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'Sons of Anarchy' Season 3, Episode 6 Recap

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 12th 2010 11:01PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'The Turn']

"It ain't personal. It's just about the cash." -- Clay Morrow to Marcus Alvarez

Clay is able to say this to Alvarez, the leader of the Mayans, because for Clay, it's true. The truce with the Mayans is just a smart business move, one that will allow both clubs to survive and prosper.

And Clay has been in the outlaw life for so long that everything he loves is inside that world -- in the Sons of Anarchy clubhouse or under his roof. As long as he's keeping that world safe, all is well, as far as he's concerned.

But for how long?

The Sons' deal with the Mayans may hold, but other alliances are coming undone all over the place -- even one that Clay nurtured for years.

At the end of the episode, Clay and Gemma were snuggled up in bed, watching 'The King and I,' the story of a smart, strong woman who tamed a powerful man (no wonder it's probably a Gemma Teller-Morrow favorite). Clay and Gemma are in the life together; there's no distance between them and the club, and both of them want it that way. Sure, Gemma's facing serious jail time, but their bond can't be broken, because they want no other existence than the outlaw path they've chosen.

Jax knows in his heart that he has to take Tara off that path. She's in love with Jax, not the club and the life. Given the opportunity to support the club -- or, more accurately, support her man -- she'll do it every time, but Jax doesn't want her to get those opportunities. He doesn't want her to have to try to change herself to fit into the world of the Sons.

And with Abel still very much in danger, he can't handle the idea of another loved one being in harm's way. As much as he loves Tara, he breaks it off with her for good. Unlike last time he tried to cut her out of his life -- at the start of the season, when he was filling up the hole inside him with alcohol and self-hatred -- she fought back and she won. This time, Tara didn't even say a word.

This is a different Jax; this is a resolute man who is mentally arming himself for battle. He can't both worry about Tara and fight a war in Belfast, so he has to pick. He ends up following Clay's advice, in a manner of speaking -- he finds a sexual outlet with the porn actress who's been hitting on him. It's an uncomplicated relationship, but it still brings its own share of pain. At the end of the episode, when he was in bed with the new woman, he looked like a man exorcising a painful memory. There was nothing intimate about that moment.

It might sound like a good idea on paper, but in practice, few people can keep the personal and the professional separate. In what was almost a comic-relief story, Tig and Kozik couldn't keep their unnamed personal beef from spilling over into club business. Stahl and her girlfriend found out that when you mess with the SAMCRO family, they come after you and yours hard. And even Clay, the man who counseled that Jax keep things simple, endured a painful breakup of his own.

Unser and Clay probably cemented their alliance and became friends well before Jax and Tara were out of high school. But both relationships came apart for similar reasons -- the terms of those unspoken agreements just became untenable.

Jax felt he couldn't protect Tara from the inevitable fallout that she would experience as his old lady. Let's face it, a stripper can get work in another movie or at another topless bar. If Tara got caught breaking the law, her medical career would be over, and given how important healing is to her, she'd end up a broken human being.

Unser was able to live with what SAMCRO did under his nose for years, because Clay and the club kept the town safe. But he'd reached the limit of what he could tolerate. Love and friendship only go so far, and then pragmatism has to kick in. But breakups still hurt. Even Clay was pained by what he perceived was a betrayal by Unser -- the club wasn't tipped off to the ultimately futile raid on the clubhouse.

There were bruised feelings all around, to match the bruises on the faces of Kozik and Tig. And that's worth exploring for a moment -- the violence that lies at the heart of this culture.

The fight between those two club members wasn't just a moment of release and relative lightness (I love that on this show, two guys beating the crap out of each other is the comedic moment. Don't ever change, 'Sons of Anarchy.'). All the other club members gathered around with great interest, because they love this sort of dustup, just as they loved shooting at the quickly retreating bikes of the rival gang transporting the drugs. And and of course, two of the Sons had no problem punching and killing a guy lying in a hospital bed.

Now, the caper maneuvers in this excellent episode were beautifully executed, and the slick heist of the drugs and the well-choreographed assassination of Pozo both showed that you have to have some smarts to exist in this world. The elegant solution to the Mayan problem also proved that the club leadership knows that busting heads isn't always the answer.

Still, violence is inextricably bound up in what the Sons do and who they are as people. Gemma made peace with that a long time ago (and that's actually part of the attraction for her). But not everyone has Gemma's cool resolve, and the number of people who actively choose this way of life is small. And Tara and Unser, who are neither in or out, are ultimately left out because that streak of violence and volatility isn't in them. It's not who they are.

Unser, who walked away of his own volition, and Tara, who was excluded before she could be seriously harmed, didn't sign up for the kind of deadly or painful consequences the Sons know they face every day.

But the question for Jax is, how does dive more fully into that world without losing what makes him a good man? How does he become the kind of man his father -- and his son -- would be proud of by driving away the woman he loves? How does he become a fully realized adult and also the merciless avenging warrior that Clay wants him to be? Those different impulses, which season 3 of 'Sons' has done a wonderful job of illustrating, can never be reconciled. The violence isn't just in the culture, it's deeply enmeshed in Jax's soul.

