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Recap / Once Upon A Time S 1 E 9 True North

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Season 1, Episode 9:

True North

The Evil Queen: Tell me why? Hmm. Why did your children refuse me?
The Woodcutter: Because we're a family. And family always finds one another.

Ava Zimmer: Did you find them?
Emma Swan: Who?
Ava Zimmer: Your parents.
Emma Swan: No...but I'm going to help you find yours.

Emma makes a desperate attempt to help young sibling runaways, Nicholas and Ava Zimmer, find their birth father before they're separated and sent into foster care. In the fairy tale land that was, the backstory of Hansel and Gretel is revealed along with a secret mission authorized by the Evil Queen to steal a prized artifact from the cannibalistic Blind Witch.


  • Absentee Actor: Josh Dallas (David).
  • Adaptational Heroism: Hansel and Gretel's mother. In the original tale, she convinced the father to abandon them. Here she's been dead a while and the father never actually abandons them; he's captured by the Queen so she can manipulate the kids.
  • Big Brother Instinct: Ava/Gretel is this towards Nicholas/Hansel.
  • Death by Adaptation: The Wicked Stepmother is Adapted Out and Hansel and Gretel's mother has been dead for years.
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  • Don't Split Us Up: A big plot point. Emma mentions how rare it is to convince a family to adopt two grown children. Nicholas and Ava would inevitably be sent to separate homes - one for girls and one for boys.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Regina is left confused over why Hansel and Gretel insist on leaving to find their father rather than accepting her offer to live with her in luxury, enough that she drags their father in front of her just to ask him.
  • Faking Engine Trouble: After their father, a mechanic, refuses to care for them, Emma must drive Ava and Nicholas to Boston where they will enter the foster care system. As they leave Storybrooke, Emma fakes engine trouble as an excuse to call their father out for one final chance to change his mind.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing: This is only clear on a rewatch, but at the end of the episode, Emma is looking at her file with the newspaper article about her being found as a baby by a seven-year-old boy, on the side of a highway. And who should drive into Storybrooke on his motorcycle just a short time after this?
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  • Frameup: Ava strikes up a conversation with Henry at the drugstore so that her brother can hide the items they've shoplifted in his backpack; presumably this was so no one would see them leaving the store with them, but as the druggist catches them it ends up making Henry look like a thief instead.
  • Happy Ending: One of the first unqualified examples of this happening in the show, when Emma succeeds in reuniting Ava and Nicholas with their fathernote . Lampshaded by Henry. And since they are never seen after this, we can only assume they're still quite happy together after the breaking of the curse at season's end.
  • Hot Witch: The Blind Witch is surprisingly attractive.
  • I Am A Humanitarian: The Blind Witch eats children.
  • Idiot Ball: Based on what we see on screen, this is the biggest reason for Hansel eating the Blind Witch's treats, unless there is some sort of magical temptation compulsion on them; if so, he is still the only one of the kids susceptible, which doesn't say much for his willpower.
  • Infant Immortality: Partial aversion. Hansel and Gretel survive - but the Blind Witch actively tries to kill them. There are also lots of small skeletons shown beside her - implying that she regularly eats children.
  • The Load: Hansel is portrayed this way.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It's never confirmed whether or not Emma's car actually did break down at the town line (as a result of the curse) - or she pretended so she would have an excuse to call a mechanic. Also, right before he (their father) arrives, their broken compass suddenly starts working again and points to the approaching towtruck.
  • Mythology Gag: Played with. Just like in the fairy tale, Gretel tricks the Blind Witch into thinking she's Hansel, and they end up shoving her into her own oven—but it's Regina, watching in her mirror, who then actually sets her on fire.
  • Nothing Exciting Ever Happens Here: Henry informs Emma that before she came to town, no strangers ever came and no one ever left Storybrooke. This ends up subverted when August shows up at the end of the episode, further proof that Emma really is changing things. Double subverted when it later turns out August is Pinocchio, but considering he had abandoned Emma, had never actually been in Storybrooke before, and only showed up to help her break the curse, Henry's statement is still partly true.
  • Pet the Dog: Yet again, Gold gives Emma something (the name of Ava and Nicholas's father), with no strings attached other than asking her forgiveness. Like the previous episode, this is yet another sign of the soft spot he has for children and families that have been torn apart or separated, due to his own Backstory.
  • Plucky Girl: Gretel. Regina even lampshades it by saying she has a strong heart.
  • The Reveal: The magical artifact the Blind Witch had stolen, which Regina wanted back? An apple. The apple. (How she got it is left unexplained, but her association with food would explain why she'd want it.) This, like Regina's meeting with Maleficent in "The Thing You Love Most", establishes not only the backstory on the various magical items and spells the Evil Queen has used, but also her relationships, both positive and negative, with other witches and magic users in the Enchanted Forest.
  • Reveal Shot: The pan out as Hansel and Gretel set off through the forest to find their father, showing by its size just how hopeless their quest will be.
  • Schmuck Banquet: The Blind Witch's house is made of gingerbread and full of cakes and sweets. One taste wakes the witch up and alerts her that there are children in the house.
  • Shout-Out: The food alerting the Blind Witch to the presence of children in her house is a reference to The Pale Man, who sits by his table until someone comes to eat his food, then he wakes up and devours them.
    • Mary Margaret jokingly says to Emma - after she tells her that Henry thinks they are mother and daughter - "you do have my chin". It's a big reference to the well-documented similarity between the two actresses.
  • The Stinger: At the end of the episode, a stranger comes to town and, after confirming he's in Storybrooke asks for a place to stay. Considering Henry had told Emma no one ever comes to Storybrooke and she's the first stranger to stay there, the two of them are understandably shocked.
  • Tragic Keepsake: The compass. In the Enchanted Forest it's a gift from their father that helps the twins find their way back home/to him, but it gets broken thanks to the Queen's Black Knights; Gretel hangs onto it anyway in hopes of their family still being reunited. In Storybrooke it's even more this, since their memories are of their mother giving it to them before she died, as a memento of the man she met on a camping trip; it's via this that Emma is able to find the man (with Gold's help), and it's proof that the twins he never knew about are really his.

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