Sons of Anarchy Recap: The Good Thief

Photo: FX
Sons of Anarchy
Episode Title
Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em
Editor’s Rating

“Uh, hey. Can I get a pack of D’s, too? Yellow.”

Juice requests a pack of cigarettes from the liquor-store clerk (Blow Pops just weren’t going to cut it) and swiftly knocks him in the head with his gun. He grabs all the cash from the register, picks up his Blow Pops, and flees. The clerk lies on the ground, head bleeding, the pack of yellow Dismas cigarettes lying on the ground next to him.

Cigarettes are shared and smoked throughout the aptly named “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em.” Juice, however, doesn’t have ‘em, and we’re left wondering by the end of the episode what exactly his role will be going forward.

In Christianity, St. Dismas, known as the Good Thief or Penitent Thief, was the thief crucified on Jesus’ right-hand side. He confesses and asks for redemption from Jesus.

“I betrayed our king,” Juice told Gemma last week. After showing Gemma mercy and dumping her on the road instead of killing her, Juice goes to the Mayans to offer up his stolen cash (almost $2,000) and Gemma’s Navigator in exchange for safe passage to Mexico. His offer is worthless, but Alvarez seems to warm to the offer of intel on SAMCRO in exchange for Juice’s passage to Mexico.

However, the Mayans have no use for “the rat” and immediately report his presence to Jax. They shove Juice in a closet with Nero — who has crossed the Mayans (“I had to make a choice, and I did,” he explains to Alvarez about his allegiance with SAMCRO against Lin). The two sit calmly and talk, even though Darvany’s ghost hangs between them. Both beaten down and exhausted, they sink into one another’s stories. Nero explains that he’s being punished for “playing in the wrong backyard,” helping Jax bring down Lin. “For killing Tara?” Juice asks, looking away. “Does Gemma know about that?”

Nero says, “Why? What’s Gemma got to do with Tara?” Juice mutters that it doesn’t matter, and says of his future: “This is death row, brother. It has to happen. I deserve it.” Juice’s demeanor has changed drastically in this episode; he’s not running anymore, and he doesn’t seem to be the loose cannon he has been. We don’t know exactly what transpired between him and Gemma after he had a gun at her head, and we don’t know exactly what happened in that Mayan closet between him and Nero after the camera left the room. These scenes are setting up a strong possibility of reverse dramatic irony; our characters, at this point, certainly know more than we think they know. The connection of Juice with the repentant “Good Thief” suggests that he will plead to his king.

But what of Gestas, the Impenitent or Bad Thief, at Jesus’ left hand? The episode opens with Gemma hobbling up a mountain road. It’s daylight now, and she is ragged and dusty, hobbling along after walking 12 miles in spike-heel boots. As she squints in the distance and sees a truck stop, she says, “Better have cigarettes,” and walks into the diner. She proceeds to sit in a booth and say to the empty seat across from her, “The first time I realized he wasn’t going to be mine forever … Never said much about how he felt, but I could tell. Wasn’t just a teenage crush. He loved you so much. That never changed.” Each time she talks to “Tara,” it becomes a bit more intimate, less deranged somehow.

She makes a connection with the waitress, Gertie (played by Lea Michele). When they smoke outside, Gemma tells her that “It was my fault,” when Gertie inquires about how her daughter-in-law died. “It’s done now. Can’t stop it,” Gemma says.

Wendy and Unser pick Gemma up from the diner, and Gemma storms out after Unser tells her they need to work with the cops. Unser is left with the bill, and he’s obviously alone with the waitress for at least a short period of time. Gertie seems taken by Gemma, but what might she share with Unser when they’re left alone? Gemma’s “It was my fault” will certainly come back to haunt her.

The walls are closing in on Gemma, and she’s losing her allies. Juice leaves her, and she kicks Unser off the Teller-Morrow lot because he had told Jarry about the Chinese involvement in Tara’s death. Gemma refused to talk to Jarry when Unser asked her to, but when Jax begged her to (“This could help,” he pleads, explaining that the D.A. won’t give Lin a deal if they have him on the murder of a doctor and a mother”). "Okay, baby," Gemma says, and goes to speak with Jarry. However, their conversation is behind closed doors; we only see the end of it from outside the window. We don’t know what’s said.     

