It's really annoying that I can't see my previous posts until a moderator approves them.
I figured it out and thought I should share here.
1. After 3 days of searching I finally found the 0.40 firmware. It is hosted here: http://www.electrodragon.com/w/File:V188.8.131.52_AT_Firmware.bin.zip
There might be newer better firmwares out there. But that is the version that I had before and for now it's what I want to use.
Once you have that firmware place it in same folder as your esptool.py
2. If you didn't already, follow the directions here to install python and esptool on the mac: https://odd-one-out.serek.eu/esp8266-development-kit-nodemcu-firmware-update-os-x/
For what I was trying to do (restoring the ESP8266 EPS01 to the firmware it had when I bought it) ignore most everything other than the part about installing python. At the bottom under troubleshooting he talks about restoring it so he can retry uploading the Node firmware again. This is on the right track. But with that firmware file above you only need to run one esptool command.
You can also just go to the esptool github page https://github.com/themadinventor/esptool
and follow those instructions to install everything. At the end though make sure the firmware file above is in that same folder.
3. Wire it up to flash firmware. For me this was simply pulling GPIO0 down to GND.
4. in terminal do ls /dev/tty.*
and find the serial port. Mine was /dev/tty.usbserial-A700fbUH
5. Then flash the firmware. cd in to the folder where your esptool.py and the firmware is located. Then do:
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sudo python esptool.py --baud 921600 --port /dev/tty.usbserial-A700fbUH write_flash -fm dio 0x000000 v184.108.40.206\ AT\ Firmware.bin
of course replace my port with yours and the filename with yours. One good tip in terminal is that when typing in the code when you get to the v1.3... you can type part of the file name and hit TAB which will autofill in the rest. That will prevent you from having to figure out the escape codes for the spaces and what not. You could also rename the file but I like this better.
6. After you get this response:
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Running Cesanta flasher stub...
Flash params set to 0x0200
Writing 1044480 @ 0x0... 1044480 (100 %)
Wrote 1044480 bytes at 0x0 in 15.4 seconds (542.6 kbit/s)...
...unplug the FTID from USB. Remove the GPIO from GND. Plug the FTID back in. And the unit should be back the way you got it. Remember that the baud rate will probably be set back at 115200.
7. What I did after that was to set up all my defaults. For me using it with arduino I set the baud rate and my default wifi connection. But to avoid bricking it again for the baud rate I'm doing:
Hope that helps someone.