HOLY CRAP! You guys, this episode was insane.
Vacation, Biker-Style: Jax and Tara's trip starts off well -- family sing-alongs in the car, a friendly discussion with a motorcycle cop about the bliss of riding, giddy plans to move to Oregon ASAP (and who can blame them? I would move there in a hot minute) -- so naturally, it all goes to hell when a group of hired thugs tries to kidnap Tara. Since she is now an old pro at being abducted, Tara knows how to fight back, but right around the time the armed Jax manages to slow down the van, she gets her hand slammed in the door. Remember: she is a surgeon. Or rather, she was a surgeon, as she's got severe nerve damage.
There is an awesome scene between Tara's two self-appointed surrogate mothers, Gemma and Margaret, where they basically fight over whether or not Jax and Tara belong together. Margaret calls it: "All this suffering landing on Tara, it's because of you." She stalks off and leaves God's Fierce Mother to chew on that in the chapel.
There is also an awesome scene where Tara breaks down in the hospital, where she says, "The only way I can be with you is if I lose my way out. I lost that today, baby. I have a dead hand. No one will want me now. No one … I'll never save another life again, never fix a tiny heart. It's okay. We can now be together -- you, me, Gemma … in beautiful Charming. A happy family. Maybe I can smash my other hand. That way I can just stay home, be a mom, raise babies …" When an agonized Jax tries to comfort her, she completely loses it and kicks him out. He collapses on the other side of the door, racked with guilt. (Seriously: Great work by both actors.)
By the end of the episode, Jax has broken the news to Opie that he's planning on leaving the club. He's come clean -- showing yet another way in which he's completely unlike his stepfather. Opie … does not take it especially well.
Shocker! Hitmen Don't Do Take-Backsies: Once Clay finds out that Jax is with Tara, he calls Romeo to try and cancel the hit. Romeo is all, "Remember, we told you once you made this call, you couldn't un-make it." Then he hangs up and has a conversation with Luis that reveals that indeed, Romeo could call off the hitman if he wanted to. Lesson here: Cartel honchos lie! I know, I know: I was gobsmacked too. Anyway, after the botched hit, Romeo assures Clay he'll oversee the hit personally so it doesn't get screwed up. Clay tries to weasel out of it, but Luis and Romeo basically tell him to put up and shut up. Knowing what's likely to happen if the club realizes he's the one who's in the habit of getting old ladies killed, Clay does both.
Lincoln, Cruising For an Assassination: Roosevelt serves notice to Lincoln: "I'm done being your boy." Lincoln reminds Roosevelt that he's with the U.S. government, and he has many laws on his side. Then he goes to visit Juice and makes a very simple offer: become an informant regarding the upcoming Galindo/Real IRA meeting, or watch as Potter uses RICO to dismantle the entire SOA organization. (Juice takes the deal.) Roosevelt seethes, then begins working to right the moral balance of the universe. First step: Apologizing to Juice for his role in the whole mess with Potter. Second step: Offering to help make things right regarding Tara.
Romance Is Dead -- DEAD, I say! After absorbing some uncalled-for insults from Clay after questioning why he needed to clean out the safe, then seeing what became of Tara at the hospital, Gemma puts 2+2 together and gets $25,000 -- i.e. the amount Clay took from their safe and twigs to him putting out the hit on Tara despite him promising he wouldn't. When she discovers him putting the refunded fee back in the safe, Gemma loses her cool and begins shouting a surprisingly accurate recap of the last forty minutes of the episode. When she threatens to tell Jax what the truth of the situation is, Clay heads for her menacingly, but Gemma pulls out the pistol she keeps in her purse and demands that Clay stay away from her family. Then some things are said that can't be unsaid, Gemma takes a shot, but Clay overpowers her and beats the daylights out of her.
