Only on Sons could an episode that includes both a violent prison death (RIP, Henry Lin) and an homage to Bullitt‘s car chase be considered quiet. But that’s the best word to describe this episode, which will be remembered for its conversations: Juice tells Jax the truth about Tara’s murder. Nero hears that truth from Jax as Gemma tries to say goodbye. And Jax ultimately breaks down as he asks Nero how the mother he still loves, in spite of everything, could have done this to Tara. If last episode was all about the performances delivered by Kim Coates and Walton Goggins, this one belongs to Charlie Hunnam, Theo Rossi, Jimmy Smits, and Katey Sagal. (Update: Read our postmortems with director Peter Weller and Jimmy Smits.)
The morning: Once again, we have an opening montage without music. As Jax sits on the floor of Abel’s room, where he’s been all night, Gemma sits at her dining room table and talks to Tara. She doesn’t know why Abel would blame the fork incident on her because even Tara knows she’d never hurt the person she loves the most in the world. She’s sorry “this happened.” Does she mean setting this nightmare in motion by killing Tara? Abel hurting himself? Or her ending up at that long table all by herself? Juice sits on the floor of his cell talking to himself: Everyone will forgive him, and he’ll figure out a way to make it through his sentence, if he just does what he’s supposed to do—meaning get Lin to name the rat on tape and then kill him. Chibs, meanwhile, thinks about kissing a supposedly sleepy Jarry goodbye but stops himself. The cut is on—he’s a club member first, lover second.
When Jax leaves Abel’s room, you expect Abel to open his eyes like we’ve seen him do before. But he’s no longer in a horror film—he’s actually asleep. Learning Wendy is his first mommy has brought him some comfort and already made him less creepy. As Wendy gets Jax a cup of coffee, Jax changes into a fresh T-shirt, which is the only skin we see this hour, PTC. Now that Abel knows the truth about her, Wendy doesn’t want any more secrets between her and Jax. She tells him about Juice being at her apartment when she checked out of rehab, and Jax figures out that Gemma helped him. After hearing that Unser accidentally found Juice there, Jax heads off to the Airstream to get answers. “You take care of our boys,” he tells Wendy. She’s the only one he can trust now, the only one without an agenda.
Jax asks Unser why Juice would think to go to Gemma, which Unser doesn’t know. What Jax really wants is for Jarry to arrange him a face-to-face with Juice. Unser hesitates, since all Jax has done is lie to him—he tells him about Chris Dunn being in a Vegas drunk tank the night Tara was killed. A shocked Jax vows that the camera footage of the meet will get Unser and Jarry the truth about Tara’s death. You believe him, but of course, when he sees Tig and Chibs later, he asks them to reach out to Otis so Tully knows to buy the room and get that camera turned off. Unser warns Jax that his loyalty to the club and Teller family ends if Jax burns him on this, so we’re already worried. Also noteworthy: Jax is the one having his father’s bike updated. And again, Abel really does seem better: He’s showing empathy again asking Wendy how his father is. Working, Abel. Always working.
The rat reveal: Juice gets word that Lin’s death goes down after breakfast and repeats his mantra, “This gets done” (his version of Opie’s “I got this”). Ultimately, he’s led on the show’s longest walk down to the boiler room, where a nonchalant Henry Lin stands on a chair handcuffed to a pipe. Juice sets up the phone and promises Lin he’ll be fine if he just names the rat and promises not to give up the club for a deal. Lin says what some of us called the moment Barosky shot Desi, that cop/pawn shop owner, a little too quickly in episode 5: Barosky’s the rat. He’d reached out to Lin and held out for a ton of cash. (In an EW.com poll after episode 9, only 29 percent of fans thought it’d be Barosky.)
