Jul 302012

“Everyone dies in this movie, don’t they?”

Hey…in case y’all missed it the first 10,000 times Breaking Bad showrunner Vince Gilligan has said it in interviews, this show is about a guy who starts out as Mr. Chips and turns into Scarface. And in Hazard Pay, Gilligan and this episode’s credited writer, Peter Gould, makes sure there’s no not-getting-it, in a scene where Walt, Walter Jr., and baby Holly are all watching the Pacino Scarface, at full blast so that poor traumatized Skyler (who’s already had to deal earlier in the episode with Walt moving his stuff back into the house without her permission) can’t fail to hear the constant rain of TV gunfire from the bedroom. (Nice work getting the 7-month-old desensitized to it, too, Walt.) Walt utters the above line with such lip-licking glee that Skyler all but vomits right there on the spot.

A little anvilicious, maybe? Maybe. But so far in S5, Gilligan and friends are choosing the slow build, the creepy crawlies, over overt shock value and bomb-dropping, in a way that lets us know that we haven’t seen anything yet. The only bombs we get in this episode are bug bombs; yes, Walt, Jesse, Mike, and Saul have now built a portable meth lab under cover of an extermination company that’s in on the game. Ever wonder what’s happening when you pass a house that has one of those big colorful tents draped over it? Oh, probably not, you probably just thought, “Yeah, some cockroaches and termites are about to meet their maker, big yawn.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I’ll never look at one of those bug tents the same way again. Walt convinces the others that it’s the perfect cook environment, since nobody but nobody goes back into a house that’s being bombed; they set up their works under the kind of hospital drapes Jesse saw in the Mexican meth lab in Salud, so as not to spread the smell all over the customers’ personal effects (although the house will be plenty stinky after fumigation anyway), then they break the equipment down, set off the bug bombs, and leave.

Nothing could possibly go wrong there, could it? Oh no. Except for the fact that Mike has promised the nine survivors on the Lydia Shit List more hush money — i.e. Hazard Pay — from the new business, to be taken equally from the shares of Mike, Jesse, and Walt. (Saul gets his cut too, but not as an official partner.) Walt gets a reluctant (no, make that terrified) Saul to agree to Mike’s involvement by telling Saul, “He handles the business, and I handle him,” but Mike tells Walt in no uncertain terms at the onset of their agreement that Walt and Jesse are in charge of cooking, period, and they are not to butt in to Mike’s handling of the business under any circumstances. So when they are divvying up the money from their first cook and Walt sees the fat stacks getting thinner and thinner from all the people Mike has to pay off to button their lips, not to mention the “mules” who have to transport the meth without getting caught or killed, Walt predictably craps a brick. What will do Walt in, ultimately, is his need to have more more more, faster faster faster, now now now. It’s no longer about the money; clearing half a million dollars a month should be more than plenty for anything Walt or his family will ever need, even with Walt’s now-legendary recklessness with his stash. His hunger is bottomless, and it’s obvious someone (or several someones) will have to have to die in order to feed it.

And who might that be? Mike? The other people on the Shit List? Lydia doesn’t appear in this episode and isn’t even mentioned by name, but it’s not hard at all to imagine a scenario in which she and Walt are in cahoots. Lydia wants these folks dead; it’s Mike who insists on rewarding their loyalty while paying them off instead, and the fewer Shit Listers remain, the bigger Walt’s slice of the pie. But could a Mike killing be in the cards too? Walt as much as hints to Jesse at the end of the episode that he’s thinking that way, that he’s starting to think Gus killed Victor not because Victor was spotted at Gale’s crime scene, but because Victor started cooking without Gus’s permission and therefore, he took too many “liberties that weren’t his to take,” and Gus had to waste him. Mike has explained to Walt, with a lot more patience than Walt deserves, exactly why all these other people need to be paid off in order to keep the DEA and the APD out of their hair, but as far as Walt is concerned, there’s no room in this company for two alpha dogs. He won’t kill Jesse, because Jesse shows Walt the “proper” deference, but Mike is an independent agent, and to Walt, that spells trouble. He has no idea how much trouble he’s in for without Mike to protect him.

