This show is going through one of those periods where you hate to call any episode out as being the best of the season, not because it wasn’t…because, brother, you’d better believe it was…but because you find yourself saying it so many times during the season that it feels like you’re damning it with faint praise. I mean, in essence, what I’m saying is, “Holy shit, that was the best episode since last week!” Which it was, but…oh, never mind, let’s just get started.

It was funny to start the episode with that flashback, seeing that one of the cousins was a crybaby back in the day. I knew the whole “I wish he was dead” comment was going to come back into play; I just didn’t think it would happen quite so quickly. Say, does anyone know if Tuco’s uncle has written a text on child rearing? I feel like he may have a couple of lessons to teach me beyond what we saw tonight.

But let’s get serious, shall we? Holy shit, I knew Hank was going to go ballistic on Jesse, but…wow. To say that that scene was everything I expected would be a lie, because it never occurred to me that he’d give him quite that level of beatdown. That was a full-fledged, no-holds-barred pummeling, with absolutely no restraint whatsoever. Whew. You better believe Internal Affairs is going to want a word with him…

Of course Saul is going to be at Jesse’s bedside, taking pictures and trying to get the money shot. The Rocky joke was good, but the Beatle quip when Walt walked into the room was better: “You’re now officially the cute one of the group. Paul, meet Ringo. Ringo, meet Paul.” It was absolutely stupid for Walt to sneak in to see Jesse, even if he was concerned about his condition. Yeah, he could’ve explained his presence away with the old “he’s my former student” line, but that’s got to be getting pretty hoary by now. I have to admit that I didn’t expect Walt to express guilt over the situation, but once he did, I certainly wasn’t surprised that it lasted for only a couple of seconds before he had to remind Jesse, “But the plan did work…” Personally, I thought Jesse’s speech was a little long, but, shit, you couldn’t really argue with much of it…which is why I didn’t expect Saul to flip and suggest that Jesse might actually want to go a different direction. Nor did I expect Jesse to be quite so bitter toward Walt. (“You’re my free pass…bitch.”) I did agree with Walt’s theory that if Jesse didn’t give up the ghost during Hank’s “interrogation,” he probably never will, but I certainly couldn’t ignore Saul’s ominous suggestion about “options.”

The Internal Affairs meeting was mostly just a case of waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it’s not like there’s any question that Hank’s guilty. It’s just a matter of what’s going to go down as a result. Certainly the most damning thing to come out of the conversation was the information that not only is Jesse clean of meth, he ain’t even taking the pain meds prescribed by the doctor. Watching Hank’s walk of shame out of the office was rough enough, but then to step out the door and see Marie waiting for him in the elevator…? I’m trying to think of the level of release I’d feel if, after a day like that, my wife was there waiting for me. Frankly, I think I’d probably erupt much the way Hank did the moment the doors closed. It was, however, very much in character for him to be almost completely recovered by the time the moment the doors opened again. Similarly, it was typical Hank that, despite everything that had gone on, his inner cop still heard the subtle pause in Marie’s voice when she said “okay” and knew that she’d told someone about all of the goings-on…and, of course, I think we all knew instantly that the someone in question had to have been Skyler.

What a surprise: Walt’s making a sandwich when Skyler turns up. They each got off a good line during the course of the conversation, but the sting of Skyler’s observation about Walt’s decor (“Guess crime does pay”) didn’t come anywhere near approaching the burn she must’ve felt when she tried to get Walt to talk to Jesse by reminding him that Hank’s family. “Not currently.” Oh, no, he didn’t

Looks like the love affair between Walt and Gale is over before it even got much of a chance to get started. Gale’s sucking up (“This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship”) and doing his best to bond, but Walt’s just not having it…like, to the point where he’s already ready to kick the poor bastard to the curb in an attempt to save his ass. But, really, did anyone think that was going to pan out? I couldn’t even believe that Gus agreed to let Walt replace Gale with Jesse. I can only presume that he expected things to go down about as well as as they did when Walt first pitched the plan to Jesse. I loved the way that Jesse just railed on and on against Walt’s offer, but as Walt left, he quietly told Jesse what he knew he wanted to hear (“Your meth is good, Jesse, as good as mine”), and, as a result, got exactly what he wanted. But, really, does anyone expect the re-teaming of Walt and Jesse to go smoothly?

You know, of all of tonight’s surprises, the biggest for me might’ve been that the truck driver who sold the Cousins their bulletproof vests managed to survive the episode. As he’s going through his bizarre description of golden showers and whatnot, I’m thinking, “I can’t believe this guy has lasted this long, but there’s no way he makes it out of the scene alive.” But not only did he make it, he even got a great closing line: “You’re welcome!”

And, now, we’re back to Hank. For all the other side stories this week, there’s no question that this was Hank’s episode from start to finish. The scenes with Hank and Marie, both in the elevator and back at the house were wonderful looks into their marriage. She’s doing her best to try to make him feel better, throwing around ridiculous theories about muscle memory defense. Maybe that’s why he finally decided to open up and admit how he’s been unraveling and basically falling apart ever since the thing with Tuco. In short, he’s hit rock bottom. He says he’s done as a cop…but is he really? Well, he seems to think he is, anyway. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have been able to give up his badge and gun so easily. Still, when his boss told him that Jesse wasn’t going to be pressing charges, I was sure that his special cop senses were going to start tingling at the suspiciousness of it all. But, no, he seems at peace with the situation and isn’t going to argue with it…or, at least, he did for a few minutes there, anyway.

I think we all knew that there was going to be an encounter with the Cousins in his future, but I have to say that I didn’t think it was going to go down tonight. I figured they’d stalk him for a bit first. But, nope, the poor bastard goes to get flowers for his wife, and in return he gets shot all to hell. We couldn’t hear who called him, but it pretty much had to be Gus, didn’t it? As was observed in the comments section of last week’s blog, Gus is the one who stands to gain if the Cousins are out of the picture. The whole thing was damned intense, particularly as we saw Hank realizing the absence of his sidearm. The fakeout with the bald guy made for a nice scare, and the way Hank backed his vehicle into Cousin #1, nearly breaking him in two, was worth cheering about, and seeing Cousin #2 shoot the innocent guy in the parking lot was downright jarring. But then for Cousin #2 to say, “Too easy,” then go for his axe…? It seemed a little unlikely that he’d not try to disarm Hank, since he could clearly see that he had the gun in his hand, but I’m not complaining.

I have no idea where things are going next week, but I can’t wait to find out.

In closing, since you’ve now seen the episode, you might want to check out my chat with Dean Norris, where we chat about the events in Hank’s life over the course of the past few weeks