First things first: bless you, John Paulsen, for stepping in and filling my shoes so capably while I was attending the TCA press tour in Beverly Hills. Although the Hilton did have HBO, trying to find the time to sit down on the Sunday nights that I was out there and watch “True Blood,” let alone blog about it, would’ve been a major pain in the neck…vampire-related joke totally intended, of course. Indeed, I’m particularly glad that you did such a good job, as I’ve spent so much time winding down and ramping back up again that I’m relying on your write-ups to fill me in on the pair of episodes that I missed while I was otherwise occupied.

Things kicked off tonight with Eric zipping into Fangtasia and, with an absolutely-warranted tinge of panic to his voice, informing Pam that he’s just staked the lover of the Vampire King of Mississippi. Nice one, sir. Immediately after blowing off Pam’s suggestion that they hide out at Sookie’s house, good ol’ Ginger strolls into the office. “Ginger, dear, where do you live?” he asks, casually. Good idea, bad timing: a battalion of V-Feds have already established a beachhead, with the dark and despicable (yet somehow still kinda hot) Ms. Flanagan glowering at Eric, thoroughly annoyed that his actions have taken her away from pursing the ratification of the Vampire Rights Amendment. After an apparently extreme search of Fangtasia’s basement which brings up nothing (“I’m a Virgo,” says Eric, “I like to be neat”), Ms. Flanagan sits down sexily and proceeds to take Eric’s formal statement, broadcasting it by webcam to the members of The Authority…which, for some reason, immediately brought to mind Springfield Republican Headquarters on “The Simpsons.”

Eric dives headlong into his back story, adding his comments about and thoughts on The King’s philosophies, including the highly contentious statement, “Fuck The Authority,” then wrapping up with a heartfelt explanation about how he wants The King’s death to be at his own hand. Ms. Flanagan isn’t buying what Eric’s selling, however, putting him and Pam on lockdown. Pam doesn’t understand why Eric’s never told her about the depths of his haunted past, but he basically says, “It’s not your problem,” instead changing subjects and telling her that it’s time for her to become a Maker. Woo-hoo! Promotion!

The King runs in to find the decidedly disgusting remains of Talbot, which he promptly smears himself with. Ew. Just…ew. Then he sees that Eric’s stolen not one but two of his most precious possessions, the other being the artifact which dates back to the King’s destruction of Eric’s family. Oh, yeah, he’s really pissed.

Sookie’s looking more than a little worse for wear after “making up” with Bill, but after a further bit of action in the shower, there’s some healing goin’ on amongst the water. You’d think it’d put a damper on her mood to walk out and find a dead werewolf corpse in the living room, but she doesn’t even flinch, instead just telling Bill “there’s an old tarp out back.” She does, however, acknowledge that moving dead bodies aren’t exactly the activities of a normal couple. Is she back to trusting him? Not until she gets more information about this secret file she’s recently learned about. Bill says it’s because he wants to know why Eric’s so interested in her, but Sookie calls the whole thing “creepy” and tells him to stop thinking of her as some precious little thing that needs to be protected. The look on his face shows that he knows where she’s coming from, but old habits die hard.

So Jesus’s Jaguar tattoo holds power over the universe? No, actually, it was just his high school mascot. Funny stuff…and, yet, it’s clear that Jesus does have a certain amount of sway over Lafayette. Ruby seems to approve of the end result of the relationship, too, what with her observation, “I’ll be damned: maybe God does love fags.” Nice.

Jason blows into Crystal’s place to try and save her from her supposedly evil fiancee, but it quickly becomes clear that there’s more to this situation than she’s been letting Jason in on. Not, of course, that he notices anything particularly amiss. When she made the comment about how “he can escape handcuffs,” I immediately thought back to John’s assumption that Crystal and her kin are werewolves. I guess that theory would still hold water, especially given that she pulls vampire blood out of his jacket. They tie him up, carry him into the woods, and Jason calls the police and, in a funny voice, tells them where to find him…but, uh, didn’t he do that on his own phone? That’s so Jason. The next day, he finds out that Deputy Kevin followed Jason’s instructions, turned up at the location, and found himself in the middle of an ambush. That’s right, you’d better look guilty, Crystal! Jason, however, tries to use the occasion to make himself look good, though he looks a little nervous when Sheriff Andy starts reeling off law enforcement acronyms. But what’s this…? Andy hasn’t sent the vampire blood off to the lab. Why is he hanging onto the stuff? Is he using?

