Breaking Bad 3.11 – I Don’t Understand How The Last Card Is Played (But Somehow The Vital Connection Is Made)

I said this on Facebook this morning after watching my screener of this week’s episode, and I’m saying it again now for all of the readers of this blog: not only is “Breaking Bad” the best show on AMC (which is a hell of an accomplishment, given how much I enjoy “Mad Men”), but it is now officially my favorite show on television, period. Not even having to blog it every week can kill my love for it…and that’s saying something. Watching this week’s episode, though, really served as a turning point for me. I’m someone who, when faced with a plot development which involves a ridiculous amount of coincidence, often finds himself whispering under his breath, “Oh, give me a break…” Tonight’s episode effectively tied new characters from this season into events from last season in a way that, on another show, might have left me feeling the same way. Instead, I was left in awe.

Let us begin, however, at the beginning, with a flashback that allowed Krysten Ritter to return from the dead and play Jane once again. That Jesse was left less than impressed by a trip to an art gallery is hardly surprising, but being reintroduced to Jane after so long served to remind me of a question that occurred to me a few times last season: why is a girl as deep as this involved with a tool like Jesse? Her rap about how “sometimes you get fixated on something and you might not even get why” struck me as a suspiciously on-the-nose callback to Walt’s obsession with the fly, but I could watch Ritter recite from the phone book, so I have no real complaints about that. Besides, if nothing else, the scene provided us with the origin of the lipstick-encrusted cigarette in the car’s ashtray.

Hank didn’t have a huge amount of screen time this week, but his brief appearances in the episode nonetheless served to underline how much he’s struggling with his recovery…and by “struggling,” I mean that he’s kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place: he refuses to leave the hospital until he can do so on his own two feet, but he’s barely willing to participate in the physical therapy that’s being provided. I loved his back and forth with Marie on the matter of pain (“Pain is weakness leaving your body.” “Pain is my foot in your ass, Marie!”), but it shows the depths of his anger about his situation that he should be giving shit to Walt, Jr., a kid who has to use his own crutches to walk out of the room. Gee, you don’t suppose his nephew’s condition serves as a constant reminder about his own physical limitations, do you? Nahhhhhhh…

Speaking of Hank’s situation, his first bill arrives, and, wow, is it a doozy. Skyler assures Marie that it’s no problem for them to cover it, but the look on her face says, “I hope to hell Walt’s got a fresh batch of meth cookin’…” As it happens, he does, and it leads to an uber-cool shot from the other side of the meth as Jesse cracks and crunchs the goods into conveniently shippable rock size. Walt’s watching Jesse like a hawk now, and Jesse’s getting defensive about it, but, hey, at least Walt’s still dedicated enough to his partner that he continues to remind him that they’re being watched. There’s more to be said on this topic, but first we need to address the predominant storylines of the episode: the business relationship between Walt and Skyler, and the new woman in Jesse’s life.

When Walt comes to dinner, after the small talk with Walt, Jr., about getting his license and a car, Skyler gets down to brass tacks and starts talking finances, questioning the accounting practices behind Walt’s money. She wants to know who’s responsible for handling the laundering…or, at least, she does until she actually has to sit in Saul Goodman’s office with the rest of his desperate clients. I laughed and cringed at Saul’s comparison between Walt’s taste in women and attorneys: only the very best, with just the right amount of dirty. Talk about starting off on the wrong foot with Skyler…and his unnecessary attempts to dumb things down for her only make things worse. After all that Barney Stinson did to bring Lazer Tag’s reputation back to an appropriately legendary level, Saul manages to kill its awesomeness stone dead, despite the great rationale behind why people would be accepting of Walt owning a franchise. (He’s a scientist, scientists love lasers. Plus, bumper boats!) By the end of the discussion, Saul has lost his legendary cool and is all but shoving Skyler out the door. Like she’s going to put up with that

Now that Skyler’s fully invested in what Walt’s doing, their relationship is destined to grow stronger. She knows him, she understands him, and – unlike Saul – she can steer him in an economic direction that is far less likely to end in jail time…like, say, a car wash. I had to laugh at Saul’s snappy retort to that plan (“Is that you talking, or Yoko Ono?”), but he was right about the need for a Danny, i.e. someone who’s in on the laundering to run the place. I think we all figured that Skyler would volunteer for that position, but, man, after she revealed that she hadn’t filed the divorce paperwork, that sure was a sexy sparkle in her eyes when she reminded Walt that married couples can’t be compelled to testify against each other. She’s totally getting into this.

