Episode Title: "Crawl Space"
Writers: George Mastras & Sam Catlin
Director: Scott Winant
Previously on "Breaking Bad":
Gus Frings (Giancarlo Esposito) engineered a masterful plan to bring down Don Eladio (Steven Bauer) and the Mexican cartel. With Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) in tow, Gus escorted Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) into Mexico to demonstrate the blue meth formula for the cartel. Upon Jesse's successful cook, the cartel declared that Jesse belonged to them, Gus held his tongue and presented Don Eladio with an expensive bottle of tequila that he shared with the cartel leadership… after he watched Gus drink it. Shortly thereafter, Gus excused himself to puke up the poison while the Don and his men were overcome and perished.
Gus was weakened by the poison and Mike was shot during their escape, leaving Jesse to get the three of them to safety. In the U.S., Walter White (Bryan Cranston) slowly recovered from his beatings at the hands of Jesse and he was embarrassed when his son, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) saw him in such a vulnerable state. Meanwhile, Walt's wife Skyler White (Anna Gunn) tried to trick her former boss/former lover, Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins) into taking the money to pay off the IRS and ensure that her husband's illegal earnings wouldn't be on the government's radar. But when Ted began squandering the money, Skyler revealed that she had been the one who had given it to him.
In Mexico, Jesse arrives at a makeshift emergency room set up in a warehouse by Gus. As he pulls in, the medical team gingerly takes Gus and begins administering care to save his life. But they leave a badly injured Mike in the car, forcing Jesse to carry him inside and demand help. But the doctor says that Gus pays his salary, so they stay focused on him. At the Superlab, Tyrus (Ray Campbell) is all over Walt about the details of the latest cook, but he won't answer any questions about Jesse or about what happened in Mexico. Walt also passes on the word that his brother-in-law, Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) wants to continue his investigation at Gus' chicken farm.
Silence is Walt's only reply as Tyrus leaves. Later, on the stakeout with Hank, Walt learns that there was some sort of power play in Mexico among the cartel, but he doesn't know the details. Hank notes Walt's bruises and offers to help him if he needs any assistance, but Walt refuses to talk about it with anyone. Some time later in Mexico, Jesse stays by Mike's bedside as his blood drip starts to run low. The doctor shows Jesse that Gus arranged to have fresh blood on hand for all three of them in case of serious injuries, while remarking that Gus has a plan for everything. Gus then emerges and tells Jesse that they're leaving now. But Mike will have to stay for at least another week to recover before he can travel again.
Beginning a long hike to the Mexican border, Gus compliments Jesse and tells him that he's ready to take over the Superlab. Jesse stops in his tracks and tells Gus to either buyout Walt or fire him, but he won't cook if Walt is killed. Gus says that won't work for him, but Jesse is adamant. At the White residence, Skyler gets a message from Ted rejecting her money to pay off the IRS. She rushes over to his house and assumes that he is trying to blackmail her for more money, but he insists that he can't take what he believes to be Walt's illicit gambling money. He tries writing Skyler a check for almost the full amount but she tears it up and insists that he pays the IRS.
At the nursing home, Gus takes great pride in torturing the decrepit Hector (Mark Margolis with the knowledge that his entire family is dead. He even reintroduces Jesse as the man who killed his grandson, but Hector won't give Gus the satisfaction of looking at him. On the way to the next stakeout with Hank, Walt notices Tyrus following them. And then to his shock, Walt learns that Hank has deduced that the industrial laundry is where Gus is hiding his Superlab. Quickly running out of options, Hank slams into an oncoming SUV. Much later, Walt visits Hank at his home as both men are banged up from the accident. Hank's wife Marie (Betsy Brandt) insists that their drives together end… and Hank agrees. He's buying a car with hand controls.
