Bad Ass Quote of the Week
“Just because you shoot Jesse James, don’t make you Jesse James.” – Mike Ehrmantraut
Thoughts on “Hazard Pay”
A lawyer arrives at a prison and checks in to visit his client, and has Mike in tow as his “paralegal”. No matter how natty Mike looks in his grey suit, he just doesn’t look like a paralegal to me! We see that they have come to visit Dennis, the manager of the laundry which was above the super lab. As Dennis sits down, Mike checks outside the window of the meeting room to ensure no one is looking in, and the lawyer puts in his headphones to listen to some music – definitely trying to provide himself with some “plausible deniability”.
Dennis stands up as Mike turns to him, and Mike asks him if he’s heard what happened to Chow. Dennis heard that he skipped town. Mike informs him that Chow is dead but that it wasn’t him, wasn’t a message, wasn’t payback, but a mistake by a third-party who’s since been dealt with. He also tells Dennis that his deal with Fring is still in place. Dennis explains that he is keeping his mouth shut, that he is doing his time like he’s supposed to and that he isn’t a rat. The feds have taken away his “hazard pay”, he is worried about money for the support of his family, and losing his pay wasn’t part of the deal. The feds picked up another one of the guys the day before and he is certain that one of them is going to flip and inform to the DEA.
Mike reassures him that everyone will receive their hazard pay, that he has something new starting up and that Dennis will be made “whole”. Dennis tells him he doesn’t see how Mike can start up something new with the feds watching him. An annoyed Mike tells him that “how” is his business, hanging tight is your business, his family will be fine and he will be made whole, and he has Mike’s word on that. Does he need any more? Dennis says no, and they shake hands.
As Mike and the lawyer are leaving the prison, the lawyer explains where Mike’s other nine other guys are, scattered around various prisons and police departments. He asks Mike if he intends on visiting them all today. Mike tells him, “Yeah, I do.”, looks up at the security camera and yells, “Hey, let’s open up!” as he pounds on the door to be let out.
This confirms why Mike decided to go in on the plan with Walt and Jesse – in order to look after “his guys”. I think it’s a bit risky for him to be going to the prisons himself, particularly if the feds have their eyes on him. Records are kept of prison visits, and he does look directly into the security camera, which is contrary to his earlier caution checking outside the windows of the conference room. My presumption that it would only take a personal visit from him to reassure his men and prevent one of them from opening up to the authorities.
At home Walter is moving back in, pushing Skyler’s clothes aside to make room for his in the closet. He unpacks a stack of books, smiling at “Leaves of Grass” by Walt Whitman which he puts on the top of the pile on his bedside table, and puts the rest into a drawer. Walt obviously has no guilt over the murder of Gale at this point, if he can look at Gale’s favourite book and smile with the fond memories of their time together in the lab.
Skyler arrives, surprised to see Walt moving in, and seems very scared to say anything about it or object. Walt tells her that it was time to come home, but he will be keeping his condominium for now “because in this market I’d get killed”. Very interesting choice of words, and not hard to miss the foreshadowing here.
I am wondering why he would bother keeping his condo, as any loss he suffers he can surely make up for in his business. Perhaps he plans on using it for something else? An affair of his own?
(*** Warning – this paragraph contains spoilers for the movie “The Three Amigos” ***) Mike is sitting in Saul’s waiting room doing a crossword puzzle. Huell is standing in front of Saul’s office door ostensibly on guard, however he is asleep on his feet and snoring. In the office Saul is very nervous that Walt and Jesse have brought Mike here saying, “We’re the three amigos! We don’t need a fourth amigo!” This is a reference to the 1986 movie “The Three Amigos” about three silent film actors who get mistaken for gun slinging Mexican heroes, and must try to save a village despite being inept as gunfighters. This is a fairly apt description that Saul has given this group (at least based on past performance), although Walt is beyond the point of seeing any lack of ability in himself it seems.
Walt and Jesse assure Saul that Mike knows the business and is ok. Saul tells them that Mike threatened to break his legs. Walt tells him that Mike is always threatening people and “probably threatened someone before breakfast this morning, it’s what he does”. Saul agrees to let Mike in, although under duress. As Mike enters the office he stares down Huell, and you can almost hear his thought “Never in 1000 years will a guy like you work for me.”
