By Stacey Harrison
A few recaps ago, I lamented that Sons of Anarchy seemed to be resorting too often to that tired cliché of action movies, wherein a character gets shot or maimed but never killed. This allows the story to mine some cheap dramatic tension without really delivering on any sense of danger. So when Chibs narrowly escaped a van explosion, only to slowly recover in the hospital, I wondered why they didn’t just off him. Really, Chibs hasn’t been much of a factor to this point, so couldn’t we have done away with him and raised the stakes a bit?
Consider me chastened. The writers had big plans for our former IRA friend, and his arc this episode (and the next), instantly rank up there with the most suspenseful and heartfelt of the series. Watching him sit down with the infamous Jimmy O, the IRA kingpin who banished him from the Emerald Isle and, for good measure, took his wife and kid, was bone-chilling and infuriating. Jimmy wants a sit-down with Clay to repair the relationship between their organizations, but doesn’t deign to set it up himself. Instead, he strong-arms Chibs into doing it, saying that Fiona is starting to lose her looks, and that the daughter, Carrie Anne, is starting to look appetizing. That’s enough to send Chibs to Agent Stahl, taking her up on her offer of flipping evidence on Jimmy O in exchange for protection for his family.
It’s almost enough to distract from the main plot of whether Jax will go Nomad. Nobody seems pleased with the idea, except maybe Clay. And the plan does seem amazingly flawed, given that Jax’s ultimate goal is to bring the club into legitimacy. Tough to do that when you’re not even a part of it, as Tara rightly points out. See how smart she is?
The SAMCRO boys do get a line on another possible gun pipeline after Opie and Half-Sack go on a repo gig on an Indian reservation. In the back of the truck they take they find a bevy of homemade bullets. When they go to check it out, they strike a deal with the natives not only for the ammo, but for a supply of very special mushrooms. As a means of quality control, Clay has Half-Sack and Tig partake of the fungi with the predictable Cheech and Chong-type results. It’s all played for laughs, as Clay sells the effectiveness of the ‘shrooms to the Niners by having them watch Sack and Tig’s loopy behavior, but it does end up going somewhere serious. Tig seems to have reached a breaking point on his guilt over killing Donna. Stay tuned.
Jax learns from Unser that Clay most likely did not set the fire at the porn studio, so he’s ready to change his mind. But when he goes to talk to Clay about it, and asks him point-blank whether he wants him gone, Clay says he does. So they go through with the club vote, and it’s unanimous. They let him go. That’s when Jax sets about cutting off his charter patches, pieces of fabric he had been willing to die for just a few episodes back.
But Gemma has one more ace up her sleeve. She gets Jax and Clay together, bringing Tara along for moral support, and tells them about her rape. The predictable emotions ensue, with Jax slamming the table, then going over and comforting his mom. He then lays a hand on Clay’s shoulder, the first genuine bits of warmth the two have shared all season. Jax leaves the couple alone, and picks up his SAMCRO patches, ready to put them back where they belong. Irony of ironies, the maneuver designed to rip the club apart actually has, for the moment, brought it back together.
— There are some really well done info dumps in this episode, both involving Chibs. When he storms into the Irish headquarters and mentions that they supply guns to the people who nearly blew him up, it’s very helpful to the FBI agents listening in. Then we get the bitter history between Chibs and Jimmy O as Stahl tries to goad him into cooperating. You don’t know you’ve been fed a bottle full of exposition till it’s all over.
— Gemma tells Jax she thinks his father essentially killed himself, but it comes off more as a last stab at getting him to reconsider going Nomad.
— The chickens are finally coming home to roost for Tara, who gets suspended by the hospital for artificially prolonging Chibs’ hospital stay. Let’s see how that affects her undying love for Jax.
— Anyone else think the voice of Jax’s dad just doesn’t sound right? Seems far too stentorian, like someone reading an audiobook, than a biker bearing his soul. I’m just waiting for that inevitable flashback episode to see what the guy looks like. Next season, maybe?
— Opie and Lila finally do the deed, with Opie getting in the poignant line that it’s not Lila that gives him pause, but the bed that he shared with Donna. Their solution? Do it on the floor. In any event, there’s lots of disrobing, but none more startling than finally seeing Opie without his hat. How long had it been?
— Stahl is hedging her bets with Chibs, also putting the squeeze on Cameron, who is a bit easier to intimidate. She lays out the same make-the-gang-think-you’re-a-snitch ploy that backfired tragically on Opie.