Season 4, Episode 5: Shotgun
“Guess I have two jobs now.”- Jesse Pinkman
This cold open picks up full steam, right after the last episode ended. Walter is driving like a maniac, frantically calling both Saul and Skyler, the latter of whom doesn’t pick up. It ends with him flying into the parking lot of Los Pollos Hermanos, where, after the credits sequence, he marches through the front door and asks to see Gus. After getting stonewalled by the staff, he takes a seat and waits for his boss to show himself. As he waits, he begins to realize just how stupid a decision he has made. He’s holding an unregistered, concealed handgun in a public place surrounded by cameras and any number of potential hitmen. Then, his phone rings. It’s Mike, with Jesse, who is fine, and still in the car, heading to some indeterminate location to the north. Mike assures Walter that everything will be fine and that he should get on with the cook. Unconvinced, Walter makes a break for the back of the restaurant, only to find that Gus really wasn’t there. It appears he left his car there as a way of tricking Walter.
The focus then shifts to Jesse and Mike, and while Jesse’s been spending the last few episodes seemingly not caring if he lives or dies, he tells Mike to “shoot straight, old man.” However, when they arrive at their destination, Mike doesn’t kill anyone. He simply grabs a shovel from his trunk and digs up a bag of money, hidden under a trap door in the desert. He’s making collections for Gus, in a system not completely dissimilar to the one Jesse ran with Badger, Pete and Combo. Jesse gets back in the car, and for most of the rest of the episode, their scenes are a collection of pickup scenes in which the eternally exasperated Mike has to put up with Jesse’s antics, until, around dusk, they pull into an empty alleyway while Mike goes into a building to fetch their last dead drop. As Jesse waits, he notices a car pull up behind the car. As one of the men in the car approaches with a shotgun, Jesse takes control, ramming Mike’s car into theirs and escaping into the night. Later, as Mike walks the street by himself, Jesse pulls up to him, and tells him the story. Mike, realizing that Jesse just saved them a lot of money, lets him smoke, something he vehemently objected to earlier in the episode.
Although maybe he’s not the hero he thinks he is, because when Mike meets with Gus to discuss the incident, he remarks that “it all went like you (Gus) thought it would,” and that “the kid’s a hero.” Obviously, this suggests that Gus set up the robbery attempt, which is interesting at first because it suggests that, of course, Gus is attempting to drive a wedge in between Jesse and Walt. Later, it will become apparent that this is also the start of his final gambit against the Cartel, in which Jesse will play a pivotal role. This season is a long game between Gus and Walt, and even though Walt won the first round, Gus is moves ahead.
Hank and Walt’s storylines are inexorably connected in this episode. Hank’s first scene is with his cop friend Tim, whom he tells that finding Heisenberg, dead, feels like closure for him, and that he’s done as a cop. Walt, meanwhile, struggles through cooking without Jesse, at one point screaming at the camera that he needs someone to help him. That someone turns out to be Tyrus, who smirkingly assists Walter with some maintenance around the lab. Walter is nonplussed. Later, after he spends the night with Skyler, he has a nice conversation with his son, during which he notices Junior is drinking out of a “Beneke Fabricators” mug. The next day, he finds Jesse back in the lab, as if nothing has happened, and before he can get an explanation, Mike calls and Jesse leaves. The emasculation of Walter White continues, and it culminates that night at Hank and Maries. Walter, after drinking more than his fair share of wine, he suffers through listening to Hank blather on about the genius of Gale Boetticher. Eventually, his pride gets the better of him, and he explains to Hank that the notes he saw in Gale’s notebook suggest that he was merely a copycat, and that “the real mastermind might still be out there.” As the episode ends, Hank is going through Gale’s case notes again, and he remarks to Marie that of all the things found in that apartment, a napkin for Los Pollos Hermanos is the strangest. “Since when do vegans eat fried chicken?”
