September 12th, 2011
01:03 PM ET
After focusing so much on pulling the threads of the figurative (chemistry teacher) sweater to reveal what was underneath, the past few weeks on "Breaking Bad" have been violent.
That’s not to say last night was light on the storytelling. For one, we finally found out the cartel’s question: Will you give us your meth recipe? Before deciding to give them the math behind the meth, though, Gus made a grand spectacle in the middle of a firefight to prove he was no folding coward.
With the reckless abandon of season 1-era Walter White, Gus walked straight into the cartel’s sniper fire. In the face of such badassery, the gunman flashed a respectful smirk and disengaged, natch. Though Gus was unscathed physically, his pride surely took a hit when he decided it was time to share that secret Pollos Hermanos recipe.
Gus may have been calm throughout the shootout, but Jesse still isn’t used to this whole “violence” thing. His afternoon began with a colleague’s head getting blown off and ended with the all-too-familiar barrel o’ goo, so he was understandably spooked.
Subsequently, he requested face time with the boss, and over a meticulously prepared dinner (which Jesse decided NOT to taint with ricin), Gus explained the situation to Jesse, who then explained it to Walt (and the viewers) the next day. The gist: In order to avoid full-scale war, Jesse and the crew will be going to Mexico to teach the cartel the ways of the blue meth, while Walt holds down the fort and keeps cooking stateside.
Speaking of Walt, he thinks he’s ahead of the curve by playing chess. Only problem is, everyone else is using the other side of the board to play backgammon. Case in point: he’s fixated on the idea that Gus is out to kill him, not realizing Gus is taking the “dance with the girl you brought” approach, since a sniveling cook is the least of his worries now.
Walt’s biggest error in this stretch of the series has been using Jesse like a pawn, forgetting that he’s a human and not actually a tiny, carved piece of wood with a little nubbin on top that can only move one square at a time.
The deeper Walt sinks into his Vast Chicken Wing Conspiracy, the further he pushes away his only supporter in Jesse. And that brings us to last night’s gut-wrenching face-off between the two. Jesse came to Walt seeking guidance, legitimately terrified at the prospect of going to Mexico. Yet Walt ignored his pleas and belittled him in the process (what else is new?).
Rather than increase Jesse’s chances of survival in Mexico (and thus the survival of the entire business), Walt fed his own machinations. Rather than pay attention to the oodles of inside information Jesse was spouting, Walt was convinced he saw the “big picture,” even if said picture is an ink blot of his own making.
As a result, Walt revealed he had bugged Jesse’s car, resulting in Jesse giving Walt a UFC-style beatdown. In a matter of hours, Jesse went from telling Gus “You kill Mr. White, you’re gonna have to kill me” to telling Walt (in much harsher phrasing) “Get out and never come back.” So now, like Alan in “The Hangover,” Walt is a one-man wolf pack. I miss the good old days when Walt was running over people for Jesse and Jesse was shooting people in the face for Walt. The days when they would frolic in the desert together and turn bodies into acid goo (cue: “Memory”).
While the dynamic duo fell apart, Skyler got a visit from Ted Beneke, the man with whom she cheated on corporate taxes (and her husband), because he was being audited. Realizing this minor bit of book-cooking could bring an end to her husband’s lucrative meth-cooking, Al Capone style, Skyler swooped in and pulled the ol’ “slutty, vacuous accountant” bit (think Kitty from “Arrested Development”). Is it me, or was that sequence a little too…sitcom-y?
Anyway, Skyler’s ruse worked, but Ted insisted he still wouldn’t be able to pay the back taxes. I got the sense Ted is going to commit suicide before Skyler has a chance to bail him out with meth money. I hope I’m wrong, because I cannot WAIT to see how Walt reacts when he inevitably finds out his hard-earned cash is going to the man who slept with his wife.
And I can’t wait to see next week’s Mexico trip. The bar has been set pretty high for destination episodes, like “The Brady Bunch” going to Hawaii or “Saved by the Bell” at Malibu Sands. Can “Breaking Bad” eclipse those gems?
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