Breaking Bad Recap: Student Becomes Teacher

Breaking Bad Season 5 RecapJesse both literally and figuratively uses some brains in this week’s Breaking Bad, ultimately leading to a heart-stopping, infuriatingly incomplete final scene. We’re way beyond “Magnets!” here, kids; let’s review the major developments that take place in “To’hajiilee.”

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BURNING FOR YOU | The episode opens with Lydia visiting Todd, Uncle Jack and Kenny at the end of a cook. The meth that Todd has produced is 76 percent pure. That’s “a lot more than it was” when Declan was in charge, Todd points out, but Lydia counters that it’s not blue — and “Blue is our brand.” The color problems happened because the heat was too high, Todd tells her over a cup of tea later. “You burned it. Like a cake,” she paraphrases (heh), then doesn’t seem to know what to do as he draws closer and puts a hand on her back, reassuring her that if her overseas distributors are upset about the color change, “I could ask my uncle to smooth things over with them.” It’s hilarious and disturbing at the same time; kudos to Jesse Plemons for simultaneously being awkward and chilling and inadvertently funny as Todd tries to put the moves on Ms. Madrigal — woh politely informs him that she’d just like him to make the cook better, thanks.

As she drives away, Todd’s cell goes off (ringtone: Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science,” heh), and it’s Walt’s call from the end of the previous episode. He asks for a hit: “Just one target, not currently in jail: Jesse Pinkman.” And away we go!

THE OFFAL TRUTH | Under a bridge somewhere in Albuquerque, said target is brainstorming with Gomez and Hank. Jesse is very aware they need evidence to put Mr. White in jail, and even though he doesn’t have anything concrete on Walt, “I know someone who might.” Next thing we know, Hank is dumping a butcher packet of brains and blood on his kitchen floor and telling Pinkman, “You’re up.” In the what what?

It’s all part of a ruse to make Huell, who’s been secreted away to a DEA safe house, think that Walt is killing off anyone who knows anything about his misdeeds – and that Saul’s butterball of a bodyguard is next on Heisenberg’s list. Huell immediately declares “That don’t make no sense!” but changes his tune when he sees Hank’s cell-phone picture of a dead-eyed Jesse laying next to the previously mentioned bloody sweetbreads, looking for all the world like he took a bullet to the noggin. Nice work, Hank! Cow brain hasn’t been this artfully used in a TV drama since Donna Martin spit it onto her plate at that French restaurant.

A very scared Huell coughs up what he knows about the money, the barrels, the rental van and the shovel Walt stored in the back of it. The lead seems to run cold, though, when Hank & Co. realize that the rental vans don’t have built-in GPS units anymore. “Yeah, but Walt doesn’t know that,” his brother-in-law remarks.

DEVIL OF MERCY | Here’s what Walt does know: He wants Jesse dead quickly, without suffering or fear. “Jesse is like family to me,” Walt growls to Uncle Jack’s gang, and God help him, I think he actually means it in his twisted way.

Funny how he shows that connection, though: by threatening Brock and Andrea in order to flush Jesse out of hiding – and into somewhere that Uncle Jack and his unwashed posse can do their thing. So White visits the single mom’s home under the guise of being worried that a missing Jesse is on a drug bender. As Andrea calls Jesse and leaves a voicemail (Walt explains that Jesse’s so angry, he won’t take Walt’s calls), Brock eyes Walter with unease. Go with your gut, kid!

At the car wash, one of Jr.’s first customers is Saul. The teen recognizes him from the commercials and is a little goofily star-struck. “Don’t drink and drive, but if you do, call me,” Goodman calls out (heh) as he strolls away to tell Walter Sr. that Huell is missing – and he thinks Jesse is behind it. “The kid is not as dumb as you think,” Saul says, but Walt’s too busy scoffing at the barrister’s bulletproof vest to take him seriously. (Don’t knock it, Walt; that vest is the only part of Saul’s outfit that doesn’t leave afterglow images on my retinas.)

WALT TAKES THE BAIT | But then Walt gets a picture text followed immediately by a call, and everything changes.

The image: A barrel of money, still buried in the ground but missing its lid. The call: Jesse taunting, “Got my photo, bitch? That barrel look familiar?” Walt jumps into his car, cell plastered to his ear, and flips out. He blows red lights. He swerves around traffic. And he blindly believes everything Jesse tells him: how Jesse pistol-whipped Huell into spilling about the van, how the van’s GPS led Jesse to Walt’s stash and how he’s going to burn the entire bounty if Walt doesn’t get there now.

Walt spends the entire trip out to the desert alternately pleading with and insulting Jesse… and admitting to everything under the sun except inventing New Coke and cancelling Bunheads. I love how all of his smarts fly right outta that bald head when his precious bundles of cash hang in the balance. Because you just know that Hank is tracking Walt’s phone (and — I hope — recording the conversation), meaning Heisenberg is leading them directly to his dig site. It’s a conclusion the meth master reaches, too, when he arrives at To’hajiilee Indian reservation and finds himself alone.

SHOWDOWN! As Hank’s SUV nears Walt’s spot, Walt calls Uncle Jack and gives him the coordinates so he can come finish Jesse’s job. But then Walt tearfully aborts the mission. “Do. Not. Come,” he enunciates right before he hangs up.

And then, in a tense sequence, Walt submits to Hank’s commands to give himself over to the DEA. There’s a lot going on in the scene: Jesse’s face as he realizes that Hank returned to the spot of their first cook, the gloating in Hank’s voice as he reveals that he faked the barrel picture “in the backyard by the barbecue grill” and reads Walt his Miranda rights, the palpable tension as a handcuffed Walt calls Jesse a “coward,” which earns him a face full of Pinkman spit and leads to a brawl that Hank and Gomez have to break apart.

Hank puts his brother-in-law in the backseat and asks Gomez to stay at the site with Jesse until backup arrives. Then, Schrader takes a moment to call his missus and tell her the good news, which is incredibly sweet but get in the car and go, Hank. They’re both teary as she says she’s “much better now” that she knows Walt’s in custody. Aw, Dean Norris and Betsy Brandt are breaking my heart here but please Hank I’m begging you for the love of Schraderbrau and all things purple get in the car and gooooooooo. As they hang up, two more cars rumble down the road and pull into the clearing.

IN WHICH EVERYTHING FALLS APART Walt recognizes the group of newcomers as Todd, his Uncle Jack and the rest, so he starts screaming for everyone to stop. But the car’s windows muffle his yelling, and the situation outside quickly devolves into a guns-blazing standoff. Meanwhile, Jesse’s in the front seat of the other car, chest heaving in fear as he scrabbles at the handle. And with a subtle look between Uncle Jack and Kenny, the shooting begins.

Walt dives down in the backseat of Hank’s car. There are a lot of bullets going a lot of places, but for some reason, Todd’s face stands out: The little psycho could be shooting monsters in his local arcade’s House of the Dead game, such is the lack of emotion on his face. I’m just waiting for the bullet that’s going to take out Hank and  hoping against hope he’ll somehow make it through and hyperventilating into my hand when the episode ends on a cliffhanging cut to black. Don’t franch with me, Breaking Bad!

Now it’s your turn. Is there any way Hank, Gomez and Jesse can make it out of that gunfight alive? Did you fear for Andrea and Brock when Walter showed up at their house? Don’t you kinda wish Mike was around to be the gruff voice of reason? And, we ask again, do you think Walt will be alive or dead by the end of the series’ final episode?

Based on last week’s poll results, you think Walt’s a goner. Consider this week’s installment, then vote again and we’ll revisit the results next recap. And don’t forget to sound off in the comments!