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Emma Swan: I thought this trip was supposed to be about you.
August Booth: It is. This is my story... and it's your story.

"The Stranger" is the twentieth episode of Season One of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Ian Goldberg & Andrew Chambliss and directed by Gwyneth Horder-Payton. It is the twentieth episode of the series overall, and premiered on April 29, 2012.


August promises to enlighten Emma and take her on a journey that will show her how she can beat Regina, and possibly take custody of Henry; and with Mary Margaret returning to work, Regina puts a plan in motion to seduce David. Meanwhile, in the fairytale land that was, with the Evil Queen's curse about to strike, Geppetto agrees to a plan that will save Snow White and Prince Charming's daughter, but with a proviso that could also save his own son.[1]


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

In Storybrooke, August Booth installs a lock on the door of Mary Margaret Blanchard's apartment to keep Regina and her skeleton key out. Mary Margaret talks about resuming teaching, and Emma Swan tells them that she is going to hire Mr. Gold to build a custody case against Regina. She says that she is prepared to be a mom. Henry calls her on the walkie-talkie to meet him at Granny's Diner. August catches up with her and tells her that she needs to look at the big picture and he says he will show her what she needs to beat Regina if only she comes with him, but she refuses and keeps walking. Henry notices that there is a new story in the book that is not finished. He says the story is about Pinocchio and maybe there is more to it, and Emma suggests he get to school.

In the Enchanted Forest, Pinocchio and Geppetto are out on a raft in the sea. They are trying to escape from the whale, Monstro. Geppetto wants Pinocchio to take the lifejacket and save himself, but he refuses and jumps off, since he is made of wood and will float. Geppetto screams out for him just as Monstro appears behind the raft. Geppetto wakes up on a beach and calls out for Pinocchio, stating that his son saved him. He sees Pinocchio laying in the water, but he has returned to a wooden state. The Blue Fairy shows up and says that they can save him. She turns him into a real boy, much to Geppetto's delight. Pinocchio exclaims that he has become a real boy, and they thank the Blue Fairy. She tells him to remember to remain "Brave, Truthful and Unselfish" and, if he does that, he will always remain a real boy.

August is sitting at his desk admiring a hat that resembles the one Pinocchio wears. He calls Mr. Gold saying they need to meet, as there is a problem with Emma. August then starts having issues with his leg and sits down. He pulls up his pants and reveals a wooden leg.

Mary Margaret is outside when Regina comes up to her. She confronts Regina about framing her for Kathryn's disappearance. Regina insists that it was Sidney, who has confessed. Mary Margaret is unconvinced, but says that she forgives Regina, even if she can't admit what she did. She thinks that Regina must be very lonely, if her joy comes from destroying the happiness of others. She says that doing this will not bring her happiness, but will only leave a giant hole in her heart. Henry shows up and Regina gives him his lunch, and brings up the subject of him transferring out of Mary Margaret's class, which he refuses to do. Henry accuses her of framing Mary Margaret and being the Evil Queen, and despite Regina repeating that these stories are not real, Henry insists that Snow White will live happily ever after.

August shows up at Mr. Gold's shop and Marco is there. Mr. Gold gives him an antique clock to repair. Marco says "good day" to August on the way out, but August seems uncomfortable by meeting Marco. Mr. Gold asks why if he is dying does he seems more scared to say hello to his father. August does not want to talk about it. August wants help with Emma, as he can't get her to believe in magic while she is preoccupied with the custody battle. Mr. Gold wonders if he can trust August, considering his true nature, but agrees to "nudge" Emma in his direction.

In the Enchanted Forest, Pinocchio is working on a clock, the same one that Mr. Gold gave to Marco in Storybrooke. Geppetto shows him how to do it, and praises him when he gets it to work. Suddenly, Jiminy, who Pinocchio had tied up and trapped in the clock, pops out dizzy and disoriented. Geppetto accuses Pinocchio of not being good, but Jiminy says it was just in fun. The Blue Fairy shows up, and Pinocchio is worried that it is to punish him, but she brings the news of the curse, and asks for Geppetto's help.. She tells him of the curse that the Evil Queen is going to set loose and how Snow White's child can save them all, but she will need to be protected from the curse herself. There is an enchanted tree, like the one Pinocchio was fashioned from. Geppetto must carve a wardrobe from it; he agrees, as he cannot bear to lose Pinocchio again.

