"I can't be the bad guy." -WaltAn episode after "No Mas," Walt still isn't ready to take Jesse's rehab revelation to heart. He's still denial about how bad he's become, how much he's hurting the people he cares about, and how his actions will be received by the world around him. He's oblivious to how the cop will respond when Walt gets out of the Aztek and begins ranting and raving about his civil rights. He's oblivious to how much he's hurting Skyler by letting her become the bad guy in their separation, when if anything Skyler's doing him (and their children) a kindness by not telling the world that he's a meth cooker. He's oblivious to the fact that the cartel might still be angry with him, and to the presence of the Cousins sitting in his bedroom with an ax, and that his life is only spared because Saul's PI buddy Mike has a direct line to Gus Frings. Walt begins and ends the episode with chemicals in his eyes (first the pepper spray, then the shampoo), but even cleaned up, he's really not seeing the picture of his life very clearly.
We can, however, and "Caballo Sin Nombre"(*) gives us a very vivid picture of how bad Skyler has it because she won't tell the truth about Walt. (And I should say her reasons aren't entirely selfless; as Saul points out to Walt, the truth would have huge blowback for Skyler, too.) While she stays silent, her son turns against her - even ditching the "Flynn" nickname to go back to being Walter Jr. in a show of solidarity with his pop. Hank seems ready to dismiss Walt's mystery transgression as an affair and take Walt's side in what looks from his point of view to be a disproportionate response from Skyler. (Kick the cheating bastard out? Sure, but don't keep him from his kids.) Marie has more suspicions, but that's all she has.
(*) The episode's title is Spanish for "Horse with No Name," which is the song Walt's singing along to when the cop pulls him over.
And because Skyler's out on an island, emotionally and financially, she finds herself forced to become Saul Goodman to Ted Beneke's Walt, showing him how to more effectively cook the books. She doesn't want to, but she doesn't seem to have a choice - which, interestingly, is the justification Walt used for getting into the meth business in the first place. Hmm... Maybe Walt's not the only one too blind to recognize his own badness.
Jesse, as we know from last week, has embraced his own villainous side, not in any kind of cackling, over-the-top fashion, but in a much more compelling, disturbingly matter-of-fact way. He is what he let Walt turn him into, and so he has no problem using Saul to hustle his parents into selling him back his aunt's house at a rock-bottom price. Not only does this give him revenge for how unfairly he feels they've treated him in the past, it allows him to get back at two of the parties who helped contribute to the death of Jane (and then of the people on the planes). If his parents don't kick him out of aunt's house, Jesse doesn't move in next door to Jane, doesn't drag her off the wagon, etc., etc., etc. Aaron Paul's had to play a lot of different faces of this character (clueless comic relief, tragic victim of Walt's greed, etc.), and he's been really good as this empty, evil incarnation. What he does to his parents (and, unwittingly, to his kid brother, whom he does like) is cruel, but unlike his partner, Jesse has no illusions about who he is and what he's doing. He's bad, but he's not a hypocrite.
Neither, of course, is Saul Goodman, with Bob Odenkirk making his very welcome first appearance of the season. As Walt and Jesse's consiglieri (even if the business isn't active at the moment), Saul has clearly moved up in the world. He's dressing better, his combover isn't as tacky, and he has a Bluetooth, status symbol for d-bags everywhere (and fashion accessory for the guy whose car Walt blew up back in season one). But he's still a low-rent lawyer at heart; his glee at getting over on Mr. and Mrs. Pinkman's high-class attorney was palpable. If Jesse's resigned to being the bad guy, Saul loves the role.
While Walt and Jesse are both concerned with getting back into their homes (Walt breaks in via the trap door he made while battling mold last season, while Jesse gets in via more legal means), the Cousins are coming - with a big assist from Tio, whose mind remains sharp and focused even as his body betrays him. The scene in the nursing home where the Cousins realize they can use the ouija board to get the relevant information from Tio left me grinning from ear to ear, it was so diabolical, even as I worried about what hell these two are going to unleash on Walt - or, worse, on the loved ones Walt has exposed to such danger with his second career.
Some other thoughts:
• In more practical terms, Jesse had to move out of his aunt's house because the home's real-life owners sold it. The new owners wound up remodeling it, then agreed to let the show use it again, and so Mr. and Mrs. Pinkman's renovations were written into the script.
• That was one shiny ax the Cousins bought, wasn't it? Also nice to know they have access to the same kind of shiny suits north of the border as they did down in Mexico.
• Saul gives Walt a piece of advice that could pay huge dividends down the road, in pointing out how Hank's career would be ruined if his brother-in-law were discovered to be the area's biggest meth manufacturer. I don't think Walt's yet at a point where he would exploit Skyler's affection for Hank, but that moment's probably gonna come, isn't it?
• Of course Saul's vanity license plate is "LWYRUP." Of course it is.
• SaveWalterWhite.com is still an active website, and still contains a link to the National Cancer Coalition if you want to make a donation to help real (and less despicable) cancer sufferers.
• Walt's so anal and controlling that he has to go and skim the pool at his apartment complex. (And that, in turn, gives the production team an excuse to trot out the pools-eye-view camera again. I love that camera almost as much as they obviously do.)
• God, Mark Margolis is good as Tio. Tio hates Walter so, so much, and it looked like half the veins on Margolis's body were fit to burst as he silently communicated with the Cousins.
• The song playing as Walt breaks back into his own house is "Magic Arrow" by Timber Timbre.
• Walt's flinging of the pizza onto the garage roof seemed so impressive that I asked Vince Gilligan if there was any special work by the crew to aid its flight. Here's what he said:
Our special effects expert did indeed work up some mechanism for getting the pizza out of the box and onto the roof, using fishline or somesuch. However, to the best of my knowledge, his rig was never used. What you see in the finished episode is take one, in which Bryan basically just did a Hail Mary toss and got it up there in one try!What did everybody else think?