As Tara's scheme against Gemma unfolded, Jax helped Venus Van Dam settle a custody dispute

By Mandi Bierly
October 23, 2013 at 05:56 AM EDT
Prashant Gupta/FX
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I hope you enjoyed all that slapping leather last episode, because the sense of doom has returned. How does Tara, who faked a miscarriage and falsely accused Gemma of kicking her in the stomach, think this will play out? Isn’t she still planning on divorcing Jax? Did Tara expect Gemma to not actually strike her? Is she hoping Jax will later take Gemma’s side in a she said/she said, which will give her a timely reason to file for divorce? Do we really think Wendy or Unser won’t come clean? That’s the beauty of taking down Gemma for something she didn’t do: You allow people to feel for her. For a moment, in a certain light, she’s the underdog instead of the big bad wolf. And what happens if Jax ever does find out the truth? How do you forgive someone for putting you through that pain? Before we start the recap, I’ve got to know:

Here we go.

We opened with our usual scene-setting montage. The guys were all back in the clubhouse wreckage, standing up John Teller’s bike, dusting off the Reaper table, and loading and unloading a moving truck. Tara dropped the boys off at daycare and hugged a solemn Wendy, whose demeanor made perfect sense in hindsight. Nero, wearing prison orange, argued with his lawyer. Venus steeled herself in front of a mirror, spraying perfume on her ample cleavage. The DA read the front-page headlines touting no arrests or leads in the Catholic school shooting.

SAMCRO’s new/temporary clubhouse is the old Charming Scoops & Sweets shop, which Jax was able to rent from Mayor Hale. On the plus side, there’s plenty of refrigerator space for cases of Miller Lite. Among the negatives, those glass windows on the bottom floor make me nervous. (Cue flashes of Tig sending Pope’s daughter through the glass at an outdoor café and the drive-by at Barosky’s bakery.) Hale informed Jax and Bobby that the bomb spooked the entire town. Now folks want to talk about how to get rid of the M.C. at the council meeting next week. The mayor has veto power, but Hale isn’t expecting to be reelected. That means the club has roughly three months to win the town over again. Man, Hale was sad in that scene. I guess the sight of a half-empty block on Main Street will do that to a man who thought he’d be bringing opportunity to Charming. The transition of power from Pope to August Marks had slowed down the breaking of ground on Charming Heights. The club’s maintainance contracts won’t kick in until the equipment is rolling, which could be another six months, Hale said. Are we surprised/impressed that the guys were later seen cleaning their own storefront? I guess all the Croweaters have day jobs. Proving Hale right, people avoided walking too close to the club members on the street. Things felt slightly more normal when the Reaper table was set up upstairs.

Seeing Tara draw her own blood into a blood bag, I knew my suspicion that she was faking a pregnancy and plotting a miscarriage was correct. She’s had to speed things up since her trial date moved. Tara thanked Margaret for doing all that Tara had no right to ask her to do. Margaret didn’t need comforting, she was giving the pep talk — what Tara was about to do may feel extreme, she said, but Tara had to stay focused on the big picture.

Speaking of dire times calling for desperate measures, the DA visited Nero and reminded him/us that his priest and biker queen alibis cancel each other out, that he has a long rap sheet (even if he’s been a good boy for a decade), and that murdered escort Erin’s DNA was found in his truck. I wish Eli could just tell Nero they’ve found proof that Toric killed Erin, but since he can’t/won’t, the DA has to press Nero hard: If he testifies that Jax and the Sons sold him the KG-9 that ended up in the 11-year-old shooter’s hand, he’ll walk — straight back to his son. She gave him 24 hours to think it over.

NEXT: “You’re learnin’, son”

At the table, Bobby ran everyone through the club’s sad financials. Since they’re paying Nero back directly out of Diosa’s profits, that’s not producing much. Nero’s arrest has spooked Colette and her girls, so the Stockton expansion is on hold. Even with that status report, Quinn, West, and Montez still wanted to transfer to SAMCRO, and they were voted in. Jax also wanted the club to vote on giving Ratboy a full patch. It was a unanimous yes. Lifting our spirits up like that just made me more nervous that we were going to get the wind knocked out of us.

Jax met with August to tell him about the Irish declining his initial offer for August to take over the gun distribution. Jax said he’s still working on something, so August is cool — for now. As a sign that Jax trusts his brothers, Chibs and newly christened consigliere Bobby joined him for that chat, while Tig and the others prepared to cut loose Connor. Jax is tired of “blood for blood,” he told August. “You’re learnin’, son,” August said. Jax asked Connor to tell Galen that he’ll honor his demands and have Clay run the guns — but if Clay falls through, August is still willing. (Does this mean we’re back to waiting for Clay to be killed? And where was Clay this episode? We didn’t see him once.)

