Sons of Anarchy recap: “Salvage”

Blowing up the clubhouse, the main setting for nearly six seasons. That should be some season-finale shit right there, right? Not if you’re Kurt Sutter or any of the other minds behind Sons of Anarchy. Any episode can lead to permanent game-changing events, so much so that when one character almost gets killed, it can kind of feel like a cheat, or a case of the writers losing their nerve. I mean, seeing Jax (Charlie Hunnam)  and Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) walking through the charred remains of Teller Morrow in the opening moments of Episode 6 … that’s like seeing Kirk, Sulu, Chekov, Scotty and Bones watching the Enterprise crash in the middle of The Search for Spock instead of toward the end.

OK, I can’t promise to refrain from any more gratuitous Star Trek references in this Sons of Anarchy recap, but I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.

Instead of the vengeful mindset that one might think the bombing of the clubhouse would instill, Jax and company seem a lot more on the mournful side. If there’s a rock bottom for addicts, this is perhaps Jax’s. Even though he’s talked about wanting to leave his outlaw life behind for six seasons now, maybe this is the moment where he makes it happen. “I did this,” he says as he surveys the damage and contemplates how everyone and everything he loves was nearly blown to bits in a dispute he largely helped to escalate. The scene is largely effective, save for an unfortunate — and out-of-character — lapse into sentimentality when Chibs rifles through the debris to find the president’s gavel, still perfectly intact, and hands it to the forlorn Jax, saying, “We’re going to fix this, brother.”

All right, can we get back to the dead hookers and psycho ex-marshals now?

Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) plays a refreshingly large part in this episode, telling Jax and Chibs flat out that business as usual is over. It’s just the first bit of assertiveness he shows in this episode, and it suits him well, although for some reason he doesn’t quite seem to carry the weight of having lost his pregnant wife in a vicious attack just last season. Perhaps that’s a nitpick. I’m not sure how I’d feel about seeing him mope around all the time, despite how much sense it might make dramatically. I especially like how when Jax tells him for the 4,096th time that he’s trying to go legit, Roosevelt calls him on it, saying the school shooting was the breaking point. Get it done now, son.

Unfortunately, Roosevelt is called away before he can drop any more knowledge because Gemma (Katey Sagal) is making a scene at the sheriff’s office, demanding to see Nero (Jimmy Smits), who’s sitting in jail after getting picked up on the murder charge. Even by Gemma’s standards, she’s belligerent, going so far as to shove a deputy when she gets too fed up. This tantrum gets her in to see Nero, all right, as they become cellmates. Once in there, she swears her love for him, saying she’s going to find a way to be with him and support the club.

She gets her chance soon enough, as Jax tasks her with going to see Clay (Ron Perlman) again to pass along some more information, telling him to take the Irish deal so they can work it from the inside. Not a conjugal visit this time, thank goodness, but the memory of the last visit — where the sadistic guards made them have sex while they watched — still stings. The visit goes well enough, and after she gives Clay the pertinent information, Gemma asks him whether he thinks Toric (Donal Logue) was warped enough to actually frame Nero for the murder. Armed with this information, Gemma stops back by the jail to tell Roosevelt, who happens to be in his office with Patterson (CCH Pounder), that Nero is innocent, framed by Toric. This only confirms what Roosevelt had been telling her, and he warns her that if those charges prove true it would be horribly damaging to her investigation into the school shooting. Reluctantly, Patterson tells her team to search Toric’s hotel room.

But Gemma has one more notable encounter this episode. While stopping in at Diosa, Lila (Winter Ave Zoli) tells her there’s somebody who says she’s from Nero’s past waiting in his office. Turns out it’s none other than the fabulous Venus Van Dam (Walton Goggins) who made quite the impression — especially on Tig — in an episode last season. Venus reveals to Gemma that she’s known Nero since childhood, as her mother was one of Nero’s best earners. But his prostitute mother wasn’t really able to help guide her young son who was experiencing some gender confusion. When she was out of the picture, Nero took the young boy in and “kept the wolves from my door.” Venus has returned because she was beaten up recently and didn’t know where else to turn. Gemma takes her in her arms and tells her she’s safe, only slightly rolling her eyes as she does so. While it’s great to see Goggins back as Venus, it’s hard to tell where this bit of storyline is going to go, if anywhere. But at least it helps keep Goggins busy until Justified returns in January.

