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!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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54 Comments
  1. 1, I want some Franch for my french fries
    2. Madrigal is where they got the industrial equipment to cook the meth. Probably why the guy gave himself 200 Joules.
    2b. An AED won’t discharge unless it detects ventricular fibrillation. I’ll give them creative license here but there is no chance anyone could do that with a standard AED. They are designed to prevent exactly what happened, a lay person stopping a perfusing rhythm.
    3. I think the “right under your nose” comment did connect with Hank
    4. The Chemical Brothers is a good nickname lol
    5. Skyler is going to be the weak link and take Witness Protection.

    I thought it was a little on the boring side, mostly a setup episode for bigger things to come. Hank is definitely connecting the pieces. I was waiting for them to find an account in one of Walt’s kid’s name or something.

    • And Madrigal is obviously how they got at least some of the chemicals as well I guess. I just remember the invoice they found for a piece of equipment for the meth lab that led to the laundry because it was out of place there.

    • justjack says:

      Thanks for the comment about the AED Chuck…. you beat me to it. Nice idea but totally wouldn’t work.

    • jehosh says:

      I agree CF. Skyler is the devil and potential rat, seems on the verge of collapse.
      And Hank just got a serious whiff of old Walt H.White. Good times.

  2. Justin says:

    GAHHHH! I couldn’t believe it was 10:53, I thought I had another half hour of episode left. Another excellent episode. I just watched the first few episodes of Season 1 again…can’t believe how much everything has changed for these characters.

    • Pat D. says:

      Exactly—you know its been a good ep when you look at the clock, and all of the sudden its like 10:50. Shows that stink are exactly the opposite, you would look at the clock and can’t believe its not 10:30 (half over) yet.

    • Jane S. says:

      I actually said “What?!” when it ended; I was so absorbed in the story and expecting more. It happens with BB a lot.

  3. Dan says:

    I was hoping that the show wouldn’t stray from the meth-cooking.

    Also, Chow was the most depressed-looking person I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

  4. anthony says:

    Season 5 is off to a great start…mike an ex cop?..nice..tense scene with the lady beggin to let herself b found…oh man we are in for a ride

  5. Virgil says:

    It hit me watching this tha Skyler may ultimatley kill Walt if she thinks his business will be a threat to the children. Fear for a lot of people ultimatley turns to anger and Walt won’t see it comming as she is the one person he doesnt have is guard up against with.

  6. jjj says:

    The ricin will come into play eventually?

    • Jane S. says:

      I agree, the ricin will either be found and accidentally ingested or absorbed, or will be used in Walt’s plans.

      • seanmom says:

        I bet Skyler smokes the cigarette, which would be fitting because, no matter what she thinks, Skyler is one of the few people Walter actually would feel bad about killing.

        • Shana says:

          The ricin is no longer in a cigarette, simply a vial taped to the outlet. Should she find it, she would know it was dangerous. She may be depressed and scared for her life, but her guard is definitely up.

  7. Elisabeth says:

    I think those were chicken nuggets he was eating at the beginning. You know, because he works for Pollos Hermanos.

  8. chris says:

    kinda boring, except for another reason why Aaron Paul is such an amazing actor and anna gunn can say so much without saying a thing.

  9. Hugo says:

    My girlfriend thinks that Skyler was about to tell Walt that Walt jr is actually Ted’s son

    • gcost says:

      thats far out there haha. but it could explain why walt jr. didnt eat his breakfast…
      jr. could be upset about his real dad’s current condition.

    • Jessica says:

      If you see the flashback to when they were buying the house in season 4, Skylar wasn’t working.

  10. gcost says:

    what happened to mike when he was a cop in philly?
    ?

  11. Jane S. says:

    I don’t know who this Lydia is – was she in previous episodes? I missed most of season 1, most of season 4 (they were unavailable on my server). Is she new, or part of the old Gus network?

    • Rock Golf says:

      That tea order is the kind of dialog they give to somebody a) they’re introducing, b) they have big plans for.

  12. Jane S. says:

    Yes, I am starting to dislike Walt for his double dealings and dishonesty with Jesse and presumed use of lilly of the valley to make Brock sick. At least he apparently used a non-lethal poison or non-lethal dose. Vince Gilligan said in an interview that he expects us to hate Walt at the end. He is already changed; his moral compass is gone, and everything is a means to his ends. So many bodies are piling up. As for Skyler, she sees the change and is truly afraid. It remains to be seen whether she can reconcile herself to the new circumstances, or will go off the deep end.

    • Rock Golf says:

      Starting to dislike Walt?!?!
      The guy has committed by my count at least 8 murders (Gus, Gale, shot 2 of Gus’s cohorts before blowing up the lab, ran over two others trying to kill Jesse, poison gassed two drug dealers, one of whom he choked out with a bicycle lock), watch Jesse’s girlfriend choke on her own vomit and did nothing, is indirectly responsible for a collision of 2 jets, and intentionally poisoned a child.
      And, oh yeah, he’s a meth dealer!
      So let me know when he does something to really make you dislike him.

  13. Mark N. says:

    Walt is such a moron. He thinks he’s the king, and he doesn’t know the first darn thing about Madrigal, he doesn’t know nearly as much about anything as Mike obviously does, and there’s no way Mike is going to let Walt know anything about any of it, because he’d just be another mouth in need of silencing, and Mike clearly doesn’t relish that part of his job.

    It’s all kind of like the whole “Jurassic Park” chaos theory bit. Hammond thought that by pure exercise of will, he could control everything and nothing bad would happen; he never had a clue as to just what could go wrong. Same with Walter White; everything started spinning out of control in episode 1 when Emilio and Krazy-8 showed up at the cook site. He refuses to admit that anything that goes wrong can’t be fixed. The whole series has been about fixing the last mess, which causes the next mess. He gets little temporary victories from time to time; unfortunately, it’s like playing a slot machine. Every small payout leads you to believe the big one is just around the next corner.

