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Readers, I am extremely pleased. If you follow these reviews weekly, you'll know that several things hypothesized in last week's review came to pass this week. I was originally not terribly intrigued by the idea of this episode, especially since it was supposed to focus on Cyrus and I feel he is the least interesting of the characters. That being said, I enjoyed that this episode showed Cyrus's temper and the arrogance that was held at bay by the genie enchantment, creeping in around the edges. Also, the Red Queen's scenes with the Jabberwocky were cringe-worthy in the best kind of way. On the whole, this episode was a pleasant surprise and really displayed how high the stakes actually are in Wonderland. With only three episodes left in the season, who knows if good will be able to triumph over evil.

The episode begins in Agrabah of the past, where Cyrus and his two brothers are playing cards at a local watering hole. It seems like they are playing an expy of poker, each player choosing to either up the ante or pass. When Cyrus's turn comes, he places his mother's enchanted compass on the table. Cyrus's older brother warns him to quit while they are ahead, but Cyrus smugly pushes on. I feel these glimpses into who Cyrus was before he became a genie definitely help me appreciate him as a character more. In the past he was more of a smarmy rouge as opposed to the gentle, dreamy genie we have seen so far. That was one quality of Cyrus's I didn't appreciate, the unfaltering positivity and calm. This episode does well to show the real Cyrus once the genie cuffs come off. In this flashback, Cyrus is doing his best Jack Dawson impression as he wipes the the floor with the other poker players. Well, we know how Titanic turned out for Jack, so it's safe to bet the future doesn't look so bright for the three brothers.

Cyrus, having played one too many winning hands is accused of cheating, but the fight that results from this accusation is quickly broken up. The brothers' poker opponents swear revenge, but Cyrus laughs it off, buying drinks for the house. There is an air of smart-assery we don't see in present day Cyrus that is refreshing. Later that night, the three brothers stumble home, still celebrating their victory of the day. Cyrus admits to cheating and is chastised by the eldest brother. One day he will have to learn to play "the hand he is dealt", the eldest warns. Their celebration is cut short for as they approach their home they see the poker players from earlier, riding off as the house bursts into flames. With their mother inside.

Back in present day Wonderland, our heroes are laying low in Cyrus and Alice's hidden love nest. To defeat Jafar and his magic they'll need an army, something they no longer have, despite the Red Queen's desire to hold on to the notion that she can win her people back. A new plan is formed. If the curse set upon all the genies can be lifted, Jafar will no longer hold their power. All Cyrus has to do is return to the place that they were cursed, a place called the Well of Wonders whose guardian so fit to curse the brothers. Too bad this well is all the way in Agrabah. Anyone up for hijacking Jafar's magic carpet?

The Red Queen, however, has a solution. Apparently there is a version of the well in Wonderland and Cyrus merely has to summon its guardian and it will appear in this realm. At first I scoffed at this development, deeming it too convenient for the episode, then the Red Queen explained that magical waters run under all the realms. And I realized there was an enchanted well in Storybrooke, Lake Nostos in the Enchanted Forest, and the enchanted spring on Dead Man's Peak in Neverland. So it is true, there are magical bodies of water in each land we've seen in the Once Upon a Time franchise. August W. Booth aka Pinocchio put it best," Water is a very powerful thing. Cultures as old as time have worshiped it. It flows throughout all lands, connecting the entire world. If anything had mystical properties, if anything had magic... well, I'd say it'd be water". Very good writers.

Elsewhere in the realm, we see the aftermath of the Knave of Hearts kegger. Villagers are passed out left, right, and center from having too good of a time. Yup, all magic comes with a price. As we pan over the passed out populace, we hear chickens clucking and wind chimes chiming, when suddenly everything goes deathly still. The sound is sucked out of the area, similarly to that horror movie with the ventriloquist dummies, Dead Silence. I have to say, this is very effective in heightening the creepiness of the Jabberwocky, as we soon see her saunter on to the scene. Is this silence a conscious effort or a side effect of her presence when she's sniffing out someone's fear? The absence of things can cause as much fear as a monster or ax murderer. Again, less is more.

The Jabberwocky picks a victim and invades his personal space to rouse him. She demands to know where the genie went and who he was with, not even pausing for answer before looking straight into this man's mind and reading his thoughts, his fears that the Jabberwocky will murder his wife and children. Yes, even the "baaaaaabyyyyyy", as the Jabberwocky puts it. She whispers something intelligible into the man's ear, causing him to quickly give up the location of Lizard's house. All the while the Jabberwocky is putting the whammy on this guy, her eyes are locked on his. Is this just an intimidation factor or is she really using his eyes as a window to his soul? The Jabberwocky is disappointed to find Lizard dead (the Red Queen couldn't have put a blanket over her corpse?) and the genie bottle missing. She stares around the room for inspiration, when suddenly it hits. And boy is it a doozy.

