‘Once Upon A Time’ S2 Ep 18 recap: The road to redemption is paved with wood

S2 Ep 18
August proves to be “Selfless, Brave and True.” (Photo credit: ABC)

Last night’s ‘Once Upon A Time’ may have taken a dip in ratings, but it definitely delivered a powerful punch with August’s jaw-dropping return and the arrival of Storybrooke’s latest threat. “Selfless, Brave and True” satisfied our curiosity about Pinocchio by showing us August’s harrowing journey of redemption. We also learned the truth about Tamara and her intentions. Although some of us predicted the big reveal, it did not diminish the impact of her presence in Storybrooke.

The past: “I’m turning into wood!”

Punkhut October 24, 2011

August is in bed with a woman when he suddenly feels a sharp pain in his leg. He shoots up and gasps, “I’m turning into wood!”

Hong Kong 2011

As August’s wooden-leg condition worsens, he seeks help at a Hong Kong hospital. Unfortunately, due to the curse, his leg looks perfectly normal to an average person. When August pulls a Ricky Bobby and stabs his own leg, the doctor thinks he has gone crazy and calls for security. August makes a run for it and bumps into a stranger who says The Dragon can help cure anything, even conditions that are not of this world.

While August is waiting in line for a meeting with The Dragon, we learn that Tamara was also his patient. The two meet when she drops her phone on her way in, August hands it to her. On her way out, Tamara wishes August good luck.

The Dragon seems to be familiar with the fairytale world. He recognizes August as Pinocchio and can see that he is turning into wood. In order to heal August, The Dragon needs something of the fairytale world that is close to his heart, something that cannot be replaced. All of these years, August has been wearing a whale pendant on a necklace made from the string Geppetto used to animate Pinocchio as a boy. The Dragon asks for the string because it is a part of August’s soul and can serve as part of his payment. Since the payment must come from both worlds, The Dragon also asks for $10,000. The Dragon promises that he will never turn into wood again after this special treatment. Once he returns with the money, August will be wood-free.

Later that day, August sees Tamara again at a bar and she calls him over. She flashes an envelope full of cash and tells him that she visited The Dragon to cure a rare form of cancer. A photo of her grandmother served as her payment to The Dragon. When Tamara briefly steps away, August grabs her money and runs.

He frantically arrives at The Dragon’s with his payment. As he sees Tamara’s photo on the table and feels a sharp pain shooting up his leg. The Dragon tells August that the body has a strange way of sending signals. He clarifies that wood is simply a symptom and only August has the power to completely cure himself of his condition. Nonetheless, The Dragon gives August the treatment.

As August leaves The Dragon’s building, Tamara ambushes him and takes the magic treatment that her money bought. She callously tells August, “Whatever it is you have, you deserve your fate.”

Later, Tamara pays The Dragon a visit and we discover that she lied about being sick. She is actually searching for magic. Everyone she has met has been a fraud, until The Dragon. She had the bottled treatment tested and its contents are not of this world. Tamara pulls out a taser and prepares to attack The Dragon when he suddenly starts emitting red smoke from his nostrils. As The Dragon begins levitating in the air, he claims that she hasn’t met the real him. Sadly, we don’t get to meet the real Dragon either. Tamara takes her super-powerful taser and electrocutes him. Just like that…Puff, there goes the magic Dragon.

New York City 2011

Tamara watches from a distance as August tells Neal that Emma has arrived in Storybrooke and he plans on going there to help her break the curse so that his condition can be cured. August promises to send Neal a postcard when the curse is broken and the two part ways. That is when Tamara makes her grand entrance into Neal’s life.

She stages a “chance” encounter when she bumps into him and spills coffee all over herself. She’s late for work and has no time to change out of this embarrassingly stained outfit, so Neal offers her his scarf to cover it up. Fast-forward to the present and the two are happily engaged thanks to a twist of “Fate.”

Present day Storybrooke: “I’ve lived a life of selfishness, cowardice and dishonesty. And only I can cure that. Not magic. Not science. Just me.”

Mary Margaret is still beating herself up for manipulating Regina into killing Cora and David continues to be a comforting and understanding hubby, serving his grief-stricken wife breakfast in bed. Emma comes downstairs and tells her father to stop encouraging Mary’s behavior, it is time for her to suck it up and carry on with her life. M.M. overhears her daughter’s words laced with tough love and decides to change her routine. She tells David that she just needs some time to adjust and she’ll be thinking things over while getting some fresh air in the woods. Meanwhile, Emma and Henry meet up with Neal.