In Storybrooke, Emma is talking to Mr. Gold, and he tells her that he is not going to help her with the custody case. Regina is too powerful, Henry would suffer, and Mr. Gold does not fight battles that he thinks that he will lose. Emma pleads with him that Henry cannot be left with a sociopath, but to no avail. Emma storms out and goes to see August, in his room. She says that she is out of options and is willing to let him show her the big picture, if it will help her to beat Regina.

David Nolan is leaving work at the pet shelter and notices Regina is having car trouble. The battery is dead, and she has groceries in the car, so he offers her a ride home in his truck. When they get there, she suggests that he stay for supper, as she is making lasagna for herself and Henry. However, Regina then picks up a blank piece of paper, and claims it is a note from Henry telling her he is having dinner and a session with Archie Hopper. Regina appears upset by evidence of Henry avoiding her, and David agrees to stay. Regina smiles.

In the Enchanted Forest, the Blue Fairy takes them to a tree. She informs them that it is the last enchanted tree in the realm, and it has enough magic to save two people. Prince Charming and Snow White will be transferred to a land without magic, where their child will be born, and they will protect her until she is twenty-eight and can break the curse. Geppetto worries and questions what will happen to his son since he wasn't always a real boy. He asks if the curse will turn him back to wood, but she can't answer his question. He agrees to build the wardrobe, but only if he can save Pinocchio as well as the pregnant Snow White. Jiminy and the Blue Fairy try to get Geppetto to change his mind, they say that he is being a bad example to Pinocchio and that the whole realm is in danger. Geppetto does not listen, and instead gets upset at Jiminy, saying that he can never repay his debt for what he did to his parents. The Blue Fairy then asks what she will tell Snow White and Prince Charming, to which Geppetto says that she must tell them that the tree can only save one.

August rides with Emma on the back of his motorcycle; taking her outside of Storybrooke to tell her his story.

In the Enchanted Forest the War Council meeting is taking place. The Blue Fairy arrives with Geppetto and the enchanted tree. Geppetto agrees to build the chest and the Blue Fairy tells them the lie about the wardrobe only being able to protect one. She is seen looking guilty as she does this.

Regina and David finish eating and he insists on cleaning up the dishes. David thanks her for the support that she has shown him while Mary Margaret was incarcerated, and she says that she has always felt a little responsible for him since she found him. He asks her to tell him the story, and she tells him she was working late, forgot her phone, and was headed back to the office. He was on the side of the road almost frozen to death. The doctor had told her that ten minutes later and he would have died. As David says that it was fate, Regina moves in to kiss him, but David backs away. David thanks her for dinner and leaves, and an upset Regina smashes her mirror by throwing her empty wineglass at it.

Snow White is giving birth while Prince Charming holds her. The Evil Queen rides in her carriage to the castle, just ahead of the curse which is spreading behind her. The Blue Fairy goes to Geppetto and tells him that Snow White is in labor and for the safety of the realm and the child, she must travel with the baby to the land without magic. The savior will need protection and guidance to fulfill her destiny. She tells Geppetto that Pinocchio cannot go, but that one day the savior might restore what they have lost. She tells Geppetto that he must tell Snow White as she has to go prepare for the curse, with the other fairies. Geppetto decides not to save Snow White and still wants Pinocchio to go into the wardrobe. Pinocchio and Jiminy question this decision, but Geppetto says that sometimes you have to lie to protect those you love. Geppetto tells Pinocchio that it will be his job to look out for the child and that he will be responsible for her. He must guide her to her destiny and make her believe by her twenty-eighth birthday. Jiminy tells him to beware of temptations and that as long as he is brave, true, and unselfish he will not fail. Pinocchio promises to do all of this, Geppetto gives him his hat, and he goes into the wardrobe and disappears.

August and Emma arrive at the lobster house diner. Emma is upset as to what reason he has for bringing her there. August shows Emma a newspaper article; it is the place she was brought to, when she was found as a baby. August says that it is the place where both their stories began. He soon reveals to her that he was the 7-year-old boy who found her.

