Prashant Gupta
November 27, 2012 at 12:00 PM EST

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s episode, which ended with a montage set to “The Whistler” by the White Buffalo (you’re welcome), stop reading now. Big moves were made to get us in position for next week’s season finale. Let’s dig in.

We opened with Jax journaling to his boys, telling them that being a man means you’re aware of all the things you touch and taking action on the needs of others before your own. (Guess that’s why this episode concluded with Jax seeking out Wendy, for Tara, instead of Clay, for himself.) Jax knew this would be a defining day, but he had no idea that it would start with Bobby wanting to bring Clay to the table because he was ready to confess. Clay came clean to the club about the home invasions, and while he admitted greed and pride were his motivation, he said he also believed that Jax wasn’t ready to lead. Now, he knows he was wrong — Jax has proven himself a better leader than he ever was. I can always tell when a show’s writing is good because I start getting angry that I have to pause and take notes.

The votes had to be unanimous. Everyone agreed that Clay should lose his patch. This episode had to be 90 minutes so everyone could take their time answering after Jax said “All in favor of Clay Morrow meeting Mr. Mayhem…” And they should deliberate — it is a man’s life in their hands. Even though Kurt Sutter has said repeatedly (and correctly) that the reason people tune in to SOA is to hopefully watch Clay die, therefore he’ll be riding that train as far as he can, you were still on the edge of your seat from the weight of the moment. Everyone was in favor of Clay dying, even teary-eyed Juicey — until Bobby. Jax wouldn’t even look at him. He just walked out of the room and tried to strangle Clay outside the garage before beating him.

Afterward, Bobby came in to see Jax and put Clay’s cut on the table. I remember Ron Perlman telling us after the season 4 finale, “the gesture of cutting off the president’s patch is one step short of murder. It’s a complete castration of a character. It’s removing the teeth from the snake and rendering it without a reason d’être.” Being forced out completely is worse. That explains why we later saw Clay ask Gemma and Unser to give him a moment alone and then break down into tears. You felt his pain.

Jax was so angry/upset, his jaw trembled as he confronted Bobby about making a deal with Clay behind his back. Bobby made sense: He told Jax he didn’t have the proof to tie Clay to the home invasions, and if Clay stayed at the table, Jax would’ve killed him behind the club’s back — which would turn Jax into Clay and render the brotherhood pointless. Bobby did this because he loves Jax and wants him to lead the club the right way. Jax teared up himself when he admitted he’s had a hard time feeling love for brotherhood since Opie died, and that Opie was right: “The gavel corrupts. You can’t sit in this chair without bein’ a savage.” In your mind, why was he emotional? Because he realized what his hatred of Clay had made him? Because he missed Opie and what life was like before all this? (If you’d like to see Charlie Hunnam cry over Opie’s death in real life, watch this video here.) Or because he knows what awaits Tig won’t be received well by the brotherhood? And on cue, Pope wanted to meet at Charming Heights.

Once there, Jax had an interesting conversation with Auggie about his title within Pope’s organization. We found out he’s not “VP of Special Deeds” or “Heir to the Blood Throne,” officially. He’s been with Pope since he was 17 — which told Jax that Auggie’s loyal or patient. Jax asked Pope for his advice on what to do about Clay: Follow the counsel of people he trusts (his VP) and let it go, or take more than Clay’s patch. “Democracy’s overrated. Revenge is never about the greater good,” Pope said. “It’s a visceral need that has to be satisfied or the strong lose focus.” Pope’s solution to scratch that itch but not tear apart the club: payback by proxy. And speaking of payback, Pope said he wants Tig now. Jax told him he’d deliver him tomorrow, after he’s dealt with Lin and the Irish. Pope reminded him if he doesn’t keep his promise, the cartel-Lin deal is dead, along with Charming Heights and SAMCRO. The way Jax told Pope he’d never see Tig as anything but Clay’s righthand man — convincing.

NEXT: The battle at the barn

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