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July 30, 2014

'Sons of Anarchy' Season 4, Episode 8 Recap (VIDEO)

by Maureen Ryan, posted Oct 25th 2011 11:01PM
['Sons of Anarchy' - 'Family Recipe']

Anyone else have a taste for chili? Anyone?

Didn't think so. Well, you can't say that this was a quiet episode of 'Sons of Anarchy,' though I'd argue that one of 'Family Recipe's' calmest scenes was also one of the most satisfying.

But first, let's address that Big Thing that happened...and also, the Big Thing that didn't happen.

A death or two has felt inevitable for some time, and on Twitter and in the comments of the reviews here, many of us have been speculating on who was going to die this season. Maybe your death pool looked different, but Juice and Piney have been at the top of many lists. Last week, it may have seemed as though Juice was a dead man, but his fate was ultimately left unclear. The last thing we were left with was the sound of a snapping tree branch.

This week, we found out that Juice was barely scathed by his suicide attempt (and maybe I wasn't looking closely enough, but I couldn't really spot noticeable bruises on his neck. Wouldn't he have been more banged up by his attempt to throw himself off that tree? Not a big deal, but the thought did occur to me). But whatever he lacked in terms of physical suffering, he more than made up for in mental trauma. He's still in the same bind he was in last week, even as the club spins closer and closer to the heart of a cartel war.

Eventually Juice collapsed in Chibs' arms, and if Chibs doesn't know all the details of what's going on with Juice, I'm betting he can guess parts of it. Chances are he's deduced that Juice stole the coke and that he shot Miles. I'm betting Chibs sits on this information and doesn't turn Juice in to the club, for now anyway. Without Juice as a potential informant, the whole Potter/RICO threat goes away or dies out, so it didn't exactly surprise me that Juice's attempt to take himself out didn't work. But if the club finds out what he's been up to, and if he gets in deeper with the authorities, there's every chance he could end up headless or in an unmarked grave before the season is done.

Let me make this clear: I think Theo Rossi has been great as Juice, especially this season, and it's always hard to say goodbye to a member of the club (more on that in a bit). But part of me wonders if Juice should have died swinging from that tree. As I wrote last week, in terms of the club's history, he's a relative innocent and has always seemed like a standup guy. Given where the club has gone as an organization, maybe the Sons should have the blood of an innocent (again, relatively speaking) on their collective hands. It would certainly be karmic payback for making deals with the devil.

All things considered, I'm OK with how it turned out and willing to see where the story line goes, and I didn't feel particularly cheated that Juice didn't die, though I had to take some time to ponder whether I thought it was the right move for the show. Let me know in comments if you were satisfied with how the Juice story line turned out this week. Were you surprised that he was alive? Pleased? Displeased? Share with the class, if you care to.

Of course, we did get a big death this week, and I must confess, it wasn't hard to see coming within the episode. Still, Ron Perlman and William Lucking did great work in their scenes, effortlessly building on the long history of these two men as they aired out new and old grudges one more time. I'm sorry Piney won't be around to be a thorn in Clay's side any more; as a character, Clay can be so dominant that he needs as many counterweights as possible. Well, at least before he died, Piney got a sweet final moment with his son. Who didn't get a little choked up during that final scene between Opie and his old man?

And who didn't think it was a very bad idea for Piney to tell Clay he'd give him one more day to get the club out of the drug business. When I heard that, I thought, "No, old man! Don't give him another day to plot against you! It's Clay, you know better than anyone that he's a bad dude who takes out his enemies!" And when all and sundry talked about the fact that Piney was up at his cabin (the "Tequila Retreat" -- nice name), I thought, well, I know where this is going. Nowhere good.



There's a common trope in movies and TV shows where villains gab for so long about what evil things they're going to do that they inevitably give the good guys enough time to come up with a method of taking the villain down. I guess the flip side of that, in terms of storytelling cliches, is the soon-to-be-dead character who tells the villain in no uncertain terms that he/she is going to be destroyed at some future date, definitely, for sure! The doomed character might as well say, "I'll give you additional time in which to arrange for me to be killed and/or discredited. You're welcome!"

But some rather obvious mechanics couldn't really take away from the stronger parts of the episode, which were many. The shootout at the clubhouse was a shock, the head in the chili was hilarious, but if there's one word I'd use for the mood of the episode, it's rueful.

Regret was everywhere: Bobby regretted having to call the vote on Clay, and regretted having to go to war with him even more. Jax (and even Clay) regretted that the situation had gotten so dangerous for everyone. Tara talked to Gemma about feeling foolish for hoping things would get better. And Piney certainly regretted ever trusting Clay.

So many situations and relationships have gone from bad to worse in the world of SAMCRO, and what I enjoyed most about 'Family Recipe' is that it gave us good action beats and concrete story developments, but it also gave the characters time to talk about where things had gone wrong and what they could have done differently. Their emotions weren't given short shrift in an hour that could have been all about the club preparing for war with Lobo Sonora.

