"The Return" is the nineteenth episode of Season One of ABC's Once Upon a Time. It was written by Jane Espenson and directed by Paul Edwards. It is the nineteenth episode overall, and premiered on April 22, 2012.
Mr. Gold attempts to uncover the true identity of August, Emma confronts Regina about her involvement in Kathryn's disappearance, and David tries to apologize and reconcile with Mary Margaret. Meanwhile, in the fairytale land that was, Rumplestiltskin agrees to comply and do whatever it takes if his son can find a way for him to safely give up his powers and turn back into the loving man he used to be.
In Storybrooke, August Booth wakes up experiencing a terrible pain in his leg. He falls from his bed and hobbles over to the phone. He dials the rotary phone in his room and speaks to an unknown person. He says they need to move the plan along faster.
Later, August sends Henry Mills into Mr. Gold's shop. Henry asks for a gift for Mary Margaret Blanchard and says he thinks she would like a bell. This gives August time to sneak in through the back door, but Mr. Gold catches him. August backpedals by claiming he is looking for maps, and Mr. Gold directs him to the front of the shop.
Emma Swan goes to see Kathryn Nolan who is in the hospital. Kathryn says she does not really remember anything, but a few events such as being in the car crash, being surrounded by darkness in a basement, food and drink appearing for her, and she assumes she was drugged. Dr. Whale confirms they are trying to detoxify her of the drugs. Emma tells Kathryn that everyone believed she was dead, because of the heart in Mary Margaret's jewelry box matching Kathryn's DNA. There is now an investigation as to who doctored the DNA results to frame Mary Margaret.
Regina Mills is upset about Mr. Gold breaking their deal. He claims he never broke it as "something tragic" happening to Kathryn was all that Regina asked for, and kidnapping is tragic. Holding a ball, Mr. Gold reveals that he has broken only one deal in his life, and it was not this one. Regina realizes that Mr. Gold set her up and that all the evidence such as the forged DNA test and planted key will trace back to her. Regina questions why he made the curse bringing them all to Storybrooke for her in the first place, and he tells her to figure it out.
In the Enchanted Forest, Baelfire is playing with the ball we saw Mr. Gold holding in his shop. He chases the ball and nearly gets run over by a cart. The driver is angry at him, but stops once he realizes who Baelfire is. He then tries to make up for the accident by offering him eggs. Rumplestiltskin shows up, frightening the driver. Baelfire tries to calm his father down by saying that he is alright, but after seeing a cut on Baelfire's knee, Rumplestiltskin turns the man into a snail then stamps on him despite Baelfire's pleas.
In Storybrooke, David Nolan visits Kathryn and tries to kiss her forehead while she is sleeping, but instead startles her. He apologizes for lying and cheating. Kathryn tells David that their relationship was not meant to be and says it was not his fault that he was just the first one to recognize it.
Back at Mary Margaret's apartment, there is a party for her, celebrating her freedom from her legal entanglement. Henry has brought her a bell as a gift. Henry asks August if he found what he was looking for. Although his search was unsuccessful, he believes "it" will find him. David shows up at the door, but Mary Margaret signals for Emma to turn him away. Emma tells David to walk Henry home. Emma is asked by Mr. Gold what she knows about August. She says "not much", but then asks if he had anything to do with Kathryn's "magical" return, but he changes the subject. She doesn't know if he is working for Regina or against her.
In the Enchanted Forest, Rumplestiltskin and Baelfire return home where tries to heal his son's knee with magic, but Baelfire refuses and brings out healing items. He tells his father that people are afraid to even talk to him. He asks his father if he can get rid of his power. Rumplestiltskin shows Baelfire the dagger he already knows about and explains his powers can disappear only if someone kills him with it. Their mute maid Onora overhears them talking. Baelfire asks if he would give up the power if he could find a way to get rid of it, because he wants his father to return to his old self. Realizing how much he wants his son to be happy, they strike a deal in which if Baelfire can find a way to get rid of Rumplestiltskin's powers, he will give it up for Baelfire's sake.
In Storybrooke, Mr. Gold breaks into August's room and finds a drawing of the dagger with Rumplestiltskin's name on it. Emma meets with Sidney Glass, and she confronts him with the bug he used to spy on her to aid Regina. Emma realizes that he is in love with Regina, which would explain his loyalty to her. She gives him an ultimatum—he can either free himself from trouble by helping her or go down with Regina. Later, Mr. Gold watches August speed off on his motorcycle and follows him behind in his car.
