S1E17: Once Upon a Time has been able to survive the majority of their first season by presenting the audience with two different worlds: the fairytale past and the ""reality"" in Storybrooke. But sooner or later these worlds are bound to collide when Emma finally realizes that Henry's been right all along: the people in Storybrooke really are characters from his book. ""Hat Trick"" brings Emma one step closer to that inevitable epiphany when she is kidnapped by a man whose affinity for hats has him teetering on the edge of madness.
In the fairytale world he's known as the Mad Hatter from Alice in Wonderland, but in Storybrooke he goes by Jefferson, a man unable to part with his fairytale past. It doesn't take long for Emma to realize who Jefferson really thinks he is, and while she first passes it off as the mere ramblings of a mad man, part of her slowly begins to at least suspect there's some truth behind Team Cobra after all.
""I know what you refuse to acknowledge, Emma. You brought something precious to Storybrooke: magic."" - Jefferson
After realizing Mary Margaret has escaped from her jail cell, Emma sets out to track her down before her arraignment the following morning. But during her search, she falls down a rabbit hole of sorts by almost hitting a man with her car. The man's name is Jefferson and since he lives just down the road, she offers to take him home, but stays for tea (a Very Merry Unbirthday, anyone?), he drugs her. Upon waking, Emma attempts to escape, but finds Mary Margaret tied up and gagged in the next room. When Jefferson finds them, Emma asks what he really wants, to which he simply replies that he wants her help in making a hat. But not just any hat: a magical hat that can transport him back to the fairytale world. Emma then realizes that he thinks of himself as the ""fictional"" Mad Hatter.
""Do this one last favor for me and you can give her the life she deserves."" - The Queen
In the fairytale world, The Queen pays Jefferson (more commonly known as the Mad Hatter) a visit, requesting that he use his ""special talents"" to go to Wonderland and retrieve something of hers that was stolen. At first he refuses, saying that he doesn't want to leave his daughter Grace behind, but when he's unable to give his little girl everything she wants, he has a change of heart and agrees to do The Queen's bidding. Using his magical hat, he transports both The Queen and himself to the legendary Looking Glass, but before they enter he reminds her majesty that the same amount of people that go through need to come back out -- no more and no less.
Once there, they enter the Queen of Harts' realm where The Queen retrieves a special box that was stolen from her. A while they manage to make it back to the mirror unscathed, before they go through it The Queen takes a piece of magical mushroom and places it within the box. Shockingly enough, the ingredient makes her father appear. Apparently the Queen of Harts had taken him for leverage against The Queen at some point in the past, but now he can safely return back home with her. There's only one problem though: two people entered the Looking Glass, which means only two can leave. Knowing that this was her plan all along, Jefferson pleads with The Queen to let him return to his daughter, However, she tells him that if he had truly loved Grace then he never would have left her in the first place.
As soon as they leave Wonderland, Jefferson is taken prisoner by the Queen of Harts, who almost beheads him immediately. And though he pleads to be sent home, one of the Queen's guards tells him that in order to do that he must create another magical hat. Then, and only then, will he be allowed to return home. It's then that we see how the Mad Hatter became so mad. It's not because of tea, it's because he went crazy trying to make another hat.
""This is the real world."" - Emma""A real world."" - Jefferson
Back in Storybrooke, Jefferson tries his best to get Emma to understand that there's more than one ""real world"" and she just needs to open her eyes to see it. He explains that all stories have to come from somewhere, just like history books, and it's because of her that time has once again started back up in the town. She's able to change things, which means she must possess some magic. He demands that she use her magic to create a hat, similar to the one he had in the fairytale world, so that he can go home and be reunited with his daughter, who doesn't even know he exists in this world. Unlike the others, he is cursed with remembering his past life, forced to hold conflicting realities in his head. That's enough to make anyone go mad.
And that's exactly what Emma thinks: he's gone completely mad. But she pretends to buy into his whole story, only to try and make a break for it when he's not expecting it. She knocks him out with a telescope and Mary Margaret throws him out the window, but all that's left below is a hat. Finally free, Mary Margaret decides to stay and attend her arraignment as Emma suggests, which does not make Regina very happy. It turns out, Regina and Mr. Gold had an arrangement where he assured her that Mary Margaret would take the hidden key in her cell and run, thereby missing the arraignment and ruining her life. Now that she's chosen to return, Regina is back to square one. But since Mary Margaret is still being accused of murder, so she's not completely out of the woods just yet.
""Can I hold onto this?"" - Emma
The most noteworthy moment, however, was when Emma asks to see Henry's story book after spotting the girl who Jefferson claimed was really his daughter. And while she doesn't come right out and admit it, it's obvious she's starting to seriously think about Jefferson's suggestion. It's just a glimmer of suspicion for now, but that's still one step closer than where she was before. She asks Henry if she can hold onto the book for a while and he happily complies. We may have another believer on our hands soon.
Do you think Emma is really starting to believe the fairytale world is real? What could think mean for the plot? Did you enjoy learning how the Mad Hatter became so mad? Sound off in the comments or get at me on Twitter @KellyBean0415.