Season 4, Episode 6: Cornered
“Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family.”- Skyler White
This episode begins with a teaser (I’m getting tired of saying “cold open”) that directly mirrors the one in episode 4. Two armed men are inside one of Gus’ trucks, obviously as a response to Mike’s ordeal with the cartel. This truck is also stopped, but before the two grunts can use their automatic rifles to defend their boss’ cargo, the cartel boys (lead by a man named Gaff), bar the door and pump the trucks’ exhaust into the cabin, suffocating the two men and taking the specially marked tub when the smoke clears. Simple. Efficient. The Cartel is learning.
The episode proper begins with one of the most telling scenes in the history of the show. After waking up from his wine bender the night before, Walter is accosted by his wife, who accusingly asks him if he knew Gale Boetticher, and if the same people who killed Gale might come after him. Walter brushes her off, telling her that his job and their relationship should be treated as “church and state,” that is to say, separate. Skyler continues pushing, however, and when she puts forth, again, that he should go to the police, he loses it completely (after symbolically removing his red to reveal the black one underneath, of course). “Who are you talking to right now? Who is it you think you see?” he scoffs. He tells Skyler that he is not the guy who answers his door and gets shot in the face. He is THE ONE WHO KNOCKS. He leaves, to take a shower, and Skyler is mortified. She leaves Albuquerque entirely, and nearly leaves New Mexico, before deciding to come back. As she tells Walt at the episode’s conclusion, she has to “protect this family from the man who protects this family.” Whatever damage this does to Walt’s ego is quickly repaired, first by his meeting at the car wash with Bogdan, where he does his best to humiliate his former boss, going as far as to insist that he keep Bogdan’s framed “first dollar,” which he uses to buy a soda from the vending machine.
His storyline in the episode ends with Skyler’s return, but before that, he has another egocentric conversation with Jesse, where he correctly assumes that Gus’ interest in Jesse is all about him, going as far as to assume that the robbery was a set-up (which is was). Of course, in typical Walter fashion, he does this by being as much an asshole as he can. When Jesse gets a call from Mike and leaves, Walter goes upstairs and hires some poor cleaning ladies from the laundromat to clean for him (“Presidente Grant, very important man”). Later, he sees Tyrus escorting them off of the premises and on to a bus “back to Honduras.” When Walt sheepishly tries to tell him to tell Gus not to blame them but him, Tyrus responds by saying that “he does.”
Mike, and by extension, Jesse’s storyline begins while they are at a local diner, and Mike gets a call, presumably from Gus, informing him to deal with the actions taken against them by the Cartel. The next day, Jesse and Mike head to stakeout a meth house where two tweakers have apparently gotten a hold of their product without paying. Mike say that tweakers are unpredictable, and that he “doesn’t like unpredictable.” Jesse, of all people, “knows meth heads”, and he, against Mike’s judgment, confronts them. He tricks Tucker, the one who answers the door, to help him dig a hole in the yard, allowing Jesse free entry into the house. There, he confronts the other tweaker (brilliantly played by Justified‘s Damon Herriman), who is nervous, paranoid, and armed with a shotgun. After he points the gun in Jesse’s face, he’s distracted by Mike coming through the door, allowing Jesse to disarm him. There, they find the stolen batter with “ready to talk?” written in Spanish on the lid. Later, back at the diner, Gus arrives to talk to Mike, who suggests that they hire “10-15 more good operators” (a term that I believe derives from the US Special Forces, which is a reasonable-sounding origin story for Mike), and Gus refuses. At this point, it’s becoming increasingly clear that, while initially Gus “hired” Jesse just to keep an eye on him and perhaps turn him against Walter, Jesse might turn out to be a useful asset in the upcoming war against the Cartel
Season 4, Episode 7: Problem Dog
“What are Gustavo Fring’s fingerprints doing in Gale Boetticher’s apartment?”- Hank Schrader
After a very substandard teaser sequence (featuring a poorly represented product placement for a game that wasn’t even out yet), we join up with Walt and Skyler at the car wash. She wants him to return the car he bought for Junior, seeing as an unemployed former school teacher who is fighting cancer shouldn’t be able to afford something like this. So, of course, Walter takes the Challenger to an empty parking lot and does donuts with it, eventually crashing into into a ditch. Instead of calling for someone to come and get it out for him, he simply takes the car’s title, sticks it in the gas tank and light it on fire. Later, at Saul’s office, he tells his lawyer that there’s “nothing he can do but wait” for Gus to kill him. They bounce ideas off of one another of how, exactly to kill Gus, when Saul tells Walt that his partner has been in contact with him. He heads over to Jesse’s house (where he is symbolically painting over the graffiti left from his mega-party), and gives him a “sales pitch” on why he should kill Gus. Jesse agrees, and tells Walt that he’ll do it “the first chance he gets.” Soon after, Walt presents Jesse with the most elegant possible solution to their problem: their old friend, ricin. They put it in a little capsule that fits inside one of Jesse’s cigarettes. The plan is set, and unlike with Tuco, it actually is a plan.
