Once Upon a Time
A Tale as old as time, indeed. With the recent re-release of the 1991 Disney classic, Beauty and The Beast in 3D along with two new TV Beauty and the Beast shows being piloted for the next fall season, it is a very good time to be the classic fairytale whcih teaches you to look past a person’s outer appearance and allow yourself to find their inner beauty and, in the process, discovering true love. Unless of course, you are beauty and the beast on Once Upon a Time and then you are going to end up miserable and locked in a loony bin.
A French fairytale at its core, La Belle et la Bête was first published by Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve in 1740 but the abridged version, published by Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont in 1757, is the written source from which the Disney tale we all know derives. There are several, significant differences between the Beaumont version, the 1991 animated Disney version (which also drew ideas from the 1946 movie by Jean Cocteau) and the Once Upon a Time telling, though only Once Upon a Time‘s version features True Love not winning out in the end … of course. Interestingly, all three versions feature a daughter making a sacrifice to live with the Beast in his palatial castle in exchange for her father’s life being spared. I am not going to make much of the differences, some of which include Maurice being a knight in the Once version, a scatterbrained inventor in the cartoon and an unnamed, formerly rich merchant in the Beaumont text; also, the idea of a suitor named Gaston was only introduced in the animated movie (and carried forward here) though Disney got the idea form the 1946 movie by Jean Cocteau (who named his suitor Avenant and who schemed with Belle’s brother to kill the Beast, not a character in the Disney variations).
The story of Beauty and the Beast hits on several major themes used in children’s stories (as morality and manner lessons, the most important of which is the lesson to never judge a book by its cover). From the Beast’s unwise decision to deny shelter to the witch based on her old crone disguise (the premise of the 1991 movie); to the irrational fear people have of the Beast based on his hideous looks though underneath he is quite gentle and loving; to the Beast’s inability to accept Belle’s true love motivations borne out of his own inability to look past his beastly exterior (ultimately, this is a persisting issue only in the Once version since, well we really couldn’t have Rumpelstiltskin redeeming himself too much, could we?).
Of course, this unhappy ending in the Once episode is what makes Once Upon a Time unique from a standard fairytale rendering you would get elsewhere (such as from Disney’s animation studios). Rumple has a unique and honest opportunity at second love but is ultimately unable to overcome his own insecurities and self-loathing to embrace Belle’s wide-eyed offering of true love; she was not aware of the Evil Queen’s machinations in trying to unseat Rumple’s powers but merely thought it was a way for them to be together. Naive, sure, but her motivations were pure. But purity is something that neither Rumple nor the Evil Queen can understand or embrace, rather they fear it and manipulate for their twisted gains.
The perversion of True Love perpetuated by the Evil Queen and the suspicion with which its is welcomed by Rumple is disturbing at worst and offputting at best, but it also makes for an engaging hour of television. So, get ready to have your happy ending rocked because this is not your mother’s Beauty and the Beast tale!
Sorry, I know I just promised we were up to the recap but if you’re a fan of the 1991 movie, I want you to take note of some of the move callbacks included in the episode (e.g., Maurice is the father’s name, there is a Gaston, the tea cup that plays the pivotal object of affection is Chip, Belle snooping around the castle after enough time has past … let me know if you see anymore in the comments). Suffice to say, I had a hard time not constantly linking to different scenes and songs from the movie.
We enter in the war room of Sir Maurice (a/k/a Papa Moe), a knight or elevated lord in the Evil Queen’s kingdom who oversees a provincial town. The Ogre Wars (nice callback from the Rumple origin episode) are not going well and
Claire Littleton Belle (played by the gorgeously accented Emilie de Ravin) is trying to console her father that “he” might still be on his way; Papa Moe is doubtful. A knock on the chamber door. When no one is there, the entire room is caught staring at the empty doorway when Rumple makes his magical appearance in Papa Moe’s throne. He has come in response to an urgent message for “help, help!” and assures Papa Moe that he can protect Papa Moe’s “little town” … “for a price.” Rumple scoffs at the offer of gold and is all, “bitch please, I spin my own gold, I want something special; I want Belle to come be my guest, be my guest, I’ll put my magic to the test housekeeper FOREVER.” At this point, Sir Gaston, Belle’s betrothed is all, Rumple please, but Belle pipes up that she’ll do it. To be clear, no one decides her fate but her (and maybe Charlie Pace and Baby Aaron). Papa Moe and Sir Gaston are all “oh noes, you can’t go with this beast!” Rumple grabs Belle and congratulates Papa Moe on his little war.
