Breaking Bad 4.04 – Bullet Points

“For a fired school teacher who cooks crystal meth, I’d say you’re coming out pretty much ahead.”

This week we find ourselves with Mike in the back of a Los Pollos Hermanos van, dressed for the cold, his breath steaming. Maybe he’s coming to visit me in Canada! \0/ Or maybe he’s traveling with a refrigerated shipment of something nefarious to make sure it gets to its destination without any hiccups. And it’s a good thing he is, because the van is abruptly stopped by persons unknown. Mike listens to this unfold as he sits in the dark amidst the pails of frying batter, reacting as only he can: with weary irritation as he makes sure his gun is ready to fire. You’d think when the driver gets shot in the head outside that Mike would at least flinch, but no. Just another crappy day in the employ of Gus Fring (whose last name, it occurs to me, sounds an awful lot like an item Los Pollos Hermanos might sell on its 99 cent menu).  

He sighs and stacks a few boxes in front of himself to stop the inevitable hail of bullets that follow. The gunmen gingerly open the back doors and step inside – only to be shot right back out again. Mike gets out of the truck into the blazing new Mexico sun and takes his wool aviator hat off. Blast the luck, a stray bullet has shot off the tip of his ear. He pushes it back on as best he can, the expression on his face clear: I am getting too old for this shit.

Ow ow ow ow ow ow

Skyler has her own stress to bear, although not quite as bloody as Mike’s. She and Walt have decided to confess to Hank and Walt Jr. that Walt is Heisenberg and a cold blooded killer to boot. Ha ha! Just kidding. They’re going to come clean with the story they’ve already told Marie, that Walt is addicted to gambling and made a ton of dough counting cards, and that’s how come they have enough money to buy the car wash. Skyler, who doesn’t do anything in half measures if you haven’t noticed, wants everything to be perfect for the big reveal, and she goes about it in her usual methodical accountant way. I can actually see why these two crazy kids got together way back when; they’re both definitely left-brainers, and I don’t mean it as a compliment.

She drags Walt to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting so they can learn just which tune they need to whistle to be believable. Walt, who isn’t taking it quite as seriously, nods off. She forces him to attempt to count cards, which Walt understands in theory but finds it more difficult to put into practice. I had wondered why he didn’t think to just count cards to begin with when he was diagnosed with cancer, but here’s my answer. Walter sucks at blackjack. He isn’t going to be showing up on Card Shark Week over on Discovery any time soon. They agree that since he’s in “recovery” maybe he shouldn’t even be pretending to gamble. Good call. But she’s not done yet. She’s made a six page bullet-point list of everything they need to memorize, from his emotional state when he got his terminal diagnosis to their marriage troubles to his deep, deep shame. After all, Hank and Marie need to be able to see how he could do something so stupid. Hee!

I have a feeling Skyler wants this act to mirror what’s really happened in their lives, that given half the chance Walt will finally admit that becoming a meth cook was a terrible thing that ruined their lives. Of course, it seems to me that Walt feels like his life didn’t really start until he started cooking meth, but that’s another therapy session. He’s still standing by the theory that he does this to provide for his family, no matter how ludicrous that might sound given everything that’s happened. He still views himself as the good guy, and maybe even the guy who’s been wronged, much to Skyler’s ever lovin’ disgust. Still, he actually apologizes to Skyler at this point…then makes sure she knows it’s just part of the act – he’s not sorry for any of it. Oh, Walt.

Walt can’t understand why they don’t just tell Hank that they’re paying for his medical bills, until Skyler reminds him how he became a freaking drug dealer rather than accept help. Point taken. Whatever Walt’s misgivings, Skyler is sure that if they just handle this like a high school production of Death of a Salesman, things will go off without a hitch. She suggests he stare down at his feet with remorse while she works up a tear or two. When he makes fun of her, she snaps back, “Yes, I’m thorough. Maybe lying doesn’t come as easily to me as it does to you.” Ouch.

So off they go to Marie and Hank’s with supper in hand, which prompts Hank to dis Marie’s cooking for no good reason except that he can. Hank’s in a wheelchair, which he doesn’t seem to use on a daily basis, because why should he when Marie is at his every beck and call? He takes Walt and Walt Jr. to his bedroom to show them his not!rock collection. He’s thrilled to be able to tell them all the gritty details (gritty – get it?), until Walt spoils it by knowing everything Hank knows times ten. You know, Walt sucks at small talk, too. Crystal meth is pretty much the only thing he does well. To break the uncomfortable silence, Hank decides to show them something from a case the DEA has asked him to look at. Uh oh. He plays them a video of…no, guess what it is. I dare you. Okay, you’re never going to guess in a million years. It’s the dearly departed Gale, doing a sublime karaoke version of Major Tom in front of a green screen that’s showing random sci-fi images. I’m sure that was your NEXT guess, right? Walt might as well have been punched in the gut. He can’t even look at it as Hank explains that Gale is public enemy number one.

Walt has plenty of time to ruminate over this turn of events as they eat supper and Skyler embarks on her Telling the Truth Tour. Hank and Walt Jr. are massively surprised and impressed that mild-mannered Walt could pull off something like this, and Walt Jr., perhaps not fully grasping the gravity of a fake addiction, wants him to keep gambling so he can get a new car for his birthday. Walt, still very much back in the bedroom with the video of Gale, can’t quite manage to pull off a convincing answer and resorts to Skyler’s script, looking down and saying how very, very ashamed he is of his actions. Then he leaps up and excuses himself to go to the washroom. He rushes to Hank’s bedroom and riffles through the files, looking to see what the hell else Hank has in there. He finds the Lab Notes notebook, but can barely open it before Hank comes looking for him. Like every snooping-around scene ever, Walt scrambles to put everything back and gets out with scant seconds to spare before getting caught. He literally bumps into Hank in the hall, who takes the moment of privacy to assure Walt that if he ever needs to talk, Hank is willing to listen. This is quite a nice gesture from Hank, who surely knows a thing or two about keeping up appearances while quietly falling apart inside. Walt returns the favour, kindly and selflessly offering to listen if Hank ever wants to talk about, I don’t know, a DEA case as an entirely random example. Walt, you awful man.

