Episode Title: "Family Recipe"
Writers: Dave Erickson & Brady Dahl
Director: Paul Maibaum
Previously on "Sons of Anarchy":
Piney (William Lucking) attempted to blackmail Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) into pulling the Sons of Anarchy Motorcycle club out of their deal with the Galindos drug cartel. Realizing that Clay would assume that Piney got John Teller's letters from Tara (Maggie Siff), former Sheriff Wayne Unser (Dayton Callie) falsified a death threat against Tara to alert the police and her hospital in order to protect her against any reprisal from Clay. Meanwhile, the new Sheriff, Eli Roosevelt (Rockmond Dunbar) became uncomfortable with Assistant U.S. District Attorney Lincoln Potter (Ray McKinnon) and his plan to force Jean Carlos "Juice" Ortiz (Theo Rossi) to turn on SAMCRO.
When Juice asked to meet Potter and make a deal in person, Potter had Roosevelt arrest Juice on a bogus drug charge to further ensnare him. Although Roosevelt was sympathetic towards Juice's plight, the younger man seemed despondent. Meanwhile the Lobos Sonora, a rival cartel to the Galindos cartel began targeting SAMCRO, the Mayans and even the Galindos themselves. Fed up with the situation, Bobby Munson (Mark Boone Junior) challenged Clay's position as President, before Clay angrily agreed to hold a vote on the subject. However, Juice wasn't present for the incident as he planned his own suicide.
In the closing moments, Juice attempted to hang himself with a chain while tied from a tree branch.
For a few moments, Juice hangs from the tree like a limp doll before the branch breaks and sends him falling to the ground. Miraculously still alive, Juice tries to hide the evidence of what he tried to do before Tig (Kim Coates) and Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) catch up to him. He explains the marks on his neck as an accident from walking into a line and they laugh it off before returning to the clubhouse for the critical vote. Outside, Opie (Ryan Hurst) suggests to Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam) that he hasn't decided how to vote, but he privately tells his father, Piney that he is with him.
Under tense circumstances, the meeting and the vote begin… until a hail of gunfire breaks out. The Lobos Sonora cartel launches an assault on the Teller-Morrow compound, with one of the shooters hit and left for SAMCO. Chucky (Michael Ornstein) then finds that the LS left behind a duffel bag full of heads, including Armando from SAMTAZ. With Roosevelt and the cops on their way, SAMCRO tries to hide their prisoner and as much of the evidence as they can. Chucky finds one more head under a car and he barely has time to stash it in the kitchen.
Roosevelt chases most of the SAMCRO members out of the compound as his men look it over, but Chucky is allowed to stay and cook the chili for the garden fundraiser led by Roosevelt's wife. A couple of hungry cops bother Chucky for some of the chili, which he nervously agrees to. Elsewhere, SAMCRO gets nowhere with the interrogation of their lone prisoner and they hand him over to the Galindos cartel. The Galindos representative uses truth serum to force the man to reveal a traitor within the Mayans. Armed with that info, SAMCRO, the Mayans and Galindos attempt to set a trap for the LS at the gun warehouse.
Elsewhere, Clay approaches Elliott Oswald (Patrick St. Esprit) about his plans to scuttle Charming Heights and Jax visits Piney at his cabin where they debate the merits of John Teller as a man, a father and the leader of SAMCRO. Piney is somewhat cryptic with Jax, but he doesn't reveal the existence of the letters that Tara told him about. At the clubhouse, Gemma (Katy Sagal) manages to play it cool when she finds a head in Chucky's chili pot while a couple of cops eat their chili a few feet away. That night, Clay, Gemma, Jax, Tara and a few others attend the garden fundraiser and Clay asks to say a few words.
Clay proves that he isn't a very good public speaker, but he makes two big donations to the project while bad mouthing the mayor, Jacob Hale, Jr. (Jeff Kober) and Charming Heights. He also introduces Oswald as the man who should be mayor of Charming. At the gun warehouse, Chibs notices that Juice is distant and barely paying attention. When the LS arrives, they quickly depart after leaving one vehicle behind. Inside are the bodies of SAMTAZ and Mayan leaders who were beheaded by the LS. Later, Jax returns home to Tara, who tells him that she's taking the kids and leaving town. For their safety and hers, Jax agrees.
Later, Chibs catches Juice trying to hide the chains from his suicide attempt and simultaneously confronts and comforts him. At the clubhouse, Gemma fields a call from Clay and he claims to be spending the night in the clubhouse despite being elsewhere. But Gemma doesn't call him out on the lie. Immediately afterwards, Clay approaches Piney's cabin and allows himself to be disarmed before coming inside. The two men argue about the drug deal and John Teller's legacy before Clay meekly departs without his weapons.
However, this catches Piney off-guard and allows Clay to take away his weapon and angrily search the cabin for the letters. Clay realizes that Piney never had the letters. Piney tells Clay to leave Tara out of this, but Clay refuses and he fatally shoots Piney in the chest. He then writes LS in blood to throw the blame on the cartel.
Clay's murder of Piney may be the most irredeemable thing he's ever done on the show. Keep in mind, this is the same guy who ordered Opie's death (leading to Donna's murder) and he almost certainly killed John Teller. However, we've never actually seen Clay murder one of his brothers-in-arms so brutally. (I'm not counting Clay's murder of Keith McGee, whom he threw off a roof last season) This was different. Piney was one of the main characters of the show and his absence will be felt.
It's such a drastic step that I'm having a hard time picturing how "Sons of Anarchy" is going to continue next season. At some point, Jax is going to find out everything and murder Clay or get dragged into a protracted conflict with him. But either way, business as usual is over.
That LS by Clay was actually a pretty piss poor frame job. It's hard to believe that anyone in SAMCRO is going to buy that the LS murdered Piney. Afterall, he's still got his head.
Speaking of those with heads and those without, the sequence between Gemma and Chucky when she found the head in the chili was darkly hilarious, especially when the cops were gulping down big bowls of it. If Tara had found it, she would have screamed.
As a faceless villain, the LS have been pretty effective adversaries so far and they've managed to make SAMCRO, the Mayans and even the Galindos into the underdogs of this fight. But I still expect SAMCRO to go against the Galindos by the end of the year. They're the only outside force who make for a compelling threat to SAMCRO if they ever cross them.
I still love the way that everyone in town hates Jacob Hale so much that they even applaud Clay's clumsy speech… while Hale is there with them! Jeff Kober has barely been used this season, but part of what makes him a great villain is that we want to see him finally go down.
However, the Juice storyline is starting to stall out. I wasn't expecting his suicide attempt to be successful, but it's going to take more than just a mopey Juice to salvage the story. I'm intrigued by the idea that Roosevelt is actually feeling sorry for Juice and that Chibs apparently cares a great deal for him. But neither of them is likely going to save Juice from his actions. Juice's best hope is that the club is so preoccupied by the coming war between Clay and Jax that he slides under the radar completely.
For a post midseason episode, "Family Recipe" successfully set the table for the rest of the season. Just stay away from that SAMCRO chili, it's a killer.
Crave Online Rating: 8.5 out of 10.