Well, the preview for next week looks like a winner–cops raiding the club-house! Opie getting played! Jax making promises! Can't wait for that shit.
"Better Half" wasn't bad, don't get me wrong; it just felt like a let-down after the past couple weeks. We got a lot of plot, but apart from the Otto/Stahl assault in the last five minutes, there wasn't much pay-off. My biggest problem was that none of the individual storylines were ever around long enough to be satisfying. But hey, with this much going on, every once in a while you have to let one go by without all the fireworks.
Nice to have Stahl back again. There've been some complaints in the comments about her, but I like the character; as doggedly determined as Hale can be, it's nice to have a semi-crazy person around to get the job done. I wouldn't say she's the only one with a chance of taking the club down, but she is the only one who can surprise them. The RICO act move was smart, and it forces Clay and the others to stay on their toes. All of a sudden, anything they've done in the last ten years could screw them over. Which makes for a subtle call back to Jax's dad, come to think of it.
To make RICO stick, Stahl starts pressuring the ladies of Sam Crow; she arrests Luann for drugs, questions Donna and Tara about their beaus, and exposes Cherry's past. Turns out they named the dog Cherry; our little Pop Tart's real title is Rita and Rita's got a few priors on her, including grand theft and arson, souvenirs from a marriage she didn't entirely end. Her and Half-Sack's romance is kind of sweet, but neither of them would make for good Jeopardy! contestants; Cherry's assault on an ATF agent in the grocery store is proof of that. Of all the women Stahl targets, she's the weakest link.
Still, Tara's getting nervous. She's questioning her choices, and in Charming, that's never a good sign. Her relationship with Jax is still uncertain, and when she talks to him about her doubts, neither of them really know how to handle it. Jax promises everything will be fine, but it's not really a promise he can keep. Stahl already knows Kohn didn't get off the plane in Chicago; who knows what she suspects. All it will take is a piece or two of bad luck, and that burnt corpse won't stay buried.
Opie's having his own problems. After flaking out on the Hefner murder, he doesn't seem confident about his place in the club–he tells Donna the Sons are the only place for him, and it's clear he believes it, but I'm not sure if he believes he can live up to what the club expects of him, if you feel me. Bobby covered for him, so Clay's sold; but Jax, despite his protestations to the contrary, has Opie running guard duty on a late night visit to the jail to see Luann and Cherry. It's not exactly a gesture of trust, and I don't think it'll help Opie get over his doubts.
Of course, the real point of the visit is to tell Luann about RICO, so she can get the message along to her husband, Otto. Otto's in prison, and Stahl is pressuring him for info; she gives the old song-and-dance about not really caring about the case, just needing something to give her supervisor, and offers Otto a greased parole, Luann's freedom, and a conjugal visit, provided he throws her a bone. That bone could still wreck the club, though; Jax tells Luann to pass the word along at their conjugal. Then Cherry freaks out on him. Stahl threatened her with extradition and jail time, and she's cracking fast. So Jax lets her out of the jail, much to Unser's shock. (His reactions in "Half" were one of the best parts of the ep; just the way he tried to integrate himself into the club after getting banished from his office by Stahl was hilarious.)
In the end, Cherry and Cameron, the IRA contact with the wounded ass, both get smuggled up to Canada without incident. Stahl's plans largely come to nothing; Otto's info is her biggest lead, but after his hook-up with Luann, he snaps on the agent, smashing her head into the desk multiple times before the guards can restrain him. But all isn't lost for our law enforcement buddies: there's a witness to Hefner's murder, and he ID'd Bobby's mugshot. Poor guy is definitely in for it.
So, out of "Better Half"'s forty some-odd minutes, we get a lot maneuvering, and few kick-ass moments. Gemma's ideas about the best use of a rosary; the sudden violence from Cherry and Otto; the bar fight that Tig and Piney start, going all Iago and shit on us. And, of course, Stahl and Hale swapping oral pleasure in Unser's office. It's a funny scene, but it would've been nice to have an authority figure on the show maintain at least a little dignity–hell, that last shot of Stahl at the end all but screamed, "She's lost her perspective and is about to take extreme measures to incarcerate and destroy Sam Crow!!!" Here's hoping she doesn't go totally mental or anything.
--Some of the dialogue was a bit too on the nose, like Gemma's "I'm whatever I need to be." Duh.
--Ahhh, RICO. Thank you, Dark Knight!
--Bobby rocks. That is all.