Breaking Bad 4.06 – Cornered

“I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger. A guy opens his door and gets shot, and you think that of me? I am the one who knocks!”

Here we are again, back in the back of a refrigerated Los Pollos Hermanos truck. But this time instead of Mike riding shotgun, it’s two random dudes from Gus’s evil empire. Well, it’s more like riding “machine gun” than “shotgun”, but let’s not quibble. The scenario plays out as before, with the truck being stopped en route, the driver begging for his life to no avail, and the fellows in the back preparing to fight to the bitter end while wearing toques. The (other) bad guys learned their lesson the last time, and don’t even bother to shoot up the truck. They simply hook a hose up to the truck’s ventilation system and attach the other end to the truck’s exhaust pipe. Then they eat lunch while they wait for the guys in the truck to die. That’s cold, brother. After all the dying’s over they take a secretly marked bucket of fry batter from the truck and bugger off. Hm, it’s a good thing the cops never find all these sundry dead bodies rotting on the side of the road, or they might start to wonder about the Los Pollos Hermanos people. But I digress.  

Those air holes might give us time to eat a Little Debbie

Back in the city, Skyler is finally putting all the pieces together thanks to Walt shooting off his big fat drunk mouth when they were at Hank and Marie’s for supper the night before. She’s looked up the news story on Gale Boetticher’s murder, and now she’s playing and replaying Walt’s shaky phone message on her answering machine, and she doesn’t like what she’s hearing in his voice. She wakes up Walt, who’s sleeping it off fully clothed in her bed. He immediately tries to downplay whatever wine-soaked missteps he might have made at dinner, but she’s having none of it. Did Walt know Gale? Did they work together? Who killed him? Is Walt next? Not exactly, no. Skyler has her own theories as to why Walt would tell Hank that Heisenberg is still out there: she thinks he’s scared of what might happen next, and it was a cry for help. She wants to go to the police and beg for their protection. Needless to say, Walt refuses to even listen to this line of thought. She tries to talk sense into him, that’s he’s just a high school teacher who’s in over his head with bad, bad people. That may have been true at one point, but that Walt is as dead as if he’d been the one shot after opening his front door one night. Walt turns on her, unable to play the charade one moment more. He sets her straight on who exactly she’s talking to. He’s the engine running the entire drug empire. He’s the one to be afraid of. Well, he’s right; Skyler is now plenty afraid of him and sees him as he really is, perhaps for the first time. Walt once again rings a bell that can’t be unrung. He stalks away to take a shower and Skyler is left to sort out the broken shards of her marriage and life. Walt rethinks the wisdom of what he said whilst shaving his head with no soap, he’s just that badass. He comes out of the bathroom ready to smooth things over as best he can, but Skyler is gone. The question is, is she ever coming back?

Life goes on even when you don’t really want it to, and Walt has to go pick up the keys from Bogdan – the changing of the car wash guard as it were. Now that Bogdan thinks he’s sold Walt a car wash with huge and costly long-term problems, he’s much more philosophical about things. He just makes sure Walt understands the place is selling as-is. He gives Walt a little lesson on being the boss, and how you always have to be tough, make hard and unpopular decisions. Can you be tough, Walter? Walt, who has been on both the giving and receiving end of “tough” in the drug trade, merely looks at him. Bogdan makes one last crack about Skyler being tougher than Walt (not that he’s wrong, come to think of it), but Walt, who now views Bogdan on the same level as a bushy-eyebrowed mosquito buzzing around his ears, doesn’t even bother to answer. When Bogdan goes to take the framed picture of the first dollar he ever made at the car wash, Walter reminds him that Walt’s buying the place “as-is”. Bogdan reluctantly hands it over and leaves. Walt takes an immense deal of satisfaction walking over to the pop machine in the lobby and using the dollar to buy himself a nice refreshing beverage. He hasn’t turned Bogdan’s face to alabaster or anything, but they both get the gist.

Batman and Robin, I mean Mike and Jesse, are eating supper at a cafe. At least, Mike is eating. Jesse is trying to stir some sugar into a cup of coffee without breaking it, such are his meth withdrawal tremors. Mike notices and offers Jesse the rest of his own supper. Jesse puts a bite of baked potato in his mouth and chews like it’s something from a Fear Factor challenge. Going clean cold turkey isn’t easy, yo. Mike gets a call, presumably from Gus. “That’s right, both of ‘em,” he says. Both of ’em dead in the back of the stupid refrigerated truck, he means. He departs, leaving Jesse behind. Jesse doesn’t complain about it, and Mike pays for the meal. Hm, that was nice of them. It seems both of them are learning new dance moves in their relationship tango.

Walt and Walter Jr. are also eating together, breakfast the next morning. It’s obvious they’re worried whether Skyler is going to come back. Walter Jr. is angry that she can’t understand that gambling is a disease, like the cancer, and that it’s not Walt’s fault that he’s doing these things. Walt, having come a long way in a short time since he was blaming everyone and everything else on what happened to Gale the night Victor died, shuts Walter Jr. down. He says very clearly that the things that are happening to them are about choices. “Choices I have made. Choices that I stand by.”  Walt, don’t you know the unexamined life isn’t worth freaking living? When Walter Jr. realizes that his dad isn’t moving back in, Walt responds as only a guilt-ridden meth mastermind can, by offering to buy him a car. “If you’re going to buy me off,” Walt Jr. says willingly, “Buy me off.” Which is how he ends up with a Dodge Challenger instead of a Ford Focus.