A tree in the forest suddenly explodes and Pinocchio crawls out of it. He sees an airplane fly by and is so terrified he tries to re-enter the tree, but magic prevents him from entering, and he is flung back into this world. Then while lying dazed on the forest floor he remembers his life with Geppetto and that he has to protect Emma at all costs. He gets up and attempts to leave when an another magic wave spreads around the forest, and Emma appears in the tree crying. He takes her from the tree and carries her away.

August and Emma are walking in the woods, and he shows her the tree she was found in. He expects that will help her believe. Emma says that he is lying, because she was found by the side of the road. She walks away, and August reveals that he knows about the blanket she was found wrapped in, which was never in the newspaper story. Intrigued, she turns back to listen to what he has to say. He says that he is Pinocchio, which helps her realize that he put the story in Henry's book. She refuses to believe him, and runs away. When he chases after her, he falls down in pain, saying he failed. She asks him what is wrong, and he tells her he is sick - but Emma thinks he is more mentally sick than anything. August tells Emma that he was halfway around the world, in Phuket, when she decided to stay in Storybrooke—he even knows the exact time she decided to stay, 8:15 p.m., because her decision started time in Storybrooke. It also seems to have started making him "sick" as he had been meant to stay with her and make her believe, and he shows her his wooden leg as undeniable proof that he is Pinocchio. To Emma, it just looks like a normal leg. August accuses her of having so much denial that it is clouding her from seeing the truth in front of her own eyes. The two begin to argue. August tells Emma that she doesn't want to believe, and Emma says that he is "losing it". Emma gets upset and asks why it's so important to him anyway. He tells her, "You're our only hope." Emma replies, "Then you're all screwed." She cannot save them, she is no savior and does not want to be responsible for everyone's happiness. She has to focus on getting custody of Henry. She walks away leaving August devastated.

Pinocchio is standing in a nursery looking at Emma. He stops her from crying by making funny faces. Their foster-father walks in and gets upset with him for touching his tools. Pinocchio had been trying to fix the crib, but the man says that nothing belongs to him and he should leave things alone. An older boy walks in with a bunch of money that he has stolen and says that he can buy bus tickets for them to leave the foster home for good. Pinocchio asks if Emma can come, because he promised his father he would look after her. The boy tells him that they cannot take care of a baby. They are about to leave, when Pinocchio tells them to wait; he tells Emma he is sorry, kisses her goodbye, and leaves with the others. Thus Pinocchio gave in to temptation, deserted Emma, broke his promise to his father, and began to travel the world.

August goes to see Marco, while he is fixing a clock. He struggles with the clock before August tells him how to fix it. Marco asks who taught him how to fix clocks, August replies that it was his father. They discuss his father and August says that his father would be disappointed in him, because he had failed to keep his promise. Marco says that if he had a son, realizing his mistake and trying to fix it would be enough for him. August asks if he could be Marco's unpaid assistant, and Marco welcomes him in. Henry is laying in bed when Emma calls him. She says that she needs to talk to him downstairs in her car. Emma asks if he wants to get away from Regina and come live with her. Henry replies that he would love that more than anything. She replies "Good" and tells him to buckle up. When he asks for the reason, she tells him that they are leaving Storybrooke.



Guest Starring



*: Only in archive footage



Production Notes

  • HIDDEN DETAILS: The complicated wooden lock August installs on Mary Margaret's door hints back to the woodworking skills he learned as Geppetto's son.
  • For the scenes where the Blue Fairy interacts with Geppetto, Keegan Connor Tracy was present on set while filming, saying her lines off-screen.[4]
  • REUSED FOOTAGE: The scene of the war council with the massive tree being brought is the same as the scene from "Pilot", but interspersed with new shots filmed from a different angle.

