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Apparently last week I picked a bad time to be off. I can't believe I missed Jafar snatching some Victorian gent's top hat, the Carpenter (mourning the missed opportunity to make 70's musical jokes), and trees that get you high. Well, this week proved to be just as entertaining. I knew we were in for a treat since Jane Espenson would be penning this episode and her signature whippy dialogue and whiplash-inducing plot twists were in full force with this one. Not only do we get more of Jafar's back story, which allows me to wave my "I Knew It!" flag proudly, but a kind of resolution to Alice's as well.

This week we begin with a flashback, not to Victorian England, but Agrabah. We see young Jafar at his mother's bedside. Since this show is closely tied to Disney, I don't think mommie dearest will be lasting long. Jafar's mother, a healer, also seems aware of this and instead of leaving the boy an orphan, tells her son that his true father will take him in and he can be found at the palace. "But the Sultan lives at the palace," young Jafar protests. Yes well, hopefully this kid grows into his smarts, because surprise, his father is the sultan. A death rattle away from the end, Jafar's mother gives him a ring that will prove he is the sultan's offspring and that he will not be turned away. Oh lady, if you only stuck around for another 20 minutes into this episode... She then promptly bites the Agrabean dust, a small puff of something supernatural leaving her body as she goes.

We quickly jump to present day Jafar, still sporting that ring, making himself comfortable in Alice's father's parlor. Jafar is posing as a doctor from the asylum, buttering up Alice's father with stories of how it was obvious that she came from a good home. I may not have reviewed last episode, but I can still call shenanigans on that statement. Dr. Jafar explains that it would be easier to understand where Alice went by showing rather than telling and pulls the White Rabbit from his hat, I mean bag. Alice's father is dumbfounded, while the Rabbit is simply annoyed at being Jafar's go to party trick and stalks off to the wall to create a portal. With barely a tip of his stolen chapeau, Jafar invites Alice's father to Wonderland.

As the pair recover from their landing through the portal, Jafar dismisses the White Rabbit quite insistently. Perhaps he realizes that the Rabbit has his ear to the ground, so to speak, and will report information back to either Alice or the Red Queen? Alice's father is amazed by the Lisa Frank cover art that is Wonderland, proclaiming it to either be a dream or a hallucination. Sorry sir, the stoner episode was last week. Jafar sells Alice's father a line about how there are villains afoot and Alice needs to be saved, but the father protests, explaining the rough history he has with his daughter and why he would probably be the last person she wanted to see. While he is speaking with Jafar, Alice's father nervously cleans his spectacles, a spectacle the camera makes sure we take in. We are obviously meant to notice this, just as Jafar does. After hearing that father and daughter have their share of baggage and difficulties, Jafar proclaims that a shame, since he was counting on a familial bond. Whatever this sinister proclamation means, we'll have to wait a few scenes to hear about it.

Elsewhere in the woods, the Knave of Hearts and Alice are getting closer to Jafar's tower, though they are in for a rude awakening when they find it is floating, Laputa-style, over Wonderland. The Knave is all in favor of stopping and formulating a plan, while Alice, living up to her action-girl title, is all about grabbing Cyrus, then figuring out an exit. Sounds like Alice has been taking a leaf out of the Team Henry strategy book over on Once Upon a Time. As Alice and the Knave of Hearts emerge from the woods and on to the shore they realize just how daunting of a task retrieving Cyrus has become as Jafar's floating fortress looms over them.

Over at the Red Queen's palace, a Tweedle strides in with a report. It's been a while since we've seen the Tweedles together as a pair, which is odd considering how complimentary and in sync these characters traditionally are. Also, in this version of the Wonderland tale, what exactly is a Tweedle? We've no indication what they do or where they came from, other than that they are here now and the Red Queen's servants. The Tweedle reports that they searched the entire shore with no sign of Cyrus, The Red Queen, dissatisfied, bids them to keep searching. This Tweedle decides to display some trademark Jane Espenson sass, throwing out suggestions as to Cyrus's status. The Red Queen reminds him that she has the upper hand if she can find Cyrus before Jafar since she also has the bottle. Too bad Jafar has sidled up behind her, listening to her spill her plan. But before the Red Queen can stick her red stiletto even further into her mouth, the sorcerer pipes up. He wants to know where Alice is, but is instantly side tracked when he discovers Cyrus escaped in his absence. After a bit of a power scuffle regarding guards, but before he bids his adieu, Jafar reminds the Red Queen that even if she has all the pieces of the puzzle; the genie, the bottle, she still needs him to re-write the laws of magic for her. This causes me to wonder what law the Red Queen wants re-written. My money is now on the law of love, that she wants the Knave of Hearts to love her once more, but only time will tell.

