Okay, a lot happened in this episode, so let's break it all down by plotline:
OFF WE GO TO THE EMERALD ISLE: Cameron lays out his dilemma to the local parish priest/terrorist mastermind Father Kellan Ashby. As Cameron sees it: he and his boy were the victim of Jimmy O's machinations, and his taking the baby was dumb, but justified in the little-known "a son for a son" variant of ye olde "an eye for an eye" ethos. As Father Ashby sees it: Cameron has become a huge liability to the Real IRA and he's jeopardized the longstanding relationship the Irish have with the Sons of Anarchy. Also, he could care less what Jimmy O's scheming about because he's got God on his side. After Jimmy O has a sit-down with Clay and Jax and everyone agrees that Gemma was framed for Eddie's murder, he manages to successfully persuade Father Ashby to kill Cameron. And he keeps the news about Abel's whereabouts to himself for his own reasons. Cameron is killed while sitting in church.
RISE OF THE MAYAN EMPIRE: The SAMCRO boys do a little detective work and figure out that the spray-and-pray of last episode was the work of the Calaveras MC, as part of a patchover into the Mayan club. The Mayans are moving into Lodi, and they're still planning on using the Charming area as a throughway for their heroin market at the Stockton prison. Clay correctly reasons that SAMCRO can't afford an all out MC war right now, so he'll have to find another way to stop this.
O ABEL, WHERE ART THOU? We know Jimmy O is lying about Abel's whereabouts, but SAMCRO inches ever closer to finding clues as to what Cameron did with the kid. This week, they prevail upon Bobby Elvis to make nice with his ex-wife, Precious, as her new squeeze is a bounty hunter and can help them out. The bounty hunter agrees -- if SAMCRO helps him bring in a particularly brawny and truculent guy. Naturally, it does not go smoothly (Opie gets distracted in an adult bookstore when he notices some movies starring his new lady), but it goes, and SAMCRO realizes that Cameron made it to Vancouver with Abel. Road trip to BC! Road trip to BC!
YOU GREAT BIG BEAUTIFUL DOLL: Gemma and Tig are still hanging at her parents' place. Tig manages to conquer his phobia of Rose's Hummel figurine collection long enough to successfully seduce Emilia, but Gemma's dad Nate shoots him during a critical point in the goings-on. (Nate was confused and thought Emilia was his wife stepping out on him.) Gemma's careless comment about why they can't go to the E.R. leads Emilia to discover the bounty on Gemma's head, and after a standoff in the kitchen, it does not look good for Emilia's long-term prospects, either employment or otherwise.
THE COURSE OF TRUE LOVE NEVER DID RUN SMOOTH: Jax and Tara continue to have communication problems. He neglects to tell her when he's getting sprung from the pokey, she forgets to tell him about her beatdown of Margaret Murray and subsequent break for personal time. These things happen, right? Anyway, she caps the episode by courting federal charges in heading out to help Gemma deal with Tig's gunshot wound.
WHEN ONE HAND WASHES THE OTHER: The Charming town council is facing an offer from the San Joaquin County sheriff's office: Dissolve the local PD and fall under county jurisdiction. Given David Hale's death, Josh Hale is pretty sure the offer will get traction among the good people of Charming -- unless Unser throws him the Charming PD endorsement in the mayoral race.
We'll get to the juicy little details in the recap -- Tig's theories of what women appreciate, how SAMCRO gets the Calaveras patch president to spill details on the heroin plan, what connection Abel's caretaker Mo has to Father Ashby, why I wish Brian Cox was playing Father Ashby -- but you're good on the general happenings.
It's a long way from Charming to Dublin, yet here we are, at a lovely Catholic church where Cameron Hayes is giving his confession: "Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It's been months since my last confession. I killed a man. He's part of the crew that murdered my son. I took the child of another man -- a son for a son, a twisted way of trying to replace Eddie. I made so many mistakes. Against God, what I believe, against the IRA. I don't know what to do. For these, and all my sins, Father, I am sorry."
While Cameron's speaking, we see Jax doing push-ups in his cell in the Charming lockup. What's striking is the contrast between Cameron's voice-over and Jax's activity; one man is surrendering the burden of his grief to a higher power, while the other is using it to fuel his fury.
The priest on the other side of the screen says, "These are very serious sins. You've broken your link to God, my son. You need to be willing to repay all those you've caused pain. Amend the wreckage." Cameron humbly nods. He gets absolution and a comparatively lightweight penance for murder and child-napping -- five Acts of Contrition. I mean, not that I'm in the business of meting out ritual prayer for wrongdoing, but your usual Act of Contrition -- "O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended you, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasion of sin." -- is shorter than most opening arguments in a Law and Order episode.
Ah, but the priest has an agenda. He orders Cameron to say his penance quickly -- all 310 words of it -- because they've got a lot of catching up to do. The ghost of Father James Chesney will be stalking this season, eh?
Back in Charming: Unser's letting Jax out of his cell. Jax is still shirtless and musclebound per whatever five-minutes-of-eye-candy-per-episode clause has been written in Charlie Hunnam's contract; he's also somewhat surprised to find that the whole "Throwing three officers aside like he's Harley Hulk, then kicking a suspect's ass until his head falls off" thing is pretty much not a big deal right now. The black band on Unser's badge explains why. As Jax rolls out, he pauses and says sincerely, "I'm sorry. About Hale." Unser ages twenty years in a moment as he says, "Yeah. Me too." As Jax walks off, Unser says resignedly that he knows how SAMCRO has to respond to last week's spray-and-pray attack, but Jax has decided to tilt the ol' work-life balance in favor of family: "I don't give a shit about retaliation. I'm going to find my kid."