This week is the week of the Expository Flashback, which showcase events from the past that either prove Vince Gilligan is a freaking genius who has this entire show planned out like a game of Risk from the very beginning to the very end, or he’s the best retcon artist in the business. Whichever, a tip of my fancy fedora to you, sir.
First Expository Flashback: The scene at the hospital after Hank was shot and clinging to life, and Walt begged Gus to protect his family from the cartel. Gus put the blame squarely on the Scary Twins of Mexican Doom, which Walter gratefully accepted as the truth. That’s because Walt was still under the impression that Gus was a reasonable businessman instead of a lizard-hearted killer who will stop at absolutely nothing to get what he wants.
Second EF: After that scene, Gus went to visit Uncle Hector, the old cartel coot who foiled Walt’s sweet plan to poison Hector’s nephew, Tuco. Hector wanted Walt dead for that, you may recall, but Gus put a stop to that by giving the twins Hank instead. Sheesh, this show is more convoluted than the old testament. Anyway, Gus was there to tell Hector that his nephews are dead and, hey, so is Juan Bolta, the liaison between Gus and the cartel (and who, you may recall, Gus had killed in a bloody ambush at his own home). They’re all dead but Gus! Whee! “This is what comes of blood for blood, Hector.” Gus was obviously thrilled to relay these events to helpless Hector, but why? I have a feeling the blood we see for a few seconds in a swimming pool is a clue.
Back to present day. Walt is getting his latest PET CT scan done to see how his cancer’s coming along. He’s stuck in the waiting room with a frightened young guy who desperately needs to talk to someone about how scared he is. Walt, being Walt, doesn’t give a shit. When the guy waxes philosophical on the need to give up control of their lives, Walt does pay attention long enough to sneer. He sure as hell hasn’t given up control. In fact, until the cancer takes him, he’s in complete control of everything that happens to him! Oh, Walt. You are just begging for it, aren’t you? In the immortal words of Dr. Phil, how’s that workin’ for ya?
Walt goes from putting on a hospital gown to putting on his Hazmat suit (nice imagery, BTW). For the first time we see what’s on the other end of the security camera in the lab: it’s Gus’s laptop, also showing the laundry and its parking lot, the chicken farm, Los Pollos Hermanos and its parking lot, and Farmville. Just kidding. I see Gus as more an Angry Birds dude. Gus is hard at work at the restaurant, instructing some teenager on the care and maintenance of chicken frying equipment. (You have to wonder what drives Gus, because he lives a middle class life with a bad full time job, no matter what his side business is. What could his real motivation be for keeping a stranglehold on his drug empire? <–FORESHADOWING.) Gus gets a call from the DEA saying they want him to come in to answer a few questions. Oh ho, the pollos has come home to roost!
Gus is one unshakable mofo, you’ve got to give him that. Hank and his crew pepper him with questions, but he always has an answer cued up and ready to go. Why was his fingerprint in Gale’s apartment? Oh, they knew each other through the restaurant’s chemistry scholarship program, which you just know will check out. (Did you catch how the scholarship was named after someone named Maxamino, a friend of Gus’s “who died too young”? That’s going to be verrrry important before we’re through.) And where was Gus when Gale was shot? At a fund raiser; airtight alibi, bitch. And here comes Hank with his Colombo last-second question. How come there’s no record of a Gus Fring ever living in Chile? Because Pinochet wasn’t known for his crack filing system, was he now? Aaaand you’re free to go Mr. Fring, thank you for your co-operation. The only sign of cracks appearing in Gus’s marble facade is one twitching finger in the elevator ride down. He’s balancing on a razor’s edge these days, and he knows it. Do not ask for whom the elevator bell dings…it dings for thee.
So Hank has hit a brick wall. His associates lean strongly toward believing Gus (although whose side any of them are really on is up for debate), and that is that. Except this investigation is the only reason Hank has to live, so, you know. Maybe not.
We find Saul the lawyer making a visit to Jesse’s old girlfriend Andrea, aka “the life he could have had if not for Walter White”. He’s dressed for success in turquoise and fuchsia accent colours and a comb-over that would have Donald Trump fapping with jealousy. He’s here to give Andrea her weekly cash infusion from Jesse that’s allowed her to rent a place in a nice part of town, but not before dispensing some excellent love-life advice to her grade school aged son, Brock. “Carpe diem, okay?” Jesse is nowhere to be seen, though, just Saul’s bodyguard, sniffing his fingers as he waits on the front lawn. Jesse isn’t far, though. He’s waiting in the car down the street. When Saul, who doesn’t mind dropping off cheques “like Ed McMahon”, asks why Jesse doesn’t just go and visit them like a normal person, Jesse can’t even bear to stay in the car. He buggers off, leaving Saul and da Blob to go on without him.
In the meanwhile, Skyler (who’s generously given all her on-air time this episode to Gus so he can win an Emmy, too) has come up with a brilliant plan to hide all that money Walt’s given her. She wraps it in clothes and puts it in vacuum-seal storage bags in the closet. Tah dah! Except the entire thing collapses because money is way heavier than polyester. Oops. So she shoves it all in the crawl space under the house – didn’t Walt hide his money there at one point? Crawl spaces are the go-to hiding spot for drug money and creepy supernatural beings skunks, apparently.
