'Once Upon a Time': A villain returns, a hero is born in 'Heart of Gold'

'Once Upon a Time': A villain returns, a hero is born in 'Heart of Gold'
Prince Charming (Josh Dallas), Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin), Henry (Jared S. Gilmore), Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) and Hook (Colin O'Donoghue) search for the author in "Once Upon a Time." (Jack Rowand / ABC)

The author has been unveiled, but the problems are just beginning for the heroes and villains of "Once Upon a Time," and the "Heart of Gold" episode also gave us the biggest switcheroo in this mini season so far.

We start with Emma still being really mad at Prince Charming and Snow White, or Mom and Dad. Understandable. The only way they thought they could save and protect her was to curse another kid. Pretty messed up for the Charmings, but they have to find the author in the forest, so these trust issues will have to wait.


Too late. The author's not too bright -- fashioning a magical quill out of a regular tree branch? -- but he knows his fairy tale characters, telling Rumpelstiltskin that he was "quite possibly the biggest pain in the ass I've ever had the displeasure to write about." Knows him well, but Rumpel actually has a magical quill, and the author really wants it. So, as the heroes bear down on the author in the forest, Rumpel spirits him away. Rumpel 1, heroes 0.

Back at his hideout/cabin, it seems that now Rumpel has Regina as his captive as well. Imprisoned with chains, Mr. Gold tells her that he has plans and that she will be instrumetal in helping to turn the savior over to the dark side. She calls him a monster. He knows. "The affection I have for you, well, there are limits."

But then he does something totally unexpected and frees Regina, telling her that she needs to call her true love, Robin Hood, who voluntarily left Storybrooke a little while ago with his son, Roland, and the maid Marion. What's Rumpel going to gain from this phone call?

Flash back to nine weeks ago as Robin, Marion and Roland end up in New York City. Luckily Regina gave them the keys to Baelfire/Neal's old New York apartment. At least they'll have a place to ... oh. Of course. Welcome to New York: Marion's purse is snatched, with the culprit actually getting away on a stolen bicycle. Robin, the hero that he is, goes after the thief. To do that, he had to borrow a Central Park horse. He tackles the guy and tells him there is no honor in stealing from the poor. Wonder where that kernel of morality came from?

Let's find out by having a flashback within a flashback, going back a few more years and into another realm. Sherwood Forest, to be exact. We find a married Robin and Marion in a post-thief life, trying to run a tavern. The merriment is broken up when the Sheriff of Nottingham pays Robin a visit. He needs taxes, or Robin will be thrown into jail. They are due in two days. The opportunistic Rumpel visits at just the right time, offering to help him out of his troubles if he, in his guise as a master thief, would steal something from someone: the elixir of the wounded heart. He has to go to another realm, to do it; a land called Oz.

In New York, Robin, Marion and Roland end up in Baelfire's apartment. But as they settle in, Mr. Gold comes in the door -- this is before he gathered the witches three to assault Storybrooke, etc. Gold gets a bit excited and has a heart attack. The good-natured Robin gets Gold to a hospital, where the doctors say he needs exercise, a better diet ... all the things that a dark lord probably doesn't give much thought to. "My problem isn't physical, it's moral. All the dark deeds I've done."

Gold asks Robin to go find the elixir that he once stole for him. Zelena and her flying monkey, that once dated Emma Swan, had a shop with magical items. You can't create magic in our world, but people can apparently use magical items if they were brought to our realm. A shop with "Wizard" in the title -- how quaint. Robin breaks into the New York store, picking the lock. Nowadays, there are alarms though. He does find the potion that Mr. Gold needs to make himself well and heal his wounded heart. He escapes right as the cops arrive. Back home, Marion doesn't like that he's risking himself for Gold and seems to not be as happy about Robin sticking to his code in this new land and new life.

Speaking of a new land, we flash back to Robin's errand for Rumpel in the past in Oz. The archer "runs into" Will Scarlett once he's transported to Oz. Scarlett warns him against going toe-to-toe with the Wicked Witch, but Robin's got to do what he has to do. Scarlett wants a bit of the potion for himself -- to sell -- if he helps Robin get into the castle. Using a stolen guard's uniform, Robin makes his way into the palace. Once there he fills a vial with the potion, but he's interrupted before he can fill the second. Zelena knew almost right away that it was Rumpelstiltskin's doing. She advanced on Robin, but a trick shot with a golden arrow, a cloud of smoke and a quick escape later, and Robin is back at the portal to his Sherwood Forest. He meets up with Will, who tells him about the death of his sister. Robin deduces that the potion would not have been for Will to sell it but for him to heal his own broken heart. He sneakily leaves the potion with Will. Not sure if Will Scarlett's story about his sister dying in a lake was true, but he told it well enough to convince Robin.

Back in New York, though, he brings the potion he stole from the shop to Gold, leaving it with him under the direction that he leaves Robin and his family alone. Gold agrees and drinks the potion. It doesn't work, because it's just cough syrup. Marion switched the potion! What's she ... Marion is actually the Wicked Witch! Zelena explains that she killed Marion when Emma brought her back from the past after escaping Rumpel's vault, and she's been biding her time ever since -- using a charm from Oz to change her appearance since she can't actually use magic in New York City. Her, um, wicked speech about what she'd done as Gold lay dying was great. A knock on the chest as he flatlines -- just mean.

But doctors save him. Zelena, though, is not done talking about her evil plan. She tried to corrupt Robin, but it's not working, even as Marion. True love might be blocking her. No, instead she'll join Rumpel's plan to find the author and get her happy ending rewritten, provided he makes a deal that once he finds the author, he has to give her a happy ending as well. He makes the deal.

Before embarking on his plan to find Ursula and Cruella, Gold gives Robin advice about grasping his happiness. If he knows he has true love, and he knows where that lies, he needs to go there. He's basically warning Robin about Zelena in not so many words. But it falls on deaf ears, and he goes back to rekindle his love with Marion, saying that she once gave up everything for him and he'll do the same for her.

That "giving up everything" moment happened in the past in Sherwood Forest. As the Sheriff came to collect the taxes owed the kingdom, Robin got his friends together and robbed the lawman, giving all of the tax money he'd taken back to the people. He realized that being a hoodlum, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor, made him a hero. Robin of Loxsley was transformed into Robin Hood, and Marion stayed by his side anyway.

Continued from the beginning, Regina calls Robin to see how he is outside of Storybrooke per Gold's instructions -- and Zelena answers the phone. Regina is horrified to know that she's back and even worse so that she is disguised and living with her true love. Rumpel blackmails Regina, telling her that she will help him or he will tell Zelena to kill Robin. Gold asks the once Evil Queen for her final answer.

Next week, we get a glimpse into the pschye, and probably the history, of Cruella De Vil.