Before they leave Hank's home, Skyler gets a call from Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) and she tells him to proceed with the plan for Ted. Saul then sends his bodyguard Huell (Lavell Crawford) and his best con artist Kuby (Bill Burr) over to Ted's home to intimidate him into writing the check for the IRS and signing the tax form. Kuby insinuates that they will babysit Ted until the check clears, so Ted makes a run for it before slipping and slamming his head hard, possibly killing him. At the Superlab, Walt is surprised to find that someone cooked while he was recovering from his accident. He races over to Jesse's home and finds him playing video games with Brock, while his mother Andrea watches them.
Jesse is extremely angry that Walt came back to his home and that he drove Hank towards the Superlab. Now that Walt knows that Jesse is cooking for him solo, he knows that Gus will have him killed. Walt begs for Jesse's help and Jesse throws his words back into his face. After Jesse goes back inside, Tyrus and another one of Gus' men appear and use a taser to incapacitate Walt. Hours later, Walt is on his knees in the desert with a bag tied over his head. Gus arrives and tells him that he is fired and he warns him to stay away from the lab and Jesse. Walt is scared out of his mind, but he has enough wherewithal to realize that Jesse still won't let Gus kill him.
But Gus is convinced that Jesse will come around. In the meantime, he plans to kill Hank and if Walt interferes, then Walt's family will be killed. Gus and his men leave Walt in the desert and when he recovers, Walt bursts into Saul's office just as he's chewing out Huell and Kuby for the mess they made of the Ted situation. Walt insists that Saul give him the contact info of the man who can make his family disappear with new identities and that he inform the DEA of the threat against Hank's life. Walt then rushes home and to his horror, he finds that the money he needs to pay for their new lives is missing. In a panic, he confronts Skyler and she says that she gave it to Ted.
Walt then suffers a mental breakdown and begins laughing uncontrollably, even as Skyler fields a terrified call from Marie who tells her that the cartel is targeting Hank again.
Now that's television at the edge of your seat.
It was also one of the finest hours of the series. In an episode that wasn't even the season finale, "Breaking Bad" delivered more intensity than most shows get in an entire year. If it wins the Emmy for Best Drama in 2012, this is the episode that will put Vince Gilligan and company over the rest of the contenders.
"Breaking Bad" is habitually one of the best shows on TV, but this was an almost flawless episode that stands out even among the rest of this series. For so long, Walt has held on to the belief that he is essential to Gus' empire. That no one could cook his blue meth or compete with his skills as a chemist. He practically made himself sound like Scarface when he boasted about it to Skyler several episodes ago. And in Walt's mind, that's probably a very comforting fantasy. He gets to believe that he's in control of his own life.
This episode stripped that illusion away with such force that Walt's mental state has got to be in serious question. He's either going insane from the pressure or it's such a singular moment of clarity that he knows this is the end of the road for him.
In her own way, Skyler has become almost as corrupt as Walt. And it's to the point that when Ted tried to take a moral stand against her admittedly illegal money, she didn't recognize it as anything other than an attempt to extort more money out of her. Have you ever noticed that people tend to assume that other people are just like them? Maybe that's true of criminals as well. Skyler can't possibly understand why Ted would turn down her offer and so she sets Saul's goons on him. The sequence with Huell and Kirby was darkly hilarious, even if Ted's apparent death was definitely an over-the-top moment. But if Ted is dead, then it is ultimately Skyler's fault. She caused that situation and now she has to live with it.
Take a moment to appreciate the writing on this series. Skyler's seemingly unrelated plotline about trying to pay off Ted has now cut off her family's emergency escape options. With the convergence of Hank's ongoing investigation, the new threat against his life and Gus' triumph over the cartel, it's the perfect storm for Walter White. It's hard to imagine things getting any worse for Walt than this. But knowing this show, they almost certainly will.
The status quo was destroyed so thoroughly here that it's difficult to imagine what will happen in the final two episodes of the season. About the only thing we can count on is that Walt and Jesse will survive to return for the final season.
But everyone else is fair game.
Crave Online Rating: 9.5 out of 10.