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…
Oh, man, not another intense-violence warning! Which of Gus’s friends, acquaintances, and/or employees is getting killed this week?
I don’t mean that as a spoiler. Indeed, when I wrote that sentence, I didn’t know whether I was being facetious or not. I was just playing the odds, baby…and when the first thing we saw this week after the aforementioned warning was a broken pair of glasses and droplets of blood falling onto a hardwood floor and the toe of a shoe, you’ll forgive me if I felt relatively confident that those odds were in my favor. As it turned out, I was right: someone in Gus’s camp did bite the dust. It just wasn’t anyone we particularly cared about. But we’ll get to that in a minute.
Hank is positively giddy at the thought of heading over to Los Pollos Hermanos to pick up the tracking device and see where Gus has been driving for the past week…so giddy, in fact, that he’s crooning Survivor’s signature hit pretty much all the way to the restaurant. Walt, however, is more than a little bit antsy about being on the premises, refusing even to step inside the establishment, telling Hank, “We’ll grab something from the drive-thru.” When they get back to the house and check the device’s history, however, Hank is pissed at the “chicken-slinging son of a bitch,” dismissing Walt’s suggestion that maybe he might be innocent, declaring, “A guy this clean’s got to be dirty.”
Leaving Hank’s house, Walt runs into Gus’s right-hand man and makes the remarkably ballsy decision to call the cops on him right in front of him. Anyone think this is going to come back to bite Walt in the ass? Yeah, me, too. Then when Walt pulls up outside the SuperLab and gets into conversation with Jesse, he endeavors to make small talk, smoking cigarettes and talking “Ice Road Truckers,” though it’s clear the only thing he really wants to know is the status of Operation Fringdown. “Don’t you have enough cancer already?” snaps Jesse. “Look, I said I’d do it. I’ll do it.” “What does it matter?” asks Walt. “We’re both dead men, anyway.”
The fact that this week’s episode presented us with the same pre-game warning as the season premiere – “This program contains intense violence which may be unsuitable for some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.” – should’ve served as a tip-off for just about everyone that there was no way we’d make it to the closing credits without getting some sort of “holy shit” moment, but, holy shit, what a moment. Hell, even without the violence, this was an intense episode all around.
We begin the proceedings with a flashback to Episode 3.8, which took place in the wake of the Cousins’ attack on Hank. What we didn’t see at the time, however, was Gus’s visit to see the Cousins’ uncle, Hector “Tio” Salamanca, and tell him of their fate, saying, “This is what comes of blood for blood, Hector.” And then we get a shot of the viscous red substance in question, floating through a swimming pool. If you’re like me, you were already thinking, “Oh, this is gonna be good,” and if so, then surely you weren’t disappointed by episode’s end.
Hey, what do you know? “Breaking Bad” finally takes time to acknowledge that Walt is still being treated for cancer. This scene really underlined how much he’s changed since his initial diagnosis, however. So Walt’s living his life as if he’s in charge, huh? Yeah, he talks big, instantly dismissing the fears and concerns of the poor bastard who’s sharing the waiting area with him, but the second we see him back in his usual environment, he looks completely lost and mostly hopeless…which is, at least momentarily, a look he shares with Gus when the latter gets a phone call to pop ’round the ABQ police department. With Walt, though, I have to wonder if he got a report on a cancer that he wasn’t expected. But we’ll get back to that.
Not being a video game aficionado, I actually had to Google “Rage” to see if it was a real game or something that was created for the show, because it seemed like it could go either way. Indeed, it is a real game, and I have to suspect that there are a lot of people over at id Software giddy at its use within an episode of “Breaking Bad.” I also wonder if, in fact, they’ll manage to find a way to slip a facsimile of Gale Boetticher into some future sequel, given how Jesse found himself seeing Gale’s face as he shot at his onscreen targets. “Mission failed. Restart?” Jesse’s answer is a resounding yes. This bodes poorly, methinks…
Yep, Junior’s new car is going back, as was only inevitable once Skyler stepped into the situation, but just because she’s being sensible about the financial goings-on within the White house doesn’t mean that Walt has to like it. The combination of having to pay an $800 restocking fee for the vehicle and his general annoyance at Skyler telling him not to “tangle” with anyone leaves him so pissed off that he decides to take it for a rapid-fire test drive before returning it, but when he manages to fuck up the car in the middle of a goddamned parking lot, he decides to blow the vehicle to kingdom come. A hysterical scene, to be sure, but with some seriously dark undertones: he’s quite literally got money to burn at this point, and he doesn’t care how wasteful he is with his material possessions.
Fortunately, after a quick trip to Saul Goodman’s office, any major charges against Walt for his big bang have been whittled down to “misdemeanor trash burning, but we see a particularly nasty side of Walt at this point, snapping at Saul, “Just tell me it’s done.” Walt remains convinced that Gus wants him dead, even though Jesse’s told Saul that Gus needs him too much to kill him. Saul refuses to help hook Walt up with a hit man, however, explaining that A) anyone he knows also knows Mike, and B) hiring anyone he doesn’t know is risking someone who might not get the job done, and when it comes to Gus, “just winging that guy is not gonna ameliorate your situation. Not by a damned sight.” Saul’s recommendation: talk to Jesse, who’s the only other person besides Mike who’s actually been around Gus recently.
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.