The first chance Jesse gets to kill his boss comes the next day, when he and Mike head up to the chicken farm to act as lookouts for a meeting between Gus and Gaff (Jesse’s rocking an incredible Dave Grohl shirt during this, by the way). As he’s making coffee for everyone and pondering dropping the ricin in it, Mike hands him a gun and tells him not to use unless it’s an emergency. The meeting is quick and abrupt, as Gus offers a severence pay of $50 million, and Gaff refuses, telling Gus that they both know what it is the Cartel wants. He leaves, and as Mike is driving Jesse back to town, he tells him that he should probably teach the younger man how to shoot, since “things might be getting pretty hairy soon.” When Jesse confronts him and asks exactly what it is Gus “sees” in him, Mike responds that it’s loyalty, only “maybe you’ve got it for the wrong guy.”
The next scene is Jesse returning to his group sessions, where he admits to his grief over killing Gale, whom he refers to as a “problem dog,” a dog that had to be put down (by this I mean a literal dog). As the group leader comes to his defense as some of the other members attack him, Jesse refuses and says that maybe they’re right, maybe he deserves the judgment of others. “If you just do stuff and nothing happens, what’s it all mean? What’s the point?” he rails. Then, as the leader, this nice man who’s only ever tried to help him, tells him that self-acceptance is the key, Jesse attacks him, throwing the death of his daughter in his face and revealing to him that the only reason he came back to group was to sell meth to other members. Jesse’s at a crossroads, stuck between loyalty to his partner, who’s never done anything but destroy his life, and his new employer, who seems to accept him for what he is. He’s going to need something to jar him loose from this conundrum, and Walt, sooner or later, is going to find something to do it (*ominous lightning*).
Meanwhile, Hank and Walter Jr head over to Los Pollos Hermanos, where Gus serves them personally. Seizing upon his hospitality, Hank accepts a refill, and bags the cup Gus uses for later. The episode’s conclusion sees him visiting his old DEA office, where he’s meeting Gomez and ASAC Merkert to discuss with them his theory: that Gus Fring, owner of Los Pollos Hermanos and all-around saint of the Albuquerque community, is a major drug kingpin. As he walks the incredulous pair through the winding path that lead him from a serial number in Gale’s apartment, to a multinational corporation called Madrigal Electromotive, through one of their subsidiaries (Los Pollos Hermanos) we can see that the “clean living and vitamin pills” Hank’s attributes to his recovery are actually the thrill of the hunt returning him to life. After he ends his speech, Gomez and Merkert are dubious, to say the least, and he agrees with them, that it’s a pretty major reach. That is, until he reveals to them that some of the fingerprints found in Gale’s apartment are a match for the prints he pulled of the cup he got from LPH earlier in the episode. They are Gus’ fingerprints, and they represent the biggest danger Gus has ever faced. Hank is coming for him, and it’s only a matter of time before he unravels the entire plot.