Sunday, August 18, 2013

Breaking Bad Recap - "Blood Money" (Season 5 Episode 9)




Previously on Breaking Bad, Walt hid the ricin vial in the wall outlet, shot and killed Mike, and was ready to take out Nervous Lydia before her Czech Republic plan, Hank got promoted, Walt left Jesse his big bag o' cash, then told Skyler he was "out"of the meth biz, which tied things into a nice pretty bow until Hank decided to drop the kids off at the pool and connected the "W.W." dots......

We open with skate punks working what appears to be a cement half pipe of some kind, but since we are in extreme close-up it's hard to tell. As the shots get wider we see exactly where we are - it's Casa White, and it looks like it's gone completely to shit - abandoned, boarded up and tagged.  Clearly, we are back to the Flash Forward zone as in the first episode of last season.  Right on cue, the old junker pulls up to the front of the house, and out steps bearded, bedraggled Walter White.  He pops the trunk where we see the (recently) purchased M60, but that's not what he's after this time - it's just a crowbar, which he doesn't really need to get past the fence, which has No Trespassing signs all over the place, surrounding the house.  He does use said crowbar to bust open the front door, and we see the interior is, not surprisingly, a huge mess.  What is surprising, even to Walt, is that someone sprayed HEISENBERG in big letters on the wall, so that cat apparently gets waaaaay out of the bag pretty soon.  I was surprised that some random tagger spelled it right, but maybe there is more to it than we know. He slowly walks through the place, noticing the skate punks in the back yard, before heading down the hallway.  We quickly realize what he's after - the infamous, often accessed but never used as yet vial of Ricin, which has managed to survive all of whatever the hell went down at this house.  Vial secured, he heads out, but not before catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror, and perhaps for the first time realizing that he looks like crap.  Dying slowly will do that to you I suppose.  He closes the trunk to the junker and the camera pulls back to see his neighbor frozen in stunned disbelief, like she's seeing a ghost.  Walt looks for a moment before saying "Hello, Carol" at which point Carol drops her grocery bag, spilling the oranges into the road.  Titles.....

Back to where we left off, in the White's master bedroom, we slowly zoom towards the bathroom door where Hank has just made his stunning discovery:  not that people actually read poetry while dumping, though that is rather odd, but that W.W. is actually his nebbish of a brother-in-law.  Hank emerges, book in hand, and slowly ambles down the hallway.  Dean Norris really does a nice job here - all of what we've come to know about Hank is not evident anymore, the swagger, the cockiness - all of it, gone.  He slips the book into Marie's purple (naturally) bag and peeks out at Walt through the blinds.  With Holly on his lap, he's engaged in conversation with Marie, who lets out a perfectly timed "Walt, you are the Devil" just as Hank slides open the door.  When offered a beer by Walt, Hank declines, feigns a stomach ailment and tells everyone that he and Marie need to shove off.  Hank can't wait to get the hell out of there, but obviously doesn't want to raise any suspicions - he's stunned momentarily after getting into the driver's seat by Walt, who sincerely asks if Hank is okay to drive.  This sincere, nice Walt is going to take some getting used to, but something tells me he won't be this way for very much longer. On the way back inside, while Flynn and Sky have a mock argument about who will do the dishes, Walt throws his hand up and gives a cheerful "Hello Carol!" to his neighbor, who is the same woman from the open, minus the soiled pants.

Cut to the Schrader mobile, where Marie is incredulously talking about Walt and Sky's planned trip to Europe.  Being Marie, she goes on and on, while Hank throws her a terse "yeah" every few seconds.  He's not really invested in this convo, as you might guess, and the tense music builds while Marie becomes background noise. The shot gets tighter on Hank and the tension builds, his breathing gets heavier, and he doesn't answer when Marie finally realizes something is wrong.  The car veers as she yells "HANK!" but by the time he tries to correct the turn he's already in someone's front yard.  He practically falls out of the car, eyes wide and breathing labored, looking like he's about to either collapse or explode.  As the owner of the house comes out, Marie tells him to call for help as Hank slowly begins to come around.