Gemma went to visit Nero, and he told her about the deal the DA offered him — which, I think, means he’s not planning on taking it. (Though the promo for the next episode may suggest otherwise.) He kissed Gemma’s hand and smelled a new perfume. She told him it was Venus’. Jimmy Smits’ nervous reaction was precious. Nero didn’t know how Gemma would respond to Venus. It made Nero’s serious turn when Gemma told him that Venus’ mother, Alice, had gotten custody of Venus’ “nephew” Joey all the more upsetting. He begged Gemma to ask Jax to help get the boy away from Alice. (Side note: Revisiting season 2 for our latest SOA body count rewind gallery, I was reminded that Venus Van Dam isn’t the first Venus we met on the show. When most of the club was arrested after storming a Christian Center looking for Zobelle, they tried to earn protection inside by delivering two rats to the Family. One was an inmate in protective custody — Juice bait! — and the other was a transgender dealer named Venus, who Opie and Sheriff Trammel tried to frame for possession. She shot Trammel when he pulled her over.)

With the DNA evidence on Toric’s room due back the next afternoon, the DA knew pressing Nero was probably a losing battle (yay), so she wanted to look outside the family. Eli told her about his run-in with Barosky outside Colette’s brothel when he was tailing Jax and Nero. The DA told Eli to look into Barosky.

The highlight of the episode for me was seeing Tig’s awestruck reaction when he first saw Venus waiting at the new clubhouse. “Maybe she’s here for the banana split,” he said. Venus waved innocently to Tig. “Hi, baby,” he said quietly. Love Kim Coates. “Why?” was Jax’s question to Gemma. Jax didn’t want the risk of taking on someone else’s problem right now — the circle had to remain closed. But Gemma said Venus was family to Nero and Nero is family to her. Jax agreed to hear Venus out.

NEXT: “Hey, I guess I’m just a sucker for a pretty face”

Venus said her “sister” Lula had passed away, and Lula’s 15-year-old son, Joey, was now in the care of grandmother Alice. Saying Alice had abused Venice wasn’t enough. The club needed to hear the full story. Venus said she was 10 when her “inclinations” began to dominate her “gender direction.” Alice would get her drunk and “lovingly try to straighten me out,” Venice said. Holding back tears, she continued. Alice’s husband at the time began filming “the experiment.” Tig put his hand on Venus’ back to comfort her. “That’s when it all began,” she said. “I was, before long, having more sex than my hooker mama, and in turn, helped her launch a very, very lucrative child pornography service.”

Knowing we needed to take a breath at that moment, we were treated to a quizzical look on Tig’s face when Venus reported that her mother is of a similar build, “although gravity has not been her friend.” But it wasn’t Alice who’d given Venus the black eye the day before when she’d gone to get Joey. It was Alice’s latest dim and dangerous husband. Joey could emancipate in a few months; until then, Venus had dear friends in Seattle who could watch him. She broke down, saying she was literally at the club’s mercy. “Hey, I guess I’m just a sucker for a pretty face,” Jax said, smiling. It’s the right thing to do, helping her. But we’ve seen events that appear to be asides come back to bite SAMCRO in the ass.

Back at the hospital, Lowen had Tara sign a document denying Gemma any kind of custody or visitation — but it had no weight without Jax’s signature. Tara was confident she could get it. Unser showed up, and Tara asked him for help getting a restraining order.

The DA and Eli visited Barosky at his bakery. They didn’t come for the black and white cookies. They came to tell him either he gets her leverage to convince Nero to rat on Jax re: the gun used in the school shooting, or she’ll be inconveniencing his supplemental retirement funds. Correction: Eli did take a cookie. Barosky kicked their table when they left. The question is: Is he more pissed at Eli and the DA or Jax and Nero?

Next came the visit to Venus’ mother’s house, which looked nice enough from the outside. Gemma dabbed Venus’ face with a tissue, and Venus told her how kind she is. That’s Nero’s doing. Gemma thanked Jax as he, Tig, Chibs, and Bobby walked Venus to the door. “No, no, no, Fabio, lady wants a word,” Tig said when the long-haired man who answered it shut it in Venus’ face. The way Joey said, “Hey, Aunt Venus,” you liked him instantly. He was drinking a beer with his grandmother’s husband and friend.

