Sons of Anarchy recap: 'Smoke 'Em If You Got 'Em'
Juice goes to the Mayans, and Jax makes serious moves against Marks.
For anyone who thinks this season of Sons of Anarchy has been tough to follow, this episode makes things a bit simpler: Jax now has SAMCRO, the One-Niners, the Grim Bastards, and the Mayans united in a mission to take out August Marks after another action-packed day. (Don’t you want to map their whereabouts and see how many miles they cover?) Even more impressive: Jax’s mind works faster than whatever speed they’re traveling. He also figures out a way to make things right with Tully and the AB, and how to use Gemma’s eye-witness account to keep the DA from offering Lin a deal to flip on the MC. Does he have a plan for traitor Juice that doesn’t involve a bullet? We’ll see. Let’s dig in.
Gemma lives, for now: Did Juice expect Gemma to make it somewhere walking 12 miles in spiked boots, or did he leave her for dead? Either way, he didn’t shoot her and she’s got a lot of time to kill while Unser and Wendy drive to get her. Gemma sits at a diner and talks to Tara, saying that seeing how Jax loved her when they were kids was the first time she realized he wouldn’t be hers forever. The waitress (Lea Michele) interrupts her to tell her not to smoke, and though Gemma is rude at first, she warms up to the sweet, soft-spoken Gertie, who offers her a blueberry danish (we know Gemma enjoys baked goods).
When Gertie later takes a smoke break, she invites Gemma to join her. Is Gertie the younger version of Gemma? Married young when she got pregnant, loves her son more than the (ex)husband, and has highlights? Gemma lets her guard down long enough to admit that it’s her fault that her daughter-in-law is dead, but then she steels up again saying she can’t stop it and that’s just life. That’s classic Gemma: The truth won’t do her any good, so she compartmentalizes and focuses on what she can control. Gertie is way too trusting telling exhausted Gemma where she hides her car keys (which is dangerous enough). Gemma can tell Gertie’s a good girl and that her son is lucky to have her. It’s strange: You know what a compliment that is coming from matriarch Gemma, and yet, knowing what she’s capable of, you wonder if her opinion should matter at all. Not up for debate, however: Lea Michele was well cast. It’s believable that Gemma would be kind to her; she is to those who don’t threaten her.
Gemma is pissed when Wendy shows up with Unser because she was supposed to come alone. Clearly, Gemma knows Unser won’t buy that Juice would sever his only lifeline. Unser asks if she killed him—half joking. Gemma claims it was almost the other way around, and again, Unser is flummoxed: Gemma isn’t a threat. If she rats Juice out, Jax will find out she helped him. Gemma says it doesn’t matter why Juice snapped, bottom line, Juice couldn’t pull the trigger. “This time,” Unser says. (Foreshadowing?) He tells Gemma about Lin being arrested and that now is the time to tie him to Tara’s murder—either she tells Jarry what she saw or he will. What’s he doing?? “The right thing, for a change,” Unser says. On the one hand, you don’t ever want to hear a man tell Gemma what to do. On the other, he’s right. She needs to talk. For the first time, I wondered if Gemma might kill Unser. Would it be poetic after all the years he’s loved her and supported her? Yes. But Unser is at his best as a character when he’s the clever one. What if HE’S the one who ultimately puts a bullet in Gemma, choosing to shoot her because she’s got a gun on someone?
Diosa Recovery: Tig leads Jax, Chibs, and Quinn in tequila shots at Diosa to honor the fallen escorts. “I’m sorry, ladies,” Jax says. “We made it right.” (Really? And what about the Johns that were killed? Nothing for them?) Slamming the shotglasses down together in unison makes the sound of a gavel because this is just business for the club. As if to prove it, Tig and Jax go through the books and Tig naturally gets distracted by one dead goddess offering a mint-flavored bl– job. Nero walks in, and Jax tells him they should simply clean the place up and hire more girls. People will come back? Tig says they could’ve left the bodies on the floor and guys would return. “Too soon?” he asks. Yes.
Nero tells Jax that Lin “is done”—which just means he’s out of business—and that he doubts the remaining Triads will attempt any retaliation this far north. Since the liquor store is locked up tight, Nero’s expecting a visit from Alvarez. Jax promises that SAMCRO has his back. This joke is welcome:
Jax: Who knows, may be calling you stepdaddy soon.
Nero: Yeah, we all know how well that worked out in the past.
Jax: Yeah, we’re a fun family.
Jimmy Smits does more with a sigh than most actors do in entire scenes.