After a brief visit to the Birdcage of Bondage to see how Cyrus effected escape, Jafar descends to his cave of wonders where Alice's father is bound and waiting. Jafar takes out the steampunk-iest syringe this side of Etsy and draws some blood, adding it the a potion cooking in the corner. Jafar keeps badgering Alice's father as to whether he is right or left handed, provoking him into taking a swing and discovering the father is a south paw. Between the blood letting and the behavioral observation, I'd say Jafar is brewing some Polyjuice Potion and will be imitating Alice's father. What with Peter Pan over on Once Upon a Time, this is the year of body swaps and disguises for ABC. I find it extremely interesting that shape-shifting requires a potion here when a known shape-shift master (who wasn't Cora at one point or another) was also a former Wonderland denizen. Either Cora, Queen of Hearts, Imitator of Everyone (who is returning for episode 11, praise be to Barbara Hershey) is a more powerful magic practitioner than Jafar or they both deal in different brands of magic. The sorcerer puts a stopper in a vial of his potion and sets out, instructing that Alice's father be strung up in his own cage.

Meanwhile, Alice and the Knave of Hearts are still at the shore, taking stock of what tools they have to get up to Jafar's island in the sky. While I hum 8-bit inventory screen music, Alice and the Knave turn out their pockets, finding either items of very little use, like the keys to Granny's diner (boy does she have a crossbow with your name on it now), or items that can't be used at all, like Alice's wishes. Alice is banking on her Sudden Moment of Cleverness here, as she declares all they need is to be creative. Their planning is interrupted by shrill chirping from the tree line. Our heroes investigate and come across something called a BirdBark Tree, a shrubbery whose wood has remarkable levitation properties. This inspires Alice with a plan.

In a flashback, a young Jafar is brought to the sultan's throne room. His crime is stealing a dagger off a palace guard's belt, for which the punishment is losing the hand that perpetrated the theft. I very much see parallels with Disney's Aladdin in Jafar's back story, which is interesting should the Once Upon a Time franchise ever choose to bring Aladdin or Jasmine into the fold. Young Jafar presents the hand that committed the crime, prominently displaying the ring his late mother gave him. The sultan is stunned and realizes it was Jafar's intent to get caught in order to gain an audience. He quickly turns cold to the boy, even at Jafar's insistence that he has no designs on the throne. The sultan proclaims that young Jafar will be neither a prince nor a son to him as he has his own heir. However, Jafar's courage in confronting the sultan earned him a place in the palace, unfortunately as a serving boy. Jafar thanks his father for the generosity and the sultan is instantly breathing down the boy's neck, warning Jafar that the sultan is never to be called "father".

The sultan clearly had affection for Jafar's mother, he seemed to have a moment of regret for her passing and even asked after her, so why be so cruel to his son? Is it because he worries about his lineage or the scandal that would result? And the sultan's disdain only grows as the episode goes on. This guy will make Peter Pan look like an A+ parent.

Present day Wonderland and Alice has finally come up with her plan. She wants to build a basket, similar to one found on a hot air balloon, and tie BirdBark branches on it so it will float them up to the island. I'm with the Knave on this one, floating foliage sounds wacky, even for Wonderland, though he concedes and begins to help her construct her death trap, I mean, flying conveyance. All the while these two are bantering on the shore, Jafar is just behind the tree line watching. He takes out the potion brewed with the blood of an englishman and assumes the appearance of Alice's father. Stumbling out of the tree line, Papa Jafar gives a decent performance, playing at being a bewildered and regretful parent, asking the thunderstruck Alice for her forgiveness. Again, I'm with the Knave of Hearts, who seems confused and suspicious of this development. He clearly does not care for Alice's father.

Papa Jafar spins a tale of finally believing Alice's stories after she disappeared, buying a mirror that was said to have magical properties, and wandering around Wonderland for a while. Papa Jafar is sure to include the glasses cleaning tic, but Alice is actually still quite angry with her father, or rather the man she perceives to be him. She tells her parental imposter that "he" treated her as a burden not a daughter when all she needed was someone to believe in her and be at her side instead of ignoring her. Alice wanted him to try for her and now it's too late for him to do so. Looks like your brilliant plan is backfiring there Jafar.

