Sons of Anarchy recap: Hands Off!
Ties weren't the only thing severed as Jax and Lee Toric made bold, desperate moves that cost them
Remember when Toric recited that Shakespeare sonnet that uses the phrase “the edge of doom” — I feel like that’s the perfect description of the state SOA fans now live in. The brilliance of keeping a character like Tig alive when EVERYONE thought he was going to die (or, rather, two-thirds of people did, per our poll in last week’s recap) is two-fold: 1.) The character and Kim Coates are so beloved nobody’s going to complain. And 2.) Now we’re on the edge of our seats ready to flinch. We felt the storm rising, but lighting struck in places we weren’t even looking. Unser was attacked. Phil and V-Lin were killed by the Irish. Otto took out Toric and was riddled with bullets. Nero is being framed for murder, and even if Eli suspects he’s innocent, Nero’s still trapped by his association with the club. Tara is working with Wendy to play Gemma and Jax. If you imagine characters’ arcs as shelters, we’re too nervous to stand underneath one because it could collapse at any second. Jax’s world is such a clusterf—, I feel like he’d have a more manageable day if he were suddenly dropped into Sharknado.
We began with Unser opening his Airstream door to smoke some medical marijuana and being met by three masked skinheads. One punched him, and when he fell, he was pulled out by his feet in that disturbing way victims in horror movies are taken. They pinned him down and one pulled out his knife. That’s how this episode STARTED. I assume to ease the pain of knowing that our sweet Unser was being tortured, we next got a shot of Jax shirtless in his kitchen. Actually, I think it was a nice contrast of this hard man (and body) doing something as tender as waiting for a bottle of milk to warm up. He heard a bike pull up. There was a knock at the door. He went to answer it, and you saw the Reaper tattoo on his back. (Symbolic of him stabbing one of his brothers there?) “You’re up early, brother,” Jax said when he opened it — and Tig entered. Jax was as shocked as you were, but he had to hide it. Tig told him about August coming to the docks, allegedly to look for Jax because he needs to see him about Clay. Let’s pretend for a second that August Marks wouldn’t have just called Jax to set a meet. Tig is a smart man. He told Jax the prospects never showed up, and Jax said it was his bad, he forgot to tell them. “Am I good with you, Jax?” Tig asked. “Yeah, yeah,” Jax answered before hugging it out. “It’s all good, brother.” (Read what Kim Coates and Kurt Sutter had to say about this episode here.)
Eli and his men showed up at Diosa to bring Nero and his Ford pickup truck in for questioning. Lyla’s bruised face did not exactly help matters. Eli told Nero about Erin the escort being killed and off they went. Lyla said she’d call Gemma and Nero told her not to. Toric was leaning against his car watching Nero’s exit. Eli told him Diosa wasn’t open yet. “That’s okay, I like to watch,” Toric said, grinning ear to ear. He was getting sloppy.
Jax had his meeting with August, who was wearing a light gray suit. I approve. August said it simply wasn’t Tig’s time, and Jax figured it was a loyalty test. He passed. August told Jax he’d gotten Clay protection but there’s no guarantee since the skinheads saw him kill one of their shot-callers. Seriously, Jax needs to just stay the hell in bed one of these days and watch Tango and Cash. The skinheads are trying to rebound in the area, and it could blow back on the MC, August said. Jax wondered why August couldn’t just pass this info. along to Tig. Because August had another proposal: Marks Incorporated is looking to get into guns. If Jax hooks him up with the Irish distribution when SAMCRO gets out, he’ll consider Tig’s debt paid. They shook on it.
Gemma arrived at T-M, followed by Chucky on his harmless motorcycle, wearing his white scarf (enjoy that levity while you can, folks!). Gemma found the garage trashed and Unser on his knees, his hands bound above his head to a lift and what I assume was a swastika carved into his torso. Gemma had to have been flashing back to her attack in the season 2 opener. She yelled at Chucky to get Jax. When Jax finally arrived, Tara was stitching Unser up. Unser told Jax the guys hadn’t sounded all that organized. Jax told Unser they’d find who did this. And then what, Unser asked. Tara was curious, too. It might be time for another journal entry for the custody battle.
