Breaking Bad 4.13 – Face Off

“Christ, you two. All I can say is if I ever get anal polyps, I’ll know what to name them.”

We open the last episode of Season 4 in the hospital car park. Last week the home-made bomb Walt put on Gus’s car was never put to good use because of Gus’s tingly bits warning him away from it, so now Walt has to get it back so he can try, try again somewhere else. He runs in like an ungainly, beat-up bat out of hell and retrieves it, but now what’s he supposed to do with it? The only thing any reasonable person could do: bring it into the pediatric intensive care unit of the hospital in a diaper bag so he can tell Jesse the bad news. It’s a little awkward, because the bomb is magnetic and so are the elevator doors, but I’m sure it’s a perfectly normal occurrence for anyone who happens to notice. 

He immediately wants to know what Jesse told Gus that tipped him off, and Jesse truthfully tells him he didn’t say anything, and by the way, is that a bomb in your diaper bag or are you just glad to see me? They bicker and panic like only Walt and Jesse can, and Walt bottom lines it thusly: they are probably not going to survive the day. Um, who isn’t? Because last time I looked, Gus liked and needed Jesse. Anyway, Walt says Jesse needs to think of somewhere they can ambush Gus where there aren’t any cameras, because that automatically excludes every place Gus goes ever. Jesse thinks so hard the veins stand out on his forehead, and he’s just about to suggest something when two plain clothes detectives stop by for a visit. They want to talk to Jesse about the poison he mentioned to Andrea. Oops. I guess this isn’t like the TV shows where shit blows up and there isn’t a cop for miles. Walt decides it’s best for him everyone if he stays out of it, and watches, helplessly clutching his bomb, as they take Jesse away for questioning.

So Jesse ends up in an episode of NYPD Blue, sitting in a small dark room being grilled by men who don’t like him but are still nice to him in the hopes he won’t lawyer up. It doesn’t work. This isn’t the first small dark room Jesse has been in, after all. When they ask why he thought Brock might be poisoned very specifically with ricin, Jesse wonders if he might have seen in on House. Ha! He tells them he was just trying to be helpful, and the cops are confident that when the tox screen comes back positive for ricin, that story is going to get him nowhere but in a cell. When they won’t arrest him yet won’t let him leave, he suggests they go screw themselves call Saul Goodman. Like, right now. May I add that Aaron Paul has never looked better, and by better I mean hotter. Strife looks good on the man, what can I say?

Meanwhile, back at Saul’s office, his secretary/hell demon is busy shredding all the case documents from the last decade. She steadfastly ignores the ringing telephone and the knocks on the door – at least until the glass breaks. She and her pepper spray hurry into the waiting room to find Walt climbing through the pane of glass he just broke. She yells at him but he yells right back. He needs to talk to Saul, but of course Saul has gone underground. She’s not taking any of his nonsense, reminding him that he and Jesse are constantly in danger after they make some dumb-ass move, and it doesn’t excuse him breaking the door glass to suit his own needs. Now she’s out of a job and has to get the damn door fixed! He gives her all the money in his wallet (a couple grand) and begs her for a phone number that will connect him to Saul. She’s a smart cookie indeed, and says that she wants twenty thousand to get the door fixed. He actually doesn’t get it for a second, barking that no reputable vendor would charge…ohhh. Did she say twenty? She meant twenty-five. Dang it! Walt scrambles hilariously over the broken glass in his haste to leave. James Bond he’s not.

Walt has twenty-five thousand dollars, of course, in the crawl space in Skyler’s house. He speeds over there, but slows down and parks well before he gets to the driveway. Perhaps taking a page from Gus, he hesitates even though the house seems quiet and empty. Just to make sure, he phones his neighbour who has a spare key and asks her to check the stove for him. He sits in his car and watches as she makes her way over and goes through the front door. Then he waits to see if she’s going to get shot for her troubles. It’s not a good sign when two thugs scurry out of the back yard and escape down the street, but Walt at least has the decency to be relieved when the neighbour calls him a moment later, unscathed. That’s his cue, and he hoofs it into the house and heads straight for the crawl space. He’s dangling from the hole, gathering wads of cash, when the two bad guys come back. He quickly shuts the closet door, and they hear it. One of them pokes his head in, ready to shoot, but there’s nobody there. That’s because Walt is squirming his way out the basement window and throwing himself over the fence before they have a chance to figure things out. He’s got his money, and theoretically his lifeline to Saul.

