10 Things We Learned From 'Breaking Bad' S5E13 "To'hajiilee"

As we promised in "The Ones Who Knock" Kickstarter, I will be doing weekly recaps here for each episode of Breaking Bad. For those of you unfamiliar with my recapping style, it's less of a straightforward plot summary and more a distillation of the most interesting elements of each week's episode.  The recaps will spoil everything up through the current episode (S5E12 "Rabid Dog"), but won't spoil any future episodes or even scenes from the "Next Time" segment of the show.  There will, however, be some light speculation and straight-up crackpot theories.  No theory or speculation is based on foreknowledge of the show.  So hold on to your pork pie hats, because here we go.

tumblr_msu95mCzIG1qjzn8xo2_1280

1. I Wonder How You Say "Blue-ish From A Certain Angle If  The Light Hits It Aquamarine Sky Meth" In Czechoslovakian?:  The show opened with Uncle Jack and the Nazis again and by hour's end, we knew why. But this scene did a number of things quite effectively.  In addition to making me laugh at all the wacky Nazi antics, it established the stakes for Jack et. al.  Despite Todd's best efforts, he sh*t the bed and burnt the cake and now they need Walter if they're going to get their hands on any of those sweet, sweet korunas.  Basically Todd made the New Coke of meth batches, and it simply won't do.  Speaking of Todd, let's address his creepy little crush on Lydia.

tumblr_msu8ecGed31r86qtto1_1280

Todd has been, throughout, a fantastic and enigmatic character aided in no small measure by both Jesse Plemons, the performer, and the association many of us have with him (Landry, the world's cuddliest kicker from Friday Night Lights).  Dressed in this episode in a red and black striped shirt and looking for all the world like an overgrown Calvin (of And Hobbes fame), his polite, bashful aw-shucksing has always been so amazingly incongruous with his line of work and willingness to whack little motorbike kids. But in addition to giving us another creepy window into Todd's inner life, I think this business with Lydia and the tea also kept Miss Rodarte-Quayle's penchant for Stevia and Bergamot fresh in our minds.  The perfect receptacle for that ricin vial, no?

tumblr_msudltnLCW1qgzl4lo7_1280

2. Lydia's Not The Only One Concerned With Brand:  There were a lot of things I loved about the White Family scene at A-1. Skyler and Walt obviously have everyone holed up at the carwash with the idea that hiding in plain sight is the safest thing they could possibly do. And though Flynn would rather be at home, you know, chillin, he gets rewarded for learning the family business on a Saturday by a visit from a local celebrity.  Star-struck Walt Jr. is pretty adorable.  But, to me, the most relevant aspect is this parallel between Lydia and Skyler and the way they both discuss the idea of branding and marketing a product.  (Not to mention all the chatter around Saul and his business's slogan.) But to Lydia the business of trafficking meth is just that.  A business.  Her callow, cold-blooded attitude might be just the thing that gets her got.

tumblr_msu8yv9CJo1r86qtto1_1280

3. They Should Have Called This Episode "Confession": Oh Huell, buddy, I can't believe you fell for the ol' cow brains on the kitchen floor gambit.  The oldest trick in the book.  Conveniently, when Huell (last name Babineaux?  Amazing) starts to babble info to Hank and Gomez he conveniently outlines every little thing they need to know in order to stage that other photo.  "Oh the barrels were black?  And this size?  Hmmm." At that point Hank isn't even thinking about reenacting the photo making this the luckiest bit of slick exposition you could ever hope for.  Huell even told him where to shop.  So thoughtful, Huell.

tumblr_msu8826vPa1rrsduno1_1280

4. The Devil You Know: I know there have been some grumblings here and there in the past about Uncle Jack's role.  My podcast host, Dave Chen, in particular doesn't like how "easy" is was for Jack to pull of the prison killings or massacre a band of desert meth cooks.  But I think that all starts to pay off quite nicely in this episode.  Walt fancies himself the second coming of Gustavo Fring.  Jesse James himself.  But Fring never would have employed someone as unpredictable and uncontrollable as Jack and his co-horts.  (That's why he tried to extract himself from the unpredictability of both Walt and Jesse numerous times.)  But Walt, in his arrogance, went for the easy out without thinking about what the consequences might be.  Thanks to Todd and his big mouth, Jack knows all about Walt's prowess as a cook.  And a cook is what they need.  Walt's no longer the one in control.  This is the sound of the other jackboot dropping.

But my favorite aspect of this scene (besides Walt's incongruous need to defend Jesse's honor while simultaneously ordering a hit on him) is the composition of the shot above.  Here we have Todd, who has always been presented as a sort of dark double for Jesse, poised over Walt, bathed in red light and looking for all the world like a devil on his shoulder.  Walt had a chance, at many points, to turn this all around.  Jesse kept pleading for him to get out last season.  But Walt chose Todd and Uncle Jack over Jesse and Mike.  Walt made many mistakes on his journey to To'hajiilee, but that might have been the most damning.

tumblr_msug6bVo7b1qzdvqmo1_500

5. I Am Of The Opinion That Ian Posada Is The Cutest Kid Actor On Television:  I think we all knew what Walt had in mind when he said he knew what would draw Jesse out.  If the money is Walt's weakness, then kids have always been Jesse's. But still my heart sank at the sight of that little, cherubic face. I don't know if they don't let Brock talk a lot because the kid is not a great actor or if it's a character choice or what. But it is working. Walt keeps skirting the line of our sympathies. (See, above, his defense of Jesse even while ordering his death.) But he had to have lost major points when he went back to the Brock well. How dare he.