Juice turns off the phone, and Lin thinks he’s going to be freed. Instead, Juice stabs him in the throat with that shiv we’ve been waiting for him to use. Somehow, Lin manages to say, “You lying piece…” as the blood oozes out. As Juice points out, he’s a rat—why shouldn’t Lin have assumed he’s a liar, too? Juice stabs him two more times, and as the blood flows down Lin’s prisonwear, Juice smirks and slowly takes off his shirt to change into the nice new outfit the guard had so thoughtfully left him in case things got messy. You can feel bad for Henry Lin, but don’t feel bad for actor Kenneth Choi, who wanted to die a glorious Sons death.
NEXT: The truth comes out
Unser rattles Gemma: When Gemma arrives at T-M, Unser tells her about his visit from Jax. As he anticipated, Gemma just blames her false ID of Chris Dunn as Tara’s murderer on him being Asian and in the dark. He presses her to find out when and why Juice reached out to her, and she says he’ll have to ask Juice. That’s when Unser tells her Jax is on his way to see Juice right now and is determined to find out the truth. Suddenly, Gemma remembers she left something at home. Unser asks Chucky to follow her, and off he rides.
Setting up the stakes: At Red Woody, Chibs and Tig update the rest of the club about Jax meeting with Juice. We learn the Son forum on Jax killing Jury did not go well. If the club can’t get Lin to say Jury was the rat, then Jax and the new Indian Hills president will have to each present their side. If the others don’t buy that Jax fired in self-defense—and let’s remember how Jax has insisted Jury confessed to being the rat—it’ll be ruled a member killing a member. And that’s a mayhem vote.
Juice tells all: Tully delivers the news of Lin’s death to Jax, along with the phone. After Tully pays Juice a fond farewell (“Oh, I’ll see you later, baby”), Juice is left alone with Jax and reveals Barosky is the rat. Juice is broken but hopeful when he reminds Jax that he’s now done everything asked of him. He thinks he’s getting his family back. Wrong. Jax starts in with what he’s learned that day. At first, you don’t think Juice will tell Jax the truth: He and Gemma just sorta found each other, Juice says. But then Jax, with the whites of his eyes as white as his T-shirt, shares what’s happening with Abel: Jax pressed Abel the previous night about why he’d ask if Gemma had killed Tara to make room for Wendy, and Abel had said he’d overheard Gemma apologizing to Thomas for killing his mommy. “You see nothing makes sense to me, Juice,” Jax says. That’s when I started tearing up. There’s no anger in Charlie Hunnam’s shaking voice, just the desperation of a man who knows he’s so close to the truth he needs. “Is my kid delusional, cuttin’ himself, makin’ up stories?” he continues. And now the anger of a father who couldn’t shield his son briefly shows itself. “Or is he tormented, trying to wrap his little mind around something horrible? See every scenario seems insane to me.” He goes back to desperation. “My son is twisted up. He just lost his mom. Before I send in a team of shrinks to twist him up more and to create deeper wounds, I need the truth. Somehow I know you’re the one who can give it to me.”
Juice is so calm when he says he’s sorry about Abel that you again think he’s not going to give Jax the information he needs. But then Juice sighs, and you know you’re seeing the moment he decides he has to. I think the two tears he sheds—one out of each eye because Rossi is that good—are because he knows he’s signing his own death warrant. But he does it anyway. He tells Jax he went to his house that night looking for Gemma, as Jax had asked. He was still trying to wrap his head around Jax telling him he’d betrayed him. He explains how he waited outside with Eli, heard a crash, and followed Eli inside. It’s not until he says Tara was dead after apparently getting into a brawl with Gemma that Jax loses it. Now it’s his body shaking—a combination of trying to stop himself from full-on sobbing and trying to control his anger so Juice could continue the story. One second, you’re crying for Jax, the next, you’re crying for Juice: “Eli was about to call it in. I killed him,” he says with a delivery that reads as though Juice can’t allow himself to feel anything anymore. He’s already dead inside.