After that extravaganza in bad parenting, Walt goes to work. Jesse is smoking in the parking lot, which gives Walt an opportunity to talk to him in private. Did I say “talk”? I meant “yell”. Walt makes it clear that the only reason Jesse is being allowed to work with Mike is so they can keep an eye on him. Even Jesse admits that’s probably how it started, but since he saved Mike he’s starting to feel useful – maybe he’s not such a loser after all; a more telling statement I’ve never heard. Which of course makes clueless Walt instantly crush that idea under his boot heel. Maybe the entire robbery was fake, and this whole farce is to drive a wedge between Walt and Jesse. Well…that very may well be, but it seems like Walt is doing a better job of it than Gus ever could. “This whole thing, all of this,” Walt marvels. “It’s all about me.” Jesse takes that nugget about as well as you might expect.

At the end of the day in the lab, Jesse gets a call from Mike saying to meet him. Walt’s irked that he’s left to clean the lab by himself, so he gets the brilliant idea to ask some of the immigrant women who work in the laundry factory above the lab to do the cleaning for him. They know better than to go anywhere near the lab that’s been made off-limits to them, but Walt bribes them with a sadly small amount of money. So they clean the lab while he toasts the security camera with his nice mug of coffee. As they’re all leaving for the night, Victor 2.0 materializes from the inky mists to tell the women they’re going with him, right onto a bus back to Guatamala. Walt is apparently blindsided by this outcome (so what else is new?) and begs him to reconsider. “Tell Gus to blame me, not them.” Victor 2.0 gives him the glariest glare in the history of glares. “He does.”

Meanwhile, we catch up with Skyler on a vision quest that’s taken her to a literal crossroads. She’s driven to the Four Corners monument, where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico intersect. This four hour drive has given her time to think. All of her oh-so-careful planning has done F.A. for her so far, so she’s decided to let fate choose her next move. She tosses a nickel in the air and lets it land on the four corners monument plate. It spins to a stop on Colorado. She stares at it, then picks it up and tries again. Again, Colorado. After a long and meaningful look exchanged with Holly (aka The World’s Cutest Baby), she reaches out with her foot and toes the nickel down to New Mexico. Walt stands by the choices he’s made – so does Skyler.

An actual tourist destination, apparently

Mike takes Jesse on a stake-out with him. Mike’s tracked down the stolen drugs from the Los Pollos Hermanos truck to a crack house, and the plan is to wait until someone comes out of the house so they can “interrogate” the shit out of him. Jesse, who is young and impatient, wants to storm the ramparts instead. Mike, who is old and alive, refuses. So Jesse takes it upon himself to try to get invited in, vampire style. He pretends to be a junkie looking to score, but the crackhead who peeks out the front door won’t play that game. Mike’s amused, but Jesse isn’t ready to quit yet. It takes an addict to catch an addict, so Jesse starts digging a random hole in the front yard. The crackhead comes out to take a look, and before you know it, our own Tom Sawyer has the crackhead digging a hole to…the motherlode? Hell? China? Take your pick. Mike isn’t impressed by much, but Jesse has pleasantly surprised him yet again. Jesse sneaks into the crackhouse and, after a few tense seconds staring down the eyes of a double barreled shotgun, brains the crackhead who was hiding inside. And wouldn’t you know it, there’s the familiar Los Pollos Hermanos bucket of batter, but now it has a message written in Spanish on the lid: Are you ready to talk?

It is so!

We’re back in the diner, and this time Mike and Jesse are both eating supper. Gus comes in and Jesse steps outside so Gus and Mike can chat. They’re each noticeably polite to Jesse. Mike tells Gus that the crew who hit the truck didn’t sell their drugs, they gave them away like it was nothing. They were making a point, and it was a sharp one. Mike wants to hit them back, twice as hard, but Gus has another plan. They want to talk? He’s ready to hear what they have to say. Gus isn’t one to roll over, so we’ll see what he has in mind for these would-be takeover artists. As Gus leaves, he stops outside long enough to tell Jesse, “I hear you can handle yourself.” Short, but the words carry a lot of weight. Jesse can’t help but ask him (Walt’s dismissive words no doubt still ringing in his ears), “Why me?” Gus doesn’t hesitate. “I like to think I see things in people.” And with that he takes his leave. Now, maybe this is true, and maybe it’s become true, and maybe it’s pure BS to keep Jesse in line. It doesn’t matter. As the old saying goes, people don’t remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel. You can imagine that Jesse is starting to make up a Pro/Con chart in his head.

Pro: Walt saved my life when Gus wanted to kill me.
Con: Walt made me kill Gale.
Pro: Unlike Walt, Gus believes I’m worth something.
Con: I might end up like Victor. Then again, I might end up like Mike.

Walt better tread softly lest he come up short on the “Pro” side and lose his only ally.

Walt and Walter Jr. are overjoyed later that evening when Skyler and Holly walk in the door. I don’t think anybody in the room was certain that was going to happen. Walter Jr. excitedly tells her about his new car, and asks if he can take it for a spin. Walt may have bought it, but in their son’s eyes Skyler is still The Boss of All Things. She says yes and off he goes. Walt wants to talk about what he said to her the other day, but Skyler doesn’t see the point. He assures her that the family is completely safe. “Everything I do is to protect this family.” Walt’s subconscious must be hoarse from screaming this loud enough to make him still believe it. Skyler certainly doesn’t. She points out that the new car which made his son so happy (and Walt’s guilt momentarily subside), completely blows apart their story of how Walter is no longer gambling and can’t afford purchases like that. What are the neighbours going to think? Hank and Marie? The IRS?? Walt has no coherent answer for this, other than he wants to do what he wants to when he wants to do it.

And that leaves Skyler to do the dirty work, hide their tracks, disappoint their son, cross the T’s and and dot the I’s while Walt lives out his outlaw fantasy. Indeed, that is why Skyler didn’t go to Colorado and came back to New Mexico against all her better judgment. As she says to Walt with tears in her eyes and steel in her voice, “Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family.”