More creepy crawlies: Walt is formally introduced to Brock, and Walt acts like he’s never seen the kid before, telling him “I heard you were really brave” when he had to go to the hospital, while Brock says nothing and gives Walt the stink-eye. So that means Walt wasn’t the one who gave Brock the poison berries? A neurotypical 6-year-old would blurt out, “I know who you are,” or at least have some sort of terrified outward reaction, if he recognized the man who poisoned him, right? Or maybe Walt had one of those Boris Badenov disguises on when he did it?

In any case, Walt continues his playing of Jesse like the 12-string guitar Jesse’s friend Badger noodles on in the music store where Badger and Skinny Pete (who plays a mean classical piano!) buy the roadie cases they need for the business. He tells Jesse, “Secrets create barriers between people,” and that if he’s serious about Andrea, he has to tell her everything. Jesse’s eyes pop and he asks if that means he has to tell her about Gale, too, and Walt murmurs soothingly, “I trust you and I know you’ll make the right call…if she loves you, she’ll understand.” Of course Walt knows damn well that Jesse doesn’t want to involve Andrea and Brock in his filthy business and that Jesse will opt to dump Andrea instead, which he does. And when Jesse sadly informs Walt of this, Walt barely even blinks. Andrea and Brock are speedbumps to Walt, not people. In fact, in Walt’s world, anyone who isn’t a perfectly compliant cog in his machine is just that — a speedbump.

And potentially the biggest speedbump Walt has to deal with now — that is, until he inevitably forms the next deadly scheme that ups his body count — is Skyler, who finally snaps when Marie nags her about lighting a cigarette, and screams at Marie to shut up — 15 times! You know that it’s really Walt she wants to scream at, but Marie, at least, won’t have her killed for doing it. However, Marie does confront Walt about Skyler’s depression and the 15 Shut Ups, and Walt puts his Mr. Chips face back on and murmurs something about how upset Skyler is that Ted fractured his spine and might never walk again, she and Ted had an affair but don’t tell Hank, and so on and so on and scoobydoobyblahblah, and Marie melts like a Kraft single. I never thought Marie entirely bought Skyler’s story about Walt winning all that money in illegal gambling clubs; I thought she just wasn’t going to question it because hey, money, tons of it, falling out of the sky, and my husband really really needs it! But you know this is going to be a topic of conversation between Marie and Skyler, and Skyler is going to flip out so hard that the 15 Shut Ups are going to sound like a Misterogers bedtime song. Walt’s 51st birthday is coming up (Marie mentions it to Skyler, who just waves it away), and the way this is going, something nasty is going to wind up in Walt’s birthday breakfast. And it won’t be a Blattodea.


  35 Responses to “Recap: Breaking Bad 503, Hazard Pay”

  1. I wonder if Ginzo’s going to get the Vamanos Pest Control account?

  2. It seemed somehow comically appropriate that during a break in the cook, Walt and Jesse were watching The Three Stooges.

    When Gus was heading things up, he was backed – owned? – by a huge German multinational conglomerate whose size and power is comparable to General Electric. Now, instead of working in a state-of-the-art underground super lab, our boys have been reduced to setting up shop in extermination- tented private homes. Even their ratty old RV was better than what they’ve now been reduced to.

    I don’t see this new enterprise working out too well for them.

    • And now that I think about it, there were several Three Stooges shorts that featured the boys as exterminators, plying their trade in people’s homes, in preparation for some big shindig. Things usually ended up with a hilarious pie fight. Unfortunately, for our 3 stooges, there won’t be many laughs as their lame brain cooking scheme falls apart.

  3. I read this in my morning paper and couldn’t help but think of Walt’s new floating meth lab business model:


    • Melville — love the article you posted, especially the last sentence: “Police said some hotel guests were firefighters in town for the convention of the International Association of Firefighters.”