Jax now understands why Gemma and Juice needed each other. Juice explains that the brutality of Gemma’s kill felt gang-like, so not wanting it to land on Nero or the Mayans, he told Gemma to use the Chinese, and they came up with the story. At this point, Jax steels himself to tell Juice about Bobby being tortured and killed as August’s retaliation for SAMCRO going after Lin. Before Juice can show real emotion and apologize, Jax tells him not to say anything. “Thank you for telling me the truth,” Jax says. “I’ll make sure it’s quick.” Then he leaves. Charlie Hunnam can turn cold on a dime. Juice phones Gemma to give her a heads-up that he told Jax everything. She hangs up on him, stunned.
NEXT: Gemma on the run
The hunt begins: This episode needs a little levity, and it comes when Chibs and Tig can’t figure out Bobby’s bookkeeping: “Yeah. We need to patch in another Jew,” Tig says. But then it’s right back to the drama when Jax tells those two that Lin is dead, Barosky is the rat, and before they deal with any of that, they need to find Gemma.
Gemma is at her house packing her bag when Wendy explains why she came clean to Jax. Gemma is happy to hear that Abel knowing the truth about Wendy has helped him feel less anxious, and with one hint of a genuine smile, Katey Sagal opens the door for us to care about Gemma again. Gemma really must love her grandkids because she asks to hold Thomas even when his diaper is loaded. That may be the last time she sees him.
Diosa deal: Versatile Lyla is a notary, which we learn when she handles the paperwork transferring Nero’s shares of Diosa to Alvarez. Marcus would like to steal her away from Red Woody to be the new Colette: “I’d rather shoot pussy than have my pussy shot at,” she says. So okay, we can make jokes about the massacre now! Nero gets his $150,000 from Marcus, and the old friends hug it out as Montez and Quinn arrive asking for Gemma.
Chucky gets his moment: Gemma is about ready to leave when she hears Happy and Rat ride up to her house. For once she’s honest: She admits to Chucky that she’s in trouble and can’t let the club find her, so, using a trick Sons fans know well, he tells her to punch him and he’ll say she took a swing at him and took his keys. She nails him and hides as he spits blood and tells the guys she fled in a blue Ford 10 minutes ago. Always maternal, she tells Chucky to put ice on his lip. “You’re my best friend, Gem,” he tells her. “I accept that,” she says borrowing his signature phrase and kissing his forehead. Some of the sweetest moments this season have involved Chucky. If/when he finds out the truth about Gemma, will it break his heart?
Unser is badass: Jarry shows up at T-M to tell Unser about Lin’s death and the tape of Jax’s meet with Juice being blank. Chibs is curious about why Cagney and Lacey are there together, and Jax asks where things stand with Jarry. Once Tig gets the call from Happy that Gemma slugged Chucky and went on the run, Jax asks Unser to call Gemma and pretend he needs to meet with her. Unser reminds Jax that he’s done helping the club. But it’s about Tara, Jax insists. “Oh, if you gave a shit about Tara, maybe you would spend a little less time being a thug and a little more time being a dad,” Unser says. He’s not wrong, but that outburst is out of character. Jax shoves him and tells him to watch his mouth. “What are you gonna do? Are you gonna kill me? Is that what you’re gonna do? Add me to your body count?” Unser continues. You can see Chibs and Tig hiding their heads—they know where this is headed and don’t want to watch it. “You know what, maybe I should go into my trailer and stand in the kitchen and wait for somebody to come along and stick a fork in my head,” Unser says. Finally, Jax punches him and sends him to the floor. It’s all a part of Unser’s plan, of course: He tells Jarry until they know what’s happening, he wants Jax off the street so no one else gets hurt. Now she can put out an APB on Jax for assault. I’ve said it before, but I love it when Unser is the smartest man in the room (or garage).