Eventually, Alvarez and the Stockton Mayan president Oscar “El Oso” Ramos roll in with some guys to talk to Nero about Lin getting busted. Nero tells them he got involved because Gemma saw the Chinese leaving Jax’s house. Ramos suggests it’s convenient that Gemma is the only witness. (Ding! Ding! Ding!) Outlaw code is a powerful thing though: Nero explains that Lin gave him the ultimatum to either bring him Jax or risk his life and that of his son, so he made a choice. Alvarez softens a bit but still has to handle it as a betrayal. Ramos takes a call and motions Alvarez over. Did you see Smits’ eyebrows drop half an inch? That’s anger over someone else determining his fate. They decide to take Nero with them to Marcus’ “office,” and when Alvarez says for Nero not to make it harder than it has to be, it felt like we were finally saying goodbye to Nero. (Did anyone else talk to their screen and warn Marcus not to touch him? Just me? Okay.) Ultimately, he ends up in holding cell (read: closet).
Juice’s hail mary: Juice has Gemma’s SUV and knocks over a liquor store for some Blow Pops and cash. Mostly the cash. He doesn’t care if there’s a camera or that customers can see him. He knocks out the clerk, whose head bleeds next to a pack of Dismas smokes (that’s “saint” in Spanish). Later, he drives by the Mayan liquor store and gets the idea to ask them for help. That must have been the call Ramos took at Diosa because they’re expecting Juice when he walks in to Marcus’ office and admits SAMCRO wants him dead. He asks for safe passage to Mexico and an ID, and in exchange, he offers a little under two grand and Gemma’s Navigator. When that’s not enough, he offers any intel they’d like on SAMCRO. Finally, Juice is a real rat. Guy Ferland, who directed this episode, says he wanted that spotlight on Juice and Alvarez to help convey the weight of the club on Juice in that moment—it’s like an interrogation. Combine it with Juice not being able to look Alvarez in the eye afterward, and you feel it.
NEXT: Jax sets a new plan in motion
The Grand Plan, Part 1: A very-serious Tyler meets with SAMCRO and the Grim Bastards at T-M to tell Jax, who sits in a leather throne, that August knows SAMCRO retaliated against Lin and is setting up to kill all the white boys. But first, August wants to use the East Dubs to wipe out the Grim Bastards. Malcolm-Jamal Warner says that ain’t gonna happen, which makes you a little afraid for his character’s life expectancy. (One would imagine the only thing Kurt Sutter would enjoy more than turning Theo Huxtable into a biker is killing him off.) Tyler agrees to find Dulain, and then Jax will take it from there with his plan of “guns and man power.” To ease T.O.’s mind, Jax asks which of his guys would make it if the Bastards were to patch over to SAMCRO. To borrow a familiar phrase from the show, that would be historic s—.
Later, SAMCRO and the Grim Bastards ride together to the meet with Leland and the Aryan Brotherhood. Jax tells T.O. to have his guys wait a safe distance away, but still, not a smart idea. After non-pleasantries are exchanged with the AB, Jax offers to make their little heroin mishap right by selling them guns. But the AB deals drugs, and Tully set a lot of favors in motion in Stockton based on them getting the H. The AB gets alerted to the Bastards hanging out on their Harleys nearby. Jax and Chibs seem to enjoy the humor in the situation, but Leland worries Jax is planning a payback ambush. “Or maybe I’m just a white guy who’s not living in 1956,” Jax says. They decide to each speak with Tully and walk their separate ways until Chibs says he “hates these Nazi pigs.” An AB member tackles Chibs, and Jax uses his prison white sneakers to kick the guy. A fist fight begins, but Leland gets out a sawed-off shotgun and fires it to get everyone’s attention. SAMCRO draws, but Jax has his guys put down their weapons first. He walks right up to Leland, so close the shotgun winds up pointed at his throat, and asks, “What’s the matter? Are you afraid to put down the gun, bitch?” I’d like to think the laugh Jax and Leland share is a mutual appreciation for Breaking Bad, but all you really know is that Jax is too cocky and reckless. Is he so sure Leland won’t screw Tully by shooting him? Regardless, Leland takes off his sunglasses, passes the gun to a buddy, and Jax sucker punches him. Game on! A fist fight is almost quaint at this point in the series—as non-threatening as the Aggie dance number in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. There’s punching, kicking, and head-butting, but it’s just about blowing off steam.