From that standpoint, the calm, painful scene between Jax and Tara was my favorite, without a doubt. Jax was compellingly angry in his scene with Piney, but with Tara, his humility was wonderful to witness (and it gave me a lot of insight into why this couple is still together). There was no shouting or self-justification, no self-aggrandizement or blaming the club or Clay. This was just Jax telling Tara he knew he screwed up by getting in bed with the cartel, and saying he was sorry.

For her part, Tara didn't pile on the guilt -- she knows that her and the kids leaving will be hard enough on Jax, and she doesn't want to make him feel any worse than he already feels. The scene was masterfully acted by Charlie Hunnam and Maggie Siff, who knew that the most important aspect of that moment was the unspoken bond between the couple, and they skillfully underplayed but paid full respect to the couple's vivid emotions.

So, also, there was a human head in the clubhouse chili. A lot of pain and suffering is coming down on SAMCRO, and the club received two different special deliveries of body parts, all of which means that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. So to counterbalance the darkness of that, we had a running plot about Chucky's Head Chili Special, which was quite amusingly done. Part of what we enjoy about 'Sons of Anarchy' is its twisted, deadpan humor, and this was a memorable example of that.

Aside from all the fun and games, though, we had to say goodbye to a respected veteran of the club. A moment of silence for Piney, if you please. First Nine. Respect.

As for what's going to happen next, well, there were many questions left hanging at the end of this week's edition of As the Clubhouse Turns: What does Chibs know about Juice? Is Juice going to cooperate with the authorities? When will the leadership vote happen (if ever)? Will the cops and the club really be taken in by Clay's attempt to pin the death of Piney on Lobo Sonora? Did Piney really have strategies in place for the letters to come out in case he died? Will those letters turn out to be a diversionary MacGuffin (and I sincerely hope not, given the time that's been spent on them)? If the club finds out what Clay did to Piney, what then?

And finally, how will unstable Armenians fit into the endgame of the season? Because that's all we're missing at this stage.

All kidding aside, it was another solid outing for the show. Five more hours to find out whether Jax and Clay finish out this war on the same side, or at each other's throats. I think the latter would be the most believable road for the show to head down, as I explain below.

A few more notes:

* Best line of the hour: "Did you follow the recipe?"

* Piney's final advice to Jax was also worth repeating: "We all do damage. Character is determined by how we repair it."

* I'm sometimes confused as to the passage of time on the show, but it seemed to me that Juice had almost 24 hours to go back and get the chain that was wound around the tree. It struck me as a little odd that he hadn't found time to get rid of the evidence of his suicide attempt until after the non-battle at the warehouse. The whole point was to have Chibs find him with the chain, of course, but the way in which that was done felt a little obvious.

* How many 'Sons of Anarchy' episodes have involved a showdown at a remote warehouse? I'm not hatin', I'm just saying, a warehouse confrontation is like Don Draper pulling out a bottle of Scotch at this point -- it's something we're quite used to seeing.

* The garden benefit scene was a good one for Clay; it reminded us of how charming (!) and persuasive the club president can be when he chooses to turn on the schmooze. And his version of schmoozing is actually quite sincere. He believes that he and the club are fighting for Charming, and for an honorable and decent way of life. Maybe that used to be true, but the fact that his club has imported a Mexican cartel war is not something Clay is letting himself contemplate at this point -- if ever. Clay sees what he wants to see, and the reason Jax is more likable as a character is that he at least admits when he is wrong. Clay's a very charismatic and convincing guy, but admitting mistakes is not his style.

* Anyone else think that this season has to end with a serious break between Clay and Jax? I'm willing to suspend judgment until the end of season 4, but I just don't see how the show can keep these two men in the same club and not have things start to go a bit stale. There is so much history and bad blood between these them now, and possibly much more to come. It might get even harder to believe that they'd still be members of the same club, let alone want to be in the same room, once the cartel mess is sorted out. Clay has done a lot of really bad stuff this season, and I could see a scenario in which either he or Jax is exiled from SAMCRO (perhaps Clay does just take early retirement due to his arthritis, per his plan?). I know it'd be a different show without Ron Perlman's commanding presence and excellent performance, or with less of it, but I don't want the show to repeat the same Jax-Clay patterns in the next three seasons (creator Kurt Sutter has said he envisions a seven-season run for the show). But we'll have to see what transpires at the end of this season to judge how likely that is.

* If I have one consistent issue with 'SOA,' it's that sometimes the plots are unnecessarily baroque and also somewhat opaque. Do I clearly understand the role that SAMTAZ has in the current deal with the Mexicans? Not really. Do I clearly understand how the gun and drug exchanges work and who does what on various ends of those exchanges? Not fully. And that leads to situations like the one in which someone finds a head in a bag, says "It's Armando," and I don't have a clue as to who Armando is or why he matters. Just because a deal or a person has been referred to in the past doesn't mean the audience understands how that person or deal fits into the bigger narrative. It's not unusual on this show for there to be reversals, complications and problems regarding details and people I barely remember. I like to think that I pay attention and, having watched 'The Wire' and 'Breaking Bad,' I know that I can knit together complex narratives, given enough information and clarity, but sometimes I feel that 'SOA' makes things more complicated than they need to be just so various parts of the machinery going wrong can feed the plot. I know a certain amount of that is necessary, but in the middle of each season, as the machinery starts to clang a little more loudly, I sometimes find myself throwing up my hands and saying to the show, "OK, whatever you say."

