Clay's fate is decided while someone else's is left hanging
SoA Recap
Credit: Prashant Gupta/FX
Sons of Anarchy | ''I watched five seasons of Sons of Anarchy . I resisted for ages because I had no interest in watching a show about a motorcycle…

Leading in to the show’s season 4 finale, I did a poll asking readers whether they thought Clay would survive it, and only 19 percent of them said yes. A lot of fans have been ready to see Clay gone. But when it looked like it was finally his time this episode, I bet most of those people realized they didn’t want him to go. And that just makes you more nervous, right? Because now you care about him again after those goodbyes to Gemma and Jax, which means offing him would hit you harder. Not that he’s the one we need to be most worried about at the moment: That would be Tig, whose life Jax is now willing to trade to August Marks in exchange for him keeping Clay alive in Stockton so he can deal with the Irish if needed. (UPDATE: Read what Kim Coates had to say about the episode here.) If I were to do a poll now on whether Tig will survive that run-in with August, what would the percentage be? Let’s see.

After a “previously on” that ran a full minute and a half — we should take bets on how long the one will be for the season finale — we opened with Jax holding Thomas and journaling while DA Thyne Patterson gave a press conference updating us on the school shooting investigation. She confirmed that the 11-year-old shooter’s journal had been declared “violent and very disturbing” and that the school had recommended he seek outside counseling over a year ago, but the family had not yet confirmed whether they pursued it (and they won’t, because we know his mother is dead). The authorities know from the modification and lack of serial numbers that the gun was purchased illegally, and she vowed to find out how it got into the boy’s hands. The montage continued with Tara in her kitchen as Abel ate his Fruit Loops, Gemma squirming in a pew as Nero waited his turn for confession, and Toric peacefully lying naked in his bed with the Diosa escort to whom we’d seen him give his address. Bobby was on the road to Reno with Quinn and Hopper, and Jax was riding his bike… somewhere. Has he always had those prominent rear-view mirrors and I’m just now noticing them, or are those new because now he knows he needs to watch his back?

Even though Gemma has really brought Nero nothing but trouble, their relationship is the only solid one on the show. She doesn’t understand why he needs to (vaguely) confess his sins, but he’s been doing it for so long, he’s afraid of how bad it will get if he stops. “You’re a good man,” she told him. The look on his face said he’s beginning to doubt it. Back at Toric’s, he was struggling with his cell when he heard a car pull up. He grabbed his gun, peeked out the window, and saw the DA had arrived for an impromptu meeting. The escort approached him from behind, and he turned around and shot her in the stomach. I couldn’t tell if that was an accident. I mean, that’s a dumb time to kill someone, and he kept repeating “I’m sorry” as he put a pillow over her heard and shot her two more times — good thing he had a silencer. But maybe that was always his plan, to kill the escort, and he just had to speed it up because he couldn’t risk the DA seeing or hearing her alive and well and associating with him.

Once he dressed — a T-shirt and jeans is a better look for him — the DA gave him new papers for Clay to sign to turn state’s evidence. She told him to find the boy’s mother, Darvany. Toric knows Nero is their best bet. She recommended he start with the two Byz-Lat “sh*theads” they’d found at the house to see if they’d flip on Nero and give them leverage to make Nero talk. Toric’s unofficially on the team because she’s desperate. Jax, it turns out, was headed to see Eli to confirm that Toric is the one pulling strings to keep Clay whole. Eli also told him he heard that Toric had visited Tara looking for something to use against the club. Toric, meanwhile, was back in his more formal ex-marshal wear after moving the escort’s body to the bathtub. He took his pills and put the “do not disturb” sign on the door.

Tara had a loaded conversation with Unser when she went to drop the boys off with Gemma at the garage. She has “no choice, right” but to get through her current troubles, and “it’s not about me anymore,” she said, looking at Abel playing, when Unser told her she’d be all right. She told Gemma she’d been “making friends the Gemma way” in County and needed to get her hand checked at the hospital. “That’s a very worried mother,” Unser said as Tara left. “And she’s got no idea,” Gemma said.

