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"Skin Deep"

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"Skin Deep"
Season One
Season 01, Episode 12
Episode Information
Character backstory:
Premiere date: February 12, 2012[1]
Viewers: 8.65 million[2]
Written by: Jane Espenson
Directed by: Milan Cheylov
Episode Chronology
Previous Episode: "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree"
Next Episode: "What Happened to Frederick"
Related Pages

You're a coward, Rumplestiltskin. And no matter how thick you make your skin... that doesn't change.

Belle to Rumplestiltskin

"Skin Deep" is the twelfth episode of Season One of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Jane Espenson and directed by Milan Cheylov. It is the twelfth episode of the series overall, and premiered on February 12, 2012.


After Mr. Gold's house is robbed, Emma keeps a close eye on him when it looks like he wants to track down the criminal and dole out some vigilante justice as payback, and Valentine's Day finds Mary Margaret, Ruby and Ashley having a girls' night out. Meanwhile, in the fairytale land that was, Belle agrees to a fateful deal to give up her freedom in order to save her town from the horrors of the Ogre War.[1]


This section is a detailed recap of this episode. There are major spoilers. Click to expand.

The episode begins in the castle of Sir Maurice, the town of Avonlea on his lands is under attack in the Ogre War, they have sent for help, but it has not arrived. Suddenly help arrives in the form of Rumplestiltskin who offers them a deal of his protection of the town in exchange for Belle's servitude. Belle agrees to his terms. Gaston, who is engaged to Belle, and Sir Maurice, her father, are against the idea, but the deal has already been made.

In Storybrooke, Mr. Gold repossesses Moe French's van.

Regina insists on speaking with Mr. Gold immediately, but he requests that she "please" delay the conversation. At the cafe, David Nolan and Mary Margaret Blanchard are talking when Emma Swan arrives to ask about Henry. Ashley Boyd arrives, and Ruby asks if they would like to go out for a girls' night. Emma, declining the invitation, suddenly receives a phone call from the station stating Mr. Gold's house has been broken into.

Back in the Enchanted Forest, Belle is thrown into the dungeon of Rumplestiltskin's castle. He lists all of Belle's tasks, and when he jokes about one of the duties (skinning kidnapped children), she accidentally drops a tea cup, which chips. While trying to open his drapes, Belle questions why he spins straw so much as he has so much gold already. She pulls too strongly on the drapes and falls off of the ladder, but Rumplestiltskin catches her. He agrees to leave the drapes open.

In Storybrooke, Mr. Gold arrives home to find his house's front door wide open. As he enters, Emma is already inside investigating. She mentions a neighbor, after noticing the door was open, phoned the station about the issue. She threatens to arrest Mr. Gold if he does not tell her what he knows. He accuses Moe French of robbing his home, and Mr. Gold threatens him. Emma recovers the majority of Mr. Gold's items, but he says that there is still something missing which upsets him, and he goes after Moe himself.

In the Enchanted Forest, Belle asks Rumplestiltskin why he wants her there. She asks him about some clothing she found upstairs, and he tells her of his son. She wants to get to know him, but to keep from giving too much away, he jokes in a fit of self-deprecating humor that perhaps she is trying to find the monster's weaknesses. She tells him he is not a monster. Gaston shows up, and Rumplestiltskin turns him into a rose, which he gives to Belle. He asks her about her choice to come live with him. She tells him she did it to be a hero and be brave. He asks her about Gaston, and she tells him that she never cared for Gaston and that their marriage was arranged. He allows her to go to town to preclude further questioning, and in response to her surprise that he is letting her out of the castle, he responds that he expects to never seen her again. By now, it seems he has fallen in love with Belle.

While out in Storybrooke, Ruby tries to convince Ashley to go get another guy since Sean Herman is always working. David is at the pharmacy getting two Valentine's Day cards when he runs into Mr. Gold who is buying rope and duct tape. Mr. Gold kidnaps Moe and ties him up in the back of his van. At an undisclosed location, Mr. Gold takes Moe out of the van at gun point.

In the Enchanted Forest, Belle is walking down the road where she runs into the Evil Queen. They talk and the Queen asks her if she is running from someone. She also asks Belle if she loves her employer. The Queen tells her that any curse can be broken. She suggests she kiss him and tells her that true love's kiss will break any curse (which may explain what happened when Graham kissed Emma).