We return to therapy with Jesse, where we see that there’s a first-time attendee in the house…and, better yet, she’s a hottie. The ridiculously awkward attempt at Badger and Skinny to act natural while pretending to introduce themselves to Jesse at therapy was almost as hilarious as Jesse using the descriptor “Grandpa Anus” when referring to Walt in his explanation of how product wasn’t proving to be as available as he might’ve hoped. As it turns out, it doesn’t matter, since sales are virtually non-existent, anyway. Turns out that, for as long as Jesse might be willing to sink, his cohorts can’t quite bring themselves to drop to the same depths. “Selling to these people is like shooting a baby in the face: it’s not natural.” (I believe it was Descartes who first uttered those words, wasn’t it?) Jesse, of course, feels obliged to prove that he can accomplish what they can’t, and for more than a few moments, it looks as though he’s going to succeed in his task, but while teetering on the precipice of committing the despicable act…getting a recovering addict high, I mean, not having sex with Andrea…he’s interrupted by the arrival of her disapproving grandmother and, more importantly, her son.

Anyone who watched the Season 2 episode entitled “Peekaboo” knew instantly that the chances of Jesse fulfilling his original plan dropped to nil when Brock walked through the door. You know the one I’m talking about: where Jesse finds himself entertaining the child of a meth addict and ends up chastising her for the way she’s raising her kid. Given how often Jane and her ultimate fate are in his thoughts, it’s a wonder Jesse ever got as far as he did with his plans to bring this poor girl over to the dark side, but once a child entered the picture, it was hardly surprising to see him switch off the dealer mindset and embrace the opportunity to build a relationship with Andrea. Clearly, he’s as addicted to damaged women as he once was to meth, but I really did get the impression that, in his mind, she’d changed her mind about doing the blue meth at the exact moment that he did…which is why it struck him as such a betrayal – both of him and the child – that she’d return to his offer and try to take him up on it.

I’m very curious how many of you saw the connection to Andrea’s 10-year-old brother and Combo’s killer before Jesse started to put two and two together out loud, because I absolutely didn’t, and the revelation was like being hit with a ton of bricks. Obviously, this is what I was talking about earlier when I referred to the tie-in to events from last season. It should’ve felt like a ridiculous coincidence, but between her delivery of the story and the look on Aaron Paul’s face as Jesse worked out that her brother was the one who killed Combo, I felt a huge rush of excitement. If it’s done right, there’s nothing that creates a thrill quite like a long-dormant storyline being tied into a current one, and the way this was delivered verged on perfection.

The ending left me anxious to know what Jesse’s next step would be. Is he so despondent over the situation that he’s actually going to do the meth? Is he going to get his revenge on Tomas for killing Combo? I can’t imagine either of those scenarios to be the case, but with this show, you just never know. Still, what I think is most likely is that Jesse’s inherent desire to keep kids…not just Brock, but any kids…from having to endure the life that he has lived (and, to a very real extent, continues to live) will find him wanting to take out the dealers who’ve sent Tomas down this path in the first place. It may not undo the damage that’s occurred already, but it’ll make Jesse feel like he’s doing his part to straighten out the boy’s life. Unfortunately, if that is the plan, there’s a very real concern that almost certainly hasn’t occurred to Jesse: what if the dealers in question are part of Gus’s team?

If so, then he is, in short, fucked.

It’s pretty obvious to me, based on the dinner conversation between Gus and Walt, that Gus A) legitimately likes Walt and B) knows Jesse’s pulling a fast one. Given that Skyler’s now going to be part of the business, that’s where Walt’s dedication is going to lie, and if Jesse’s going to continue to be a dick and try to run meth outside the established operation with Gus, then he’s not going to have any choice but to cut him loose. As such, I expect to see Gale make a return to the show before the finale…and, perhaps, for Jesse to make a departure? Geez, maybe Justin Timberlake really is joining the cast in Season 4…

Just a few random comments to close:

* How completely weird was it to see Gus in the privacy of his own home? So he’s got kids, too, it seems. He’d better hope to hell that Jesse never finds out…though, man, wouldn’t that make for an interesting storyline?

* Every time Jere Burns makes an appearance, I chuckle at the irony of seeing him playing a therapist rather than a patient, then I wonder why “Dear John” hasn’t made it onto DVD yet.

* Where do I download that Spanish-language version of Chicago’s “Saturday in the Park” that’s playing when Jesse, Andrea, and Brock are having dinner?

* If Skyler is Yoko Ono, then Walt is John Lennon, which means that I have two words for you: Saul McCartney.

  

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