“Sons of Anarchy” recap: “Crucifixed”

It’s getting that time of the season when the “previously on Sons of Anarchy” segment is taking up a noticeably large amount of time. With all the shenanigans going down, there’s a lot of ‘splaining to do, especially when you have a super-sized 90-minute episode that picks up so many threads from stories that stretch back for seasons. That said, “Crucifixed” is one of the more brutal stretches the show has ever put us through. Oftentimes I won’t remember a given episode by title, but with “Crucifixed,” I’ll never forget it. You’ll know why by the end.

Charlie Hunnam acts tough on FX's biker drama "Sons of Anarchy"

We pick up immediately where last week’s episode left off, with Jax quietly — menacingly — trailing Juice. Was he meaning to finish him off right then and there? We’ll never know because waiting at Jax’s house is a cop who brings him in for “questioning” related to the Nomad attack at Unser’s place. It’s actually Eli, though, bringing him in to let him know that Jax is on to him about the RICO case, and that he needs to get out of Charming. Interestingly, and exhibiting far more of a common-sense backbone than he’s known for, Juice instead elects to meet the problem head on. When Jax wakes up the next morning, he finds that Juice has come over to his house for a visit. Juice comes clean and throws himself at Jax’s mercy. Jax tells him the only way he can avoid getting kicked out of the club (or the land of the living, most likely) is to help him get Clay. Keeping in mind what Frankie had tried to tell him about Clay being the mastermind behind the Nomad insurrection, he agrees. Jax puts him on the search for some  documents that will prove his guilt.

Best line to come out of this subplot: When Jax and Bobby are bringing Chibs up to speed about Juice, Chibs tells them why Juice was so scared, and why Eli was able to exert leverage on him. His father’s black, to which Jax replies: “Maybe it’s time we change a few bylaws.”

Tara starts the episode in a much brighter spot, receiving a visit from a representative of the hospital that courted her last season. Apparently they’re still interested, despite her injury. The rep is played by Tara Summers (Boston Legal), and while she’s not a huge name, she’s good enough that it makes me think we’ll be seeing her again beyond this episode. Not that that’s panned out so far for Ashley Tisdale and Joel McHale, but we’ll see.

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Lest you thought the Sons were done dealing out vengeance for Opie’s murder, Hightower, the man who swung the actual pipe (you’re welcome for that visual reminder), is next on the list. He’s out of prison, and has hired some friends of SAMCRO in Oakland for protection. That would be the Grim Bastards, whose leader T.O. seems really put out by the situation. He had no idea Hightower killed Opie, but the thing is, that’s his cousin. He understands Jax need for vengeance, but he’s unwilling to give his family member over to be killed. Jax is unsympathetic at first, but thanks to some counsel from Bobby — who points out the 20 years of hard-won cooperation between the two clubs — agrees to a compromise. A conversation about who the other killers are, and a nice beatdown, will suffice.

T.O. agrees to track the guy down and stay out of Jax’s way, but before that happens Jax gets the info from Pope, whom he’s meeting to give details about for Charming Heights. Jax has arranged for maintenance contracts and subsidized housing for Lyla and her family, and is hoping Pope will sign on as an investor, further putting Hale into SAMCRO’s clutches. Pope seems interested, but he’s more concerned with the timetable on when he can have Tig back for that life-in-prison punishment. Jax says soon, saying he needs a little more time to bring down Clay, and that barely satisfies Pope. The clock is clearly ticking.

When they track down Hightower, they find the Grim Bastards are already there, which turns out to be unfortunate all around. After Jax expressly promises T.O. that they won’t kill Hightower, he dutifully listens to the scant information the guy provides, then stands aside as Tig puts several slugs into his skull. Although it’s Hightower lying dead on the floor, the look on Bobby’s face makes it seem like a part of him has died, too. When they’re back in Charming, Bobby tells him that what he did was wrong, and that he spit all over two decades of brotherhood. Jax doesn’t try to defend the rightness of what he did, but screams at Bobby that he wasn’t there when Opie died and can’t possibly feel what he’s feeling. Jax takes Chibs aside and tells him things are going to get bad, and he’s not sure if Bobby will be able to go along with everything. So Chibs’ allegiance is extra important. Chibs reassures Jax, as only Chibs can, in that lovably Irish brogue that almost makes you forget what he’s a ruthless killer. Until he excuses himself to go “clean up,” that is.

