By Mandi Bierly
November 06, 2012 at 12:00 PM EST
Prashant Gupta/FX
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There’s something so satisfying about the “Previously on” intro being this long. It reminds us how deep we are into this story and puts the proper amount of weight back on our shoulders. If you haven’t watched this week’s Sons of Anarchy, stop reading now. Let’s break it down by story line:

• Gemma and Nero can have a good time together, even in a cemetery: It’s beautiful but cruel, making us like Nero this much and then forcing Gemma to choose between him and Clay. “We seein’ each other?” Gemma asked Nero. “Yeah… I see you, Gemma,” he said. Jimmy Smits’ delivery was disarmingly sincere. Even when he’s playing romantic or vulnerable, there’s always a strength there — you believe Gemma would be attracted to him. Nero asked Gemma to give him a ride to see his son, and though she knows she should keep her distance from him now that she’s on Operation Get Clay Black, she eventually did. They talked so openly and easily to each other in the playground, it’s hard to reconcile Gemma not telling him about her deal with Jax: the only way to get back into her son and grandchildren’s lives is for her to rekindle her romance with Clay so he starts sharing his secrets with her again. Is she afraid Nero won’t want her if she’s sleeping with Clay, or that he’d actually let her go because he, too, values family over everything?

Gemma and Nero then took Carla’s ashes to the cemetery.

Gemma: Well, here’s Carla.

Nero: Thanks… Damn, it all comes down to this, huh?

Gemma: Come in cryin’, go out in Tupperware.

Nero: [Chuckles] You make me laugh, Gemma.

Nero said Carla always wanted to be buried in a fancy mausoleum, so after he stole some flowers off a nearby grave, he and Gemma broke into one. Gemma never did that as a kid? “No, I’m not Tig… Nevermind,” she said. Ha. The way she kicked in the door made me wonder what she had broken into during her youth. They sat down inside, for a second. “Alright, this s—‘s creepin’ me out. Can we dump little sister, please?” Gemma said. Nero put Carla’s ashes in the vase along with the new flowers. “Please don’t let that ever be me,” he said. They walked out holding hands. It was oddly romantic.

Later, Gemma went to see Jax and Tara to return their house key. She told Jax she can count on one hand the times she’s been really happy: With Jax and his brother, with Abel and Thomas. She likes Nero, she said. She hasn’t felt light in a long time. If she goes back to Clay, she can’t do both. She needed Tara to tell her that Jax’s deal is real. Tara told Gemma that if she helps Jax get what he needs from Clay, she can have the house key back and the family that goes with it. After what Tara did with Otto for the cause (more on that later), it makes sense that she wouldn’t feel horrible about Gemma having to bed Clay again. (And yes, Gemma did nearly kill Tara’s boys.) Jax asked Gemma if she was good, and she admitted she wasn’t. I’m glad she’s not pretending, for Jax’s sake, that what he’s asking her to do is okay.

Gemma went to see Nero, presumably to break things off, but after seeing that he bought (caged) birds for her, she didn’t. Nero asked what was going on. Instead of telling him the truth, Gemma said she was exhausted, needed to go home and soak in the tub, and sleep for a couple of days. They kissed, like he knew it’d be a while before he saw her again. “I’m here,” he said. Gemma didn’t go home — she went to Clay’s. She showed up with shots for his hands after the long ride we’ll be discussing next. He put down the gun he was holding when she came in — symbolic of him putting down his guard. “My hands missed you,” he said. The hands that used to touch her, the hands that beat her. And that wasn’t even the toughest scene to watch in the end montage…

NEXT: Frankie goes bye-bye, is Juice next?

• Jax knows Juice is the rat: With Chibs reunited with the club, the search for Frankie Diamonds was officially on this episode. He was in South Tahoe after buying himself mob protection from Leo Pirelli’s crew with the money he’d taken from Nero. Jax took Frankie’s fate to the club. They’d press him on the attacks, then, as per the unanimous vote, Frankie would meet Mr. Mayhem. Jax reminded Bobby that they can’t actually kill Frankie because of their deal with Eli: They give him Frankie for Rita’s murder, and Eli gives them the rat at their table. So Jax said once they find Frankie, he’d insist on pulling the trigger himself. He and Bobby would splinter off to do it and take Frankie somewhere where Eli could intercept him. Bobby thought that was a lot of moves; we knew Clay would never let them happen.

Clay had payed for his own private intel and got a call that Frankie was in a cabin. Conveniently, Clay’s hands had started hurting him, so Jax had just suggested that he pass off his ride and jump in the van with Juice. Juice wanted to call Jax with the new information, since the rest of the club was headed to a poker club to press Leo Pirelli for Frankie’s whereabouts. But Clay told Juice they’d check it out first to make sure the tip was accurate. Reluctantly, Juice agreed.

At the poker club, a fight broke out almost immediately between SAMCRO and Pirelli’s crew. “Somebody sneezes, you throw a fist? How do you get any business done?” Pirelli asked. Jax played Pirelli well: he told him Frankie had stolen $500,000 from the club and its associates (instead of the $130,000+ he really took) and was using it to bankroll his exit. With the threat of the cartel and IRA coming knocking if Jax didn’t get his man, Jax suggested Pirelli keep the cash and just give them Frankie. Of course, Pirelli knew Frankie had offered them much less than half a million, so Pirelli was open to the trade — especially if Frankie was holding out on them. The guy watching Frankie at the cabin told Frankie they thought he was cheating them and that the club was coming for him. Stupid. Frankie shot and killed him. Juice and Clay showed up just as Frankie was fleeing.