When Nero storms in to see Gemma toward the episode, he tells her not to worry, that “fences are all mended” between the SAMCRO and the Mayans, and that he’d spent some time with Juice. She panics and asks where Juice is. “Wherever Jax is,” Nero says. “Part of the truce was handing over the traitor.” Gemma loses her breath, crying, sputtering out, “If he tells Jax what he knows …” and trails off as she grabs Nero and sobs into his shoulder. In this moment, Nero makes knowing eye contact with Wendy, who is sitting outside the shop. If Juice has told anyone what he knows, Gemma’s days are numbered.

Jax — our Christ figure in this bloody allegory — seems to have settled down, mellowing into his role as the destroyer and organizer of criminal organizations in and around Charming. He seems almost parental in this episode, grabbing Nero’s shoulder, squeezing Gemma’s arm, confidently assuring those around him, in contrast with his childish outbursts last week. This is the home stretch for Sons of Anarchy, so our antihero better be well rounded and sympathetic, as we are pulled in the opposing fields of the need for justice, desire for revenge, and moral duty to what’s right (okay, toss that last one). Jax regains some of our sympathies in this episode, as we continue to hope that he figures out the truth sooner rather than later. He seems more pulled together as Gemma is falling apart, and that is just how it should be.

In an effort to continue to look toward a future of outlaw harmony, Jax has tried to ensure that Lin and the Triads stay put away, without hope of a deal with the D.A. Jax is meeting with Ron Tully (Marilyn Manson) on the inside, orchestrating his agreement with the Aryan Brotherhood and Mayans to run heroin (“You only see green,” Jax says to him when Tully resists mixing “race with business”). Jax and the Grim Bastards take care of SAMCRO’s Marks problem and his Aryan problem (Leland and Company don’t like that SAMCRO is running with the Grim Bastards) by killing a group of Pope’s men and showing them to Leland and leaving them at a Pope’s Construction site as a threat to Marks.

Everything appears to be coming together, riding quickly toward that giant pile of dead bodies that this 21st-century Shakespearean tragedy must deliver. “Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em” didn’t feel as ominous and tense as some of the previous episodes this season, and surely that’s by design. This act is lulling us into the dream that maybe everything ends up how it’s supposed to … but we know better. The series premiere may end with a sense of justice, but that ending isn’t quite in sight. Jax isn’t finished with the war, and Gemma has many more miles to walk in those spike heels.

Nomad Cuts

• “Why don’t we burn that cross when we get to it?” Bobby lights up for the first time in a long time during this episode when the Sons engage in a good old-fashioned Nazi fight. When Leland and his men spit racial slurs at the Sons (as the Grim Bastards have ridden along), guns are brandished, but a crowded fistfight ensues. The Aryan Brotherhood provides dramas with a common enemy; it’s somehow comforting that we know we can all be on the same page when it comes to hating Nazis.  

• SAMCRO’s relationship with the Grim Bastards is escalating. Jax asks Cross if he would be interested in patching over any of his crew. “Last time I checked, brother, we were the wrong shade of white,” Cross says. Jax doesn’t flinch, and wants to move forward with a collaboration. Seeing the Sons and the Grim Bastards ride together looks damn fine.

• When the Mayans come confront Nero at Diosa, one of them says to him, “Convenient your bitch is the only witness, huh?” Indeed.

• Diosa is in shambles, but the crew seems to want to renovate. Tig assures the Sons that what they’re selling won’t deter people from coming to the location of the massacre. 

• Gertie is reminiscent of Twin Peaks’ Shelly. I imagine her back story is just as tragic.

• Jury, and Indian Hills, will hopefully reappear soon. When the intel about the Chinese starts unraveling — which it surely will — Jury’s knowledge and his role (most likely as the informant) will be important. Between Gemma and Indian Hills, SAMCRO could implode from the inside.

• Officer Eglee is awake, and she wants to talk to Unser. Unser has told Gemma he's choosing to "do the right thing," but will he continue to choose that road when everyone he loves is exposed?

Or this could always happen.