Charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent: Well. I don't think I'll be looking at Boyd Crowder with the same perspective after this episode.
Hale the Lesser has finally bowed to convention and grown a goatee so we know he's evil. But he does not bow to SAMCRO when they want to lease one of his properties for their new, classy Hookers'R'Us. Jax offers a deal: They'll help get Hale's Charming Heights development deal greenlit by the city council, and once that's done, Hale will lease them a building.
SAMCRO's methods of coercion include drugging a brownie or ten, delivering them to a councilman, then taking all manner of photos with him in bondage gear and being ridden like Shamu by a drag queen-cum-escort. (Walton Goggins' performance here should land him a spot as a guest judge on RuPaul's Drag Race if there is any justice in this world.) When Jax shows the photos to Hale the Lesser, he offers to set up the blackmail so that it can't be traced back to the mayor. Even more intriguing, however, is his throwaway line that he can bring in a new backer – "the biggest developer in Oakland" – because he's referring to Pope here. (I cannot wait to see why Jax wants Pope on his turf.) Anyway, Hale pretends to some soul searching, eventually gives the nod to having Jax blackmail the councilmember into voting for the project, and agrees to lease his building for the Whoremporium.
SAMCRO is going to start rooting for another potato blight: The deal between The Real IRA and the Galindo cartel finally goes down, but not without an opening act. Gaalan is apparently miffed at Jax on account of the younger man having the nerve to come to Ireland, retrieve his kidnapped son, and deliver the usual quota of SAMCRO death and chaos in his wake. This leads to fisticuffs, which Jax wins eventually, and then during the deal, Gaalan demonstrates the efficacy of his wares by blowing up several of the SAMCRO choppers. Jax plays it incredibly cool, however, which shows how the balance of power is shifting, even if Gaalan doesn't realize it yet.
All we need is love, and/or some really kind bud: So it turns out that Nero is the worst at dumping women, and Gemma is not exactly one to take getting dumped with any equanimity. She correctly intuits that Nero's giving her the cold (tattooed) shoulder because he's going into business with Jax, huffs at Jax to no avail, and ends up having a brief moment of connection with Clay (who is clearly biding his time until he can come up with a quasi-plausible reason to kill Nero). Honestly, the woman just needs a Match.com profile, so she can see what life is like when the man you're dating does not have "felon" checked off on the "extracurriculars" survey box.
However, Gemma is doing better than Tara, who spends most of the episode unraveling as she struggles to reconcile good news on the professional front (her hand is healing) with the hot mess that is her personal life. Perhaps many of you feel differently, but four seasons of feeling conflicted about being a doctor and an Old Lady is about three too many, and it is time for Tara to either embrace all her choices or to go colorfully mad. She's getting boring. And not just because she's smoking enough weed to stone a school of Phishheads.
Home, sweet home invasion: So we've established that the three former nomad members of SAMCRO are utter toolboxes, but if they're behind this most recent home invasion – in which Sheriff Roosevelt's lovely (pregnant) wife Rita is gut-shot – then that's just … ugh. Things are about to get a lot tougher for SAMCRO because the sheriff is going to be on them like Hell's own fury.
Random things worth mentioning: Clay's looking awfully hale, hearty and non-wheezy as he cleans his many guns; Gemma is apparently quite the omnisexual, if the pretty woman in her bed is any indication; Tig's received yet another bite in the ass, making this his third wound to the glutes since the series began.
Lisa Schmeiser is now hoping the season finale features Michael Chiklis dressed as Mae West, but will settle for a scene where Juice helps Gemma sign up for an eHarmony account. Tell her what you loved or loathed about the episode via Twitter.
The Jax Teller monologues are back! Come, let us thrill to the insights bubbling up inside the wine-dark mind of America's most sensitive biker:
"It's hard not to hate. People, things, institutions. They break your spirit and take pleasure in watching you bleed. Hate is the only thing that makes sense. But I know what hate does to a man: tears him apart, turns him into something he's not -- something he promised himself he'd never become. That's what I need to tell you: [I want] to let you know how hard I'm trying not to cave under the weight of all the awful things I feel in my heart. [During this we see Jax riding his bike alone at night, no "brothers" beside him.] Sometimes my life feels like a deadly balancing act, what I feel slamming up against what I should do. Impulsive reactions, racing to solutions, miles ahead of my brain [It is probably not a coincidence that this passage about acting before thinking was a VO on a scene of Gemma, having just bedded some anonymous woman, smoking a joint dazedly.] When I look at my day, I realize that most of it was spent cleaning up the damage of the day before. [And how appropriate that here we see Clay. Bee-tee-dubs, he's looking remarkably hale and healthy for a man who's not wearing his oxygen mask, and he's cleaning his impressive gun collection.] In that life, I have no future. All I have is distraction and remorse. [Hello, Tara! There you are!] I buried my best friend three days ago, and as cliché as this sounds, I left a part of me in that box -- a part I barely knew, a part I'll never see again. Every day is a new box, boys. You open it, you take a look at what's inside. You're the one who determines if it's a gift or a coffin."
So, is anyone else getting a bad feeling about whether or not Jax will be alive by the end of the series? Because so far, this season has underlined all the ways in which Jax is following in his dead dad's footsteps -- from the way he's leading the club to wearing his dad's wedding rings to writing his own manifesto about the perils of losing one's way.
ANYWAY. Jax has stopped writing because it's time to ruin his breakfast by taking it with Hale the Lesser. Jax, Bobby Elvis and Chibs ambush the mayor at his local greasy spoon. Hale opens with a casual mention of the home invasions he's sure have nothing to do with the town's friendly local biker gang. In reply, Jax manfully restrains himself from snickering at Hale's goatee or asking if this means he's dealing with Hale Prime from an alternate universe. Hale asks what Jax wants. Jax would like to lease the old Elks' Lodge for his escort service. Hale begins laughing: "You think I'm going to let you set up a prostitution ring in one of my properties?" Bobby Elvis drawls that it's very legit, as their partner has all the permits and licenses. Hale suggests that the Sons find another very legit property to rent. Jax says, "We like being in business with people we know." Hale blithely assures him that it's never going to happen, and that's when Jax lays down the plot for this week's caper: His exhaustive study of the minutes from the last six city council meetings have shown that the Charming Heights project is not only floundering, but also that Hale's in danger of losing all his land and having it revert back to agricultural use. There's a motion on the table that might permanently ice the project, and it depends on one swing vote. With the cheery demeanor of a car salesman, Jax says, "I know how important Charming Heights is to you, to this town. We're going to make your dream come true. I'll be in touch."