Prashant Gupta/FX
Mandi Bierly
November 20, 2012 AT 12:00 PM EST

Spoiler alert! If you haven’t watched this week’s Sons of Anarchy episode, “To Thine Own Self,” stop reading now. Before the season began, creator Kurt Sutter said we’d see what a smart, forward-thinking leader Jax is, and after these 90 minutes, there’s no doubt. Also not up for debate: Jimmy Smits deserves an Emmy nomination. Let’s dig in.

We opened with Tara telling Jax that the pediatrics practice in Providence had made her an offer, and that after what happened the day before (Otto murdering that nurse to kill his reliability and the RICO case), she feels like this is their last chance to leave Charming. She told Jax he’s a “beautiful, loyal man” for not deserting the club a few months ago, but now, it’s time. Did Jax seem to be dragging his feet because he knew all the moves he still had to make to get the club out of the cartel deal safely, because he doesn’t consider his job done until Clay is in the ground, or because it’ll be harder to leave the brotherhood when the MC is legit? Jax said they had to talk to their lawyer first.

The lawyer made sure Tara had her story straight: Not updating her insurance forms had been an oversight; her husband had done time and the medical care was awful, so she volunteered to make a difference. Still, a prosecutor could argue Tara conspired to meet with Otto and gave him the crucifix knowing what he’d do with it. She told Jax that Tara could face serious time. “Then make sure that doesn’t happen,” he screamed at her. Am I the only one who wants to know more about this lawyer? Is she all about the money, or does she see the good in the club? Has Tig ever hit on her?

Bobby suggested Jax update Pope, but Jax said he wanted to get clear of the cartel first. Was that Jax stalling because he doesn’t really want to turn Tig over to Pope, or because he was counting on Tig’s vote at the table one last time? Jax knew the only way Romeo would let the club walk away is if the drugs and guns keep moving, so he had Chibs reach out to the Mayans and Niners, and Bobby set up a meet with Henry Lin. Meanwhile, Otto got a visit in solitary confinement from a mysterious new character, played by Donal Logue, who wanted to make sure Otto remembered both the sound of his voice and the beating he gave him.

At T-M, Jax told Juice and Gemma independently that they needed to find the documents from Clay’s safe today. Jax read Gemma into all that’s going on with RICO and Otto — minus Juice’s involvement. (I wonder how loudly Jax would’ve yelled if Gemma had mentioned she’d just told Clay about Tara visiting Otto in Stockton and bringing him something of Luann’s.) Clay made a move of his own: He called Tig over and told him he missed him. I’ve missed Tiggy, too. Kim Coates can make a simple thing, like entering a room or sitting at a table having a beer, interesting to watch. Clay thanked Tig for all he’s done for him and told him that he may be forced to create new opportunities outside of SAMCRO, so if Tig ever gets tired of watching his president suck up to the guy who burned his daughter alive, he should come to him. Tig asked what Clay was up to. Just trying to stay alive, Clay said.

Cutting from Tara watching a surgery and so clearly wanting to be in the operating room to the grand opening of the escort service reminded us just how different Tara’s and Jax’s worlds are, even without the drugs and guns in the picture. Lyla was wheeled out in lingerie and a garter-style bandage covering the gunshot wound to her leg. She told Jax that Nero was out back with his crew and didn’t sound happy. The look on Chibs’ face (like, what now) was priceless, but it’s the wink Jax gave Lyla that I rewound. So Nero’s old crew is having a hard time holding down its borders from other crews now that Nero has moved north and wants guns. Nero said no, but Jax asked him to let him sell the crew some weapons so “their d—s feel bigger” and they don’t bother them again. You knew that wouldn’t go according to plan…

Gemma pretended she was looking for copies of her boy Thomas’ birth and death certificates, since his birthday was coming up, and hoped that Clay would miraculously find one. But he didn’t bite. (Will that scene have a payoff down the road, since Clay later pieced together that Jax must have had someone looking for the documents, or was it just an excuse to give comic relief Chucky something to do, like move the boxes for Gemma and receive a death threat for rhyming?)

Tara visiting Unser, who was having chemo in the hospital, was my second favorite scene of the episode. “Mind if we get out of here? This Kenny G s—’s gonna give my cancer cancer,” he cracked. He looked sweaty and had a tough time getting up from his chair, but still, he was a gentleman who held the door for Tara. We’ve all assumed Unser is gonna die for so long that we should be prepared for it, but this scene proved how much it’s going to hurt if/when it finally happens. He had to sit down in the hallway. “I know my Stage IV charm is magnetic. But it ain’t the reason you come to see me,” he told Tara. She admitted she considers him a watcher and that she needed an impartial perspective. With tears in her eyes, she told him how she loves Jax and the boys, how she’s embraced the guys and is okay with the life. “Seems like you left yourself off that list,” Unser said. “I used to love being a surgeon,” Tara continued, with the kind of exhale you do when you’re trying to hold back tears and are about to fail. Unser tried to comfort her and, instead, had to vomit in the trash can. “You okay?” she asked. All they could do was laugh: He was on his knees wiping vomit off his mouth, and she was wiping her nose and eyes after crying. They walked off arm-and-arm to “go feed the little people.” It’s like, this is what happens when you stop and try to talk it out. It’s best to make up your own mind and keep moving. Tara would later accept the job but asked to keep the news quiet so that her husband, a “small business owner” with strong ties to Charming, had time to sit with it.

NEXT: No more Mr. Nice Nero

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