to run, but she makes a confession first. Emma does not want to lose MM and be alone again; Emma tells her, “No one’s ever been there for me except you…I can’t be without my family…friends.” Those heartfelt words are enough to persuade MM to go back to prison and fight Regina in court.

Regina enters the jail and is shocked to see MM in her cell; as Mr. Gold walks her out, we discover that Regina was the one who left the key for Mary Margaret. Mr. Gold and Regina have made a deal, exactly what it is remains unclear and hopefully we will eventually learn that Mr. Gold is double-crossing Regina, instead of Emma. Nonetheless, by bringing her back, Emma has obviously ruined in Regina’s plans.

As the episode concludes, Emma sits with Henry outside of school and looks through his book. She turns to the Mad Hatter’s story and asks Henry if she can hold onto the book for bit. Henry happily gives it to her.

What did you think of “Hat Trick”? Was it as good as you hoped? Were you surprised by the Mad Hatter’s story? Do you think Emma will fully believe in the curse by the end of this season? What do you make of Mr. Gold and Regina’s partnership? Can Mr. Gold be trusted? Share your thoughts below!


  • Great transitions from SB to FL: the pictures, scissors, hats, etc.
  • The Who shout-out was cute, although there could have been a little more of the caterpillar given all of the hype and the fairytale mythology of his wisdom.
  • Sebastian Stan did a great job in this episode; he remained believable in every scene and you could easily sympathize with the pain this curse has caused him.
  •  Preview images showed that August visited Jefferson at home, which made it seem like he would be in this episode. It would have made sense because they both want Emma to believe in the curse, so perhaps that scene will be used at a later time when the focus shifts back to August. What do you think?

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