In which we're introduced to Belle's cursed self: a sultry pool hustler known as Lacey

By Hillary Busis
Updated April 30, 2015 at 08:46 PM EDT
Credit: Jack Rowand/ABC

Welcome back, Onceaholics! We’ve officially begun the sprint to season 2’s dramatic conclusion — though tonight’s installment favored character development (and unnecessary new character introductions) over plot propulsion. Rumpbelle fans were undoubtedly fine with that; others may have felt a bit let down by “Lacey,” especially since it aired after three long Once-less weeks. Next week’s Regina-centric ep should get things back on track — and in the meantime, let’s all thank Kitsis and Horowitz for helping to fill in Belle and Rumpelstiltskin’s backstory, which was awfully (albeit necessarily) skimmed over in season 1’s “Skin Deep.”

That episode, which introduced both the francostralian princess and her romance with Rump, revealed that the mismatched pair fell for each other a few months after Beauty became the beast’s live-in-help-slash-captive. Tonight’s episode, in turn, reveals the event that catalyzed that process.

Once upon a time, when a newly imprisoned Belle was still sleeping in Rump’s dungeon, sobbing her heart out every night, and wearing her iconic yellow ballgown every day, a handsome thief broke into the Dark One’s fortress and attempted to steal a magic wand. Though he boasts a bow that always finds its target — and, presumably, the senses and reflexes of a fox — Rump captures the guy anyway, hauling him down to the dungeon for some good, old-fashioned torture. (Could the thief being chained to a wall and threatened with skinning have been a conscious nod to this season of Game of Thrones?)

Belle, being Belle, takes pity on the poor archer and manages to set him free. When he discovers what she’s done, Rump is furious — but he doesn’t retaliate by killing Belle, a fact that doesn’t go unnoticed by the princess (or daughter of a lord, or whatever her title technically is). He does, however, drag her into the woods with him, determined to catch the thief — who has, in fact, made off with one of Rumpelstiltskin’s prized wands. (11 and a half inches, dragon heartstring, surprisingly pliant.)

You know how Past Rump apparently wouldn’t let Belle change out of her formalwear? Well, her present-day self is in even worse shape — though her memory-loss accident happened weeks ago, she’s still being held in the hospital for some reason. Guess oversights like this are common when your doctor’s more interested in corpse reanimation than patient care. All that’s about to change, though, thanks to Rumpelstiltskin, who visits his amnesiac love and tells her that he’ll help her remember her past if she, in turn, will help him be his best self — a necessity if he ever wants to win back Baelfire’s trust. Ladies, who wouldn’t want a fixer-upper like him?

NEXT: Down the Rabbit Hole

It’s all very touching, and this deal might just have led to the recovery of Belle’s lost memories… if not for Regina, who of course sees an opportunity to swoop in and muck everything up. She visits Belle under a pretense of friendliness, then hands the patient an enchanted matchbook that actually does jog the girl’s memory.

There’s just one problem: It’s jogged the wrong set of memories, the fake ones that belonged to Belle’s cursed self. Yes, the girl trapped in Regina’s Cuckoo’s Nest sanitarium apparently had a personality all her own — she knew herself as Lacey, a flirtatious barfly with a penchant for billiards and racy outfits. (Or, at least, as “racy” as you can get during ABC’s family hour.) 28 years of being shut up in that asylum, without access to sequins or tequila shots, must have been a special kind of torture.

Rumpelstiltskin is furious when he finds out what Regina has done. But as the evil queen smugly informs him, there’s just one way he can restore the real Belle — via Twue Wuv’s Kiss, the curse-breaker to end all curse-breakers. And a simple smooch won’t do the trick; as Charming once discovered back in Fairy Land, the kiss won’t work unless its recipient loves its bestower in turn.

Though getting Lacey to find love in Rump rather than the bottom of a bottle seems like a long shot, desperate times call for desperate measures. The imp heads to Granny’s, seeking help from another experienced curse-breaker. And while he’s still sort of mad about the whole Cora thing, Charming agrees to lend his co-grandparent a hand — perhaps because he wants Rump to owe him a favor, or perhaps because he’s in a good mood; the prince has just come back from the outskirts of town, where the dwarfs and Anton the Giant are quietly raising a bumper crop of magic beans. Ah, what a miracle fruit!

With the help of Charming’s expert guidance — “Show her the man she fell in love with!” “Just ask her out!” “Talk a big game about saving her, then immediately get taken out of the fight before it even really begins!” — Rumpelstiltskin manages to get himself a date with Lacey. That very night, the pair meet at Storybrooke’s only restaurant. He’s in his usual dapper attire; she’s clad in a short, tight, backless sequined dress that may well have been designed by Romy and Michele.

And that’s not the only sign of cognitive dissonance between these onetime lovebirds. He orders her a burger, perhaps trying to awaken memories of dates past. She cancels the sandwich and asks instead for a chicken parm and — ha! — an entire bottle of white wine, which she proceeds to pour into the largest glass this side of Big Carl. Still, Rump is keeping hope alive — especially after Lacey nonchalantly says a phrase Belle once recited during their unconventional courtship.