Meanwhile, in the Enchanted Forest, Rumplestiltskin leaves Baelfire to play with some other children while he attends to business in the woods, but the children all run away. Morraine sits down with Baelfire and says that she is not afraid of him. They talk about Rumplestiltskin's power and how to get rid of it. She suggests he call upon the "Reul Ghorm" she has heard about because her magic is more powerful than his father's. Morraine leaves when Rumplestiltskin returns a moment later. Baelfire notices blood on his boots. Rumplestiltskin admits to killing their maid, because she had previously seen the dagger. This outrages Baelfire, who protests she was a mute woman and would have not been able to tell anyone about it. Rumplestiltskin replies that even mutes can draw a picture.
In Storybrooke, August visits the convent to speak with Mother Superior. After August leaves, Mr. Gold confronts her about their conversation. She tells him he is in town looking for his estranged father, but they have not spoken yet.
In the Enchanted Forest, Baelfire summons Reul Ghorm in the woods. The blue fairy appears and offers him her assistance. He explains his situation, and she says that she cannot change Rumplestiltskin back, but she can send him to a place without magic, where his father would return to being the man he once was. She gives Baelfire a magic bean that will save them both, but it is the last one and will only work once.
In Storybrooke, David tries to talk to Mary Margaret on the street and apologizes for his actions. She expresses her disappointment in his lack of belief in her innocence and says that they cannot move forward. She believes there is something keeping them apart and does not want the bad moments to erase the good ones. David proclaims his love for her, but she says that his love is exactly what makes the whole situation so sad.
In the Enchanted Forest, Rumplestiltskin spins gold in his home when Baelfire returns and tells him about the bean. He asks if he has heard of Reul Ghorm whom he recognizes as the Blue Fairy. Rumplestiltskin says that fairy magic does not mix with his magic. Baelfire reminds him of their deal and says that he promised and is not backing out.
In Storybrooke, Mr. Gold goes to see Archie Hopper, much to his surprise. He tells Hopper about August, who he believes is his son. He says that isn't sure, but that he is afraid that his son still may be angry with him and wonders if he has come to kill him. Archie tells him to be honest with his son and ask for forgiveness. August is out by Mr. Gold's cabin in the woods, and the two meet. Mr. Gold says he knows who he is to which August replies that the lying can stop and calls him "Papa."
In the Enchanted Forest, Rumplestiltskin has second thoughts about living in a world without magic and giving up his newfound power. Baelfire throws the bean, and a portal opens. Baelfire goes to the edge and holds out his hand to his father, but Rumplestiltskin backs out of their deal. He tries to keep Baelfire from getting sucked into the portal and uses his dagger as an anchor, but in the end, he lets go of his son. Baelfire calls him a coward before disappearing. Realizing his mistake, he tries to dig into the ground to get to him with no luck.
Back in Storybrooke, Mr. Gold apologizes to August and confesses that he never should have let him go. He tells August he has been looking for him ever since and asks him to be the bigger man and forgive him. The two embrace, and August sobs that he forgives him. August says that he was looking for the dagger, because if his father had it then he would not have changed. Mr. Gold tells him that he buried the dagger so Regina would not find out. He leads August to the buried dagger, and offers it to him to destroy, saying that he does not need it anymore. August takes the knife, but points it toward Mr. Gold and tries to use an incantation against him to control the power of the Dark One. Mr. Gold is livid at the betrayal and realizes this person is not his son, as Baelfire would know that the dagger would not have power in this world.
Mr. Gold questions August about who he is and recognizes he must be from the Enchanted Forest. August says that a little fairy told him about the dagger and who Mr. Gold really is. Mr. Gold threatens to kill August, and asks why he would risk death to confront him, knowing who he really is. Pinned against a tree by Mr. Gold, August tells him he is sick with a terminal illness and needs magic. He is trying to get Emma to believe in magic, but he fears he does not have enough time. Mr. Gold allows August to live to continue to try to convince Emma, scoffing that either way, he will eventually die.
In the Enchanted Forest, Rumplestiltskin is still in the woods when he calls for the Blue Fairy. When she arrives, he asks if there is another way to get to the world Baelfire is in. He mentions a curse which the Blue Fairy acknowledges, but she tells him he cannot pull it off, because the price is higher than he can imagine. However, he vows to find a way. He blames her for taking away his son, but she tells him that he drove Baelfire away himself. Rumplestiltskin vows to not rest, until he creates the curse and finds Baelfire.