Jax put Phil and V-Lin on gun warehouse duty and called the others to the table. The president of the San Bernardino chapter (played by Robert Patrick, fresh off his turn as the werewolf father of Alcide on True Blood) had come to tell Jax and the club the charter had voted down picking up the gun business. There was too much heat now. Because Jax’s day needed to suck more, Chucky told him Lyla had called with news of Erin’s death. Meanwhile, it was decided that Chucky would bring Unser by the hospital later so Tara could treat him illegally with a tetanus shot and antibiotics, and Unser seemed to hint he could be Team Tara: He asked Gemma what would’ve happened if he’d been watching the boys when those neo-Nazis jumped him. Unser said it wasn’t hypothetical — there are kids in the mix here. “My kids!” Gemma snapped, then corrected herself to “My grandchildren” when she locked eyes with Tara. As if on cue, Gemma got a call from Wendy, who said Tara’s lawyer had reached out to her wanting her to sign the guardian papers because Tara must have drawn up another will. It looked like she was calling from the hospital, right? They agreed to meet at Gemma’s house in an hour.
NEXT: Darby returns
At the Reaper table, Jax filled the club in on Clay offing the Aryan shotcaller, Erin, etc. They had to figure out who and where the skinheads were, so they planned to go to Darby (Mitch Pileggi, who’s been being a dick on Dallas as of late). He’d left the brotherhood nearly two years ago and married one of his Mexican workers. Jax figured Darby would be sleeping with one eye open. Chibs brought up the issue of the Irish being in town to drop off the KG-9s. Robert Patrick and his second explained they were there to show respect for Jax’s offer to move them in So-Cal, but helllllll no. Chibs asked for a moment with Jax and reminded him that he needs to bring big decisions to the table. Jax calling audibles isn’t how this works. Tommy Flanagan gave those lines all the weight of Robert Shaw (Quint) in Jaws. Jax just laughed at him — he told him to look at the charter. They’re the whipping boys of the Irish and the Cartel, they’re being circled by RICO and the psycho Toric, and they’ve dwindled to six guys. “Brother, nothing here works. I’m tryin’ to change that. I’m trying to give us a future. And yes, if that means stepping outside the lines or making a couple calls on the fly, then that is exactly what I’m gonna do.” Chibs stated the obvious: Jax sounds like Clay. “Everything I do in this club is for this club. I’m not Clay. I never will be,” Jax said. And out he walked.
Toric went to see DA Patterson and told her about Erin being killed after he chatted her up. He said she seemed interested in turning on Nero. Didn’t the DA think it strange that a man who had nothing outstanding that she could use on him — which means he’s clean or he’s good at covering his tracks — would kill a girl right when they needed him to? (Then again, we know Nero had just made Arcadio and Darvany disappear.) Toric was worried about Eli being sympathetic to the MC, but the DA told Toric to focus on getting Clay to sign her agreement. Either he got the signature by the end of the day or his badge was a paperweight.
Eli informally questioned Nero at his office. Nero said he was with Gemma, they made an early mass, and he’d stayed with her all night. Eli gave him that cop line about now being the time he could help him — coming clean goes a long way. Nero said he was a junkie-thug-pimp for a lot of year and served his time. Now he runs a house that gives these women a better, safer place to do what they’re gonna do anyhow. Eli wasn’t buying it — Nero still makes money off women’s low self-esteems, he said. Was that a mirror for those of us who like Nero a lot/too much or Nero himself, who seemed hurt by the insult. The escort service IS the most palatable thing he’s done recently. If a man like Eli looks down on him for that… But Nero got the last word: He told Eli about Toric talking to the girls and roughing up two of his crew. When Eli said Toric wasn’t working on this investigation, Nero said someone should tell Toric that.
Over at Gemma’s, Wendy fed Gemma a line about Tara having found out that Wendy had gone to Gemma for help and Tara scaring her. Wendy said Tara is so determined to get the boys out of Charming, she’s not thinking how that could hurt them. Gemma assured Wendy the boys weren’t going anywhere, and Wendy said to be careful — Tara knows Gemma’s her biggest obstacle. I had no clue what game Wendy was playing at this point. Lyla interrupted the coffee and pie scheming session to tell Gemma about the cops picking up Nero. “Dead hooker,” Gemma said, briefing Wendy. “Hate that,” Wendy said.