Back at his palatial estate (he’s really moved up in the world since becoming evil), Rumple shows Belle her
room dungeon. When we return from commercials, Rumple and Belle are in the dining room, discussing his expectations, all of which she is cool with except for when he adds that she’ll be expected to flay the children he captures, she drops a tea cup in horror (creating Chip). Just kidding!! (Rumple is very funny in this episode, more so than usual.) Also, don’t worry about the chip, its just a tea cup. Best Boss Slash Captor EVER!!!
Later, in his study and straw spinning room, Belle asks why Rumple spins so much straw into gold seeing as he has made more than he’ll ever spend and he responds that staring at the wheel helps him forget. Forget what, Belle asks? He stares at her blankly and says it must have worked. *rim shot*. Rumple really is putting forward his best, charming moves tonight. When Belle falls from one of those comically large rolling ladders that only exist in movies with ginormous libraries, Rumple catches her and they share a look. Angela Lansbury comes out dressed as Mrs. Potts and sings Tale as Old as Time as Belle and Rumple fall in love.
Ok, that didn’t happen but you can hear it in your head.
Later, Belle guesses that Rumple brought her to the palatial estate because he was a man and was lonely and in response, he denies being a man. Well, she tells him that she’s been snooping and found some children’s clothing and he admits the had a son once, but lost him. Ah HA, Belle says, so you were a man once. She totally got you Rumple! Faced! If you were wondering why she is playing 20 questions here, its because she will probably never get to know another person so she’d at least like to get to know her Boss Slash Captor. Always the snarky cynic, Rumple is all, maybe you just want to know my weaknesses.
A knock on the palatial estate’s door. Its Sir Gaston come to espouse nonsense and before he can really get a head of steam going, Rumple snaps his fingers and POOFs Gaston into a single, long stem rose. Which, Rumple gives to Belle (she, not knowing who was at the door). Picking up the 20 questions game, he asks her why she decided to leave her family? She throws a couple of answers out to see which ones stick, including duty of sacrifice, to see the world, to prove herself in this man’s world. He asks how that all worked out and she’s fairly okay with the whole situation. Seems she wasn’t terribly into Sir Gaston, she could never give her heart to someone as superficial as he was. As they make googly eyes at each other, Belle asks him to tell her about his son. He counters with a deal. Go to town and fetch me some straw and when she returns, he agrees to tell his story. Belle has a, “what’s that now?” reaction since it sounds like she’s being freed. He confirms it as much when he tells her that he doesn’t expect she’ll ever come back.
On the road to town, which must be quite a distance from the palatial estate, the Evil Queen’s carriage entourage rolls up on Belle and the Evil Queen invites herself to walk along with Belle. This will not end well, I’m sure. Because she has magical powers, she deduces almost instantly that Belle is currently fleeing her master whom she also loves. Belle, because she is far too trusting, tells this stranger that yeah, she might be in love with him but there is also something maybe kind of evil in him? The Evil Queen nods knowingly and says it sounds like a curse; she’d know, right? And advises Belle to get the kissing on with her Master Lover because True Love’s Kiss can break any curse. Sold! Back to the palatial estate for a medicinal make out session!
When Belle returns, Rumple is staring out of his tower, looking expectantly towards the road hoping she would return and when she does, he runs down to his loom room and acts all, “oh hey, I totally wasn’t waiting for you.” Belle is in full flirty mode and says he owes her a story. He confesses there is not much to tell and asks why she came back? That’s her cue to get to the kissing and … it works. Or starts too. Rumple starts to normalize and this scares the gold right out of him; he backs away in scared fury and starts getting all suspicious at Belle’s motives. When Belle says “she” told me True Love’s Kiss will break any curse … well, we don’t hear the end of her sentence because Rumple is charging at his full length mirror yelling at it about how “she” can’t defeat him. Belle has a confused and Rumple tells her that he is arguing with the Evil Queen. Sure. Ok crazy. Moving On. Once he has given the mirror a good piece of his mind, he turns on Belle and asks how the Evil Queen got to her or is it that Belle herself is the evil genius here? Belle has a more confused and doesn’t understand why he can’t accept that theirs is True Love. He grabs her and is all in her face yelling and cursing and screams that no one could ever love him!!! Aww, someone needs some self-esteem tapes. Belle continues her confused and back in the dungeon she goes. Rumple then proceeds to smash the fuck out of his palatial estate, save the chipped tea cup.
Sometime later, Rumple frees Belle from her dungeon and before she leaves, she has a little monologue she’s been working on and would like to share. It basically revolves around how Rumple could have had happiness if he just took the chance that someone could love him. But, he is a coward and she’s going and he is going to regret this decision forever and you will have nothing but an empty heart and a chipped cup. He tries interrupting a couple of times about how she is lying about loving him and how his power is more important to him than loving her and she is all, “bitch please, look at me, I’m hot and wanted to make gold babies with you; smell ya later loser.”