Juice gives up: Jarry and Unser go see Juice, and Unser’s smile when Juice looks his way says, “I’m too old for this shit.” Jarry tells Juice she knows he’s getting cozy with the AB: “That’s one way to put it,” Juice cracks. So there’s a little life in him yet. They want to know what he told Jax earlier, and when he recommends they watch the tape, Jarry tells him not to be an asshole. “Trust me, all I am in here is someone’s asshole,” he says. He won’t tell them the story, but he will offer this: “Gemma knows the truth…about everything. Gemma knows every truth behind every lie inside every secret. She’s the gatekeeper,” he says. As he tells Unser, who offers him help if he has information about Tara, “I have no chance. Neither do you. Your heads are shoved so far up your asses, you can’t see what’s right in front of you.” Now Jarry takes a turn: “Yeah, and if you’re tired of things getting shoved up your ass, maybe we can help. But we’re gonna need some cooperation, damn it.” Juice cuts her off: “It doesn’t matter anymore, Sheriff. I’m all done. It’s too late. For all of us,” he says. Again, how great is Theo Rossi? He’s not ice-cold or mustache-twisting. He’s just matter of fact and resolved. You’re not crying now: By owning his fate, he’s not a victim. And he’s not a coward.
Later, we see two guards tell Juice they’re “hopping on the Orient Express.” Translation: The Chinese have paid them to bring Juice to the infirmary, so they severely beat him.
NEXT: Jimmy Smits at his best
Gemma’s long goodbye: Sitting at the entrance of what we later learn was her father’s church, Gemma phones Nero and asks him to come meet her. When he arrives, she’s standing down the street across from the house where she was born, which is next to her father’s parish. She explains how her mother hadn’t really wanted to be a mom, but she couldn’t wait to have a dozen sons. That didn’t happen because of her heart condition and Jax brother’s death. But she never quit on Jax, not for a minute, she says. “Everything in my life, pretty much torched,” she says. “I hated school. I wasn’t a very good wife. But I was a good mother,” she continues. “I did everything I was supposed to do.” Nero is almost in tears because he can already sense the goodbye coming—even before she tells him she loves him and despite their time together being neck-deep in chaos, he’s made her happy. She says she has to handle some family things, and Jax—who’s outside Barosky’s bakery waiting for the rat (what was their plan exactly?)—picks the best moment to call Nero. Gemma asks him not to answer the phone until she’s gone, but he doesn’t wait.
Nero demands Jax tell him why he’s looking for Gemma. “I went to see Juice this morning,” Jax starts, “trying to piece together…” and then the sound drops out. All we hear is Nero’s breathing as we watch him react to whatever Jax is saying on the line. As Kurt Sutter and episode director Peter Weller know, you only give that kind of moment to an actor like Jimmy Smits. He tilts his head and looks at the back of Gemma’s head. “Jax, I’m really sorry,” he says. He holds it together… until he breaks down for just a second. He pulls the phone away from his face: So Jax wouldn’t hear him cry, or because he couldn’t bear to hear what Jax was saying? What did Jax say at that exact moment? Nero tells Jax he’ll let him know if he sees Gemma.
When Nero hangs up, he calmly asks her if it’s true. Gemma, being Gemma, says it’s complicated. Nero had been leaning on her getaway car, but practically propels himself off of it. “Gemma,” he says. The way his knees buckle causing him to bounce a few times—he’s impatient, either like a child or a grown man trying to control himself. She admits it’s true, and he’s speechless. He tries to talk but can’t form the words. God he’s good. “You should go,” he finally says. She turns and leaves without another word. Nero walks to the curb, drops his phone, sits, and cries. Just watching him scratch at his own arm makes you tear up. The life he thought he was going to have is gone.
Time for a chase scene: The cops outside Barosky’s bakery run Jax’s plate. While Chibs and Tig buy him some time, he flees on foot—until he commandeers a black Dodge Charger for Weller and stunt coordinator Eric Norris’ homage to Bullitt through the narrow streets of a residential area. The jazz may be unusual for Sons, but again, that’s Bullitt (and very Weller). The chase culminates with a patrol car slamming into a parked van. Best chase ever on SOA?
