Breaking Bad 3.4 – Dirty, Damp, and Deep in the Valley of the Sun

I begin this week’s “Breaking Bad” blog with a confession: it’s the first episode this season where I didn’t have an advance screener, which meant that I was watching it along with the rest of you. The reason I confess this is because it also means that, in order to get my blog knocked out as quickly as possible, I had to watch it live on the TV set in my office, which is TiVo-less. It’s the set in the living room that has the TiVo, and…well, that’s recording “The Celebrity Apprentice” for me. Hmmm…suddenly, what was intended to be an attempt to earn your sympathy has abruptly become fodder for insult. This has gone terribly wrong. Perhaps I’d better go ahead and get to talking about “Breaking Bad” in order to try and save face. (Yes, I know: it’s far too late for that.)

Well, Jesse might be clean, but he’s clearly no smarter now than he was when he was still using. Kids, here’s your lesson for this week: if you’re ever driving a bullet-riddled RV and find yourself in desperate need of fuel, do not…repeat, do not…try to use methamphetamine as currency. While I can appreciate the need to take Old Faithful for a spin for “work” purposes, when it comes to potential witnesses trying to pick it out of a line-up, it’s hard to conceive of a more memorable vehicle. It kinds of stands out in a crowd, you know? I’ll give it to Jesse, though: ever since admitting to himself -whether rightly or wrongly – that he’s the bad guy, he’s developed balls of steel. Trading gas for meth with a state trooper right there in the store…? That’s pretty fucking ballsy, you’ve got to admit. The best line of the scene, though, had to be when Cashier Cara offered her concerns about the addictiveness of meth and Jesse assured her that it had been blown way out of proportion. (“It’s a media thing.”)

We had some great scenes from Saul Goodman this week. Of course Saul’s got a class action lawsuit working against the airline. He’s just that kind of guy. I loved both the guy we saw in his office (“You’ve been the victim of a terrible accident, some discomfort is to be expected”), as well as the phone call later in the episode, where he assures someone that they needn’t have had a wing fall on their house and that even a bag of peanuts is enough to get them into the lawsuit. Awesome. Mike’s mikes turned up a fierce war of words between Walt and Skyler over her revelation that she’d fucked Ted, a conversation which led Walt to offer one of his typically nonsensical declarations (“I’ll suit myself to his face!”) and found him heading over to the office to confront Ted in person and give a predictably ineffective performance.

Damned shame about the potted plant, though. Poor bastard only had a week left ’til retirement…

After being thrown out of the office by security, much to Skyler’s chagrin, Walt was quickly hustled off to Saul’s office by Mike for a quick tête à tête about Walt’s profound need to get his shit together (“Channel your energy into something positive!”), with Saul shrugging off the fact that he’d bugged the White house by making the hilarious suggestion that Walt not get lost in the who, what, and whens. Additionally, Saul’s use of the word “ironical” was not lost on me. I hate people who use that word…and, goddammit, I think Bob Odenkirk knew that. I’m going to forgive him, though, because he’s so damned funny in this role. (“You just bought a $300 suit, psycho!”) Things quickly got serious again, however, when Mike dropped Walt at home, leaving an ominous warning – “Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to have someone watching your back” – and revealing that the Cousins had paid another visit…and left their mark.

Walt is, to be blunt, completely losing his shit. His world is collapsing around him like a house of cards, with one level bringing down another, then another. In this case, Skyler’s infidelity left him in such a state of shock that he seemed to go into a semi-vegetative state in front of his class and then, upon being questioned about his actions, proceeded to try and kiss the school principal. The man has completely lost his sense of what’s appropriate behavior and what isn’t…with the exception, that is, of making meth. He’s definitely not doing that anymore, and he attempts to underline that point during his post-firing chat with Jesse. Oh, whoops, sorry: he wasn’t fired, he’s taking a sabbatical of indefinite length. Well, whatever you want to call it, his chat with Jesse is amicable right up to the point where his former partner breaks own his own product, resulting in that awesomely explosive scene between them. It was a little sad to see the shock and hurt on Jesse’s face: he was proud of his accomplishments, but they were met with the response, “Very shoddy work, Pinkman. I’m actually embarrassed for you.” Walt’s biggest concern at this point…? He refuses to have his name associated with an inferior product, further proof that he’s completely disassociated himself from any possible repercussions of his actions…and if that didn’t clarify it, surely his decision to switch off the radio at the announcement of Donald Margolis’s attempted suicide did. Very much a “not my problem” moment.

Marie made a brief appearance…boy, her character’s really fallen out of favor with the writers, huh?…to offer her concerns about Hank’s trip to El Paso. Not that she need have worried, since he ends up blowing it off in favor of following the trail of the blue meth. (See, I told you he’d be seeing it sooner than later.) He’s clearly obsessing over this, to the point where I thought he was going to end up like Walt and find himself on the receiving end of a sabbatical of sorts, but, no, he was given the opportunity to blow off El Paso and pursue his own personal Moby Dick. Way to make Cashier Cara cry, you big bully, but kudos on noticing and following up on the camera in the ATM…and kudos to the writers for not taking the easy way out and letting the camera in the store itself work. (As if the writers ever take the easy way out on this show…)

I’m sure there are some viewers who find themselves saying, “Poor Skyler, no one at work likes her,” much as Betty Draper has her defenders on “Mad Men,” but while there’s no question that Skyler been dealt a shitty hand, the decision to fuck Ted was just a poor one, plain and simple. Now, to be fair, Ted seems like a semi-nice guy who may indeed actually like Skyler (or, at the very least, he’s doing a good job of pretending, since he invited her to move in), but her actions were that of a woman who took the only method of revenge available to her. Given how pissed off Walt is, however, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Ted doesn’t live to see the end of Season 3.

I was a little distracted during the scene where Gus and Mike met up, as I’m pretty sure it was filmed at the car rental lot of the Albuquerque airport. If I’m wrong, Jamey will no doubt correct me, as he and I were both at said lot earlier this year when we rented a car to drive to the “Breaking Bad” set, but I swear that’s where it was. Well, anyway, I have to say that, when Gus told Mike to go ahead and do the deal with Jesse, even though he’d said only moments before that he didn’t work with junkies, I thought it was because he figured that doing the deal with Jesse would piss off Walt so much that he’d say, “Fuck that, I’ll do it!” And, indeed, I think that is what he’s doing, though he’s done it in a very creative way. At first, I was, like, “So, wait, if Walt’s getting paid for not doing anything, what’s his incentive to help out?” But then I realized that the money basically just serves to let Walt know that Jesse is indeed making the meth without him. To only give Jesse half, though, I think will come back to bite Gus in the ass. I can’t see how that can do anything but piss Jesse off.

Just one final observation that’s unrelated to anything else: I don’t know what the hell’s going to happen to poor Walt Jr. when he finally finds out that his dad isn’t infallible, but I know it won’t be pretty.

  

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