Three hours later, the Schrader's have returned home.  As Hank cuts off his hospital bracelet, Marie is still quite concerned that although they have ruled out that it was a heart attack, there is no guarantee it won't recur.  Hank is all "don't worry, it's under control" as he pulls the book from the bag.  He's got that bug in his ear now and won't stop until he can start putting the pieces together.  Oh, and he tells her not to say anything about this episode to Skyler.

In his garage, Hank pulls down the Gale file, which you just knew he wasn't ever going to get rid of.  Going through the contents is like a trip through the past 4 1/2 seasons in pictures, and he spends considerable time comparing the handwriting from Gale's notebook and the Leaves of Grass inscription.

At the car wash, the doors open to begin a new business day.  Right there to greet each of his employees by name is Happy Walter - he even remembered that it was Enrique's birthday!  I bet Ol' Caterpillar Eyebrows Bagdhan never did that.  Skyler comes in and she is all business, leaving us with the impression that she is the one really running this place.  In a great scene to show just how much Walt has distanced himself from his former life, he engages her in a discussion about Air Fresheners, their margin, and how best to display them.  He then pulls her aside to sell the idea on expanding the car wash empire in order to make their cover story more plausible, given how much money they are in the process of laundering.  Sky will think about it, Walt leaves and who should arrive but Nervous Lydia, looking as jittery as ever while she refuses Sky's attempt at upselling.  Skyler takes the keys and lingers over the vehicle for juuuust a extra second as Lydia heads inside......

......where Walt is fresh off of wishing a customer to "Have an A-1 Day" when he turns and sees Lydia come through the door.  His expression turns immediately to a mixture of anger and disgust, all the while doing his best job of trying to conceal both emotions.  She starts right in - "68 percent" - we figure that is the purity level of the product as currently produced, which is a far cry from the Heisenberg standard of 98%.  Wait, you mean to tell me that Dim Bulb Todd isn't producing the same quality product?  Shocker.  While she expected a slight drop in quality, she never figured it would be this drastic.  Walt replies that he left a viable operation in place, and reiterates that he is, in fact, out.  Lydia only wants a few days of his time to help get things back on track, but Walt ain't buying, and he keeps up with her car wash transaction.  Lydia gets progressively more urgent in tone, and tells Walt that she is being put inside a box.  By whom, we still do not know.  Skyler catches the end of the exchange and comes over after Walt moves Lydia through (while wishing her an "A1 Day").  Not being a dummy, she wonders aloud who would bother to wash a rental car, then asks Walt directly who the customer was.  To his credit, he doesn't try to bullshit her, and spills it: "She is a former business associate who wants me to go back.....and I won't."

Lydia's car rolls off the line, but here comes a very determined Skyler, who tells Enrique that she will handle the towel dry on this one.  Happy Birthday, Enrique!  She confronts Lydia directly - tells her to get out, now, and never come back.  Lydia, who never needs a lot of help to reach peak jittery, quickly hops in the car a speeds away.  Sky fires eye lasers at her the whole time as Walt emerges from the building just in time to see Lydia bolt.

Back at the Schrader's, Marie meets Hank out on the terrace and asks if he's going to work, to whihc he replies "no".  He's barely making eye contact, which Marie is probably chalking up to the panic attack.  She pecks him on the cheek and heads off as we hear the doorbell ring.  It's a couple of Hank's underlings from the DEA, and they come bearing box after box of items relating to the Heisenberg case, which were probably retrieved from cold storage.  He shuts the door and dives in, and it's a trpi[ down memory lane: a smiling Gus Fring headshot, a Pollos Hermanos napkin, Gale's death scene photos, dead Combo, Cartel guys, etc.  Nothing which could implicate Walt, until he pulls that famous Heisenberg sketch, which is unmistakably Mr. White.  Dots, they are now connected.

Jesse's house, where Badger and Skinny Pete are hanging out.  Jesse is in a chair looking like he would rather be anywhere but where he is while the other two debate the functionality of the transport system.  It's amazing and I would probably have enjoyed it even more if I were a big Trek fan.  This leads to Badger's story pitch - which centers on a pie-eating contest on the Enterprise and is pretty awesome.  Jesse is not at all invested in this and walks out mid-story, returning a moment later with the aforementioned bags of cash, which he takes with him as he leaves.