NEXT: Tig has a son
Jax and the boys rode in and interrupted Darby sanding tables with a piece in his pocket. Darby said one of his old crew, Eddie Gerber, freshly out of Chino, is recruiting and trying to establish a street game. He’s got six acres somewhere. Happy suggested reconnaissance was in order and Tig said since the skinheads don’t know them, they could roll in and pretend they’re interested in joining the cause to suss out the situation. Jax and Chibs had the Irish meet so… Jax decided Tig and Rat would play father and son. “They love that s—,” Jax said. “You think I look old enough to be his old man,” Tig said. “If you wash that black shoe polish out of your hair,” Juice cracked. That Tig’s “My old man used to rape me. I’m just sayin'” line was a zinger again tells you how dark this season has been. Jax told Darby he had two options: Either he shows them to the edge of the property, they settle their score, and slow down recruitment, or, they use him as bait. Darby knew it would end bad, but he was in. Jax gave Tig special instructions, “You play it safe. If it looks dicey, you get the hell out.” Tig got it. Jax told Juice to go with them to watch their back. Bad, bad idea, Jax.
Juice rode his bike and parked it three or four miles away and waited with Darby, whose truck Tig and Rat took the rest of the way. There were mannequins and cardboard cutouts — many of them black — in the front yard for archery practice. They’d found the right place. Tig introduced himself as Al Whiteman (ha!) and Rat as his son, George, who’d just gotten out of Stockton. (“I’m proud of ya, boy. I’m proud of ya.”) As for “Al,” about a month ago, he watched some black men (not the word he used) burn his daughter alive and he could still smell her flesh, he said. “We earn big and hate deep,” George added. Eddie bought it. Unfortunately, one of his men had found Darby and Juice (his “spic boyfriend”) along the main road. Rat panicked and took Eddie at gunpoint. “I’ll blow his sh– out,” he said. “He means brains, he’s a little excited right now,” Tig said. Guns were pointed everywhere as an old country song played. This almost felt like a Justified moment. The skinheads dropped their guns, Tig tossed the keys to Juice and said, “Boyfriend, you’re drivin’,” and they loaded Eddie up with them and fled. Eddie told Darby it was only a matter of time before they came for him and his “wetback whore.” Darby kicked him in the face and thanked Tig for the club getting him involved. Tig apologized and kicked Eddie off the truck. Again, this scene was played for comedy. And it was funny. That’s the season we’re dealing with. And things were about to turn serious.
Jax met with the Irish and told Gaalan he wasn’t taking the KG-9s and he wasn’t paying for them. Since San Bernadino had voted them down, Gaalan said Jax wasn’t getting out of guns then because the Kings liked the idea of doubling their business — which now falls on Jax. “Cause needs ya. Greater good,” Gaalan said. Jax reminded Gaalan why his father had wanted out of guns: “JT realized there’s nothing more dangerous than a gangster who thinks he’s got God in his pocket. The cause may have been the greater good, but for guys like you, Jimmy O., it’s just killing people with Catholic bullets to line your own pockets.” Gaalan threw a punch, which Jax ducked. Then Jax returned the favor to Gaalan’s gut. Jax said he would let Gaalan know if and when they need more guns. “Until then, hands off my club.” Gaalan smiled. “Aye, hands off,” he said. Did he already know what he’d be doing? Chibs told Jax he’d just ripped off a very old scab.
NEXT: Gemma to the rescue
Gemma arrived at the police station and asked Nero why he hadn’t called her. “That’s why,” Nero said after she saw Eli and promptly asked him what kind of bulls— this was. Yes, this is the second guy looking to Gemma to be an alibi, but she said this one wasn’t a killer. He’s a good guy who’d never hurt a woman. Maybe it is good she dropped by. The results came in from this truck and they’d found the clothing fragments, hair, and blood Toric had planted. It was smeared on the seat, the door, and the floor panel. Eli looked out and saw Gemma and Nero laughing. “Does he look like a guy that knows that his truck was covered in incriminating evidence?” Eli asked his man. (Should I learn that character’s name, or do we think he’s going to get killed soon?) I like that Eli is smart enough to figure out this wasn’t an OG thinking he’d cleaned up enough, it’s someone planting evidence to be found. He asked for Toric’s file.