Cut to Jafar in the palace, where the sorcerer unwraps a pair of eyeballs from a bloody rag while the Jabberwocky lounges on the throne like Frank N. Furter on break. The Jabberwocky cut out Lizard's eyes Demolition Man-style and is going to use them Wild Wild West -style. Go ahead and let that marinate, I'll wait. I am impressed Once Upon a Time in Wonderland went that dark, impressed and pleased because normally when a new villain is introduced it's hard for the viewer to see them as a real threat. But everything we've seen from the Jabberwocky so far shows she means business and has not a care to give. Jafar is impressed as well, enjoying that his new ally is so cutthroat. Well, she hasn't cut any throats yet, but giver her time.

Jafar takes the eyes, (there are retina still attached, did you borrow these props from Hannibal?) and dumps them in a bowl, a clear bowl because of course we have to see the eyes that have been plucked out of Lizard's head, and pours some magical Visine over them. He utters an incantation. The music gets a little loud here, so the only latin I can pick up is at the end of the spell, "visione revelare" which as it sounds, means "vison reveal". And reveal it does as we see a projection of what Lizard saw in her final moments, the Red Queen, closing her eyelids. Realizing the queen has the genie, Jafar commands the Jabberwocky to bring her to him.

In a flashback, we see Cyrus and his brothers debate on the wisdom of going to the Well of Wonders. Legend tells that it has the power to grant health to the sick and bravery to the cowardly and might be their only hope. Cyrus guilts his brothers into joining this quest, the eldest reluctant to leave his mother to die alone if the legends are false, and the youngest looking to his older brothers for guidance. Cyrus feels immense regret that it was his cheating that resulted in their mother's fate and finally convinces the other two to join him. The trio grab waterskins and set off on their quest.

In present day Wonderland, Cyrus and Alice make their way through the woods, following a path to this realm's version of the Well of Wonders. Cyrus seems withdrawn, almost irritated. He distractedly and vaguely answers Alice's questions about his past and yes, this is what I've been craving. We know these two have a love like no other, but to see Alice struggle to learn of Cyrus's past and for him to react adversely and very humanly to sharing painful information like that is refreshing. I enjoy that these two have conflict, it makes it feel that as they work through their problems, their great love isn't some unobtainable fairy tale happenstance.

In another part of Wonderland, the Red Queen and the Knave of Hearts are busy enacting the former monarch's plan. They seek out the White Rabbit, who at first is very reluctant to give the Red Queen any help, after what she did to him and his family. The queen claims that she wants his forgiveness for her terrible acts and needs his help. The queen wants the rabbit to portal all over their realm and spread the news that she intends to defeat Jafar and win back Wonderland for the people. It should be noted here that the Red Queen's accent has been getting a little sloppy. She sounds more like the Knave in her pronunciation and this grows stronger as the episode goes on. We saw a bit of this in episode eight, but not anything this pronounced. It seems the queen has shed her queen-ly persona completely, no longer playing the part of a steely monarch and instead, being herself.

The White Rabbit informs the Knave and the Red Queen that a battle with Jafar is the least of their worries since he has let the Jabberwocky loose. The Red Queen is shaken, while the Knave doesn't seem to know what's going on. Was the Red Queen the one who imprisoned the Jabberwocky in the first place, perhaps at a time when the Knave was no longer in Wonderland? Despite the imminent and very real danger, the Red Queen is even more convinced of her plan and bids the White Rabbit to travel the realm, telling people that the battle for Wonderland is about to begin.

Cut to the woods as the Red Queen and the Knave of Hearts beat feet to warn Alice and Cyrus of their newest threat. The queen warns the Knave not to get freaked out since the Jabberwocky zeros in on fear. She's attracted to it like a smell. One has to wonder if the Jabberwocky was created from scratch or like so many in Wonderland, if she was once a human who was cursed. And speak of the devil, the forest goes still and silent. The Red Queen knows this is quite literally the calm before the storm and orders the genie back into his bottle so she can hide it. Putting on a brave face, though clearly shaken, the Red Queen basically calls the Jabberwocky out. Of course the monster has a little fun with queen, using her power to appear and disappear silently like freaking Batman. The Red Queen is in quite a tizzy at this point. Finally, the Jabberwocky smoothly appears at the Red Queen's shoulder and greets her.

But as soon as the Red Queen whirls around, ready to dispense some magic, the Jabberwocky is gone, now only a taunting, sing-song voice. The Red Queen grows more and more agitated as the Jabberwocky continues to pry into her mind, "tasting her dread" as she puts it, which is a terrific line. The queen takes a branch and magics it into a sword, jumping around like a jackrabbit on speed, trying to find the source of the voice taunting her. When the Jabberwocky grows tired of her game and announces that despite the queen's efforts she found the bottle, the monster appears once more and is promptly skewered into a tree my the queen. But only an enchanted blade can trap the Jabberwocky, who wretches herself free, pulling the hilt of the sword through her body, and headbutts the Red Queen into unconsciousness.

