Hands up all of you who shouted "Holy @#%&!" several times during the episode. Now, tell me how you pronounce "@#%&" because I'm never quite sure if it's a long # or a short one.
HOW SWEET IT IS: SAMCRO's moved right into downtown Charming, much to the chagrin of the few pedestrians in Charming and Mayor Hale the Lesser, who exposits that he's about to get bounced from office because of the delays to the Charming Heights development. These delays are linked to Pope Industries' slowdown in the wake of Damon Pope's death. And thus Jax is smacked in the face with yet another dilemma of his own making, what with his pet mayor and legit business sideline threatened by his club's murder of Damon Pope.
NINA: The Irish presence is greatly reduced this week. The club lets Connor go with a message: Tell Galen that the Sons are okay with his plan to use Clay as his distribution point, but when that inevitably fails, they'll be waiting with August Marks as their backup plan. Connor is all, "I look forward to delivering that message shortly before a bunch of short-tempered racists kill me for saying a word."
Also, the club catches us all up in case anyone has spent the first half of this season in a mescaline haze or something. Jax: "As far as the Irish go, the peace is real. We're going to cut Connor loose today, make sure everything moves forward with Clay. Bobby can walk us through our sad financials. " Bobby lays it out: the guys are in serious straits. Naturally, this is when Montez, West and Quinn all patch into the charter and Rat finally gets patched in as a full member.
DA STANDS FOR 'DESPARATE ATTORNEY': Displeased by the tsunami of negative press castigating her for not finding a scapegoat in the school shooting, Patterson goes ahead and charges Nero with Erin's murder. (You will recall that Roosevelt pointed out that the physical evidence nails her special investigator Toric for it.) She tells Nero that if he can get Jax to testify that he sold Nero the gun that ended up in young Matthew Jennings' hands, he can walk away. Privately, she frets to Roosevelt that nobody's going to crack and she needs somebody "outside the family circle." A lightbulb goes off over Roosevelt's head: The Best Little Craftsman Whorehouse in Stockton and Barofsky. He and Patterson take a trip to the bakery and she ably threatens Barofsky. Since Barofsky dislikes Jax anyway, he's not exactly disinclined to go along with the DA.
MEN ARE FROM MARS, WOMEN ARE FROM VENUS: So the reason Venus is in town is because she's got family problems: Her whackjob mother Alice has custody of Joey (first introduced as Venus's nephew) and Nero fuh-reaks out when he hears this, then charges Gemma with getting Joey away from Alice. Tasking God's Righteous Mother with rescuing a child is like feeding sirloin to a Doberman, so of course Gemma's all over it. And by "all over it," I mean "tells Jax to handle it."
Jax balks, but when Venus tells a story of her mother using her to launch a lucrative child pornography franchise, the grizzled bikers all rally to the cause. A family brawl later – of course Venus can handle a shotgun like a Robert Rodriguez wet dream – and a car chase (because what is this show without one car chase per week?), and we have learned that Joey is actually the result of Venus's last hurrah as Vincent. The crew enlists Barofsky to find Joey and Alice, and that's how they end up at a child porn studio. I confess: the set-up with cameras aimed at the crib gave me actual nightmares, which is something nothing else on this show has managed to do.
When Alice finally comes in, she delivers a monologue about how awful Venus is as a parent/father to a roomful of biker dudes with varying daddy issues. When she gets to the line about how Joey will kill himself because of the life his father forced him into, that's when Jax is all, "That's enough, inner monologue I am trying to ignore through rigorous journaling" and kills her.
Barofsky thanks Jax for helping wipe this scum out of his port, and they all plan to destroy the computers which contain all the footage of abused children, rather than drop them at law enforcement so as to help the good guys track down the sick filth that buy this stuff. But as the saying goes, perfect is the enemy of good. Alice is dead and Barofsky is hunting down her accomplices, so that's one less manufacturer. Let's focus on that.
Venus admits that she's not ready to tell Joey that he's her son, because she's not ready to lose him yet. Jax calls Venus a hell of a father, and by the end of the episode, Tig has managed to move from a place of raw animal longing for Venus and into something slightly more evolved, holding her while she watches Joey board a bus to Seattle.