Tara’s at Sam’s place, looking more than a little bit on edge. She’s apparently bared her soul to him (I didn’t see the episode, so I’m just guessing), and the end result has him hinting that she might want to consider therapy, an alternative which she clearly has no interest in pursuing. Before the discussion can go any further, however, Terry calls to complain about the “girl noises” coming from the apartment where Sam’s little brother is camping out. When he arrives, li’l bro Tommy is nekkid…and so is his buxom new babe, Nicole. Nice pull, Tomster. Sam plays so much of the authority figure that, after he leaves, Nicole asks Tommy, “That’s your dad?” In Sam’s absence, Tara apparently searched the ‘net to find a rape counseling group, where she finds her new co-worker, Holly. Bons Temps surely is the smallest of worlds, ain’t it? Seemed more than a little bit coincidental, and when Holly sat down to console Arlene about Tommy swiping her tips and her eyes got thin at the mention of the “evil” father of Arlene’s baby (who, based on Arlene’s comments, pretty much has to be Rene), I started to wonder what might be up with Holly. Is she evil?

As Sookie flips through a scrapbook of articles about her family (not sure if it’s something of Gram’s or part of Bill’s file), she gets a call from her cousin, pleading with her to come see her at the aquarium in Monroe, which Sookie does post-haste. Cuz spills the beans about her situation with the Queen of Louisiana and tells her to get the hell out of Dodge…uh, I mean, Bon Temps…but she also wants to know if her son Hunter has the same psychic abilities as Sookie. He does. This is possibly not a good thing for the lad. At the very least, her mother certainly doesn’t think it is.

Back at Merlottes, Hoyt tries to introduce his new girlfriend to Jessica (it initially goes just about as well as you’d expect it would, but it has a surprising conclusion, with Jessica trying to bury the hatchet only to find Hoyt admitting that he can’t actually stand his new girlfriend), Jason tries to make sense out of the situation he’s going through with Crystal (like that was ever going to go well, though she offers an interesting twist by suggesting that not all werewolves follow the same path as her fiancee), and Lafayette flirts openly with Jesus, thereby outing his relationship to Tara, who – despite her instinct to snap at her cousin – indicates her approval while hiding her depression about her own lack of happiness. A few minutes later, Crystal’s dad pops by the place, at which point Sam’s had all he can stand and can’t stands no more, beating the living shit out of the poor bastard. Despite everything Daddy dearest has done to her, however, Crystal’s still in his corner.

Franklin’s back…or is he? My wife immediately said, “Maybe he’s not really there.” Is this another case of PTSD on TV? Apparently not, but, damn, I would’ve sworn that he was just a figment of her imagination. That was a pretty harsh scene, and I didn’t expect Jason to be Tara’s savior, but rather than killing Franklin off, it seems like it would’ve been more effective if Franklin had swooped off and left Tara forever wondering when he might come back to finish her. Instead, it was, like, “Hey, look, Franklin’s not dead after all…except, whoops, now he actually is.”

Bill’s having a strange dream where he’s walking on pedal-covered water and seeing…Claudine, I guess? Well, if I’m wrong, I’m sure someone will correct me. How strange that Bill and Sookie enter the same dreamworld when they’re asleep…or is it a dreamworld? Suddenly, I see why John referred to the sequence in 3.7 as a “WTF moment.” Whatever it is, the link apparently resulted from Bill drinking so much of Sookie’s blood, and this long, strange trip has provided him with the answer to exactly what the hell Sookie is….though, of course, we won’t learn that answer ’til next week. Not that Bill doesn’t try to tell Sookie about his experience, but he can’t get a word out before Sookie tells him what she’s learned about the Queen.

Quick question: did anyone else get a serious “Dr. Phibes” vibe from The King when he addressed Talbot’s remains? As he vaults forth from the rooftop, we learn that The Authority wipes its hands of the whole incident, preferring to pretend that they don’t know anything at all about anything that’s happened between Eric and The King, leaving Eric to solve the situation himself. When he suggests he may not be up the task of defeating him, Ms. Flanagan snaps, “Bring me his fangs or I will have yours.” With that, she busts out of the joint and hops her flight to Oregon, but her decision to indulge in a bit of thigh diving is interrupted by…well, I didn’t see that coming…The King interrupts a live TBBN newscast on the VRA by punching through the chest of the newscaster, ripping out his spine, and closing with a rant which effectively destroys human / vampire relations and serves as a full-fledged game changer not only for the season but, quite possibly, for the entire series.

Greatest “holy shit” moment of “True Blood” ever…? Possibly.

Now, time for the weather. Tiffany…?