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Once Upon a Time Recap: 4×19 “Sympathy for the De Vil”

This week’s Once Upon a Time offering was heavy on Cruella De Vil backstory. While it cleared up many questions regarding how Cruella came to possess magic enough to be included in the show, it also raised several about how time works in different realms. We’re left with some unanswered questions regarding how and “when” the Author can travel. I say “questions.” I actually mean continuity issues.

In standard Disney style, we find via flashback that Cruella is most likely the product of the ministrations of an evil mother or stepmother. Now that her father is gone, she’s threatened and locked in an attic room at a young age. 

Cut to present day where Cruella is enjoying the freedoms of driving along Storybrooke’s winding backroads. She nearly runs down Maleficent, who has come to confront Cruella about her daughter, Lily. Apparently Cruella lied to Mal about Lily not surviving her journey to this world. Without apology, Cruella explains that she herself is a really terrible person and she left the baby in the woods to die. And in a really sociopathic moment she explains that she and Ursula took the egg along with them, but not the baby, and the egg’s magic helped them stay young.

Maleficent changes into her six story tall dragon form, full of fire and brimstone. But Cruella breathes something green towards her.

Trip Advisor says: Try the garlic white at Granny’s!

Cruella says she’s often underestimated and now that the Author is here today is the day she gets hers. Then she tells the dragon to lie down and take a nap, which it does. Cruella drives off leaving the dragon snoozing in the road.

Cue the title card with dozens of dalmatians!

Wait up, guys! This tree smells like pee!

Mary Margaret, David, Emma, and Killian return to the Charming’s apartment. Emma demands her parents try harder to remember something about the Author that could help in finding him. They insist that they’ve told her all they know and Mary Margaret says she realizes that Emma is still upset. Emma says they’ve always championed the heroic way to do things. David insists that what they did to Mal’s child was the only option to ensure Emma came out “good.” Mary Margaret says that Emma’s disdain for their choice is proof that what they did was worth it.

Regina enters and says she’s got to go rescue Robin Hood (PS, who we don’t see all episode so don’t get your hopes up). She explains how she called the number Emma gave her, but that Marian isn’t herself. She’s really Zelena. Regina admits that she doesn’t know how it’s possible that her sister has been masquerading around as Marian this entire time. Regina adds that Gold’s been in on it with Zelena for a while, so she needs to go to New York and rescue Robin immediately. Killian reminds her Gold’s not going to let her go easily, but Regina assures that she knows how to handle him.

Regina appears at the pawn shop and startles Belle.

“Ok, seriously, why do I even have a door with a bell on it if people are just going to magic their way in here?”
“Ok, seriously, why do I even have a door with a bell on it if people are just going to magic their way in here?”

Regina states that Belle’s ex-husband has “done quite a number” on her late, and Belle asks how she can help. This is a totally useless scene in my opinion, only serving to remind a newer viewer that Belle and Gold were once married. Regina doesn’t really need to ask Belle for help with what she’s planning.

Meanwhile Gold is ushering the Author into his cabin. Reminder, this takes place within about a half hour of the beginning of the previous episode’s opening when Gold magicked the Author out of the forest before Emma and company could find him.

The Author, who mentions by-the-way his name is Isaac (but who will henceforth be referred to as “the Author” out of tradition), goes on about how Gold’s cabin makes him feel like Hemingway or Thoreau, and Gold asks if he always talks this much. The Author admits only when he’s nervous, then reminds Gold he still has his quill, which is worthless without ink. Gold assures him he’s planning on obtaining some very soon, but the Author scoffs. Without going into much needed detail, Gold says once he turns the Savior dark, “everything he needs will fall into place.”

 The Author notes that Gold’s associates have a penchant for fur and perfume, and he ever so creepily sniffs at Cruella’s stole left on the hook on the back of the door.

"What do you expect? I've been trapped in a book for 30 years!"
“What do you expect? I’ve been trapped in a book for 30 years!”

Gold gets distracted as though he’s heard the ice cream truck, then tells the Author something’s come up and to stay put until he returns. *poof!* Purple smoke!

In the forest, Belle is summoning Rumpelstiltskin over the Wishing Well, which has the power to return something that has been lost. Gold, looking hopeful but nervous, immediately appears and Belle reminds him what he told her on their wedding day, how she chased all the darkness out of him. She asks for the truth for once in her life. She inquires as to why he’s in Storybrooke and if it’s to win her back. But he says it’s more complicated than that and pulls out his own heart from his chest.

It’s actually just HAL 9000 from a Space Odyssey. 

