Breaking Bad 4.07 – Problem Dog

<<KERSPLODY>> “No, I’m sure he’ll see me. Thank you.”

Jesse Pinkman can’t forget that he shot down Gale Boetticer in cold blood. And do you know why he can’t forget? Because he relives it over and over in his head as he plays first person shooter games with psychologically helpful names like Rage. The last thing he wants to do is forget, because then he might start to tumble down that slippery slope toward forgiving himself, and there’s no damn way he’s going to let that happen. He doesn’t want to be forgiven – he wants to be punished. And now that he’s no longer willing to punish himself because of his half-assed Gus inspired self esteem boost, who is he going to get to do the job for him? We shall see. 

Walt, on the other hand, is having no problems at all finding someone to punish him. Skyler lives and breathes her disapproval and disappointment of him in her every word and gesture. She’s making him take back the Challenger he bought Walter Jr., and orders him not to screw that up like everything else he’s ever touched. After his TMI meltdown in the bedroom a couple of days ago, she’s not sure what he’s capable of doing, so she definitely wants to squelch that impulse in him, likely by gnawing off his balls and handing them to him in a Dixie cup. He’s wearing his Wimpy Walt tan windbreaker instead of his Heisenberg black leather jacket o’ doom, so he just agrees to whatever she says.

Until he’s out of her sight, anyway. Chafing under Skyler’s orders, he takes the just-detailed car to an empty parking lot, where he turns it into the world’s coolest Spirograph. He does doughnut after doughnut, tires screaming and smoking. He’s having a blast, at least until he slams the car over a cement curb. For just a quick moment, he panics. What’s he going to tell Skyler? Or maybe even the cops? And then he comes back to who he is now, hello. He has scads of money, he’s killed people, he’s Heisenberg, Lord God Emperor of Meth. He doesn’t give a shit about the car, nor should he. He takes the paperwork that Skyler so carefully filled out, sticks it in the gas tank, and lights it on fire. Then he gets out of flaming projectile-range (damn good thing he knows physics like a boss) and sits cross-legged on the blacktop to call a cab while he waits for the car to blow up. And blow up it does. KA-BOOM goes one more bridge for Walter White. He’s his own man, and nobody is going to tell him what to do anymore, even if they’re right. Or it’s stupid. Or it could land him in jail or dead with his family the last burning wreckage of his choices. Nobody puts Walty in a corner!

Even Geico can't help you now

This reckless disregard makes his lawyer, Saul “My moral core is a petroleum product” Goodman, have to earn his money today, boy howdy. Which he does with his reliably greasy aplomb, getting Walt out of trouble with the cops to the point where Skyler won’t even have to find out what he’s done. Walt doesn’t actually care. As he tells Saul, nothing matters because Gus is going to have him killed no matter what, it’s just a matter of time. Which…we’re all gonna die, Walt. It’s how we live that makes the difference. (Although Gus Fring isn’t after my ass because I’m just an internet recapper, so EASY FOR ME TO SAY.) Anyway, upon Walt’s instructions, Saul empties the vault where he stores all of Walt’s drug money as they have a conversation about What To Do About Gus. Walt’s hoping Saul knows some ninja assassins, but Mike’s the one who made the introductions in the first place, so that’s out. Saul considers craigslist, which cracks me up, but what are the odds of finding a really excellent hitman in the services offered section? Walt bemoans the fact he can’t get near Gus himself, and Saul fills him in on the fact that Jesse saw Gus, like, five minutes ago. Say what?

Walt hies it over to Jesse’s house. Jesse is painting Metaphoric White over his soul graffiti-covered walls. The party is officially over at the Pinkman residence. Yay bounce-back neighbourhood property values! Walt W5s all over Jesse about his recent Gus sighting – and the funny thing is that Jesse tells him. He even tells him about what Gus said to him, that he sees something in him. I think Jesse very much still views Walt as a father figure, and here’s his chance to tell Walt that somebody thinks he’s swell, or at least has the potential to be swell, which is a lot more than Walt’s ever thought of him. He’s shaking loose from his meth daddy a little bit, I’m thinkin’. But that idea’s way too subtle for Walt (or he just doesn’t give the first crap), so Walt makes sure to lay it on thick that Gus couldn’t possibly think that Jesse would be so stupid and naïve as to believe a line like that, especially after all the horrors Gus has perpetrated. Jesse may not be as smart as Walt, but he sure isn’t dumb. He knows what Walt is getting at. No, he doesn’t forget the awful things Gus has done, and yes, he will kill him if he gets another chance. And just like that, Walt’s problems are solved. Easy peasy, right? Walt smugs out; he’s practically turning into Mr. Burns as we watch.

