ONCE UPON A TIME There was a Beauty and a Beast…


Season 1, episode 12: “Skin Deep”

So, we’ve been promised the “Beauty and the Beast” episode for a while now, and here’s the delivery. Does it live up?


We begin this week’s tale in Fairy Tale Land, in the time of the great Ogre War (which puts it some time before Snow White meets Prince Charming). Sir Maurice and his people face certain doom. But his daughter still has faith that a savior will arrive. And it’s … Rumpelstiltskin?

Of course, his price is the girl. Because they offered him gold, and … well, he makes gold… so… uhm, yeah. He wants the girl.

Here’s where we have the first in our series of Disney winks. The dress on Belle is the gold gown she wore at the end of the animated movie (remember Disney owns ABC?). And then Ol’ Papa says “You cannot go with this… beast.” It’s a rather hackneyed way of setting it up, with a forced line, but OK. It’s Jane Espenson, and she’s normally a solid writer, so I’ll let that one line pass. Because it’s got to be in there somewhere, right?

In Storybrooke, Papa Maurice is the flower guy. Who apparently owes money to Mr. Gold. So the truck is forfeit. And did you catch the wink to “Game of Thrones”?

Regina confronts Gold, but he doesn’t want to talk, so he uses his magic “please” card to put her in her place. She almost looks surprised every time he does this, which makes me wonder just how much she remembers of that part of the deal. Is she surprised it works? Or is she surprised he remembers to use it? (And who is the big Lurch working for Mr. Gold? Where has he been all this time? Does Gold suddenly having an enforcer mean he’s gaining more power in Storybrooke? hmmmm)

At the diner, Mary Margaret and David are sitting at different tables, next to each other. All flirty, flirty. Ashley comes in with the baby and whew! What a time she’s having, what with Sean working all the time and she never gets to see him and she never thought things would be like this and… Ruby says “Girls Night!”

So, our three story threads are neatly in place. And away we go!

(Seriously. Spoilers are on the way…)

Now, when Emma’s sitting at the diner, she gets a text from the station. The sheriff’s station? Police station? Who’s there to send her a text? Where are these sudden assistance gnomes coming from? And why don’t we see them? Because there’s never been anyone else at the station. Not while Graham was sheriff, not while Emma’s been sheriff. So who sent that text, Jane Espenson?

The call is in response to the report of a burglar at Gold’s house, and Emma gets there to find Gold – gun in hand – inspecting the place. (By the way, my parents have a clock just like the one on Gold’s mantle.) He knows what’s missing. And he’s not happy about it at all. Nossireebob. Gold’s line – “I’m a difficult man to love.” – takes us back to …

Fairy Tale Land, where Rumpelstiltskin has Belle in tow, showing her to her room. But it’s really the dungeon, of course. Belle isn’t happy about the arrangements… and while he’s explaining her duties, we have our next Disney Movie Easter Egg. (wasn’t this movie just released in 3-D? See how clever those ABC folks are!)

This script is pretty tightly woven together, with a line in one scene leading to the next scene for most of the “Beauty and the Beast” thread. Rumpelstiltskin’s “It’s just a cup.” goes into Gold telling Emma about Mo French (seriously? Mo French?) and the fact that he defaulted on a loan.

In FTL, our next Disney Egg is Belle’s second costume: the outfit she wears at the beginning of the movie. And while pulling at the nailed-shut curtains, we have the obligatory fall into Rumpelstiltskin’s arms, where they share a look and awkward pause and hemming and hawing… oh, cutsie. Rumpelstiltskin is starting to soften up.

But Mr. Gold is no softy. Nossir. Emma recovers the stolen property, but there’s still a piece missing. This is obviously a very valuable possession. What could it be?

Now, if you look closely – (OK. I’ll show you.) – you’ll see Cogsworth and Lumiere in the background behind Belle as she and Rumpelstiltskin have the heart-to-heart talk with the emotional music that tells us this is a defining moment.

Belle has figured out that Rumpelstiltskin was once a man, with a son. And after Gaston interrupts and gets turned into a rose (another Disney Egg), she tells her story – of wanting to be heroic, saving her people with selfless sacrifice. It’s the obligatory scene where captor and captive have their “crossing the threshold” moment, and Rumpelstiltskin clearly has weakened around her, even so much as letting her go to town to get some straw.

