Breaking Bad 5.03 – Hazard Pay

“Just because you shot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.”

Mike’s putting out the biggest fire of his life this week, that is if he doesn’t want to spend his golden years getting his prostate checked out in the pen. No, really, that’s not a euphemism for buttsex. Anyway, he’s tagging along with his sleazy lawyer pal, who no doubt listens to Nickelback on his iPod while Mike tries to calm the rest of the group who’s still alive before they roll over and rat him out. Now we see why he needed Lydia enough to keep her alive (aside from his soft spot for kids, perhaps including her daughter): he knows without the hazard pay Gus promised his crew, there’s no way in hell they’re all going to keep quiet, and the only way he can come up with the hazard pay is if Walt earns it with his pretty blue meth. Mike can no longer afford to tell Walt to go fuck himself – now he has to dance with devil. That’s why when his lawyer pal says, “You don’t have to do this all in one day,” Mike replies, “Yes, I do.”

Speak of the devil, Walt is in such a good mood! He’s unpacking the last of his things even if he has to shove Skyler’s bras out of the way to make them fit, and isn’t life good now that he’s back home to stay. You know who isn’t in a good mood? Skyler, who is so scared of him she can barely talk. Walt is just like his old self, except of course when she asks him if it’s a good idea that he moves back in, he says yes in a way that makes it clear there’s no room for argument.

Saul, understandably, doesn’t want Mike to join their team of merry men after Mike threatened him all those times with his dead mackerel eyes. Walt pooh-poohs his anxiety, reminding him that Mike threatened all of them and probably somebody else before breakfast that day; it’s what he does. “Come on, grow a pair.” Surely Saul has no reason to be afraid of Mike, what will his bodyguard Huell guarding his office door as Mike waits in the reception area for them. Huell’s asleep standing up, but still. The man could kill a pitbull if he fell on it. When he’s finally invited in, Mike only has one rule for their shiny new partnership: Walt handles the meth cooks and Mike handles the business. Walt readily agrees…too readily. When Saul asks under his breath if Walt is okay with that arrangement Walt replies, “Sure. He handles the business – and I handle him.” Walt is painfully, excruciatingly overconfident. He’s drunk on his past victories, and everybody knows that when you’re drunk, that’s when you’re most likely to stumble and fall on your ass.

It’s Saul’s job to find them a new workspace, which isn’t quite as easy as renting a self-storage unit. He doesn’t only have to worry about space and prying eyes; the lab conditions have to be just so to make a cook successful. In other words, no, you can’t just run down to Costco and pick up a couple of dehumidifiers to make it work. Moving on! Tortilla factory? Not with those pesky food inspectors showing up unexpectedly. The old Lazer Base where Jesse hid when Gus was trying to kill him? No. In fact, hell no. Saul does know some shady exterminators (not Billy the Exterminator, fear not) and that gives Walt the grand idea to do their cooks in houses that have been tented to get rid of their creepy crawlies. It’s difficult, but doable. “Should we take a vote?” Mike asks. Walt looks at him. “Why?” Because he’s indispensable, isn’t he? Only his vote counts. Mike is no longer surprised at this attitude.

Yay, it’s Skinny Pete and Badger, in a music store rocking the keyboards and, to a much, much, much lesser extent, the electric guitar. They’re the new business venture’s first employees, and they’re rounding up some big old roadie cases to move their new band “Vamonos Pest” from gig to gig. Ha! The next new employees are the dudes who work for the exterminator. Mike lays the rules down with them in his usual awesome style. Let’s just say that if they want to call Walt or Jesse a name, they can call them “Yes, sir” and “No, sir”. Walt and Jesse share a grin at this, but they’ve also earned this respect, with their own blood and the blood of others. As Skinny Pete points out, they’re now major league.

Walt comes over to Jesse’s place to hammer out the details of their plans, which is all dandy until Andrea and Brock come home. Obviously, she didn’t break up with him after the doctors decided nature poisoned Brock instead of Jesse. Except it wasn’t nature who almost murdered Brock, it was Walt. Awkward! Jesse and Andrea invite Walt to stay for supper, and while they go off to peel potatoes, Walt is left alone to get a good look at the little boy he used as a deadly pawn in his chess game. Your mortal soul, Walt…ring any bells?

