“Everybody at that table’s done something that puts them outside the reaper.”

Man, I fucking love when Sons of Anarchy is in mid-season, coasting at an exhilaratingly high speed of drama and badassery. “Bonds are broken and alliances are tested,” is the foreign-to-spoilers episode description on DirecTV, and it could very well be the description for every episode this season. When the stakes get this high for a TV show’s characters, the latter half of many series’ seasons fail to live up to their potential. Sons is so good, however, that there were at least five minutes in “Ablation” were characters relaying already-known exposition to other characters, but each case was nearly as exciting as finding out the information ourselves. Everybody in SAMCRO knows almost everyone else’s dark secrets at this point. You could cut the tension with a knife recently removed from someone else’s back.

First things first. Abel is alive and will be okay. Bobby said it best: “All right. Abel’s heartbeat went irregular. They got to do a thing to reverse it.” I assumed the drama would be focused on Abel, but it’s entirely thrown at Gemma. A highly upset Jax and Tara visit her in the hospital, and Clay gains their sympathy by lying, saying Gemma was being followed by a van the night before, just like Jax and Chibs were. For a few scenes, viewers are allowed to cheer at the screen while watching the guilt eat Gemma up inside, though it wasn’t enough. Gemma confesses to Nero that she was just stoned when she wrecked. Later, a very pissed off Nero tells this to Jax, who gets pissed himself and later gets Gemma to confess it to Tara, who then punches her and completely disowns her. See how this one bit of information was shared five times in the episode. But the tension increased with each person, culminating in Tara’s mini-episode. I try to put myself in her shoes and I feel Maggie Siff did a good job in this scene, but was terrible in the moment when she found out about the accident. “My children…”

I skipped over some juicy material up there, but my point is to show just how far Gemma has fallen, both as a character and as a pillar of SAMCRO’s elite. Jax is always screaming about people messing with his family. Now that the person he’s loved in his life the longest, the decision to at least temporarily cut her out of his life is a calculated one, rather than an impulsive one.

Jax has a plan to bring Clay down, but it involves Gemma getting back in tight with him, in the lover’s way, in order to get information from him. Of course, Gemma wants nothing to do with this plan, but when it’s the only way she would be allowed back into the boys' lives, she really has little choice. I seriously doubt Tara has anything to do with her, even when everyone is on better terms. By this point, I think Tara is going to be the one that kills Gemma, while blaming it on something else. Maybe she’ll say a black guy did it.

Speaking of, Jax’s approach to identifying the dead shooter from last week is to chop both of his hands off, sending one to Unser and the other to Pope, asking for both to ID the shooter and pass on any known affiliations. Unser is helpful (“Next time, few fingerprints on glass will suffice.”), where Pope is more insulted. Both name the shooter as Charles Turner, a repeat offender just out of prison. His brother-in-law is the only person they know to still associate with Turner. One bass drum-led trip to the hood later, and Jax is in the middle of a gun fight with said brother-in-law. The chase ends on a rooftop, next to a broken fire escape. The guy immediately cops to only being a stooge for hire, and that the person who hired them was Frankie fucking Diamonds. Not a real surprise or anything, but still. And then Jax let the guy go without any repercussions. Just kidding. He shoots him several times in the stomach and lets him fall off the side of the building, where he smashes into a dumpster before hitting the ground. New rule: When Jax is in beast mode, people get shot and fall off of buildings. The rage in his eyes wasn’t convincing for a real person, but for Jax, it was just right.

The contestants for our next game of Chinese whispers are Clay and his back pocket protector Juice. Juice tells Clay about Gemma and the boys at the beginning of the episode. While they’re at the hospital, Sheriff Roosevelt pulls Juice aside and grills him for info about Frankie. Curious, Clay later asks Juice about this meeting, and eventually Juice has no choice but to unload on everything he’s experienced in the last season, from being half-black to killing Miles and being involved with the RICO case against the club. After thinking on it for a few seconds, Clay says, with either trust or hopelessness guiding him, that he purposefully set the Nomads up to die at Unser’s trailer. Now they know each other’s business, so they’re like, blood brothers or something. It kind of makes me sick.

Going back a step before we get to the bombshell. Nero is visiting Gemma at the hospital when Clay gets there, and the two share a tense moment in the hallway.

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