“Mmmm, spicy!” So says Talbot, the close personal friend of the Vampire King of Mississippi, as he takes a big whiff from Tara, who’s tied up next to the dining room table. Franklin tells him to piss off, and so it is established immediately that these two aren’t exactly thrilled with each other, a fact which is decidedly underlined by the breaking out of the fangs a few moments later. (In fairness, Franklin called Talbot “the cleaning lady.” Not cool, man.) Before the two can really get down to business, though, Bill, Lorena, and the King are back in the building…and, oh, the look on Tara’s face! And it only gets worse when Bill is totally dismissive of her plight. While meeting with the King, we learn that Franklin has a history of causing trouble amongst humans, but for what it’s worth, he seems to legitimately like Tara…not that it makes him any less batshit crazy.

So was it just me, or was that a ridiculously anticlimactic departure from the were-club? Unless my memory is failing me, Alcide told Sookie to run, she ran, and…the next thing we see, they’re driving off together in the truck? I feel more than a little bit gypped. Anyway, Wereboy’s busy reminiscing about the good ol’ days with his ex-girlfriend, Debbie, while Sookie’s intuition has convinced her that Bill’s connected to Russell in some capacity or other. That girl’s got a nice set of instincts on her. There’s also a touching moment when Debbie stops by to scream at Sookie, at which point it’s like we’ve stepped into an episode of “The Jerry Springer Show,” but the scene serves to confirm that Debbie doesn’t know anything about Bill.

Eric turns up at the King’s pad, duly impressing Talbot, who’s pretty clearly undressing him with his eyes. Unfortunately, the discussion between Eric and the King goes south almost immediately when Eric tries to blame Bill for all the shenanigans back in Bon Temps, only to have Bill step out of the shadows behind him. As usual, the tension between Bill and Eric was palpable, which was good to see again, and I loved the expression on Eric’s face when he absorbed the information that Sookie was now a free woman. So maybe everyone can work together like one big happy vampire family? Yeah, I’ll believe that when I see it…

I just don’t know what to make of this whole Franklin / Tara storyline. She’s petrified, he’s crazy…nah, I’m just not seeing a future in it. And, clearly, neither is Tara, given the way she manages to cut herself free and make a run for it. I’m a little skeptical that she could’ve succeeded in escaping from literally under a vampire’s nose, but it doesn’t matter, anyway, since she ends up getting chased and captured by a werewolf. So he’s planning to turn her and make her his vampire wife, huh? Cue another freaked-out expression from Tara.

Things in the sheriff’s office have clearly gone to shit since Sheriff Bud left. Looks like Andy’s dealing with Jason’s threats of blackmail by giving him a gig, and, man, are the deputies pissed about it. Clearly, the desk job isn’t exactly what Jason signed on for, as was proven with the comedy montage of him performing that brilliant paperclip limbo, smearing fingerprint ink everywhere, and so forth. It was deeply dumb, yes, but I laughed in spite of myself. Andy’s managed to pull some strings for Jason, but even so, he’s still got to take a handwritten exam, which is his worst nightmare…literally. A bit later, while he was out washing cars, he spotted the cute blonde driving by. Frankly, I’d all but forgotten about Jason seeing that girl in the woods, but I enjoyed the Flatt & Scruggs styled music playing while he was in hot pursuit. Again, watching him approach her truck wearing nothing but pants and sunglasses was so completely ridiculous that I had to laugh. Although he invites her to meet him at Merlotte’s later in the evening, it looks as though she’s stood him up…until he strolls outside and sees her walking away. They end up wandering into the woods, where they make out and she says cryptic things like, “There’s no forever for us, only now.” What’s her deal, anyway?

So Sam’s family’s moving into their new place, and they’re still acting about as white-trash as they have been all along, though Sam’s dad is acting even more weird, if that’s possible. Although Sam’s given Tommy a job at Merlotte’s, it’s clear that his absence from the homestead is not going well with Daddy dearest. I knew something was up when he called the place looking for him, so when Tommy asked to stay the night at Sam’s, I wasn’t entirely surprised when things escalated and Dad stopped by for a visit. Damn, I was impressed with Sam’s yelling, but what was all that “I own him from head to toe” stuff? There’s clearly a secret to be uncovered in this family relationship, and I expect we’ll find out what it is sooner than later.

Sookie’s clearly pissing Alcide off by checking in on his thoughts, but you can’t say she doesn’t get results. Once again, he goes against werewolf tradition by taking her to meet his pack leader, at which point they discover that things are even more rough than they’d believed. The pack leader’s advising silence, says there’s nothing he can do about the King, and his only suggestion is that they just let him do what he wants to do ’til he goes away. Yeah, good plan.

I’m not going to lie to you: I thought the Lafayette storyline tonight was just cute as a button. He’s out having a smoke with Tommy when Jesus shows up, and, naturally, he’s convinced that the guy’s stopped by because his mother’s dead. But, no, he’s swung by for a social visit…and, by God, he’s willing to hang out at Merlotte’s for nine hours ’til the guy gets off work. Lafayette’s clearly pleased by the kid’s intentions, if only because it’s so unlike the guys who usually hit on him, and the nervous grin on Jesus’s face when he stepped into Merlotte’s showed that both of these guys are out of their element. After watching them interact during their game of pool, I’m actually kind of rooting for them to become a couple. Of course, there’s no way Jesus survives the season. Nothing good ever happens to Lafayette.

Just an offhanded comment about the Jessica / Arlene situation and how funny it was that Jessica hypnotized those customers to not give Arlene a tip. Also, what’s up with Hoyt bringing a date to Merlotte’s? I realize there’s not a lot of places to go for dinner in Bon Temps, but, seriously, that seems a little uncool.

Bill reacts poorly to the very brusquely-delivered rumor that Sookie’s having relations with a werewolf, kicks some ass, and steps out to find his former ladyfriend…which he does in rapid fashion, of course. Before that, though, we see Eric looking decidedly shocked at Lorena’s presence in the King’s domicile, only to have his mind blown even further when Talbot re-introduces him to a crown that causes him to flash back to his Viking origins. Great sequence, by the way, and let me just say for the record that, all things being equal, I would much rather be blogging about a show where Vikings battle werewolves every week, so if some network could get that series greenlit, I’d really appreciate it.

Things wrapped up, of course, with Bill finding Sookie, telling her once again to get lost, although in this case it really was for her own good. It’s too late, though: The King and all of his men burst into Alcide’s pad and try to take Sookie away, only to have her respond by exploding forth with a giant ball of light…not unlike she did to Maryanne, if memory serves. “Fantastic!” says the King. I’ll second that.