By Mandi Bierly
October 23, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT
Prashant Gupta/FX
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Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s episode of Sons of Anarchy, stop reading now. Let’s break it down.

• The Joel McHale cameo: Gemma woke up in bed with Warren (McHale), who, it turns out, seduces women so he can steal their cars. When Gemma realized she’d been robbed, she called Nero, who told Jax and the boys. You’d think Nero could have handled this alone with his crew in exchange for Gemma having arranged for Carla’s body to disappear, but then we wouldn’t have seen Nero scold Jax for the way he was judging Gemma (“Since when do you drink banana vodka?”). Nero told Jax that Gemma’s still his mother and he should respect her: She’s caught between a husband she hates and a son she thinks hates her. Jax took it to heart and had a tender scene with Gemma in which she apologized for wanting Jax to make up for the love his dead brother Thomas would never be able to give her, and Jax admitted he felt bad after Thomas died because he was happy having Gemma to himself. Bottom line: He loves her and they’ll get through all this, he said. Once again, Jax proved he is the best hugger in Charming. 

Was the McHale cameo a bit distracting (don’t they have more important things to deal with right now than a chase scene with a nobody who stole Gemma’s Escalade, or, rather, his stunt double)? Yes. But we needed to see fixer Jax reach out to Gemma. Nero had said a woman like Gemma doesn’t do well without family, so when the babysitter fell through for Jax and Tara’s cabin getaway, Jax convinced Tara to let Gemma watch the boys. Big mistake…

• Gemma’s spiral takes a serious turn: After spending some time smoking weed and making up with Unser, Gemma got behind the wheel to drive the boys home. This opportunity meant so much to Gemma, I get that she wouldn’t have wanted to admit to Tara that she was high. But someone as fiercely protective as Gemma should have thought to ask one of the guys hanging out to drive her and the kids. She could have claimed she was emotionally exhausted from the day, or simply told the guys not to tell Jax (we’ve seen they still listen to her). Why didn’t Filthy Phil offer? He was watching her. He probably saw her fumbling with her seatbelt. To avoid hitting a truck, Gemma swerved off the road, plowed through a guard rail, and went down an embankment. When the SUV came to a stop, she was knocked out, baby Thomas was crying, and Abel was silent. There was a tree running through his side of the car. The camera panned down, and blood began to drip onto his dropped toad stuffed animal. I had my hand over my mouth at this point: did they just kill Abel? The beauty of this show is that you can’t rule it out, but I suspect he’ll survive — partly because his stand-in was alive and well on creator Kurt Sutter’s Twitter feed recently, but mostly because we know Wendy doesn’t return until episode 12. Also, if he dies, Gemma would be so beside herself, she’d want to die, too. If he lives, she’ll want to cover up what happened, which is much more interesting…

• Clay continues to scheme: We learned the arrangement Clay had with the nomads: They’d do the break-ins to put pressure on Jax and get Clay back in the president’s seat, and then Clay would give them a piece of his end on the gun and drug deals. After the roadside run-in with Roosevelt we saw last episode, Jax and Bobby headed to Unser to find out what he knew about the home invasions. Unser’s been keeping a display board outlining the case in his Airstream. Unser told Jax his theory: Clay is using the nomads to make the club look weak so the sheriff and town turn on the “pretty guy they gave the gavel to” who now doesn’t look so smart.

Truthfully, Jax sending Unser to “feel out” the nomads sounded like a dumb idea from the second he suggested it. Of course, they were going to try to kill him. Clay had told the three to get out-of-town because when DNA came back, it’d ID Gogo, who’s in the system. While Jax spooked Frankie Diamonds on his own, Unser let Greg the Peg and Gogo know he was onto them. Greg told Clay that both Jax and Unser knew the truth and said Frankie and Gogo were talking about offing Unser. Clay told Greg they were right, it had to be done. The plan was for Clay to get to Unser’s Airstream first and make sure he couldn’t get to his guns, then the guys would storm the trailer and kill him.

That Airstream scene between Clay and Unser made me miss Wynn Duffy’s Winnebago on Justified. Unser immediately picked up his gun when Clay entered and tried to nonchalantly point it at him. I wonder what would have happened if Unser had Clay’s name on a suspect card instead of SAMCRO? In Clay’s mind, there was a chance he could convince Unser he wasn’t pulling the strings on the nomads. Clay had clueless, uneasy Juice serving as lookout. Juice called to tell Clay that the nomads had arrived.