Back in the interrogation room, Saul comes to save the day, much to the disappointment of the detectives. He shoos them out so he can speak to his client. He advises Jesse to stay in the police station, where at least he’ll be safe. Saul has indeed talked to Walt, who’s told him about his near-miss at the house. Did Saul risk his ass to help them for nothing? It’s in Saul’s vested interest for Walt and Jesse to come out on top in this battle, so he’s more than happy to relay the message Jesse gives him. Saul meets with Walt and tells him how Gus once took Jesse to a nursing home to speak to an old man in a wheelchair who doesn’t talk, rings a bell. He doesn’t mean does it ring a bell, he means he actually rings a bell. Ha! Walt knows too well who that is, and is verrry interested to find out Tio is Gus’s enemy, not his friend.

Next stop, the nursing home – where people play bingo while they wait to die (worse than death by cartel, possibly). Tio Hector is not very happy to see him, but Walt tells Tio that although he may hate Walt, Walt knows of someone whom Tio hates even more. Way to use proper English even under extreme duress, Walt. ::grammar high five::  He offers Tio a chance for revenge. Tio’s listening.

Next thing we know, Tio’s back in his room, dinging for the nurse. She comes in and, after ascertaining that he doesn’t have to poopie, needs to use the special message board to figure out what he wants. It takes her a while, but it turns out he “NEED DEA”. She doesn’t understand; DEA isn’t even a word. Snort!

Walt waits and waits in his car in front of the nursing home for something to happen, interrupted only by a call from Walter Jr., who is none to thrilled his father is still missing in action. Walt finds it ever so difficult to concentrate, but manages to sound as lighthearted as a lark when he tells him it won’t be long, and he’ll come as soon as he can. Marie grabs the phone and shouts and threatens, but short of going and dragging him to the house, there’s nothing she can do. Skyler and CUTEST BABY EVER Holly wisely stay out of it. Hank is oblivious; he’s trying to crack The Case of the Mysterious Laundry Facility.

Steve Gomez drops by to tell Hank that that crazy old guy in a wheelchair is at the DEA’s office, and he refuses to talk to anyone but Hank. Will he come and listen to what he has to say? Marie strokes out, and absolutely, positively refuses to let Hank leave the safety of the house. End of story!

So Hank’s at the DEA’s office. They have a big pow wow with Tio, with cameras running and twenty staff members huddled around. The nurse from the nursing home is there with the special message board, and she translates what Tio wants to say. The first message is S-U-C-K-M-Y…Okay, okay, we get it. The second message is F-U-C…all right, okay, that’s very funny. Tio has wasted all their time, and they ship him back to the nursing home. “Well, at least this time he didn’t shit himself,” Hank muses. “I guess that’s progress.” It was all for nothing — except for the fact that Tyrus watches Tio leave the DEA offices, and he promptly reports back to Gus that Tio has just rolled over and spilled unknown beans to Hank. The wheels are in motion, it seems. Let’s find out who they’re going to run over.

Tio is banished to his room in shame so he can think about what he’s done. He’s thinking about it all right, and so is Walt, who’s been hiding in the bathroom the whole time. “Any second thoughts?” he asks Tio Hector. Tio’s hand wavers, but his finger never touches the bell. “Then let’s get to work.” Who thought in a million years that Walt and Tio would be joined together fighting against Gus? Other than Vince Gilligan, I mean.

Tyrus comes to the nursing home and checks out Tio’s room for bugs. Nothing. As far as he can tell, it’s just helpless Tio alone in the room. That’s because Walt is hiding on the ledge outside, much to the delight of the woman in the room next door (that would be Future Lady GaGa). So far, so good. Walt bolts to his car and speeds away.

Back at the cop shop, Jesse finds out that he’s free to go. Why? Because the tox screen came back and Brock didn’t have ricin poisoning after all. WHAT. It was all much ado about nothing, it seems. Jesse scurries into the street, trying to catch a cab as he calls Andrea and leaves a message to find out how Brock is doing. Some dude in a car parked on the street gets his attention and ZAP. A second dude comes up from behind and gets him with a stun gun. He collapses and they bundle him into the back of the car. This is chess my darlings, and Walt and Jesse aren’t the only ones playing. Never forget that.

Tyrus calls Gus to tell him that they have Pinkman, and by the way, it looks like Tio Hector’s room is free from prying eyes. When Gus says he’s on his way, Tyrus suggests that it’s better if he do the job himself. Gus won’t hear of it. Now, if Mike were there this would be going down a whole different way. But Mike is convalescing in a Mexican hospital bed, and Gus just can’t shake free of his need to get back at Tio for killing Gus’s BFF. That is his one Achilles heel. He closes his laptop which shows all is well in Gus’s world, and calmly changes into his street clothes. He is the polar opposite of Jesse and Walt, who lurch from crisis to crisis always a half step behind.