Mike dismisses Saul in their meeting, turns to Walt and Jesse and establishes that he takes care of the business, and their only job is to cook the stuff. As they leave the office, Saul asks them if they are comfortable with that, to which Walt says, “He handles the business, and I handle him.”
Walt is showing some really misguided confidence at this point, although Jesse seems comfortable with it, although Saul is definitely not.
Saul plays real-estate agent, and takes the others on a tour of potential places where they can set up a new lab starting with a box factory. Walt and Jesse find it unsuitable due to the humidity, to which Saul comments, “You can’t just pop down to Costco and get a few dehumidifiers?”
The next stop is a tortilla factory, which Jesse and Walt again dismiss. Jesse says that the meth operation will make the tortillas smell like cat piss, and Walt says that any food production facility would be subject to unannounced inspections, and is therefore out of the running. Jesse snags a piping hot tortilla on the way out.
Saul takes them back to “Laser Base” the laser tag business that he tried to convince Skyler and Walt to buy to use for money laundering back in Episode 311 – “Abiquiu”. Danny (“everybody needs a Danny”) has cleared some room for them behind the skee-ball machines. This idea is dismissed all around. I have a feeling that Saul is the owner of Laser Base, and has been trying to get rid of it for a while!
At a pest control company, Jesse and Mike shoot down the idea of establishing a lab there for multiple reasons, however Walt says “perfect” as he kicks a pile of tarps… He’s had an idea.
The four of them sit in Saul’s car outside a house draped in the tarps, which turn out to be a fumigation tent. Walt explains his idea of having a “crash lab” which can be set up in a house that is about to be fumigated. The owners won’t enter because the house is infested and full of fumigation poisons, same for anyone else – no one will be interested in going inside. The fumigation will also explain away any chemical odours the neighbours may smell. They can go in, set up the lab, cook a batch and then leave. He says it’s challenging but doable. Walt doesn’t seem to be concerned about bugs being “contaminants” like he was back in Episode 310 – “Fly”.
Saul tells them that Ira (the pest control business owner) and his workers are “second story men” – break and enter thieves. They sell the information of good “pickings” to other crews, or go back and knock off the house themselves after a suitable amount of time, having made duplicate keys and pinpointed all security systems. Saul has been representing them for 5 years, and encourages Mike to check them out for himself. Mike assures him he will if it comes to that. Asked if they should take a vote, Walt says, “Why?” Again with the smarmy confidence, that is definitely rubbing Mike the wrong way.
At a music store, Skinny Pete and Badger clown around on instruments and Skinny Pete is quite adept at the keyboard! Badger on the double bass guitar – not so much. They are there to buy “roadie cases” – the largest available that will fit through a normal doorway. After measuring the sample case and hearing about all its specs from the salesman, he orders four. Upon hearing that Skinny Pete will pay cash, the salesman throws in free stenciling of the band name on the sides of the cases.
We see the roadie cases with “Vamonos Pest” stenciled on the side (their spelling mistake – not mine – in fact that’s the name of the business) being delivered to Jesse at the pest control company. Skinny Pete and Badger would like to get in on whatever new scheme Jesse has, but when Mike walks out of the back room and looks at the three of them, Jesse tells them “maybe in the future”.
Mike briefs the exterminators on their duties – no stealing – not even panties out of the hamper. No sharing of information. Walt and Jesse are ghosts, you don’t see them, and don’t speak unless spoken to. You call them yes sir and no sir. Walt and Jesse like this.
At his house Jesse shows Walt his plans for breaking down the lab for transportation in the roadie cases, and how he is going to get Old Joe (from the junkyard) and his crew to make the customized pieces. Walt approves the plan and seems impressed. A few months earlier Walt would have been all over Jesse with criticism about something like this, but now he seems a bit more accepting of Jesse’s ideas. His hubris does not seem to extend to Jesse at this point. Also, Jesse has shown that he is an accomplished cook or chemist in his own right – from the cook in the cartel super lab in Mexico (Episode 410 – “Salud”) , to his assessment of potential cook sites earlier in this episode, and in producing these plans.