What's great about Charlie Hunnam's performance is that Jax's resolution never wavers, yet you can always tell how much this newfound resolve is costing him. He absolutely wants to find his kid and to get vengeance -- he has no trouble channeling that rage -- but he has to block out and cut off every other emotion that might get in his way. And that's an awful struggle, one that you never forget, thanks to Hunnam's finely calibrated performance.

For Jax, it's never just business. But if this life costs him so much of what makes him human, then what good is it?

A few more notes:

• The question is, does Tara tell Jax about her pregnancy? He may push her away even more in order to keep her safe, but that knowledge is sure to change things between them in some way when it comes out. Family is everything to Jax, as he proved by breaking up with his true love in order to focus on his baby boy.

• My favorite shows always find ways to surprise me, and tonight's 'Sons' episode was no exception. Katey Sagal may be a superlative actress, but Gemma Teller-Morrow does NOT follow a script. I love that Gemma messed with Stahl's game plan to pin Edmund's murder on her, but Gemma (somewhat unknowingly) also screwed up Jax's secret deal with Stahl. Gemma may not know exactly what is going on between Jax and Stahl, but she clearly knows something is up and she didn't want Jax having anything to do with the smarmy ATF agent. In any case, now that the club's bail hearing has been put off and the club is free to go to Belfast, I'm betting there will be several addendums and revisions to Jax and Stahl's deal. (UPDATE: I'm dumb. I didn't realize Stahl was setting up her girlfriend to take the fall for her. Duh. More revised thoughts on this point below in comments.)

• Speaking of running comedy gags, Chucky's role as the club's general gofer and police bait is turning out to be highly enjoyable.

• As I said on my Twitter feed, I want a T-shirt, and perhaps a talking greeting card, featuring what I call the Clay Mantra: "I don't recognize your bullshit MC." That line is probably going to be gone from the weekly "previously on 'Sons of Anarchy'" clip as of next week, but I'll miss it. I never get tired of Ron Perlman saying that line.

• I love that the Kozik-Tig beef remains unexplained. We'll probably find out that it started with something hilariously trivial and somehow got turned into the grudge of the century.

• Now that the Mayans problem is pretty much taken care of and some members of SAMCRO are heading to Belfast, what will the club members back in Charming do? If they sit around watching Chucky be Chucky and/or watching Tig and Kozik fight, that might well be enough for me. But seriously, there's still the problem of Jacob Hale's stealth takeover of the town, plus Unser's no longer running interference for the club, so there could well be new complications on those fronts.

• Speaking of Belfast, that story line was out of the picture this week, as the club wraps up things on the home front before heading overseas. I've no idea who's going with Jax and Clay -- my guess is Bobby, Happy and maybe Tig? They have to bring enough guys to show they mean business, but they also can't leave Charming undefended.

• I also wonder if there will be a Stahl-Jax confrontation before the Men of Mayhem get on that plane. I'm betting yes.

• Finally the club has some new prospects, which the Sons really needed. But we also got an explanation of why they'll be mostly non-speaking roles.

• We're almost halfway through the season and the club's lawyer, who is played by 'Deadwood' veteran Robin Weigert, and Wayne Unser, who is played by 'Deadwood' veteran Dayton Callie, have yet to meet. I know it's absurd but every week I hope for a mini-'Deadwood' reunion between those two. (Hypothetical situation: Unser puts a Stateside Jimmy O in the local jail, and Jimmy hires the lawyer played by Weigert. See, a 'Deadwood' reunion doesn't have to be so difficult! OK, maybe that would stretch credibility, but credibility be damned if it means we get to see Charlie Utter and Calamity Jane together again).

'Sons of Anarchy' airs Tuesdays at 10PM ET on FX.


Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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52panhead

...the review of the show is good...but the deductions Maureen makes about the "lifestyle" really should be left out. What does Maureen know about it? My guess is nothing.

October 22 2010 at 4:02 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Frank Parrinello

I do like "Sons of Anarchy", but two and a half seasons in, I still can't shake the feeling that the show is sometimes childish in the way that many of its characters are sometimes childish. I ditched the show after the first three episodes based on that impression, only to return to it later when, pretty much unanimously, the critical verdict was that the show improved in the first season's second half, and then improved again in a stellar second season. And it was true. The second half of the first season was a big improvement on the first half, and the second season was an improvement on the first. I enjoyed - and still enjoy - the breakneck pace, the inventive plotting and, to some extent, the ever-growing cast of characters.

What I don't enjoy is a little harder to define, but falls somewhere between attitude and tone. It's a show about a criminal subculture, which is fine by me. "The Sopranos" demonstrated how something like that can be done very well. There was a show that was about something, but wasn't the thing it was about.

