In the calm before the storm of the first-half of Once Upon a Time‘s Third Season finale Emma Swan (Jennifer Morrison) struggles with telling Henry (Jared Gilmore) she has decided to take him back to New York, Regina (Lana Parrilla) and Robin Hood‘s (Sean Maguire) romance progresses, Rumpelstiltskin (Robert Carlyle) and Belle (Emilie de Ravin) begin making wedding plans, and Snow White (Ginnifer Goodwin) and Prince Charming (Josh Dallas) prepare a naming ceremony for their new baby boy. However, all that is put on hold when the town discovers that Zelena (Rebecca Mader) is dead and her time vortex has been opened (fulfilling her dying wish with the remainder of magic stored in the witch’s locket).
Although the town agrees to stay away from the portal, Emma and Hook (Colin O’Donoghue) get sucked in finding themselves in the Enchanted Forrest on the day her parents met for the first time. While trying to avoid making any small changes to the past that might cause catastrophic issues to their future, Emma accidentally alters her own history in a major way by preventing her mother and father from meeting. After explaining the situation to Rumpilstiltskin, the Dark One agrees to help the pair reopen the portal but tells Emma she and the pirate are on their own in undoing the changes she’s made which are already starting to have ripple effects. Using the younger Hook to bait Snow White into stealing the wedding ring at the ball celebrating his impending wedding to Abigail (Anastasia Griffith), Hook and Emma put their plan into motion.
While attending her first ball (under a glamour to hide their true appearance), Emma and Hook are able to recreate the meeting between Snow and Charming as the thief flees the castle stealing his family’s ring. However, in making sure Snow White escapes Emma is captured by Regina and Snow accidentally leaves the wedding ring behind leaving more obstacles for the time travelers way before they can attempt to return home. While sharing a bit of the magic of her birthright with the conflicted Emma, the first-hour ends on a strong note with Emma in the clutches of a far more evil Regina than the one she’s come to know in recent years and timeline far from restored.