By Mandi Bierly
Updated October 09, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT
Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s Sons of Anarchy, stop reading now. There’s a guest spot that should remain a surprise. Now, let’s dig in.

As I said when I reviewed this episode in EW’s What to Watch section, season 5 has been so heartbreakingly brutal that fans deserve a bit of a reprieve. This hour, “Orca Shrugged,” definitely felt like one, even with the dramatic turn in the home-invasion story line (which I suspect we all saw coming the moment Eli kissed wife Rita’s belly). You might recall a tweet from SOA creator Kurt Sutter over the summer: “just wrote the most disturbing SOA sex scene i’ve ever written. i need to shower and play with a puppy.” The only thing he’d say when we asked to elaborate was that the scene was in the season’s fifth episode. Perhaps because of what we’ve witnessed this season — Tig’s daughter being burned alive, Opie being beaten to death — I didn’t find the club drugging a diabetic insurance salesman/city council member with laced fudge so they could photograph him having sex with a transgender escort for blackmail purposes tough to watch, at all. Or maybe it was because Sutter and guest star Walton Goggins worked so hard to make Venus Van Dam a three-dimensional character with a clever mind as well as phenomenal breasts. Read our interview with Goggins for the story behind the guest spot.

I don’t know that any comedy this season has made me laugh as hard as the moment Justified‘s Walton Goggins made his surprise entrance as Venus Van Dam, a nod to his character Shane Vendrell’s alias Cletus Van Damme on The Shield. FX was right to keep it a secret: It was just pure joy seeing Goggins reunite with Sutter in a way you never could have imagined — wearing a color block dress that showed off a pair of hypnotically realistic breasts. “Is he dead? ‘Cause I don’t do dead,” Vera said in her Southern accent. I wonder if Charlie Hunnam couldn’t keep a straight face, and that’s why they had to shoot from behind him as Jax and Vera talked about the need for discretion. I liked seeing Jax smile — it was real. Just like Bobby’s laugh after he heard Vera tell Jax, “My lips are sealed. Although I might open them up a little bit for you,” sounded genuine. All the reactions were screengrab-worthy, but the look of love on Tig’s face was the best. He was clearly aroused as Jax (“Reach around and tickle his balls… oh, that’s fantastic”), Bobby, and master photographer Juice directed the shoot that had Venus, now wearing an assless black latex catsuit and stilettos, mounted on poor Allen Biancone. The club, which had unanimously voted to follow Jax into business with Nero, needs Biancone to vote in favor of Mayor Hale keeping the land rights for Charming Heights, so a grateful Hale will let them lease his building that Jax has decided is perfect for the companion business. “How ’bout, like, an air traffic controlman?” Venus suggested, before motioning her short tassel whips and yelling “Whoo!” (Goggins, by the way, suggested I call them purgatory sticks.) I would quote more, but this site is not TV-MA.

Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX

Tell me you didn’t rewind when Venus nervously flapped her hands after Chucky announced someone else was headed toward the door. “Charming community theater, baby,” Venus answered when the unexpected visitor, Allen’s stepson Devin Price (True Blood‘s Marshall Allman), asked what they were doing to Allen. Devin figured it out pretty quickly and wanted to take photos so he could blackmail Allen, too. Instead, Venus offered to service Devin in exchange for his silence — and, of course, another two grand from Jax after she photographed Devin to give the club some insurance. “Are you jealous, Tiger?” Venus asked Tig. “Kinda,” Tig admitted. “I know you are,” she said. Rewinding again! It’s when Venus sauntered into the back room after Devin that you really got to appreciate Goggins’ ability to walk in those shoes (and also the look on Mark Boone Junior’s face as Bobby stared at Kim Coates’ Tig). Being sufficiently satisfied (and threatened with his Facebook page blowing up with those photos), Devin made his exit after the club laughed off his interest in hanging out. Venus followed. “Whenever y’all need a little Venus love, give me a call. I’m the belle who does not tell,” she said, then kissed Jax. That didn’t look scripted, and Goggins confirmed it wasn’t. Please let him get an Emmy nomination for this.

NEXT: Tig gets bit in the ass

If you thought the fun was over when Venus left, you were wrong: Allen woke up and bit Tig in the ass. “Why does this always happen to me?” Tig asked. Because we’re never supposed to forget that Tig deserves to be punished for all he’s done, or just because Coates has the best delivery? Tig’s ass wound served a larger purpose than a laugh (and making us feel better now that Allen got some kind of revenge). Tara had gone to the doctor earlier, and he said he wouldn’t rule out her being a surgeon again. She was asked to sew up Tig, who got a local but also self-medicated with some whiskey. Tara’s hand shook enough that Gemma nudged Chibs, who suggested he take over and Tara talk him through it. Afterward, Gemma and Tara shared a nice moment: Tara admitted she hadn’t told Jax about her kicking Carla’s ass.

