SONS OF ANARCHY 5.03 ‘Laying Pipe’

Pope forces Jax to choose which of his friends will die in prison as Tara and Gemma escalate their conflict at home.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Laying Pipe"

Writers: Kem Nunn & Liz Sagal & Kurt Sutter

Director: Adam Arkin

Previously on "Sons of Anarchy":

Episode 5.02: "Authority Vested"

Last season on “Sons of Anarchy,” several fans and TV critics cried foul when Clay Morrow (Ron Perlman) and Jean Carlos "Juice" Ortiz (Theo Rossi) both survived storylines that seemed destined to end their lives. It seemed as if series creator, Kurt Sutter just couldn’t part with two of his leading characters.

But on last night’s episode, Sutter and company went for the throat and didn’t flinch as one of the regular characters met their bloody and tragic end. Full spoilers are ahead, so stop reading now if you haven’t seen "Laying Pipe" yet.

Thanks to Damon Pope (Harold Perrineau), Jax Teller (Charlie Hunnam), Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) and Tig (Kim Coates) are all in prison for murders that they actually committed. The only thing false about those accusations are the witnesses testifying against them. In a show of solidarity. Opie (Ryan Hurst) got himself thrown in jail with them. And Romeo (Danny Trejo) even came through with their protection on the inside.

It just wasn’t enough.

Pope apparently has enough money and influence that Commander Pare (James Moses Black) vacates his own office for a private face-to-face between Jax and Pope. It’s a short meeting in which Pope lays down some harsh terms: half of the money from SAMCRO’s cartel drug deal and Tig has to stay in prison for life. Also… either Opie or Chibs has to die behind bars before the end of the day to appease Pope’s Niner and police connections.

It’s not a coincidence that Opie and Chibs topped our recent “Sons of Anarchy” death pool. Chibs doesn’t currently have a storyline of his own and Opie has been at the end of his rope ever since the death of his father, Piney.

In a riveting scene, Jax comes clean to Opie about everything. All of his secrets are laid bare and Jax explains to his best friend that he had a decision: kill Clay or save the club. Opie tells him that he made the wrong choice, but it was a path that Opie himself followed for years. Opie stayed loyal to the club despite death of his first wife and even after Piney’s death he was still willing to suit up in SAMCRO’s kutte while standing by Jax’s side. Opie’s loyalty was so deep that he couldn’t completely walk away from it no matter what happened to him.

Backed into a corner, Jax refused to send one of his guys to their death. So, Opie took the decision out of his hands and essentially offered himself as the sacrifice before he was brutally beaten to death. There’s no ambiguity about it. Opie is dead and Jax’s best friend is gone.

Looking back at the death pool, Chibs was the safe choice. His death would have still resonated, it just wouldn’t have had the same impact as Opie’s demise. Sutter and company apparently picked Opie because this will transform Jax in ways we can’t currently foresee. Jax is clearly close to his SAMCRO brothers. But there was no one else like Opie in his life who would always have his back.
And we may have already seen a glimpse of the new Jax. In a second meeting with Pope, Jax agrees to his terms, but he manages to get Pope to sign off on Tig’s release because Tig will give Jax a political advantage within SAMCRO. And when Jax is finished with Tig, he basically says that Pope can have him.

The natural response is to assume that Jax is bluffing. He’s not really going to sell out his buddy, Tig. Yet when we see him break the news to Tig, Jax tells him that he has to support Jax in all of his SAMCRO moves for the rest of his life. Maybe Jax really doesn’t care anymore and his words with Pope weren’t just a clever way of keeping Tig out of his reach. If so, Jax is well on his way towards becoming more like Clay. And does anyone think that Opie would have wanted that?

Hilariously, Pope is kind of impressed by Jax’s new mindset and suggests that it will help Jax become more like him. Pope really seems to think that he’s better than Jax, the Niners and everyone else under his thumb. Pope may not be a screaming over-the-top villain, but his inner monster is barely hidden by his “respectability.”
It’s almost perverse, but both Nero Padilla (Jimmy Smits) and Pope are examples of what Jax has seemingly always wanted: an escape from the life with an air of legitimacy. That’s a mask that Pope wears better than most. 

As far as strange mentor relationships go, something is definitely happening between Clay and Juice. They’ve been paired together several times this season and Juice seems to be Clay’s most loyal ally in SAMCRO at the moment. Clay also has one distinct advantage over Juice: almost all of his crimes against SAMCRO are out in the open. And with Opie dead, Clay doesn’t have to worry about anyone other than Jax or Gemma (Katey Sagal) eventually seeking their revenge against him. But if anyone ever discovers the full extent of Juice’s crimes then he won’t be long for this world.

In all honesty, the Gemma and Tara (Maggie Siff) tug of war over Jax and the kids is getting pretty stale. Gemma is so short of things to use against Tara that she actually goes to
Jax’s ex, Wendy (Drea de Matteo) with a mind to stir up some trouble. Tara sees through it immediately and it blows up in Gemma’s face. It’s good to see that Tara still has the fire to stand up for herself.

Gemma has nothing left except for Nero, who actually seems to be good for her. But when she walks in the aftermath of an encounter between Clay and a young “escort” named Emma (Ashley Tisdale), Gemma proceeds to beat the crap out of the poor girl. Gemma has so little self control that she gave Clay exactly what he wanted. Gemma may hate him now, but she still feels possessive towards Clay. And that’s more than Clay had before that.

At first, the subsequent police raid on Nero’s operation seemed like Pope kicking more sand in the collective faces of SAMCRO. But it could have been Emma’s idea of payback for the beating she took. So far, Nero has been almost too good to be true towards Gemma, even after she attacked and drove off one of his girls. There has to be a limit to Nero’s patience even if we haven’t gotten there yet.

"Laying Pipe" was a powerful hour of television and one of the best episodes of “Sons of Anarchy.” It wasn’t perfect, but it was pretty close.