Belle returns to the castle, much to Rumplestiltskin's surprise. He is plainly pleased; he has been watching for her from a tower, and when she returns he runs downstairs to his wheel to appear that he has been spinning nonchalantly rather than waiting for her return. She asks him to hold true to his promise and tell her about his son. He asks her why she came back, and she kisses him. The curse begins to fade away. Rumplestiltskin pulls back, shocked and angry. When Belle says that "she" said true love could break any curse, he realizes that the Queen planned this and thinks Belle has been working for her. His anger comes from his own self-loathing: as the curse returns, he shakes Belle and shouts in her face that he knew she could not have been genuine because nobody could ever love a monster like him. He throws her back in the dungeon. Afterwards, he smashes things in a fit of anger and grief and picks up the cup with the chip, preparing to smash it as well, but stops himself and sets it down.

In a cabin in Storybrooke, Mr. Gold threatens Moe's life. He wants to know where the missing object is and who told him to steal it. His anger grows, and he strikes Moe with his cane repeatedly. He says that she is gone forever, that it is his fault, and that he was her father. Emma shows up to stop him from harming Moe any further. At the bar, Ashley is sitting alone, still feeling down, and she tells Mary Margaret that she wants to be with Sean.

She considers breaking up with him, and Mary Margaret understands what she is going through. Just then, Sean shows up and proposes to Ashley, which she accepts, and they kiss. David finds Mary Margaret outside. He gives her a card and tells her that he did not want her finding anyone else. He accidentally gives her the wrong card, and Mary Margaret tells him he should go home. Back at the cabin, Emma questions Mr. Gold and places him under arrest.

In the Enchanted Forest, Belle is sitting in the dungeon when Rumplestiltskin enters and allows her to go free. He tells her he does not want her any more. She tells him that he could have had happiness and calls him a coward. He tells her his power means more to him than she does, which she says is not true and that he will regret his choice. She tells him that all he will have is "an empty heart and a chipped cup", and she leaves broken-hearted.

At the sheriff's station in Storybrooke, Emma talks to Mr. Gold, who is behind bars. She offers him half of her sandwich to repay the favor she owes, but he refuses. He tells her that he does not need a reminder that she owes him a favor. Regina shows up and gives permission for Emma to go with Henry for 30 minutes, to get ice-cream. Emma knows that it is to allow her a private meeting with Mr. Gold, but she wants it too much to refuse. Gold invites Regina to sit, using the word, "please". She wants to talk to Mr. Gold who asks her if she has what he wants, when she says, "Yes." Gold realizes Regina put Moe up to breaking into his house. She says she just wants him to answer one simple question: What is his name? When he replies, "Mr. Gold," she ask him again what his name is elsewhere. He admits to her that his name is Rumplestiltskin and addresses Regina as "Your Majesty" confirming that both are aware of their alternate identities. She returns the chipped tea cup, and he tells her that nothing between them will change.

Back in the Enchanted Forest, the Evil Queen shows up and asks Rumplestiltskin to make a deal with her. She wants to talk about a mermaid. He says that she will never be more powerful than him. He accuses her of having something to do with Belle, but Regina stuns him when she next tells him that she had nothing to with Belle's death. She reveals that because of her time with Rumplestiltskin, Maurice treated her with cruelty when she returned home and locked her in a tower for an "exorcism". She died when she threw herself off the tower. Rumplestiltskin calls her a liar, but she mocks him by telling him that he should get a new girl, because the place is getting dirty. Full of grief, Rumplestiltskin replaces a golden chalice on a pedestal with the chipped tea cup, quietly sobbing afterwards.

Regina is seen going through a codelocked exit door and down into what appears to be the psychiatric ward, in the basement of the hospital. She gives a nurse a rose, and the nurse informs her that no one has come to see "her" that day. Regina walks down the hall and approaches a door. Inside the room is Belle's counterpart locked up in a cell.

Deleted Scenes


As described by Raphael Sbarge:

For Valentine's Day, Archie and David spend time at the bar on the same night Mary Margaret is there for girls' night with Ruby and Ashley. It involves a discussion between Archie and David about his relationship with Mary Margaret.[3]

Untitled 2

As described by Jane Espenson and Robert Carlyle on the Season One DVD Audio Commentary:

A messenger dove brings news about the Ogre Wars: The Ogres have fallen back, and Belle's family is safe. While Rumplestiltskin is distracted, Belle tries to escape by sneaking out the door only to find herself entering the same room though another door. Rumplestiltskin explains to her that she can't escape.[4]

Untitled 3

As described by Jane Espenson on the Season One DVD Audio Commentary:

The original script features Belle attempting to tug off the cloth on the mirror in Rumplestiltskin's castle to prove to him he's not a monster. He stops her before she succeeds in doing so. While pressed up against Belle, Rumplestiltskin tells her about his son.[5]



