The better angels of Jesse’s nature, coupled with the blossoming of some old-fashioned common sense, leads him to a momentous decision in this week’s episode of Breaking Bad. But seeing as how that decision runs counter to Walt’s interests, its chances for survival are worse than those of a spider in a jelly jar. So drop a fumigation tent over your house and let’s review what happened in “Buyout.”
THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE | The episode opens with a perfectly scored, dialogue-free sequence of Mike, Walt and Todd giving their train-job witness and his motorbike the full Emilio treatment: disassembly and an acid bath. Jesse’s conspicuously absent; he’s smoking outside, where Todd joins him and lamely observes “S—t happens, huh?” which earns him a well-deserved punch. When the dirty work is done, the group convenes to discuss the quick-triggered newbie. Todd’s got plenty to say in his own defense — while an inability to keep his mouth shut endeared Friday Night Light’s Landry to me, the same quality in this unknown bug boy makes him seem really weaselly. (Nice, subtle work there, Jesse Plemons.) “I was thinking on my feet,” he says, completely unapologetic about cutting down a young boy in cold blood. “At the end of the day, it was him or us, and I chose us. And I would do it again.” On the way out, Todd casually mentions an uncle in prison who could help their business – anyone else think there’s a whole lot of “us” coming out of Todd’s piehole, especially for someone whose future is yet to be determined? Jesse wants “Ricky Hitler” gone, but Walt outlines the three undesirable options available: fire him and pay him hush money, dispose of him or keep him on the payroll in order to keep an eye on him. The vote comes down in Todd’s favor, news Mike delivers by roughing the kid up and warning him never again to bring a gun to a job without disclosing it. Alone in his car, Todd pulls out the dead boy’s jarred spider (which, unlike its previous captor, is still alive) and stares at it. Though I can’t figure out exactly what his endgame is yet, it’s clear that nothing good is coming from this dude.
BREAKING UP THE BAND | Pretty soon, Jesse’s thinking something the same about his former chemistry teacher. Inside a tented house, the methmakers are watching a program about simulated caviar (is this even a thing? Apparently so) when there’s a news break-in about the missing motorbike kid. He was 14, his name was Drew, and these details devastate Jesse before our eyes. Walt notices and makes some noise about how he’s lost sleep over the boy’s needless murder – yeah, he looks real broken up as he launches into yet another speech about the importance of their business and how they’re so close to having everything they want. Walt oh-so-benevolently offers to finish the cook by himself so Jesse can have the afternoon off, then whistles a jaunty tune as his younger partner prepares to leave. Walt’s behavior is decidedly at odds with his alleged inner turmoil, a fact that doesn’t escape Jesse’s attention. (And what I took away from that small moment was that Walt’s cockiness has reached such a level that he just doesn’t think anyone would ever be on to him, least of all Jesse. You know what they say: Pride goeth before a life prison sentence and/or violent, drug-related death.) Later that night, when Walt delivers the product to the Vamonos Pest office, he’s surprised to find his partners waiting for him and even more surprised by their announcement: They want out. Mike’s got DEA agents tailing him – I loved his airid response to Walt’s question about whether the feds had followed him to the meeting: “I would never come to the headquarters of our illegal meth operation dragging a bunch of cops, Walter. It would be unwise.” — and Jesse’s quite understandably lost his taste for the business. Plus, when they sell their two-thirds of the stolen methylamine to one of Mike’s Gus Fring contacts, they’ll have $5 million each… a figure Walt scoffs at as “pennies on the dollar” compared to the $300 million he can make by cooking the stuff into product. Later, when the potential buyer realizes that there’ll still be methylamine – and therefore, more blue crystal – floating around the desert southwest, he says he doesn’t want any of it unless he can get all of it.
GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER? | Mike sends Jesse to get Walt to acquiesce, and Jesse’s surprised when Walt invites him over to the house for the discussion – such as it is. “Absolutely not,” White says about selling his methylamine, too. Jesse reminds him that he only needed $737,000 at the beginning of their venture, “because you worked it all out, like, mathematically” (heh) and that the $5 million – which is way more than that — would mean safety for Walter’s family. Walt’s response to this is at once heartbreakingly sad and incredibly chilling. He tells Jesse the story of Gray Matter, equating his $5,000 buyout from that venture to the $5 million one at hand. The company is worth “$2.16 billion as of last Friday. I look it up every week,” he says. How is this bald-headed bad guy still able to make me ache for his sad little life? He tells Jesse in no uncertain terms he’s in the “empire business,” and I can’t tell if Jesse’s dim or sly when he challenges, “I don’t know, Mr. White. Is a meth empire really something to be that proud of?” Just then, Skyler comes home with a bag of groceries and is none too pleased to see the meeting in progress in her living room. When Jesse tries to leave, Walt invites him to stay for dinner – it’s a command, really, but it’s nothing compared to the look Walt levels at Skyler when he pretends to care what she thinks about adding another place setting that evening. If I had any doubts about whether Walt has any tender feelings left for his wife, that wordless moment just choked them to death with a bicycle lock. The awkward meal that follows, however, is so fantastic that it’s best told in bullets. Of note:
• Skyler’s singlehanded kicking of a bottle of white wine. She was at greater peril of drowning in that giant wine glass than she ever was during her backyard dunk a few episodes ago.
• Jesse’s monologue about the vagaries of frozen food, which I feel the need to recount verbatim: “It’s usually pretty bad. I mean, the pictures are usually so awesome, you know? It’s like, hell yeah I’m stoked for this lasagna! And then you nuke it, and the cheese gets all scabby on top, and it’s like you’re eating a scab. And seriously, like, what’s that all about? It’s like, yo, whatever happened to truth in advertising? [looooooong uncomfortable silence] Yeah, it’s bad.”
• The way Jesse sucks down his water and shoots furtive glances at Walt and Skyler after she brings up her affair with Ted… and how the ever-manipulative Walt uses the meal as evidence that the meth business is the only good thing he’s got going these days.
A SOLUTION? | Mike later catches Walter trying to steal the methylamine from Vamonos Pest, so he babysits him there all night and ties him to a radiator in the morning so he can’t get in the way of the deal. But first, Mike and Saul pay a visit to the DEA to slap Hank and Gomez with a restraining order for “stalking” Mike. In the car after, Saul warns his client that the order is going to get tossed in about 24 hours, so he’d better tie up any illicit dealings before then. Mike’s unworried, but he’s also unaware that Walter is melting his plastic restraints (and nearly burning his hand off) at the office by stripping some power cords and creating a mini blowtorch. MacGyver! When Mike returns, the precursor is gone but (an untethered) Walt and Jesse are there. Jesse is barely able to stop the ex-cop from putting a bullet in Walt’s smug skull, but he promises that White has figured out a way for them both to get their $5 million and Walt to get the methylamine. “Everybody wins,” Walt promises. You know, I really, really doubt that.
LINE READING OF THE WEEK | If you DVR’d the episode, go back and watch for the moment when Marie asks Skyler if she feels better about getting her affair with Ted off her chest. Anna Gunn’s take on “Oh yeah” is as packed as it is funny. (Try not to focus on baby Holly sucking on Skyler’s bracelet, though – at first, all I could think was small parts! Choking hazard!)
Now, it’s your turn. What do you think Walt’s plan entails? What do you suspect Todd is up to? (After all, this was the most we’ve heard him talk since he first appeared in the ABQ.) And would you have put a fork into your forehead to get out of that dinner from hell? Sound off in the comments!