tumblr_msui5bZvC81s3vfuto2_1280

6.  Got My Photo, B*tch?:  First of all, more behind bars imagery from our good friends at Breaking Bad.  Given how the episode ended this week, I doubt Walt will be rotting in a cell anytime soon, but using the vertical blinds to show how trapped Walt is in this moment? Brilliant. And, sure, Walt's greed is his downfall here (as it has been in the past) but I also really enjoy that Hank and Jesse outsmarted Walt. Outsmarted the genius.  You know Walt always said that if Jesse just applied himself...

tumblr_msv54kKaen1qlmd4co1_500

7. Michelle MacLaren Really Does Need To Direct Everything AlwaysThe back half of this episode played out like a great action flick. It reminds me of that brilliantly tense Justified episode "Decoy" earlier this season. I'd pit either one of those episodes against any action film that we saw in the theaters this year. The car chase was incredible and as she has always done when directing an episode of Breaking Bad or Game Of Thrones, director Michelle MacLaren achieves the perfect blend of action and art. Her work is so beautiful it hurts. This scene with Walt snarling at Jesse on the phone was brilliantly acted by Bryan Cranston. Once again he protests that he loves the kid. I hope someone was recording that call because confessions abounded.

tumblr_msu996tku21qaib74o3_500

tumblr_msv134atcT1sraagpo1_500

8.  The Ecstasy of Victory:  Oh, kid.  Look at his face.  Just look at it. Both relief and disbelief that it was all over. Of course, Aaron Paul's face was amateur hour compared to the play of emotion's on Crantson's when he knew he was caught.  Was there relief too? The way his few tears snagged in the crags of his face. Oh yeah, I still have a little sympathy left for Walter White. But, of course, it was Hank who was feeling the least conflicted. Just crowing his heart out.  For whatever reason, I knew Uncle Jack was coming. That knot of dread in the pit of my stomach knew he was coming.  So every single second they spent in the desert had me shrieking "GET OUT, GET IN THE CAR, GET GONE." But no, Hank had to call Marie. That tearful loving conversation does not bode well, does it? But before we get to the guns, let's talk for a second about mirroring.

tumblr_msuirn2p621qg0ij7o1_500

The most poignant mirror is the To'hajiilee location itself.  Even Jesse picks up on it. How fitting, how tragically circular that this is where things would come to such a head. But we also have this Fring reflection. Not the first of the season, and possibly not the last.  Of course the attitudes are different.  Fring's is very much "come at me, bro" whereas Walt's is "you win, brother." Will Walt make it out, or is he fated to follow in Fring's footsteps?

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 8.29.35 AM

9.  The Agony Of Defeat: I think my favorite bit of internet fun with this episode of Breaking Bad is someone putting "Rains Of Castemere starts playing" over a shot of Uncle Jack's truck. Even though I knew they were coming, I was still basically under my couch when they showed up. What brilliant storytelling.  Of course they had to come, it's not Walt's decisions whether or not they do. He was impotent to stop them. He's an asset they need to protect.  That's the beginning and end of it.  Though, if that's the case, you'd think they'd have been a lot more careful when shooting at Hank's SUV.

Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 7.58.13 AM

10. You'll Never Leave To'hajiilee Alive: So, what do we think of the To'hajiilee Cliffs-hanger? Should the episode have ended with the guns cocked and at the ready?  What was the point of showing SOME shooting and not the conclusion?  Wouldn't the dread have been as intense if they'd left it at the stand-off? And who do we think is going to make it out alive?  Someone major has to die or else this show exists in a universe with no stakes.  And, that, my friends, is why I think Ensign Gomez red-shirted his way onto this investigation and out into that desert. In fact, I'm pretty certain I saw a gut wound on him.  So there could be a universe where Gomez dies and Hank, Jesse and Walt live.  (Of course, we know Walt lives. Grr.) But even that's a cop out, isn't it? Either Hank or Jesse need to go. After that conversation with Marie, Hank is the more likely suspect and Jesse was last scene oozing his way out of the car and maybe to safety. But if Jack is going to have something to hold over Walt in order to make him cook for them, the brother-in-law, the one Walt wouldn't cross that line for, is obviously the better choice when it comes to live hostages.  Maybe Walt negotiates for both Hank and Jesse's lives by agreeing to cook. Maybe. One way or another, the Nazis have the upper hand.  So let's end on a somewhat positive note and enjoy this image of Todd ineptly firing a gun.  Oh, Todd. 

tumblr_msuf0rszZS1rmequvo1_1280

Crackpot Theories Of The Week:  First of all, they dropped that notion of flak jackets into my head with both Saul and the Nazis. Is it possible Hank and Gomez have at least a little protective gear on?  Let's hope so.  On another front, if, as people have long claimed, the color pink is a harbinger of death on Breaking Bad, then let's take a quick look at who is in peril this week.  Did you like how Uncle Jack was talking about injecting pink dye into farmed salmon.  Yeah, I'm pretty sure Uncle Jack is about to inject a whole mess of pink dye into the proceedings.

BB513

Holly

And, of course, Prince Hamlet himself, Jesse Pink Man.

tumblr_msu7lnxweA1qagxdco1_500

Musical Moment Of The Week:  Once again, Dave Porter knocked my socks all the way off with his score this week. If you still haven't had a chance to listen to our interview with series composer Dave Porter, please please do. But the musical moment of the week belongs to f*cking Todd and his ringtone.