It’s completely black except for one small glowing red spot. He explains that centuries of dark deeds have left their toll on his soul, and once the last flicker goes out he will be left unable to love ever again, though he will not die. This is why he’s back in Storybrooke. To use use the Author to fix his story to save whatever good there is left in him. Belle says she understands and Gold looks hopeful. Perhaps, she wonders, she threw out the chipped cup too soon? They kiss and all is right with the world.

Until Belle says that Will’s a better kisser. Also that Gold is pathetic, like a dog begging for scraps. What’s left of Gold’s heart totally breaks as she tears into him. He says this isn’t like her, but Regina, carrying Belle’s heart and controlling her every move, appears. She dismisses Belle with an order to forget everything that’s happened in the forest. Gold assures Regina that he will make her suffer for this. But Regina is like, “Nah, bro, I got your woman’s heart, so you’re gonna do what I say or Imma squish it!” Gold acquiesces as Regina gives it a little squeeze. Regina informs him that she’s going to New York, and if he breathes a word of warning to Zelena he won’t be the only one who loses a heart.

Back at the cabin, Cruella arrives. She makes it abundantly clear that she and the Author have a history, calling him by name. She demands that he give back what she took, but the Author simply says he can’t, sorry. He reminds her that even with all her magic, she doesn’t have enough power to hurt him. Cruella talks about how he’ll pay for making her what she is, but the Author realizes that Rumpelstiltskin has no idea they know each other, so Cruella must have lied to Rumple. If that’s the case, she’d better leave before he gets back.

Finally we see a grown up Cruella in her attic room, surrounded by modern magazines, listening to some dance music on the radio.

“Oh, Johnny Fever, you’re so groovy!”

Her mother storms in and yanks the radio away, saying she stole it from her. Cruella begs to be let out of the house, but the dogs start barking and her mother tells her to stay quiet as she goes to answer the door.

The Author is at the door and introduces himself as a newspaper man looking for interesting stories. Though Mrs. De Vil rebuffs him, his charm gets him in. He asks about her dog training abilities, which he’s heard sound like magic. His attention turns to the portraits hanging in the sitting room. After some unintentionally insensitive comments about her having three husbands, Mrs. De Vil yanks his notebook away from him, accuses him of never being in love himself, and throws the notebook and the Author out of her house, suggesting that he write his own story instead of leeching off other people’s pain.

“It’s not the longest game of ‘Guess Who?’ ever built, but after the cotillion season I plan on expanding it into the drawing room.”

Leaning out her attic window, Cruella entices the Author with her story. But if he wants to hear it, she says, he’ll have to get her out of the attic first.

Back in Storybrooke, Henry runs into Pongo outside of his house. Pongo runs off and Henry follows him to an ally. Cruella rolls up and tells Henry to get in the car.

In her attic, Cruella opens her window to find the key on the sill. She sneaks out to find the Author in the garden. He tells her he has his ways of getting things done. She asks to go somewhere loud to tell her story as she’s been in the attic for years, never being allowed visitors. The Author shows Cruella his car, the signature black and white coup present day Cruella owns.

In a roaring ‘20s dance and gin hall, the Author treats Cruella to a drink (an apparently a new dress). Cruella tells him her mother doesn’t let her out because she’s afraid Cruella will tell people her dark secret, that she killed all her husbands. Cruella’s favorite song comes on, and she gets the Author to dance with her, saying “Tonight, let’s live!”

Regina is packing a stylish bag into her trunk when Emma arrives and questions if she’s sure she ought to go to New York alone. She worries this whole thing is a trap, but Regina says she has no choice. Emma is concerned that Regina won’t have magic, so she gives her her own gun for protection, saying that she hopes she won’t have to use it.

“I know you have no training, or a permit, but have fun transporting this over a couple of state lines. “

Both the women’s phones alert them to a video message from Henry. He shows them that Cruella has him hostage until they kill the Author. Regina and Emma share a look only co-mothers could share.

Gold returns to the cabin and confronts the Author about his reunion with Cruella. It seems that their past dealings with each other isn’t just relevant but essential to Gold’s plans. Cruella is so desperate to destroy the Author that she’s kidnapped the Savior’s son. Gold says he’s observed this through his crystal ball, which I don’t think we’ve seen once this season, if at all ever. That is …. SO convenient.

The Author thinks that Gold will have the Savior kill him to turn her dark, but Gold says he wouldn’t risk a new author who couldn’t be manipulated so easily taking this one’s place. Gold demands to know why Cruella is trying to kill him. The Author pulls out something he wrote about her. Gold reads it then smirks with understanding.

Back on the Holodeck at the club, the sun is up and Cruella and the Author are still dancing.

I feel like Picard and Guinan should be dancing in the background.