Saul's waiting room, where a collection of damage seeking hopefuls wait to meet with the Great Saul Goodman.  Jesse can't get any special treatment despite his intimate history with Saul, so he pulls out his pack if cigs and torches up a bone.  This draws a quick reprimand from Huell, but does get the desired result, and gets Jesse and his bags in to see Saul. After a quick crack calling Jesse "Woddy Harrleson", he asks about Walt, and Jesse replies he hasn't seen him.  It's been All Quiet on the Meth Front, apparently. Mr. Pinkman has a simple request: one of his bags is to go to Kaylee Ermantraut, the other to the parents of Drew Sharp - who you might recall as the nice kid on the motorbike who was gunned down by Dim Bulb Todd after the train heist.  Saul realizes that these bags are full of cash ($2.5 million each, to be exact) and promptly locks the door.  He doesn't immediately realize who the Sharp's are, and after a few seconds makes it known that he doesn't want to know why Jesse would suddenly want to bestow this gift upon them.  However, he correctly assumes that the parents want answers as to their boy's whereabouts, and a big pile of cash would create more questions that it would answer.As for Kaylee, Jesse wants to give her this money, which he affirms is his, not Mike's, since that is what Mike wanted.  Saul has no idea what became of Mike, and asks if Jesse has seen him.  Nope.  Well, since the feds have already seized money earmarked for Kaylee twice, Saul tells Jesse that this would be no different.  Jesse is tired of the bullshit, and implores Saul to just get it done, and leaves.  Saul goes into the drawer full of cell phones, picks out the one he wants, and punches in a number.  After imploring the other party not to hangup, he confirms that yes, there are problems.  About five million of them.

We see the other end of the call, and it's Walter, of course, who tells him not to deliver the cash as instructed, and to calm down.  He will handle it.  We pull back to see that Walt is getting chemo again, so we have confirmed that the cancer is back.  Yikes.

Jesse is home, under his glass coffee table contentedly watching a roach crawl across the top, when he hears a knock.  It's Walt, bags in hand, who asks him to talk him through what he was thinking with his request of Saul.  Mumbly Jesse mumbles that, like Walt said, this is blood money. He says he only said that because he was trying to win an argument, and that he was wrong.  He even tries a "Buck up little camper" gesture to Jesse, patting him on the shoulder while telling him that it's his money, he earned it!  He mentions Drew Sharp, and says it was perhaps the worst part of everything that happened, but somehow we can;t shake the memory of him whistling while he worked shortly after wards.  He presses on: don;t live in the past, what's done is done, you're out, I'm out too.  At this, Jesse gives him a look of "For real?"  Yes, Walt tells him, he's been out for about a month, and it's all good.  Walt then asks why Kaylee for the other bag, and Jesse tears up while he tells him that she needs someone looking out for her.  Walt bullshits that Mike is capable of handling that.  Jesse didn't just fall off of the turnip truck, and pieces together that after Walt did what he did - offing all of Mike's guys, Walt would have to constantly be looking over his shoulder, as you know Mike would have quickly dealt with that.  Knowing how Walt operates, Jesse continues, that would not be a loose end that would be allowed to fester.  He's dead, Jesse figures, and Walt knows exactly what happened to him. Walt lies right through his teeth that he doesn't know what happened, he certainly didn't kill him, and will be ready to confront Mike and accept responsibility if and when he comes back.  "I need you to believe me", he tells him, which is very true but for different reasons.  He tells him the same thing again, and they both state that Mike is alive, though there is no way Pinkman is buying it.

Dinner at Casa White, where the conversation is centered on Flynn's buddy Lewis, and college.  Walter is clearly preoccupied with recent events, and excuses himself.  In the bathroom, he goes under the sink to retrieve his meds, so we can confirm that he hasn't told anyone about the recurrence of the cancer.  He can't get the bottle open before he has to quickly head for the toilet to throw up.  He grabs a towel, a la Gus, and places it under his knees since he might be there awhile.  A POV shot from the top of the toilet shows what we already know - Leaves of Grass is missing.  Later, in the bedroom, he asks if Skyler knows where the book is, and she wasn't even aware of its existence.  After eliminating Junior as the culprit, his thoughts turn to Hank.  Sky tells him that Hank still has some kind of stomach bug, and hasn't been to work all week.  Walt's paranoia begins to build as he heads outside, slowly starting to put things together.  Just before heading back inside, he stops and heads toward his car.  Checking the wheel wells, he strikes gold on the rear right side, pulling out what looks like the very same tracking device Hank once asked him to put on Gus' car.  It's Walter's Oh Shit! moment, and the wheels are now in motion.