Flashback to the sultan's palace, where the ruler and his son hold court with some merchants. The crown is denying trade access to an area currently blockaded, though when the sultan's heir is asked why, he freezes like a first grader at a spelling bee. Young Jafar, who had been waiting on the guests, pipes up, explaining the sultan's policy and reasoning to the merchants. This was not wise Jafar, you just made your step-brother look like an idiot and spoke way out of turn for a servant. This is not an effective way of gaining daddy's love. The sultan plays it off that even the servant's are well educated and it looks like Jafar is off the hook. For a moment it even seems like the sultan is impressed at this bastard son's knowledge. That is, until Jafar drops the F-bomb. No, not the F dash dash dash word, he accidentally calls the sultan ''father'', causing much harumphing in the court.

Later that night, young Jafar is in his quarters when his half brother, the prince, arrives in his doorway. His costume kind of reminds me of Hadji from Johnny Quest, but the kid's attitude is anything but cartoon-y as he proceeds to lay the royal smack down on Jafar. The sultan interrupts, but instead of punishing the prince, bids him the give Jafar another slap. He proclaims the prince his only heir and teaches the lesson that in order to rule you must be feared. This is "How to Make a Super Villian 101" type stuff.

In present day Wonderland, Papa Jafar and the Knave of Hearts are having a heart to... well the Knave doesn't have a heart, so let's say they are having a conversation. The Knave explains Alice's plan to get Cyrus, who she still believes is in the dungeon as he passes the imposter a dagger (no don't do that he's a baddie) to cut down branches for their basket. The subtleties the actor who plays Alice's father brings out when hearing that news are wonderful. You truly believe this is Jafar wearing a skin suit, barely able to contain his amusement at their belief that Cyrus is still captive. Under the guise of healing old wounds, Papa Jafar wants to know how he can get closer to Alice. The Knave explains that Alice is the type of person that has to instinctively soothe others' pain; she doesn't give up on people. The Knave wants Alice to be happy and how he sees that happening is through Alice's father stepping up and helping his daughter get her genie back.

And the Knave seems to be the go-to confidant this episode, as Alice asks her friend what he and her father were discussing. The Knave's exact words are, "if you'll forgive him, blah blah blah" and I couldn't have summed it up better, thank you Michael Socha. Still on the fence about forgiving her father, Alice asks the Knave what she should do and the Knave simply confirms that Alice will forgive him since it's the right thing to do. While this discussion of the hero complex is taking place, Papa Jafar is chanting incantations and drawing runes or glyphs in the sand. No one is noticing the voodoo that he do so well? The Knave and Alice's discussion of the physics of floating down off the island are interrupted by a fierce and fire-breathing dragon. This is a dandy piece of CGI work and it does its job to terrorize Papa Jafar, giving Alice an opportunity to jump in and save him, bringing them closer. The irony and layers in their dialogue here are delicious, with Alice insisting her "father" is nothing like the villain (Jafar)she has faced in this land, while Jafar in disguise proclaims that this makes him so happy and how he would be thrilled to help them get to Cyrus. Undercover Jafar has to be my favorite thing about this episode.

In a flashback to Agrabah, young Jafar is washing his face, no doubt still recovering from Ali Baba and the 40 Slaps he had to endure earlier. The sultan arrives and with very little preamble grabs Jafar and shoves his head in the wash basin, holding the boy down until he stops struggling. As Jafar goes limp, the sultan calls for guards to come and take the body away with the trash. They wrap him up in a carpet like a mob hit and I wonder if this carpet will soon have another life as Jafar's magical mode of transportation. Later on, the boy miraculously wakes up in a junk yard at the urging of whatever magic left at the moment of his mother's death (she was a healer after all), and Jafar gazes hatefully back at Agrabah.

Back at the Birdcages of Bondage, Alice's father, the real one, is saying grace over his bowl of what looks to be tomato soup. Or tomato "surprise", judging by his grimace. The prison mate jokes that perhaps they should be praying for freedom. Alice's father explains that his prayers are for his daughter since he sent her away, cautioning to the prison mate that there are far worse reasons to be strung up as they are. The prison mate remarks that Jafar only desires one thing, something he shall never have. It's at this point I start to hope that I'm wrong about the prison mate being the sultan just because I don't want to actively hate this guy's guts.

On the shore, night has fallen as Alice, The Knave of Hearts, and Papa Jafar make camp. They are roasting something carnivorous, snacking on a predator that almost killed you being a "Wonderland rite of passage" according to the Knave. As Alice hands her faux father his share and he begins to chow down, a strange look crosses her face. Before you can say, "Oh look at the moon, it's time to go!" Alice has fabricated an excuse to have a secret pow wow with the Knave. Apparently, Alice's father always says grace before a meal. Even if it's just a snack, he blesses his food, making the earlier scene of him praying over his prison slop more than just filler. Because of this, Alice is now firmly convinced that the man breaking bread with them is not her father. They run off into the woods, leaving Jafar to get wind that the charade is over. He summons his snake staff and drops the disguise and boy now we know he means business.