Juice fired some shots, and Clay sent the van careening into the cabin. Explosion! Frankie told Juice the truth about Clay’s involvement in the home invasions. Then Clay came in with a shotgun. Jax and Pirelli got there in time to stop Clay from shooting him, but seeing his man killed, Pirelli took Frankie out himself. Pirelli told Jax if SAMCRO covers the damage to the club and cabin, they’d call it even. Only problem: They don’t have Frankie to make the case against Clay or trade with Eli. Bobby told Jax if they go to the club with just Frankie’s story, Jax will look vindictive and weak and Clay will stay put. They need evidence (which is why Gemma is now key). Clay found Bobby in the clubhouse and asked him if there was anything he should know. Bobby asked him the same question. I’m not sure why Bobby brought up Clay setting the nomads in motion. Maybe he figured Clay wasn’t dumb enough to think Jax would let this go.

Bobby: I really hope you’re as smart as you think you are. I am tired of burnin’ friends.

Clay: Me too.

Later, Jax played “weekend at Frankie’s,” in Bobby’s words, and delivered Frankie to Eli in the dark of the night. Eli wasn’t happy that Frankie was dead, obviously, and tried to use that as an out on his deal with Jax because he didn’t want to name the rat and be responsible for another death. But Jax told him he already knew who it was. There was only one person who made sense, the guy who tried to hang himself. Eli tried to tell Jax that Juice had no choice, but Jax said we always have a choice. “So what happens to him now?” Eli asked. Jax didn’t answer. He just reloaded the gun that Eli had emptied for him at the start of their meeting. How many of us yelled, “Nooooo!” at our TVs? Cut to Gemma showing up at Clay’s house with those shots and Juice excusing himself. He rode away from Clay’s with Jax tailing him in the SUV. Will Jax kill Juice? I don’t think so. I bet he uses Juice to get information on Clay, since he knows that Clay trusts Juice and that Juice felt guilty enough about betraying the club once before to try to kill himself. Still, that’s a good cliffhanger. We feel protective of fragile Juice. We’ll worry about him all week and look forward to seeing those tears in his eyes as he explains himself to Jax — assuming Jax gives him the chance.

NEXT: Tara and Otto do what?

• Tara’s visit with Otto has… interesting results: Why was Tara, Jax Teller’s wife, allowed to see Otto in prison when he’s supposed to have no contact with SAMCRO? Because the officials didn’t know she was his wife. But now that her boss updated Tara’s insurance plan to include Jax and Abel so Abel’s hospital stay would be covered, they soon will know she’s married to a felon (insert smile). So Tara had to make another trip to Stockton now. Good thing the primary physicians there all came down with the flu and requested her. How about that worried look on Tara’s face after Jax kissed her and walked away — foreboding.

This time, someone remembered that Mr. Delaney “likes to stick s— in people’s ears,” so he was lying down in restraints when Tara saw him to test for meningitis. She brought him the perfume he used to insist Luann wear to remind him of what he loves. Tara told Otto she knows why he wants to die, and it’s not just because of losing Luann. It’s also because of the guilt he feels turning on the club.

Otto: You a shrink now, too?

Tara: No. I’m an old lady. Protecting my man. Just like Luann would have done for you.

Otto asked her to put some of the perfume on her wrist and to bring her wrist closer. No closer. Is he gonna bite her, I wondered. She pulled away when someone finally came in to take his blood. Afterward, Tara told him to recant his statement to kill the RICO case. Otto asked her to unhook his right hand. He promised he wouldn’t hurt her. Oh god, he’s going to masturbate, I thought. He asked her to hold his head, and she did, with her left hand — the wrist with the perfume on it. Then he put his hand down his pants. Tara objected, but far more calmly than I would have. “Please. I just want to feel a woman’s hand on me, one more time. Please.” She let him continue. He started to cry, and she gently ran her hand through his hair to comfort him. It’s a testament to Kurt Sutter’s writing and acting that a scene that made us that uncomfortable also made us feel for Otto.

Later, when Jax asked Tara how it went with Otto, she didn’t tell him where Otto’s hand had gone, just that Otto was emotionally broken and sobbing and she thinks she got through to him. Abel got to come home, and once Jax tucked him in, he told a freshly showered Tara that he’d be home in a couple of hours. (He had to go meet Eli with Frankie’s body and stalk Juice.) Tara kissed Jax goodbye in a way that surprised him — it was clear she wanted him to stay a little longer. “Hold that thought,” he said softly. “I’m here,” she answered. (Then Nero would say the same words to Gemma in the next scene, as she left him equally unsatisfied.)

Here’s where things got really, really confusing: Next time we saw Tara, she was still in her bedroom. She dabbed on some of Luann’s perfume, smelled it, and then slid her hand down her pants. How did you read that scene? Was the scent a turn-on because it reminded her of what she’d done to protect Jax, and it made her feel powerful? Was it a turn-on because it reminded her of Otto’s undying love for Luann, which is the passion she wants Jax to feel for her? Or was she punishing herself — now that she’s done that, she can’t leave this life, even if that Oregon job offer really is still on the table?

Your turn. What are your theories for how things will play out with Juice and Jax? How should we interpret Tara’s alone time? And who else replayed Abel’s answer of “Coooookies,” when Jax asked him what he wanted to eat at the hospital? “Good choice. Chocolate chip? A little milk on the side. Comin’ right up,” Jax said. Think about it: Jax started the hour talking to his son about milk and cookies, and he ended it dropping off one dead body and possibly getting ready to produce another. Man, this is a good season for Charlie Hunnam.

P.S. Since SOA is about family and loyalty, it only seems right to mention this: If you haven’t been following Staten Island native Theo Rossi’s efforts to help his hometown after Hurricane Sandy, you can do so here.

Read more:

‘Sons of Anarchy’ star: Storm aftermath ‘a lot worse than how it’s being portrayed by media’

More ‘Sons of Anarchy’ recaps

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