Garbage can, where a homeless gentleman pulls out a few cans and bottles.  He sees a car nearby and taps on the window asking for some help.  It's Jesse, sleeping in the driver's seat, and he doesn't respond so the man moves along.  Jesse waves him back and hands him a nice, fat stack of bills. The dude is a little gobsmacked, to say the least, and Jesse has to tell him to take it several times before the man finally does. Feeling cathartic, Jesse starts driving through a very depressed neighborhood, tossing a stack into every yard he drives by.  Charity, bitches.

Back to Hank's, where his boys are dropping off more boxes of stuff.  He's got tables of items spread out all over, when who should arrive in the driveway but Walt.  Ruh roh.  Hank starts hastily putting things away as Walt warmly greets the men in the driveway, which buys Hank a few extra precious seconds.  Once ready, Hank yells at the guys to get lost and Walt enters the garage.  Small talk ensues re: Hank's "stomach thing", work, and the car wash. Awkward glances by both guys preface Walt turning to leave with a pat on the arm and a "feel better".  He gets just about to the door when he pauses, and it's time to address the elephant in the room. He starts by framing it as a big misunderstanding, but you can see his tone and demeanor change as he starts describing finding the GPS tracker on his car, and mentioning that it looks a lot like the one they used back in the day on Fring.  Look familiar, Agent Schrader?  He shuts the door with the automatic door thingy.  Walt, not scared, says "You okay?  I gotta say I don't like the way you're looking at me right now."  The door shuts, the two men eye each other, and Hank absolutely cold cocks Walt with a right cross, knocking him to the ground.  Emboldened, and pissed, Hank brings Walt to his feet, grabs his coat while pinning him to the door, and lets it all out.  It was you, the whole time.  The fake car crash to avoid the laundry super lab, Marie in the hospital, the killing of Mike's guys, the bombing of the nursing home, all of it. You are Heisenberg!  Walt, still not copping to it, asks Hank to think about what these "wild accusations" will do to our family, and Hank spits back, literally, that Walt doesn't give a shit about family, and that he will put him under the damn jail.  Seriously, I re-watched it 5 times and Hank has a big wad of spittle fly out of his moth when he delivers that line.  Walt calms down and tells Hank that the cancer is back, and that news does give Hank a slight pause, but he recovers quickly to tell him to "rot".  Walt continues that he will try like hell to beat this, but the truth is he will probably be dead within six months, leaving Hank with nobody to prosecute.  You can see the glint return to his eye as he goes on to say that even if Hank were able to convince anyone that all of this is true, Walt will play the dying guy who runs a car wash card.  Hank insists that Walt have Sky bring the kids to Casa Schrader, and then they can start negotiating.  He is stunned by Walt's balls when he replies that there is no way that will happen, which sets up the best exchange of the episode.  Hank barely audibly says "I don't know who you are.  I don't know who I'm talking to."  Walt replies with the not so thinly veiled threat that if that is so, then "maybe your best course would be to tread lightly...".

Observations:

  • "Hello Carol"  Perfect.
  • Oranges rolling on the ground, another homage to The Godfather
  • I'm guessing the opening scene takes place right after the flash forward from last season, showing Walt gathering supplies for what promises to be a deadly final showdown.
  • Walt trying to tell Jesse that he has no idea about Mike is the moment where Walt re-broke bad.
  • Kudos to Vince Gilligan and everyone responsible for putting the Hank/Walt confrontation in the first episode - I was certain we would build up and not see that until much later.
  • I'll forego the speculation on this one, since this is being posted while the second episode is airing.
  • "Tread lightly".  Wow.
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