NEXT: Clay’s decision

Jax showed up at County to see Clay, and the look on Charlie Hunnam’s face when he walked into the room was downright scary. In the same way it’s more affecting when you see someone grief-stricken struggle not to cry rather than wailing, it’s always more tense when you have someone who wants to explode struggling to stay calm. Clay tried to tell Jax he understood what went down and that he’d earned it, but Jax wasn’t buying it. He just wanted to know what Clay had given Toric in exchange for protective custody. Clay was honest: He said he promised to give up the club if Toric let him see Gemma and Jax. “I just want you to know I’m sorry, for all of it,” Clay said. Ron Perlman was so utterly believable in that moment. I’d already guessed what Clay was doing. I wonder if Jax had, too. Was his audible gulp him suppressing his fear of what Clay had told Toric, or him realizing that Clay was saying his goodbyes because he wasn’t going to tell Toric anything? I think the latter, and Clay just spelled it out for us and Toric, who was listening behind the glass. He said he wouldn’t give Toric s—, they’d send him to gen pop, and that would play out as expected (meaning Pope’s crew would kill him). That’s all Clay had to say.

As Clay sat resigned to his fate, Jax stood and walked to the glass. He told Toric he was sorry about his sister, that he could feel how personal this was for him. “But SAMCRO didn’t kill her. Otto acted alone. He’s not a member anymore. He’s just a broken guy, more than a few blocks from sane. I don’t give a s— what you do to him,” Jax said, motioning back toward Clay, “but if you try to come after my wife, try to tie her to this murder, you’re gonna feel how personal this is for me.” That’s also why episodes are running long his season — you can’t deliver threats like that quickly. You have to go slow, so the weight of each sentence piles on. Jax left without looking at Clay. Clay crossed his legs and Toric came in, saying he hoped that was all posturing and Clay was ready to sign. If not, he’s headed back to Stockton and probably won’t even make it to a cell. Clay reminded me of my sister’s sweet but stubborn redbone coonhound — sad stare that won’t meet your gaze when you ask him to do something he doesn’t want to, won’t move no matter how hard you pull on his collar. Toric noted the irony of Clay dying for the one murder he didn’t commit. Did laying it out like that make you think Clay must somehow survive or that he was definitely going to die?

Back at T-M, Jax updated the table on Clay (cut to sad Tig) and Toric. He told the boys to assume Toric had made the Byz-Lat connection and everything they were doing was being watched. Sad Juice said someone should update Bobby about Clay, and Chibs said Bobby needed to hear from Jax. Jax shot that down. While Bobby was in a coffee shop convincing two Reno Sons to go nomad, Toric had the two Byz-Lats bound at a kitchen table so he could question them on the whereabouts of Darvany and Arcadio. He couldn’t find a bottle opener, so when they refused to answer, HE USED THEIR MOUTHS AS BOTTLE OPENERS. “What’d you know, twist off,” he said, after wiping the blood off the cap and removing it. He took a sip. “That is good. That’s real good.” I don’t even want to think about the sound of the flesh tearing, the grinding against the gums, the blood pooling on the table and the white tank top. (Though I just did.)

Wendy showed up at T-M looking for Jax (really, Wendy?), but since he wasn’t there, she instead told Gemma how she’d been attacked by a Mexican NA newcomer named Luis with prison ink whom she’d refused to give her number to. He’d followed her to her car, grabbed her by the neck (she had a mark), and shoved his hands down her pants. She gouged his eyes and got away, but he screamed after her that he and his friends were going to find her and “rape me bloody.” Flashbacks to season 2 in her mind, no doubt, Gemma was visibly unsettled. She told Wendy, who admitted she knows Jax is pissed at her, that she would talk to him. In the meantime, Gemma told Wendy to drop by her house when she was done with work. And Gemma hugged her. HUGGED HER.

NEXT: “Is this us or you?”

Where was Jax? He was having a meeting with Nero, Colette, and Barosky at Barosky’s donut shop while Chibs, Tig, Juice, and Happy sat by. Barosky offered to help move the inspection of Colette’s brothel along, and Nero reminded Colette the girls had to be willing to do things by the book. She runs a “very conservative house,” she assured him. “We like pussy that slants a little to the right,” Jax joked, smiling at her. You had no time to swoon (or feel conflicted about swooning) because bullets rang out from a drive-by. Everyone took cover. “Is this us or you?” Jax later asked Barosky, who was a little touchy because one of his men took three bullets in the back. Everyone else was fine. Thanks to a partial plate, the cops were able to tell Barosky the car belonged to Amir Ghanezi, one of the Iranian porn producers we met in the season premiere. Barosky asked if he needed to know something and Jax said no, they’d done just as he’d told them to do (as far as he knows). Nero pointed out that stealing money and drugs and trashing a studio might be enough to ruffle feathers. Barosky and Jax had a brief pissing match over whose men would protect Colette — they decided Juice would stay, too, in case Barosky’s cops actually had to do their real job. “Don’t fight over me, boys, my daddy says I’m not worth it,” she cracked. Jax smiled that wicked grin and said he’d check in later. Does Juice suspect he’s protecting Jax’s mistress?