Tara: It scares me sometimes, the extremes.

Gemma: Not a lot of gray in this life, sweetheart. Extremes become average.

Tara: I’m not sure I find that comforting.

Gemma: You’re not supposed to.

That conversation set the stage for Gemma being welcomed back into Tara and Jax’s home. I’m not sure who we’re supposed to be more worried about now: Gemma or Tara. Gemma had gone to see Nero, who hadn’t returned her calls for days. She assumed he was upset about what she’d done to Carla, but he told her about his deal with Jax. I thought for sure Nero was going to go back on that deal when he shoved Gemma into the wall — he wanted to kiss her — but the man loves his kid and wants to get him that farm. Can he really be this good of a guy? Gemma confronted Jax, and he admitted he’s having trouble separating her from his hatred for the situations with his father and Clay. “You can’t hate me, Jackson,” Gemma said. “You’re the only thing I still love.”

At the end of the day, Gemma dropped off a package that had come to the garage for Jax, and Tara had Gemma stay and feed Thomas. It was a sweet moment that, as this show is prone to do, was juxtaposed with something troublesome — Tara smoking a joint in the other room. It’s not the drug that’s worrisome, it’s why she’s using it. As a TV viewer, it’s hard to know what to root for here: Do we want Tara to lose it, because that will mean good scenes for Maggie Siff, or do we want Tara to hold it together, because as long as this strong, intelligent woman is willing to stay in this dangerous world, it’s okay for us to play in it Tuesdays at 10 p.m., too?

Did you know what was inside Jax’s box before he opened it? It was the body parts he needs to prove to Nero’s crew that Emma Jean is dead (even though she isn’t). Again, we had tender moments (Jax covering up sleeping Tara on the couch and sleeping Gemma and Thomas in the boys’ room) juxtaposed with Jax’s hard reality (the severed thumb and breast in a cooler). It was the perfect echo back to the start of the episode, when Jax was reading in voiceover what he was writing down for his sons: “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.”

At this point, the Irish-Galindo deal is supposed to feel like a nail in Jax’s coffin, but that testosterone-fueled meeting made it feel like, for now at least, Jax’s coffin was being carried away in one of those fun funeral processions with a New Orleans jazz band. Galen wasn’t happy to see the president patch on Jax’s cut. He told Jax he considers him “arrogant, selfish, and explosive” and to blame for Father Kellan Ashby’s death in Ireland. Galen threw the first punch, then the shirts came off. Strike that, Galen’s button down came off (very nice!) but Jax’s T-shirt remained on (boo!). They continued slugging each other even after Romeo arrived.

Romeo: I didn’t know you were gonna have entertainment.

Clay: It’s a little Irish discussion.

Romeo: Should I be worried?

Clay: Nah. It will all end in Guinness and man hugs.

We didn’t see either of those, but I’d say the smile Jax shot Galen after Galen insisted on showing Romeo what his hardware could do — by blowing up some Sons bikes — was rather warm. “Way to close a deal, brother,” Jax said. Chibs looked less happy. Regardless, the deal is a go — there will be shipments every two weeks.

Lastly, we get to the home invasions. Gemma and Clay went to the police station to see if any of their stolen items were recovered in a van the cops had pulled over. The guys arrested included a couple of East Dubs with priors. That’s a gang in Damon Pope’s jurisdiction. Nothing belonged to Gemma and Clay, so Gemma left after the guys attacked a cop who’d gone into the holding area. Clay hung around so he and Eli could agree that these East Dubs being transferred to the country jail away from Charming was a good thing. Cut to Rita home alone reading a book in bed. She heard a noise, grabbed her gun, locked the bedroom door, and called 911. When someone broke through the door, she fired a shot but missed. A second guy grabbed her and she scratched him below his neck as they struggled. He threw her to the ground and the gun went off — she was shot in the stomach. As she bled, the three guys ran. So much has happened since the season premiere, you might’ve forgotten that we already know it’s the three SAMCRO transfers who are behind this. It’s clear they didn’t mean to shoot Rita. So what’s their angle? Theories?

Other questions: Like Jax, was anyone else surprised that Clay was fine with the club getting into business with Nero? I guess he needs to earn. Is Jax really okay with Charming Heights happening, or will he find another way to sabotage Hale’s development later? Is hooking Damon Pope up with Hale as an investor a way to eventually take them both down, or just doing business with people you know? And outside of the Venus Van Dam scenes, was this the best exchange of the night?Bobby: It’s pink, wet, tastes like sunshine.Happy: P—-.

Tig: Or Italian ice. I’m okay with both.

Read more:

Episode Recaps

Sons of Anarchy

Kurt Sutter’s original series, starring Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Katey Sagal.

  • TV Show
  • 7
  • Off Air
  • FX
stream service