Breaking Bad 4.5 – “Go ahead, kid. Smoke up.”

This week’s adventures of Walt and the gang kicked off like they were trying to emulate a classic “Starsky and Hutch” episode. I mean, seriously, all it was missing was the classic Lalo Schifrin theme song, and even then…well, maybe it’s just my imagination, but damned if it didn’t sound like they were trying to offer a little bit of a Schifrin vibe with the music that was playing behind Walt as he made his frantic phone call to Saul and the slightly less frantic follow-up to Skyler.

The beats were still rockin’ when we came back, but once Walt parked and popped into Los Pollos Hermanos, it was time to ratchet up the tension. Is Gus there? Is he watching Walt on the surveillance cameras? Is he going to try and slip out of his office, into his car, and away from harm? Or is Gus going to stay safely ensconced in the back of the restaurant and send a bunch of hired goons (hired goons?) to whack Walt? We don’t find out the score right away, thanks to the ear-damaged yet ever sarcastic Mike calling up and confirming Jesse’s safety…well, more or less, anyway. It’s a hilariously frustrating conversation for Walt, and it doesn’t really offer us much more in the way of clarification than the last moments of last week. Yes, Jesse’s with Mike, but where are they going? The lack of answers coupled with the additional news that he’s going to have to cook a batch of meth without his usual assistant finally sends Walt over the edge and behind the counter, only to learn that – well, what do you know? – Gus’s right-hand woman was telling the truth all along: he really wasn’t back there. Still, give Walt credit for having the cajones to bust back there and find out for himself.

So, seriously, what the hell is Mike going to do with Jesse? When we last left Jesse, he didn’t seem to care. Now, though, he’s a little more interested, which seems to bemuse Mike a bit. I’d be surprised if any of us really thought that the drive was going to end with Mike popping Jesse – I mean, Vince Gilligan might not be afraid to blow his viewers’ minds, but he’s not going to take out one of the show’s main characters a mere five episodes into this new season – but I did start theorizing what the situation might be, and after their first stop, I found myself wondering, “Is it possible that Mike’s seeing a bit of himself in Jesse?” It hadn’t occurred to me prior to when Mike started digging up the booty, but at the moment he told him how many more stops they had to make, I thought, “Maybe he’s working his way up to telling Jesse, ‘Look, I’ve killed people, too, and it never gets any easier.'” Jesse, however, just looked confused…and I’m sure I looked the same way when Mike blew my theory out of the water a few scenes later.

Time for a quick detour over to Hank’s place, where he’s taking what is, as far as he’s concerned, his last shot at the Heisenberg case. Oh, sure, it seems like closure for him, what with the evidence pointing to Gale as the man beneath the hat. But we know better. This isn’t over.

Meanwhile, back at the Super Lab, Hank’s making with the meth, looking utterly exhausted as he struggles to pull together this batch all by his lonesome. For the first time in awhile, I found myself wondering, “Jesus, should a guy with cancer – even cancer that’s in remission – really be working himself this hard?” I’m guessing not, but it doesn’t really matter: just as he finishes up at the office (such as it is), he has to rush home to sign off on the purchase of the car wash.

Not unlike the way he said “absolutely!” a few episodes ago, the post-signing discussion between Walt and Skyler felt about as hollow as the discussions they used to have before she kinda sorta figured out that he was working in the illegal pharmaceutical industry. Sadly, Skyler seems oblivious to this fact, which is underlined by the hard and fast bedroom encounter that goes on after she hears his message on the answering machine, but while their coitus is based on a blend of lies and an “I love you” spoken whilst fearing his imminent death, I gotta say, it might’ve been worth it just for that shot of Junior saying, “Oh, God,” and walking back down the hallway. Hilarious. But moving back in…? It’s what Walt’s been dreaming of, but with all the danger he’s dealing with at the moment, he just can’t bring himself to make that dream come true.

Aaaaaaaand it’s back to the SuperLab, where Walt’s frustration at flying solo comes rushing to the surface when he sends a barrel spiraling off the forklift and across the floor. Drawing a line in the sand, he refuses to make any further meth until Jesse finds his way safely back to work. Instead, Gus’s new right-hand man hops behind the wheel and does the driving for Walt. Well, it’s something, anyway.

Returning to Mike’s faithful Fifth Avenue, Jesse sits sleepily in the passenger seat and waits for Mike to take care of the final pick-up, not noticing that a vehicle’s pulled up behind him. Fortunately, the shadowy figure – and his shotgun – catches his eye just in time for him to hop behind the wheel, throw the car into reverse, and take out both the gunman and his getaway man. Whipping out of the alleyway, Jesse’s off like…well, he is off like a shot, actually. Too bad it’s without Mike. I knew he’d come back for him, though, and so he did, which clearly surprised Mike a bit. Go on, don’t tell me you didn’t smile when he said, “Go ahead, kid. Smoke up.”

Ah, the father-son chat over coffee: a longstanding family tradition. Whether Skyler actually told Junior that Walt was moving back in on Tuesday or Junior’s playing Walt because he thinks he’ll believe that Skyler said it, the only certainty is that no matter how close Walt may have been to coming home, it all fell apart when his eye – and the camera’s – fell on the fact that Junior was drinking from a Beneke Fabricators mug.

Aaaaaaaand then it’s back to the SuperLab again, where Walt finds…Jesse? Yep, he’s back, and he’s proud to announce that not only has he been busy takin’ care of business with Mike, but as far as concerned, he’s now a two-job man…except – and, okay, I admit it: even though I shouldn’t have been, I was surprised by this – the whole day with Mike was actually an elaborate plan devised by Gus to reinvigorate Jesse’s psyche and make him feel like a hero.

To wrap things up, it’s off to another family dinner at Hank and Marie’s place, where everything seems normal except for Walt’s decidedly heroic intake of wine. When he walked into the kitchen and started trying to use the knife to peel off the wrapping around the cork of another bottle of vino, I cringed, presuming that blood was an inevitability, but, no, it was a smooth removal of both wrapper and cork, followed by the prompt refilling and emptying of his glass. But with that said, given what happened the last time Walt got rip-roaring drunk around Hank, I still felt on edge, fearing what might come out of his mouth at any moment…and then when Hank started praising Gale for all he was worth, the tension got even worse. Finally, Walt couldn’t resist any longer. He opened his big, fat mouth…and I think there’s little question that his foot going to end up smack dab in the middle of that wide open maw. Indeed, based on Hank’s change in mood and his sudden fascination with Los Pollos Hermanos, I hope you’ll forgive me if I suggest that we’re well on our way to seeing the chickens come home to roost.

A pair of closing comments:

* Given the sketch that Hank’s ABQ detective buddy passes him, I think we all have to admit that poor Victor’s demise was, in the grand scheme of things, exactly what needed to happen to keep Gus’s meth empire alive and kicking. Granted, it probably didn’t have to go down quite so violently, but…

* FYI, I’ve got one of those Beneke mugs, too…and they’re awesome.

Lastly, let’s wrap up with a song that I couldn’t get out of my head after I saw the official title to tonight’s episode. Take it away, Junior Walker…


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