* I enjoyed the reference to Dezerian Motor Works. 'SOA' creator Kurt Sutter played Armenian gangster Margos Dezerian in 'The Shield.'

* So why is the cartel war raging so hot and heavy way up in Charming, north of the border? Romeo better have a good explanation for that.

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

Follow @MoRyan on Twitter.

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ajohnston37

Do we know how actually has the letters?

November 08 2011 at 6:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ajohnston37's comment
ajohnston37

who*

November 08 2011 at 6:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
margesaid

Maureen Ashby pit them in Jax's bag unbeknownst to him before they left Belfast. Tara found them while unpacking his things.

November 02 2011 at 2:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
TheFirstDragon

These 49 minutes go bye so fast! I was expecting carnage at the warehouse-- headless drop-off --and I was expecting slow-motion bullets and a kick ass song. I like the musical choices on this show. Jax takes control like a lion...Clay is a liar and Tara and Jax should be talking about certain Gemma and Clay weirdness towards both of them...So these letters from J.T. are different from the Manifesto that Jax was reading from JT...I guess I dont remember how Tara got those letters. I wonder if any writers from the show read these reviews and comments and consider new ideas...if so...then I want to see Happy and Juice and Tig and Chibbs fire weapons and take lives this would give Juice a reason to grow up into the part of being an outlaw and taking lives...I am also hoping that the Chinese come in to play and through some money around maybe party with the sons...do some karaoke...maybe they will save that for the Christmas episode...I also was hoping that Piney and Jax would have shared more key insights to each other.

October 30 2011 at 6:49 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
purvid

Juice did have visible bruises on his neck. Also when Chibbs found him- I interpreted it differently. To me it looked like he was making a 2nd attempt- not trying to hide the evidence.

October 28 2011 at 2:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jbehindblueeyesk

Armondo is the pres of the Tucson chapter. The drug trade is simple and the cartel doesn't want them taking they're buisiness. Best quote " everyone does damage, character is determined by how you repair it"

October 28 2011 at 12:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Lou Sytsma

Any scenario that has Clay surviving past this season will have to be a humdinger. His lists of sins continues to grow.

His death seems the only acceptable outcome.

October 26 2011 at 10:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Cassy Song

[quote]"If I have one consistent issue with 'SOA,' it's that sometimes the plots are unnecessarily baroque and also somewhat opaque. Do I clearly understand the role that SAMTAZ has in the current deal with the Mexicans? Not really. Do I clearly understand how the gun and drug exchanges work and who does what on various ends of those exchanges? Not fully. And that leads to situations like the one in which someone finds a head in a bag, says "It's Armando," and I don't have a clue as to who Armando is or why he matters. Just because a deal or a person has been referred to in the past doesn't mean the audience understands how that person or deal fits into the bigger narrative. It's not unusual on this show for there to be reversals, complications and problems regarding details and people I barely remember. I like to think that I pay attention and, having watched 'The Wire' and 'Breaking Bad,' I know that I can knit together complex narratives, given enough information and clarity, but sometimes I feel that 'SOA' makes things more complicated than they need to be just so various parts of the machinery going wrong can feed the plot. I know a certain amount of that is necessary, but in the middle of each season, as the machinery starts to clang a little more loudly, I sometimes find myself throwing up my hands and saying to the show, "OK, whatever you say.""[/quote]

You have no idea how happy I am that I am not alone on this. I LOVE Sons of Anarchy, but there are times that I feel completely lost (specifically with the gun and drug trades), and that's why I religiously read your recaps after each show for more insight on what actually transpired. =)

October 26 2011 at 10:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Hi Phyllis

Why no fire to burn Piney and the letters if they're at the cabin? LS in blood was weak. Can't remember where Piney got the letters. Great episode and hate to think the season is half over.

October 26 2011 at 8:52 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Samantha T

Totally agree with my favorite seen of the night was Jax and Tara at the kitchen table. I think he proved in that scene that he love his family completely, that they are more important then himself and his wants and needs. Tara also proved the same thing. It's ironic to me that they both showed how commited they were to each other by agreeing to separate.
Although, Piney and Clay final scene was great. It was the quite scene in the kitchen that i believe was the best.

October 26 2011 at 8:38 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Smurd

I think the last episode of the season (in particular the last clip) will be: everyone sitting in the clubhouse reading JT's letters (that Piney had setup to happen)and then Jax walks in...everyone looks at him...and he says "what's going on?"...then it's goes black and it's over till next season!!

Everyone is saying I hope Opie gets revenge on Clay for killing Piney. Hello!!...have we forgot that Clay killed Jax's dad AND married his mom AND raised him as his own son. If anyone deserves revenge, it's Jax!!!

October 26 2011 at 5:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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