Enchanted World Wrap Up. The Evil Queen shows up at Rumple’s place looking for some Rumple help with a mermaid? She can’t handle a mermaid? Is it the Little Mermaid?!?! Anyway, Rumple is not dealing today. She tries to mock him a bit and he shuts her down; she can try all the little deceptions she wants but she’ll never be more powerful than he is. The Evil Queen plays her final card saying that she had nothing to do with what happened to poor little Belle. What’s that now? Oh, Rumple hasn’t heard, but it seems that when Belle returned to Papa Moe, she was a pariah due to her association with Rumple and so her father shunned her to a castle tower where he had her tortured, causing her to eventually kill herself via a leap from the tower. Rumple calls her a liar, which is a good bet to make with the Evil Queen but she is all, Oh Am I? Rumple throws her out and she snarks at him that he needs a new cleaning girl since the palatial estate is getting dusty. Once alone, he places the chipped tea cup in a place of honor and has himself a good man cry.
We open on Mr. Gold collecting on some collateral for a delinquent debt from Mr. Moe French (you will not be shocked to learn that Moe French is the same as Sir Maurice, the French knight (and Belle’s father) from the Enchanted World). Mr. Moe tries standing in front of his flower van, pleading with Mr. Gold as one of his henchman drives the van away. It is pretty cold to repo the flower van the day before Valentine’s Day. Having successfully made another enemy in town, Mr. Gold strolls away (and is rocking some awesome shades) when Regina tries to stop him for a chat. He blows her off and continues on his way home.
At the diner, Mary Margaret and the B Plot get going when we see her and David sitting together, but not together, if you get my meaning. Emma shows up asking how Henry is doing. Fine. New Mom Ashley Boyd shows up (you’ll remember her from way back in the beginning of the season, episode 4, where she is also Cinderella and her deadbeat boyfriend, Sean Herman, plays her Prince and Emma basically assumes her debt so that she can keep her baby) with an invite to Mary Margaret, Ruby and Emma for a Galentine’s Day night out … since Sean is always working and never around (you’ll hear this about 1000 times tonight so get used to it, Sean sucks). Not surprisingly, because it involves fun, Emma begs off and is saved from having to defend her anti-fun stance by a text from the station house (which must be staffed by imaginary workers as we have never seen ANY staff at the Sheriff’s Department save Emma and once upon a time, Graham) calling her to a case.
Mr. Gold enters his clearly burgled house just as Emma does … wait, how could the imaginary workers have called her to the scene of the burgled crime when the homeowner just found out about it? Continuity and logic works for everyone show, try it! Ever the professional, Emma chastises Mr. Gold that this keeps happening to him. He admits that he is a difficult man to love. After some ambiguous threats of vigilante style justice, Mr. Gold tells Emma about the Mr. Moe saga from that morning and “duh, he is clearly trying to get back at me. Unfortunately, he has taken some important shit from me so I will hunt him down!” Mr. Gold also tacitly threatens Mr. Moe’s life … to the Sheriff … who does nothing, because Emma has become stupid.
Later, at the Sheriff’s Department, Emma is meeting with Mr. Gold and is all, “ta da” at the recovery of his things. If she was looking for a job well done, she gets the opposite because (a) Emma still hasn’t actually apprehended Mr, Moe and (b) the most important item is still missing. He warns her that he will likely find it before she does. Over in the B Plot, we join the girl’s night out, already in progress. Ruby is trying to get Ashley to ditch Sean since he is always working and get with the hotties at the bar. When she says no, Ruby goes to take them all on herself? I Guess? Because she’s a slut? Anyway, Mary Margaret commiserates with Ashley about not getting to be with the one you want to be with, even if you are technically with them. Meanwhile, at the pharmacy, Mr. Gold totally catches David the Dog buying two Valentine’s Day cards; which he stammers are for the same girl … because he couldn’t decide. Mr. Gold totally sees through the BS but simply leaves David with the bon mot that love is a delicate flower and once its gone, its gone forever. Where is THAT Hallmark card?!? Hmm? Cut to Mr. Gold driving the flower truck with Mr. Moe hogtied on the floor in the back.
When we return, Mr. Gold pulls the Flower Truck of Revenge into a cabin in the woods, type setting. As he pulls Mr. Moe into the cabin at gun point, he helpfully lets him know that he usually doesn’t let people get away. Well, forewarned is forearmed and all that, right?
