Episode Title: "Hermanos"
Writers: Sam Catlin & George Mastras
Director: Johan Renck
Previously on "Breaking Bad":
In a drunken moment of hubris, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) reenergized his DEA Agent brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) when he remarked that the murdered Gale Boetticher probably wasn't the "Heisenberg" that Hank had pursued for so long. Realizing that Walt was right, Hank roped in Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) to take him to Pollos Hermanos, where he obtained Gus' (Giancarlo Esposito) fingerprints and found evidence in Gale's apartment that Gus had been over there to see him. Hank even laid out a case to his DEA colleagues that Gus may be bankrolling Heisenberg.
Meanwhile, Walt pressed Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to kill Gus at the next chance that he got. And he even created a poison in the Superlab that Jesse hid in one of his cigarettes. But when Jesse got the opportunity to slip the poison into Gus' coffee, he seemed to pass out of nervousness. Jesse also seemed to be grateful for the trust that Mike (Jonathan Banks) placed in him. But privately, Jesse was still shaken by his murder of Gale and he attempted to drown out remorse by trying to desensitize himself by playing a violent video game.
In flashback, we see Walt and Gus meet at the hospital on the night that Hank was shot. Moments later, the surviving cousin who shot Hank dies and Mike calmly walks away after poisoning the man. Later, Gus visits Hector "Tio" Salamanca (Mark Margolis) and he relates what happened to his nephews with restraint even as he clearly enjoys passing on the news to the decrepit old man. Back to the present, Walt and another cancer patient are waiting for their PET-CT scans when Walt goes on and on about taking control over the cancer and his life. He then returns to the Superlab where he remains under Gus' thumb.
At Pollos Hermanos, Gus gets a call from the DEA requesting that he come in. He meets with Hank and three other agents without a lawyer and he expertly deflects any suspicion with perfectly crafted answers as to how he knew Gale. When he leaves, only Hank is still suspicious of him. And once he gets out of the room, a look of nervousness washes across Gus' face. At the same time, Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) heads over to Andrea's (Emily Rios) to check on her and her son as well as to drop off some money from Jesse. It turns out that Jesse is outside in the car waiting for Saul's report, but Saul tells him that he should probably look in on them himself.
At the White home, Skyler White (Anna Gunn) has considerable trouble trying to hide the load of cash that Walt gave her before settling upon placing it beneath the house. At a family dinner with Hank and Marie (Betsy Brandt), Walt is roped into giving Hank a ride to a mineral show. But the next day, Walt is alarmed to learn that it was a ruse so that Walt could drive Hank to Pollos Hermanos. Walt listens with growing alarm as Hank reveals his suspicions about Gus and asks Walt to plant a tracker on his car. To make things worse, Mike pulls up next to them and watches incredulously.
Walt finally gets out of the car and pretends to plant the tracker before nervously entering the restaurant. He comes face-to-face with Gus and stammers that he didn't place the tracker, but Gus tells him to do it and takes his order of chicken. Walt also attaches the tracker at Gus' request. Later at the Superlab, Walt rambles at the security camera that he had no idea what Hank planned and that it's in both of their interests to solve the problem non-violently. He also pledges to make sure that Hank finds nothing. But in reality, Walt is more concerned that Gus may finally have a reason to kill him, so he presses Jesse to move up the timetable on his plan to poison Gus.
However, Jesse denies being close enough to Gus to try again. But when Jesse is out of the room, Walt finds a message on his phone that suggests that he's meeting with Mike and Gus more frequently. Jesse then lies about the message and claims that it's nothing, only fueling Walt's suspicion of his partner. Later, Mike calls Gus and tells him that Hank's investigation is off the books and that the rest of the DEA agents bought his story. He also warns him that his carefully constructed public persona may be at risk if Hank happens to see the cartel attack his business.
In an extended flashback to 20 years ago, we meet a much younger Gus, who is with his friend and business partner, Maximino "Max" Archinega (James Martinez) while they await an audience with Don Eladio (Steven Bauer). A younger Hector is there as well, belligerently pissing in the fountain before implying that Max and Gus are gay. When Don Eladio finally shows up, Gus and Max make an impressive pitch for selling Meth instead of cocaine. But the Don isn't happy with how the men got his attention by giving away drugs, so he has Hector murder Max and he forces Gus to stare at his body.
Back to the present, Gus taunts the older Hector that this might be the day that he finally kills him. But he ultimately leaves him alive so that he can torment him again in the future.
One of the things that I love about Walter White is the level of self-delusion that he lives with. His speech to his fellow cancer patient was a prime example of that. Walt probably believes that he really did take control over his life, but the reality is that he's barely got any control at all. During the day, Walt lives with the knowledge that Gus could have him killed at any time. And at home, Walt is subject to the edicts of Skyler even if he's not living with her. About the only control that Walt is able to exert is his ongoing plan to kill Gus. But Walt can't even get Jesse fully on board for that one.
Part of the problem for Walt is that he's so enamored with his own intelligence that he just couldn't just let Hank's comments about Gale's genius pass without comment. And this week, Walt finally realized what a huge mistake he had made as Hank explained his theories about Gus. The look of horror on Walt's face said it all. Even Walt's brief encounter with Gus was very telling, as Walt seemed terrified to even be in his presence under those circumstances.
That scene in the parking lot between Walt and Hank was particularly well staged, especially Mike's sudden appearance about half way through. From a viewer's standpoint, Walt's panic in that situation was hilarious. And Hank's entire storyline has become a brilliant way to twist the screws on Walt and make him even more paranoid.
The extended flashback with Gus had the surprising effect of making the show's biggest adversary into a more sympathetic figure. In the past, Max was essentially the Walter White in Gus' life and they were as close as brothers. I'm not sure how much truth there was to Hector's insinuations about Gus and Max's sexuality, but Gus clearly enjoys torturing Hector because of what happened to his friend. It also goes a long way towards explaining why Gus won't just hand over Walt to the cartel, which was probably one of their recent demands. Gus may want Walt dead, but he's going to pursue that in his own time.
There's a definite rift growing between Walt and Jesse, again largely out of Walt's paranoia that Jesse has turned against him. The reason that Jesse isn't more suspicious of Gus' intentions towards them is that Walt always frames those arguments around himself. When Walt explains the situation, he's actually pretty close to the truth. But all Jesse can hear is Walt coming off as a narcissist because everything revolves around him.
As for Jesse himself, his continued interest in Andrea and her son shows that he still has a heart. And perversely, Mike's mentorship has actually helped him pull out of the self-destructive tailspin that he was in earlier this season. Mike and Gus probably don't have Jesse's best interests in mind, but they're reaching in ways that Walt doesn't even try anymore.
Thus far, the latest season of "Breaking Bad" continues to meticulously well crafted. It's nice to know that there's a final season coming next year for a definitive conclusion. But it almost feels like the end is approaching sooner than expected.
Crave Online Rating: 9 out of 10.