The Grand Plan, Part 2: The Mayans pretend Ramos is taking Juice’s offer to his table when really, he goes to fetch Jax, Chibs, Bobby, Tig, and Quinn. (Confession: I had to press pause because I can’t handle conflict, and I knew how tense and uncomfortable this scene was going to be when Jax and Juice come face-to-face and Jax gives him the death stare. There may be actual whimpering on my part.) As Chibs grabs Juice in silence and parks him, Jax and Alvarez sit down and strike a new deal: Jax believes that Marcus knew nothing about Lin going after Tara (and even if Lin really was guilty, we’d believe Alvarez because of the way he played dead for a day to help SAMCRO in season 3 when Tara and Margaret Murphy were taken by Salazar). Alvarez says he wants the Irish gun trade instead of Marks, and Jax lights a cigarette to keep himself from smiling an even bigger effing grin. He now knows how he’s going to work out his AB problem: He tells Alvarez that in addition to Juice, he’ll need him to let Tully distribute H in Stockton. Jax tells him about Tyler being in SAMCRO’s corner. The Mayans can split Lin’s heroin turf 50/50 with the Niners, and that will triple any hit he takes from the AB. “How do we handle Marks?” Alvarez asks. “We take him out,” Jax says. “Together. When that’s done, I’ll do the dance for the Irish Kings. Be the white face on the brown machine.” You gotta hand it to Charlie Hunnam and Emilio Rivera for keeping that conversation riveting. You wonder if Hunnam practices different ways to exhale smoke for dramatic effect. If everyone’s table signs off and Tully is in, they’ve got a deal and a truce—and Jax gets Juice. Man hug.
Jax asks that the Mayans take the cut off Juice and they do. They throw him in the closet with Nero, because that is Juice’s life—it can always get worse. Nero tells Juice to start talking, and they each explain why they’re there. Juice has a chance to rat out Gemma, but he doesn’t. Will he never? Or does he just not want to tell Nero the truth about Gemma’s lie in that confined space? Juice knows he’s on death row and says he deserves to die. So why is he running? Because he’s a coward, he says. Maybe we’re supposed to be happy that Juice is taking responsibility for his actions, but he seems to be more upset about betraying the club than he is about killing people, so that makes it tough.
Jax goes to see Tully, who isn’t receptive to the idea of working with “brown.” When Jax says the only color Tully really sees is green, Marilyn Manson has the best line delivery of the episode: “It’s my job… to maintain… the brand.” Is that Jax or Hunnam cracking a bit of a smile? Both. Tully concedes: If Leland’s cool with a sample of the H, he’ll make it work. Jax also asks that Tully help facilitate access to Lin when the time comes. “Why don’t we burn that cross when we get to it,” Tully says. That’s a yes. But Tully warns Jax that Leland has a problem with Jax’s “love of all things dark.” Jax needs to prove that Leland can trust him. How? “You’re a bright white boy. Figure it out,” Tully says. Manson is great. Granted, we’re just getting him in small doses, but when you consider all Tully ever does is sit and talk, they really did need someone interesting in that role. You sit up each time he’s on-screen, either to flat-out enjoy him or to watch him closely to see if you can pan him (and you can’t, so you enjoy him anyway).
When Alvarez gets word that Tully’s on board, he sets Nero free. Before Nero leaves, he learns that Juice showed up in Gemma’s ride and that the Mayans are keeping it. Jax doesn’t know that, though, right?
The Grand Plan, Part 3: Tyler finds an address for Dulain, and s— gets real. The Grim Bastards shoot up the house and the East Dubs file into two cars and chase after them. They lead them into a trap: The Mayans come from one direction, SAMCRO from the other. It’s nice to see the clubs working together. The East Dubs are surrounded. A few come out shooting and get gunned down. Jax asks if the one who calls a ceasefire is Dulain, the one responsible for running T.O.’s guys off the road. He is. “Nice Impala,” T.O. says and shoots him in the head. “Good?” Jax asks. “Yeah,” T.O. answers. And the East Dubs think MAYBE they’re going to live. But we know Marks wants to use them to kill the Bastards and perhaps SAMCRO if he figures out that the Niners have turned. Jax starts to walk back to his bike, puts a cigarette in his mouth, and offers one to a scared East Dub who’s shaking too much to speak “no thanks.” Jax puts the pack in his cut, and then with a couple waves of his finger, gives the signal for SAMCRO and the others to light. them. up. As they fire away, Jax lights his cigarette. Ferland gives Hunnam credit for that cigarette bit. It’s so cruel, you feel guilty for thinking it was cool as hell. But it’s like Ferland says, you have to go for it and not dwell on it. Does it make sense that Jax would want to take out the entire crew he knows is coming for the Bastards and eventually his guys? Yes. What you need to gloss over is that our (anti)hero is enjoying this carnage now.
