I’m just waiting for someone to assemble a clip of Jax raising his voice this season of Sons of Anarchy. The guy’s been like a virtual grunge song these past few episodes, growling quietly as he tries to tell people he is methodical and ruthless, and means business, then all of a sudden YELLING VERY LOUDLY to tell them he’s pissed. Yeah, it’s pretty much been since Opie got killed, so maybe that makes sense.
He’s got plenty of reason to shout this episode as well, as things come to a head with Clay much sooner than he expected, and definitely different than how he envisioned. When Bobby paid his old president a visit at the end of last week, it was apparently to hash out a deal that involved Clay coming to the club and confessing everything. The Nomads, Eli’s wife, trying to undermine Jax, and throw himself at their mercy. You can see Jax seething the whole time, wanting nothing more than to introduce his stepfather to Mister Mayhem then and there. But Clay exits the room and the club puts it all to a vote. The verdict to remove Clay’s patch is unanimous, but the death sentence has a single negative vote: Bobby. Which tells us what Bobby had offered Clay for the confession.
None of this saves Clay from getting a vicious beatdown from Jax the second they see each other. It takes several Sons several tries to pull him off for good, but Clay is bloodied up something fierce. Jax also has pretty harsh words for Bobby, laying into him for making a deal with Clay behind his back. Bobby later defends himself saying there was not going to be any way of proving Clay was responsible and that Jax going off and killing him anyway would have taken him down an irretrievable path. Bobby was trying to save Jax from essentially becoming Clay. Perhaps Jax understands that deep down, but he can’t get past his fury. It’s the struggle he’s been dealing with his whole life, and especially ever since taking the gavel. He tells Bobby that he now knows Opie was right: You can’t lead the SAMCRO without becoming savage. The admission is extra poignant given that the episode begins with Jax narrating a diary entry to his sons about how he will become the man his own father tried to be. He will make them proud. Well, maybe so, Jax, but not today.
Tara, meanwhile, has to face the music about Otto, appearing before a prison investigation official who grills her about her connection to the club and her bringing the murder weapon into the prison. She comes away not as bad off as she could have, with the lawyer helping her to conceivably look more naive than calculating. But the whole matter, along with an offhand comment from the lawyer, has Tara thinking about the future, specifically as it relates to Abel and Thomas should anything happen to her and/or Jax. Who will take care of them? Enter Wendy, who is stunned and indescribably grateful when Tara calls her into the office and explains to her she is looking to secure the boys’ long-term future, and that she may want Wendy to be part of that plan. She gives her access to Abel at daycare, and the two even share a hug. Well, it’s more accurate to say that Wendy hugs Tara, and Tara sorta lets her, but still, it’s an odd sight seeing them embrace.
Jax doesn’t have too much time to stew about Clay’s continued ability to draw breath, however, because he has a meeting with Pope out at the worksite for Charming Heights. Pope is in a good mood because the development looks like a winner, and he even offers Jax some leadership advice on how to deal with Clay. Essentially, he tells him to forget what everyone else says and do what he needs to do. Except, maybe he doesn’t have to be the one doing it. But Pope then puts his game face on and says it’s time for him to have Tig, and if Jax doesn’t deliver, it’s all over. Pope will move to crush the club. Jax says he could never see Tig as anything except Clay’s right hand, and tells Pope he’ll deliver him tomorrow, just name the time and place.
Then it’s off to bring Romeo and the CIA crew to the gun buy with the Chinese. It all goes well with the merchandise, but there’s an unexpected delay in the timing. Apparently they’re not going to be able to set up the regular drops for two or three months, which just isn’t fast enough for Romeo. He demands Jax set up one more exchange with the Irish. That leads us to a deserted barn where Jax tries to make peace with Galen so they can continue business as long as they need to. It all seems to be going well until Romeo and a bunch of gunmen break in to make sure nothing goes wrong. Apparently they were spooked when they found out Clay was out of the picture and felt the need to see the deal go down themselves. Some racial epithets are exchanged — including a particularly nasty one from Galen that completely demeans both Mexicans and African-Americans — followed by gunfire. A few redshirts get mowed down until the Mexicans gain the upper hand and walk out with what they came for. Galen tells Jax that this is going to cost the Sons dearly, on both continents.
