If Walt could earn frequent flyer miles for the ego trip he takes on this week’s Breaking Bad, he’d rack up enough for a first-class, there-and-back ticket to Bora Bora. However, I don’t think any location on earth is far enough away to escape the fate bearing down on him like Tropical Storm Isaac on the Florida panhandle. As our anti-hero’s head gets bigger and his list of associates grows smaller, let’s review the major events that take place in “Say My Name.”
MIKE’S OUT | Mike, Jesse and Walt ride out to a nondescript desert location, where Mike’s contact Declan is waiting with four other men. Declan’s all, where’s the methylamine? Walt brazenly offers up Mike’s soon-to-be vacant distribution position in their business – but Dec’s operation has to ditch its cook and sell Walt’s meth in exchange. Walter’s swagger is out of control here; in comparing Declan’s crude drugs to his “99.1 percent pure” product, he says “it’s grade-school t-ball versus the New York Yankees” and, just in case they missed his meaning, he says their meth is off-brand cola and “what I’m making is classic Coke.” Why shouldn’t they just kill him right there, Declan muses. Walt doesn’t even blink as he answers, “Do you really wanna live in a world without Coca-Cola?” The grandstanding reaches its most ridiculous – not in terms of storytelling, but in terms of you-were-grading-chemistry-tests-and-getting-railroaded-by-your-wife-a-year-ago-buddy – when Walt makes Declan realize that he’s responsible for Gus Fring’s death. “You all know exactly who I am. Say my name,” he commands. And when Declan calls Walt Heisenberg, Mr. White has something approaching a religious moment. “You’re goddamned right!” Dec grudgingly agrees to Walt’s deal and hands over a $5 million “finder’s fee” for Mike (all part of the plan Walt alluded to at the end of last week’s episode), officially ending the curmudgeon’s partnership in This Is A Really Bad Idea Spiraling Out of Control Inc.
JESSE’S OUT, TOO | Jesse wants to talk to Walt about the $5 mil coming his way, but Walt puts him off. Skyler’s waiting when the men retrieve the methylamine tank from where Walt stashed it at the car wash. Sadly, there’s no complimenting of her superior grocery shopping skills or any discussion of frozen lasagna. But there is this deliciously awkward tidbit:
JESSE: (indicating the bug company’s truck) “Vamonos.”
SKYLER: “I wish.”
Later, Walt acts as though Jesse’s never mentioned wanting to leave. He talks about “doubling down” and cooking 100 lbs. of meth a week, and even dangles the idea of Jesse running his own lab. When that doesn’t work and Jesse holds firm, Walt employs his favorite new move: switching from sycophantic flattery to merciless put-downs in no time at all. I shouldn’t have been surprised when Walt – who a moment before had been praising his former student’s cooking skills as “every bit as good as” his own – wasted no time pointing out how little Jesse had going on in life. “How soon will you start using again?” Walt taunts. They killed a lot of people before the boy Todd shot, he reminds Jesse, which means they’re “already pretty much” going to hell. Ya think? But he, for one, refuses to curl up in grief and guilt before he gets there. That! sound you just heard? It was the last little wisp of Walter’s humanity flitting off for greener pastures. I maintain that Bryan Cranston’s ultimate creep-out moment this season happened when he and Skyler were in bed in “Madrigal,” but there’s a close second in this scene when he tells Jesse it’s not wrong to want money and glory and fame. Amazingly well played… and ick. But young Mr. Pinkman spits out a “whatever” and leaves Walt to his fury. And when Mr. White takes on a new pupil – kid-killer Todd – it’s clear that he doesn’t have Jesse’s aptitude for chemistry. “You applied yourself,” Walter wearily tells the bug boy, sounding more like a high school teacher than he has in a while, adding “I don’t need you to be Antoine Lavoisier.” Based on the gumheaded way tries to grasp the cook, Walter, you’ll be lucky if you get Antoine Dodson.
ONE DOWN | Dan Wachsberger, the lawyer who got Mike in to see his imprisoned “guys” a few episodes back, has been making the payments to those crew members via cash in safe deposit boxes that their families later pick up. Good to note: There’s also a large box, and letter, waiting for Mike’s granddaughter Kaylee when she turns 18. Dan’s also plying the bank employee in charge of that area with nummy treats. The DEA searches Mike’s home and finds nothing, but some surveillance of the bank leads them right to Dan in the middle of delivering an illegal payday. The smile on Gomez’ face as he realizes what’s going on is pretty great. (For the record: The bust happens on the same visit where Dan bakes the bank lady cake pops. Also for the record: I have dibs on the pig wearing the cowboy hat.) Later, at the DEA to retrieve the bugs in Hank’s office, Walter hears Gomez tell Hank that Dan’s going to flip and give them Mike. Walt gets in touch with the old man just in time for him to evade the cops, then delivers a go-bag with a fake ID, gun, cash, etc. to where Mike’s waiting in a sunlit field. But Mike won’t thank Walt – in fact, he blames him for the predicament at hand – and he won’t give Walt the names of his crew. That gnaws at Walter like me at a cake pop. (I’m sorry, they just looked really good.) Mike gets in his car to get away but realizes the gun is missing… just as Walt shoots him through the driver’s side window. Side note: Just because you’re going to hell, Walt, doesn’t mean you have to cartwheel in with a flourish. Mike drives off… only to crash into a rock a minute later. The ex-cop makes his way to the river with a gun in his hand and Walt finds him sitting by the water. “I just realized that Lydia has the names. I can get them from her,” Walt says, and I know it’s inappropriate, but that had me laughing. That’s the kind of thing you say to your boss via email, not how you apologize to someone for sending them to meet their maker. Mike tells Walt not to ruin a perfectly nice death scene with his braying. And in a very lovely, sunny tableau, Mike shuffles off this mortal coil… then falls over with an undignified thud.
Big episode, no? Not only has Walter turned to killing his close associates, he’s all but staging a song-and-dance number about how bad he is. What are your thoughts? Did that mini-showdown at the bug company convince you that Jesse is next? Did you get a kick out of Saul’s drawer o’ cellphones? And did you laugh when you noticed that Walt and Skyler were eating frozen meals for dinner? Hit the comments and sound off!