‘Once Upon A Time’ S1 Ep 8 recap: Is a ‘Desperate Soul’ a soul for sale?

S1 Ep 8
Robert Carlyle is brilliant as Rumple. (Photo credit: ABC)

Last night ‘Once Upon A Time’ returned with fabulous ratings as over 10 million fans tuned in to discover Rumpelstiltskin’s origins. As we all found out, one of the greatest surprises from “Desperate Souls” is the parallel between Rumpy’s Fairytale past and Emma’s Storybrooke present and possible future.

Fairytale Land: “I know how to recognize a desperate soul.”

Before becoming the gold-plated, deal-making deceiver we know him to be, Rumpy was just a father trying to provide the best life possible for his son, Baelfire. In his kingdom, the Duke enforces a law, which dictates that a child must be taken from one’s family on his/her 13th birthday in order to serve the kingdom and the “Dark One.” Rumpy ran away from his duties when he was young, causing him to be ridiculed by his peers and abandoned by his wife. Nonetheless, on the eve of Baelfire’s birthday, Rumple takes his child and makes a run for it.

While sneaking off into the woods, they give what they can to an old beggar before being confronted by the Duke’s malicious dark knight. He scoffs at Rumpy, teasing him as “the man who ran,” a meek “hobble foot,” and “spindle shanks” who allowed his countrymen to be attacked by Ogres when he cowardly fled. The knight agrees to let his son go if Rumpy bows down and kisses his boot, so he swallows his pride and takes a knee. Suddenly, the old beggar comes to Rumpy’s rescue and offers him some advice.

The beggar explains how the Duke has a dagger that gives him control over the almighty “Dark One;” if Rumpy steals the dagger, then he will have the power. Although Baelfire is hesitant, Rumple makes his decision; he sets the castle on fire and grabs the dagger. He summons the all-powerful Zosso who appears and warns Rumple to wield the dagger’s power wisely. Then he reveals the twist – the “Dark One” is none other than the beggar who set Rumpy’s plan into motion.

Rumpy is stunned and wonders how this can be; the beggar simply says, “I know how to recognize a desperate soul.” Zosso warns him that magic comes with a price (quite the recurring theme) and in this case, the cost is Rumpy’s soul. Rumple stabs the “Dark One” and as the power transfers through the dagger, Rumpelstiltskin’s name becomes engraved on his weapon of enslavement.

When the dark knight returns for Baelfire, he mocks Rumpy until he recognizes how much has changed. Now the knight kisses Rumple’s boots, while Rumpy declares, “I’m not scared…I’m protecting what belongs to me!” Rumple kills the remaining soldiers without hesitation as his son looks upon him with fear and disappointment in his eyes.

Rumple sold his soul to save Baelfire’s life, but maybe his sacrifice cost him even more than he expected – his son’s love and respect.

Storybrooke: “Never underestimate someone acting for her child.”

The story picks up two weeks after Sheriff Graham’s death and the town is in need of new law enforcement. Mr. Gold tells Emma that the Deputy automatically becomes the next Sheriff and offers his support when Regina unjustly fires her in attempt to secure Sydney as the next Sheriff. Mr. Gold explains how having a common enemy can bring them closer, especially since Regina is not as powerful as she thinks she is. Mr. Gold becomes Emma’s benefactor and insists that the town charter’s terms be upheld, meaning the townspeople are entitled to vote for their sheriff and all Regina can do is support her chosen candidate. Let the mudslinging begin!

Sydney’s campaign reveals that Henry was born in jail, causing the boy to urge his mom to proceed with caution. Ironically, the youngest one in town has the most wisdom at times like this. He says Regina plays dirty, that is how Evil always beats Good and it will never be a fair fight. He also warns her not to owe Mr. Gold anymore favors because he is even worse than Regina.

Emma pays Regina a visit for another one of their face-to-face catty chats when the building suddenly catches on fire. Emma emerges from the flames as a hero, carrying Regina out to safety. Our favorite townspeople rally around her as good seemingly conquers evil, until Emma realizes that Mr. Gold started the fire.

Emma confronts Gold saying that this is not the price she is willing to pay to win the election. At the debate she confesses running for Sheriff in order to prove to Henry that good can win, but to be good, she must also be honest. She exposes Gold as the arsonist and apologizes for what happened. Afterwards, Henry praises her for being a true hero by simply telling the truth about Gold and he reinstates “Operation Cobra.” It turns out that the truth not only sets you free, but it wins you an election in Storybrooke.

Sydney and Regina congratulate her on the win, but she also warns Emma that gold makes a “superlative enemy.” With that said, Mr. Gold approaches Emma, revealing that his real plan worked. The town needs someone who will stand up to the bad guy; Gold gave her “a higher form of bravery,” which made her an even greater hero. He knew how she would act for Henry’s sake, but once again the actions of a “desperate soul” will come at a price – with Emma as Sheriff, she will be able to repay Mr. Gold with an even bigger favor.

What did you think of “Desperate Souls”? Were you surprised by Rumpy’s past? Do you think Baelfire will desert his father, causing him to become the dark force we have come to know? Do you Emma might be destined for a similar fate by being indebted to Mr. Gold? Share your thoughts below!


  • Raphael Sbarge is so charmingly funny as Archie – “Wow! Crickets”
  • Robert Carlyle truly shines in this role, even if he is the bad guy, you can’t help but like him.
  • Nice tie in with the sheep’s wool and stinky coating from Fairytale to Storybrooke.

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