Now that that’s out of the way, they can have a nice meal at their place with Hank and Marie. As an aside, I wonder how much actual pie and ice cream the cast had to eat to get this scene in the bag. See, that’s what I’m here for – to notice the really important stuff. Anyway, over dessert we find out Marie is thinking about her career againnow that Hank isn’t being such an infant, and Walt is still in remission. As if he didn’t even tell them until they had to ask. Marie also divulges that Hank is working a super sekrit case, but won’t tell her about it. Walt’s antennas go all the way up, but Hank’s not talking. He does, however have a little favour to ask of Walt.
Which is how Walt ends up driving Hank to a not!rock convention the next day. Walt is utterly blindsided when Hank reveals that the con was just a ruse to get him away from prying female ears. They’re actually going to…wait for it…the parking lot of Los Pollos Hermanos. Hank confesses that he suspects Gus of being a druglord no matter what the evidence says, and he wants Walt’s help to catch him. Ahahaha! Walt, who knows they’re on camera, starts sweating blood. Hank explains how he needs Walt to plant a bug on Gus’s car, so Hank can track his every movement. At this very moment, Mike pulls up next to them and gives Walt such a WTF look Priceless! See, that’s what you get, Walt, when you pronounce yourself in charge of your fate. Walt tries to bow out, but Hank bullies him into it. So Walt gets out and pretends to put the bug on the car, then proceeds into the restaurant because what else can he do?
And who’s at the counter to help him but Gus! Walt shows him that he didn’t put the bug on his car, but once again Walt’s a step behind Gus. Gus orders him (with a big smile, of course) to go through with the bugging, then gets him a nice Coke. I wonder if he made him pay for it? Walt goes back outside and plants the bug, and off they drive, Hank happy as all get out. Gus watches them leave from inside the restaurant. He’s no longer smiling. At all.
As soon as he’s able, Walt hies it back to the lab so he can plead his case to the security camera. He didn’t plan it! It’s all Hank’s fault! But don’t kill him because that would make Gus look guilty! After an appropriate amount of begging, Walt rushes to Jesse’s house, and doesn’t wait for, like, an invite to barge in. He demands that Jesse kill Gus ASAP, no, even sooner than that! He wants Jesse to set up a meeting with Gus that very night to kill him, by pretending he’s panicking over Hank. Jesse refuses, saying that Gus isn’t going to reassure Jesse if he thinks he’s turning into a liability, he’s going to waste him. He leaves the room to clear his head bladder, just in time for Walt to intercept a text on Jesse’s phone. Lo and behold, Jesse is bald-face lying to Walt, as Jesse was supposed to meet with Gus that evening. Walt knows now for sure that he can no longer trust Jesse to be loyal to him. The tides are shifting for everyone these days – the question now is who’s going to get caught in the undertow?
All is not lost for Gus just yet, mind you. He gets Mike to do some snooping, and discovers that Hank is conducting his groovy little investigation without authority, using an illegal bugging device, which could definitely rattle the cages of his superiors. Mike warns that Hank could still do serious damage if he’s watching when a scrap breaks out with the cartel. Gus reassigns the bug from his wheel well to a nearby garbage can and takes a drive to visit Uncle Hector. He informs him that Hank is looking into Gus’s past, which leads us directly to our third Expository Flashback.
It’s the late ‘80s, at Don Eladio’s villa in Mexico. He’s summoned a young (adorkable) Gus and his best friend Max to meet with him and his right hand men, Juan Bolta and Hector. Hector’s an asshole then, just as he manages to be now even as an invalid in a wheelchair. He compilments Gus and Max on their excellent chicken at their new restaurant, but is rather unhappy they’re dealing drugs to his men without the Don’s permission. No, they’re not dealing – they’re giving out free samples so the Don will see what a fine product they have. This, as it turns out, is not a good plan. The Don is insulted beyond what an apology can repair. Gus and Max explain in ever more anxious tones that Gus is just a businessman trying to introduce the Don to crystal meth, the drug of the future, and Max is his chemist protege and partner. Max insists that he can’t run the business without Gus, even if his contribution seems obscure. (OMG, Gus was the Jesse of his partnership! No wonder he “sees something” in him.) But the Don doesn’t see them as anything but the upstart competition. Just as we think that Gus is in real trouble, without any warning Hector shoots Max in the head, killing him instantly. Gus goes crazy, trying to get at Hector, but the other two pull him off and shove him to the ground, forcing him to stare into his dead friend’s eyes as his blood drains into the pool. You can practically see the plan forming then in Gus’s mind to get back at these men, to crush them and their empire. Which is, of course, exactly what he ends up doing. And why don’t they kill Gus? Don Eladio says it’s because he knows who he is, which is likely alluding to Gus’s well-guarded past in Chile. But, the Don points out somewhat redundantly, Gus is not in Chile anymore. What the heck did Gus do in his twenties? Yikes.
We end back in the nursing home, where Gus forces Hector to look at him just as Hector forced Gus to look at Max over twenty years ago. Is today the day, Gus asks him? No, but maybe next time. He pats Hector’s shoulder and leaves him to it. I like to think Gus is referring not to him one day killing poor drooling Hector, but something much worse: letting him live, watching with pleasure as the life slowly drains out of him in the tortuous prison his body has become while he waits for death to finally put him out of his misery.
God, I love this show.