Walt’s not wearing his seatbelt. That’s our first clue that everything is falling to pieces right before our eyes at the beginning of tonight’s episode. He’s speeding through the city like he’s Stage 4 Vin Diesel, weaving and dodging traffic. Jesse is missing, and by God he’s not going to stand idly by while his partner gets killed or worse. He makes a frantic phone call to his lawyer Saul, shouting that if anything should happen to him, Saul has to make sure that Skyler gets all the money. He makes another phone call, this one to Skyler. She’s not home, but he leaves a message on her machine telling her that he loves her and the kids. It makes it worse that he tries to sound calm so he doesn’t scare her when she hears it. Then he digs his gun out from under the seat and carefully sets it next to him. Oh Walt, what are you doing this time?
What he’s doing is rushing head-long into yet another dangerous point of no return, which he seems to seek out more and more these days, saved only by more level heads around him (or heads that are almost cut off, whichever). He charges into Gus’s fast food joint, gun a-loaded and quivering in his jacket pocket. He demands to see Gus, who has wisely made himself scarce. Honestly, Gus must miss the good old days when all he had to worry about was the Mexican drug cartels instead of this wacko high school chemistry teacher. Walt’s plans for a bloody confrontation are abruptly curtailed by a call from Mike, who assures him that Jesse is just fine, sitting next to him in his car at this very moment. Walter has no choice but to believe it when he hears Jesse’s s’up for himself. Walt reluctantly heads back to the lab to cook alone. What on earth could Gus be up to? And will a box-cutter be making another guest appearance?
That’s also the question Jesse is asking himself as Mike stops the car in the middle of nowhere. It’s one thing to have a death wish, quite another to have Mike show up unexpectedly from the Make-A-Wish Foundation. Suddenly, dying doesn’t seem like such a swell idea after all. Jesse shoves his keys between his fingers, vowing to go down fighting if it comes to that. Mike gets out of the car and opens the back trunk. OMG, is he going to get a rifle?! No, he takes out a shovel. OMG, is he going to bash out Jesse’s brains with the shovel?! No, he walks right past him and starts to dig. OMG, is he digging Jesse’s shallow grave?! Nope, he digs up a bag of money and gets back in the car. Let’s everybody just calm down now. Apparently Jesse’s just along to keep Mike company while he picks up the day’s dead drops from the drug dealers (that’s some dope alliteration right there, grammar hos). From the look on Mike’s face, this wasn’t his idea.
Back in town, Hank is having another bedside meeting with his buddy Tim from work. Tim still wants Hank’s help on the Gale Boetticher murder, but Hank doesn’t have much to say on the topic. He’s certain one of the only people connected to the blue meth, Badger, didn’t do it, and he’d be very surprised if it was Jesse Pinkman. Believe me, Hank – Jesse was as surprised as you. Tim also has a police sketch of poor dead Victor, but Hank doesn’t recognize him. Tim tells Hank to keep the sketch anyway, and if there are any new breaks he’ll make sure Hank knows about them. But Hank isn’t interested. Now that the elusive Heisenberg is dead, he doesn’t have the heart or inclination to follow the case any further. Tim packs up the file and departs. But forget about all that: Hank was in the 2006 Team DEA fun run! Ah, remember when Hank’s legs used to actually work? Good times.
It’s been a long day for Mike and Jesse. Jesse’s decided that he should have a gun if he’s going to be Mike’s backup. Mike decides that he really shouldn’t. He also can’t help Mike with the bags of money, listen to loud music on the radio, play with his pack of cigs, and he definitely can’t smoke in the car. Jesse is bored to tears, and begs Mike to tell him what his job is exactly, because if he’s the guy he needs to know. Mike pulls over and sets him straight that he is not working with Mike in any way shape or form. Which begs the question, why is he there then? In that regard, Mike is no less in the dark than Jesse. They’re both just going to suffer through this, you got it? They drive on.
Walt is doing some suffering of his own, struggling to finish the cook by himself with those heavy bags of chemicals and confusing fork lifts. Hank may be a genius, but he’s never met a barrel that hasn’t kicked his ass. It’s so odious that he barely makes it in time to sign the papers to buy the car wash. Skyler is nervous, but Walt doesn’t really care about any of it. In the grand scheme of his life, the failure of the car wash is at the dead bottom of the list of things he needs to worry about. She makes him promise from here on out, no more secrets now that they’re a team. What can he do but agree? They celebrate the momentous occasion with a glass of (cheap!) booze. While Skyler is pouring, she notices a message on her answering machine. It’s Walt in his moment of panic, calling to say he loves her and their kids. She stares at him. Does she see through his shaky facade and realize that he just went through a work situation where he believed he would likely end up dead by the end of the day? No she does not, she swallows it whole and jumps him, which I predicted a couple of episodes ago ::breathes on fingernails and shines them on my shirt::. They scramble to the bedroom, where they proceed to tear off each other’s clothes. It’s a nice touch that when Walt takes his glasses off, the scene goes blurry for us, too. But we can tell they have a good, and rather loud, time.
When it’s all over but the grinning, Walt Jr. comes home. They hastily run for their clothes and shut the bedroom door but he still realizes what’s going on, much to his abject disgust. After that mishap, Skyler suggests Walt moves back in. Walt doesn’t answer, and goes back to the lab instead. When it takes him approximately 45 minutes to unsuccessfully move one barrel, he refuses to work alone anymore and goes to sulk in the back. When someone comes in, he thinks it’s Jesse, but it’s only Victor 2.0, who knows how to use a forklift very well indeed, thank you. Perhaps Jesse isn’t quite as indispensable as Walt would have them believe.