I don't even have the words for how heartbreaking the entire scene is. For the last three years, one of Clay's redeeming traits was his love for Gemma. You could always see where his love for his so-called brothers was heavily larded with self interest, but his relationship with Gemma always seemed to bring out what better angels lived in his nature; his behavior at the hospital last year certainly seemed to reinforce that. But this season, everything in Clay that was not completely selfish has been sloughed off, and this latest, largest casualty is sad not only because it wrecks one of the great mature romances on TV, but because it pushes Clay past any redemption whatsoever.
Now it's not a question of whether or not Clay will die. It's a question of who will kill him. The cartel, when they decide Clay's outlived his usefulness? The Mayans, who are probably tired of their soldiers dropping dead thanks to SAMCRO idiocy? Jax, who will probably not shrug off the idea of his stepdad whacking his dad, thwacking his mom and trying to kill his old lady? Opie, who can lay the deaths of his wife and his father at Clay's feet? Unser, who thinks of Clay as a wild animal who needs to be put down? Tig, who so clearly carries a torch for Gemma?
Line of the Night, Runner Up: "I want it clean, I want it painless. Don't mess up her face." -- Clay to the hit man he's just hired to kill his stepson's old lady.
Line of the Night: "It's done, Wayne. Clay can't be saved." -- Gemma, whose face really did get messed up, telling Wayne she'd like to see Clay dead at the hands of SAMCRO.
The episode opens with a real estate mystery solved. Remember how last week I had no idea where the Sons were meeting because the shot of the kitchen looked nothing like Gemma's? It turns out that Casa Morrow is enormous and confusing, because I totally recognize the plantation blinds that serve as wall dividers between the dining room and the home office. Clay is currently in the home office, opening up the safe and taking out a fat wad of bills. He's trying to be sneaky about it, but there is nothing discreet about a heavy steel door slamming shut, and Gemma hears him from the kitchen.
Clay's subsequent attempt to casually leave the house holding a backpack full of money goes surprisingly smoothly. I say "surprisingly," because given Clay's recent track record at, well, anything, I was half-expecting something to go extravagantly wrong. After a little small talk about how early they're both up, Clay tells Gemma he's off to handle some "Mexican shit," adding that he and Jax have it handled. The two spouses exchange desultory goodbye smooches, and when they tell each other, "Love you," it sounds like something admitted under oath.
Anyway, once Clay's gone, Gemma puts on her reading glasses and opens the safe. The minute the safe's open, she takes them off, then pulls out the cash box. She is somewhat dismayed to find there is only an inch-thin stack of twenties in there.
So, you know how when you go on a road trip you might load up the CD player, make sure the phone's charged in case you want to get chatty and grab some sunscreen? Jax's idea of getting ready for a road trip is to strap a pistol to his ankle. He's just finished this when Tara bustles in with Thomas, excitedly burbling that she's packed a lunch and the family can picnic at the park outside Walnut Grove. (Hands up, all of you who immediately wondered if they'd run into Nellie Oleson there.) Jax is down for that. He grabs the family's bag and kisses Tara; the baby grins up at him and raises his face for a kiss too, and Jax smilingly obliges.
Gemma lets herself in without knocking -- something that Jax and Tara apparently don't even question anymore -- under the pretext of seeing her grandsons off. This is how she learns that Jax will be accompanying Tara and the boys to Oregon, and boy does this not sit well. "Out of state? You're on release," Gemma reminds her son, but the Knowles/Teller pack has that handled; they'll crash at a hotel in California and day-trip up to Portland. Besides, the Rogue River chapter can keep an eye on Tara once she crosses into the Beaver State. Gemma asks, "Does Clay know?" "He will after you tell him," Jax shoots back. He explains that, owing to the pending meeting with the Irish, he'll be back in two days. Gemma asks, "What about the Mexicans?" Jax shrugs, "Nothing for us to do. It's an internal beef. We've been told to stay out of it." The camera switches from Jax to everyone else and it's an interesting set-up: Abel (AKA the world's most placid toddler) coloring at the table, Gemma standing in the middle of the kitchen, the Tara and Thomas near the door. Speaking of Tara, she breaks the tension by handing Thomas over to Gemma with a sing-song, "Say goodbye to Grandma!"