It could be that there have been so many truly awful episodes that it's become hard to judge, but I think they might have knocked this one out of the park. Or at least to the edge of the field. At any rate, Hiro heads back in time to Season 1 and the Burnt Toast Diner and Charlie this episode, and everyone else who's in the episode follows suit, more or less. Hiro spends the episode trying to right the wrong of letting Charlie die. He freezes time when Sylar's going to kill her and then puts him in the cargo hold of a Greyhound bus (hee), but when he realizes Charlie's aneurysm is rupturing, he gets Sylar to fix it in exchange for information about his own future. Sylar is able to carry this out without opening her brain, which makes me wonder why he has to cut open people's skulls to see their brains for his own purposes. And he doesn't save Hiro by fixing his tumor, which I was hoping would happen. But it's still as good as this show's been in ages. Samuel follows Hiro back three years and, just when Hiro and Charlie are going to get their happily ever after, he takes her away and traps her in time so that Hiro will help him go back eight weeks -- season premiere, anyone -- and undo his wrongs. We jump back eight weeks and see what looks very much like a dead Mohinder!
In other three-years-ago news, Bennet had a hot partner played by Elisabeth Rohm. I'm struggling to figure out what her power was, since we know that she had to be a hero in order to be his partner, right? They had secret rendezvous at the Burnt Toast Diner, and then she got a hotel room. Bennet liked her back, but after a pre-homecoming heart-to-heart with Claire, he told Elisabeth that his family is too important to him and he loves them too much. But he still needs Elisabeth as his partner to help bring Sylar down (not sure why we never saw her before if that's the case, though). Then he goes back to work and Elisabeth gives him a package. He thinks she's being coy, but then he reads it and it's a note from her, telling him she's had the Haitian wipe her memories of her feelings for him. He gets teary, then heads back to Burnt Toast for a heart-to-heart with Future Hiro.
Previously: A lot of stuff happened, starting three years ago when this show was good. Hiro loved Charlie, and after Samuel told him to right the wrongs of his past he realized he needed to go see her again. Then he disappeared two episodes ago and ended up at the Burnt Toast Diner.
We open on a country song and our episode chyron: "Chapter Seven: "Once Upon A Time in Texas." Hiro appears in his hospital gown and walks through the chyron. He gazes in the window of the Burnt Toast Diner at Charlie "Three Years Ago." A woman walks in and tells Hiro he has a nice butt, helping him suddenly realize he's still in the gown. He heads into a yard with a clothesline and steals some things, including a Knight Rider T-shirt. A kid in cowboy gear points a toy gun at him and tells him he's stealing his daddy's clothes. Hiro apologizes, but explains he's here to save the life of the woman he loves, but the boy doesn't believe in love. Hiro explains his story to the kid: Boy meets girl, falls in love, she dies, he travels through time to try to save her. We get flashes back to these things actually happening in Season 1. He says he did everything he could to try to save her, but life isn't a fairy tale: "The brain man" always killed her. He says letting Charlie die was his greatest failure. The kid follows Hiro to the diner and asks what a brain man is. Hiro doesn't answer, but just says he'll defeat him because he's the good guy. The kid puts his white cowboy hat on Hiro and says good guys wear white hats and bad guys wear black hats. Sylar shows up in his black baseball cap. But he's three-years-ago Sylar, so he doesn't recognize Hiro. Sylar goes inside and sits down at one of Charlie's tables, and the kid whispers, "He was wearing a black hat." Hiro: "Uh-oh." What? Did he not see this coming? Title card.
Carnival. "Present Day." Samuel tells Lydia the Tattooed Lady that Arnold is dying, and it could happen tonight. They need Hiro now, and since Samuel put him on a journey, it's not going to be easy to get him to stop it and come live with them. Lydia the Tattooed Lady tells Samuel that he could convince an apple that it's an orange. Which would be helpful when dealing with an apple that's insecure about its apple identity, I guess? Samuel doesn't know how he'll convince Hiro he's an orange. Or part of this family. Or whatever they're trying to be all dramatic about. Lydia the Tattooed Lady says "Desperate times, desperate measures. And all of that." Samuel touches Lydia's back with his pen and Charlie shows up on it. She explains who Charlie is, and that she died three years ago. He sees this as an opportunity, but Lydia's not done showing him stuff. She also shows him HRG, Claire and Sylar, all connected by a ribbon of ink. She wonders how he's going to get back there, and he says he's going to have to ask Arnold to help him again, which apparently will kill him, so he tells Lydia they all have sacrifices and quotes herself back at her: "Desperate times, desperate measures, and all that."