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."
So, I told you 310 words takes no time at all! Father Kellan Ashby is chewing out Cameron for showing up at his cousin Maureen's. Cameron is slightly worried about that, but he's more worried about Jimmy O, especially since that fearsome SOB thinks that Eddie and Cameron were singing to the ATF. Cameron wants to plead his case to the council, but Father Ashby thinks that's not really going to work. Cameron protests that he acted once he knew about Jimmy O's "plans to push out the Sons [of Anarchy]," and Father Ashby says pointedly that, "Jimmy doesn't make those decisions." (This will no doubt come as news to Jimmy.) Father Ashby continues, "You killed a man that was part of an organization that we have been allied to for more than twenty years. You kidnapped the grandson of the man responsible for that union. John Teller was a friend." That sort of puts a new spin on the whole "John Teller was a hippie who liked to ride bikes and wax philosophical, Clay Morrow's the one who dragged the club into illicit activities" narrative that Jax semi-believes, doesn't it?
Anyway, Maureen's looking after the baby, and Cameron vows to look after Abel as if the child were his own. Cameron pleads, "I know the history runs deep, but Jesus, Kellan, it's John's old lady who murdered my boy. There's got to be some understanding for that." Cut to Father Ashby deep in thought. He finally says, "I'll speak to Jimmy and the council. The Sons will require ... some further thought." Speaking of further thought: it's fascinating how both Gemma and Abel are referred to in the context of a dead man. What do the folks on the Emerald Isle think of Clay?
Back in Charming: Jax rolls out of the police station, and Clay greets him with a huge hug and a "Hello, my son." (I love this, and how it echoes last week's juxtaposition of Clay talking about Cameron taking his grandson right as we saw a shot of John Teller.) Unser comes out, and Clay asks him for intel on the shooter. The guy's got a few priors, but no known gang affiliations. Opie and Bobby Elvis are baffled by this seeming lack of associations. However, Unser warns them obliquely, it may be challenging to question the young man directly because he's under police supervision. He then redirects: "I've got some news on your bride. Zobelle's girl? Nine-mil in her hand when she hit the floor." Jax actually grasps what Unser is alluding to: Gemma could cop a plea for self-defense in the Polly Zobelle shooting, but Eddie took two in the back, so it's still murder one. (And oh, how I wish Stahl would go down for it. But she won't. She'll have a rare fit of competence and find a way to weasel out of any charges.)
Jax and Clay exposit a bit -- they're sitting down with Jimmy O in the afternoon, and I bet Chibs is just counting the seconds -- and then Jax has to go have relationship problems, so he peels off. Tara's pulled up and she's all, "Didn't think I'd be interested to know when you were sprung from the pokey, eh?" The rest of SAMCRO clearly wants to stay around and watch the free show, but they'd already started up their bikes and it would be embarrassing to turn off the bikes and openly eavesdrop, so they roar off to save face. Jax tries once again to ditch Tara with tales of how treacherous life as an old lady is, and Tara calls his bluff: "You trying to scare me? [Smooch. Nose bump.] I'll see you later." Jax walks over to his bike all, "Why couldn't I have hooked up with a junkie or an easily-spooked porn star? They would have been so much less trouble, right?"
Cut to Tig turning around a Hummel figuring in a cabinet, murmuring, "Look away. Don't move." HAAAAAAAA. Gemma catches Tig sidling away from the curio cabinet and he drops into a dining-room chair with an air of patently insincere nonchalance. Gemma comes over and says, "Let me guess ..." "They were freaking me out!" Tig spits. He leans forward to gulp some coffee to calm his nerves. Gemma opens the cabinet -- we see that Tig has turned around dozens of the figurines -- and picks one out, purring, "This one's my favorite." She puts it down by Tig's place setting, and he gasps, "Oh, Jesus Christ!" before throwing a napkin over it. Again: HAAAAAAAA. Also: Gemma is the only person the planet who can do that and not end up with an ear chewed off. The Tig/Gemma dynamic fascinates me, because I have no idea how much of it springs from a halo effect bounced off Tig's regard for Clay, and how much of it comes from the history those two share independent of Clay.
Anyway, Tig is still nervous as a cat even after Gemma tries changing the subject to Clay and news from home. He passes on the bare-bones details of the spray-and-pray, and seems to have difficulty breaking the news that Hale was killed. Gemma is appalled to hear it. The sentimentalist in me would like to think that Gemma still thinks of Hale as the kid who used to deliver her newspapers. She frets, "I hate being away." Into this conversation walks Amelia -- yeah, I spelled her name wrong last week, because I reasoned it would be similar to Emilio, so my bad -- and she looks around all, "What in the hell are you doing up?" Tig gets up and gives her an oily smile and a "Morning, doll." She gives him a look back that promises all sorts of pleasures, many of them of the naked variety. Gemma does not miss this, but decides to let it ride for now.
She asks if her dad's up, then has a tense conversation with Amelia about the late Rose and her incredible estate-planning skills. "Family was real important to her," Amelia says. "Don't remember much of that," Gemma bitterly remarks. The conversation goes downhill from there. Nate comes out, and Gemma rises with, "Morning, Daddy." It's obvious that Nate doesn't recognize her, and Gemma realizes this. She introduces herself and Nate blusters, "I knew that." Gemma gets coffee as Nate notices the curio cabinet and flips out with, "You know how your mother hates things out of place." "Now that I remember," she mutters. When Nate sits down, he strokes Gemma's face with, "I hardly recognize you. How old are you now?" Gemma is again taken aback, but says, "Fifty-three." Cut to Nate looking rattled over how old his daughter is.
Tig comes back in right then to tell Gemma he's got Clay on the line, and Nate does not deal well with this man popping out of nowhere. Not that I blame him. Imagine sitting in your kitchen drinking coffee when Tig materializes out of nowhere. Aside from the small percentage who just read that sentence and asked, "But is he clothed? Because in my fantasy he's not," you have to admit: a surprise visit from Tig is a pants-wetting moment. Gemma tries to smooth things over ("This is Tig, you met him last night"), and Nate tries to cover for his lapse in memory. Then he tells Gemma, "The coffee's too strong. Next time, you let your mother make it." Gemma, to her eternal credit, merely nods and says, "Okay. Yeah." And her face says a thousand different things -- pain, grief, regret, and resolution to give her dad the gift of an easy visit. What a pity this fantastic acting will be completely ignored by the Golden Globes and Emmy voters in 2011.
Zip! Back to Charming. Tara walks into administrator Margaret Murray's offic