Guest Starring




Production Notes

  • The opening titlecard features Rumplestiltskin's spinning wheel.
  • The director's cut of this episode was sixty minutes long.[6]
  • In the original cut of the episode, the opening shot was of a messenger dove battling its way through a storm to get to Maurice's castle to deliver the bad news. This, however, turned out to be a difficult CGI task, and the segment got cut.[5]
  • Avonlea, reported to have fallen during the Ogre Wars, is the name of the fictional Canadian town in Lucy Maud Montgomery's novel Anne of Green Gables. It is also the name of a real-life village in Saskatchewan, Canada, which happens to be near the city of Regina.
    • According to the episode script, Avonlea is two days ride from Maurice's castle.[7]
  • After Belle says, "He could be on his way right now, papa", Sir Maurice's line was supposed to be, "Our offer must have been too small", which did not make the cut for the episode.[8]
  • According to the script (and the press release[1]), Mr. Gold's enforcer (only briefly seen in the final episode when the van is taken) is called The Dove.[7] Most of his story was cut from the final episode.[5]
  • In the episode script, the scene where Belle breaks the Chipped Cup includes a sequence where a messenger dove arrives at Rumplestiltskin's Dark Castle, bringing news about the Ogre War: The Ogres have fallen back, and Belle's family is safe. According to Rumplestiltskin, Ogres are superstitious and greedy, and with a few whispers and some gold, "the deal was done". Belle tries to escape by sneaking out the door only to find herself entering the same room though another door at the opposite side of the room. Rumplestiltskin explains to her that he took some magical precautions to prevent her from leaving.[7] This scene was filmed, but was cut from the final episode.[5] According to Robert Carlyle, it took about two hours to get the dove to land on his finger.[9]
  • A segment about the story of the Golden Fleece in Rumplestiltskin's castle, was cut from the scene where Belle sits down at the table with Rumplestiltskin.[5]
  • After Belle comments on the covered mirrors, Rumplestitlskin's line was supposed to be, "There's other reasons why a mirror might be covered", which did not make the final cut of the episode.[9]
  • The curtsy Rumplestiltskin gave Belle as he gives her the rose was improvised for the scene.[10]
  • In "The Price of Gold", it is established that Ashley is nineteen years old, yet she is shown drinking in a bar, even though the legal age to purchase and consume alcohol in Maine is 21.
  • A sequence where Mr. Gold deliberately misleads Emma by sending her on a wild goose chase, before he drives off with a kidnapped Moe French, was filmed, but in the editing room, it was decided that the scene was not really needed for the story.[5]
  • For the segment where an angry Rumplestiltskin shakes Belle, Robert Carlyle kept asking Emilie de Ravin if she was okay, to make sure that he wasn't pinching her too hard.[9]
  • Gold's line to Moe French, ""My fault"? What are you talking about, "my fault"?", was Robert Carlyle's idea.[9]
  • The scene where Mr. Gold beats up Moe French, had to be heavily trimmed down and edited, to make it more family-friendly.[5]
  • A sequence where it is explained how Emma found out where Mr. Gold was hiding Moe French, was cut from the episode.[5]
  • According to Jane Espenson, the episode was originally meant to be about about Rumplestiltskin choosing power over love. This eventually evolved into a story where he, rather than choosing power of love, believes that no one could ever love him.[5]
  • When Belle is banished from Rumplestiltskin's castle, you can see that the tea set and the chipped cup is inside the dungeon with her. A shot where Rumplestiltskin looks down on the cup after Belle leaves, was cut from the episode.[9]
  • While Jane Espenson wrote the episode, Edward Kitsis wrote Belle's iconic line, "All you'll have is an empty heart and a chipped cup."[5]

Event Chronology

Episode Connections



Fairytales and Folklore

Pop Culture


  • When Moe French steps out of his florist's van, in the background, you can see the clock tower building, but without the clock tower[20] (the actual clock tower is CGI).
  • When Gaston knocks on the Dark One's castle door, there is a close up on Rumplestiltskin's face, in which his left eye's contact lens is missing.[21]
  • After Belle sets down the rose on the table and talks to Rumplestiltskin and the camera shifts back and forth between the two, the rose keeps changing positions in the vase though no one is touching it.

