Sometime in the past, August shows a doctor his leg and tells him that it’s turning to wood. However, the doctor sees nothing more than a healthy leg. August stabs himself in the leg to prove that he’s telling the truth. The doctor sees the scalpel enter his flesh and panics, but he doesn’t notice that August isn’t bleeding. August runs away and encounters a man who tells him of “The Dragon,” who specializes with issues like his.
August goes to see “The Dragon.” While he’s waiting, a woman drops her phone. August picks it up and gives it to her. The woman removes her sunglasses; it’s Neil’s fiancé, Tamara.
Later, August meets with “The Dragon,” who asks him why he has come. August purposely shows him the wrong leg, but “The Dragon” catches on and guesses that his left leg is turning into wood. He also calls August by his real name, Pinocchio. A stunned August demands to know how if “The Dragon” is from Fairy
Tale Land. “The Dragon” deflects the question and tells him that he can help him in exchange for something of great value to him. August gives him the line that Geppetto used to animate him. However, “The Dragon” also asks $10,000.
August then catches up with Tamara, who invites him for a drink. He spots a large envelope of cash when he sits down. Tamara tells him that she went to “The Dragon” to cure her cancer. August tells her that he has a skin condition that will kill him if it isn’t healed. When Tamara steps away to take a phone call, August steals the cash and runs.
He returns to “The Dragon” with the cash. “The Dragon” warns him that what’s in the bottle will stop him from changing into wood. However, turning into wood was only a symptom; taking the serum won’t cure him. Tamara finds August after he receives the serum, and she chases him down. She tells him that he deserves his fate.
Tamara meets with “The Dragon,” who tells her to take her photo when she leaves. He wonders why she would lie about being sick. She tells him she has been looking for magic for years and has finally found it. Tamar notes that she can’t let anyone find him, so she kills him.
In New York, August tells Neil that he’s turning back into wood. He tries to convince Neil to go with him back to Storybrooke. Neil refuse, and August tells him that when the curse is broken, he’ll send a postcard. Tamara overhears the conversation and purposely runs into Neil after August leaves.
In present day Storybrooke, David is making Mary Margaret breakfast in bed. Emma enters and notes that taking it easy on Mary Margaret isn’t making things better. Emma believes that the only way her mother will get over her role in Cora’s death is to get out of bed and live her life. Mary Margaret is the only one who can help herself.
Emma takes Henry over to see Neil. Henry asks Neil to go over the Once Upon a Time book with him because he wants to know what the story was really like. Neil agrees and requests that Henry go to Granny’s for some hot cocoa before they read the story.
With Henry gone, Neil tells Emma that Hook has escaped from where they left him and that his fiancé is on her way to Storybrooke. Emma comes down on Neil for bring her to a town full of fairy tale characters, and she advises him to tell his fiancé the truth about his past.
Meanwhile, Mary Margaret is blowing off steam by practicing her archery skills when she finds a completely wooden August living in an old motorhome. August explains that although the curse over Storybrooke was broken, he is still stuck in his wooden form. He explains that it’s his fault.
August notes that he was hoping that he’d find redemption for the mistakes he’s made. Mary Margaret replies that everyone deserves a second chance. August states that it’s easy for her to say because she’s never needed it. He tells her that if she really wants to help him, Mary Margaret should leave and not tell anyone about him.
Back in town, we are introduced to Neil’s fiancé, Tamara. Henry, Neil, Emma and Tamra enjoy a bagel breakfast together, and everything goes well until the couple is left alone. He tells her the truth about his past, but Tamara doesn’t believe her. Tamara notes that she can see how Neil and Emma look at each other; she’s not a fool. She instructs him to come find her when he’s ready to be honest about his feelings.
In Granny’s Diner, Regina greets Owen and thanks him for his help with finding Henry in last week’s episode. As she leaves, Mary Margaret enters the diner. Regina offers her some harsh words as they pass, but Mary Margaret ignores her. She tells Emma and Marco (Geppetto) about August. They decide to ask Mother Superior (The Blue Fairy) for help as Tamara eavesdrops on their conversation.
Mother Superior tells Emma, Mary Margaret and Marco that August came to her for help after the curse was broken. She couldn’t help him because that’s what he is: wood. The only way August will become human again is if he finds his own path of redemption.
August hears a knock on his door. “I told you to leave me alone!” August yells as he finds Tamara greeting him. She tells him that he’s not much of decorator, but a man made of wood doesn’t need much. Tamara offers him a deal: go to New York and get the remainder of her vial, which she claims cured her of cancer. But he must never return to Storybrooke.
Meanwhile, Regina meets with Owen. She tells him that she kept the gift he gave her all those years ago, and now he’s all grown up. Owen says she looks exactly the same as he did when last saw her. He’s back in Storybrooke for his father, but Regina states that he left soon after Owen did. She warns Owen that he’ll be checking out the following day because “contrary to popular belief, sometimes people do disappear.”
In the woods, Marco confesses that he sent Pinocchio back with Emma. Mary Margaret slaps him and immediately apologizes. Marco tells her it’s okay; he deserves it. The group finds August’s trailer empty.
August is then shown leaving town, but he finds Tamara’s picture and realizes that she was the one who killed “The Dragon.” He comes back to town and tries to warn Emma, but Tamara cuts the phone line. August tells Tamara that he knows what she did. He finally understands that the only way to cure himself is by doing the right thing. August is going to warn all of Storybrooke about her. “No, you’re not,” Tamara says as she tasers August.
Moments later, August stumbles out of the police station and falls to the ground. Marco turns his son over and cradles him. August apologizes to his father and tries to warn Emma about Tamara, but he dies before finishing his sentence. Henry notes that his actions were brave, truthful and unselfish. That means there is hope. The Blue Fairy then tries once again to change him into a real boy and succeeds. Pinocchio is back, but he is a child now. Emma asks him what he remembers. He tells her that he doesn’t remember anything.
The episode closes with Emma promising to never lie to Henry again. In the other room, Mary Margaret confesses to David that her heart has started to blacken. He encourages her to believe that she will find redemption.
Finally, back in the inn, Owen talks to his mystery contact, Tamara. The two begin making love as the credits roll.
“Selfless, Brave, and True” had a lot of highlights, including August’s return and more information about Neil. As always, it was a very good episode that advanced both the season’s main plot and multiple subplots.
However, this episode exemplified the downside of an ensemble cast. There were far too many characters in play during “Selfless, Brave, and True,” which often made the show feel cluttered and a little confusing. Of course, another downside to the episode is the adult August’s departure. There were so many things that could have been done with August, but now his character has been reduced to an innocent child.
Overall, “Selfless, Brave, and True” lived up to the standard set by previous “Once Upon a Time” episodes. Yet it also reminds us that there are times when bigger isn’t always better. Hopefully, next week’s episode is a little more centralized.