Skin Deep
Season 1, Episode 12
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Airdate February 12, 2012
Written by Jane Espenson
Directed by Milan Cheylov
Episode Guide
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
What Happened to Frederick
Skin Deep is the twelfth episode of the American fairy tale/drama television series Once Upon a Time. The series takes place in the fictional seaside town of Storybrooke, Maine, in which the residents are actually characters from various fairy tales that were transported to the "real world" town by a powerful curse. In this episode, Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) suspects Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle) is planning to seek vigilante justice when a cat burglar (Eric Keenleyside) robs his house. Meanwhile, Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) plans a special girls' night out on Valentine's Day with Ruby (Meghan Ory) and Ashley (Jessy Schram), and a fateful deal made between Rumpelstiltskin (Carlyle) and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) is revealed – in which she gives up her freedom to save her village from the horrors of the Ogre Wars.

The episode was written by consulting producer Jane Espenson and directed by Milan Cheylov. It featured the first appearance of de Ravin, who was cast as Belle in November 2011 after being approached by series co-creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz. Espenson created a love-themed episode; initially its main theme was to focus on Rumpelstiltskin choosing power over love, but during the writing process Espenson decided to make him instead believe that he was not worthy of love at all.

"Skin Deep" first aired in the United States on ABC on February 12, 2012. A novelization of "Skin Deep" was released in 2013.


Opening sequence

A straw spinning wheel is shown in the forest.

Event chronology

  • The Storybrooke events of this episode occur immediately after the events of "Fruit of the Poisonous Tree".
  • The Enchanted Forest events of this episode take place immediately after "Family Business", and also before and after the events of "Lacey".

In the Characters' Past

In The Enchanted Forest, the Ogre Wars continue but are not going well for the lands controlled by Sir Maurice (Eric Keenleyside). Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) arrives and agrees to aid the battle in exchange for Maurice's daughter, Belle (Emilie de Ravin) to be his servant. Belle's fiancée, Gaston (Sage Brocklebank), and her father are against the terms but Belle agrees. At his castle, Rumpelstiltskin gives Belle a list of tasks, including skinning the children that he hunts for their pelts. At this Belle drops and chips a teacup in shock, but he explains that it is a joke and doesn't mind about the chipped cup. As time goes by, Rumpelstiltskin and Belle develop a strong bond with each other. After a few months of living with him, Belle asks the dark one why she found children's clothing upstairs. Rumpelstiltskin tells her it belonged to his son whom he unfortunately lost along with his wife. Gaston arrives to take Belle back but Rumpelstiltskin turns him into a rose and presents it to her as a gift. When asked about Gaston, Belle says that it was an arranged marriage, not one of love. She left him because she wanted to be heroic and there are not many chances for women to be heroic. Rumpelstiltskin asks Belle to go into town to buy more straw, and she cannot believe he trusts her to come back. Rumpelstiltskin says he does not expect to see her again.

As Belle is walking down the road, she runs into The Evil Queen (Lana Parrilla), who asks her if she is running from someone. Belle admits the man she is leaving is overcome by evil yet she loves him. The Evil Queen offers the solution: true love's kiss will break the curse. Belle returns to Rumpelstiltskin's castle and the Dark one asks why she came back to him. She replies that she wasn't going to return but something changed her mind. After a moment of silence between the two, they both share true love's kiss, the magic starts to turn him back into an ordinary man, but becomes furious and shakes off the magic, accusing Belle of conspiring with The Evil Queen. Rumpelstiltskin yells in a rage that no one will love him, and The Evil Queen will never take away his power. He throws Belle in his dungeon and smashes every cup against the wall but he cannot bring himself to destroy the chipped one. Once he has cooled off, he tells Belle to leave because his powers are more important to him than she is. Belle admonishes him for not believing she can love him. She warns him that he will regret his actions when all he has is an empty heart and a chipped cup.

A month later, The Evil Queen appears; Rumpelstiltskin says that her deception with Belle failed, and that The Evil Queen will never be more powerful than him. She then tells him that she had nothing to do with Belle's actions (even though she prodded her, Belle's feelings were real) and informs him that upon Belle's return to her home, she had been shunned by her village for her association with Rumpelstiltskin and Gaston's disappearance and was subsequently imprisoned and tortured by her father. She eventually killed herself, leaping off the tower she was kept prisoner in. Rumpelstiltskin is devastated and replaces a treasured gold chalice with the chipped cup and weeps over his loss.

In Storybrooke

In the present day, Mr. Gold (Carlyle) repossesses florist Moe French's (Keenleyside) van the day before Valentine's Day. At Granny's Cafe, David (Josh Dallas) and Mary Margaret (Ginnifer Goodwin) talk from separate tables, until Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) interrupts to ask about Henry (Jared S. Gilmore). Ashley (Jessy Schram) arrives with her baby, noting how rarely she gets a babysitter or sees her boyfriend, Sean (Tim Phillipps). Ruby (Meghan Ory) suggests a girl's night out. Emma investigates a robbery of Mr. Gold's home, who says he knows that Moe is responsible, seeking revenge for the repossession. Emma recovers the majority of Mr. Gold's items but one thing is missing and he will stop at nothing until it is recovered. He kidnaps Moe, ties him up and beats him, demanding where it is. However, he soon starts saying "she's gone," referring to Belle, until Emma arrives to stop him. Mr. Gold believes Regina (Parrilla) put Moe up to the theft and she knows where the last stolen item is. Emma still has to arrest Mr. Gold for kidnapping and assault.

Elsewhere, during their girls night out, Ruby is trying to convince Ashley to find another guy since Sean is always working. Ashley tells Mary Margaret that all she wants is to be with Sean. Mary Margaret understands since her own romantic arrangement is not ideal. Sean shows up on a break from work and proposes to Ashley; she accepts and they go out for a drive. David shows up next to give Mary Margret her Valentine, but mistakenly gives her Kathryn's. Mary Margaret says she thought if two people were meant to be together they would find a way, but maybe she and David need another way. She tells him he should probably go home.

At the sheriff's office, Mr. Gold reminds Emma about the favor she owes him but he does not use it to ask for his freedom. Regina shows up and tells Emma that she can see Henry for only 30 minutes if she will allow her to visit Mr. Gold. He asks Regina if she has what he wants and she in fact does. Regina put Moe up to the robbery because she wants Mr. Gold to say his real name. After some prodding he admits his name is Rumpelstiltskin and addresses Regina as "Your Majesty," confirming that both are aware of their alternate identities. Regina returns the chipped cup to Mr. Gold then makes a visit to the hospital. She goes to see Belle's counterpart, who did not die in the Enchanted Forest, but is now being held prisoner in the hospital's mental ward.

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