WHO'S THE FIERCE MOTHER NOW? Tara's manipulations – which we've seen in dribs and drabs all season – finally begin to unfold. She draws a pint of her own blood (with Margaret's help), draws up a will where Gemma is explicitly barred from raising her boys and confidently asserts that Jax will sign it, then gets Unser to help her get a restraining order.
After those pieces are in place, Tara sends Wendy to play her role with Gemma. So Wendy rushes off to Teller Morrow and tells Gemma that Tara's making Margaret the guardian of the children and planning to divorce Jax. Gemma, predictably, decides she can stop this by virtue of showing up and yelling at people, so she goes to the hospital and physically assaults Margaret in front of Unser, then goes after Tara in Tara's office.
Tara does a little screaming and a little slapping, but it's not enough to goad Gemma. The older woman snarls, "You're lucky you're pregnant," and THAT is when Tara pulls a move worthy of a soap opera, slams her stomach into the table, thus puncturing the bag of blood in her dress, then claims Gemma attacked her. As Gemma's led away, Tara weeps that she wants her husband.
I will not lie, when that all went down, I was like, HOLY CATS TARA JUST OUT-GEMMA'D GEMMA. THIS IS GOING TO GO SO BAD SO FAST. Yet apparently it does not, because when Jax shows up with Bobby and Chibs in tow and Tara's weeping about how Gemma kicked her in the stomach, everyone's all, "Yeah, that sounds about right." Which … these people have all met Gemma, right? They know that babies are her kryptonite. Except for when she's holding guns to their wee heads, but maybe she's just racist against Hibernians? ANYWAY, Tara has just effectively destroyed Gemma's reputation with Margaret as her willing handmaiden. Wendy and Unser appear slightly more conflicted about their roles.
A few more weepy scenes from Tara – along with the strategic sobbing to Jax that "I lost our baby girl," which is just insanely manipulative, even by Gemma standards -- and Jax is signing whatever paperwork Tara and Lowen put in front of him.
The quote of the week: "She's going to box us out of seeing our boys!" – Wendy deftly punching all of Gemma's buttons all at once. Using my funhouse-mirror theory of this season, it's striking how the queen of manipulating mamas (see the pilot) has become so easy to maneuver.
If we learn anything from the opening montage in this episode, let it be this: Never doubt what a group of committed bikers can do to turn an abandoned sweet shoppe into a den suitable for SAMCRO business. It is kind of a mystery to me why these guys would want to go with prostitution and porn for their businesses when they can run a moving service, and thus their customers can be screwed in an entirely legal fashion.
Also, we see Tara hugging Wendy outside the day care at the hospital. The two women cling to one another and I wish for the umpteenth time that they'd just run off together and build a sane new life up in Oregon.
We see that Patterson's getting roasted in the local press for her perceived inaction on the shooting, and we should all be grateful that this is only a series of newspapers we're looking at and not, say, the Internet comments because that would be a parade of idiocy-fueled conspiracy theories.
And for a final montage note: Gemma watches the crew moving things out of the bombed-out clubhouse (including the miraculously unscathed table -- I guess none of the firefighters were spiteful enough to try and blast it with enough water to warp it for life), and she retreats to her office to think about how she's losing her nerve line into the club and her man behind bars. What does she have left beyond her grudge match with Tara over the boys?
Then we head out of the opening montage to see Jax in front of the sweet shoppe, handing over three months' rent to the mayor, who does not look too excited to have the Sons spearheading downtown's new revitalization. He needs to turn that frown upside down once he realizes how much more lively chamber of commerce meetings are about to get.
The mayor exposits, "The whole town is spooked, Jax. There's a council meeting next week, there… folks will be talking about how to get rid of the MC." "Well, it's a good thing the mayor has veto power," Bobby says laconically. Hale the Lesser says, "Yeah, for a minute. Shit went down with Charming Heights. I'm done after this term. It means you've got three months to buy some good will."
Jax is aware of that. He's now made aware that Charming Heights is in danger of stalling out because Pope Industries is taking its sweet time in backing the project. And why might they be taking their sweet time? Because when your CEO is murdered, people tend to use the change in leadership to reevaluate business deals and long-term company plans, and someone in that organization is not looking at a proposal and saying, "An opportunity to tie up my money with a development deal soaked in SAMCRO? Where do I sign?" The upshot of this conversation: When Jax let Tig shoot Pope, Jax ended up shooting his club in the foot.