BREAKING BAD Recap: “Salud”

     September 18, 2011

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The opening paragraph of any Breaking Bad recap is supposed to be used to set up everything that follows:  a brief catcher-upper on what happened over the past few weeks, perhaps, or maybe a smarty-pants observation about the underlying message of the episode-in-question.  This is how one normally introduces a Breaking Bad recap, but after tonight’s episode, there’s simply no other way to start things off besides a simple, direct, and entirely appropriate “Holy. Shit.”  Find out why we’re swearing in the intro after the jump, my fellow Breaking Bad junkies…

I’ve only watched it twice so far, but I’m prepared to declare “Salud” to be the best, ballsiest, most entertaining hour of Breaking Bad’s fourth season since that bloody season premiere, and I’m willing to bet that no one will argue the point with me.  Tonight’s installment gave Breaking Bad fans more of what they’ve been clamoring for ever since that season opener:  Gus Fring (Giancarlo Esposito) being a complete and total badass.  In episodes past, we’ve seen Gus doing ballsy, vicious things…but tonight’s episode gave us Gus Fring at his absolute ballsiest, his most vicious, his most badass.  It was a masterful episode, and one that I’m sure we’re all still going to be talking about when Breaking Bad wraps after next year.

Things started off ominously and got progressively more alarming:  the episode opened with Jesse, Mike, and Gus—cradling a gift-wrapped box, which lent the sight of the three standing in the desert an even weirder vibe than it would’ve had without it—climbing aboard a small airplane somewhere in the New Mexican desert.  We knew from last week’s episode that the three amigos were headed for Mexico, down to Don Julio’s place.  After much handwringing and bloodshed between Gus and the Cartel, it was decided that Jesse would travel to the Don’s compound, teach his chemists how to make Walt’s “blue meth”, and then…well, that wasn’t so certain.

Soon enough, however, it became clear that Jesse had been backed into yet another dark and lonely corner:  immediately upon completing his first batch of “blue” for the Mexicans, it was announced that he’d be sticking around.  As in, permanently.  As you might expect, this caused some consternation on Jesse’s part, but Mike was there to (ineffectively) calm him down:  “Either we’re all going home…or none of us are.”

Don Julio appeared, making his entrance next to the very same pool that acted as Gus’ brother’s final resting place some twenty years prior.  The fact that the scene began with that pool at its center indicated that something terrible was about to occur, but it wasn’t clear what that terrible thing might be until Don Julio opened up Gus’ gift box:  inside, he discovered a very pricey bottle of tequila, and when Gus managed to stop Jesse from imbibing from the same bottle that Julio and all of his men (not to mention Gus) were drinking off of, we knew for sure that Gus was about to pull off something legendary.

And legendary it was:  shortly after ingesting Gus’ gift-tequila, Don Julio and his capos were facedown on the patio (Julio ended up in the pool, which dovetailed nicely with he and Gus’ history)(side note:  pools and their symbolism within the Breaking Bad universe—discuss).  Nearby, Gus was politely vomiting into one of Don Julio’s toilets.  He’d ingested a bit of that poison, as well, and managed to yak up the majority of the lethal liquid before making an escape with Gus and Mike in tow.  But did enough of the poison remain in his bloodstream to take Gus out for good?  We’ll have to wait and see in next week’s episode, but I’m guessing that Gus—after a brief hospital stay or a visit with some back-alley, criminal doctor—will be just fine.  I mean, without Gus, who’s going to make life hell for Jesse and Walt?

Speaking of Walt, he spent most of the episode in bed.  You’ll recall that last week’s episode ended with him and Jesse beating the everloving crap out of each other in the living room of Pinkman Manor, and Walt was surely feeling every one of those punches the morning after:  his glasses were shattered, his headwounds were stuck to his pillowcase, and he was so out of it, he missed Walter Junior’s 16th birthday party.  Walt Jr. arrived and bullied his way in the door, only to have Walt explain that he’d gotten into a fight while gambling.  For his part, Walt Jr. seemed almost as troubled by this as he did with the weak-sauce ride his mother had bought him for his sweet 16th.

And speaking of Skylar, she spent the episode in a battle of wits with “Better Call” Saul Goodman (whenever Bob Oedenkirk shows up in a scene, I’m immediately 200% more entertained) and, moreover, her old boss, Beneke.  Saul and Skylar cooked up a little scheme to get the $600,000 Beneke needed into his hands (they told him that his “great aunt” had passed away overseas, leaving him—whattayaknow– $625,000), but rather than put the money towards the IRS, Beneke immediately went out and bought a fancy-pants car with the money.

Upon learning that Beneke hadn’t taken the hint, Skylar went to his offices to confront him about the situation.  When Beneke finally tired of her harangue, he instructed her to GTFO (no tits necessary, thank you), and that’s when she dropped the bomb:  that “great aunt” was actually her, and she had more of a right to poke her nose into Beneke’s spending habits than he’d previously thought.  This seemed like a wildly terrible idea (from beginning to end), but as someone else pointed out to me, what else was she gonna do at that point?  I’d quibble that point, but that’s probably right:  they don’t have time to pull another elaborate trick on Beneke, and even if they had, there’s no guarantee that it would’ve worked.  Skylar had to come clean, and we’ll just have to wait and see where those particular chips fall.

These subplots were all perfectly serviceable and suitably entertaining, but that sequence in Mexico was a goddamned powerhouse, all coiled tension and strained smiles and not-so-instant karma.  If there was ever a question as to whether or not Gus is “effing around” (as the kids say), that question has been answered for good:  dude took out the entire top-shelf of a Cartel’s payroll.  No, Gus is certainly not effing around.

Here are this week’s questions:

  • Will Gus survive, and if so, how do you think things will turn out with him and what’s left of the Cartel?
  • Where do you think this Beneke thing is headed?  Will Skylar be able to talk some sense into the dude, or—now that he knows that Skylar’s got a chunk of disposable income to throw around—will he use this newly discovered bit of information to blackmail her into, y’know, murdering him eventually?
  • Jesse and Walt:  how soon will they make up?
  • We’ll hear you out in the comments section.  As always, stay tuned for more on Breaking Bad in the weeks ahead (but remember, there’s only three more weeks left, so you may as well start making your season finale predictions now)!
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