It looks like a sure sign you've hit rock bottom in Sons of Anarchy is waking up after a banana vodka-fueled bender with Joel McHale in your bed. And so another bit of SoA stunt casting gets underway, but this time it's intended to move the Gemma (Katey Sagal) story along, and provide Jax (Charlie Hunnam) another opportunity to comment on how his mother is acting like a petulant child. It's an embarrassing situation for Gemma, to be sure, and while it lacks the particular punch of a tarted up Walton Goggins, it does provide the episode an obligatory chase sequence through the streets of Charming, as well as a cliffhanger ending.
For the most part, 'Toad's Wild Ride' is one of those mid-season episodes where characters begin to show their hand, and the elements that will dictate the rest of the season's plot lines become more defined. Most notably, Clay (Ron Perlman) and Jax come to yet another understanding that their goals are at odds with one another and some sort of proverbial collision seems imminent. Much of the episode is also spent playing up some misdirection, as it relates to Clay's overall involvement in the Charming home invasion problem. The three Nomads, Frankie (Chuck Zito), Greg the Peg and GoGo – who, despite a resemblance to Jason Lee and James LeGros, are actually played by Kurt Yeager and Chris Browning, respectively – are all preparing to leave Charming, considering their actions resulted in the death of Eli Roosevelt's (Rockmund Dunbar) wife.
Turns out, Clay's plan is to use the home invasions as a means by which Jax will be unseated as president, and he can assume his rightful place at the head of the table. But since GoGo's in the system, as soon as the DNA from the Roosevelt case comes back, Clay is going to be dealing with some major heat along with the rest of SAMCRO. So, with Jax out intimidating Frankie, Unser (Dayton Callie) pays GoGo and Greg the Peg a visit, essentially forcing Clay's hand. As much as Clay excels at misdirection (and as much as the show itself enjoys such things), he is forced to give up one element of his deception in order to do away with the one that will effectively end him.
Speaking of misdirection, last week's 'Small World' had set it up to look like Unser would be making 'Toad's Wild Ride' his last, but it turns out dead Nomads are far more useful to Clay than a dead Unser. And with that, we bid adieu to Greg the Peg and GoGo while Frankie remains the x-factor in regard to the growing conflict between Jax and Clay. For now, the two have the same confrontation they've always had, which is a lot of intense stares, some thinly veiled accusations and Clay denying involvement in everything – basically going along with whatever is said while plotting his next move behind their back.
Besides seeing Clay's attempt at misdirection in the midst of a double-homicide, the positive here is that the whole home invasion subplot is largely wrapped up – at least it seems unlikely that we'll have to watch any more of them take place. The ramifications, however, will probably be felt much longer, if for nothing else than to give Roosevelt some closure and something to do besides harass Juice (Theo Rossi) and then apologize for it within earshot of the entire MC. As far as Juice is concerned, though, he's basically aware what Clay's been up to, and given the guilt he felt during his brief tenure as a snitch, it would be easy to see him try and do something for the good of the club that could undermine Clay.
Meanwhile, after having her wallet and SUV stolen by the host of The Soup, Gemma makes Nero (Jimmy Smits) her first call, but considering things are just taking off with the new Diosa International, Nero decides it's prudent to cut Jax in on Gemma's crisis du jour. After a turbulent beginning that entails the aforementioned obligatory street chase and subsequent release of Warren (McHale), things turn a bit softer when Gemma confesses to Jax her reasons for being the kind of mother she is. The moment leads to Jax convincing Tara (Maggie Siff) to let Gemma watch Abel and Thomas (ever wonder how much the name Cain was thrown around in the writer's room after it was decided Tara would get pregnant?) while the newlyweds head off to the cabin. The romantic rendezvous is over before it can even begin, however, after Jax and Chibs (Tommy Flanagan) are embroiled in a roadside shootout with a couple of masked assailants. Jax manages to kill one of the men, and his identity points the finger right at the Sons' newest business associate/arch villain, Pope (Harold Perrineau).
Elsewhere, Nero still has to deal with Warren. Since Charming is apparently wall-to-wall crime and gossipy gangs, Nero and his crew easily catch him in the middle of hustling another middle-aged woman. As he promised, Nero was there to square things with Warren, and does so by beating the guy to a pulp. The whole thing seems pretty conclusive, which would really make McHale's role nothing more than stunt casting, but perhaps it was intended to better shine the spotlight on Nero's feelings for Gemma. Needless to say, Nero seems to be navigating the outer edges of Jax's no contact rule in regard to his mom.
That brings us to Gemma who picks the kids up after getting stoned with Unser and drives her SUV off the road and into a tree. The extent of everyone's injuries is uncertain, but Abel looks to have gotten the worst of it. The little guy appears to be bleeding out all over his stuffed animal while Gemma's unconscious in the front seat. Whatever happens (provided Gemma survives the accident), she's going to need some pretty serious backup to handle the wrath of Jax and Tara, so perhaps the all new Diosa International will have to be put on hold while Nero gets between mother and son.
Sons of Anarchy continues next Wednesday with 'Ablation' @10pm on FX. Check out a preview below: