Breaking Bad recap: Hazard Pay

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August 2, 2012 by Susan Miller

I'll never call an exterminator again.

I’ll never call an exterminator again.

Welcome fellow (blue) meth addicts!  Episode 3 was chock full of psychological warfare, artsy cook shots and the triumphant return of Badger and Skinny Pete.  We also met the boys at Vamonos Pest, learned about Mike’s day job as a paralegal and very briefly visited the infamous Lazer Base.  Let’s get to it.

1. What will bring down the new cooking operation?

Susan: First, let me say that I was SO excited to find out that it wasn’t at the car wash.  Sweet, sweet Vince.  I should never have doubted you.  That being said, this new cooking operation has a million problems.  You have four new unreliable characters, who specialize in burglary, and stealing information from people.  Great.  You have Walt running the show, which always leads to short-sighted errors and general pride trap situations.  For example, won’t the owners notice the ginormous spike in their electricity bill that month?  Or how about the fact that set up and tear down of the lab and the super fancy equipment is left to 4 bug men who know nothing about the business?  Then you have that scene with Ira where he outlines all of the potential reasons that the homeowners might need to re-enter their fumigated home before Walt and Jesse are done cooking.  Not to mention the nanny cams/home security issues.  It’s a terrible, terrible, terrible idea that is way too clever to work.  My crazy prediction?  Jesse’s work around with the agitator motor doesn’t work and we have our first meth lab explosion on the show.  It’s honestly amazing that it hasn’t happened already.

Steven: They seem to be pointing towards a nanny cam scenario.  However, I think it will be simpler than that.  We were just introduced to four brand spanking new characters, all con men, who Walt and Jesse’s cooking operation depends upon.  And one of those characters, Todd, we all know well from the fantastic Friday Night Lights.  They’re not going to waste him.

My prediction:  Landry, I mean Todd, will bust the whole operation by putting on a Crucifictorious house-show across the street.  Then he’ll roll on Mike after the police discover the body of the would-be rapist Todd murdered at the beginning of season two…  Wait, I think I’m confused again.  (What ended up happening with that anyway?  I just remember his dad setting the family car on fire and Tyra being conflicted for a thousand seasons.)

But really, I have no idea at this point what will bring the cooking down.  I thought they’d be working out of the car wash by this point, and now that’s just a back drop for Skylar and Marie to eat their enormous salads against.

2. What role will Todd/Landry play?

Susan: Thank you, Vince Gilligan, for bringing Jesse Plemons back to my television.  He was so good on Friday Night Lights and I think he has the perfect blend of dark and light to fit in perfectly in the wacky world of Breaking Bad.  He’s obviously too big a star to be in one episode, and he broke Mike’s rule on the very first day, so I think it’s safe to assume that he’ll play a bigger role as this terrible plan progresses.  I think Walt will win him over and try to get him to help take down Mike.  Or maybe he has higher aspirations too and wants to edge out Jesse?  Perhaps he’ll propose running extra security during the cooks?  He’s trouble for someone, but a welcome complication for me.

Steven: Refer to question #1.  Also, I think that in the end Todd will realize how extermination brought him closer to the other guys –different races be damned!

3. Who is Walt comparing Victor to when he says that he flew too close to the sun?

Susan: Jesse.  A case could be made for Mike, but I think Walt really felt that he had the upper hand in the negotiation before Jesse selflessly offered up his share to end the argument.  Jesse has way more money than he needs and absolutely nothing to spend it on.  I think he’s starting to realize in this episode that he’s trading the people he actually likes for a job and money that he really hates.  He can’t include Badger and Skinny Pete in the operation and he had to give up Andrea and Brock because of his sordid history with Walt.  By the end, when he sees that Walt has absolutely zero perspective and refuses to be happy, I think Jesse really starts to realize that maybe it’s time for him to pick up and leave town, like Mike begged him to earlier in the season.  Unfortunately, it looks like he meets Lydia next episode, which will just suck him down even deeper.  There’s no escape, and there’s no way to win.

Steven: I think this is directed at Jesse.  Translation: “Don’t offer to pay out of your own share again.  Don’t offer to do anything independently ever again, or else I’ll convince you to leave behind more than just your girlfriend.”

What bothers me most is that he’s so pissed off about the money that Walt doesn’t even feign interest in Jesse’s life.  Walt has gotten what he wants, one less liability, and he just moves on.  Re-watching that beer drinking scene was excruciating.  I kept wondering what Jesse’s NA sponsor guy would’ve said instead.  Maybe, “Carry your cross but keep the people who make you happy.”  I feel so terrible for Jesse that I forget he’s a grown man capable of determining his own lot in life.  Andrea and Brock brought out such a wholesome, promising side in Jesse.  And (going back to an earlier prediction) I really want Jesse to be the one blowing town at the end, but I want him to be headed to Andrea.  I guess I just still haven’t gotten over Jane…  (Although I’m glad she’s found a new home in Apartment 23.)

4. Where was Hank this episode?

Susan: Working.  I think Vince wanted to set up the new cook site, and the new characters and establish the amount of work Mike is having to do in his off time to keep his guys quiet.  By showing us Mike’s work, he doesn’t have to show us Hank, because they’re basically going to the same places, talking to the same people, about the same things.  Mike just has to get there first.  If he didn’t, we’d see Hank.  However, after watching The Wire, it does seem odd that Hank doesn’t have people trailing Mike.

Steven: Building a case.

Last time we see him, he’s discussing Gustavo with his commanding officer, Merkert, and running into brick walls in his case with Mike.  The next logical step, in my mind, is for Hank to put the last piece in the puzzle and act.  The fact that we get so much Marie, and have Marie alone waiting on a sofa in one scene, raises flags in my head.  She tells Skylar that Hank is back at work and staying busy, but no details on what he’s doing.  This makes me think he’s purposefully not telling her the details because he’s pulling a Gustavo-hunt style operation on Walt.  They put Hank’s realization up in the air last episode and then purposefully ignore him for an episode, because what else is there for him to do or think before starting the Walt-hunt?  Or, before clueing in Walt.  (Still not sure which direction he’ll go myself, but I’m leaning towards a confrontation.)

5. Is Walt thinking at all at this point?

Susan: He’s certainly not thinking about exit strategies or potential problems.  He’s thinking about how wonderful he is and how much money he should have and how much people should fear and respect him.  He’s thinking about that all the time.  But he’s certainly not feeling guilty or worrying about anyone’s feelings.  He’s come a long long way since that scene in episode 1 where he had to make a pro/con list about killing the guy in the basement.  No need for that now.  Walt is fully convinced that everything he does is brilliant and right and true.  It’s amazing how smoothly he talks to Brock, manipulates Jesse into breaking up with Andrea and outs Skylar’s affair to Marie. He’s completely reprehensible, in a way that Gus never was.

Steven: No.  He can figure out the percentages and knows exactly how much Mike is shorting him.  But, he somehow doesn’t understand that 50lbs of meth is worth far less than 200lbs?  Walt is manipulating people but not following through (Skylar, Jesse).  He’s willfully ignorant of the big picture.  Who’s supplying the methylamine?  Who cares!  What happens if we don’t pay these guys off and they flip on the whole operation?  That’s not my problem!  That’s your share!!  This is my apple, I’m going to bite it!!!

I love that Vince Gilligan finally brought in a clip from Scarface.  The juxtaposition of Al Pacino racing around frantically with no plan whatsoever and Walt offering Skylar cold pizza “if she’s up to it” is perfect.  Walt isn’t snorting from massive piles of cocaine but he is high on something, and like any good addiction, it’s making him miss EVERYTHING.

(I also love how they literally kill cockroaches after their first house cook.  Was that the whole reason for this elaborate cooking operation, Vince?  Be honest.)

6. Are Badger and Skinny Pete going to muck up this operation as well?

Susan: I don’t think so.  I think they’re in this episode because they’re beloved characters, and they show us how removed Jesse is from his old world.  They also show up when Jesse’s about to relapse, so it could indicate that he’s about to start using again.  But I don’t think Mike or Walt will let them anywhere near the new operation.

Steven: I feel like they’re going to play a bigger role than just buying a few roadie cases.  Is Jesse going to let his guard down after pushing Andrea away and bring these two jokers back into the fold or, like they always manage to do, are Badger and “Skinny” Pete just going to push and push until they’re a part of the operation? Potential.  That’s all I’m saying.

Bonus thought: The Scarface scene. 

The Scarface scene gave me a new perspective on the cold open.  When Vince Gilligan first pitched the show to AMC, he said he wanted to tell a story where Mr. Chips turned into Scarface over the course of the series.  I think the cold open did nothing more but to show us that the transformation is complete.  It’s his birthday, 2 years after the pilot episode.  He has a new identity.  He’s alone.  He’s picking up a machine gun aka “say hello to my little friend.”  I think that Vince put in the Scarface scene in that episode to remind us of that initial concept for the show.  Rather than showing us where the series is going plot wise, he wanted to show us, at the beginning of the final season, that the transformation is complete.
Best line, courtesy of Badger and Skinny Pete, naturally.  “Hey man, I’m trying to do business over here, bitch! Sorry, he’s like, overly enthusiastic.”

Next week – Walt’s birthday, the Heisenberg hat, more Lydia and the one with the bee on it.  Sure to be a quiet hour.

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