All season — hell, all series — I and probably every other SOA fan have been wondering if Clay had a line he would never cross. He was OK with ordering the death of Opie, killing Piney, putting a hit out on Tara, beating the crap out of Gemma, and now subverting Jax’s leadership that it seemed to be there was nothing he wouldn’t do to get back at the head of the table. Well, apparently he’s found it. When he visits another former Son in jail (one Lenny “The Pimp” Janowitz), he learns about Otto’s turning and the RICO investigation, and that Jax has been hiding it from him. So his next stop is Romeo and the Cartel, and for some reason he feels he’s got them on the ropes, knowing that he has leverage, that it’s awfully suspicious how the case was suddenly dropped. The arrangement Romeo proposes — in order to keep the guns and drugs trade flowing — is that Jax goes down and Clay resumes leadership of the Sons. Yet after all that bluster, and all the maneuvering he’s orchestrated, Clay is suddenly troubled when offered everything he presumably wanted. He’s not going to take that deal, he tells them, to which Romeo replies, “Yes, you will,” instantly reversing the power dynamics of the situation — a Sons trademark.

Clay has found how far he is willing to go, and is horrified by how far he has already gone. He almost breaks down in front of Juice, who is a bit nervous because seconds before Clay walked in he was rifling through his belongings, trying to find those documents Jax wants. He wonders, why he did some “heinous shit” in order to go after something he’s not even sure he wants anymore. Hell of a realization, that. I mean, you’ll pardon me if I’m not fully able to trust Clay’s come-to-Jesus moment, but he exhibits some uncharacteristically selfless behavior later with Gemma, too, when she sets out to begin her seduction of him only to have him say he doesn’t want her to do anything with him unless she’s absolutely sure it’s what she wants. He knows how awful he was to her, and he can’t stand to lose her twice. Not sure if that made it easier or harder for Gemma to kiss him, which is what she did next. Probably both.

C’mon, you knew that plan wasn’t going to go smoothly, right? Old feelings are going to come up for Clay, sure, but Gemma will have to deal with them, too. And once he starts assuming power, it’s going to feel awfully familiar, and intoxicating. Will she remember her feelings for Nero?

Speaking of Nero, have you noticed that I haven’t mentioned him this whole recap? That’s not going to change either. Despite his looming presence this season, he does not appear nor is he even mentioned. But there’s so much going on, you don’t really notice.

Which brings us to the scene that “Crucifixion” will be remembered for most. Tara continues her trips to the prison to persuade Otto to recant his testimony. He tells her, finally, that he’ll take it all back. Well, technically, what he says is he’ll make his part of RICO “go away.” Perhaps this should have sounded more ominous to Tara, but she’s so thrilled that he’s going to help the club, and probably still experiencing an empathy hangover after the incident with Luann’s perfume, that she doesn’t notice. But Otto has one more request. He wants a crucifix of Luann’s brought in so he can say a prayer. He doesn’t believe in God, but the ritual will give him comfort. Knowing the authorities won’t let him keep it for long, Tara figures it can’t hurt, and that it’s the least she can do, so she gets the crucifix from Gemma and hands it to Otto. After she leaves the room, at his request, Otto loosens one of his straps and makes a ruckus in order to bring in the nurse and staff. Soon after he breaks free and attacks everyone, banging the nurse’s head against the wall and knocking her out. Tara has made her way back into the room now and is begging Otto to stop. Please stop. But he says if the Sons are going to live, then this is the price. He brings the crucifix down into the nurse’s neck — again and again and again — her life’s blood gushing out of her and staining the floor red. Otto is taken away by some guards but the damage is obviously done.

My first thought was that Otto was going to use the crucifix to kill himself, which would have also accomplished the goal of eliminating his testimony. But no, Otto proved what an evil world Sons of Anarchy inhabits. The nurse is just the latest innocent to suffer in order that these vicious felons can keep their lifestyles in tact. If we saw them on the nightly news, we would be horrified and disgusted by them, but in the midst of a wildly entertaining, impeccably written cable drama, they prove irresistible.

Beyond the horror of what she witnessed, and the guilt that must surely follow, Tara knows she’s screwed. As she tells a stunned Jax later on, the authorities will figure out how he got the crucifix, who Tara is and why she’s there. He made her an accessory to murder, and Jax’s assurances that it’s going to be OK, that they will find a way through this, brings only cold comfort. As much as she fears the reckoning that looks to be coming her way, Tara also fears living a life where she could possibly get away with what she’s done, and what she’s had to sacrifice to live that way.

There seems to be no good way out of any of this, but of course, that’s usually when Sons of Anarchy gets great. Next week is another 90-minute episode, so I’ll talk to you then, after I’ve been riveted to the screen and hating myself just a little bit for it.

Photo: Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX