John P. Johnson/ HBO

As Eric plays relationship counselor for Sookie and Bill, the Jason-Jessica-Hoyt-Brigette love square figures itself out.

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August 18, 2014 at 02:28 AM EDT

The penultimate episode of True Blood‘s final season does what many viewers may have considered impossible: It makes you root for Brigette and Jason, be okay with an Eric sex scene lasting approximately 15 seconds, and imagine yet more blood being spilled at Sookie’s house. Here we go…

Bill’s decision not to drink the cure isn’t taken well: Aside from gagged Sarah demanding that Jessica not refer to her as a “c—,” there’s nothing funny about the resolution of the basement scene. Sookie is right to make Bill admit that he’s making a choice and not “accepting his fate” when the cure is right in front of him. Frustrated that Bill can’t yet articulate his reasons, Sookie slaps his face a couple of times before Eric stops her and suggests Bill leave. But first, Jessica asks Bill to release her, and he says a beautiful goodbye to her. As he stumbles off weakly, Sookie clings to Eric, and Pam, knowing what it’s like to have your maker release you, hugs Jessica. “You cry on my jacket, you’re payin’ for it, sweetheart,” Pam says. Okay, that was funny, too.

Sam and the meaning of family: Presumably, Sookie and Jessica go to Sam’s place hoping to ask him to talk to Bill, but all they find are two letters: One for Sookie, and one for Andy. Sookie’s says that Sam’s not convinced that Nicole is right about Bon Temps—folks there may just be resilient and not crazy—but regardless, he loves Nicole and wants to raise his baby girl. He thinks people live two lives: the first is for themselves, and the second is for their children, to whom they have an obligation to each all they know. Sam invites Sookie to Chicago after the baby’s born and says he loves her. Is that it for Sam? It’s sad to imagine we’ve seen the last of him, but it makes perfect sense that someone would leave Bon Temps after all this and that it would be a man with a child on the way and someone whose arc has been about finding a home, family, and love. So much of Sam’s role has been about what he can shift into—it’s nice that he leaves on a very human moment. And also, if things do get bloody in the series finale, we don’t want to have to worry about his baby’s safety. (He was shown in the promo for the finale: Are we thinking the final scene will flash-forward, and Sam will come back to Bon Temps for a visit with his daughter?)

In the last recap, I described Arlene as now dressing like Susan Sarandon (Annie) in Bull Durham—a little too excessive for the Carolina League. Well, maybe Annie really is her style guru because Arlene is clearly a fan of Kevin Costner films. When Sookie and Jessica go to Merlotte’s, Arlene informs them that she’s practicing the “If you build it, they will come” business plan. In short: She’s bringing her full staff back to work, and until the restaurant has costumers, Big John will just be cooking for them, family style. Well done, Arlene.

Sookie has to break the news to everyone that Sam is gone, and she thoughtfully takes Andy into Sam’s office in case his letter is as heavy as hers. Ha! It wasn’t: “Dear, Sheriff Bellefleur, I resign. Sincerely, Sam Merlotte.” More moving is Jessica acknowledging to James that Lafayette was right when he said she doesn’t know James well. She apologizes for not caring enough to ask him more about himself. And there’s no time to now.

Jessica bolts, and eventually, everyone sits down for the meal but Sookie. Arlene gives another one of her private therapy sessions after Sookie fills her in on Bill. How does Arlene, who’s happy with Keith even if they can’t have sex, keep starting over? The first thing she does is make up her mind she wants to, Arlene says. Sookie admits she held herself back from Alcide because of Bill—she never wants to do that to someone again. (Does that give us hope for Sookie and Eric? Hold on.)

NEXT: Eric goes to see Bill, then Sookie, then Ginger

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Sookie, Bill, Eric, Lafayette, Sam and the other residents Bon Temps deal with vampires, werewolves, fairies, and shape-shifters—not to mention romance and drama
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