This angle works better than Walt could ever dream of, as Hank gladly shows him the entire contents of the file folder. The Lab Notes contain every scintillating detail of the lab and Walt’s cooking technique, plus a recipe for vegan S’mores and a Far Side cartoon. Gale was a nice guy, but not the sharpest crayon in the box. Hank shows Walt how Gale had even dedicated the notes to somebody, one W.W., his star, his perfect silence. Hank tries to guess who it might be referring to: Woodrow Wilson? Willie Wonka? Walter White?? Walt stares at him, stricken, then puts up his hands and chokes out a laugh. “You got me.” AWKWARD. I can’t bear to imagine (and neither can Walt) what Hank would do if he ever found out that Walt is Heisenberg. I dread and await watching that episode, if the day ever comes. Walt is quick to point out that Gale was talking about the poet Walt Whitman; that’s who the W.W. is. Walt even regains some of his wits as the spotlight of suspicion falls away from him, giving Hank a knowing wink. Crisis averted.

The Far Side cartoon in Gale's Lab Notes

Of course, even though the dots do connect if you look for them (Walt’s chemistry background, the money, his relationship with Jesse), the idea of Walt being Heisenberg is so preposterous an idea that Hank can’t conceive of it. And now that Hank thinks Gale was Heisenberg, that sends him even farther off the scent. Hank does indicate just how badly he wanted to catch Heisenberg — little does he know that his arch nemesis is sitting three feet away from him on his own bed. Yikes! As they go to rejoin the others, Walt belatedly asks if there are any leads in finding Gale’s murderer. Hank says there are some fingerprints and a witness statement, so it’s probably just a matter of time. Gulp.

The very next morning Walt scurries to Jesse’s house to give him the bad news. The place has sunken that much farther into the depths of depravity since the last time he’d been, but Walt barely notices. He shoves the unconscious bodies out of the way and finds Jesse shaving a co-junkie’s head. Jesse’s also gone for the bald look, because there wasn’t enough bald dudes on this show before. It’s starting to get hard to tell them apart – they’re like a a row of bowling pins. Anyway, Walt drags Jesse away to talk (leaving the partially-shaved-head guy to his moosey fate, I guess). He badgers Jesse with a barrage of questions about the night he killed Gale. Did he leave fingerprints (no), did he leave the bullet casing (yes), did they speak to each other (you mean when Gale begged for his life)? Jesse, who has spent every waking moment trying to forget that particular event, becomes more and more distraught as Walt persists. Let me make it clear: the time Walt gently asked Jesse how he was doing in the Denny’s that morning after Jesse killed Gale is now just a speck in the rear-view mirror. Walt doesn’t care about Jesse, doesn’t try to deduce what the squalor signifies even though Walt is a very bright guy. The only reason he’s there is because if Jesse goes down, you can bet that one way or another, Walter will go down with him. And Walt isn’t going to let that happen. The cross-examination ends when Jesse pays a couple of the junkies a hundred bucks to throw Walt out.

Walt is so freaked out he pays a visit to his lawyer Saul, who reassures Walt as best he can. But what if Hank puts two and two together and goes after Jesse? “Goes after him how?” wonders Saul. “On his rascal scooter? Ha ha! Ahem, that perhaps sounded insensitive.” Walt won’t be placated. It seems only at this late date Walt is figuring out that cooking meth isn’t the same as working for Pfizer, that he and everyone he loves is probably going to end up dead, and that he’s completely trapped. Saul knows he’s absolutely right, and seriously offers him a last resort out: taking his family and permanently disappearing; he knows a guy. But Walt doesn’t want to vanish. He wants to fix it, and the fire he needs to put out first is Jesse. But how?

Jesse doesn’t care about any of that. He doesn’t care if his house is destroyed, or if his psyche is so wrecked  he plays video games with pretty girls instead of having sex now, or if a random junkie steals the gym bag full of money he keeps in his dresser drawer. But you know who does care? Mike. Victor.2 has obviously been staking out Jesse’s house, and reports back when the crackhead takes the loot. They get the money back and beat up the guy who took it. Mike dumps him on Jesse’s living room floor as a warning for Jesse to smarten the hell up or he’s next. But Jesse won’t bend. He stands up to Mike and basically tells him to go screw himself, and Mike realizes (and maybe even respects) that Jesse can’t be pushed around anymore. He’s untouchable, even if they kill him. Oh, and he knows Mike isn’t going to kill the junkie because he took the trouble to put a blindfold on him. So there! Then Jesse goes back to bed.

Mike meets with Gus to discuss the Pinkman Situation, and they conclude that something has to be done about him. Noooo! When Jesse doesn’t show up for work at the lab the next day, Walt goes back to his house, furious that he can’t be trusted. It’s only when he breaks in and finds Jesse’s bed empty, his cell phone on the bedside table, that Walt realizes Jesse didn’t leave…he was taken. Walt doesn’t take that bit of news well at all.

So where is our boy? Is he dead? Bleeding? Hurt and scared in the dark? Well, no. He’s in a car with Mike, taking a road trip to who knows where for who knows what reason. And you know what? Jesse doesn’t care about that, either.