Toric was at Stockton visiting a still bloody Clay in his private cell. The blood on the walls reminded you of Otto’s cell. That was the point. Toric figured out Clay had earned temporary protection, but now black and white would eventually be coming to slit his throat. Toric tried to tell Clay that he was his only friend. “Well then just kill me now,” Clay said. Toric pressed his foot onto Clay’s hand and told him how miserable his life would be until he signed those papers. “I’ve known guys like you my whole life,” Clay said. “You don’t hate me ’cause I’m bad, you hate me ’cause I’m familiar.” Toric said he was guilty, and, oh look, Clay’s arthritis was flaring up — he wanted to take him to the infirmary to see someone. Clay got out the shiv he’d been hiding when Toric left.
Back at Darby’s, Jax heard what had gone down. He offered to keep Darby’s wife safe at T-M. But Darby said it was his wreckage, and he was going to have to deal with it sooner or later. Jax seemed to respect that. He got a call from Filthy Phil, who told him the Irish had come to the warehouse saying they had a delivery. Jax told Phil to tell them to wait — they’re on their way. Jax left Rat with Darby and told him they’d handle Eddie — it was their wreckage, too. We cut back to the warehouse. “Jax said he’s on his way,” Phil told Gaalan. Gaalan said nothing. He just took out his gun and shot Phil in the head. I was watching a screener in the office and shouted “OHMYGOD!” so loudly that a colleague working late and sitting more than a row of offices away IM’d me to see if I was okay. One of Gaalan’s men shot V-Lin in the head. “Get the saw,” Gaalan said after their bodies fell. He smiled and rolled up his sleeves. Good lord.
When the guys arrived at the warehouse, they saw the blood on the ground. They called out for Phil. They opened the warehouse doors and saw the two cuts on the ground. Each one had a pair of hands resting on it. HANDS OFF. Off to the side, the bodies sat. With their legs and arms chopped off. You could hear the flies buzzing. Gross. But not a death we’ll soon forget.
NEXT: More carnage
Eli looked at Toric’s file and told Nero he was free to go, for now, but his truck had to stay. Eli told Gemma to tell Jax he needed to see him. She said Jax doesn’t listen to his mommy anymore. “I find that hard to believe,” Eli said. So true. Jax was fuming at the moment. Chibs told him all the guns were gone but the KG-9s. (Don’t you love to hear Chibs say “KG-9s.”) Jax told Chibs to call Belfast and lock it all down, UK charters too. Jax asked Tig if he’d be able to find Eddie’s place again. He wanted to finish his Nazi hunt. Chibs thought the club needed a breather. “We got two crates filled with hacked up members. What this club needs is to settle a score,” Jax said through his teeth. “Why don’t you take a vote. I’ll proxy Phil. He says yes.” There was a wild electricity in Jax’s eyes that simultaneously drew you to him and scared you.
Nero was silent on the drive home. He said what we’ve all been thinking: He needs to put some distance between himself and SAMCRO. Two months into the connection, he’s neck-deep in things he spent 10 years trying to get away from. He took responsibility for putting back on his OG colors. But bottom line, he doesn’t want the weight of the association. Gemma was afraid she was included in that. But she isn’t. If he has to cut ties, he wants her with him. He loves her. She said she loves him, too. Oh, Nero, I worry about you.
Toric brought Clay into the infirmary to see Otto. “The side you can’t see looks worse,” Toric said when Clay was shocked to see a shell of a man. It was a glimpse into Clay’s future. Clay asked for a minute with Otto. “He ain’t gonna say much,” Toric said. “I’m sorry,” Clay told Otto. And Otto nodded and cried. Clay took out the shiv from his pocket as he leaned down to hug Otto. I thought Clay might be slitting Otto’s wrist for him. “No more, brother,” Clay said. Otto shook his head again. I loved the way Otto reached for Clay as he pulled away. It was like he needed one more moment of comfort. Otto reached under his leg and felt the shiv.
Nero and Gemma arrived back at T-M, just as Chibs had put out the warning to the other clubs. Nero couldn’t even look at Jax, who asked him how the girls were doing and what the cops know. Nero lied when he told Jax he was okay, and Jax lied when he told Nero it was just “routine s—” for the club today. Gemma knew something was wrong. Jax told her why it’d be a late night for him.
Toric returned to Clay’s cell and tried to tell him that Otto could rat on him. If Clay signed the deal now, Toric would, as promised, help him beat the murder charge and get lost in witness protection. “Otto ain’t gonna rat again,” Clay said. Toric said starting tomorrow morning, the men who have been visiting Otto would stop by to see him, too. “I suggest you get some sleep. It may be the last time you ever lay down comfortably,” Toric said. He tried to look like he was enjoying the cruelty for Clay’s sake, but when he turned to walk away, we saw the desperation in his face.
