No violence warning this week? So that means it’ll be a nice, relaxing affair, right? Suuuuuuuuuuuuure it will…
Things kick off with Gus, Mike, and Jesse loitering in a field, but their loitering is short-lived, as a candy apple red airplane flies down and waits for them to embark. Gus and Mike do so without hesitation. Jesse…? Not so much. He does indeed step aboard, however, and after Mike closes the door, they’re off the ground and into the wild blue yonder. You can practically hear Jesse’s jangling nerves, which is no doubt why Gus offers him four words delivered quietly but with certainty: “You can do this.” What are we to make of the look on Mike’s face? Is he less confident of Jesse, or does he perhaps think the whole thing is a bad idea? We shall see…
“You have reached Walter White. At the tone, please state your name, number, and the reason for your call. Thank you.” No, thank you, Walt…but where the hell are you? Not with your wife and child, anyway, that’s for sure. As a result, he’s not there to see Junior’s face when Skyler presents him with his birthday present…which, all things being equal, Skyler probably wishes she’d missed, too. Clearly, her efforts to pick out a car that was actually in a price range that they could afford have only served to remind him of the car that his dad bought him that he wasn’t allowed to keep. You can kind of understand his reaction, but you can see the hurt it’s caused Skyler, and it’s pretty depressing, actually.
Saul Goodman looks nervous and antsy. We’ve seen him look like this when he’s getting twitchy about Gus or Mike, but why would Ted Beneke inspire such a reaction? Possibly because he’s been tasked with selling an incredibly ridiculous story: that the monetary holdings of Ted’s late great aunt from Luxembourg, who died eight years ago, are now his. Of course, this is a relative Ted’s been completely unaware of up to this point – possibly (but not definitely) because she doesn’t actually exist…although if this is Skyler’s plan, I have to believe she’s done the research and can at least back up the genealogy – but that doesn’t stop him from getting a big, fat smile on his face when he hears how much money he’s come into. Will he grow suspicious of the timing? We’ll see…
Back on solid ground, Gus, Mike, and Jesse are blindfolded and in a humvee, heading to the Mexican cartel’s translation of the SuperLab. Unsurprisingly, Jesse looks a little nervous about the fact that he’s surrounded by guys with guns, and he’d probably be even more nervous if he’d realized that the head chemist had, upon learning which of them would be teaching him the meth formula, said, “Is this a joke?” Clearly, the cartel doesn’t do things quite the way Walt’s been doing them, which Jesse discovers when he learns that, rather than bringing in pre-prepared henylacetic acid, they make their own in-house. Although Jesse doesn’t habla Espanol, he does habla the tone of someone speaking insultingly of him, and he doesn’t take kindly to it, which is why, as soon as he realizes that the head chemist comprehends English, he’s off and running with more self-confidence than…y’know, I think this might be the most we’ve ever seen in him. I have to admit that I was either smiling or laughing throughout Jesse’s taking control, but never more so than when they cut to the expressions of Gus and Mike. Suddenly, I could hear the voice of Trent from “Swingers”: “Our little baby’s all grown up.” Which is only appropriate, because the smile on Gus’s face at the end of the scene? That was money…and more than a little bit paternal, unless I miss my guess.
Oh, right, that’s why Walt didn’t answer the phone: because Jesse beat the living shit out of him last week. (How soon we forget…) I was left dumbfounded by this scene, although when you consider how much has gone on in the past 3+ seasons and how much Walt’s had to keep from Junior, it’s no wonder that he finally lost his shit when, in the wake of his ass-beating from someone he’d come at various times to see almost as a surrogate son, he’d missed his real son’s 16th birthday party. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that’s just the father in me speaking. But I really do think that that’s what led to the emotion on Walt’s part as well as the closest he’s come to touching on what he’s being doing behind Junior’s back. He begs Junior not to tell Skyler that he’s been in a fight, but given his emotional breakdown and the look on Junior’s face at the end of the scene, you know that if he doesn’t tell his mother about it, he’s sure as hell going to tell his uncle Hank.
Meanwhile, back at Laboratorio Estupendo, they’re filming Jesse’s every move as he goes through the motions and makes the meth precisely as Walt has trained him to do. Hooray! It’s a success! Decidedly less hooray-worthy: when success inspires the words, “You belong to the cartel now.” I reckon my jaw would’ve dropped at that news, too.
Thank you, Saul Goodman, for relieving a little bit of the tension with the laughter from your suggestion that celebrities need their cars washed, too. As we sensed earlier, Saul’s of the belief that the Ted’s-dead-aunt scheme has been brought to you by Bad Idea Jeans, but Skyler’s comfortable that she’s helped a pal out of a tough spot. Except, uh, not so much. Rather than paying off his tax debt, Ted went and bought himself a new Mercedes. Well, okay, he’s only leasing it, but you can’t blame Saul for being unable to completely hide his cheery demeanor when telling Skyler, “I told you so!”