The ever adorable Henry gives his story book to Neal and asks to hear all about his fairytale adventures. Neal promises to share his tall tales after Henry grabs them all some cocoa. During their brief moment alone, Neal tells Emma that Hook has escaped from the storage room they tied him up in. She doesn’t seem too worried since Hook can only cause so much damage out in the real world. But wait, that’s not all. Neal also confesses that Tamara is on her way to Storybrooke. Emma brings up a series of valid concerns, like how Tamara will react to the crazy things she will see in their magical town. Emma urges Neal to tell Tamara the whole truth before things get out of hand. He agrees to spill the beans and asks her and Henry to stay for breakfast, so they can get to know Tamara.

Mary Margaret does some soul-searching during target practice in the woods. After firing a series of arrows, she hears a snapping sound and follows a trail of broken arrows, which leads her to an amazing discovery. She stumbles upon a trailer and finds a victim of her rusty archery skills. M.M. shot a completely wooden August with one of her arrows!

Let’s take a moment to discuss our first look at August since he disappeared months ago. The visual effects for wooden August were stunning. It was truly a chilling sight. Sure, it was a little creepy, but that was compensated by the way August’s crystal blue eyes conveyed so much emotion. You could see the sorrow and regret in his face, CGI or otherwise, Eion Bailey’s scenes in this episode were very moving; beginning with his heartfelt confession to Mary Margaret.

Mary is shocked by August’s condition and he admits that he did this to himself and has been hiding in shame. M.M. brings August up to date and says that his father and Emma would love to see him, but August cannot face them like this. With a quivering voice he asks, “How’s my Papa?” (Awww. Who else started welling up with tears at that moment?) Then he wonders if Emma and Neal have gotten back together, indicating that August never got over his crush on her. August has been hoping for redemption, but he fears that there are some things you can’t come back from. He feels like a “wooden pile of failure” and Mary tries convincing him otherwise. While August and M.M. continue their heart-to-heart, Emma and Henry learn a little more about Tamara.

During their family breakfast, Henry asks Neal and Tamara how they met. Tamara tells the scarf story and Emma quips that it “sounds like fate.” As Emma and Henry head out, he leaves the story book with Neal and Tamara tells Emma that Henry has Neal’s spirit. After they’ve left, Neal shows Tamara the book and tells her the truth. As he explains that he is from the Enchanted Forest, Tamara gets angry. She says he is just lying to push her away because he still has feelings for Emma. She storms out and leaves Neal alone to decide what he really wants. Elsewhere, tensions continue to rise as more secrets threaten to be revealed.

Regina officially introduces herself to Greg at Granny’s Diner and she thanks him for calling her when he found Henry in the woods. She says Greg seems familiar, but he claims to be from Pennsylvania and insists they’ve never met. Regina begins to follow him out of the diner when Mary Margaret steps in at that moment. Regina glares at M.M. and suggests she try the fish special, “blackened soul” (burn!), and then walks away. After suffering that jab, Mary rushes over to Emma and Marco and tells them about August’s situation. Marco says that Mother Superior helped him once before, so maybe she can cure Pinocchio again. Tamara overhears and pays August a visit while the others chat with the Blue Fairy.

Mother Superior tells them that August changed back into wood because he was not selfless, brave and true. No one can force him to change; he must redeem himself for it to be true. At this pivotal time of redemption, August is faced with yet another temptation.

Tamara finds August in his trailer and offers a solution. She believes in magic, she knows The Dragon’s cure works and she offers him “salvation.” If August leaves town, she will give him the rest of the treatment she has saved in her New York apartment. Tamara admits she is “quite” human and she believes that August is willing to do anything to save himself, like he did in Hong Kong. August asks if Tamara has come to take Storybrooke’s magic, but we are left without an answer. Instead we see another menacing offer made across town.

Regina visits Greg at his hotel room. She addresses him as Owen and shows him that she has held onto his gift for all of these years. When he accuses her of making his father disappear, she shrugs it off as part of his overactive imagination. She warns Greg to leave town before it is too late, but he promises not to go without his father. Speaking of father-son reunions, Marco and Emma eagerly follow Mary Margaret as she leads them to August’s hiding place.

During their trek through the woods, Marco makes a confession to Mary. He admits that there was enough room for two people in the magic wardrobe. He made the Blue Fairy lie to her so he could send August with Emma. M.M. is appalled and can’t believe that she could’ve been with her daughter all along. Marco apologizes and she uncharacteristically slaps him. Yes, it is a stereotypical soap-opera move, but it gets the point across. Snow White is not herself anymore and the darkness is starting take a hold of her heart. Once she returns to her senses, she apologizes for her actions and forgives Marco because she understands his desire to protect his child. When they reach the trailer, it is already empty. August has taken Tamara’s car and is leaving Storybrooke.

As August drives down the road, he brings down the visor and Tamara’s photo falls on his lap. He has a change of heart and makes a U-Turn back into Storybrooke, so he can warn the others about Tamara.