Gemma’s last stop: Gemma heads to Abel’s school, and through the playground fence, she hands him John’s SON ring—the same one she gave Jax when he’d patched into the club. The woman is relentless. She tells him she loves him, that his dad and mother love him, and that he did nothing wrong. When Ms. Harrison breaks up the family reunion and tells Gemma she’s going to report this, Gemma does the unthinkable: She thanks Ms. Harrison for watching over Abel and asks her to take care of him. Gemma really is saying goodbye. Abel walks away but turns around: “Bye, Grandma,” he says. She probably doesn’t hear him.
NEXT: Now what?
Sanctuary: Jax’s stolen car becomes rent for him to crash at Alvarez’s office. Alvarez is happy to let SAMCRO handle Barosky since in addition to being a rat, Charlie’s also an expensive hurdle for the Mayans. Jax says Alvarez should talk to Connor about the guns, and that they’ll need help cleaning up what’s left of the Chinese—then they’ll sit down with Tyler and figure out territories. Jax is confident that by the time August Marks puts together a new crew, “Black, White, and Brown” will be united in Oakland, and August will have to fall in line. Marcus heads up to Stockton and lets SAMCRO have the location for chapel.
At the table, Jax apologizes for the lack of communication and tells the club what he learned that day about Gemma and Juice—and how the man whose head he’d split open wasn’t even in the state when Tara was killed. Seeing the reactions around the table—I missed Bobby. You know if he’d never been taken by Moses, he’d have had tears in his eyes there. Jax takes full responsibility for everything that has happened. He says he’s going to sit down with the presidents from the other SOA charters and come clean about Jury. Then SAMCRO will sit down with Tyler, the Irish, and the Mayans and discuss guns and territory. He’s going to try to make it right. He wants time to think and suggests the guys do the same. “I’m sorry that the family I was given [has] created so much chaos in the family I’ve chosen,” he says. “I hope you know I love you all very much.” There’s just silence.
Unser shows up at Gemma’s, and Chucky sits alone at the table. He’s like a puppy waiting for its owner to come back. Chucky has no idea where she went. “She’s not coming back, is she, Wayne?” he asks. Unser doesn’t answer. But again, Abel is no longer creepy: He kisses Wendy and Thomas goodnight.
The heart-to-heart: The club leaves Jax alone, with Chibs and Tig telling him they love him. It’s nice to see Tig and Jax have that genuine moment. Nero shows up, and Jax has to wipe away a tear. They sit side-by-side, and Nero can honestly say he doesn’t know where Gemma went because he couldn’t talk to her. Jax wants to know how he comes back from the damage to his club, his family, Abel. Nero suggests it’s time to honor Tara’s wish. Nero still cares enough to ask what Jax is going to do about Gemma. “I get the pain that you’re in, Jax. And the damage that she’s caused is just unbelievable. But a son killing his mother… Jax, that’s a wound that’s too deep to heal. And I know you… that’s gonna swallow you up. That’s gonna destroy you, man.” That’s why he’s crying. “I know. That’s the part that hurts the most about all this, man. I mean after everything she did—all the lies, the death, and the wreckage—I still love her, you know. She’s my mom,” Jax says. Didn’t his voice sound a bit higher there? Younger. He’s crying. I’m crying. You’re crying. Jax hides his eyes with his hand. “How could she do this to Tara?” he weeps. Now we all really lose it as he can barely speak: “How could she do this?” In EW’s Sons cover story, Sutter said that Jax would have a different emotional response to learning the truth than we’d expect. He wasn’t lying. Nero and Jax hug each other, and Jax lets the tears flow. Nero’s the best father Jax has ever head. Bringing him into Jax’s life may be the best thing Gemma ever did for her son. Especially if Jax ends up on that farm with Nero.
When we see Gemma, she’s driving and singing along to a hymn. I was thinking she was going to run off the road, maybe crash her car into the spot where JT had been killed. But she just keeps driving. The road sign says 9 miles to Portento, 23 miles to Fortuna, and 47 miles to Eureka. Is that the last we’ll see of her? Update: The answer is no. The promo for the next episode, which airs Dec. 2, shows her at her father’s house with Unser.