Gus and Tyrus go to Tio Hector’s room to do the dirty deed. This is the final step in Gus’s plan for revenge; once Tio is dead, so is the entire drug cartel family. He was willing to let Tio slowly rot away in the nursing home, but what can you do? Stuff happens. It’s Gus’s moment of total domination. He has a syringe full of some deadly substance (but not ricin), and he mocks Tio for going to the DEA and having to now die as a coward and rat. He’s about to put the needle in Tio’s arm, when he sees the expression on Tio’s face. Not fear, not hatred. Triumph. The smile slides from Gus’s face as Tio Hector begins to the ring the bell on his wheelchair over and over. Gus jumps to his feet, already screaming, when the bomb goes off. We see the explosion from outside the room in the hallway, where the door is blown right out. The smoke clears as the staff come running, but stop short in horror as Gus walks slowly through the debris. The camera moves over him, and we see that the entire right side of his face has been blown off. He straightens his tie, as proper and deliberate as ever, and then drops dead. Best shot of the season, I swear, and there have been a LOT of great shots this year. Gus Fring is dead. Long live the Fring.

The episode is called Face Off. Get it??

Walt finds out the good news listening to the local radio news in some parking lot. He can’t believe it; he laughs and cries at the same time. It’s finally over for good. We go back to the lab, where Jesse is in the middle of the cook they’re forcing him to do under the watchful eye of one of the random thugs. No matter what else is happening, the only thing that really matters is the meth. The elevator buzzes, and the thug makes Jesse handcuff himself to the equipment so he can go see who it is. It’s one of his co-workers…and Walt, who steps into view and shoots both of them without even blinking. Jesse hides behind the vat and prays that whoever comes into view won’t be there to shoot him, too. I’m not sure which god would listen to that prayer, but so be it. But it’s Walt! And Jesse is saved from his life as a meth lab slave. “Gus is dead,” Walt tells him. “We’ve got work to do.”

Jesse and Walt empty every barrel of chemicals in the place onto the floor. When they’re done they take off their hazmat suits for the last time, shut the door behind them, and wipe their fingerprints from everything they’ve touched in the laundry facility. Jesse pulls the fire alarm, but the Mexicans just look at them, unsure what to do. At least, until the first explosion from the lab. Then they exit posthaste. Jesse and Walt leave behind them, throwing away their rags in slow-mo like bosses and striding out like they own the place. And they do, don’t they? I’ve never been prouder of them. Not that I condone murder and arson in the drug trade. Ahem.

Walt waits for Jesse to finish a phone call on the roof where Walt parked his car. Jesse tells him with tears in his eyes and a quiver in his voice that Brock is going to be okay, that he was poisoned not with ricin but a common houseplant, Lily of the Valley. It was just an accident. And even though Gus didn’t have anything to do with it, they still needed to get rid of him, right? Jesse very badly needs Walt to justify what they’ve done, and Walt does at once. Of course, Walt needed Gus dead a lot more than Jesse did, but it did free Jesse from the bonds of the meth lab, so there’s that. Jesse needs to get back to the hospital, and Walt needs to get back to his family. It’s time to say goodbye for the last time. They shake hands as brothers and friends, and Jesse leaves. Walt tries not to fall apart with relief that they’ve come through this in one piece. He calls Skyler, where everyone is glued to the TV watching the news about Gus’s death. When she anxiously asks him if he knows anything about it, he interrupts her. “It’s over. We’re safe.” What? What happened? He smiles, happier than he’s been in a long time. “I won,” he says simply. And so he has. He drives out of the parking lot, grinning as he passes Gus’s car with the Los Pollos Hermanos chicken mascots hanging from the rear view mirror.

But wait. We don’t fade to black yet. We go instead to Walt’s swimming pool where he waited for Gus’s henchmen to come and kill him. The camera pulls in to a close-up of one of the potted plants at the side of the pool. We see a care tag sticking in the dirt naming the plant. It’s a Lily of the Valley. THE END.

May I just utter a fuck that is holy. We thought Gus was cold and calculating? He didn’t have anything on Walter White. However it seemed, Gus did have a code of honour he lived by. Not so much Walt, huh? Walt planned the whole set-up, somehow poisoning Brock so he could get Jesse back on his team in a big fat hurry, made it seem like Gus was responsible for it, convinced Jesse that Gus had to die no matter what. He did what Gus was trying to do for weeks, and he did it in two days. Wow! I tip my hat to you, sir. You evil, evil son of a bitch.

I’d like to thank everyone who’s read the recaps and shared the Breaking Bad Experience with me. It was a remarkable season, and I can’t wait to see what happens next year. What the hell is Mike going to say when he gets back?!