This plays itself out sooner rather than later. While Jax is at the hospital looking for Tara he notices Wendy playing with Abel. He immediately puts a stop to it, despite Wendy saying that Tara gave her blessing and that everything is above board. Later, he’s about to go have another conversation with her about it when she suddenly goes missing. I only noticed on a second viewing that the mysterious tall guy following Wendy around the hospital was one of Galen’s Irish droogs. The Irish kidnapped Wendy, thinking she was Tara, and are holding her ransom until they get the money they lost at the deal with the Mexicans. Even when they learn Wendy is merely Jax’s ex, they say their next move will be to find Abel again and spirit him away to Belfast. Trouble is, the Sons don’t have the kind of money needed to pay the bill. But once again, Nero comes to the rescue. He has dived headfirst back into the gang lifestyle, and knows he’s going to need some muscle and artillery going forward, so he offers to front the $450,000 to SAMCRO in exchange for a future partnership. Jax asks him why he’s doing this, seemingly giving up his dream of buying that ranch and living there quietly with his son. Nero confesses that he’s had the ability to do that for some time now, but just hasn’t. Once in the life, always in the life.
When Wendy is released, she’s less than thankful, instead laying into Jax and Tara about their lifestyles and the constant danger to which they subject their children. She vows to tell everything she knows to authorities and to fight for custody of Abel. Tara is distraught, but Jax remains determined. No one is going to tear asunder what he has worked so hard to build.
Tara’s fears aren’t just related to Wendy, though. She went into her office earlier that day to find the man who had cryptically threatened — but not so cryptically assaulted — Otto last episode after he murdered the nurse. He says his name is Lee Toric, and that nurse, Pamela, was his sister. (Called it!) He innocently asks her details about what happened but steadily grows more confrontational, revealing that he knows about Jax and a whole lot of other things, and finally whips out his card identifying him as a former U.S. Marshal. He even says he believes Tara when she says she had no idea Otto was going to do what he did, but he’s not going to let that stop him from trying to make things right. Donal Logue, who plays Lee, is scheduled to be on a conference call Wednesday, so I’ll find out as much as I can and report back. You know, as soon as I get done asking him all about Terriers.
The main business left revolves around Clay’s exit. He confides in Galen that he’s looking to strike out on his own, picking up the slack of the gun business the Sons plan to leave behind. But he also knows that he needs to get out of Charming before Jax kills him. He asks Galen to give him safe haven in Belfast for a bit, and that he’s going to ask Gemma to come along. Galen agrees and, shockingly, Gemma doesn’t exactly disagree. Not sure what her angle is now. With everything about Clay out in the open, there’s no more need for her to pretend to be with him. I can see not making an immediate break, I suppose, but why let the guy think you might go to Ireland with him? Especially since she also seems to be telling Nero things can pick back up with them now. Even after everything, it doesn’t look like Gemma is above playing on both sides of the street.
First things first, though, as Clay takes his medicine and goes through the ceremony of getting his SAMCRO tattoos inked over. But he shed his tears earlier, after the beating, and now kneels on the ground stoic as the identity he worked so hard for, and hurt so many people to maintain, is literally covered up.
That would seem a proper operatic end to the episode, but there’s a chilling coda to come, one that must might reach the top of the list of Why It’s Getting Harder To Root For Jax Teller. Jax drives over to Wendy’s apartment, where he meets Tig, who hands him something he says is “ready to shoot.” Right about now I was getting some “Long Term Parking” flashbacks, hoping I wouldn’t have to see Drea DeMatteo pathetically try to escape her horribly unfair fate once again. And while Jax doesn’t gun her down, he still does something pretty merciless and vicious. He tells her to never threaten his family again, that if she says anything about kidnapping or the IRA that she’s going to be seen as a junkie lunatic. These are not idle words, as he plunges a syringe full of God knows what (I forget what she was addicted to) into her arm, not listening to her whimpering protests.
Chilling, dude. Chilling.
It’s all set up for one more episode now, and we know that nothing is off-limits, and no one is safe. The last time we see Lee Toric, for example, he’s sitting at the foot of his bed, which is covered with some heavy artillery. Not sure about you, but I’m rooting for him to make a little noise.
Now, if you’ll indulge me for a bit, I have to share an extra thrill I got from watching tonight’s episode thanks to, of all things, some background music. In a scene at the SAMCRO clubhouse you can hear the unmistakable sound of William Elliott Whitmore singing “Old Devils.” The gravelly voiced troubadour grew up in the same patch of Southeast Iowa as yours truly, and we hung out quite a bit while attending the University of Iowa. (Well, I’m not sure how much attending Will actually did, but we still had a lot of good times). So nice to see a local boy making good.
Photo: Credit: Prashant Gupta