Aaand our boys are back a-cookin’! The first house is tented up and private, and one of the peons actually earns his pay by warning them of a nanny-cam in the living room. It’s a big step down from Gus’s gleaming lab, but still, it’s not the RV, either. And wherever they may be, those gorgeous chemical close-ups are pretty darn cool. After they’re done Walt and Jesse share a beer and some Stooges (you notice how nobody ever watches a movie from the last ten years in TV shows). Walt wastes no time before he starts to play Jesse by pretending that he actually cares about him as a human being, because he’s officially incapable of having a real relationship with anyone anymore. It’s all lies and manipulation now. He wonders about Andrea and Jesse’s future plans, and if Jesse is going to tell her everything some day, maybe even about Gale. Jesse isn’t sure, but he’s excited when Walt says he trusts Jesse to make the right decision – he’s earned that. Jesse is still as eager as ever for Mr. White’s approval. Little does he know how insignificant they all are in Walt’s world view now. Everyone is just a means to an end for him.

Marie comes to visit Skyler at the car wash, oblivious to all that inner turmoil Skyler is enduring. She’s there to tell Skyler that Hank is back at work and happy as a clam, even though she still resents how the DEA treated him so shabbily when suspecting Gus Fring wasn’t quite as sexy as it is now. Skyler holds it all together until Marie insists they do something big for Walt’s birthday/anniversary of getting cancer. Marie is shocked when Skyler shakily lights a cigarette and strongly chides her for it. The baby! Walt’s cancer! For SHAME! Which is about when Skyler has a massive nervous breakdown and screams at Marie to shut up until Marie finally realizes this is way bigger than “SHUT UP SHUT UP SHUT UP!!!” and actually shuts up as Skyler cries her eyes out.

Walt comes home from his smashing first cook to find Skyler in bed and Marie in his living room demanding to know what the hell he did to Skyler to make her fall apart like that. Being put in a corner might frighten mere mortals, but Walt’s outsmarted Gus Fring; he’s not scared of Marie. Using his patented web of half-truths, he tells her about Ted’s accident, and also Skyler’s affair with him. To say Marie is stunned and embarrassed is an understatement. She scurries home, but not before giving Walt an encouraging hug. Mission accomplished, baby. What he doesn’t do is go in and comfort Skyler. Whatever she’s grappling with, she’s on her own. ::bites apple evilly::

Jesse’s at home with the family, lost in thought. When Andrea asks him if he’s okay, he truly thinks about it. “Yeah,” he replies. His attachment to them will probably mean they’ll be dead by the end of the season, but whatever. Yay, love!

Skyler comes out of the bedroom much later, to find Walt and the two kids watching Scarface. An ironic choice of entertainment, and an interesting one considering what happened to Pachino at the end of that movie. “Everybody dies in this movie, don’t they?” I hope that’s not foreshadowing! Walt wants her to join them in their happy, normal little family moment, and her eyes glaze over to the sound of her fate deadly machine gun fire which nicely segues to the sound of money running through a cash counter.

That’s right, it’s time to count all the lovely money they made from their first cook and divide it three ways. Walt finds out in a hurry that being the boss comes with a boatload of hands held out waiting to be paid. He reluctantly agrees to the payouts until Mike comes to reimbursing the nine remaining guys on his team their hazard pay. Walt refuses to cough up the bucks for this “blackmail”, and suddenly it’s Mike vs Walt, Sparta style. There’s tense talk of Gus and just who the heck is running this show. It might come to blows (I can see where Walt somehow thinks he knows how to fight now, right up until Mike kills him with a thumb to his windpipe), but just like a kid who suffers whenever Mom and Dad fight, Jesse offers to pay the entire amount just so they’ll kiss and make up. Walt steps back and agrees to pay his share, even though that means he’ll make less than he did working for Gus. Mike quickly puts him in his place, noting that Gus Fring was a friend of Mike’s and Senator, you’re no Gus Fring.

After Mike leaves, Walt asks Jesse how he’s feeling. Jesse tells him that he took what I said earlier to heart and broke up with Andrea for her own safety – just like Walt wanted all along, naturally. Walt doesn’t give a shit about Jesse’s love life now that he got his way, he means how’s Jesse feeling about losing all the money they just made. Jesse reminds him that they’re getting a much bigger piece of the pie now, but the pie isn’t quite a big as it used to be. Besides, they’re the bosses now, right? Walt brings up Victor, and why Gus decided to cut his throat. Maybe it wasn’t a message to Walt after all. Maybe it was as simple as Victor taking liberties that weren’t his to take. Maybe he flew to close too the sun. Just like Mike, you mean? With that, Walt walks out to his car. Jesse looks at Walt, really looks at him for the first time in a very long time, and doesn’t like at all what he sees. Jesse pushes the button to close the garage door behind him, and down it goes, welcoming the darkness with a final, inevitable clang.