Can people truly change? Are those with trusting hearts wise or foolish? And what reason could a witch possibly have for carrying around a parasol at night?
Once Upon a Time tackled these questions and more tonight, returning from its hiatus with a winter premiere heavy on setup and light on payoff -- just what we should have expected from an hour meant to kick-start the season's second half. Still, any episode that features Regina suggesting that Red take herself for a walk is A-Okay in my book.
"The Cricket Game" starts, as all things should, with a shot of Hook staring sexily, possibly wondering if Storybrooke's convenience store carries his favorite brand of guyliner. Once he and Cora anchor the Jolly Roger, the pirate is ready to head straight into town and get his revenge on Rumpelstiltskin -- but as his companion soon notices, the "land without magic" isn't quite living up to its nickname. Surprise: There's magic in the air after all, meaning that season 2's Big Bads have to totally rethink their plan of attack. But hey, at least this curve ball means Cora gets a chance to turn an innocent bystander into a fish before she and Hook head to shore.
Back in Ye Olde Fairy Land, a triumphant Snow and Charming manage to defeat King George and immobilize Regina -- with the help of the Blue Fairy -- without even breaking a sweat, though Snow's cream-colored ass-kicking outfit does get tragically smudged. Things are also going swimmingly for the couple in present-day Storybrooke, where the reunited pair enjoy nearly a full day of happy endings, if you know what I mean, until they head to Granny's for a giant "Welcome Home" party thrown by the whole town. (Almost as much fun as a "We're Glad You Didn't Kill Anyone" party!) It's all fun and games and Charming toasts until Regina herself shows up, brandishing a baking dish that better not contain any turnovers.
Understandably, the gang is not happy to see the queen crashing another joyous celebration. Grumpy even grabs a knife when she walks through the door; knowing Granny's, he could probably find a crossbow just as easily. But Regina actually is on the guest list: Emma invited her as part of her new Give Regina the Benefit of the Doubt policy. Snow's not really so into this strategy; as she reminds her daughter, Regina "tried to kill us! Yesterday!" Still, Emma's determined to give Regina a second chance. And Regina appreciates the gesture -- that is, until she finds out that Jiminy Human was the one who told Emma that the queen is attempting rehabilitation.
When Regina confronts the therapist -- whose degree, she reminds him, comes from Made Up Curse University (go Chimeras!) -- about breaching her trust, Jiminy protests that he would never betray doctor/patient confidentiality. I think your nose is growing, Jim. Red interrupts their conversation before things get too heated, but Regina looks like she's itching for a fight all the same. Somewhere, Cora and Hook are watching and taking evil notes with evil pens in evil Lisa Frank folders.
NEXT: A bug gets squashed