Speaking of Jesse, Mike goes into a warehouse and leaves Jesse in the car for the last bag pickup of the day. He’s doing his best sleepy air-drum solo when a man armed with a shotgun tries to sneak up from behind the car. That wakes him up. Mike has left the keys in the ignition, and Jesse wastes no time to start the engine, put the car in reverse, and try to run over the guy (who jumps out of the way). Jesse keeps going, smashing right into the car the guy’s getaway driver is in. Jesse slams his car into drive and peels away with the bad guys in hot pursuit. Mike runs out of the warehouse as fast as his bad knees will carry him, but Jesse is long gone, and so is Mike’s only mode of transportation. Mike makes a call to get a ride, but at that moment Jesse pulls up beside him in the car. He’s out of breathe, adrenaline pumping, eager to tell the tale of How He Saved All the Money. “I saw,” says Mike. When Jesse starts to light a cigarette, Mike lets him. The balance of their relationship has subtly shifted, much to both of their bemusement.
The next morning, Walt gets up after sleeping over at Skyler’s. He meets Walt Jr. in the kitchen, where they take a minute to re-acquaint themselves with each other. Walt Jr. is eager to say how happy he is that Walt is moving back in on Tuesday, which is what his mom told him. Wait, what? How easily the wheels slip back into the old ruts. One day and Skyler is already trying to yank his strings this way and that. But the old Walt who allowed that is gone, and it doesn’t look like he’s coming back. Walt goes to the lab, only to find Jesse there bright and early, sober and already working. He tells Walt that he spent the last day guarding Mike while they made dead drops. “You…guarded Mike?” Walt asks incredulously. “Is this some kind of joke?” But it’s no joke to Jesse, who informs him that he fought off an armed robber and saved the day. He took care of business, just like he’s taking care of business now in the lab. He orders Walt to suit up and get to work, because he’s meeting Mike later that day. “I guess I have two jobs now,” he says, and plugs his ear buds. The conversation is over, yo. It seems Jesse has found his sense of value just in time to pull him back from the precipice.
I never get tired of seeing Gus perform the mundane tasks of a fast food manager. Today he’s schlepping the garbage out behind the restaurant, but takes a quick detour into Mike’s car, which is waiting there for him. He wants a report of the night before – not of Jesse’s performance, but of the “robbers” who pretended to be after the money. It all went just as Gus thought it would, more or less, says Mike. Gus assures Mike he’ll reimburse him for the damage to the vehicles. He can tell that Mike is wondering what the hell the point of the exercise was, but Mike doesn’t bother to ask, and Gus doesn’t bother to explain. For whatever opaque reason, “Just like you wanted, the kid’s a hero.” But we already know the results of Gus’s stroke of brilliance, don’t we? Thanks to Gus, Jesse’s found a reason to live again. Gus could teach Skyler a thing or two about pulling the puppet strings. And that, my friends, is why Gus is at the top of the food chain.
The White family is over for supper again at Marie and Hank’s place. The conversation is much lighter this time around, with a bit of baby smoochin’ and good-natured ribbing thrown in. Everyone is having a good time…except Walt. The only thing that’s keeping him going is the wine that he’s downing as fast as he can pour it. It didn’t take long at all for the walls of domesticity to start closing in on him like prison bars. In a way, you can’t blame the guy. How can a person go from murder and intrigue and chess-move survival tactics to the boring ho-hum of “normal” life? The security of family straight-jackets Walt now. It smothers him. When Walt Jr. asks about the case of the crazy singing guy from their last visit, Hank tells them he’s no longer involved in the case. At long last, Walt is safe from Hank’s prying; you’d think Walt would be happier about it. But Hank also talks about Gale, and what a genius he was and what a tragedy that he decided to do bad with his gifts instead of good. That’s quite enough for Walt, who’s by now three and a half sheets to the wind. He interrupts Hank to semi-respectfully disagree, that by the looks of Gale’s notebook, he wasn’t the genius at all – he was merely copying someone else’s work. “This genius of yours – maybe he’s still out there.” And boy, does Hank perk up at that suggestion. Skyler can’t believe what she’s hearing. I don’t know if she understood that Hank was referring to himself, but if she did, can the fact that someone Walt worked with was shot dead in cold blood be far behind? Walt is drawing a line in the sand that he can’t take back, and that’s how he likes it. May the best man win, right Walt? You foolish, foolish man.
The next day, Marie arrives home (which by the way looks like an eggplant swallowed a grenade in her kitchen) to find Hank poring over the entire box of files from the murder case. She’s excited that he’s changed his mind about quitting and he, well, he apologizes for making a mess in the kitchen. WAT. Looks like as Walt nose-dives down into the darkness, Hank is starting to look up into the light. My oh my. As he riffles happily through the papers, Hank can’t help but wonder though: if Gale was a vegan fair trade type, why did he have a napkin from Los Pollos Hermanos? Why indeed?
I did want to mention that it was announced today that Breaking Bad has been renewed by AMC for a fifth and final season. There are going to be 16 episodes that might very well be split into two shorter seasons. :/ Although I’m sure we all will miss these characters fiercely and with good reason, I do think it was the best decision to let Vince Gilligan end this story on his own terms, telling the story he wants to tell. The last thing we want is this show to jump the shark and have to witness Walt and Jesse…I don’t know…discover they have superpowers because of the radiation from the lab. I’d watch that, yes. But I’d be very, very ashamed of it.