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If you wish me to perform this magic, you must secure such a vessel. Discuss this amongst yourselves. Make sure you want to proceed. Because once this spell has been enacted, it cannot be reversed.

—The Apprentice to Snow White and Prince Charming

"Best Laid Plans" is the sixteenth episode of Season Four of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Kalinda Vazquez & Jane Espenson, and directed by Ron Underwood. It is the eighty-second episode of the series overall, and premiered on March 29, 2015.


Hook tells Emma that her fate is at stake in Gold's plan while Regina leads the villains on a wild goose chase. Henry makes a breakthrough in his search to find the Author, but Mary Margaret and David need a moment to reconsider the best course of action. In a Fairy Tale Land flashback, Snow and Charming search for a way to ensure their child will grow-up to be a hero. When a travelling peddler directs them to visit a kindly old hermit, Snow and Charming are presented with a choice that could secure their child's goodness, but at a price that will haunt them for years to come.[2]


This section is a detailed recap of this episode. There are major spoilers. Click to expand.



Guest Starring



  • Unknown baby as Emma
  • Unknown baby as Lily



  • The title card features a running unicorn.[3]
  • The title of this episode was announced by Adam Horowitz via his Twitter account on January 14, 2015.[4]
  • Kalinda Vazquez came up with the title of this episode, which is an egg-based pun.[5]
  • The title is taken from the saying "The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry", which is adapted from the poem "To a Mouse by Robert Burns: "The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men / Gang aft agley" (meaning "The best-laid schemes of mice and men / Go oft awry").

Production Notes

  • When Hook sees the sleeping spell approach, the pawnshop is visible through the window, on the other side of the street.[8]
  • However, after leaving the apartment, David and Mary Margaret are shown to be walking away from the white picket fence next to the post office and across Main Street in the direction of Storybrooke Country Bread. Additionally, Mr. Gold, Cruella, Maleficent and Regina are also shown leaving the apartment from the picket fence.[9] This fence is located at the other end of Main Street from the pawnshop, a couple blocks down from Granny's Diner.

Event Chronology

Episode Connections

  • The title card is the same as the episode "The Thing You Love Most".
  • Prince Charming and Snow White first learned about their child's potential for darkness in "Unforgiven".
  • In her vision, Snow White sees the Idyllic Garden from inside the Vault of the Dark One from "The Broken Kingdom".
  • Maleficent's pregnancy was first established in "Unforgiven".
  • Regina and Emma discovered the Author is trapped inside the door illustration in "Poor Unfortunate Soul".
  • August was rescued during "Poor Unfortunate Soul".
  • Mother Superior notes August's body has been changed many times by magic. As a wooden puppet, he became human in "The Stranger", began turning back into wood during the flashbacks of "Selfless, Brave and True" and became a human boy later in the same episode, and was restored to his adult self in "Enter the Dragon". Additionally, he was forced to ingest a magic lie detector in "Poor Unfortunate Soul" that caused his nose to grow every time he lied.
  • Regina began her undercover mission in "Enter the Dragon", and she was sent by the villains to retrieve the door illustration in "Poor Unfortunate Soul".
  • Ursula told Hook about the villains' plans for Emma in "Poor Unfortunate Soul".
  • Emma recalls showing Hook the video of herself and Lily in "Breaking Glass".
  • Maleficent first cast a sleeping spell to affect multiple people at the same time during "Unforgiven".
  • The reason why Cruella is unable to kill Emma is revealed in "Sympathy for the De Vil".
  • Maleficent mentions Ursula leaving in "Poor Unfortunate Soul".
  • Mary Margaret feels guilty about lying to Emma ever since Cruella and Ursula arrived. Cruella and Ursula came to Storybrooke in "Darkness on the Edge of Town" and Mary Margaret and David lied to Emma in "Unforgiven".
  • Snow White, Henry and David were all affected by the sleeping curse at different intervals. Snow White and Henry were cursed in "An Apple Red as Blood" and David was afflicted during "Into the Deep".
  • After arriving in the Land Without Magic, Cruella and Ursula use the dragon egg to keep themselves from aging. Cruella leaves the baby in the woods to die as explained in "Sympathy for the De Vil".
  • The fate of Maleficent's child, when she has grown to be a teenager, is explored in "Breaking Glass" and "Lily".
  • Mary Margaret remembers giving Henry the storybook to inspire hope in him, which transpired in "Going Home". She also recounts telling Regina the secret about Maleficent's child in "Unforgiven".
  • STORYBOOK CONTENT: The meaning behind the mysterious storybook page with the door is explained in this episode. The page first appeared in "Unforgiven".
  • Emma sensed her parents were lying to her about something in "Unforgiven".
  • Emma eventually forgives her parents in "Mother".
  • The unicorn mobile first appeared in "Pilot".
  • Mr. Gold mentions having something that will make Regina do his bidding. This secret is revealed in "Heart of Gold".
  • Maleficent is stunned to learn that her daughter is still alive. The reason why Maleficent believed her daughter to be dead is revealed in "Sympathy for the De Vil".
  • Maleficent's daughter is found in "Lily". Mother and daughter are reunited in "Mother".