Andrea and Brock arrive, and Jesse hesitates a bit when introducing Walt, until Walt calls himself Jesse’s friend. Brock is silent as Andrea introduces herself and him, and apologizes for Brock, who moves to the couch, explaining that he just wants to play his video game. Walt says he understands, he has two kids of his own. He is about to leave when Andrea invites him to stay for supper, and Jesse asks him to stay for a beer at least. Walt agrees, and sits on the couch next to Brock and they look at each other in uncomfortable silence. It is hard to tell if Brock is “making strange” around Walt because of some childhood instinct, or if he is just being a kid – not caring who the old guy is, and is more interested in his game. One thing is certain, Walt definitely did not deliver the Lily of the Valley to Brock – or Brock surely would have recognized him and said something. It appears certain that Saul was responsible for that. It is also strange to read Walt’s expression while he is looking at Brock. In my opinion he does not seem to be feeling guilt. More like he is looking at one of the pieces of the puzzle in his master plan that all came together.
A Vamonos Pest control truck arrives at a home and Ira goes over the final details with the owner – all food removed, pets and plants gone etc. The owner is surprised by the number of large boxes being wheeled inside, which Ira tells him are his “foggers” to get into all areas, and then starts to throw around a few latin names for insects to “fog” the owner. The owner signs the form acknowledging that he and his family are not permitted back inside until a post fumigation inspection is completed, and then leaves. Walt and Jesse pull up in another Vamonos Pest truck wearing company coveralls.
The blonde, clean-cut looking exterminator (very different looking than the rest of the crew) speaks to Walt and Jesse, excusing himself, calling them sir, and telling them that there is a nanny cam in the house, but he has disabled it. Walt asks the kid’s name, and he replies “Todd”. Walt and Jesse say nothing and walk inside the house. Todd is definitely angling for something here – he broke Mike’s rule about speaking to Walt and Jesse, and what he told them was essentially useless information to them, but he wants to appear helpful. I do not think Todd is an undercover police officer (or federal agent), otherwise Walt and Jesse’s operation would be busted the first time they cook, and the DEA would have knowledge of it. I think he sees that Walt and Jesse have something pretty lucrative going here, and he would like to move up the ladder.
Walt and Jesse find everything set up for their lab inside the house, the lab equipment unpacked and ready for them to inspect and assemble. We are treated to a great montage of them assembling and cooking, which ends with a Breaking Bad patented time-lapse shot of the outside of the house. Really great images of the chemical cook taking place, all set to mellow groovy music (“On a Clear Day” by The Peddlers). The lab vents straight out into the back yard (instead of up) and into the kiddie pool out there. I sure hope the owners empty that pool and refill it at least before they let the kids play in it.
Walt and Jesse sit on the family’s couch having a beer and watching the Three Stooges get chased around and shot in the ass by a gorilla. This made me think of the Three Amigo’s remark made by Saul earlier, except that now they have been joined by the gorilla. I’m not sure if the gorilla “in the room” is Mike the muscle or Walt and his indefatigable ego, although I lean towards Mike.
Walt talks to Jesse about Andrea, saying he can see that Andrea is crazy about him. Jesse likes the idea of an instant family. Walt looks concerned and asks him what his plan is Vis-à-vis being honest with her about what he does. Jesse says she knows he’s into something, and could make a pretty good guess, but doesn’t ask, and he has told her nothing. Walt tells him that Jesse’s relationship affects him, but after everything they have been through together, Jesse has earned the right to make his own decision about that. He goes on to say that from his experience, secrets between people create barriers, and that Jesse has to decide how much to share with her. Jesse questions Walt if it should be everything.. even about Gale? Walt tells Jesse that he trusts him to make the right call, if Andrea loves him she will understand.
What a scumbag move by Walt. First – telling Jesse he has “earned the right’ to make his own decision. Geez – and Jesse accepts this as a compliment!! Next Walt has basically convinces Jesse to break up with Andrea – he knows that Jesse won’t be able to confess the whole story to her (murder!) and invokes the “if she loves you” line. Finally, the blatant lie about his experience with secrets creating barriers… he has bales of secrets with his family, and with Jesse himself. I feel people running away from “team Walt” in larger and larger numbers as this season goes on.