In Storybrooke, Regina meets Emma at the Sheriff Department under the pretense of giving her a confession. Then she calls Sidney in, who goes into detail about everything: the kidnapping, the framing of Mary Margaret, and faking the DNA results, because he had hoped he would get his job back with the newspaper. Emma does not buy his confession and asks to speak with Regina privately in the hallway. She believes that Sidney is protecting Regina, because he is in love with her, and she is furious with Regina for allowing someone else to take the fall for her actions. Emma says that Regina tried to take away a person she loves, so now she will take away someone Regina loves. She vows to get her son, Henry, back.
- The Storybrooke events of this episode take place after "The Stable Boy" and before "The Stranger". (For more details, see the Land Without Magic timeline)
- The Enchanted Forest events of this episode occur after "Nasty Habits" and before Milah's eventual death in "The Crocodile". (For more details, see the Enchanted Forest timeline)
- The banner at Mary Margaret's welcome home party is reused in "The Cricket Game" with Emma's name added below it.
- Kathryn is in hospital room R2 42, the same as Henry in "A Land Without Magic". The same number is in the supply room where Dr. Whale and the others go to discuss the Greg Mendell's situation in "In the Name of the Brother".
- Rumplestiltskin talks about how he walked into the field of battle and ended the Ogre War. This event is shown in "Ill-Boding Patterns".
- The process behind the creation of Magic Beans is revealed in "Tiny".
- As stated by Mr. Gold in "Dreamy", he has an irrefutable dislike for nuns, who are the counterparts of fairies, and the reason for it is revealed in this episode. His reasons are further explained in "Changelings".
- Baelfire's fate after arriving in the Land Without Magic is explored in "Second Star to the Right", "And Straight On 'Til Morning", and "Tallahassee".
- Mr. Gold is eventually reunited with his son in "Manhattan".
- Mr. Gold says to August that his son would never use him, but Baelfire once used the Dark One's Dagger to command him to kill Beowulf, as seen in "Ill-Boding Patterns".
- Rumplestiltskin acquires the Dark Curse in "Darkness on the Edge of Town".
Fairytales and Folklore
- This episode features Rumplestiltskin from the Rumpelstiltskin fairytale as well as the Fairy with the Turquoise Hair from The Adventures of Pinocchio.
- The magic beans the Blue Fairy gave Baelfire is a reference to "Jack and the Beanstalk".
- The wooden donkey Mr. Gold finds in August's room is a reference to the children's story Pinocchio. As in the tale, Pinocchio witnessed children being turned into donkeys on Toyland.
- When August drives off on his motorcycle, a sign on the pavement shows the number 15, the third of the Lost numbers.
- Jefferson's hat box is on a shelf in Mr. Gold's office.
- When Mr. Gold is talking to Regina in the pawnshop, he is holding Baelfire's kickball.
- There is a vintage Shoe Shine Box 5 Cent from the 1970s in the backroom of the pawnshop.
- In "The Thing You Love Most", the window outside the entrance to Mary Margaret's loft apartment is a regular, clear single-pane window. In "The Price of Gold", it has been divided into four window panes. In this episode, it's been replaced by a glass-stained window. In "Broken", it's replaced by a new glass-stained window.
- August's room at the inn has Bird Heart of Provence PV10503 wallpaper from Wallquest.
- One of the papers in August's room contains a text written in first person perspective by a person working in the film industry in Vancouver, the Canadian town where Once Upon a Time is produced.
- In "The Thing You Love Most", there was a ship painting sitting on the floor in Archie's office. In this episode, it is hanging on the wall outside the entrance to the office.
- In the corridor outside Archie's office, there are two framed artwork by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel, from his book Kunstformen der Natur (Art Forms in Nature), first published between 1899 and 1904 in separate installments, and collectively in 1904:
- At the welcome home party, Mary Margaret is wearing an Anthropologie Eunice Cashmere Cardigan over an Anthropologie Dropped Dots Dress (both are no longer available).
- The Fairacres Mansion, a historic building in Burnaby which is also known as the Burnaby Art Gallery, doubles as the Sisters of Saint Meissa convent. It is an estate house in the British Arts and Crafts style, and was built in 1911.
|Finnish||"Isä ja hänen poikansa"||"The Father and His Son"|
|French||"Le Bon Fils"||"The Good Son"|
|German||"Die Rückkehr und die Fragen"||"The Return and the Questions"|
|Hungarian||"A visszatérés"||"The Return"|
|Italian||"Il ritorno"||"The Return"|
|Portuguese||"O Retorno"||"The Return"|