Back to Alice and Cyrus, who seem to have reached their destination. Before them stand two red doors, with a white knight, perhaps the White Knight, standing between them. This set up looks like something out of Twin Peaks. If it is the White Knight I will be sorely disappointed for while I'm glad he is included in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland, this version is simply a gate keeper, lacking the zaniness of other interpretations. Mat Frewer as the White Knight in the SyFy mini-series Alice is my favorite version of the character, though Christopher Lloyd in the 1999 Hallmark version was also fun. This version however speaks only in riddles and Alice and Cyrus are forced to play his game and chose a door since a magical force field wouldn't let them progress past their obstacle.

While Alice tries coaxing the information out the the knight, Cyrus is seen getting progressively more annoyed until he shouts at the White Knight. This startles Alice and frankly I don't ever recall the genie raising his voice like that before. He explains he is frustrated, not being able to do as he likes. He thought being free from the bottle would change that and once again I am pleased that they are addressing the topics I, as a viewer, long to see. Alice reasons that perhaps one has to deal with the cards they are dealt, echoing the words of Cyrus's brother.

This brings us to a flashback, where we see the fraternal trio has found the Well of Wonders. The three bend down and begin filling their waterskins, agreeing to take as much as they can when, I swear to you, the girl from The Ring pops up. From a well no less. This is the guardian of the Well of Wonders and she is not happy. She actually inquires as to who "disturbs her slumber". I see someone has been watching their Disney. Cyrus explains that they need the water's healing properties for their mother, but the guardian is not willing to part with it, stating that the water is only for those whose "fates have not been written yet". And it seems their mother is destined to die from her injuries. The guardian warns the trio to return the water they've already collected or else. Sing it if you know it, magic always comes with a price. She then descends back down into her magical jacuzzi. Cyrus's brothers move to pour out the water they've collected, but once again Cyrus makes the brash, unexpected move and turns to leave. He is determined that their mother not die for a mistake he made, that he should have control over their fates, but his older brother chastises him, saying that cheating in this matter isn't like cheating at poker. There are powerful forces involved. Cyrus doesn't care and in the end convinces the other two to leave with the water as well.

Back in Wonderland, Alice and Cyrus are still stymied by the White Knight and his set of doors. Alice begins questioning the knight, discovering he can only answer "yes or no" questions. Through some quick deduction, she discovers he only speaks the opposite of the truth and deduces which is the correct door, opening a new pathway to the Wonderland Well of Wonders. Before they go through the door though, Alice confront Cyrus, asking him what is wrong, he's been acting strangely all day. The former genie admits that he wants Alice to hang back, that he must do this alone. I think he is ashamed of her overhearing how he got cursed in the first place. Cyrus's temper flares up again as Alice stubbornly refuses to leave his side, so in the end she allows him the pass through the door by himself.

Cyrus approaches the well and dips his hands in, disturbing the guardian once more. He begs for her mercy, but the guardian is clear: all things happen for a reason. And in time one will realize what that reason is. Alice, ever stubborn, creeps through the brush to drop some eaves on Cyrus and the guardian's conversation. Cyrus begs that his brothers be released from their curse, that he was an arrogant fool who demanded they break the rules for him. He explains to the guardian that after serving countless other arrogant fools he has learned that one can't just bend or break the rules to their whim. The guardian agrees to lift the curse, but only when the water stolen from the well is returned. Cyrus deems this impossible, stating his mother died over 100 years ago. But the guardian knows better and tells the former genie that his mother still lives.

Flashback to Agrabah, the boys are back in town and waste no time, giving the magical water to their mother. At first nothing happens and for a hot minute even I thought they had failed. Then, the woman miraculously beings to heal all her wounds, stripping off her Invisible Man bandages. And who is actually the mother to these three future genies? But Amara, the same woman who taught Jafar everything he knows. If you follow these reviews, you'll know I hypothesized that this might be the case last week and I am feeling mighty pleased about it now. And if you follow the Once Upon a Time franchise closely, you can pull out your hundred yard family tree scrolls and make a new branch. Does this make Jafar Cyrus's step father?

Amara is surprised she was revived, inquiring as to how this was possible. The youngest son blabs that they used the stolen magical water and Amara, being a sorceress, knows bad juju is on the horizon. She tries to get her boys to flee to safety, but they are too late as the guardian of the well emerges from water droplets spilled from the waterskins. She decrees that because the brothers desired to cheat fate, so now shall they be fated to serve others' desires. And with that, the three puff into smoke and are zipped up into separate vessels found on a nearby table. Once inside, the three newly forged genie bottles disappear. I'd like to believe that this act is what turned Amara so bitter and gave her the drive to study the dark arts, allowing her to teach Jafar, who in turn imprisoned her in his staff, which will probably allow her to be reunited with her sons in the end. So I guess everything does happen for a reason.

