Well, I'm going to be up until 2 AM trying to calm down after an episode that changes ev-er-y-thing.
"The only thing I lost that matters is you:" So it turns out that Bobby Elvis brokered a deal with Clay: Confess to the ding-dang nomad foolishness and leave the club, and in return, Bobby will blackball the "Let's kill Clay!" vote. This comes to pass, Clay is stripped of his patch and punched a few times by Jax, then spends the rest of the episode plotting a comeback: He's picking up the Real IRA business that Jax is putting down, wooing Tig away from the club (maybe) and conducting a real charm offensive on Gemma. (And oh my goodness, it's a testament to how good Ron Perlman and Katey Sagal are that I'm a little giddy at the idea of Clay and Gemma getting back together. I know.)
Oh, please, please let this be the prelude to an epic Justified/Sons of Anarchy crossover: So Donal Logue's character, Lee Toric, is a former U.S. marshall. Which means that when he decides to get to the bottom of his sister's murder, the legal slip-n-slide Tara did to get out of trouble in re: the "How in the hell did Otto get a stabbing implement?" inquiry is not going to fly with this guy. Also, he is very likely unhinged, on account of the shot we get of him sitting in a hotel room with a satchel full of pills, a bed full of firearms, and Antonin Artaud's Watchfiends and Rack Screams, which has been described as "a torrent of speech from the other side of sanity and the occult." The occult! I would not put it past this show to introduce Satan as a supporting character in season six. Quite possibly played by Lindsay Lohan.
"You can't stay in uniform and not play the game:" Although the entire episode seemed to be devoted to the many, many people whose lives Jax Teller has screwed up either accidentally or on purpose, the second-saddest victim of the episode was Nero, who has resumed his thug life with only a small side dish of self-loathing for not walking away when he had the chance. (And he may not even get Gemma as a consolation prize…) Nero bails out the club when things go gaft agley with the Irish (more on that below) and tells Jax as he hands over the money that he's had the nut for his uncle's spread for over a year; he just couldn't bring himself to leave and now he never will. Jax decides to ignore the huge neon sign reading, "YOUNG MAN, TAKE A LOOK AT YOUR LIFE, I'M A LOT LIKE YOU."
It's all fun and games until the Irish start shooting: The Irish may be the people allegedly impervious to psychotherapy but the dudes in the cartel are immune to logical thought. Since Lin can't deliver BFGs in a timely-enough fashion to suit Romeo, he presses Jax to make one last pickup from the Irish. Since there's no Clay there, Galen gleefully sets about being an obstinate prick, but his plan to deny Jax the guns backfires when the cartel comes in at the worst possible moment and decides they want the guns now-now-now-now. One shootout later, they have the guns. In retaliation, the Irish kidnap Wendy, since things worked out so well for them the last time they kidnapped someone associated with SAMCRO. (Strategic thinking like this is why is how Northern Ireland remains a part of the U.K., I'm guessing.) The MC gets her back with Nero's money …
… But Wendy finds out about Abel's abduction and hits the roof, observing that Jax and Tara learned nothing about how parenting and law-breaking don't exactly mix. Wendy decides she's going to sue for custody before the idiot Irish decide another abduction's in order for St. Stephen's Day or whatever. Tara does not take this well, but Jax promises, "I'm going to give you a beautiful life" and proceeds to take Wendy off the table by breaking into her apartment and injecting her with heroin, thereby taking away her sobriety and her job and her life, really. JAX: NOW THE WORST. Even Tig thinks so! I bet that job offer from Clay is looking fairly alluring now.
Lisa Schmeiser is now trying to imagine an episode in which both Boyd Crowder and Venus Van Dam can appear. Send your best plot bunnies to her via Twitter.
"There will be days when you're forced to make decisions that affect the lives of everyone you love -- choices that will change you forever. You reach an age where you realize that being a man isn't about respect or strength. It's about being aware of all the things you touch. Children face inward, wallow in their own selfish needs. Men face out, take action on the needs of others. I'm at that place, boys. I'm staring one of those decisions in the face. It looks back at me with historical eyes and it calls me a coward, a killer, a fraud. It wants me to crack and run from the service of my fate like a broken boy. Today, I will not do that. Today, I will be the man my father tried to be. I will make you proud."
The preceding monologue -- which shows Jax writing as Thomas plays in his crib; Tara staring at the wall and wondering if she should maybe bang her head against it; Gemma helping Clay on with his shirt and cut; the SAMCRO boys riding to the clubhouse -- is delivered by Jax. And you know, given how self-serving and patently deluded it is, it sort of makes one wonder if perhaps Jax should not be taking the sophomoric scribblings of his father as infallible gospel.
Anyway. Jax stops writing and we establish that it's going to be a big day, on account of there being a meeting with Galen in the afternoon. On the way into the church, Bobby Elvis stops Jax and says, "There's something we've got to handle: bringing Clay to the table." Jax: "Buh-wuh?" (I'm paraphrasing.) Bobby continues: Clay will admit what he did with the nomads, then the club can decide what to do with him. Jax: "Buh-wuh?" (Again, paraphrasing.)
Cut to Clay conveniently blaming Frankie Diamonds for masterminding Clay's attempted return to power. Jax is looking at Clay in a manner which suggests he's thinking, "My mutant ability to set people on fire with my mind can kick in at any moment now." Bobby prods Clay along and the deposed president spins a story that can basically be summed up as: Look, nobody takes retirement well. Clay says, "I never wanted anybody to get hurt--" "But they did. You hurt a lot of people," Tig says, and it is painfully obvious he's not limiting the scope of his remarks to Clay's home-invasion scheme. Clay finishes up by saying that he originally wanted to pull off the coup because he didn't think Jax could handle leadership, but he was wrong: Jax is a much better leader than Clay ever was. He then takes his leave and says he'll be waiting in the garage.