August goes straight to the Sheriff’s office, hoping to find Emma. He calls her from the desk phone and Tamara pulls the phone lines out of the wall. When August saw her photo in the car, he realized that she killed The Dragon. He went back to see The Dragon, hoping for another chance at getting the cure and he found the dead body. Tamara is surprised that he isn’t running off and trying to save himself with the cure because the August she knew wouldn’t have returned. August says he is trying to save himself by doing the right thing. As he promises to warn his friends, Tamara whips out her super-strong taser and zaps August, leaving him unconscious on the floor.

Emma & Co. rush to the station and meet August as he stumbles out the front door. He falls to the ground and Marco cradles his son’s wooden head in his arms. August cries, “I’m sorry Papa.” Marco says there is nothing to forgive and apologizes for placing such a heavy burden on his young son. Then August reaches up at Emma and tries to warn her about Tamara.With his dying breath he softly mumbles “she.” Marco sobs, “Not again!” Mary Margaret cannot believe that August was robbed of his second chance because it is not supposed to end like this. Emma vows not to let his death be in vain. As Neal approaches, Henry remembers that Pinocchio was supposed to be “brave, truthful and unselfish.” Seconds later, the Blue Fairy arrives and he begs her to save August again because his actions were selfless, brave and true. The Blue Fairy works her magic and saves Pinocchio’s life, but there’s a catch. Pinocchio comes back to life a little boy and doesn’t remember his life as August, including the warning about Tamara. As the Charmings share a family hug, Tamara walks over and tells Neal that she believes in magic after seeing what happened to Pinocchio.

When the Charmings go home, Emma apologizes to Henry for all the lies and promises never to lie again, saying she doesn’t want him to push her away anymore. Henry hugs her, forgives her and agrees. After they’ve gone upstairs, Mary Margaret reveals a secret to David. She tells him about visiting Regina and seeing her own dark heart. Snow White fears she is beyond redemption, but David knows that it is still possible. Charming has faith in his wife because Snow White’s heart is strong enough to overcome darkness.

As the episode concludes, Greg receives a call from “Her” and opens the door to reveal that Tamara is at the other end of the phone.

Although the Tamara twist was pretty predictable, her presence in Storybrooke still makes a great impact. We know for sure that Tamara and Greg are lovers and they’re working together. Greg wants his father back and it seems like Tamara thinks they must have magic in order to get what they want from Regina. But, how far is Tamara willing to go to get what Greg wants? Is she doing this solely to help Greg? Or is Greg just another pawn in her game? We’ve already ready seen her kill two people to get magic, so how much damage will she cause in the long run? How do you feel about Tamara after learning more about her? Are you disappointed with her secret identity?

Overall, “Selfless, Brave and True” was a well-crafted, powerful episode, full of heartbreaking, unnerving and deeply upsetting moments. What did you think, Oncers?


  • R.I.P. August: It is so sad to see August go. Eion Bailey was wonderful in this role and gave a fantastic performance in this episode. Hopefully, we’ll see him again in flashbacks. It was a shame to know he still had feelings for Emma and we’ll never see their potential romance play out. The visual effects were also amazing. It would be great to get a behind-the-scenes peek at the making of this episode during April 14th’s “The Price of Magic.” Sometimes the effects seemed similar to the motion capture used in ‘Lord of the Rings’ because you could still see Bailey’s expressions behind the CGI-ed wood. How did you feel when you first saw wooden August?
  • Redemption: August may have died, but Pinocchio lives again, which means that redemption is still possible. Snow White should not give up hope. Mary Margaret needs to fight to redeem herself and purify her dark heart. What will it take for Snow White to redeem herself? Could the Blue Fairy have answers for her?
  • Tamara: Neal’s fiancée is the mysterious “Her” and she is prepared to cause a lot of trouble in Storybrooke. Honestly, was another villain necessary? We have enough bad people to worry about and we really can’t handle much more. Tamara is a nasty person. She kills without hesitation when someone crosses her. What is her plan? Are Tamara and Greg on the same page? Does Greg just want his father back or does he want revenge on the whole town? How far is Tamara willing to go to get want she wants?
  • Hook: We’ve already discussed why we haven’t seen Hook in the past few episodes and we can all admit his absence has been felt. It is strange to just hear that Hook escaped without seeing what he’s been up to. However, his sudden break from captivity while under Tamara’s supervision does raise questions. Did Tamara set Hook free? Have they made some sort of deal? They both know about magic in Storybrooke and they both have scores to settle, so it wouldn’t be a stretch for them to form an alliance and wreak havoc on the people of Storybrooke. What do you think happened to Hook?
  • Robin Hood is coming!: In a month, ‘OUAT’ returns with 3 brand new episodes beginning with “Lacey” on April 21st. Take a look at the embedded promo for a sneak peek at Robin Hood, played by Tom Ellis.

Stay tuned for the latest ‘Once Upon A Time’ news and more:

‘Once Upon A Time’ airs Sundays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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