Event Chronology

Episode Connections



Fairytales and Folklore

boiling happily away and sending up clouds of what
looked like real steam.
As soon as he reached home, Geppetto took his tools and
began to cut and shape the wood into a Marionette.
"What shall I call him?" he said to himself. "I think I'll
call him PINOCCHIO. This name will make his fortune.
I knew a whole family of Pinocchi once--Pinocchio the
father, Pinocchia the mother, and Pinocchi the children—
and they were all lucky. The richest of them begged for
his living."
After choosing the name for his Marionette, Geppetto set
seriously to work to make the hair, the forehead, the
eyes. Fancy his surprise when he noticed that these eyes
moved and then stared fixedly at him. Geppetto, seeing
this, felt insulted and said in a grieved tone:
"Ugly wooden eyes, why do you stare so?"
There was no answer.
After the eyes, Geppetto made the nose, which began to
stretch as soon as finished. It stretched and stretched and
stretched till it became so long, it seemed endless.
Poor Geppetto kept cutting it and cutting it, but the
more he cut, the longer grew that impertinent nose. In
despair he let it alone.

Next he made the mouth.
No sooner was it finished than it began to laugh and poke
fun at him.
"Stop laughing!" said Geppetto angrily; but he might as well have spoken to the wall.
"Stop laughing, I say!" he roared in a voice of thunder.
The mouth stopped laughing, but it stuck out a long
Not wishing to start an argument, Geppetto made believe
he saw nothing and went on with his work. After the
mouth, he made the chin, then the neck, the shoulders,
the stomach, the arms, and the hands.
As he was about to put the last touches on the finger
tips, Geppetto felt his wig being pulled off. He glanced
up and what did he see? His yellow wig was in the Mari-
onette's hand. "Pinocchio, give me my wig!"
But instead of giving it back, Pinocchio put it on his own
head, which was half swallowed up in it.
At that unexpected trick, Geppetto became very sad and
downcast, more so than he had ever been before.
"Pinocchio, you wicked boy!" he cried out. "You are not
yet finished, and you start out by being impudent to your
poor old father. Very bad, my son, very bad!"

Popular Culture

  • When David offers to give Regina a ride home with her groceries, he says, "I insist. Unless you wanna have a car full of melted Rocky Road"; a reference to the chocolate-flavored ice cream.

Props Notes

  • For the scene with the enchanted tree, a tree stump prop was used on location. It was CGIed into a leafy tree during post-production.[20]

Set Dressing

  • BRAND INFO: A SKURAR Plant pot from IKEA[33] is sitting on the counter in Regina's kitchen.[34]
  • This episode's sneak peek video of Regina's failed seduction of David in the kitchen shows the dish soap liquid is orange. This can also be seen in a promo picture.[37] In the actual episode, the liquid is purple, although specks of orange can be seen at the bottom.[38]
  • HIDDEN DETAILS: A white rabbit plush toy is sitting on a shelf in Emma's nursery room.[39]
  • HIDDEN DETAILS: The mobile over Emma's baby crib at the group home has two wooden pieces with a crown[40] and a castle.[41]

Costume Notes

  • BRAND INFO: Regina's golden necklace[42] featured in this episode is a Lauren By Ralph Lauren Braided Chain Necklace[43] (no longer available).

