A man sits poolside and slowly spins his only gun, turning it around and around and as he does this it continues to point to himself. But he keeps turning until eventually it points away. And that is all he needs before he stands up and gets to work. Walt barricades himself off from the rest of the world, if the consequences that are coming for him arrive there really isn’t anything much he can do but back himself into a corner. People in a corner become so desperate that they are highly unpredictable after all.
This week, Breaking Bad had no artsy vague clues in their cold open as to what the audience should expect over the course of the next hour. They instead dove right into the results of last week’s tense final moments by showing agents coming to collect the members of the White family and put them into protective custody along with Marie and Hank. Once everyone was safely transported away, Walt remained behind at his home–his family now as safe as he can make them under the circumstances, it’s time to finally act. But to what extent did Walter act is part of the mystery introduced in this episode that has the capability of changing the season’s outcome next Sunday in a big way.
Jesse is driven to action as something happens to make him question his current loyalties. Back when Theresa and Brock were re-introduced into the story earlier this season, it was nice to see their grounding presence on Jesse grow enough to make him care to take control of his life again. More recently, he started to spend more time with them both, and after tonight it’s impressive to think about what the creators of the show were doing by bringing these characters back into the fold. Jesse now has a family of sorts even if not by blood. He had people to whom harm could fall on and it would force him to act. Using this to bring Jesse and Walt back together against Gus, who has a history with Theresa by being involved in her brother’s death, was an effective way to dilute the bad blood between them all season long.
What’s interesting about this occurrence is how much it puts the audience into Jesse’s shoes by refusing to show us what really happened. We can believe Walt as Jesse seems to right now, or we can start to think the sinister assumptions Jesse had when he first realized the cigarette was missing from its pack. But from the moment Jesse walks into Walt’s house to confront him, something doesn’t stick right with the scene: Walt’s performance. There’s really no other word for it as Walt shows not just two of his faces but all of them. All of the emotional masks he’s put on for others in the past came one after another on the dimly lit stage of his abandoned living room while Jesse joined the performance as Walt might hope he would.
Walt puts his only weapon down between them and turns his back as he first starts with fear for his life and the lives of his family–recounting the terror felt as Gus drove him out to the middle of the desert. Walt is standing in a room with someone who beat the living hell out of him not days ago and he puts his only line of defense down between them both. I’d call that testing his former partner who takes his cue and picks up the weapon–using it to threaten Walt’s life as he demands for an admission of guilt in what happened to Brock. Then Walt’s emotions shift to outrage and shock that he would be accused of wishing to harm a child. Oh but…you know who does harm children Jesse? Gus does and you know that. And so following another encore of Walt’s crazy (like a fox?) laughter he proceeds to ensnare Jesse back into his way of thinking. It was a tour-de-force from Mr. White that accomplished just what he needed–getting Jesse on his side enough to have him help put Gus where he needed him to be. So as much as the inclination exists to think, oh Walt just jumped on the chance to turn Jesse’s way of thinking toward Gus back around again the minute he could, I just can’t help but feel there’s more to it.
Suppose that Walt is right on, and Gus did figure out about the poisonous cigarette tucked away in Jesse’s possession for days now. That he managed to steal the cigarette from Jesse to stir suspicions and have the boy poisoned on his own. As we’ve seen before, it’s certainly not out of Gus’ repertoire of villainous intent to poison people or see children harmed for greater gains. It also would be the perfect scenario to finally remove Jesse’s desire to keep Mr. White from harm by putting him in the position to be so angry he would take vengeance on Walt himself. The timing of such a move would make sense to Gus what with the DEA sniffing around the laundry/lab now, to finally take Walter out and end his potential for being a liability as he can still be one should he decide to confess to working for Gus.
That’s option one, that Walt is right and Gus was somehow involved in this. Now option two would be something as innocuous as Brock managed to get a hold of it somehow on his own and it was a total accident. Gus certainly wanted Jesse, and thereby us, to think that he had nothing with to do it as he supported Jesse in this difficult time in a fantastic scene in the hospital’s chapel room. Wonderful use of that imagery to convey Gus’ wish to have Jesse continue to put his ‘faith’ in Gus. Giancarlo Esposito has such a way with Gus’ body language that you really never are sure how he’ll react to bad news such as a ruined batch of Meth.
But the ‘how’ of the poison ingestion will matter later on because now it all comes down to the fact that no matter how this awful event occurred, it brought Jesse right back to Mr. White’s doorstep. And in a few carefully constructed sentences, classic manipulative Walt was back with his fingers once more grasped onto Jesse’s strings. Remember though, it’s Walt’s fault that the poison cigarette exists at all. If you listen to the specific things he says to get Jesse back on his side and doing his dirty work then it starts to make one wonder a few things. For example, he very clearly iterated to Jesse that he made the ricin in the lab and Gus’ cameras might have picked up on that process. If the cigarette was supposed to be this big secret weapon then why wasn’t it created in secret? It might be possible that Walt wanted Gus to know that it existed to see how that would play out, but there really isn’t enough information at this point to be so sure.
By episode’s end, their plan goes into action with Walt creating another deadly implement, this time an explosive device made in his family kitchen, to try to kill Gus. Jesse plays his role to put the pieces in the right place and as Walt watches from a distance, his plan nearly comes to completion. I’m sure by the next episode it will be made clear what made Gus hesitate to get into the car, but as it stands now it was a moment of tension that lead to Walt again being left disappointed with the result.
It seems for now that all of the payoff is going to have to happen in the finale and Walt is going to have to get in there and dirty his own hands for Gus to no longer be a problem. At this point something big has to happen in the finale (read: someone needs to die), or we’ll be left with a situation similar to Walt’s: waiting with bated breath for the freedom of the threat being eliminated and instead watching as it lives on. Unfortunately for him though, Gus being dead wouldn’t change the fact that the DEA is still in line to become his next big problem to deal with now that Hank refuses to let go of his hunch about the true Heisenberg. The look in Hank’s eyes as he flipped through the photos Gomez took of the laundry facility suggested determination not defeat. Family won’t mean anything if Hank can get a hold of Gus’ surveillance footage–another story element introduced a while back that could easily turn out to be a game changer for everyone.