NEXT: The truth about Tara
We cut to the hospital and Wendy meeting with Tara, Lowen, and Tara’s old boss, who was holding a crying Thomas. Wendy has also been writing down her violent history with Jax in legal pads (nice handwriting). She said she’d be willing to testify and yes, she’d told Gemma all that Tara had told her to. Gemma wants Wendy to keep feeding her Tara’s dirt. Well damn, Tara. Well-played. She isn’t even pregnant, right? She must have told Tara about Gemma’s rape and concocted that story about the guy threatening Wendy so they could get a hold of Gemma’s gun. Unser walked in and saw them all together. He went back outside Tara’s office and luckily, Tara followed him with Thomas. When Gemma arrived with sodas, Unser quickly told her that Abel was in daycare so Gemma didn’t open the door. Gemma offered to take the boys home while Tara treated Unser. Tara thanked Unser. He told her at some point, “they” would ask a few questions. I assume he meant the boys? Or was he talking about Gemma and Jax?
Jax, the boys, and Robert Patrick and his second stormed the gate at Eddie’s compound. As soon as the skinheads came out onto the porch, Jax started firing. The others, positioned in a line like a firing squad, followed suit. When the bullets stopped, Jax handed his weapon to Chibs and told him to wipe down the guns, which I assume were KG-9s, and to stash them along with the other KG-9s from the Irish in the house. He wanted them to make it look like an internal beef, then burn it all down. That’s a solid way to get rid of the KG-9s, right? Or will it just lead the DA to tie SAMCRO to that massacre? Either way, Jax is scaring us.
Toric went to see Otto and said he knows how much pain he’s caused him. He asked Otto if he wanted it to stop. Otto said yes. Toric said he did, too. When he put his hand on Otto’s shoulder telling him he was glad he got to see Clay, I thought perhaps Otto would slit his wrist. But it was too early. Toric tried to get Otto to turn on Clay because it wouldn’t be ratting on the club since Clay’s not a member. He just wanted something, anything he could use on Clay. He gave Otto a notepad and said he’d make the time he has left in Stockton comfortable. Again, Toric had his hand on Otto’s shoulder but still too soon. Otto mumbled that he needed his right hand free to write. So Toric took off the restraint. I wanted to cry when Toric moved to put on Otto’s glasses and Otto flinched. But the more I thought about it, the more I believed Otto wasn’t really that broken and timid. He just wanted Toric to think he was. Otto wrote. He gave the glasses and notepad back: “Your sister’s blood tasted as good as her pussy,” it read. “You animal,” Toric said. Then he turned and started trying to choke Otto. That’s when Otto finally stabbed him repeatedly in the gut. Blood ran down Otto’s hand. Toric stumbled backward into a chair and Otto got up and went to him so he could hold him at knifepoint when the guard came in. Toric shouted for a guard to get out. He left but hit the alarm button. “Wow, I didn’t even see that coming,” Toric said, lying dazed in Otto’s arms dying.
Back at the perfectly-lit Reaper table, Jax sat alone. Chibs and Tig came in. Belfast was updated. Now they’re just looking for some known IRA addresses in Northern California. They left and the montage started. More guards came in and told Otto to drop the knife. He stabbed Toric in the throat and then slit it from left to right. The guards fired multiple rounds into Otto’s chest and he fell to the floor. So much blood in that room, underneath Toric’s chair and all over Otto. Tara gave Unser a shot in the ass, and Jax and the boys stood by as Happy doused Phil’s and V-Lin’s cut-covered coffins with kerosene. Then Chibs lit a match and we watched them burn as the soundtrack played “Sitting on Top of the World.” Nero carried Abel to bed and the DA looked first at Toric in the body bag and then at the bloody crime scene. Does she feel guilty for pressuring Toric? Or is she just worried about how this looks for her? The flames continued to burn as the camera panned across all the guys left in the club. You had to wonder 1.) How Tig was standing there NOT thinking about his daughter being burnt alive and 2.) Which one of these guys will be next. “Bury ’em,” Jax said, and walked off alone into the darkness. It’s that isolation he was talking about in the season premiere: You’re separate from the people whose lives your decisions affect.
Your turn. What did you think of the episode? What do you think happens next with the Irish? With August Marks? With the DA? With Tara? With…the list goes on and on.