The big news: Eric is cured, praise Godric! There’s not a lot of wasted time building up suspense about it, either: in the opening minutes, he grabs ahold of Sarah Newlin, who begs him to kill her so that she can “return as the Princess of Peace, the Messiah!” Instead of killing her, Eric chomps on her, and lo and behold, the map of blighted veins spread across his body like deadly tattoos clear right up. But there’s no time for celebrating: there’s business to be conducted. Eric, Pam, and Mr. Gus, Jr. and his yakuza minions repair to Fangtasia, where they chain Sarah up in the basement, which is turning out to be the single most overworked set on this final season of “True Blood.” Mr. Gus, Jr. explains that the work of synthesizing Sarah’s blood has been done, but he’s not going to be rushing out to market just yet. What they have must be tinkered with, for maximum exploitability. “We don’t want it to work too well,” he says, sounding all Montgomery Burns as he lays out his plans for New Blood. “We want it to be a healthy habit. Not a cure.” He doesn’t actually throw his head back and laugh “Mwah-hah-ha,” but that’s clearly implied.

The no-news: We’re finally let in on the big message that Tara has been trying to deliver since she was killed, and it’s… not much of anything, really. After finding Lettie Mae and Lafayette digging up the yard in the spot that Tara’s spirit led them to, the Rev apologizes to the current owners of the house and tells Lettie Mae, yet again, how terribly, terribly disappointed he is in her. (I hope his sermons have more kick than his life advice.) Lettie Mae and Lafayette manage to shame him into having a little faith in the woman he’s vowed to love and honor, and he joins the two of them into having a taste of vampire blood courtesy of New James, who has been waiting just off-screen, crouching in the bushes, waiting for his cue.

Once they’re all hopped up, the three of them share a flashback vision of the time Lettie Mae tried to throw Li’l Tara a birthday party, with Li’l Sookie and Li’l Lafayette in attendance. It’s crashed by Tara’s sorry, drunken, woman-slapping excuse for a daddy, who angrily declares that the centerpiece “don’t look like no 99-cent cake to me!” Then he delivers that every child dreams of hearing a parent deliver on their birthday: “Where the f**k is my gun!?” His gun, it turns out, is what Tara buried all those years ago, and it hasn’t moved; the Rev digs it up and holds it in the palm of his hand, real meaningful-like. Tara reappears and apologies to her mother for not having blown a hole in Dad all those years ago. Lettie Mae tells her it’s cool, we all make mistakes, and Tara departs this earthly plane, with the words “You go on living. Promise me?” At which point everyone in the audience who’d hoped that Tara was still on the show because she was somehow key to the resolution of the main storyline, and not just part of some lame, dragged-out business about closure and forgiveness, shouts “You call this living!?”

The weird news: Jason is still hanging out with Hoyt and his girlfriend, Brigitte, with whom he still has some kind of unspoken, instant-attraction vibe going on, when he gets a message on his phone from Violet. She wants him to know that she has Jessica and Adilyn, and also Wade if you want to pretend you care, tied up and at her mercy at her place. Jason announces that he has to go do something incredibly dangerous, and Brigitte, who’s sore at Hoyt because he’s just told her that he’s not sure he wants to have kids with her, follows him out to the car and is all like, cool, I’ll go with. Is she some kind of supernatural being that feeds off the smell of imminent, painful death and is so powerful that she has no fear of dying herself, or is she just out of her mind? It appears to be the latter. It’s not like it’s the first time that Jason’s manly charms have had this effect on somebody.

Jason drives to Violet’s house in Monroe, walks in, gets clobbered, and winds up in the big pervy set piece, the one that you can tell took a week to shoot and that the production designer is still high-fiving himself over. Violet straps Jason to a bondage frame in the big room where she has all her captives trussed up and stripped to their underwear and starts lovingly describing all the things she’s going to do to them: the props include a red-hot poker-dildo she means to use on Jess, again and again, while Jason watches. This outtake from Caligula is interrupted by Hoyt, who just trucks on in, and shoots Violet dead, to her considerable dismay and a mixed reaction from the audience. (The scene of Violet’s rapid deliquescence is pretty cool, reminding me of how awesome those special-effects stills in Fangoria used to seem, when you were too young to actually watch the movies they came from.)

In the aftermath, Andy and Holly show up to hug their kids, though without the scene I was half-expecting, where one of them would say something like, “incest, shiniest, now that we’ve come so close to losing you, I know that I just want you kids to be happy.” But the real action is going on elsewhere: Hoyt and Jess share a few words, and it’s immediately clear that, even though she glamoured him into forgetting about her, what they have between them is too strong to stay buried. Their scenes together are a charming reminder of what great chemistry Deborah Ann Woll and Jim Parrack have always had together, and, in a nutshell, exactly the kind of thing I was hoping for from the final season. But then there’s a cut to Brigitte, on the sidelines, talking to Jason in a way that makes it clear that she can see what’s going on, and then, Jessica and Jason have a scene together where they go out of their way to explicitly define their relationship as “a great friendship.” (“I never felt betrayed by you,” she tells him, “even when you were being a dick.” If that’s not every man’s dream, I don’t know what is.) And suddenly it occurs to you the real reason that the Brigitte-Jason scenes have been so loopy and off-key: Brigitte has been brought into the show in the final innings just so that, when Jessica and Hoyt wind up together at the end, there’ll be someone handy for Jason to get, as a consolation prize. If I were the actress playing Brigitte, I’d be wanting to use a red-hot poker-dildo on my agent. 

That’s about it, except for Sookie and Bill. He’s still dying, extra-super-rapidly like, which, as Pam points out, is par for the course with Bill. Sookie’s current hobby is lying next to him, signaling that her mental gears are going full steam, (“You have the least quiet mind of anyone I’ve ever known,” Bill tells her. “A quiet Sookie is a thinking Sookie.” He leaves it unsaid that a thinking Sookie is all four Horsemen of the Apocalypse rolled into one, on a rocket sled.) Their mournful idyl is interrupted by Eric, who drops by to tell Sookie that he’s been cured, so she can stop worrying about him. Sookie drags Bill to Fangtasia and breaks into the basement, through a wall that I was surprised to see had been repaired since Bill punched a hole in it a few episodes back; given how much else has been happening, I just assumed that whoever called the brick-and-mortar guy would have had other priorities. Bill is just about to bite Sarah and heal himself when he pulls back and announces that, nu-unh, on second thought, no he won’t. Why the hell not? The episode ends before he can explain his reason, so he’s got a week to think up a good one. 

In summary: Except for the Hoyt-Jessica exchanges, this episode tastes like 99-cent cake.

Why doesn’t Bill want to drink Sarah Newlin’s blood and become immortal again? Does he have a good reason, or is he just, as Jessica would say, being a dick? And can HBO please merge with HGTV so I can see a crossover episode with “House Hunters,” where prospective buyers are shown Violet’s now-available Monroe estate? “The sex swing was only used once, and the iron maiden has been restored with new spikes. Now, I know the walls are a little damp, but we were up all night, hosing the blood off them..”