You could argue that to some degree, the world of the show is an accurate reflection of the world we live in; good and evil and right and wrong become relative terms when we start to consider the environment that people are reacting to. If you're born into culture where being a violent thug is the only way to ensure your own safety, as well as the safety of your family, then it would hardly seem fair to compare that person's actions to the actions of the son of, say, a real-estate agent in suburbia. Given that, it's easy to identify with a character like Jax who, while tortured by some of the goings on in the thoroughly degraded version of his father's dream, stays in for a lack of alternatives.

In "Home" one of the characters proclaims, "We're the good guys." In the context of the episode, it's clear that that statement is meant to be ironic, since the violent behavior these guys have just engaged in hardly qualifies as good. And yet, by contrast, the same episode itself also suggests that while the Sons aren't good, they're certainly better than the goons they just got the drop on.

Such is my principal complaint about this show. It's manipulative. On the one hand, we see that the Sons are little more than a criminal enterprise that's constantly putting the town of Charming in the way of harm by running drugs and guns, and that its constituent members are little more than bullies who will resort to extreme violence when things don't go their way. Fine. But to have a show be about those people, and then to say, "Hey, look, there's these neo-Nazis over here and look at the appalling things they're up to," is shirking the issue, no? Sure, neo-Nazis with evil business interests are loads worse than the Sons could ever hope to be, but surely that doesn't negate the evils the Sons are engaged in on a weekly basis.

But in the context of the show, that's exactly the message that comes through. In this season, the writers seem to be pushing the same message. Those Sons are rough bunch, but they stick together; they have to, after all, since they're fighting the forces of evil in the form of the lesbian DEA agent and that baby-stealing bunch in Belfast.

A striking example of that dynamic: in an early episode of season three, Jax and Sons chase down a couple of guys who presumably have some intel on the whereabouts of his son. Bullets are flying, the heat is on. The guys make it back to their home base, and the sons are thoroughly outnumbered. Then Jax mentions his son and they all put their guns away. "Whoa, man. Five seconds ago I was going to blow off your head, but somebody stole your kid? That just ain't right, man."

At its worst, the show is pervaded by that sort of quaint sentimentality. I don't find it at all convincing that a gangster would be stirred to sympathy by the thought of Jax's missing son, and I find it even more unconvincing that the sheriff who is very clearly in the Sons' pocket is only helping them because he thinks it's the best thing for the town. That he has a real and personal connection with Gemma is plausible and good, but that he goes so far as to say that he feels guilty

October 15 2010 at 7:42 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Melissa

As far as Deadwood connections go, Maureen on Sons was Trixie on Deadwood.

October 15 2010 at 2:09 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tootie

The more I think about it, the more it bothers me that Jacks said "I'm done" to Tara instead of "We're through." He wasn't at all clear about breaking up with her, only indicating "I'm done asking you for favours."
He's gone down yet another notch in my book.
I was really enjoying the show - I find it extremely well-done, but I've never understood Tara's behaviour...I know she loves him and she feels like she has to (and will do) anything to show him she's worthy. Sad.
Now he's betrayed her.

October 15 2010 at 9:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Tootie

Great comments Mo - thanks so much for your insight.

A couple of notes re. Tara and Jacks:

-He only had the porn star face down for a few seconds...then she was facing him
-You really couldn't see what Jacks was feeling in that scene. Sex is always intimate in some sense...
-Jacks said to Tara, "I'm done." And then kissed her with feeling. So I totally understand Tara taking that to mean "I'm done putting you at risk by asking you to do the club and me favours" not "I'm done with you." I would have thought he meant the favours.
-Never cared for the guy and can't see why Tara would be attracted to him. Serves him right if porn star gets pregnant!!

October 14 2010 at 4:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Maria

Can/will Jax and Clay go to Belfast together? Who is the number 3? Who will stay back with Gemma? Will Gemma stay back? You see Tara's car headed toward a plane but it's a small cesna, not really the kind of plane you head to the UK in.

October 13 2010 at 2:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mo Ryan

Damn, Skinny Black Girl, I so agree with you on every single point you made.

Small Town Girl, I also dig your insight -- what if saving one child costs Jax another child? That would be the kind of symmetry -- brainmelting, heartbreaking symmetry -- this show would be capable of...

October 13 2010 at 1:18 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Guesser

I predicted Tara's pregnancy earlier in the season. And it sounds horrible (I know!) but I have a feeling that somehow she is gonna lose the baby. Idk just a feeling.

October 13 2010 at 1:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
cfaddct

You're right about the last scene with Jax and the porn actress. That was a man releasing weeks, maybe months, of pent-up anger, frustration and guilt, all in one night. Intimacy wasn't even in the offing here.

October 13 2010 at 12:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to cfaddct's comment
Small Town Girl

I'm really interested to see how Gemma responds. I think she's going to spill the beans on Tara's news. I also think Jax is going to find out the hard way his efforts are for naught. I can see Kurt Sutter putting a further twist in the plot with Jax getting Abel back, but having something happen to Tara....he's trying to protect her, but he really can't. She's already vulnerable.

October 13 2010 at 12:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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