Jax is getting a little too cocky and Clay is getting a little too comfortable. And that's "Crucifixed" in a nutshell.

This was one of the show's annual epic installments, running a full 90 minutes on FX including commercials. And while there was plenty of action, when all is said and done it still feels like we're in a bit of a holding pattern, or maybe just setting the table for the season finale.

The most memorable event in "Crucifixed" was its namesake incident: Otto's brutal murder-by-crucifix of poor Nurse Pam. And it's possible that the fallout from those bloody few seconds will be one of the biggest turning points of the season. I think we can debate the wisdom of Tara sneaking in anything sharp for Otto to handle -- no matter how much the two have bonded and no matter how vaguely connected the item is to LuAnn, this was a stupid move -- but she did it, so the really important stuff will be what happens next.

Whether or not Tara winds up in jail as an accessory to murder, I'd like to believe that her thoughts about the club and Jax will never be quite the same. When Jax tries to reassure her -- "We're gonna get through this, like we do everything else" -- Tara's response is telling: "That's what scares me the most." After all the crazy crap she's been through, it should.

But Jax clearly thinks he's untouchable at the moment, relishing his role as puppet master pulling the strings hanging over Gemma, Juice (his secrets are all out in the open now) and even Roosevelt, while strengthening his connection with Chibs in case he needs to replace Bobby as VP and reassuring Pope that he'll have Tig soon enough.

Jax is working a whole lot of angles, but he doesn't yet know that Clay has found a solid angle of his own in CIA agents Torres and Parada. "I think Jax is pushing to kill the RICO leverage you got. And if that happens I go away," Clay tells the agents. "If that push comes to shove, we need you more than Jax," Torres admits. But there's something changing inside Clay -- or at least it seems that way -- and he's apparently lost the drive to be the man in charge. At this point he'll settle for his life and Gemma back.

As he tells Juice: "You get to this point in your life and you realize, 'I've been chasing after shit I don't even want anymore.' I'm exhausted, son. Just watch my back, please." I don't know how long it's going to last but this world-weary Clay is allowing Ron Perlman to deliver some of his most soulful work of the show's entire run. It's a nice change of pace, but something tells me the old monster is still inside there, just waiting to be unleashed.

And yet all we can do right now is speculate. Last season had an unstoppable momentum building to what felt like an inevitable conclusion: Clay's death. Which we now know wasn't to be. The events of this season have unfolded in a series of fits and starts. We know Jax is trying to expose Clay and get him banished from SAMCRO for good, we think Clay is trying to regain power (or at least dignity), and there are a few things happening on the fringes -- Roosevelt wants justice for his wife's murder, Unser wants to make himself useful, Gemma might want to run away with Nero -- that could upset both of their plans.

But really, we're just waiting. Tonight was an awfully long bridge. Let's hope the destination is worth it.

Odds and ends:

- "20 years we have had relationships with these people. The Grim Bastards have always backed us. Always. Maybe we need to look for a compromise." In an alternate universe, Bobby Elvis might make a pretty good leader.

- It's hard to top Otto's lethal frenzy, but Tara stepping on the toy piano to wake her baby was one of the episode's most disturbing moments. She's really losing it. At least she's still got Margaret on her side, trying to get her out, even if that's starting to feel more and more like a lost cause.

- Jax's reaction to the news that Juice almost killed himself rather than let the club find out his father was black: "Maybe it's time we change a few bylaws."