      Are you sure Vince Gilligan isn’t moonlighting as a beat reporter in Philly? Walt would never cook meth a la “shake ‘n bake” style.

    • This happened in one of our older downtown hotels a few years ago. They had a fire that contaminated the whole structure. The building was left vacant for years until some wonderful entrepreneurs restored it to its art-deco glamor. Now it is THE hotel in town, where President Obama stays when he campaigns in Eastern Iowa.

    • That is just bizarre. But Walt would never choose a hotel. It’s way too public. At least with the bug spray they’ve got cover; it’s supposed to smell bad afterwards. But yeah, I don’t even want to think about how badly they’re going to pollute the groundwater doing this, not to mention the very real possibility of burning a house down. Eeesh.

      • “pollute the groundwater” – I didn’t notice how they disposed of the effulent – not down the drain?

        If down the drain, the sewer system will treat somewhat – and will certainly dilute. Household water use in the USA is about 50-100 gallons/person – roughly 150-300 gallons/household. Scale this by a city the size of ABQ and your meth lap effulent essentially vanishes.

        OTOH if just dumped (unlikely, knowing Walt wold be loathe to leave tracks), will it first kill the grass?

  4. Its bad enough that Walt & Jesse are synthesizing Meth in people’s homes. The horrific thing is that they are venting untreated exhaust directly into the play area of this family’s children. Walt’s indifference to the thought of small kids playing in contaminated soil is so depraved that his transformation to pure evil is nearly complete. Its just a matter of time before he turns on someone in his family – Hank? Skyler? Marie? Someone is gonna die and Walt will be responsible – there will be no gray area.

    Unlike Gus & Scarface, Walt uses children and he doesn’t care who he harms – civilians are collateral damage. He’s devolved into the same thug that Tuco, the Cousins and the Bullet Head Dealers were.

  5. In honor of Antonio Montana.
    Fuck, Mike. If he’s too naive to think that one of his guys won’t gleefully take the cash, and rat him out to get a better a deal at the same time, then fuck him.
    Fuck Skyler. She’s no longer the babe in the woods. Her innocence died when she decided to help Walt. She will be taken care of in perpetuity, now she has tha gall to be all traumatized! Fuck that.
    Fuck Lydia. Read Skyler.
    Fuck Madrigal.
    Fuck Hank. When, not if he finds out about Heisenberg. If he’s too ungrateful to see where his rehab came from, his insurance wouldn’t have been the quality that Walt’s $ provided, which gave him a sense of purpose again, then fuck him too.

    • What about Casper Gomez and the Diaz Brothers?

      • Ahhhhh, the Diaz brothers. My bad, omitting them. Casper Gomez was made a literal ghost by Tony, so fuck him too. 🙂

    • Hank probably wouldn’t have been paralyzed in the first place if not for Walt’s shenanigans.

      Skyler didn’t leave because Walt wouldn’t let her. Her choices were help him and keep this a secret from the kid as long as possible, or throw his terminally ill father in prison. Maybe she made the wrong choice, but let’s not pretend that she made it with a clear head. Being stalked and gaslighted can do screwy things to your brain.

      And trying to kill Mike would be an Officially Bad Idea for Walt on multiple levels. First, if Walt tries to kill Mike and fails, he’s instant burnt toast. Second, Walt has no clue about running a business like this on his own, and neither does Jesse. Jesse knows how to do the kind of small-time operation he did when he was doing his chili powder thing, but moving 40 pounds of meth a week is beyond him, and Walt would fuck it up beyond repair, given his propensity to piss off almost everyone who has ever tried to help him (not to mention actually get them killed because of his overreaching). Third, the feds are never going to be able to give any of Mike’s guys a better deal money-wise than Mike can, and any deal they make with those guys is contingent on them giving up their lives as they know them and going into witness protection. If they take Mike’s money and don’t say anything, they don’t have to do that.

      Of course, there’s the possibility you’re joking and I missed it, in which case please forgive me.