    Skyler sees it, though. She knows she’s completely lost control, and she knows her husband has lost all objectivity, to say nothing of his soul. Her soul is what she’s worried about now, and she’s wondering if maybe she hasn’t already lost it. But she’s not going to rat on Walt because she does not want Walt Jr. to find out about his father. If she ever decides that protecting Walt Jr. from the truth is too big a price to pay, that’s when Walt had better worry. But I don’t think she’s ever going to get there.

  14. Betty says:

    I think Skylar will eventually take over Walt’s “business”.

  15. Lia says:

    the scene at the end with Walter & Skylar gave me goosebumps

  16. Laurel says:

    I LOVED the look on Hanks face while his boss was describing Gus hiding in plain sight right under his nose.
    That is going to haunt Hank it looks like it already is.

  17. D says:

    Do we know how Walter was able to take the original cigarette with ricin from Jesse? It is supposed to be one of those things that just happen off-screen that we are supposed to accept (such as Walter’s planting of the ricin-cigarette in the Roomba?

    • Jessica says:

      It is hinted at that Saul’s henchment switched the cigarette pack when he frisked Jesse at Saul’s office.

    • Sean C. says:

      Saul’s big minion took it from Jesse’s pocket. If you look closely during the scene you can see him slipping something into his coat.

  18. Britta Unfiltered says:

    I like Mike so much, I was so happy for a Mike-centric episode. He is really interesting, and I hope they don’t kill him off anytime soon. Aaron Paul was amazing last night. The final scene creeped me out unbelievably. I kept feeling Walt’s hands on me, and it was giving the creepy-crawlies! I kept trying to shake them off like I was Skylar. The thing with the ricin in the light socket…I didn’t understand why he didn’t just flush it. Why keep it? Because it is coming back. This is definitely a situation where we’re seeing that cigarette again, and it’s not going to be a Mad Men-type metaphor, it’s going to kill someone. But I needed to know a reason why Walt would keep something so unsafe around that could just hurt him and incriminate him. It didn’t make sense. I think it’s got to be the baby who gets into it somehow. Maybe it starts a fire? Didn’t really seem like a safe place to keep it. Hank is definitely going to figure things out. And Walter Jr….I still think he’s going to figure things out too and want to work with his dad, and that will be Skylar’s breaking point. Looking at the first scene from last week’s episode, Walter is definitely about to lose everything he loves in his life this season.

  19. Shink says:

    Los Pollos Hermanos was only one of Madrigal’s group of companies. My supposition is that most if not all of the other food brands that had their logos in the Madrigal HQ lobby are spread around the U.S. (world??) and they control all the mega-meth production. Madrigal is a world wide conglomerate with meth at its core. And Heisenberg will want it all.

  20. Tim Wiegels says:

    Worst depiction of Germany ever ;) So they pretty much just took any american mall and slapped some german signs on it (well, none of these fast food joints exist)…
    And seriously – it cannot be that hard to find three people in Hollywood who speak REAL german…???

    Other than that, awesome episode – cannot wait for next Sunday!

  21. Karen says:

    Another great, slow, tense episode… But I still need more Jesse Pinkman. Btw, Aaron Pal had another stand-out moment in this episode. He just continues to amaze me.
    And even though I’d love to see Jon Hamm finally take home an Emmy, I think Bryan Cranston will be extremely hard to knock down.
    Also, Anna Gunn: wow!

  22. Kenny G. says:

    I’ve been wondering what Mike meant in episode one when he asked Walt, “do you have any idea what you’ve done???” There must be a lot going on, more than even has been shown this week. Mike and Lydia were in collusion somehow, more than appears on the surface.

    I’ve been wondering who Gus was before he came to the US. Must have been high up in the government of Chile (or was it argentina?) Is that part of what Mike was talking about? A lot of old Germans (and other Europeans) have settled in South America. Perhaps a mix of Pinochet and Nazi Germany?

    Mike is back doing half-measures again.

    • margiemary says:

      Nice, half measures. Good call, I think mike is a man who makes rules for him self for a reason, and he will remember why before this season is out. As for poor skylar, I think she will have a hard time living with what she has already done, and what Walter is prepared to do. I used to think she would end up by his side, but her demise might be the key to leading hank and Walt jr to the truth about dad. Personally I think Walt snr has been on this journey before. I wonder why he left gray matter in its infancy, why he disappeared? God l love this show…

      • Kenny G. says:

        Good point about Gray Matter. Maybe he was unwilling to do what was necessary at that time, as an idealist, and maybe now he is making up for lost time. As for Skyler, I think some people will go a little ways down a bad road and wake up before they go too far. She’s getting the close up view of what she will become, and I bet she tries to figure out how to back out.

  23. Mark says:

    I know it would not make for great drama, however, all I’ve wanted to happen is for Walter to stop, realize what a mean SOB he’s turned into, get out of the crazy business and make amends with Skyler. I was rooting for him at the very beginning because all he really wanted to do is provide for his family. He has gone off the effing charts though and he’s totally freaked out Skyler, who inspite of shacking up with that shallow ass nimrod Ted couple of times in order to hurt Walter, was truly and totally devoted to him. If he would have only sallowed his PRIDE and accepted the offer by his friend to pay for his medical bills in the beginning… I know, not many, if any , would watch a show like that. Pride, talk about a dangerous emotion.

  24. Diva says:

    I think Mike is still sooo deep undercover. He is playing a bad guy to bring down the empire. He was working for Gus and now that Gus is gone he has to align with Walt and Jessie. Yes, he has killed people but he would be forced to in order to maintain his cover.

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