When Walt rouses himself and crawls out of bed, he finds that Junior has opted to stick around and have a siesta on the couch. First Walt’s concerned that Skyler’s going to be worried sick that Junior didn’t come home, then when Junior tells him that he called her, Walt gets worried on a whole other level. He needn’t have been concerned, however: Junior didn’t narc on his dad. What follows when Walt begins to talk to Junior is the sort of scene that gets sent to Emmy voters as a reason to nominate someone for the Best Actor Emmy, and although Bryan Cranston generally has these kinds of moments throughout any given season of “Breaking Bad,” this is definitely his tour de force for Season 4. Maybe it’ll topped sometime over the next couple of weeks, but I’m not holding my breath. Between Walt’s speech here and Jesse’s speech in the lab, this whole episode has got Emmy written all over it…oh, but, wait, we’re not even done talking about the scene. First of all, you can see the wheels turning in Walt’s head when Junior makes the comment about how he seemed more “real” last night than he’d seen at any point in the previous year. Is he going to tell his son what’s going on? Surely not…but then again, you never know with Walt. Then, after Walt drives off, Gus’s right-hand man pulls up and asks, “Somewhere you should be…?” I couldn’t quite read the look on Walt’s face, but I can’t imagine that even the prospect of making meth for Gus is enough to bring him down from the high he’s gotten from this chat with Junior.
Watching Skyler’s encounter with Ted was one of the most painful scenes I’ve had to endure in quite some time. Seriously, it was agonizing. Ted just wasn’t going to concede that she was right about what he should do with the money, letting his ego get in the way of his common sense, and in the end, Skyler’s ego took her down as well, forcing her to effectively say, “Look, you dumbass, who the hell do you think gave you the money in the first place?” I admit that it was almost predictable that it ended that way, which is something that “Breaking Bad” almost never is, but it’s also the only way it really could have ended. Skyler was never, ever going to let Ted get away with that.
The expression on Gus’s face as he stood beside the Don’s pool might’ve been inscrutable to anyone who hadn’t seen Episode 4.8, but for us, it was obvious what memories were at the forefront of his mind. For all of tonight’s great speeches, Mike got the best one-liner of the night when telling Jesse the status quo as far as his having to stay in Mexico: “Either we’re all going home or none of us are.” Funny how the Don actually looked older 20 years ago that he does today…but, then, he’s probably been able to afford a considerable amount of plastic surgery, what with his ever-growing criminal empire. Gus’s stiffness during the Don’s embrace is apparent, as is the look on his face when the Don makes the comment about how Jesse will have plenty of time to learn Spanish. When the Don spotted the gift, I couldn’t imagine it was a bomb, just because I knew that the guy had way too many people on hand for anyone to have been able to slip in an explosive device. Indeed, it was…a bottle of tequila? Well, fair enough. Nothing wrong with a little tequila. Poisoned? If so, it’s got to be something that Gus has got an antidote for…but, no, it seems to be fine and dandy.
I’m not sure who looked more awkward: Jesse when the bikini girl sat on his lap and gave him a cigar, or Gus during the Don’s “business is business” speech. The tensions in the scene really started to run high post-tequila. If Mike’s right, we know that Gus has got to be planning something. We just don’t know what, but as far as the when, we know it’s got to be soon. Clearly, the Don is as suspicious as we are when, after getting the verbal “spanking,” Gus’s first reaction is to visit the lavatory…and as soon as Gus puts his finger down his throat, we know that the shit is about to go down. Watching all of the Don’s team go down – with his right-hand man getting a little added assistance on that front from Mike and his piano wire (or whatever the hell the preferred method of strangulation is nowadays) – was awesome, albeit in a really dark kind of way, and I’ve got to say that the seething anger on the Don’s face was fantastic, so kudos to my recent interview subject, Stephen Bauer. And then to follow that with Gus’s scream of warning / cry of victory to everyone within earshot, and an ending which left us uncertain of the ultimate fates of both Gus and Mike…?
I’ve only got nine words for you:
Best goddamned episode of the season…for now, anyway.
Tags: Aaron Paul, Bob Odenkirk, Breaking Bad blog, Breaking Bad fourth season, Breaking Bad Season 4, Bryan Cranston, Christopher Cousins, Dean Norris, Giancarlo Esposito, Gus Fring, Jesse Pinkman, Jonathan Banks, Saul Goodman, Skyler White, Steven Bauer, Ted Beneke, Walter White