      • You left off going to Skyler’s brother in law the DEA agent, making a deal, coming clean and saving her children from a potential monster and the danger all around him. It means facing the consequences, all of them, Hank is her only salvation. Skyler has to go to Hank, confess everything and ask him what to do.

        I believe the thing holding Skyler back, besides being terrified of Walt, is her confession will effect not only her family, but Hank and Marie. Her children, Hank and Marie are the innocents in BB. Maybe the only ones that are totally innocent. Because of this, I thought Skyler would have to do time and her baby would end up with Hank and Marie.

  6. Thoughts I had about this episode:

    1) Agree, Meowser: the pest-control tent is the best environment for crime since Baltimore’s vacant row houses in The Wire.
    2) That Walt, sharing the precious experience of watching Scarface with his infant daughter: what a guy, huh?
    3) I didn’t know what a corrugator was (didn’t even know a machine did that), until last night.
    4) Marie. Spending time with her (“You wipe in circles! CIRCLES!”) is always such a pleasure.
    5) I don’t think Brock had ever seen Walt before. I just think that kids know when people are bad news.
    6) When Mike mentioned that the next shipment of methylamine will cost them, I thought, The people writing this show are really doing their homework.
    7) Which I-hate-Walt moment resonated most? The Scarface scene with baby Holly, the fake heart-to-heart with Jesse on the couch, or the way he neatly slipped the story of his wife’s past affair to her sister? Decisions, decisions …
    8) I learned more about business from Mike and the stacks of cash than I did in four years of college. (To be fair, I was an English major. Still.)
    9) Mike is both virtual-boss and HR-manager to Walt and Jesse, now.
    10) In fact, Mike is Joan Holloway Harris, in pants.

    • And Marie is Francine in Purple!

    • Heh. So if Mike is Joan, what does that make Walt? Jane? Pete? (Surely not Peggy.)

      • Jessie is Peggy
        Flynn is Sally
        Badger is Kinsey
        Skinny Pete is Cosgrove
        Hank is Roger
        That guy at the Junk Yard is Burt
        Gus was Duck

        • The man leading a double life in starring role: Walt is Don.
          The I Hate Walt moment is DEFINITELY telling Marie about the affair. What pantload willingly divulges being cuckolded? Keep your shit in house, dude. So lame.
          Baby Holly is what, 11 months? Walt and Flynn probably don’t have the patience to put her to sleep, like Mom does, so she saw the flick with the fellas. She won’t be traumatized imho cause she’s too young to remember.
          She is sooo adorable.

          • I think Walt has more in common with Pete than with Don. Both Walt and Pete have done a lot of you-don’t-appreciate-my-brilliance, you-don’t-want-me-to-have-good-things sniveling that Don doesn’t do. When Don got physically assaulted (in Seven Twenty Three), he had just been a total dickcheese to Betty and was having a serious diva attack at work, and yet, audiences didn’t have the “Don had it coming” reaction that Pete got when Lane punched him out in Signal 30.

            People sympathize with Pete, they root for Pete, but they’re also satisfied to see him get punched out, because he’s become so thoroughly coated with slime. (Though I think three times in a season was probably one punchout too many.) The same kind of dynamic is happening with Walt. Walt has just become so smarmy, so completely lacking in sincerity that even if you feel bad for him having a terminal illness, it’s hard not to want to see him get what’s coming to him.

          • Mad Men homage – when the cousins visit Walt’s house with ax in hand, Mike notices a symbol on the asphalt, “you know Walter, sometimes its a good idea to have somebody watching your back”. A scythe, the Hobo code for “a dishonest man lives here”. Don and Walt have more in common than most viewers perceive. If Don Draper is Ayn Rand’s ideal of a man driven by self interest, Walter White is the bastard son of this philosophy. As Maureen Dowd has eloquently written, Walt is the poster child of post-modern America – he is the personification of materialism, narcissism and cynicism.

          • ‘The personification of materialism, narcissism, and cynicism.’ Me, likey. Me likes it A LOT.
            Walt is like Nixon, the ugly reminder of who/what we really are deep down. Not the angelic pictures we have in our heads, like the Gilded JFK.

