Breaking Bad
Half Measures

Episode Report Card
Joe R: A | 7 USERS: A+
YOU GRADE IT
Conflict Resolution
In a hurry? Read the recaplet for a nutshell description!

Previously on Breaking Bad, Skyler offered her money-laundering services to Walt so his cover business wouldn't sound quite so ridiculous at dinner parties, and Jesse's pal Combo was shot and killed by the ten-year-old brother of the girl from rehab he's now predatorily banging. But hey, at least he's still off drugs!

The episode proper begins with the cheerful strains of The Association's "Windy," so you know we're about to see something fucking awful. And indeed, we get what could honestly be the opening credits to a TV show about a poor, gross, motel meth-head who gives out copious blowjobs to fat men in crappy cars so she'll have the money for a tint bag of the meth that's making her face look like a John Waters character. In the grand tradition of Breaking Bad opening sequences, it's impeccably filmed and cheeky and intriguing and completely unnerving.

As the song dies out, we see our girl (who I'm going to have to call Windy, right?) carrying a bag of fast-food burgers to a car. She walks past Tomas riding his bike around that little patch of pavement like he always does, so we know what corner we're on. And we know what car she's approaching. I have no idea if these guys have names or not, so I'm just going to call them Frick and Frack for now. Frick (who is bald and tatted up) and Frack (who is bearded and kinda tired-looking) accept her gift of grease-soaked meat product, and instead of returning in kind (ew), they hand her a bag of the blue stuff. From a block away, Jesse watches from his car. And he's thinking. Which is never ever good.

After the credits, we see Walt had taken Flynn out driving. Flynn happily asks if it's cool if he uses the Aztek here for his driving test next week, since Mom's brakes suck. Walt says yes, though the fact that the camera just cut to an outside-the-car shot to emphasize the tape on the windshield -- reminding us how many times that glass has had to be replaced -- fills me with dread for some reason. Flynn then asks Walt if he's doing okay. Walt says he is, then Flynn specifically asks about his feet, and Walt looks down to see one foot on the gas and one on the break. Flynn says he knows it's not the right way, but it makes sense given his condition, and he just needs a note from a doctor for it to pass muster with his driving instructor. And then once he gets his provisional, he can work on it. Walt, in an uncharacteristic moment of accepting life's little imperfections, just smiles and says as long as it works for Flynn, it's fine with him.

Meanwhile, Skyler's at home with baby Holly, looking up "money laundering" on Wikipedia. Not exactly the most original gag ever, but it got a chuckle out of me. She shuts the laptop down once she hears the guys pull into the driveway. Flynn confirms that Walt will pick him up for his driver's test on Saturday morning. Yeah, in light of events to come later, my guess is Walt's a smidge late for that appointment. Skyler crosses paths with Flynn in the driveway and stays out to talk to Walt. She wants to talk about the arrangement they discussed for the car wash, but Walt says he's dead set against it. Skyler once again makes the argument that the car wash story makes sense. Walt comes at it from a different angle: if he's ever caught, he wants Skyler to have had nothing to do with it, thus giving her a plausible deniability. Skyler's not sure how plausible the deniability is when your husband starts dropping sacks of cash on the doorstep after going on disability from the public school. "I'd rather have [the police] think I'm Bonnie what'shername than a complete idiot." I love lines like that, which capture the line these characters are straddling between moral sketchiness and suburban naivete. The camera keeps cutting back to these long shots, too, where Skyler and Walt (and their respective cars) are on either side of some invisible line in the driveway. That's the way it stands right now, Walt on one side of the line and Skyler on the other. But for how long? Then, Walt crosses over to Skyler's side of the line, and you know he's making his play. He asks why, in this storytelling scenario of hers, her estranged husband would be putting her in charge of his car wash business. Skyler, ever the storyteller lately, says Walt would "try anything" to seek a reconciliation with his family, futile though those attempts may be. But Walt's angling to end the estrangement as condition of letting Skyler into the plan. Skyler balks. Walt renegotiates. They bargain things down to four dinners a week, and Walt gets a key to the house. "That," Walt says, "is how we'll sell your little fiction."

America's Meth Kitchen. Jesse's flushing out a vat or something (this show has taught me a lot about how to cook my own meth, but not everything yet). Looks like he and Walt are finishing up. He asks Walt if he'd like to go out and get a beer tonight. Walt obviously begs off, forcing Jesse to be a lot less subtle about his invitation. "Seriously. Have a beer with me." He directs his eyes to the ceiling and the invisible recording devices couched therein. Walt gets it.

At the restaurant (Paul's Monterey Inn -- ooh, fancy), they stare at each other silently, their drinks half-drunk, before Walt finally says "What?" I love scenes like this that start in the middle, yet the characters apparently sat down, waited for a server, waited for their drinks, so easily 10-15 minutes of just, what, staring at each other? No way either one of them is that patient. Anyway, Jesse finally tosses a tiny bag of the blue meth onto the table. Walt scrambles to hide it, but Jesse just wants him to confirm that it's theirs. It is. Jesse says he bought it from the two guys who killed Combo. I'm not sure what kind of reaction Jesse was looking for here, but considering Walt's reaction to Combo's death the first time around was a pair of shrugged shoulders, the fact that Walt shakes this news off as "hearsay" shouldn't be much of a surprise. Even when Jesse tells him that the two scumbags ordered a 10-year-old kid to do the killing, and Walt finally looks shocked, his reaction isn't close to the vibrating coil of rage that is Jesse Pinkman. Jesse says Tomas can't be the only kid they're using either. They use kids because they're easy to control and because they'll only get juvie if they're caught. "Hearts and minds," Jesse says, recalling Walt's own words. "Get 'em young and they're yours forever." The rage in Jesse is directed outward, yes, towards those two scumbags, but the accusatory way he looks at Walt when he says things like "hearts and minds" contains some revulsion at the part the both of them have played in this cycle. One more feather in Aaron Paul's cap, who needs to win an Emmy this year. And he deserves it in the lead category, but I'll take supporting.

When Walt finally asks Jesse what he wants him to do about it, Jesse puts his head down and admits he needs Walt's help. "I need ricin," he says, at which point Walt immediately puts on the brakes. Jesse's contention is that Frick and Frack need to die, and as Walt taught him two short seasons ago, ricin is effective and untraceable. He can have Windy the whore put it in the burgers she delivers to them daily. Walt nearly chokes that Jesse would put the whole plan in the hands of a meth-head (like, um, Walt has done with Jesse). Jesse brings up the Tuco situation, how Walt was all set to use ricin on him. The whole world, Jesse says, would be better without these two guys. Walt's bottom line is that Tuco was going to murder them; Frick and Frack are not. It's the difference between self-defense and murder. Jesse tries again, hissing through clenched teeth that "Combo was one of us! Does that mean nothing to you?" Jesse still doesn't realize that it completely does not mean anything to Walt. He might shed a tear for Jane while hopped up on sleeping pills, but he's well beyond feeling any kind of kinship or guilt for Combo. Walt twists the knife a bit, saying Jesse is only finding out now because he was too wasted to find out when

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Breaking Bad

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