Cruella wishes the night would never end, and the Author says he might have a way to make that happen. He sits her down and shows her his quill and ink, then explains how he travels across realms of storytelling. He asks Cruella what year it is, but she can’t answer. He goes on to talk about how they currently aren’t in a time, but a realm of story, and that there are many. The pen and ink are magical and they can help him change stories. To prove it, he writes something with the pen and ink and a diamond necklace and earrings appear on Cruella. He says he can make it so her mother’s dogs can’t hurt her, and writes “Cruella is able to control the actions of any and all animals she desires.” Immediately Cruella feels the magic working. Thought the Author wants to leave with her tonight for another land, Cruella insists that she confront her mother first, and needs to do it alone. He gives her the keys to his car, saying that it’s hers now. She kisses a cocktail napkin and leaves her lip prints for him as a token until she returns.

In the Charming’s apartment, they, Emma, Killian, and Regina plot how they will rescue Henry.

“Ok, this is Operation Rescue Henry #17. Please consult your notes. We’ll be using the standard format. I’ll use some dark magic; Emma, you stop me for my own good and reason with the enemy; Charmings, you stand by and do nothing because Emma needs to believe in herself and do this on her own; Killian, have some positive affirmations ready for after Emma succeeds. Also, draw fire.”

David narrows down their location to near the Toll Bridge. While Regina says she don’t mind making Cruella suffer, Emma is concerned about going in guns a-blazing and hurting Henry. David suggests a locator spell done on the Author’s flask might work, and Emma tells them to get on that and prepares to leave. Mary Margaret says she knows that Emma’s still mad at them, but to stop avoiding them. Emma counters that with Henry’s life on the line, she needs to be with people she trusts, and she simply doesn’t trust them.

On their way to the Toll Bridge. Regina, dressed in a lighter, totally-not-evil beige, tries to talk some sense into Emma, who is starting to look more disheveled as the toll of her parents’ lies wear on her. Killian appeals to her compassion and ability to see past his and Regina’s darkness. But Emma explains that the difference is he and Regina aren’t hypocrites and were always honest about who they were. But Killian reminds her that even heroes still make mistakes. Regina tells Emma her mother has been trying to make up for her sins for a very long time, but Emma is only focused on saving Henry.

Out in the forest Cruella is distracted and Henry escapes. Cruella sends Pongo after him.

In the past the Author answers his hotel room door thinking it will be Cruella. But her mother and dogs are there, all snarling. Mrs. De Vil demands to know why they were together. The Author confronts her about killing her husbands, but her mother reveals how Cruella, “A troubled little girl,” killed all three of her husbands, poisoning them with her favorite trumpet flower. She warns that Cruella takes the things you care about and destroys them. She leaves in tears and the Author tries to explain away everything she’s said. But once he realizes his magical quill is missing, he realizes he may have been wrong about everything.

Upon returning home, Mrs. De Vil encounters Cruella, who turns her own dogs against her.

Out in the Storybrooke woods, Henry is being chased by Pongo. Emma, Regina, and Killian all hear his calling from three different directions so they split up. Gold has enchanted conch shells to call out Henry’s voice, and he watches from behind a tree. The real Henry is encounters a cliff, then is grabbed by a gun-toting Cruella. Emma arrives, but Cruella holds the gun on Henry.

Back in her attic, Cruella is furiously sewing when the Author arrives. Cruella stands up and pulls on the coat she’s been sewing to reveal a Dalmatian fur coat.

Once again, Disney takes evil to a whole new level.

The Author struggles with Cruella over the quill. The ink goes flying, magically encircling Cruella and dying her hair with a trademark black streak. The Author is horrified but continues to write. As Cruella pulls a gun on him, she’s devastated to find she physically can’t fire the gun.

The Charmings burst into the cabin and confront the Author. He says he never wanted to hurt Emma, only protect the world from Cruella. He couldn’t see the end to this story, he insists. When pressed by Mary Margaret, he says this story ends with the Savior turning dark. He shows David the last thing he ever wrote about Cruella, which is that she can no longer take away the life of another. He says Henry is in no danger. But Emma doesn’t know this. Gold wants her to kill a defenseless person to turn her dark.

Cruella, who is holding her gun on Henry though she knows she can’t use it, berates Emma for not killing the Author for her. Emma demands she let Henry go as she raises her hands to use magic. Though Cruella says she’s bluffing, Emma reminds her that’s her son. Cruella says heroes don’t kill, but is cut off as Emma knocks her off the cliff. The spell over Pongo breaks. Although she’s saved her son, Emma has taken a life.

“Can people please stop kidnapping my son?!?!


What do you think of the magic of the egg keeping Cruella and Ursula young?

If Regina was speaking Belle’s every word, how did she know about the tea cup?

Do you think Emma is evil now, or just really tired?


All screen captures are property of ABC.

ABC. “Images,” April 12, 2015. Television. April 13, 2015.

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