Ken Tucker
July 13, 2009 AT 06:14 AM EDT

Everything came together on True Blood this week, in an episode penned by series creator Alan Ball. Now I almost understand why HBO waited a week to air this after the Fourth of July holiday weekend.

Right off the bat, having Sookie and Bill play surrogate parents to the delightfully bratty Jessica on their trip to Dallas was clever indeed. It displayed a new side of the Sookie-Bill relationship, showing that they’re not just lovers making goo-goo eyes at each other — they can see each other’s strengths and flaws. Sookie may be a tough country gal, but she’s still naive about the nature of both evil and adolescence, and thus prone to being too permissive. (And, really, is there much difference between a teenager and a leeching vampire?) “Two travel coffins instead of one,” sighed Bill, ordering an additional for Jessica even as he knew knowing nothing good can come of this. (OK, beware, hereafter, SPOILERS LURK.)

A pivotal connection was made in this episode, as we found out that the people behind the attack on Sookie upon arrival in Dallas (with the limo driver played by Dean Norris, who’s so good in Breaking Bad), are the Soldiers of the Sun, the elite group of anti-vampire fanatics headed up by Rev. Steve Newlin and whose newest recruit is our dear sap Jason Stackhouse.

Other plot-points Ball was careful to hit during this hour: a recovering Lafayette denying comfort from a concerned Tara; Tara moving in with Sookie and leaving Maryann (“Go, flourish, don’t ever say ‘no’ to yourself” — lordy, I love Michelle Forbes!); and Maryann cranking up the orgy-dervish in Bon Temps to an explosive fervor.

There was some great dialogue scattered throughout. That debate among the Fellowship of the Sun stooges about who was the original vampire, Jesus, Lazarus, or Cain, was priceless, as was the Sookie-Bill exchange that parodied self-improvement cliches: “Hating yourself is a bad thing.” “I am a vampire; I’m supposed to be tormented.”

I also thoroughly enjoyed all the scenes involving Eric, not just because Alexander Skarsgard is such a fine, sly actor but also because, not having read the Charlaine Harris novels, I got a better understanding this evening of Eric’s place in vamp hierarchy and more clues to the nature of this Godric guy.

Oh, and my compliments once again to whoever is picking the country music: the use of Sammy Kershaw’s “Louisiana Hot Sauce” while the reverend’s wife wiggled for Jason was perfect.

In short, I felt this highly satisfying episode may have been the best one of the season so far.

What do you think?

Oh, and we’d also like your thoughts on another matter. I’ve been deputized by Must List major domos Dalton Ross and Jessica Shaw to direct you to the latest edition of Must List Live, where you can weigh in on this all-important question: Who’s hotter, Bill or Eric?

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