"Business" meaning that Jafar fetches Alice's father and swoops down from his floating fortress, which is beginning to remind me more and more of those floating battle ships from Super Mario 3, on his flying carpet and dangles daddy above the water. Alice, believing that this man is the imposter, is willing to let him fall instead of saving him with a wish. It's up to Alice's father now, who acknowledges that he was a terrible parent, airing all the dirty laundry about how he doubted her and how she shouldn't have had to disappear back to Wonderland to get proof of her tales. His speech really doesn't hit me as effective enough to convince Alice until be mentions her compassion and bids she save Cyrus, who he tells her has escaped. Well, that last bit wasn't to Jafar's liking, and so he lets Alice's father drop like a stone. Alice quickly wishes him to be back at home and the man is gone in a flash of light. Jafar gloats that it's only a matter of time before she uses her final wish and soars off into the night. I wonder if Alice, as a last resort, will wish for Cyrus's freedom? I do have a strong feeling we will indeed see all the wishes used up.

Alice, upset that she had to use a wish, takes comfort that her father finally understands her. However, the Knave points out that wishes come at a cost, and true to magic coming with price, we jump to Alice's father jerking awake on the couch in his home. To him it was all a dream, none of his adventure in Wonderland was real. While he looks visibly shaken, one has to wonder if any of his character development will stick. I think deep down Alice's father was changed by his "dream", but I don't believe we will see the results of this change for a very long time.

Jafar, having retreated back to his floating fortress, confronts the old prisoner. We learn through a flashback that he is indeed the sultan! As happy as I am that I was right in my speculation and can gloat, this new knowledge puts a damper on my enjoyment of the old prisoner character because the sultan's past actions were deplorable and it seems he is without remorse. In the flashback, a now grown Jafar offers to fight his half brother, the prince, and should he lose, the sultan's life will be spared. The prince runs away, attempting to leave his father to die and gets magically murdered in the process. Running is an act Jafar assures he would never do. The sorcerer simply wants the sultan to call him his son, but the sultan refuses, hence his hard labor, imprisonment, and punishment. I wonder who is ruling Agrabah now that the sultan and his heir are out of the picture.

In the present day, the former sultan reiterates that he will never call Jafar his son so he should just be killed now. Jafar assures his father that when Alice uses her third wish and the laws of magic are rewritten, he will be singing a different tune. And there you have it, Jafar's master plan. He wants to force his father to love him, an act that the sultan comments on as being empty and meaningless since the love has to be stolen. Then, in a final act of defiance, the sultan steps off the edge of the cliff, denying Jafar the satisfaction of being called "son". Or he would if Jafar didn't have a magic carpet to levitate his father back up the cliff. An interesting parallel, both father and son resurrected with the carpet. Perhaps they are more alike than the sultan wants to admit.

The final shot of the episode is Cyrus, confirmed to have survived his tumble off Jafar's island, regaining consciousness and immediately saying, "Alice" before springing into action.

Well there you have it. Again, the Jafar back stories are not my favorite, but now I understand and appreciate why young Jafar sought out dark magic specifically to deal with the sultan. Though I really did enjoy watching Alice's faux father and the duality of his dialogue. It's entertaining to see a villain have fun with his villainy and I feel Jafar couldn't resist having those private personal jokes to himself.

I absolutely adore the fact that everyone's motivation on this show is love in some form or another. If you could only take one thing from this season so far it would be "love conquers all". This effects all the characters, whether it be the True Love of Alice and Cyrus, the lack of love due to missing heart for the Knave, the Red Queen yearning to rekindle her love, or Jafar striving for the love of his father. As I said in the past, I am not a fan of romance, but I feel now that this show is a story about love, not a love story.

So readers, what did you think? How did you feel about the sultan's cruelty? Alice's reunion with her father? Or how about the fact that all the progress Alice's father made could be gone forever? What do you think is next for the Red Queen now that she openly is working against Jafar? And where the heck is the Knave's heart?? Let us know in the comments!

Hopefully some questions are answered next week in the mid-season finale entitled "Home".

Ashley B
is as serious as a sleeping curse when she says television is her life. Professional event planner, avid movie viewer, convention attendee, and resident sass master, Ashley also writes reviews for ABC's Once Upon a Time over at GottaWatchIt.com. She looks forward each week to the weird and wonderful world her favorite television programs provide.

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