Looks like the psycho marshal did a great job of cleaning up his murder mess, but Roosevelt and his officer do find his weapons arsenal. They also are able to smell the heavy stench of bleach, and find a bullet hole in the floor where the woman was shot. Roosevelt is confident they’ll be able to pull DNA that will match the victim. Patterson is dismayed but not yet ready to let Nero walk. This lady is determined, as we’ll find out even more about that later.

Jax convenes a makeshift meeting at his house where the Sons sit around his dining-room table and listen to Galen and the Irish kings tell them the terms of their new arrangement. Essentially, they will hand all distribution over to Clay after they arrange all their buyers to get onboard. Biting their tongues, they agree, and go so far as to say they’re going to release the Irish prisoners they’re holding, which elicits a genuine surprise from the kings, who had been led to believe that Jax had them killed. This really doesn’t look good for Galen, who slinks out of the room knowing he’s been exposed.

The Sons then head north to a club-wide summit, hitting the road in a convoy. They give all their guns to Rat (Niko Nicotero) who drives separately in a van. Good thing, too, as they run afoul of some local motorcycle cops when they hit a town called Eden.

Credit: Prashant Gupta
Credit: Prashant Gupta

Right away the situation seems a bit off. The cops are condescending and confrontational and immediately decide they’re going to detain the riders under the guise of making sure there are no stolen parts on their bikes. They go so far as to handcuff Juice (Theo Rossi) to his bike and shoot his tire. That’s when, forgive the pun (although I’m not sure I’ll forgive myself), Juice cuts loose. The cop’s gun is barely fired when Juice elbows him in the chops, setting the rest of the crew in motion. Jax is yelling, trying to keep things under control, but he also is aware they are being scammed. They all take off, with Jax commandeering one of the police bikes, trying to outrun the police van. Juice totally takes over, riding directly in front of the van, slowing it down. Then Rat comes by with the club’s van, opens the side door and motions for Juice to jump in, which he does, sending the cop bike skidding out under the police van, which proceeds to go careening down the hill at the side of the road. Yeah, some real Fast and Furious stuff there.

When they finally get to the summit, they take a minute to talk about the action-movie sequence they just lived through, concluding that the cops who stopped them were dirty and working with a chop shop, which they decide they will go visit later. Then there’s a joyous reunion with Bobby (Mark Boone Junior) who tells Jax he’d like a minute to talk with him later (about his plans to go Nomad, right?). Charlie Hunnam then delivers one of his signature moments in the show’s entire run, a long monologue addressing the club, talking about how it’s vital to the future of the entire MC that they get out of guns, sharing that 20 of his own Redwood chapter members had been killed in the last two years. Seriously, 20!!! Not sure how far back that goes, actually, as timelines for TV shows tend to get compressed. It probably includes Half Sack, who was killed protecting baby Thomas, who probably isn’t more than 2, right? Anyhoo, the table begins the biker equivalent of a slow clap, meaning Jax’s radical but heartfelt proposal found some fans. Jax gets more great news when he talks with Bobby and learns that his old VP wasn’t planning to go Nomad but was actually recruiting new members for the SAMCRO charter. Aw, Bobby. As far as Sons of Anarchy goes, it’s about as warm and fuzzy as it gets.

Feeling pretty good about themselves, the guys take a trip to that chop shop, where everything goes amazingly smoothly. They find all the stolen bikes and manage to nab the dirty cops who pestered them on the road. Instead of killing or torturing them, they blackmail them into making the incident today go away and, oh yeah, also demand that they go one by one and apologize for their behavior.

While Jax is having a pretty good day, he’s unaware that Tara (Maggie Siff) is putting her plan into action. For the first time, we hear her say out loud that she’s planning to file for divorce and ask for full custody. Unser (Dayton Callie) is uneasy about it, but he’s onboard. I guess. She’s surprised when Lowen (Robin Weigert) tells her that Patterson wants to talk about a deal. But it’s not one she expected. Instead of some kind of plea for a reduced charge, she instead wants Tara to flip and turn in the club, in return for full immunity and (we can only assume) a new life in witness protection. Tara immediately turns it down, but she’s not done hearing from Patterson. While standing in front of a mirror in the restroom, the DA takes off her wig, revealing a more natural look, and utters the memorable line “Time to go hood, sister.” She then marches out and tells Tara to inform her lawyer that she’s planning to move the trial date up three weeks AND she’s going to prosecute the case herself.

So what do you think? Will this make Tara consider becoming a snitch? Will we see Venus Van Dam again, and if so, why? This was a nice change-of-pace episode, after so much epic sadness, to see some good things happen, even though we know it’s all heading toward trouble in the end.