The “going out” element carries over into the girls going out – Mary Margaret, Ruby and Ashley – with Ruby the only one having any fun. And in the meantime, Gold and David bump into each other over at Sneezy’s store, where David is buying Valentine’s Day cards for his two lady friends, and Gold is buying rope and duct tape. Cue ominous music. Because Gold has Mo trussed up like a Turkey in the back of the van, and he takes the poor sap out to the cabin – that one where David and Mary Margaret almost but not quite – and he says “I don’t normally let people get away.”

Which takes us to the woman he let get away: Belle on the road, where she encounters Grimhilde the Evil Queen (I know she’s not been called that yet, but I’m sticking with Disney Eggs here…) And yon Evil Queen utters the Line of the Week: “True love’s kiss will break any curse.” This will come back to bite Regina at the end of the season.

Belle goes back, thinking she’s going to have the man of her dreams, even though he’s not really a big hero type. Rumpelstiltskin almost – almost – lets his heart do the talking, but he figures out that the Queen somehow interfered with things. And he flips out. Starts talking to mirrors… oh, wait. Yeah, he can do that. Because he knows she is watching. And he figures it’s all a big plot, see. “Kill the beast.” And he sends Belle to her dun— erm, room.

Gold has French in the cabin (from David & MM’s encounter?) – where is it? Blames French because “she’s gone” and never coming back; obviously talking about Belle; cabin – beating French with cane; Emma stops him at the last minute. And at the same time, over in Fairy Tale Land, Rumpelstiltskin is smashing everything to pieces – except Chip.

Back to Girls’ Night – which is how the network promoted this episode, but it’s not really what the episode’s about – Ashley gets a proposal from Sean, Mary Margaret goes out the door and bumps into David, who gives her the wrong Valentine’s Day card and reminds her that they’re going about this all the wrong way – like there’s any right way to have an affair…

At the Cabin in the Woods, Emma figures out there’s something really personal in this whole thing between Gold and French. She figures there’s more to this than just a few trinkets. But Gold’s not cooperating. Emma, being the sheriff, arrests Gold for assault. –  French into ambulance; Emma tells Gold that was more than about just a few trinkets; that was personal. Who is the “she”?

She is sitting in the dungeon with Chip and Mrs. Potts when Rumpelstiltskin lets her go. But not before Belle gives him a piece of her mind, calling him a coward who’s afraid to love. He’s made his choice to live without the possibility that she could love him, and she gets the real Line of the Week: “And all you’ll have is an empty heart, and a chipped cup.” And she walks out.

(Really. If you haven’t watched it, and are planning to do so, here is where you stop reading. Seriously.)

This whole episode has been rather tightly wound, and well written, but it’s these last few minutes that throw a game-changer into the season. Regina bribes Emma with Henry, sending them off to get ice cream while she has a little private chat with Mr. Gold. Regina admits she has what he wants, and that she put French up to the theft. And in exchange for returning the cup, she gets Gold to admit his real name – Rumpelstiltskin – thus confirming my on-going suspicion that Gold knew more than he let on.

The Fairy Tale Land component of this conversation, while it took place years ago, seems to dovetail out of the jail scene. Evil Queen wants to discuss a problem she has with a mermaid (Ariel? Is this another Disney Egg? Foreshadowing of a future episode? Jane Espenson being clever?), but Rumpelstiltskin’s not making deals. Especially after Regina tells him that Belle has committed suicide.

Only she hasn’t. She’s locked up in a secret underground wing at the hospital, and she looks very much like Sarah Connor did before she broke out of the institution in Terminator 2. Look out, Regina.

Now, this is where the season has to pick up steam. Now that the cat’s out of the bag, momentum has to start building to the season finale. Because ratcheting up the story like this means the audience’s expectations have just been raised. The two long-time enemies have just come out of the shadows, as it were. The gloves have come off, and we viewers have now been promised a payoff. Let’s hope they deliver the goods.

[Official Show Site at ABC]     [Previous recap, “Fruit of the Poisonous Tree”]

Jason P. Hunt

Jason P. Hunt (founder/EIC) is the author of the sci-fi novella "The Hero At the End Of His Rope". His short film "Species Felis Dominarus" was a finalist in the Sci Fi Channel's 2007 Exposure competition.

2 thoughts on “ONCE UPON A TIME There was a Beauty and a Beast…

  • February 15, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Did it bother anyone else that Gold keeps a gun by his door? Do people really do that? We only have Nerf guns in our house so… I don’t know where you would keep a more real gun.
    I liked the nod to “One Flew Over the CooKoo’s Nest” at the end of the episode.
    Regina is one wicked lady… Yikes!!

    • February 15, 2012 at 1:53 pm

      I saw that, and wondered where it was stored? Sounded like he opened a box? I didn’t hear a drawer being pulled.


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