Props Notes

Script Notes

  • The military adviser who gives Maurice the bad news, is called Philippe.[7]
  • Avonlea, fallen during the Ogre Wars, is two days ride from Maurice's castle.[7]
  • Rumplestiltskin picks up the book that Belle is holding in the opening scene, and opens it, revealing the title "Her Handsome Hero".[7] The book is re-used in "Family Business", where the title is seen for the first time.[12]
  • Mr. Gold collects the rent from The Rabbit Hole and Granny's Diner, before he confiscates Moe French's van. According to the script (and the press release[1]), Mr. Gold's enforcer (only briefly seen in the final episode when the van is taken) is called The Dove.[7] Most of his story was cut from the final episode.[5]
  • The bow on display in Rumplestiltskin's castle[18] is Cupid's bow, while an arrow sitting on display[41] is Apollo's arrow. Also, according to the script, the sword on display[23] is meant to be Excalibur.[7]
    • The script also mentions a few objects that are not in the episode: A feather, a singed broomstick and a magic wand.[7] The wand would later appear in "Lacey".
  • In the script, a messenger dove arrives at Rumplestiltskin's castle, and brings news about the Ogre War: The Ogres have fallen back, and Belle's family is safe. According to Rumplestiltskin, Ogres are superstitious and greedy, and with a few whispers and some gold, "the deal was done". Belle tries to escape by sneaking out the door only to find herself entering the same room though another door at the opposite side of the room. Rumplestiltskin explains to her that he took some magical precautions to prevent her from leaving.[7]
  • As Mary Margaret is spending time at The Rabbit Hole with Ruby and Ashley, David enters the bar. Archie comes over to him and they have a conversation about David's relationship with Kathryn. David opens up to Archie about his feelings for Mary Margaret, and they watch Mary Margaret, Ruby and Ashley as they interact with the guys at the bar. One of them is Billy. David's phone is heard buzzing as he receives a phone call from Kathryn; the sound is reminiscent of a cricket. As he goes outside to answer the phone, Mary Margaret is seen laughing with a guy, but Ruby pulls her aside. Mary Margaret says that she was just having a drink, but Ruby is sure that's not what he thinks.[7]
  • In the original episode script, the Evil Queen invites Belle into her carriage. Through filming the scene, it was discovered the carriage could only fit one person.[5]
  • The jewelled chalice that Rumplestiltskin moves aside is the Holy Grail.[7] This is also stated by Jane Espenson on the DVD commentary.

Filming Locations

Reawakened: A Once Upon a Time Tale

  • During their girls' night at The Rabbit Hole, Ashley wonders if there is anything new with Dr. Whale and Mary Margaret, but Mary Margaret brushes their one-night stand off as a "huge mistake".[43]
  • While Mary Margaret and her friends are at the Rabbit Hole, David sits at the bar with Archie in order to check up on her.[44]

International Titles



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4
  4. Jane Espenson and Robert Carlyle on the Season One DVD Audio Commentary for "Skin Deep"
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 5.12 5.13 Jane Espenson's Season One DVD Audio Commentary for "Skin Deep"
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13
  8. 8.0 8.1
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Robert Carlyle on the Season One DVD Audio Commentary for "Skin Deep"
  11. File:112Table.png
  12. 12.0 12.1 File:406LeaveWithout.png
  14. File:112ExitSign.png
  15. 15.0 15.1 File:112WhatAreYouDoing.png
  16. File:112YouGotTheBook.png
  18. 18.0 18.1 File:112YouEvilSoul.png
  19. Buffy-scythe.jpg
  20. File:112JustPerfect.png
  21. File:112KnockKnock.png
  22. File:112Map.png
  23. 23.0 23.1 File:112WhenYouArrived.png
  24. File:211GoldPhone.png
  25. 25.0 25.1 File:112ImSoSorry.png
  29. Once Upon a Time - Behind the Magic - Page 41. London: Titan Books, October 2013
  31. File:112WhoWasThat.png
  32. File:112ALife.png
  33. File:112ItsAlmostSpring.png
  34. File:112ItsAlmostSpring.png
  35. 35.0 35.1 File:112GoToTown.png
  36. File:112Cards.png
  38. File:112KeepTryingDearie.png
  39. File:201SomeOfMyOwn.png
  40. File:112EQAboutToLeave.png
  41. File:112FetchingScissors.png
  43. Beane, Odette. Reawakened: A Once Upon a Time Tale - Page 184. New York: Hyperion, 2013. Print.
  44. Beane, Odette. Reawakened: A Once Upon a Time Tale - Page 119-120. New York: Hyperion, 2013. Print.

Start a Discussion Discussions about Skin Deep

  • The Holy Grail

    2 messages
    • According to Jane Espenson's script, the jewelled chalice that Rumplestiltskin moves aside in 1x12 "Skin Deep" is the Holy Grail  And now t...
    • Rumple's also been to Camelot, as we know... Can't wait to see that backstory, with Percival and Rumple. Wonder whose place Rumple takes there.
  • Watch With Me: Part 12 - "Skin Deep"

    • This is my favorite episode for season one. For me, it's not about Belle, although I love her in this episode, it's the angst we see in Rumple ...

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