Marie and Skyler are at the car wash together, about to share lunch. Marie is complaining about the work being done by Skyler’s crew, saying that they are making streaks on the windows of the cars and “the more ethnical looking one” is doing ok , but the other one is doing it wrong. She goes on to describe Hank being back at the DEA and how well his recovery is going, and how they owe him so much for being right about “that chicken man” . She then asks Skyler what they should do for Walt’s upcoming 51′st birthday, and when Skyler tells her she wasn’t really planning anything, Marie insists that they must do something, and goes on about planning a party. When the visibly irritated an upset Skyler gets up and lights a cigarette, Marie freaks out on her and begins telling her how bad it is for her and her children, and her workers. At this point, Skyler loses it completely and tells Marie to “Shut Up” 14 times. We know that it is more than Marie’s incessant talking that prompts this outburst, but self-absorbed chatterbox Marie has probably had this coming for a long time.
Back in the lab we see a cockroach (Blattodea as Ira said) scurry across the top a piece of equipment. Again, obviously “contamination” by insects is no longer a worry for Walt, now that he has embraced this new scheme for cooking. It was probably in Jesse’s best interest not to bring this up when Walt was explaining the plan to the partners. They measure the yield of their cook – nearly 50 pounds… not bad for one days work. Walt says this is excellent, and as they leave the house, they trigger the insect bomb. I am assuming that the exterminators will pack up the lab when they return.
Walt arrives home to find Marie sitting in his living room, who tells him that Skyler has had a breakdown and is resting in the bedroom. Walt wishes he got her call, but she says he missed multiple calls. She asks him if this is over his gambling, or his cancer, and wants him to come clean on what has Skyler so upset. He tells her about Ted Beneke having a fall and being in the hospital with a concussion and some broken vertebrae. Marie is shocked, and says that couldn’t be what the problem is. Walt says, “Yes it could. But you know right?”
Marie pieces together that Skyler had an affair with Ted, and is dumbfounded. Walt tells her it wasn’t ongoing, and that the two of them are trying to patch things up, but after the accident Skyler got upset. He asks Marie to keep this to herself, not to tell Hank, who he doesn’t want thinking any less of Skyler, or him. Marie leaves, still in shock at this news. Instead of going back to the bedroom to check on Skyler, Walt goes to the kitchen and eats an apple. I’ll spare you all the “original sin” imagery analysis here.
Walt is so manipulative, he doesn’t tell the lie himself, but just gives Marie enough information so that she can form her own story and tell the lie for him. So much for Walt’s lecture to Jesse about having secrets with people.
At Jesse’s house, he, Andrea and Brock are playing video games, but Jesse looks detached and upset. Andrea asks him if he is ok, and he reassures her that he is. The look on his face says otherwise, and we know that the talk he had with Walt is getting to him.
(*** Warning – the next three paragraphs contain spoilers for the movie “Scarface” ***) Skyler wakes up in bed, looking at the ceiling, hearing machine gun fire. She gets up and goes to the living room finding Walt, Junior and Holly watching “Scarface“, enjoying themselves and quoting the movie. I don’t know how much Holly is actually enjoying it, although she isn’t crying during all the gunfire. I”m not sure how healthy it is for an infant to be looking at television either, let alone Scarface! It is the scene where Tony Montana is killing all the Colombians attacking his home… calling them “cockroaches”. Walt and Junior ask Skyler to join them. Walt comments “Boy, everyone dies in this movie.’ Skyler just watches them with a stricken expression – that is her worry exactly.
I think it was a bit “on the nose” for Vince Gilligan to include a scene from Scarface in the show, since he has always compared the arc of Walt’s character as going from “Mr. Chips” to “Scarface’. The imagery does work here though, as Tony Montana compares the enemies invading his home to cockroaches – an interesting parallel with Walt finding a fly to be a “contaminant” in his pristine lab, but also how the presence of insects is something he overlooks now that he is the “boss”. What will he overlook in the future? The line about “everybody dying” may be strong foreshadowing of what is to come. We know that Vince Gilligan prefers a “justice must be served” view to his story telling, and Walt has surely built up a large karmic debt.
The scene with the family watching Scarface fades to a scene of a money counter – which also reminded me of the money counting scene in Scarface. That is the scene where Tony Montana gets busted by undercover agents. Yes, justice is coming for Walt in the end .