The Mr. Moe Interrogation. I watch a lot of shows that have interrogation scenes, Person of Interest chief among them and even by that show’s standards, Mr. Gold’s interrogation technique is … aggressive. For example, as he lays out what he needs to know from Mr. Moe, he has a cane shoved down Mr. Moe’s throat. I know no one likes to be interrupted when they are speaking but, maybe a bit much? Maybe. Anyway, Mr. Gold explains he is looking for two sentences from Mr. Moe and two sentences only. Sentence one, where is the thing that Mr. Moe still is holding on to? Sentence two, who told you to take said item? Mr. Moe doesn’t listen so good because his first sentence is, “I needed that van.” Oh man, that was clearly not in accordance with Mr. Gold’s sentence rules. Mr. Gold agrees with me and begins to whacking Mr. Moe for answers. Its not long before Mr. Moe is whimpering about how something is not his fault and Mr. Gold really seizes on this and starts murderously whacking the shit out of Mr. Moe … this is not even about the answer to the two sentences anymore, this is about Belle. He is yelling at Mr. Moe that he was Belle’s father and its fault and she’s gone and not coming back. If he is even still conscious at this point, Mr. Moe has to be seriously confused seeing as we’re in Storyb
rooke and not the Enchanted World. Emma shows up and stops Mr. Gold mid-swing and good thing too because I assume Mr. Moe would have been dead shortly.
Back in the Lonely Hearts Club Meeting, Ashley continues lamenting about being together with someone if your not really ever together. May Margaret continues to understand this point which has been made to death tonight and Ashley, having exhausted herself with her whining, moves to leave. Which is of course when Sean The Worst shows up with red roses and an engagement ring. Awwww. Ashley agrees to marry him and he offers to take her for a truck ride before his break is over and he has to … say it with me … go back to work. (sad trombones). Mary Margaret, now the only lonely heart at the table, heads out and David pops up. He’s come to give her a Valentine’s Day Card (and check up on her), though, of course there is no guarantee he is going to give her the right card and … yep, he gave her Kathryn’s. Mood killer!!! Mary Margaret is all, this isn’t working for me anymore and you should go home to Kathryn. Not much he can say after he gave her the wrong fucking card so, after some ironic Happy Valentine’s Day greetings, they part.
Wrap Ups. Mr. Moe is being loaded into an ambulance while Emma tries to get out of Mr. Gold what exactly Mr. Moe stole and what was all that jazz about a missing girl? Mr. Gold basically tells her to drop it and she arrests him. He looks either amused or admiring of her? In the sheriffs office the next day, Emma offers Mr. Gold half of her pastrami sandwich as satisfaction of her owed favor. He’s all, “No dice.” Now, if I were Emma, I would be worried that the man wouldn’t take half a pastrami sandwich as repayment of any debt. What can he possibly have planned for her that pastrami can’t satiate? Regina shows up with Henry in tow as a bribe to Emma to let her have some alone time with Mr. Gold. Ever the professional, Emma agrees … just this one time (how many times is she planning on having Mr. Gold locked up?!?)
Mr. Gold compliments her that she must really want that chat (I guess to give Henry over to Emma for a bit). He point blank asks her if she’s got what he wants and she says, yep, but denies really talking Mr. Moe into anything. The price of returning said item is for him to tell Regina his name, his REAL name. He hems and haws but then comes out with it, Rumpelstiltskin which is the first confirmation of a character having full knowledge and understanding of who they really are (Graham didn’t make it long enough to really figure it out). She returns to him, the chipped cup. He thanks Regina, calling her, “your Majesty.” He continues that now that they’re being really honest, she needs to understand that he is more powerful than her here just as he was in the Enchanted World and she shouldn’t try to usurp that. She tells him that they shall see.
In a secret part of the hospital, Regina pays a visit to a desk nurse and presents her with a single red rose (which looks a lot like the one that Sir Gaston turned into). The desk nurse confirms that no one has been to see “her” today or ever. Reina goes down a hallway, past a mental patient looking person sweeping a floor, to a room and lifts the room’s food door flap and spies on … Belle! She is in a modern day dungeon which in this case, seems to be a mental institution. She looks up and makes eye contact with Regina … and scene!
Ok, so I don’t think we can underestimate what a game changer the last few minutes of this episode represent. We have suspected all along that Mr. Gold, along with Regina, knew exactly who they were here and over there though I don’t think Regina ever really believed anyone else knew besides her. On top of the Graham recollections earlier in the season, Regina has to be starting to freak out that her plan is unraveling and perhaps the Final War is more of a slow burn, Cold War-style, where things happen at a glacial speed but happen nonetheless to eventually bring her down. Expect some retaliation against Emma (and Henry) as misplaced anger at Mr. Gold admitting his true identity. Also, it’ll be interesting to see what Mr. Gold does with this knowledge now that he’s said it out loud. So many questions, so little time.