Sons of Anarchy Watch: Season 5, Episode 7 - Toad's Wild Ride

“Let SAMCRO decide who lives and dies.”

I’m glad I didn’t take the last few weeks’ abundance of humorous moments for granted, because “Toad’s Wild Ride” sapped all the brightness out of everything, save for a few Joel McHale quips. For something named after a Disney ride…Well I guess Disney isn’t really the happiest place on Earth anyway. Why not the Hall of Motorcycle Club Presidents? Tig almost certainly has to be a demonic robot.

I’m kind of distraught by the ending on this one, which isn’t making the mental classification of events any easier. It was a normal ending for this show, where personal injuries are always happening before the credits, and it made the normal amount of character sense, in that someone does something extremely stupid after assuring someone else that they won’t. Yet it still felt like a cheap shot on my emotions. To backtrack…

Jax and Tara planned on going up to the cabin for some alone time, but Tara is unable to find suitable childcare. So Jax, reasonably, says that Gemma should do it, and Tara agrees. Gemma has been dangling at the end of quite a few people’s ropes recently, and given the episode’s early events, she seems like the exact opposite of the person they should want being responsible for the safety of their children. But thanks to Nero’s wise words, Jax has let his defenses waver. Wait, let’s back up some more.

Gemma wakes up in a hotel bed next to Warren, the Jeff Winger from the SAMCRO timeline. While she’s crying in the bathroom and feeling sorry for herself, Warren wakes up and snags her wallet and the keys to her Escalade. She freaks out and calls Nero, who is at the new Diosa with Jax and the boys. Everyone shows up to help her, which pisses her off, because it means Jax gets yet another reason to judge her awful decision-making. In any case, she gets her car back and has a heart to heart with Jax, admitting that Thomas’ death caused her to force Jax to make up for the love that Thomas could no longer give. Jax admits to knowing how wrong it was to be happy that he had Gemma all to himself after Thomas died. Shit happens, right?

It does indeed, and in a synchronistic, narrative-driven way. Gemma spends part of her day talking with Wayne after his day’s mess, and they proceed to get stoned. When Tara calls to ask if Gemma wanted to babysit, Gemma’s smile is human and gracious. And then they show the evil weed again. So if we’ve all been paying attention to the clues, there have been trust issues becoming resolved, dead brothers, and weed. Skip to the last scene of the episode, as Gemma drives Thomas and Abel away from the clubhouse. Her glazed over eyes and inability to stay in one lane, even when a big-ass truck is headed straight for her car, lead me to believe that she was either under some other kind of influence, or the writers of this show temporarily forgot what weed is. (I’m willing to concede that she was tired, but nothing was done to signify this.) In any case, Gemma is forced off of the road and into a thatch of trees, where she wrecks.

And we take that soundtrack-laden pan across the front of the vehicle, where Gemma lay unconscious against the steering wheel, and into the back, where Thomas lies screaming next to Abel, who is slumped forward, blood droplets splashing beneath him. I guess there’s a chance that he lived through the accident, but we certainly aren’t meant to think so. Do I think it’s ludicrous to kill off a character whose kidnapping drove an entire season’s storyline? Kind of, yes, especially considering viewers are only supposed to care about him because he’s Jax’s child. Jax already lost someone extremely close to him. This is just going to be devastating. Give me an angry Jax over a sad one any day.

There’s still the rest of the episode, isn’t there? Nero tracks down Gemma’s SUV to an Armenian chop shop which Warren hasn’t left yet. An amusing chase ensues after Warren blasts onto the street in a car missing most of its doors. Just when there seems to be no end game, Warren brings the car to a squealing stop and starts a gunfight with the Sons that almost ends in his public execution, had cooler heads not prevailed. For the moment, they were content to rob him of his personal items, including three grand in cash. Later, though, Nero and his boys stop Warren from conning his next mark, and beat him bloody and senseless in the parking lot.

My question here is, “Is that it?” Was Warren just one more bad mistake for Gemma to make? Was he just there to give Nero a reason to show viewers that he still obviously cares for Gemma, and if so, is it more about her getting robbed, or her sleeping with him? I’m pretty sure it’s both. I have a secondary question: why would you put an established comedian in such an unfunny role after getting such giant laughs a few weeks ago with a dramatic guy in drag? Any schmo could have played the part, and I wouldn’t have spent the whole time referring to the character as “Joel McHale.” I didn’t realize a guest star could take me completely out of the show like that.

Onto the really juicy, non-depressing stuff. (Well maybe it’s depressing if you thought Greg the Peg was awesome, which is a depressing concept itself.) Clay and the Nomads know that all eyes are on them for the home invasion shit. Clay tells them to all skip town in case the DNA found under Rita’s fingernails is indeed incriminating. First, though, Jax and Wayne separately use intimidation to spook the Nomads, which works. Clay and Greg agree that Wayne is the next one to die. Clay tells Greg to get Gogo and head over to Wayne’s with masks on and guns drawn.

