Episode Title: "Hazard Pay"
Writer: Peter Gould
Director: Adam Bernstein
Previously on "Breaking Bad":
Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is a sick, sick man. And I'm not talking about his terminal illness.
From the beginning, "Breaking Bad" has been about Walt's gradual transformation from mild mannered high school teacher into a rising force in the criminal underworld… all under the pretense of wanting to provide for his family after he is gone. That may have been Walt's original motivation, but he cares so little for his wife, Skyler (Anna Gunn) that instead of checking on her after being told that she has suffered a nervous breakdown, Walt simply goes into the kitchen and bites into an apple without giving it a second thought.
The cancer may have eaten away at Walt's body, but the drug business has destroyed his soul. Walt is still outwardly capable of showing affection towards his son, Walt Jr. (R.J. Mitte), his infant daughter, Holly, his partner and sometimes surrogate son, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) and even to Skyler. But how much of it is genuine at this point? Walt's fatherly talk with Jesse seemed designed to plant the idea into Jesse's head that he needs to break off his romance with Andrea (Emily Rios) for her protection and for his. And Walt does this while expressing admiration and encouragement to Jesse about his makeshift family!
When Jesse formally introduces Walt to Andrea and her son, Brock; Walt is welcomed to share dinner with them. It's a very warm and congenial, at least on the surface. But Walt's intense silence around Brock may have been the pangs of guilt that he feels for poisoning the boy to win Jesse back from Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito). Curiously, Brock doesn't seem to remember Walt at all; which suggests that Walt let someone else do the dirty work of giving Brock the Lily of the Valley berries to eat. I don't believe that this is a plot hole. Down the line, the writers will probably reveal exactly how Brock was poisoned.
For Jesse, his feelings of affection for Walt are very real. And when Jesse starts to open up about ending his relationship with Andrea, he's kind of stunned that Walt steers the conversation back to business in order to vent about Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and not so subtly intimate that he may have to kill Mike by bringing up the way that Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) brutally murdered Victor in the fourth season premiere. Jesse also seems to be smart enough to realize that Walt's new mindset could potentially be dangerous for him as well.
The tragedy of it is that Mike seems to be as fair as he can be, given the circumstances. There are nine members of Gus' crew in custody who have lost their "hazard pay" when the feds discovered Gus' hidden foreign bank accounts. This is actually Walt's fault too, as it was the magnet heist that uncovered that info. To keep anyone from breaking ranks or cutting a deal, Mike masquerades as a paralegal to visit all of the men in prison during a single hectic day.
If Walt could see past his own ego, he'd understand that what Mike is doing is simply good business. Those men may have belonged to Gus, but their continued silence can only help the new alliance between Walt, Jesse and Mike operate under the radar of the DEA. But instead of recognizing this, Walt openly seethes as Mike takes the costs out of their respective shares.
It has to be said that Walt's newest plan to cook meth without detection is very clever. After several locations are toured, Walt hits upon using an exterminator's fumigation business as cover to set up a mobile meth lab in a different home every time. It's such a great that idea that I wouldn't be shocked if actual meth cooks try it out in the future. Thus begins what is sure to be an interesting business relationship between the trio and the guys from Vamonos Pest. As Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) explains, the exterminators are also B&E crooks themselves, but Mike demands their retirement from that line of work in exchange for being well compensated to leave a house to them in addition to hauling their equipment inside.
The episode's most hilarious scene comes when Skinny Pete (Charles Baker) and Badger (Matt L. Jones) rock out in a music store before buying large cases to help Walt and Jesse smuggle the lab equipment from location to location. The homeowner's reaction to those cases was also pretty funny, as he incredulously asked just how much poison the exterminators planned to use on his house.
On the home front, Skyler is barely functional after Walt simply moves himself back into their house. Ever since she learned that Walt had something to do with Gus' murder, Skyler has been walking on eggshells around him. But when her constantly chatty sister, Marie (Betsy Brandt) can't stop pressing her at the car wash, Skyler simply snaps. Despite her faults, Marie cares for her sister and demands an explanation from Walt; who ingeniously ties Skyler's breakdown to the near fatal injury of her one-time lover, Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins). This revelation floors Marie and she actually hugs Walt to comfort him!
"Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan has often said that Walter White is slowly becoming Scarface. Near the end of the episode, that comparison becomes more overt as Skyler awakens to find Walt and her children watching the end of Scarface. And Walt is either oblivious to state of distress, or he simply doesn't care.
"Hazard Pay" was the quietest episode of the season so far. But as always, more drama is probably right around the corner.