Venus asked Joey to come with her and she’d explain, but Alice told him not to listen to “the mutation.” When Alice grabbed Venus’ crotch, Venus shoved her to the ground. One of the men, presumably Alice’s latest husband, pulled a shotgun and Jax grabbed Venus out of the line of fire. A fistfight broke out until Venus picked up the shotgun and fired a warning shot. Alice had taken Joey and was getting away. Venus taking off her heels to run to the car — not scripted, according to Walton Goggins. The man yelled after Venus that she’d never get her son back.

As Jax drove the SUV, Venus explained to him, Gemma, and Tig that Lula wasn’t her sister. Lula had been Vincent’s best friend. When he was 21 and still discovering himself, they “coiled in a clumsy act of confused love” and Joey was the result. Tig’s transfixed reaction — so perfect. As Venus continued the story — Lula raised Joey in Seattle and Venus sent money and visited when she could — Tig snuck his arm around her. We also got a shot of the handguns in the cooler sitting between Venus and Tig. Alice is a pretty damn good driver. I think she’s been chased before. Venus explained that she and Lula thought it best not to tell Joey that his aunt was actually his father. Cue Alice’s men ramming into the back of the SUV. “Goddamn it,” Venus shouted in a deep Vincent voice as she grabbed a gun and fired many shots. The men were okay, but they turned their car in the other direction. “What the hell, baby?” Tig asked.

Jax pulled over. Everyone was fine. “I’m overheated but in one piece,” Venus told Chibs. Jax was not happy with her. She apologized for Vincent’s rage coming uncorked. Luckily the men’s car had lost a plate. Jax told Tig to call Barosky and get an address from it. Jax told Bobby to take Gemma home. “You keep my boys safe,” Gemma told Venus. “I will, sweet mama,” Venus answered. Ah. Jax just shook his head. “Not quite the day you were expecting, aye boss?” Chibs said. It’s about to get worse!

NEXT: Happy Carousel is a horrible but brilliant name

At the hospital, Margaret told Tara they had to make their move now. Wendy, who was playing with Abel, was told it was time for her “meeting.” Unser gave Tara the restraining order, and she told him he’d soon know who needed restraining. Barosky met Jax and Co. at Alice’s studio, Happy Carousel. Tig and Chibs busted open the door. Venus can run in those heels. She went to Joey, who was drugged and shirtless on an animal print fainting couch. We saw editing equipment and pictures of adorable children on the walls. There was a camera pointed at a crib. A CRIB. Jax stared at it with the disgusted look we all had on our faces. Alice and her men arrived. Venus grabbed Tig’s gun and pointed it at Alice’s head. Jax touched Venus’ shaking arm, Tig touched her back, and everyone asked her not to shoot. She gave the weapon back to Tig. Jax screamed at Alice to get out and leave the boy with them. Her men left, but Alice stayed behind to belittle Venus.

She told Venus she doesn’t deserve a son. Alice had a son once who forgot who he was and deserted his family (WHO USED HIM FOR A CHILD PORNOGRAPHY SERVICE, ALICE). She told Venus to go ahead and tell Joey she’s his daddy and how much she loves him and wants the best for him. It won’t matter. The camera focused on Jax’s face not Venus’, so we’d understand that Jax was hearing those words as though they were being said to him. He had tears in his eyes as Alice insisted that when the boy finds out who you are, he’ll grow up hating you, hating your lies, hating the life you forced him into and hating himself. The boy was gonna blow his own brains out because of you — the awful thing that turned out to be his father. Those are the last words Alice spoke, because Jax put a bullet in her head. The blood splattered on the wall and on the framed photos of children. There was just silence and shots of stunned faces. Jax wiped a tear from his eye.

The more you think about that scene, the more ways there are to read it. After watching Jax try to convince Venus that she should tell Joey the truth, that Joey would be proud to have her as a parent after what she’d done that day for him, I think my initial read was correct: Jax is afraid of what his boys will think when they learn about his gun-running days — even if he’s gotten the club out (theoretically). But you could also add in another layer: Was Jax also shooting Tara, who didn’t want to raise their kids around the club she couldn’t accept, or Gemma, the mother who’d wanted him to stay in the gun-running business that he was raised in?

After Jax and Barosky watched a clip of Alice’s work, Barosky said he would’ve killed Alice if Jax hadn’t and that Jax had done that neighborhood a service. On the one hand, ridding the hood Barosky loves so much of a child pornographer should earn Jax points with him. But Barosky offering to take care of Alice’s body and to send his guys to convince Alice’s two men to leave town again made me nervous. Could he use Alice against Jax somehow? I’m choosing to believe Barosky is Team Jax at the moment. I think Barosky appreciates Jax being able to do what the cops couldn’t in Alice’s case.