            Jon Hamm stated that Walt is a guy who makes a ton of bad decisions, and it’s amazing to watch. Shit, yeah. If Walt was the same well-meaning schlubinsky from the first season, who would watch this? A show about a good hearted meth dealer?
            Making fast money does something radical to your endorphine level. Selling drugs is a, ……….um, SPEEDY sensation. You feel a crazy sense of power. You morph into an asshole on steroids version of yourself.
            Walt is no different, no matter how many degrees he has.

            I wish Walt would behave WORSE than he currently does. Admit it: you can’t look away, no matter how much your stomach churned.
            I LOVE HIM.

          • “Making fast money does something radical to your endorphine level. Selling drugs is a, ……….um, SPEEDY sensation. You feel a crazy sense of power. You morph into an asshole on steroids version of yourself.
            Walt is no different, no matter how many degrees he has”.

            Hmmm, Tilden, and how would you know? 🙂

  7. Nice recap, Meowser – you are really giving Sepinwall a run for his money.

    One clunker:

    “it’s not hard at all to imagine a scenario in which (Lydia) and Walt are in cahoots. Lydia wants these folks dead; it’s Mike who insists on rewarding their loyalty while paying them off instead, and the fewer Shit Listers remain, the bigger Walt’s slice of the pie.”

    I’m having trouble imagining this. Mike is a tough nut and has value to Walt. Walt may be a melgomaniac, but he’s not so blind as to do Mike in (to use a britishism). He’d have to be sneaky about finding or recreating “the list”. Does Walt have a clue about Lydia? Does Lydia have a clue about Walt (or Jesse)?

    I’ll admit, I’m without a clue.

    Clue me in.

    • Walt and Jesse have never heard of Lydia or vice versa, but I don’t think that’s going to last long. Just a hunch.

      So if Walt wasn’t dropping a hint to Jesse about wanting to kill Mike in that ending speech, what do you think he was talking about? I don’t see it as Walt threatening Jesse; Jesse has been about the most loyal footsoldier he’ll ever find, and how would Jesse have taken “liberties that weren’t his to take”? He has to be talking about Mike; Mike is the one who took all that money out of the till to pay all those guys without ever giving Walt details about what he was going to do, and Mike rather explicitly told Walt from the getgo that how Mike handled the business was Mike’s business only, that Walt and Jesse were just going to shut up and cook. But Walt is not and never has been good at shutting up and doing anything.

      • Oh, Walt was talking about Mike–no doubt about it. Who would of ever thought that Jesse would turn into a 1st class mediator? The Walt-Mike thing is just going to get worse and Jesse’s loyalty to both men will be tested early and often.

        Walt has got a huge dose of humility coming between now and his 52nd birthday. I wonder what that will be? Losing his family? Jesse dying? Killing Hank? Terminal cancer? A death to Skyler or WW Jr or baby Holly? What will it take to for Scarface to channel his inner Mr Chips?

        • There is no reservoir of humility from which WW can draw from. He is bereft, and beyond saving. Losing Skyler will only hurt because his children will leave with her. After that, there are no sacred cows.

  8. And of course, the kicker joke here is that Walt is the most dispensable member of the trio and that Jesse and Mike could easily get rid of Walt, hire an assistant for Jesse (who has already demonstrated he can cook Walt’s formula as well as Walt does), and carry on as before, without having to deal with Walt’s barking and sniveling. The glue holding the whole thing together right now is Jesse, who still feels like he owes Walt something. If Jesse ever stops feeling that way, look out.

    • Yes, Jesse is the glue, but Walt is the brains. WIthout him they aren’t cooking in the bug house and could be other places which make them more vulnerable. Mike is the muscle, Walt is the brains, and Jesse is the glue. It is a necessary alliance like England-US-Russia in WWII and about as potentially explosive.

  9. Skyler’s depression and the 15 Shut Ups

    The Breaking Bad house band…

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.