In the meanwhile, there’s a car wash to run. Marie is visiting with Skyler, who’s running the cash register. She encourages Skyler to have a grand opening so they can drum up business, maybe even get on TV. Yeah, that’s what they need, their images plastered on television. Skyler changes the subject by asking how Hank is doing, and Marie can honestly answer that he’s doing better, and working hard to do even better after that. What could possibly have motivated our Hank to such an extent? Oh, I think we can guess. Speaking of Walt, here he comes now, carrying in cases of Coke (insert crack vs meth joke here) that are hiding all that ill-gotten loot of his. Later on Skyler gets a chance to count it, and it’s the first time she has to face the fact that Walt makes 7.5 million a year. Gulp. How the hell is she supposed to launder that kind of money, and all crisp new fifties at that? Walt actually has a point that he didn’t ask her to do this, and it’s her problem to solve, and if she can’t solve it then does she want out, Y/N? She doesn’t quit, but she’s not happy. They should have bought the laser tag business instead, yo!

Back in the lab, Walt takes the opportunity to get away from the security camera by going into the lunch room…where he’s cooking up poison in the microwave. Walt is a man who appreciates a bit of irony with his revenge. He scoots it over to Jesse’s place (where the furniture is presently covered with sheets, because lord knows we don’t want to get paint on the semen, sweat, vomit, poop, and blood stains). Jesse is understandably nervous about the poison working, but they both know that when it comes to chemistry, Walt knows better than anyone what he’s talking about. Jesse isn’t sure how far his new role as endearing mascot will take him, so he hides the poison pill in one of his cigarettes. Those things’ll kill ya! Ba dum bum.

But enough of the death and mayhem. Let’s join Hank as he takes his favourite nephew Walter Jr. out for lunch, doing some righteous male bonding. How nice it is to see Hank up and about, enjoying life as they go into…Los Pollos Hermanos. Ho ho. Let’s face it, this is Hank enjoying his life again at long last. They have a bite to eat and Walter Jr. gets a chance to mourn the loss of his beloved car and complain about his parents, while Hank gets a chance to give him some cool uncle perspective. And who comes to greet them but the philanthropist and economy booster extraordinaire, Gus Fring. He’s so freaking glad to see them, and tells Hank his money is no good there, him being a DEA hero and all. He even offers Walter Jr. a part time job! What a great guy. He gets Hank a refill on his drink before he bids them adios. Hank practically prances back to the car to bag and tag the cup Gus touched. Oh, Hank, you trickster, you. Good job.

Alternate Universe BFFs

Okay, back to the death and mayhem. Mike takes Jesse to Gus’s out of town chicken lair for a meeting with the fellows who knocked over Gus’s truck, gassed his men to death, and stole his drugs. There is, of course, a veggie tray. Ha! There’s also a swack of armed thugs, but Jesse is the one who gets to go inside with Mike and Gus. They ask Jesse to make coffee as they strategize security measures. This is it, his opportunity to kill Gus! He takes out his cigarette pack, his hands shaking. Can he do it? Can he not? He doesn’t have time to find out, as Mike seizes the moment to give Jesse a gun. Jesse is so shocked he forgets all about the poison. Mike is trusting him with a weapon, with bullets and everything. Jesse waits outside for their guests to arrive wearing his Lady Gaga t-shirt (okay, it’s actually Steve Aoki), keeping his eyes open and mouth shut like Mike told him. When the (other) bad guy arrives, he’s all by his lonesome, which is a surprise to everyone, especially Gus. The meeting is short and decidedly not sweet. Gus offers the cartel an even fifty mill to lay off. The cartel doesn’t care about money, they only want…we don’t actually know what they want. Walt dead? Gus out? Aaron Paul to get nominated as Best Actor instead of Supporting Actor this season? They’re not telling us, not yet. Gus finds this an unfortunate way to negotiate. “This isn’t a negotiation,” says the Cartel spokesman. Okay then. He leaves, and they didn’t even take the plastic cover off the veggie tray. Gus comes outside to watch his foe leave, his face utterly pokered. Jesse is standing about ten feet behind him. He puts his hand in his pocket, where the gun is waiting. Screw the poison – he can shoot Gus in the back of the head right now. Jesse would of course be killed as well, but is that necessarily a bad thing? Would it give meaning to his life at last, and make up for Gale’s murder? Maybe so, but his hand doesn’t move from his pocket. The moment passes, for better or worse.