Since nothing Clay ever says is to be believed one-hundred percent, his immediate arrival at Wayne’s trailer is suspect. Wayne is smart to consistently keep a shotgun pointed in Clay’s general direction. Clay’s small talk consists of Wayne getting back into office, should Oswald be elected Mayor over Hale. Despite this talk of the future, I still wanted to clench my eyes shut when Clay said, “You were a good friend, Wayne. Sorry I wrecked that, too.” But for once, Clay meant just what he said. And when Juice calls to alert Clay the Nomads arrived, it’s that thin line between shocking and completely predictable when Clay puts a bullet through the first one in the door. After Greg and Gogo are dead and unmasked, Clay once again returns to the role of the liar, telling Wayne he happened upon the information that the Nomads were the bad guys and were planning on doing all this. I’m pretty sure Wayne knows better. I’m not sure why Frankie was kept out of the loop on this. As soon as Clay told the guys to leave town, I’d automatically assumed he was going to kill them before they got anywhere. And while that eventually happened with the other two, Frankie is still out there. He watches Gemma and Wayne talk as cops investigate the crime scene. Maybe it’s because he’s older and slimier, but he looks like he’d be a mainstay in Clay’s back pocket.

Which brings us to the episode’s other exciting ending involving a vehicle crash. As Jax and Chibs are on their way to meet up with Tara and Tig at the cabin, a van zooms up beside them and the passengers open fire, forcing the Sons down the steep inclines off the side of the road. The same two exit the van to make sure the job is done, and one of them gets shot while the other runs back to the van. When unmasked, they find the shooter to be a black male. The novices in the audience are thinking, “There is not a single black person in Charming that isn’t a Niner or the Sheriff. This has to be Pope’s people.” Clay says as much himself when Jax confronts him about it. There’s almost no way Jax believes him, but he’s willing to settle for finding Frankie and putting his fate to a table vote.

Let me put something out there to you readers, and see if you can explain this to me. Clay started the home invasion shit as a means of drawing heat to the club, so that Jax could get ousted and he could return to the head of the table. But I don’t understand how the Nomads expected to remain anonymous while also letting everyone know that the club was responsible for the invasions. Also, even if every deal that Jax has going with everyone blew up in his face, as it’s sure to, what makes Clay think that the club would vote Jax out of the presidency before voting Clay back into it? The club knows that Jax’s intentions are much more sound than Clay’s were. And most of them know how terribly warped Clay’s sense of loyalty and responsibility are. So are we just to believe that Clay is self-delusional even as character after character pretty much disowns him to his face? I don’t get the motive.

But there’s always next week for a reasonable solution to be shoehorned into the mix. I can’t imagine Jax will be physically or mentally capable of doing anything worthwhile next week if Abel is really dead. Even if he’s in the hospital. Wait, did Clay slip a joint into Wayne’s house filled with sleeping medication, knowing that Gemma would go over and get stoned with him? Stranger things have happened in Charming. See you next week. Chime in with your thoughts below.

Stuff That Fell Off the Back of the Bike

This episode has one of my favorite non-verbal moments in the series, in the scene where Jax confronts Clay about Frankie. Behind each of them is a gun sitting on a table, and for a second or two, the camera hovers above each gun, focused on the opposing man. It’s a tactic that dares malice to enter the scene.

There’s no doubt these writers were worried that last week’s surprising-if-you-weren’t-ready final moments flew over people’s heads, the first scene with the nomads lays it all out for everyone. “If you look up exposition in the dictionary…”

Was Juice reading last week about how dismissive I’ve gotten of him? Do fictional character s read current websites? It only took Clay actually doing something fucked up directly in front of him in order to let his backbone grow. Twice, he questioned Clay, and twice, that was all he did. Try harder next week, Juicy boy.

“Ain’t no such thing as an ex-cop,” Clay says. Is it just me, or do Charming murders lack any of the complications needed to hire a detective on the squad. If someone like Wayne can run the whole shebang, then there’s no reason to ever leave that simple mindset behind.

In case anyone is wondering, the reason why I call him Wayne instead of Unser is because I can’t get my fingers to stop typing “Unswer,” like “answer.” Yes, I realize there is no case in which anyone would wonder.

The funnest moment in the episode definitely had to be Filthy Phil chasing the boys around, waving his hands like a monster. Don’t eat the kids, Phil!

I like how most of what was shown up close of Wayne’s Home Invasion Clue Wall was just pieces of paper with names written really big on them. Gotta keep the less-genius viewers in on the mix.

How was Jax certain that Gemma wasn’t alone in that motel room? A bottle of banana vodka. I could have snorted when he brought it out. And immediately I wondered, “Why would Warren drink banana vodka? Why would anyone drink banana vodka?”

The Tara & Otto storyline was limited to Tara looking through old pictures and asking Gemma if there is anything memorable she can add to a care package Jax is making for him. Without questioning why Jax would ever make someone a care package, Gemma thinks it over and mentions a perfume, though she isn’t sure of the name. “It smelled like cum and patchouli.” And my fragrance line, Hippie Bush, was formed.

Finally, this whole marriage license/birth certificate thing has been bothering me for a while, but I’m wondering if it has something to do with Thomas’ middle name being Wayne. Batman references aside, does that make Wayne Unser a bigger player in the dead boy’s life than was previously thought? Did Clay kill him too? Considering this wasn’t the first time his middle name was referred to, it might all mean nothing. But there has to be some kind of a bombshell connected.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.