NEXT: Body disposal
The Trust Exercise: How convenient: When SAMCRO goes to its next meet with Leland, Jax escorts Leland to the van, opens the door, and is able to show him the pile of East Dubs. Of course, SAMCRO doesn’t ID them for Leland. They say they killed them just for him: “They were black, now they’re dead,” as Bobby puts it. Tig offers Leland the bodies for target practice (a sick callback to the Gerber farm). He declines that offer, but the body count is enough of a gesture for Leland to try the H. After the longest taste-test in the history of TV, he says, “That’s pretty good.” He’ll let Tully know it’s on. “I think we scared them,” Chibs says. “Another victory for race relations,” Jax cracks. Tig notes that they’re running out of room at Chigger Woods, and Jax says the bodies aren’t going there. Later, we see Tig and Quinn dump the pile at a Pope Partners construction site (reminiscent of Clay dumping the Russian bodies at Hale’s Charming Heights). That certainly sends a message to Marks and his investors. Jax is playing with fire.
The Marks-Lin connection: Let’s back up. Early in the episode, Chibs meets with Jarry, who tells him that Lin’s arresting officers told the D.A. that SAMCRO cooperated and had nothing to do with the takedown of Lin. The only real information that comes out of this parking garage rendezvous is that Eglee is awake but still critical; Chibs is, in fact, grateful for the heads-up on Lin having a tail yesterday (“You should be thanking me for the sex”—Tommy Flanagan has never enjoyed a line more); and, oh yeah, the DA is getting pressure from the Oakland City Council to offer Lin a deal to flip on someone local. From Chibs’ reaction, Jarry assumes it’s the MC. And we know it’s Marks pulling those strings. So Jax needs to show the City Council suits that Marks is a greedy thug in Pope’s clothing and make Lin less attractive to the DA.
When Gemma returns to T-M, she tells Jax that Unser wants her to give a statement to Jarry on seeing the Chinese leaving his house the night Tara died. Jax has an epiphany—man he’s quick. If the DA has Lin on the murder of a doctor and mother (oops, slip of the accent, Charlie), they’re not going to give him a deal. Jax wants Gemma to talk to the police. After Jax tells her she looks like hell and she quips that hell is where she’s living (it’s going to get so much worse, Gem!), she heads to Jarry’s office with Unser and speaks to her off-camera. Afterward, she tells Unser she wants him and his Airstream off T-M property. Ouch. The good news: He’s alone when Jarry tells him that Eglee is off the critical list and she’s been asking to see him. During the end montage, Eglee says she wants to tell him what happened and who was there the day she was shot. Will Unser continue to do the right thing? Will it get him killed?
Gemma is screwed: Nero speeds into T-M and tells Gemma about his day bonding with Juice in a Mayan closet. He lets her know that her SUV was used as Juice’s down payment in his attempt to sell club secrets for safe passage. Nero wants to know if she helped hide Juice, but Gemma doesn’t answer. She asks where Juice is now: “Wherever Jax is,” Nero says. And then Gemma starts to hyperventilate—or rather, she fights it off because she’s Gemma. Nero can tell she was helping Juice and goes from anger to concern in one second by seeing her so distraught. “If he tells Jax what he knows,” she says hugging him and crying. He holds her because he’s wonderful. Wendy, who was supposed to have headed back to Red Woody to put Abel to bed, watches them through the window. Will she talk to Unser again about this?
Dead man walking: While Unser is presumably hearing Eglee’s story, Jax, Bobby, and Chibs share a Miller Lite product placement with Alvarez and Ramos toasting their renewed friendship. Alvarez hands Juice’s cut over to Jax and tells him that even if they hadn’t made a deal, he never would have made one with a rat. That earns him a “brother” and another man hug. As Jax snarls, Juice is led out. To me, it seems like Juice looks at Bobby, hoping to see a sign of mercy. Chibs makes him look back at him, shakes his head no, and then leads him out by the neck. Jax follows them out walking straight into the camera. His face is the final image before the signature Reaper. If your stomach is twisted, you’re not alone. #SaveJuice.
Bobby and Wendy have a chat: This scene early in the episode serves two purposes: Letting us know that 1.) SAMCRO understands the risks they take following Jax, who refuses to slow down and 2.) Wendy’s love for Jax is so apparent that even Bobby can see it, so we’ll just have to buy it if they get closer. Outside Red Woody, Bobby bums a cigarette from Wendy, who is growing almost as impatient as Abel with the lockdown. Bobby acknowledges that Jax has no idea what’s happening next: “Doesn’t matter. We’re with him,” he says. The guys all love him and know it’s his heart that drives him—that he wants the best for both his families. He takes everything in and lets it boil, Bobby says. Despite Wendy never knowing what Jax was feeling until it blew up in her face, she admits (again) that she still loves him. “He sees it, it’s not lost,” Bobby tells her, kissing her forehead. It’s wonderful that Bobby, the voice of reason who probably couldn’t stomach another trip to Diosa, gets to slow down and have this moment of reflection. But honestly, how do you feel about an ex addict still loving a man who shot her up? It’s another thing we shouldn’t dwell on.