Filming Locations


International Titles



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 LISTINGS: ONCE UPON A TIME. The Futon Critic. “Air Date: Sunday, April 29, 2012. Time Slot: 8:00 PM-9:00 PM EST on ABC. Episode Title: (#120) "The Stranger"”
  2. TV Ratings Broadcast Top 25: 'American Idol', 'Big Bang Theory' Top Week 32 Viewing. TV by the Numbers (May 1, 2012). “ONCE UPON A TIME. ABC. 9198.”
  3. File:120Title.png
  4. Reed, Diane J. (July 22, 2017). Fairy Bomb - An Interview with Keegan Connor Tracy. Once Upon a Fan. Archived from the original on April 15, 2017. “Keegan: At the end of the season, I got to do the other side of the scene to help the people that were filming, so I got to help guide the scene that way. I’m usually hanging so high up in the air that I can't even see people half the time. Diane: Do you mean you were standing off-scene? Keegan: I was doing off-camera lines with Baelfire. We were actually doing the scene with me crouched in the bushes. Diane: Gotcha! Keegan: A lot of the Geppetto stuff I got to do that way as well. That made a difference for me when it was my turn to shoot my stuff.”
  5. File:120Diner.png
  6. File:120Boston.png
  7. File:309Boston.png
  8. Clock Changes in Phuket, Thailand. Time and Date. Retrieved on September 11, 2020. “Daylight Saving Time has not been used since our records start, in 1970”
  9. File:109Articles.png
  10. File:122Prisoner.png
  11. File:120OfCourse.png
  12. File:120Airplane.png
  13. Spelled with a capital letter and a hyphen in the Italian version of the novel:
    The Project Gutenberg EBook of Le avventure di Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi. Project Gutenberg. Retrieved on July 29, 2020. “XXVI. Pinocchio va co' suoi compagni di scuola in riva al mare, per vedere il terribile Pesce-cane.” ("il terribile Pesce-cane" is Italian for "the terrible Dog-fish")
  14. File:120OrMaybe.png
  15. The adventures of Pinocchio / by C. Collodi ;illustrations in colors by Attilio Mussino ; translated from the Italian by Carol della Chiesa.. Yale University. Retrieved on November 15. 2020. “The adventures of Pinocchio / by C. Collodi ;illustrations in colors by Attilio Mussino ; translated from the Italian by Carol della Chiesa. (…) Date: 1926. Publisher: The Macmillan Company.”
  16. 16.0 16.1 File:120InAMoment.png
  17. File:120AllThisTime.png
  18. File:120CodeRed.png
  19. File:122PicksUpBook.png
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 Gittins, Susan (April 24, 2012). PHOTO RECAP: Of Steveston Scenes in ONCE UPON A TIME 1×19 — Updated. Hollywood North Buzz. “Some believe that August will turn out to be Pinocchio and there have been several clues, including one I saw for myself in North Vancouver’s Capilano Woods on March 1st for a scene in this Sunday's aptly-titled The Stranger — the original tree stump of enchanted wood from which newborn Emma's wardrobe was carved which allowed her to cross over into our world from the fairy tale one. Could Pinocchio have been carved from this same wood? We'll have to wait to Sunday to find out. UPDATE: Those wonderful shipwrecked scenes of Gepetto with the wooden and then human Pinocchio on the beach were filmed at Whytecliff Park in West Vancouver. You can see a tip of Bowen Island in the background. And the magic stump (above) filmed in the Capilano Woods became a CGIed leafy tree on the screen.”
  21. File:120CallingMrGold.png
  22. File:122IDo.png
  23. Max Theodore Streckenbach. AskART. Retrieved on August 9, 2018. “About Max Theodore Streckenbach: Born: 1863 - Eckernförde, Germany. Died: 1936 - Eckernförde. Known for: still life, landscape paintings. (...) He was a popular artist within his own time in his native country of Germany and even produced a series of lithographic prints from his work.”
  24. File:111RubbingTheLamp.png
  25. File:105CreepyPuppets.png
  26. File:106Hello.png
  27. File:109LovelyToSeeYou.png
  28. File:122EyesDeceiveMe.png
  29. File:120YouDoThis2.png
  30. File:101EmmaNursery.png
  31. File:117Come.png
  32. File:120HowToWorkSomeMagic.png
  33. SKURAR Plant pot, off-white indoor/outdoor, off-white. IKEA US. Retrieved on August 9, 2018.
  34. 34.0 34.1 File:120CoupleOfWeeks.png
  35. File:121BeingCordial.png
  36. Old Garden Rose, Moss Rose 'Shailer's White Moss'. Dave's Garden. Retrieved on August 9, 2018.
    'Shailer's White Moss' rose Description. HelpMeFind. Retrieved on August 9, 2018.
  37. File:120Promo7.jpg
  38. File:120AllThisTime.png
  39. File:120CircumstancesHaveChanged.png
  40. File:120PretendingToDrown.png
  41. File:120PinocchioLeaves.png
  42. File:120SideOfTheRoad.png
  43. Lauren By Ralph Lauren Braided Chain Necklace, 18. Bloomingdale's. Archived from the original on May 25, 2015.
  44. File:118WhyNotForOnce.png
  45. File:121ImagineWeDo.png
  46. File:318BackDownMother.png
  47. 47.0 47.1 Movies Filmed at Whytecliff Park. MovieMaps. Retrieved on August 9, 2018.
  48. File:120OperationCobraCalls.png
  49. File:120GonnaTellMe.png