Toric updated the DA, and by that, I mean he lied and said Clay would sign the papers once he got to Stockton. He said the Byz-Lats were protecting Nero, and the DA said she found nothing outstanding on Nero that she could use. Toric lied again, claiming he hears Nero’s brutal with his girls. He told her he’d see if any of them have something they wanted to trade. The DA had Toric sign a document covering her ass if he goes rogue — he’s officially a special investigator.

At the docks to see Amir, Nero spoke the OG equivalent of the buddy cop film’s “I’m too old for this s—,” and Jax followed Barosky’s lead when he suggested they make it a social visit instead of an ambush. I love the way Peter Weller is playing Barosky: Unlike Nero, he doesn’t mind the legwork because he knows he’s smarter than everyone and is happy to prove it. He told Amir they just wanted to figure out what the beef is, and following Jax’s lead now, he did as told and tossed his gun aside (but he did it with much more panache). They were frisked and stepped inside the boat.

The minute I saw that awful white rug, I knew there would be blood on it eventually. Amir is pissed because they found his brother’s coat in the water that morning, and they haven’t seen him since the club stormed the studio. He thinks the club killed him and dumped his body in the bay. Barosky lied and said he was with the club when they set the brother free. Amir said for now they were even. Not so fast. Barosky didn’t say that. He whipped out a knife and SLIT THE THROAT OF ONE OF AMIR’S MEN. “Now that feels like even,” Barosky said. To quote Jax when the dust settled: “Jesus Christ.” Barosky told Amir to set sail and if he ever sees him or his men again, he’ll gut them. Note to Jax: Do not piss off Barosky.

Immediately lighting a cigar, Barosky asked Jax what happened to the brother. Jax said he’d told his guy to set him free. Did he? Jax couldn’t answer. “You can’t trust your crew, I can’t trust you,” Barosky warned. “I”ll handle him,” Jax answered. “You owe me one, handsome Jack,” Barosky said. That should make Jack nervous. It scares me. Jax lied and told the guys the beef was just over them pushing the Iranians out. How much did you read into Jax’s “all settled”: Was it him realizing Tig is too loose a cannon and deciding he’s done maneuvering to save Tig from August Marks? In hindsight, knowing what happened next, he must have.

NEXT: Clay’s fate

Clay arrived at Stockton, and before he could even change into his new prison clothes, he was greeted by three black inmates. I hadn’t thought he was going to die, but now, I was whimpering. It was that nice closeup of the blacked out Reaper tattoo on his arm — the irony of him dying to protect the club that doesn’t want him. Clay threw the first punch but was quickly on his knees. “Just get it done,” he said seeing the shiv. He was as surprised as we were when he heard, “That’s gonna be your choice.”

Tara dropped by T-M to pick up the kids. Gemma asked if she’d ever talked to Wendy about the guardianship, and Tara said no. She had other things on her mind now. LIKE THAT SHE’S PREGNANT. Damn, Gemma is in a hugging mood. She embraced Tara and told her they’d figure everything out. The look on Tara’s face was painful. Who would you be more frightened to plot against: Jax or Gemma?

Jax and the boys went back to Barosky’s donut shop to hook up with Juice. Jax sent everyone but Tig back to T-M. He told Tig he wanted him to go back to the port and wait for a prospect to come with the van so they could move the Iranian porn equipment to the gun warehouse in case Amir comes looking for it. Jax told Tig about Amir thinking they’d killed his brother. “Kidding me? I cut him loose, man,” Tig said. Jax made sure Tig remembered where the studio was, then hugged him, kissed him on the cheek, and said, “I love you, brother.” “I love you, too,” Tig said. Tig looked slightly confused by the extent of the gesture. My alarm bells went off. Was Jax saying goodbye to Tig? At Stockton, Clay made it to the yard and immediately tried to make an Aryan friend.

