A lot of plot points got set up this week, just in time for the back stretch of episodes that will take us to Christmas. Let's review the developments:
Juice, squeezed: Roosevelt breaks the news to Juice that Jax has figured out who is the rat at the table. Juice takes it about as well as can be expected. Back at the club, Chibs reluctantly confesses to Jax and Bobby Elvis that he knows what leverage Roosevelt and the Feds used on Juice: "His old man's black." Jax gives Chibs a look like, Wait, we still think this is a thing? and Bobby Elvis speaks for us all with, "You've got to be kidding me." Anyway, the guys can't really bring themselves to kill Juicy just yet – besides, it will be bad for business – but after things calm down, Jax says, "We bring him to the table, let him hang himself." Jax then has a talk with Juice where he claims he can give Juice a "pardon" for his actions and keep the whole mess from hitting the table, and all it will require is for Juice to get back the legal documents Clay got back from the nomads' "invasion" of his house. This task will be made considerably harder by the fact that Clay's playing Juice like a harp: "I'm exhausted, son. Just watch my back, please."
Mother stands for "comfort": Tara goes completely off the rails this episode. Well, we knew it was going to be bad when she violated the cardinal rule of infant parenting – "Never wake a sleeping baby" – by frightening the slumbering Thomas into wakefulness so she could feel useful/needed/wanted while she comforted him. But then her brainlessness sinks to new depths of irresponsibility. She brings Otto a crucifix of LuAnne's – conveniently forgetting that a cross is basically a collection of sharp points – and Otto uses it in his agreement to make his RICO testimony go away. How, you ask? By stabbing that nice Nurse Karina in the neck, thus guaranteeing that his testimony gets recanted/discounted, coming as it does from a known psycho killer, and that Tara gets tagged as an accessory to murder.
Clay Morrow, criminal mastermind: So not only has Clay managed to figure out all the plot twists from last season – RICO! The Galindo cartel in bed with the CIA! – he manages to plants seeds of doubt with Romeo regarding Jax's honorable intentions and sets up a side deal with Romeo in case things with Jax head south.
(Also, Gemma seduces Clay with a cartload of groceries, and it is awful, because she's crying, and we all know that it's not because she's so happy to be back in Clay's big meaty arms. At this point, I am kind of rooting for Nero to figure out what's going on, and to beat Jax into the middle of next season.)
This just in: Jax is a lying liar who lies! So the MC prez is busy lying to all sorts of people, but the most startling one this episode was T.O., because he promises not to kill T.O.'s cousin (who was involved in killing Opie) and ends up shooting the guy in front of T.O. Here's hoping that blowing up a 20-year working relationship was what Opie wanted as part of his legacy!
Lisa Schmeiser is an Oakland-adjacent writer, reporter & blogger. She wishes she could dispatch prospects to go on Costco runs for her.
This episode picks up right where the last left off: Jax is tailing Juice back to his house -- by the way, Juice has a remarkably nice mid-century bungalow -- but he has to ease off when he sees a few cops sitting in front of Juice's house. The uniforms take Juice in under the pretext of questioning him about the attack at Unser's place, and Juice asks, "Now?" I'm sure he'll find the timing very convenient later.
Back at Teller-Morrow motors ("This week's special: Bring in your car and we may get to it sometime in 2015"), Gemma toddles into the garage, makes some small talk with Chibs, and he sweetly rubs her shoulders and asks how she's feeling, "Tired and hated," Gemma replies. Chibs says, "I heard you've been banned. Tara will come 'round." Gemma says obliquely, "We're working on that." Chibs then asks about Gemma and Nero -- "Something happen there?" -- and Gemma snarls, "Who wants to know?" "Just me, love," Chibs says gently, and WHAM! I'm reminded of their conversation in Season Two where Chibs went to Gemma with his concerns about the ATF leaning on him, and how Gemma's instinct was to hold him while he cried. (I must say, Kurt Sutter is not, perhaps, the most subtle writer on the planet, but I love how he's been slowly developing this theme of people repeating cycles of behavior through the series.) Anyway, moving on past the meta-analysis, Chibs moves the conversation to Clay and says, "I think he still loves you," and Gemma asks, "How do you know that?' "Same way you do," Chibs responds.
Bobby then rolls in with the express purpose of bringing Chibs up to speed on the behind-the-scenes machinations of the past few months and catches sight of the insomniac Gemma in her office. "She okay?" he asks. "I think our mother is feeling a bit lost," Chibs replies. Man, everything sounds so classy and profound when it comes wrapped in a Caledonian burr. Anyway, they roll off-screen to exposit while Gemma sits in her office and quietly cries over a ledger.
Tara goes rattling around the house -- remember Jax was supposed to be home by now, re-introducing her to his own Mr. Mayhem, if you get what I mean -- and when the silence gets to be too much, she goes into Thomas's room, flips on his light and bangs on his toy piano until the poor baby is frightened awake. She then picks him up and soothes him. And for whatever reason, this is what finally pushes me into the "Tara: THE WORST" column. This may possibly be because I gave birth to the worst sleeper in California and so cannot comprehend why on Earth you'd be so ungrateful as to look a gift (sleeping) baby in the cry-hole. Anyway, the whole thing is probably meant to illustrate three things: That Tara is desperate to connect to someone who will offer her pure and unconditional love; that this is how previously-functional people turn into Gemma Teller types who can't ever fulfill their own emotional needs; and that Tara is THE WORST.