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/Film will be recapping and discussing each episode of the third season of Breaking Bad. A spoiler warning applies after the jump for the recaps and for the comments section. Meth heads and readers’ thoughts welcome. For previous recaps, click here.

The third episode of the third season, “I.F.T.” continues the series’ slow burn this year and we have to admit, the percolating (and/or slightly tedious?) tension has us counting the days until death knocks on someone’s door. It was an ep highlighting connections and inevitable reveals. Until the final seconds, the meaning of the titular acronym rained a mystery—and when viewers figured it out, I’m pretty sure Walter White was considering a revision to his “honesty is good” policy. Or perhaps he simply reacted by storming out for a signature bender in his tighty-whities.

Other reveals dealt with the degrees of separation between the Cousins of Death and a pivotal character from the series’ past, and an unexpected flashback on Danny Trejo’s thug.

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The Cousins of Death

The bald hombres still haven’t muttered a single word of dialogue. Do you think their tongues were cut out as kids—a Juarez bar mitzvah of sorts? After the Cousins steal an old plebe lady’s wheelchair-friendly van (and slay her?), they transport Tuco’s mute uncle inside of it–we’re given the uncle’s informal name: Don “Tio” Salamanca—to a business meeting with Gus at his spooky chicken coops.

In a small-confine meeting, the Cousins are identified to viewers as the vengeful cousins of Tuco and the nephews of his mean-faced, bell ringing uncle. Makes sense. We also discover in the opening minutes that they’re responsible for the death of Danny Trejo’s thug/DEA informant named Tortuga, under the employ of a Mexican cartel kingpin named Juan, who’s present at the poultry farm sit-down as well. (Note: I found the decapitation of Tortuga from a Cousin’s machete lacking in the oomph department. The force displayed in this act was reminiscent of a machete scene in the most recent season of Big Love, only this time it wasn’t supposed to be funny.

After so much foreboding emphasis on the Cousins’ badassery, would it not be grand if Walter White wiped them off the earth without breaking a sweat? I found myself in need of a big surprise after “I.F.T.”

Gus Fring

On his home turf, Gus persuades the Mexico crew and Tio to refrain from murdering Walter. His request and vegetable platter, however polite, don’t go over well with this brooding party. “They are not…like you and I,” Juan casually warns Gus, in a one-to-one chat outside as the twins eyeball him through a window. Is this the start of a bigger turf war? And it might be me and I’m not suggesting anything tasteless: I do sense a bit of President Obama in the tidy look and dress, analytical tone, and cool demeanor of Gustavo.

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Skyler White

In the past, Skyler has quietly displayed a righteous etiquette in her vices, and here she seems to use Walt’s refusal for divorce to fulfill sexual fantasies with her middle-aged boss and restless ex- Ted. The title doesn’t beat around the bush:  ”I fucked Ted,” she tells Walt, who doesn’t shed a tear or loose his temper. At least, before the episode is over.

Nor has Skyler washed her hands of Ted’s dirty book keeping—is it secretly a guilty pleasure?—and she continues to smoke near her baby, Holly. It was eerie seeing mother and child locked in the bedroom as Skyler smoked, knowing the Cousins had sat on the bed with an ax days ago.

In confidence, we see Skyler inform her female divorce lawyer that Walter is a dealer of meth, a “cook,” and watch her shoot down the lawyer’s advice to turn him over to the cops and formally split asap. Leaving Walter Jr. with the baggage of an incarcerated father would do more harm than good she says.

Skyler is testing the waters here, and when she calls the cops to have Walter removed from their home, I wondered at that moment if the more prominent police officer made note of her hesitance to explain the reasons why, or about her decision not to press further. During her talk with the cop, Walter cheaply picks up Holly to solidify an empathetic bond with the cop’s partner. A nice touch by Cranston and the writers.

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Walter White

It’s all become a game to Mr. W. Headstrong yet calculated compared to the loss of control and blindness we’ve seen him display in the first two episodes, Walter finally shows Skyler his giant bag of money. She finds it on the living room floor and it reminded me of a dog that drags a dead catch indoors, seeking its owner’s approval. Walter tells his wife he didn’t steal the money. No, he earned it from doing… unspeakable things. Relief.

Walt proceeds to verbally lay out the money’s use in a Walt-less future: college tuition(s), graduations parties, health care, groceries, gas, the mortgage. Somehow he forgets to mention a funeral(s). Speaking of dogs, can Skyler use a few hundred dollars to buy and care for a family pet? As we see, even Aqua Teen Hunger Force does little to lighten the mood in the Whites’ casa. At the very least, these people need to purchase a few functional lamps.

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Jesse Pinkman

Bummertown. The first two eps saw Jesse accepting his role as the bad guy and somehow finding a dark inner calm and peace. It was a facade. Tucked in a sleeping bag on the barren floor of his newly purchased slash former home, Jesse repeatedly calls Jane to hear her voice mail. Over and over and over. We guess Jane doesn’t have a lingering Facebook page or never made a sex tape for, or with, him before she OD’d.

Jesse’s first house guest is Saul Goodman, who lovingly brings a cactus (IMPORTANT: it’s a metaphor!) as a house warming gift, and then urges him to return to cooking like the Andrew W.K. of meth producton. Later, we see Jesse slip on a gas mask in the ol’ RV. Fresh batch, fresh start. Jesse could use a pet. How about a pug in a top hat?

Hank Schrader

The past comes back to circle and bite Hank in the form of a call about a promotion that would send him back to El Paso, where his panic attacks rocked his confidence and sanity last season. After “I.F.T.” I’m most interested to see where the next few eps take Hank. Instead of using drugs, or hell just smoking pot, to escape his problems or taking the advice of a shrink, Hank confronts his stress by going Roadhouse on two tall biker fuckers in a bar. His belly bulging, I’m not sure I buy the victory, but the musical aid of ZZ Top in a brawl should never be underestimated.

If Hank’s unprofessional, unprovoked use of force was an attempt to kibosh the promotion, the loyalty of his DEA partner, Steven, ironically keeps him up the ladder for now. Will Hank give in and taste meth before season’s end? A black cloud hangs over him. We’re interested to see if his working and personal relationship with Steven, who has thus far been underdeveloped and under-seen, is addressed.

Now that we think of it, we are dealing with a lot of troubled, bald men this season. More and more, Hank’s loneliness and Walt’s are sending these men down a chaotic, work-obsessed path.

Random

  • Mike the Cleaner seemingly places Gus‘s client standing above Saul‘s when he tells him Saul need not find out how close Walter came to death at the hands of the Cousins. Interesting.
  • In the ep’s end credits there is a dedication to “a friend” named Shari Rhodes. She was the show’s casting director who passed away last year. Follow-up: I assumed a painting seen in the Whites’ kitchen in “I.F.T.” was a portrait of Rhodes in tribute, but the painting was present in season two.

Breaking Bad airs Sundays at 10 p.m. EST on AMC. For previous episode recaps, click here.

If you’re interested in the production design of season three, here is a brief feature about director of photography Michael Slovis and the production designer Mark S. Freeborn. The part where they discuss Jesse’s preference for the color red confirms a trend you may have noticed during the first episodes of the season.

Hunter Stephenson can be reached at h.attila/gmail and followed on Twitter.

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