In Toric’s hotel bathroom, he petted the escort with rubber gloves. “I’m gonna make all this matter,” he said, pulling out some of her hair and putting it in a bag. He cut off a piece of her robe with a knife. Jax, meanwhile, went to see Colette at her place, which was totally hoppin’. The woman who’s known as “cute hooker” in the end credits told Jax that Colette was upstairs. He heard Colette clearly with a client and headed back downstairs. But then he recognized the voice telling her to “get it.” He opened the door and saw her naked straddling Barosky in a leather chair. Barosky shot him the same smug look Tara had shot Ima when she walked in on Tara and Jax having sex in the bathroom in season 2. That had been Tara declaring Jax hers. Poetic. Colette had no idea Jax was there. He left.

NEXT: Jax got this

Back in the yard, Clay’s reputation for allegedly burying Damon Pope earned him an introduction to the top Aryan. The guy who’d had a shiv on Clay when he first arrived jumped in and started a brawl. That had been planned: Clay stabbed the Aryan repeatedly in the neck during the frenzy. What the hell just happened? We found out when August met Jax under an overpass. “Jackson.” “August.” The handshake. Damon Pope was a character necessary to alter the course of this series, but I much prefer the chemistry between these two. They’re equals. New. Unpredictable. Their successes are a cause for celebration — we weren’t sure you’d figure a way out of this! — and their failures are massive and devastating. It turns out Jax had, at some point off-camera, asked August to keep Clay alive. Which August made Clay earn. Would Damon Pope have done that without having heard the reason first? Jax told August he’s taking Pope’s lead and shedding the thing that brings the club heat — guns. He might need Clay to navigate the messy breakup with the Irish. Ah. I should’ve remembered that. He told August he wants Clay dead as much as he does, but this is the smart play. August said it might be smart for Jax, but it sends the wrong message for the new head of Pope’s empire. Jax offered to make that right by making him a silent partner in Cara Cara, the porn studio Jax is resurrecting. So if Clay’s fate is settled, that means there’s the business of Tig. Jax handed August a piece of paper. August looked pleased and told Jax to send him the business plan for his “adult entertainment enterprise.”

We got a glimpse of Bobby, who told Hopper he wants Montez’s and West’s charters to sign off on them going nomad so they can be on the road by week’s end. Wendy showed up at Gemma’s, and Gemma told her she hadn’t talked to Jax but gave her a gun with no serial numbers from a hatbox to protect herself. I’m so on edge now, I’m wondering whether Gemma was really doing that to keep Wendy from experiencing the violence she has, or if Gemma is hoping Wendy pulls the gun on this guy and he shoots her first (as Wendy noted is a possibility). Either way, Wendy is gonna need a bigger purse. Bruised and bloodied Clay was escorted into solitary. So he’s safe, for the time being, in a shoebox. And the end montage officially began…

As Wendy left Gemma’s, Nero pulled in and effing Toric was lurking nearby in his car. Barosky left Colette and she looked fairly miserable. She dialed Jax’s cell, he saw the number, and didn’t answer. Tig was bored enough waiting at the porn studio to start looking at fetish accessories. A black guard delivered Clay a fresh shiv in case he needed it. Jax drank milk out of the carton, as he always does, and saw Tara’s pregnancy results on a sheet of paper on their kitchen table. Nero brought Gemma a cup of tea in bed, where she was sitting knitting. Because people can’t be happy on this show, effing Toric broke into Nero’s truck and planted the escort’s hair and clothing scrap. We’ve always liked Nero. That is going to hurt us. Eli learned a 911 call had reported seeing a Ford pickup truck leaving the scene of a body dump — it was the escort. We saw the blood from her head and gut wounds. Cut to Wendy in her bathroom RUBBING OFF THE MAKEUP USED TO MAKE THAT BRUISE ON HER NECK. There was no time to think about her play — did she want to get a gun from Gemma so she could kill Tara with it and get custody of the kids? We cut back to Tig sitting at the porn studio. He heard someone come in. He got up expecting to see Rat and instead found August and his men. August was holding the piece of paper. Jax had written down the address for him. They stared at each other. “Oh s—,” Tig said quietly. I yelled it. No one’s there to save Tig this time, right?

Jax wasn’t. He walked into the bedroom holding the test results and sat down on the bed with Tara. She moved closer. “I love you,” he said. She didn’t answer. She just hugged him — as the cover of “Everyday People” repeated the lyrics “’cause we got to live together.” Her face? Painful again.

Your turn. Have a theory on what’s going on with Wendy or whether Tig will make it out of next episode alive? Let’s hear it.

Episode Recaps

Sons of Anarchy | ''I watched five seasons of Sons of Anarchy . I resisted for ages because I had no interest in watching a show about a motorcycle…
Sons of Anarchy

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

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