Fairytales and Folklore

Popular Culture

  • August states that the job of the Author "goes back eons from the man who watched shadows dance across cave walls and developed an entire philosophy". This is a reference to the Greek philosopher Plato, and his Allegory of the Cave.
  • When August lists the previous Authors, he mentions "playwrights who tell tales in poetry". This is a reference to William Shakespeare, who used iambic pentameter in his plays and sonnets.

Props Notes

  • STORYBOOK CONTENT: The final page that the Author was transcribing, says:[22]

As they trudged back toward their castle,
the [three illegible words] a [illegible word] of
[illegible word] in the middle of the road. But the
princess, [two illegible words] with a [illegible word] of regret
and shame, could not be burdened by
such a cursory thing, and walked right through it. "There
was no way we could have known. The Apprentice hid
the truth from us," the prince tried once again to assure
her. Inside, he felt as she did, but pangs of helplessness
at the sight of his love so forlorn compelled him to comfort her
She was about to reply when a bluebird settled on a
branch up ahead. The princess averted her gaze. She
imagined its whispers of judgment in her ear echoing her
own disappointment in her actions and was relieved when
the bird flew off rather than perch on her shoulder. She
had thought before that she had known true depths of
sorrow with the heinousness of the evil queen's betrayal of
her family. But in that moment the princess knew that
the greatest betrayal of all is that of a hero to have [illegible word] from
[illegible word]

  • HERALDRY: Prince Charming's royal crest is printed on the label on the bottle of brandy that the prince gives to the Author.[23]

Costume Notes

  • USE IT AGAIN: Emma continues to wear the jacket as the story continues in the next episode, "Heart of Gold".[31]
  • USE IT AGAIN: Maleficent wears the same coat in "Mother".[36]

Filming Locations

  • The Cecil Green Park House has also doubled as locations for other productions:
  • The Overlynn Mansion has also doubled as locations for other productions:[53]