Back at the Well of Wonders, Cyrus stares bleakly into the water after the guardian has sunk away. Alice makes herself known, admitting to Cyrus that she heard everything. The former genie is distraught. He didn't share his past because he was afraid of losing Alice. He considers everything that's happened, the entire Once Upon a Time In Wonderland series to be exact, to be his fault due to his actions. Alice tries to make him feel better by reminding him that everyone makes mistakes, Cyrus insists Alice is the exception. And to his surprise she admits that she lost hope. That she was held in that mental hospital and considered having the procedure done to forget Cyrus. Because she stopped believing in him. This caught me by surprise, I didn't think the writing gods would have heard my prayer so soon. But I do love that this couple, while they made up and moved on rather quickly here, still took the time to share and express their doubts, fears, and regrets. This may prove useful in the future should they encounter the Jabberwocky, who they still don't know is on the loose.

While this is going on, The Red Queen and the Knave of Hearts wake up in one of Jafar's birdcages. Jafar appears, taunting the pair. The Red Queen sasses Jafar right back, reminding him that only the master of the lamp can make wishes, allowing the genie to fulfill his contract and become ready for another owner. And this queen flat out refuses to do that and enable Jafar's agenda. The sorcerer, amused, tells the story of Amara and how he got his snake staff, reminding his listeners of what happens when something stands in his way. The queen attempts to wish him out of Wonderland, but is magically silenced by a wave of the staff.

The only way to get the Red Queen to use her wishes is through torture. Enter the Jabberwocky, who's expression couldn't be sunnier. jafar gives the Jabberwocky permission to work the Red Queen over until she is "broken". The monster reacts like it's her birthday and Christmas wrapped into one. This is the face one get's when work and school is canceled due to snow. The Jabberwocky is even quoting the Big Bad Wolf, bidding the Red Queen to "let her in". Let her into her mind, that is, as the Jabberwocky begins to mentally rip the queen apart.

This starts out as slow psychological poking and prodding, and escalates to full on mind rape. It's rather difficult to watch as the Jabberwocky brings up all of the Red Queen's insecurities and fears, especially the fear of never being loved again, that she blew her one chance at happiness. The Jabberwocky mentions how the Red Queen feels she would never be loved after a prince chose her step-sister over her and now I am convinced, as I mentioned in another review, that she is related to Cinderella. The Red Queen fights to resist. She started out looking kind of rough, but by the end she is reduced to a sobbing mess with blood pouring from her ears. The Jabberwocky, so close to success, gets the Red Queen to use her wishes, willing the queen's crown and jewels to appear on her body. This is the most disturbing image for me, this broken wreck of a woman forced to wear the beautiful things that taunt her, the symbols of the biggest mistake of her life. The Red Queen finally wishes for the torture to end, using up all her wishes and returning the Knave to the bottle. Later in her cell, the queen, shell shocked, has an impromptu visit from her loyal Tweedle (yes, this makes me so happy, three out of three predictions from last week!). He still considers her his queen, but the broken monarch urges him to go and tell everyone in Wonderland to flee because Jafar has all three bottles and there is no longer any hope.

And with that the episode ends on a shot of Jafar uniting all three bottles in front of his spell book as the earth quakes with the power of what he is about to do. So, dear readers, what did you think?

How about the surprise that Amara and Cyrus are related? Do you think she will renounce her evil ways for the sake of her sons or that she will have to make a heroic sacrifice and die before the series is over to redeem herself? I'm personally thinking the latter.

What do you think about Alice and Cyrus's relationship versus that of the Red Queen and the Knave of Hearts? Tell us your opinions in the comments! Personally, I find the Knave and the queen's relationship to have started out more interesting. It had more ups and downs and conflict, but now I'm just so sad for them and want the two to get their happy ending. Where as with Alice and Cyrus, I was a touch bored with them at first. They seemed so perfect and we just knew they would end up together. Now the revelation that Cyrus wasn't always this perfect mate and without the servitude of the genie's bottle, he's reverting back a little to the arrogance he once had is interesting. My favorite part was how Alice, who's resolve and determination has fueled this show, admitted to giving up at one point. That just goes to show that sometimes even when all seems lost, it's not over.

The more I see of the Jabberwocky, the more I am enjoying her presence. I was downright disturbed during that torture scene, the way she picked and picked at the Red Queen brain, hollowing her out through her insecurities. I wonder if she will try to get Jafar, Alice, or Cyrus involved in her mental games.


As disappointed as I was with the White Knight, I think next week will make up for it, because I have two words folks: Barbara. Hershey. See you next week for "Heart of the Matter"!

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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