Alas, that moment of euphoria is short-lived. Lacey ducks out to use the bathroom and doesn’t return, prompting Rump to leave the table and hunt her down. He finds her outside Granny’s, being pinned to the wall by a certain beer-guzzler who frequents the same divey bar she loves (called, appropriately, “The Rabbit Hole”). The noble Rump does his best to rescue the fair maiden from her assailant — only to discover that Lacey, um, wanted the dude to ravish her. I feel like she and Jack the Giant Killer would have gotten along juuuust fine.

NEXT: A twisted path to Twue Wuv?

And who, you may ask, is the quasi-dashing man groping Rumpelstiltskin’s true love behind Granny’s? Why, he’s none other than the Sheriff of Rottingham Nottingham, a blustery baddie that old-school Belle and Rump also encountered in the Enchanted Forest while hunting down a certain thief. Here, by the way, is the reveal of that thief’s name, in case you have yet to guess his identity: “Robin Hood. He goes by… Robin Hood!” And unlike some other Robin Hoods, he can speak with an English accent!

Anywho, the Sheriff promises to give Rump information about Robin’s whereabouts if the Dark One gives him a night with “his wench.” Or, you know, just 20 minutes. (Come on, Notty — have some self-respect.) Rump, naturally, responds by magicking out the Sheriff’s tongue and waving it around while giggling manically. That’s one way to turn down an indecent proposal. He and Belle then track down the outlaw, who’s soon joined by a grey-skinned lady who looks to be on the brink of death. Belle gasps that Robin must have stolen the wand only so that he could save his Twue Wuv — and sure enough, as they watch, Mr. Hood restores Maid Marian’s color and brings her back to the land of the living.

Even so, Rump is determined to kill Robin. (Doesn’t he know what the penalty is… FOR STEALING??) But then Belle points out that Marian is pregnant… and the thought of leaving a child fatherless is the only thing powerful enough to assuage Rumpelstiltskin’s rage. He won’t admit that he spared Robin on purpose, but he will accept a grateful hug from Belle, who’s clearly starting to see something there that wasn’t there before. And then Rump goes and gives her a library. Swoon!

Strangely enough — and against all odds — Lacey and present-day Rump may also be on the road to romance. After his date ditches him, the Dark One takes his anger out on poor dumb Nottingham, magically removing his tongue and proceeding to beat him into a pulp. You’ve gotta love family hour! Lacey unexpectedly returns, catching him in the act… but instead of being disgusted and horrified, she’s turned on by how “dark” he is. Uh oh — are these two entering creepy Rump/Cora territory?

This development would no doubt horrify Regina, who’s gone out of her way to make Rumpel unhappy. The evil queen, though, has other things on her mind. After hearing Emma make a vague reference to how Regina may soon “lose Henry for good,” Mayor Mills has an inkling that something is not right. A magical tracking spell confirms her suspicions, leading her all the way to the bean grove…

… a place that may soon be discovered by magic hunters Tamara and Stranger Greg/Owen as well. We still don’t really know what the duo’s M.O. is, but tonight we do learn a few things about them. One: Owen is keeping track of where he’s seen magic performed in town. Two: He’s positive that his father is still somewhere in Storybrooke. And three: His ladylove has brought a special package from New York — a hogtied, de-hooked Hook. Aww yeah — next week’s episode will totally be rated “Arrrrrrr.”

NEXT: Breadcrumbs!


– The whole “a boy will be your undoing” prophecy is still keeping Rump awake at night, though as of now he seems to have put plans to off Henry on hold. (Contain your disappointment.)

– We’ve also got a new development on the “returning to Fairy Land” front — now Snow, too, wants to go back, because she believes that restoring their land is the best way to restore her blackened heart.

– Dark Rump won’t give you a comfortable sleeping surface or a change of clothes, but he will give you a pillow with which you’re welcome to muffle your own agonized sobs. I’d love to see his castle’s Yelp reviews.

– Robin Hood’s bow has been enchanted so that it never misses its target. Who could have given him such a marvelous item, if not Rumpel — a fairy, perhaps?

– As if the naming conventions on this show weren’t confusing enough, Tamara insists on calling Ethan Embry’s character “Greg” — even though we know his real name is Owen. Arrg!

– Any chance that the Rabbit Hole bar is a subtle way for Once to advertise its proposed Wonderland spinoff?

– Regina, after Rump asks what she’s done with Belle: “Do I look like a one-handed pirate with a pistol?” Halloween costume alert!

– Lacey’s a big Van Halen fan. Rump, clearly, is a Journey man. This relationship will never work.

– What do you think happened to Maid Marian’s baby? Was she, like Cinderella, doomed to be pregnant for 28 years? (And can we still call her “maid” in this case?)

– Seriously, why is there exactly one restaurant in Storybrooke? Did Granny have Red eat the competition or something?

– This quote from my couchmate illustrates why you should definitely invite an uninitiated viewer to watch Once with you: “Why is that Australian lady wearing a sequined dress to a diner?”

– Lil’ August and Henry are apparently thick as thieves. Uh oh, I smell preciousness.

– Bae, describing his reluctance to ever go back to the Enchanted Forest: “I didn’t exactly have a fairytale childhood.” That line deserved a rim shot.

Episode Recaps

Once Upon a Time

Everything you’ve ever read about fairy tales is true—the residents of Storybrooke are living proof.

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