Back in Mike’s car on the way home, Mike tells Jesse he’s going to teach him how to shoot in case this turf war turns into, you know, an actual war. Jesse’s had enough. He demands to know what Mike and Gus are playing at, why they’ve supposedly made him part of the team, what it is that Gus believes he sees in Jesse, which Walt is so sure is a manipulative lie. Mike sums it up in one word: loyalty. Jesse can’t believe it. Loyalty? He just about blew Gus’s brains out ten minutes ago. But Mike isn’t talking about Gus. “Only maybe you got it for the wrong guy.” Now, that’s the truth. No matter what’s happened, Jesse has stuck by Walt. And look how great it’s turned out! Oh, wait…

Jesse ends up at an NA meeting that evening, the same one he used to go to when he and Walt were still distributing Blue Thunder (is that what they called it? They should have called it that) by themselves. The decent and caring NA leader assures the group that condemning themselves for things they’ve done won’t do anything but lead them straight back to the drugs. Jesse listens to this with ice in his heart. When he’s asked if there’s anything he wants to talk about, he grabs the opportunity with both hands. He tells the group how he killed a frightened dog for no reason except that it was a problem dog. A woman in the group attacks him for doing such an awful thing (and you know you’ve seen her around the internet a few times, am I right?). The leader stops her, but this is why Jesse is here: to confess and be judged. He shouts at them that it’s not right to be absolved of accountability when you choose to be evil. This is the crux of Breaking Bad – and the fracture. Walt is embracing and justifying his transformation, while Jesse is slowly dying from it. He doesn’t want to be bad, but he is, and it’s too late to go back. He tells the group that he doesn’t care about any of them, he’s just there to sell them meth, and wonders if the leader “accepts” that. The leader answers with shock, “No.” Jesse looks at them, crying, despairing, triumphant. “About time.” And that my friends is why this is the best show on television.

Unfortunately you can’t miss work due to painful self-discovery, so Jesse’s back at the lab, toiling. Walt stages an elaborate ruse a la Get Smart so they can talk without being discovered. He wants to know what’s going on with Gus, but Jesse lies and says he hasn’t seen him. It’s not like Walt can do anything about it except wait and see what happens. Maybe this isn’t going to be as easy peasy as he originally thought.

Hank is out and about for the second time in as many days, this time at his old DEA office. He’s still a cocky son of a bitch, but his shaky cane gives away how fragile he still is. He’s requested a meeting with his old boss and the guy who took Hank’s place when he was shot. He gives them the lowdown on Gale’s murder, the blue meth, the Los Pollos Hermanos napkin. But then he tells them how he tracked down the code that Gale had written on the napkin, how it was the model number for industrial equipment that could be used in a meth lab, and long story short, the company who makes the equipment? Also owns Los Pollos Hermanos. Back to the napkin: who could Gale have been meeting at the restaurant to discuss $300,000 hepa filters? Could it be…Gus Fring, who’s in a photo shaking hands with Hank’s old boss in this very room? Um…yeah, no. The boss isn’t about to go down that politically deadly road. That’s when Hank pretends to graciously accept defeat, then springs his big reveal, where he produces Gus’s fingerprint from the Coke cup and matches it to a fingerprint found in Gale’s apartment. Boo-yah! The look of naughty glee on Hank’s face makes me love that man this much ::holds arms wide open::. In conclusion, you are not having a bad week. Gus Fring is having a bad week. Just to clarify.