Clay: That thing loaded?

Unser: Yeah, why?

Clay: You were a good friend, Wayne. I’m sorry I wrecked that, too.

As a viewer, you assumed Clay had set up the nomads, but the look of fear on Unser’s face listening to Clay’s ominous words made you scared anyway. When Gogo and Greg entered, Unser shot one and Clay the other. Unser wondered how Clay knew they’d show up, and Clay said after he talked to Unser in the hospital, he began digging around himself. Hearing the nomads were onto Unser’s suspicions and headed out-of-town, he assumed they’d be making a stop at his trailer. Unser began reloading his gun — he still thinks someone (read: Clay) is calling the shots. Clay insisted it wasn’t him, or he would have let them blow Unser’s head off. Unser agreed to keep Clay out of the mix when the cops came. “Watch your back, Wayne, there’s still one of ’em out there,” Clay said as he left. “Yeah, I’m watchin’,” Unser said.

We saw Frankie watching the cops at the crime scene, so he hadn’t left town yet. Hearing that Unser had spotted the scratches on Gogo’s chest and that Gogo and Greg were dead, Jax was ready to pay Clay a visit. Those camera shots drawing attention to the guns Jax and Clay could’ve reached for at any second could have been a little more subtle. The men used their words instead: Clay told Jax he understands why he thinks it’s him behind the nomads, but again insisted it’s Pope; Jax said they’ll find Frankie, get the truth and take it to the table, and let SAMCRO decide who lives and who dies. The slight smile on Jax’s face said he knew the answer already. But…

NEXT: Jax needs to ride where the terrain is flat

As Jax rode with Chibs, a van pulled up beside them and started shooting. A lot of rounds were fired, so I have to think if the shooters wanted to hit them, they would have. Granted, it was dark, but Jax had no problem recovering from being thrown from his bike to hit one of the masked men multiple times. When Chibs pulled off the mask, we saw the gunman was black. The other shooter got away. I couldn’t tell from his lone exclamation of “S—!” if it was a voice we know, but my guess, it was Frankie Diamonds. I’m thinking Clay had gotten to him and said since there was no DNA tying him to Rita’s murder, they could stick to their original deal — if he helped Clay turn up the heat on Pope. The body will make it tough for Jax not to doubt Pope again.

But why go through the trouble of having Gemma in an accident with the boys? We saw Clay looking at his marriage license again. He still loves her. Will he tell Gemma to lie and say a van tried to run her off the road? Is this how Clay worms his way back into Gemma’s life? It had to be something big — saving her from losing contact with Jax and her grandkids would qualify. It’d also explain why it was important for us to know how much Nero cares for Gemma, even if he can’t tell her. He’d gone back and beaten the crap out of Warren (“Now we call it even”). The question is: Will Clay try to use this against Gemma to make her his again? If so, will she go along with it knowing that it could drive a wedge between her and Jax again, or will she tell Nero the truth and hope he threatens Clay?

• Is Juice coming undone? It feels like we’re leading to something big with Juice, but what is it? After overhearing Tara tell Clay that he’s not living on borrowed time, he’s already dead to her, Juice knows Clay did something awful to her (and therefore Jax). He also knows that Clay had been hanging out with the nomads a lot and was there when Gogo and Greg were shot. Not that I know how he’d make it stick, but I worry Clay is gonna set Juice up to take a fall. Will the relationship between Juice and Roosevelt come back into play? Would Juice ever go to Roosevelt with his suspicions?

• Tara and Otto are in a holding pattern: Tara is looking for something she can use to remind Otto of what he loves. Bobby told her Otto won’t want to look at pictures of the club, but suggested she ask Gemma, who was Luann’s best friend, for an idea. Gemma said he only ever wanted Luann to wear this one perfume. Did Tara and Tig stop for it on her way up to the cabin? If not, it may be a while until we get back to that story.

Your turn. What are your theories?

Read more:

Dave Navarro to guest star on ‘Sons of Anarchy’

‘Sons of Anarchy’ recap: The table’s divided, and it’s a small world after all

‘Sons of Anarchy’: Walton Goggins discusses transformational role — AWESOME PHOTO

Episode Recaps

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