Mike has counted up the money from their first cook and divided it into three piles, one each for him, Jesse and Walt. He then begins removing their expenses from each of the piles. He has already taken off the money for their distribution, which Walt objects to, asking why they can’t they run distribution themselves. What did Gus pay his Mules? Mike angrily answers that Gustavo Fring spent 20 years building a business with a fleet of 16 refrigerated delivery trucks, which are now impounded. He also says that the methylamine was free this time, but from now on will be much more expensive. He then pays back Jesse the loan he gave them for start-up costs, money for the extermination company and it’s workers, Saul’s fees, and finally legacy costs.
Walt questions the legacy costs, which Mike explains is money to keep his guys “whole”. Walt objects and sees this as part of Gus’ business, not his, and does not see how it benefits him. Mike explains, that to keep them quiet, we make them “whole” – it’s what you do. He tells Walt, business is my end, and this is business. Walt say’s it’s Mike’s business and should come out of his end. Jesse, wanting to prevent this situation from escalating, offers to pay it all out of his share. Walt looks annoyed at this, but thanks Jesse and backs down, saying he will pay his share. Mike tells him to get comfortable with the idea, because this will be an ongoing expenditure from here on out. Walt complains that he has made less than he did than he did when working for Gus. Mike says “Just because you shot Jesse James, don’t mean you are Jesse James.”
Walt is getting out of touch with reality, and his greed is starting to take over. He is blind to the fact that keeping Mike’s men quiet does benefit him as well. When he began cooking, he calculated that he needed $737,000 dollars to leave his family set up for the future when he dies. He can earn that in a week or two now, but that is not his goal anymore. He told Skyler at the end of “Madrigal” that they are doing it for family, but that is only what he is telling her, and himself at this point. He is feeling power like he never has before in his life, and he is as high on it, and addicted to it, as his customers are to the meth he sells.
As they leave the Vamonos, Walt asks Jesse how he feels. Jesse tells him he broke it off with Andrea, although he is going to do the right thing and keep paying her rent. Walt cuts him off, and says he means about the money. He couldn’t care less about Jesse’s “actual” feelings; he has other concerns.
Jesse tries to explain that he is thinking about it wrong, that they got a smaller amount of the money, but they have a bigger piece of the pie as owners. Walt tells Jesse he has been thinking about Gus killing Victor, and how all along he thought it was a message for him. But now he is considering that it was something else, that by taking it into his own hands to start cooking that batch, Victor overstepped his bounds, “flew too close to the sun” and got his throat cut. As Walt walks away, Jesse looks worried as the Vamonos garage door shuts behind him.
Walt is clearly thinking about Mike here, and about going after him at some point soon for overstepping his bounds (which are boundaries they clearly agreed to). By using the “flying too close to the sun” phrase, we see just how inflated Walt’s opinion is of himself. He was just days earlier asking Mike to join them (although he did indicate they would move forward without him), and he still does need him. Mike has organised the business, from obtaining raw materials to running the distribution and sales. Going after Mike is a very dumb idea on Walt’s part at this point, and as “in control” of the situation as he thinks he is, his radar and power are not as powerful as Mike’s are. Jesse must also take this as a warning.
The pace of this episode continues that of the first two this season, which I am pleased to see.
Just a note – I tried to go back to my style from last season, quoting less dialogue from the show directly, but this article ended up just as long as the last one. There’s just so much packed into the episodes this year! We’ll see how things go as the season progresses.
For those of you near a news stand this coming week, you may wish to check out “Rolling Stone” magazine. The 16 August, 2012 issue has a cover and a feature article about Breaking Bad.
I am going to make three rather bold predictions this week.
Walt will get up to some “hanky panky” in his condominium, since he has decided not to sell it.
Todd is not a mole for the authorities, but wants to be an “up and comer” in Walt’s enterprise.
Walt is going to go after Mike at some point this season (probably by episode 508) and try to have Mike killed.
None of my predictions came true this week, and none were disproven.
My score so far since starting this site is 3 1/2 predictions correct, 1 1/2 predictions wrong, and 5 now pending.
Humorous Quote of the Week
“Mike threatened me. He threatened Jesse. He probably threatened someone before breakfast this morning. It’s what he does.” – Walter White