International Titles



  1. Sunday Final Ratings: 'Madam Secretary', 'The Good Wife' & '60 Minutes' Adjusted Down. TV by the Numbers (March 31, 2015). “Once Upon A Time (...) 5.48”
  2. 2.0 2.1 LISTINGS: ONCE UPON A TIME. The Futon Critic. “Air Date: Sunday, March 29, 2015. Time Slot: 8:00 PM-9:00 PM EST on ABC. Episode Title: (#416) "Best Laid Plans".”
  3. File:416Title.png
  4. TwitterLogo.svg @AdamHorowitzLA (Adam Horowitz) on Twitter (January 14, 2015). "Here's another #OnceUponATime #titlespoiler -- hope to see ya March 1st!" (screenshot)
  5. TwitterLogo.svg @JaneEspenson (Jane Espenson) on Twitter (March 29, 2015). "Who noticed that the Once episode title "Best Laid Plans" is an egg pun? @KalindaVazquez thought it up!" (screenshot)
  6. File:416InfiniteForest.png
  7. File:109InfiniteForest.png
  8. File:416EmmaLook.png
  9. File:416FollowHer.png
  10. TwitterLogo.svg @JaneEspenson (Jane Espenson) on Twitter (March 29, 2015). "no. Someone controlled the apprentice, not them. They are very much responsible." (screenshot)
  11. File:4x16 - Best Laid Plans - Promo
  12. File:416StealingTheEgg.png
  13. File:416HePassedOut.png
  14. File:416EnteringTheCave.png
  15. File:416SnowWhitesEye.png
  16. File:416CharmingsEye.png
  17. Unicorn. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved on October 13, 2021. “The unicorn appeared in early Mesopotamian artworks, and it also was referred to in the ancient myths of India and China. (…) As a biblical animal, the unicorn was interpreted allegorically in the early Christian church. One of the earliest such interpretations appears in the ancient Greek bestiary known as the Physiologus, which states that the unicorn is a strong, fierce animal that can be caught only if a virgin maiden is placed before it. The unicorn leaps into the virgin's lap, and she suckles it and leads it to the king's palace. Medieval writers thus likened the unicorn to Christ, who raised up a horn of salvation for mankind and dwelt in the womb of the Virgin Mary. (…) Many fine representations of the hunt of the unicorn survive in medieval art, not only in Europe but also in the Islamic world and in China.”
  18. File:416MustBePunished.png
  19. File:219TakingWand.png
  20. File:301FindsCrystalBall.png
  21. File:303WhatElse.png
  22. File:416TheEdge.png
  23. File:416ReachThis.png
  24. File:416LookAtYou.png
  25. File:621RightBeforeWe.png
  26. File:622DestructionStops.png
  27. File:416YoureSoBeautiful.png
  28. File:505VioletEntersDiner.png
  29. File:416ThenGiveThemThis.png
  30. Oscar de la Renta Diamond Quilted Cardigan. Coolspotters. Archived from the original on October 27, 2018. Retrieved on October 27, 2018.
  31. File:417Searching.png
  32. File:416TellYouThis.png
  33. Cindee Short-Sleeve Lace Peplum Top. BCBGMAXAZRIA. Retrieved on October 27, 2018.
  34. File:416OurDeal.png
  35. Babaton BRYAN WOOL COAT. Pradux. Retrieved on October 27, 2018.
  36. File:420ThankYou2.png
  37. Gittins, Susan (January 15, 2015). SHOOT: ONCE UPON A TIME Cheats on UBC's Cecil Green Park House with Burnaby's OverLynn Mansion. Hollywood North Buzz.
  38. File:321Car.png
    Photo of Overlynn Mansion. MovieMaps. Retrieved on September 22, 2018.
    Overlynn Mansion – 1909. Carpet Cleaning Stocton. Retrieved on September 22, 2018. (Notice the identical carport and the windows above it.)
  39. 39.00 39.01 39.02 39.03 39.04 39.05 39.06 39.07 39.08 39.09 39.10 Movies Filmed at Cecil Green Park House. MovieMaps. Retrieved on October 27, 2018.
  40. Screenshot from Fringe: "The Bishop Revival"
  41. Screenshot from Psych: "Deez Nups"
  42. Screenshot from Backstrom: "Dragon Slayer"
  43. Screenshot from Backstrom: "Corkscrewed"
  44. Screenshot from iZombie: "Pilot"
  45. Screenshot from The Flash: "Rogue Time"
  46. Screenshot from The Flash: "All Doll'd Up"
  47. Screenshot from Legends of Tomorrow: "Pilot, Part 2"
  48. Screenshot from Arrow: "Blood Debts"
  49. Screenshot from The X-Files: "My Struggle III"
  50. Screenshot from Lucifer: "#TeamLucifer"
  51. Screenshot from Riverdale: "Chapter One: The River's Edge"
  52. Screenshot from Fifty Shades Freed
  53. Movies Filmed at Overlynn Mansion. MovieMaps. Retrieved on September 22, 2018.
  54. It (1990). Then & Now Movie Locations. (Section "Derry Inn - 401 N. Esmond Ave. Burnaby, BC V5C, Canada.")
  55. Screenshot from Psych: "Dis-Lodged"
  56. Screenshot from The Magicians: "The Writing Room"
  57. Screenshot from Arrow: "Vigilante"
  58. Screenshot from iZombie: "Zombie Bro"
  59. Screenshot from Legends of Tomorrow: "The Justice Society of America"
  60. Screenshot from Timeless: "Party at Castle Varlar"
  61. File:416FollowHer.png
  62. Google Maps photo of Steveston General Store from January 2016