”Let’s get this day locked down.”

Tonight marked the overdue end of an era. Clay, a man who turned to land bridges after he’d already burned all the water ones, is at long last an EX-Son of Anarchy. He has shuffled off this Redwood Original coil. He’s pushing up daisies and running off to Ireland. What I’d like to do now is look him in the eye sympathetically and give him a big pat on the back, right where his tattoo was blacked out. My only problem with this episode is that Clay wasn’t in more pain during that scene, which was otherwise handled with the right non-maudlin touch. I wanted them to burn it off with flaming logs. I wanted more physical retribution instead of just mental. As well, I could have used an episode-long Picture-in-Picture showing a loop of Clay sobbing into his sore hands. I love that an inhuman-looking person like Ron Perlman can bring humanism to a character who makes inhumane decisions. It’s the circle of life, and Charming’s lion king is definitely Jax.

I admit, there is physical retribution when Jax beats the living shit out of Clay. Out of all the pre-opening credit scenes this show has given us, this definitely hit a peak. Jax’s biker prose optimism becomes rage when Bobby drops it on him that Clay is going to the table with his confessions. Jax is not ready for this. Bobby has gone behind his back, the son of a bitch. Clay’s black-heartfelt fessing up was a feeble attempt to retain nobility, and I’m glad no one was fooled. It was really all about him not thinking Jax was good enough to lead. People still died, you douchebag. You’ve done no one any favors with your awful decision making.

The table vote, as predictable as it was, made my bones rattle with tension. The jubilation of knowing he would lose his patch gave way to unabashed fascination. Not often on television do you get to see someone’s fate verbally sealed like that. Bobby’s “nay” vote allowed Clay to live, albeit temporarily, and also sent Jax spiraling into a face-pummeling mania. Very soothing drama. Bobby saved Clay to “stop Jax from becoming the guy he wanted to kill.” He did it for the good of the club as well. All anybody does on this show is done for the good of the club, yet nothing anybody does seems to help the club. It’s a Catch 22 oz. beer.

Inner-club problems aside, Clay’s removal means their deals and schemes need some attention. Jax successfully feeds Lin to the Cartel. Romeo is impressed with the weapons he can get, but not with the elongated timeline needed to get the deal in place. In the meantime, he tells Jax a final deal for the IRA’s guns must be made, and though Gaalan is initially reluctant to help Jax, he relents. And everyone hugs and has a few pints. That would have been nice. Instead, Romeo and a large section of his crew blow the doors off of the meeting spot, wanting to guarantee the deal went through. Not only is it an embarrassment to Jax, but Romeo takes both the guns and the money, due to Gaalan shooting one of his men. All the blame lands on Jax’s shoulders, and Gaalan promises revenge.

And that revenge takes no time at all to kick in. Tara, guided to find a legal guardian for the boys in case of her and Jax’s untimely death, lands on “That Junkie” Wendy, and grants her the privilege of seeing Abel while he’s in daycare. Meanwhile, Jax is rounding everyone up to meet at the clubhouse for safety’s sake, and he runs into Wendy at the hospital while warning Tara about Gaalan. After they talk, Wendy gets kidnapped, demanding their guns or $475,000 for her return.

Another digression needs mentioning. Nero’s downward spiral back into gang business continues, as his cousin talks of an oncoming turf war, and a need for weapons. It’s a favor Nero brings to Jax, who is glad to help. Nero realizes that as Clay is being pushed out, he’s being pulled in. To prove this further, Nero spots Jax the money for Wendy’s return, claiming he could have gotten out of this game already, but he wasn’t ready to step away. “You can’t stay in uniform and not play the game, man.” Wise words. He admits his earlier advice for Jax’s own endgame may have been projecting his own issues. To me, Nero is becoming the perfect blend of Jax and Bobby, impulsive though repentant.

So Wendy is safe, but now she’s been armed with the knowledge of Abel’s kidnapping, and she threatens Jax and Tara’s custody rights with it. On top of everything else, some of which I haven’t even gotten to yet, this couldn’t have come at a worse time…for Wendy. In no mood to fuck around with petty problems where his head isn’t on a chopping block, Jax visits Wendy near the end of the episode choking her against a wall as he relinquishes all of her power. If she continues on the custody trail, he will report her to her counselor, saying she’s been using. But how will…oh, Jax has a junked-up syringe, which he sticks in Wendy’s arm, dirtying up her clean system. I didn’t think he would kill her, but I still expected it.

So who is Donal Logue’s mystery man? As some may have predicted, he’s Lee Tork, the brother of the nurse that Otto mutilated. He’s also a retired Federal Marshall, which explains how he was able to just waltz into the prison and beat Otto’s face in. He visits Tara, and after first appearing mournful, he lets Tara know all the ground rules are against her favor. She tells him she didn’t know what he would do with the crucifix, the same thing she said for her official statement for the legal proceedings, and he says he believes her. “But I also believed my niece and nephew would grow up with a mother.” Cold-blooded. Tara tells Jax he might get her charged with conspiracy or even murder. I seriously doubt Jax lets this happen with just a shrug and a smile.

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