Breaking Bad Recap: With a Grain of Salt

Circumstances are closing in on Walt this week on Breaking Bad, but he’s so enamored of his newfound power that he can’t see the brains spattered on the wall. So as the feds draw closer and new players gun for our shiny domed antihero, he’s busy drawing up a new business plan and creeping out his loved ones. (Side note: I think I need to start taking a Xanax at 9:59 on Sunday nights.) Without further ado, gather your glass flasks and don your biohazard suits as we review the major developments of “Madrigal.”

TOT’S ALL, FOLKS | The episode opens in an industrial kitchen, where a man in a suit dispassionately dips Tater Tot-like potato puffs in various sauces while a group of lab-coated men and women watch. One of the lab coats explains the formulation of the various sauces – including “Cajun Kick-Ass” and a French/ranch dressing combo he calls “Franch.” Heh. When he’s tried all the dips, the man in the suit keeps eating the tots plain. Can’t blame him – tots rock. (By the way, all of the dialogue in the pre-opening credits sequence is in English-subtitled German.) The tot-chomping might go on all day, were it not for a woman who enters to tell the suited guy, “Herr Schuler, they’re back. Three this time.” As Schuler makes his way to his office, we see that we’re in Madrigal Elecktromotoren, some kind of European conglomerate. Logos for several companies line the concourse Schuler walks down, and workers are removing the one for Pollos Hermanos. Ah – might Madrigal be the previously referenced multinational company connected to Gus’ dirty dealings? I’m guessing yes, because when Schuler spies law enforcement officials in his office looking at a photo of him and Gus playing golf, Herr Screwedler grabs an emergency AED, locks himself in the bathroom and electrocutes himself into that great drive-thru window in the sky. At least he had a tasty last meal.

BACK IN BUSINESS | At the White house, Walt’s carefully using salt to construct a fake ricin cigarette while we hear a voiceover of a hysterical Jesse, who can’t find the original, and a calm Walt, who promises his former student that they’ll scour the house to find it. Non-V.O. Walt secures the real ricin vial in an electrical outlet in his bedroom, then we see a montage of him and Jesse ripping Jesse’s place apart (set to Whitey’s “Stay On the Outside”). Eventually, Walt plants the fake in a Roomba, Jesse finds it and this episode’s Icky Scene #1 begins when Jesse completely breaks down. The sobbing is sweet, in a way – Jesse apologizes for holding a gun on Walt when he thought Walt poisoned Brock, he calls him “Mr. White,” it’s very touching… except that as Walt is rubbing Jesse’s shoulders and forgiving him, he’s 1) totally in the wrong and 2) unabashedly manipulating this broken, always let-down, essentially good guy. “What happened, happened for the best. I wouldn’t change a thing. You and I, working together, having each other’s back, it’s what saved our lives,” he coos. “I want you to think about that as we go forward…” because Walt wants to get cooking again.

THREE’S COMPANY | Knowing they need help with distribution and such, The Chemical Brothers visit Mike and offer him a third of their business. Mike wants no part of it. “You are a time bomb, tick-tick-ticking,” he tells Walt, “and I have no intention of being around for the boom.” Walt seems to expect the refusal – his smoothness and assurance in his plan is quite creepy. Of course, his composure might be shaken a wee bit if he knew that Hank (walking under his own steam), Gomez and the DEA are meeting with U.S. Attorneys and reps from Madrigal. As Schuler’s boss pledges full cooperation with the investigation, a dark haired woman at the table looks a little squirrelly. After the meeting, ASAC Merkert – who’s being railroaded out of the agency for his lack of action on the Fring case – has Gomez and Hank in his office for a drink. From their conversation, we know that they know about Mike’s Dave Clark Five postal inspector call, that Gus’ magnet-fried laptop was encrypted and they probably wouldn’t have been able to get any intel off it anyway (d’oh!) and that they’re on the trail of whoever gave Hector Salamanca the bomb that made the Casa much less Tranquila. Merkert laments that he liked Gus and even had him over for a family barbecue. “He was somebody else completely, right in front of me, right under my nose,” he muses. In the words of the dearly departed Tio, DING DING DING DING!

CHANGE OF HEART | Mike’s sitting in a diner when Frau Squirrel from the DEA meeting shows up. But the nervous Nellie actually isn’t German – she’s an American named Lydia (Scottish actress Laura Fraser, aka Homeland’s first Jessica Brody) who’s involved up to her Jackie O. sunglasses in Gus’ drug empire. “I’d love your input,” she tells him, as though Mike were a summer intern in the office and not a hired assassin. She basically asks him to kill 11 of his associates who could rat her (and the rest of the operation) out, and he basically tells her to go to hell. “These are my guys, and they are solid,” he assures her, adding that they’ve been well compensated so they won’t sing to the feds… which is good, because the DEA seems to be working off the same list Lydia is. They’ve talked to Golden Hornet owner Chow, and they bring Mike in for questioning, too. Hank and Gomez don’t believe Mike’s story that he was in “corporate security” at Pollos Hermanos, especially because there’s $2 million in an offshore account Gus set up in Mike’s granddaughter’s name. The fact that they know this gets to Mike a little – we can tell because he looks slightly perturbed instead of just bored – but he maintains that he knows nothing about Gus’ meth business, and they let him go. But tenacious little Lydia found someone to do what Mike wouldn’t, and after one of the other guys on the list kills Chow and nearly offs Mike, Mike kills him instead and goes after Lydia. (Side note: Did any of you deduce that the battery operated pig was taped to the peephole? I didn’t.) While her little daughter is upstairs, Mike comes thisclose to killing Lydia but her begging him to leave her body at the house so her daughter doesn’t think she just left makes him change his mind. (Aw Mike, you old softie. In related news, there’s almost no way this decision won’t come back to bite you in your grizzled ex-cop tush.) He asks her whether she can hook him up with a meth ingredient in short supply, and she says yes. Later, Mike calls Walt. “I’ve reconsidered. I’m in.”

IF YOU THOUGHT LAST WEEK’S HUG WAS BAD… |  So now Walt is pretty much back in business. He’s tasked Saul with finding a new cook site. He’s got a plan to dig out from his debt. He’s got another partner. All of the pieces are falling into place… except for the blonde, depressed, freaked-out-of-her-gourd piece that can’t seem to get out of bed. The episode closes with Icky Scene #2, in which Walt makes my skin crawl off my body and rock itself catatonic in the corner. In the foreground, Skyler lies on her side in bed and cries. In the background, Walt disrobes and natters on about his great lasagna dinner (which she skipped on account of being so completely wigged) and how her guilt over Ted’s injury will go away. “It gets easier,” he says. Yeah, I don’t think it’s Ted’s welfare that’s uppermost in Skyler’s thoughts right now, Walter. He slides in next to her and peppers her with kisses. I haven’t seen someone look so uncomfortable since Ann Curry had to endure Matt Lauer’s backrub as she signed off from NBC’s Today. “We do what we do for good reasons,” Walt whispers. Kiss kiss. “You’ve got nothing to worry about.” Arm rub arm rub. “There’s no better reason than family.” Aaaand thank you, Breaking Bad, for the fade to black that spares us a full-on, against-Skyler’s-will sex scene… though I’m not sure what’s worse – seeing it or imagining it.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think about the episode? Have your feelings about Hank’s professional abilities changed over the course of the series? Do you think Mike’s days are numbered? And Anna Gunn recently told TVLine that she could see Skyler not surviving the rest of the season – in light of this week’s episode, do you agree? Hit the comments and sound off!