Venus explained to Jax why she wouldn’t be telling Joey the truth: She wasn’t ready to lose him. Her lineage suggests he’ll judge and hate her. She had to be reborn as Venus to escape the family doom that ends with her dying miserably. Stroking Joey’s head in her lap, she said she hopes something comes along to liberate Joey from that fate. “Yeah, I hope so,” Jax said. (Thinking of his boys? Or himself?)

NEXT: “You’re lucky you’re pregnant”

Bobby dropped Gemma back at T-M, where Wendy was waiting. Wendy told Gemma that Tara had picked a new person to be the boys’ guardian because she questioned Wendy’s level of commitment and responsibility — Margaret Murphy. She also said she thinks Lowen is helping Tara leave Jax and to box them all out of the boys’ lives. Wendy told Gemma she had to stop Tara, who was at the hospital now.

Tara and Margaret were having a very uneasy dinner, just waiting, when Gemma came storming in to loudly demand they talk with her outside. Tara and Margaret got up to leave, just to get away from Gemma, and Gemma pinned Margaret to a vending machine by her throat in front of the entire cafeteria. Unser had to pull her off.  Tara ran ahead to a room and shoved the blood bag down her zipfront dress (that’s planning!), and seconds later, Gemma came into the room slamming the door. She asked if Tara was planning to leave Jax and stage a custody coup, and Tara said she’d make sure the boys never suffered the same fate as their father and wouldn’t know this life or their angry psychotic grandmother. Gemma slapped Tara across the face and Tara slapped her back. Then Tara punched Gemma in the gut and we waited… But Gemma stayed composed enough not to strike her back. “You’re lucky you’re pregnant,” she said. Even if you guessed what was coming, Gemma not taking the bait was a surprise.

Tara screamed, and then she slammed her stomach into the side of the desk. She collapsed to the ground, and Margaret, Unser, and Wendy came in. Tara said Gemma had attacked her. She was bleeding through her dress now. She told Gemma to look at what she’d done. Gemma denied it. But Margaret said they’d all seen her do it. Security took Gemma out and she locked eyes with a guilty-looking Wendy. Tara fake-cried in the fetal position and yelled for everyone to leave her alone. She just wanted Jax. Damn, Tara is smart. When Jax was brought in, she was still sitting there. Bloody dress. Blood on the floor. He sat with her and held her as Gemma was led to a cop car in cuffs. Gemma was numb in defeat. You could tell she was just processing all the lies that had led to that point.

That started the end montage (music: “Crash This Train” by Joshua James, whose song “Coal War” you purchased after the season 4 premiere’s opening montage). Unser joined Wendy in the hospital’s chapel. Tara finally made it to a hospital bed. Venus hugged Joey, told him she loved him, and put him on a bus to Seattle. Tig put his arm around Venus’ shoulders and, under different circumstances, he may have rested his hand on one of her breasts. But he held his hand away from them, and she reached up and took it. She leaned her head against him. Walton Goggins talked about that sweet moment with us. That smile Tig flashed — he couldn’t save his daughter last season, but they saved Venus’ son. Jax spoke with Eli at the hospital, and Gemma got her fingerprints taken at the station. She was still silent and processing. Nero tried to sleep in the top bunk of his cell as two men had sex in the bunk below him. Jax came back in to see Tara, who was now wearing a hospital gown and hooked up to an IV.

She said she’d lost their baby girl. Jax already knew. He said he was so sorry, and that’s when Tara struck: She told him she couldn’t be around Gemma anymore. Fighting back tears, he said he knew that, too. She showed him the giant bruise on her stomach and said Gemma had kicked her there. She told Jax that Gemma still thinks she’s trying to take the boys away from him and that he has no idea how violent Gemma is. With a wet face, Tara made him promise that Gemma would never be near the boys again. He did. Lowen came into the room — perfect timing, as if Tara had buzzed her. What was Lowen thinking? That Tara was playing with fire, or that Tara was gutting Jax now and would gut him again later when she filed for divorce? At least some folks were happy — Chucky and the three SAMCRO transfers had filled the shop’s candy jars and kids were running in and out for freebies. Margaret was playing with Thomas in daycare as Abel slept on the floor. Jax signed Lowen’s documents as Joshua James sang “with one court’s signature, we all become erased.” Eli passed Gemma, who was now back in that holding cell that she’d gotten herself thrown into to be with Nero. The promo for the next episode shows Eli asking Gemma what really happened with Tara. Is that genuine concern, or him trying to pit Gemma against Tara so they can get something to pressure Tara into turning on Jax? They wouldn’t think Gemma would turn on Jax now, right? Theories! Go!

Episode Recaps

Kurt Sutter’s original series, starring Charlie Hunnam, Ron Perlman, and Katey Sagal.
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seasons
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  • 09/10/13
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