After narrowly (and unknowingly) avoiding death by Cousins, Walt cleans the pizza off the roof (that's good) and the proceeds to squat in his own home, above Skyler's protests. He forces her hand, and when she backs down from telling the cops (and consequently Flynn) that Walt's a drug dealer, she has no choice but to let him stay. She does, however, exact some petty vengeance, in ways small (she's smoking again) and not so small (she fucked Ted Beneke).
Meanwhile, Saul leans on Jesse to convince Walt to start cooking again. But Jesse's not really up to doing anything but re-dialing Jane's voice-mail just to hear her voice. And when that gets disconnected, he drives the RV out into the desert and starts cooking by himself.
Gus meets with the cartel folk -- including Tio and the Cousins, who are actually Tuco's cousins. They want Gus to step aside and let them take care of Walt, but Gus holds his prissy ground and insists that he be allowed to finish his business with Walt first.
And finally, Hank is still PTSD-ing like a mofo, which this week includes heading into seedy bars and picking fights with local roughnecks.
All that AND a Danny Trejo flashback in which we see how Tortuga ended up with his head atop a Tortuga? Excellent.
Previously on Breaking Bad, the Cousins found Tio and Ouija'd out of him the name of Walter White. Only when they went to kill him, they were called off at the last moment by the surprise intercession of Gus. Also, Jesse swindled his old house back from his parents, and Walt discus-tossed a pizza onto the roof of the house he's been kicked out of. Oh, also, last season, D.E.A. snitch Tortuga got beheaded, his head placed atop a desert tortoise, and said tortoise rigged to explode right before Hank's eyes.
We begin this week's episode in the past. We know this pretty much immediately, due to seeing Tortuga's head still attached to his body. He's enjoying a drink and a smoke at one of Mexico's most murderously lit drinking establishments. Our pal is throwing his weight around, pontificating about how to get ahead and generally feeling high on just how wired he's got it. Daylight peeks in from the door behind him, as an unassuming man in white linen tells the barflies to listen to this mouthy son of a gun. Danny Trejo's an amazing actor, and he proves it by how subtly but definitively Tortuga's expression changes as he greets this man he calls "Jefe." As with the Cousins, I'm going to take the shortcut and tell you that, according to the podcast, Vince Gilligan has named this guy Juan Bolsa. Which, yes, is the Spanish version of "Johnny Sack." Which is pretty funny.
Anyway, so what follows is a mundane/insanely tense conversation between Bolsa and Tortuga. Knowing what we know, everything Bolsa says is imbued with a silent "I know what you did, and I'm about to have your head for it." The magic of the scene is in trying to decipher how often Tortuga is catching on to this too. Every time Bolsa compliments Tortuga's way with words ... does he know? The life of a snitch. Bolsa ultimately invites Tortuga into the back room to accept a belated birthday present, which: oldest trick in the book, man! But what choice does Tortuga have? Refuse and blow his cover anyway? So back he goes, and we see the "present" Bolsa got for him is a tortoise. His namesake. Tortuga, the poor sap, seems genuinely happy for the gift. Until Bolsa offers to sign it for him. The inscription is one we've seen before: "HELLO D.E.A." Tortuga reads it and immediately panics. But it's too late. From behind him, the Cousins advance, force him down across the nearest flat surface, produce a machete, and while Tortuga's screams echo through the bar, begin the steady and forceful hacking off of his head.
Credits. Elements. Meth.
Back in the ol' present tense, Walt is cleaning the pizza off his roof, while Mike the Cleaner, still in his car down the street, updates Gus on just how oblivious Walt is to almost having been Tortuga'd himself. Interestingly, Mike confirms that "Saul Goodman does need to know," so whatever narcotic executive loop we've got here, Saul's not necessarily a part of it.
Meanwhile, Skyler drives home from work as a children's-music CD plays endlessly. She's singing along, but in that "kill me now" cadence of a parent who may never again know a moment where "Old MacDonald" isn't running a Mobius strip inside their head. Her mood changes from one of despair to overt anger when she spots Walt's car in the driveway. She pulls in and calls Walt ... who peeks out at her from behind the drapes as he answers. They proceed to have the same conversation they've had three times now, only this time it's while they glare at each other from less than 100 feet away. She tells him she thought they came to an understanding (i.e. stay away or I'm ratting you out). Walt basically tells her it's his house, and if she wants to talk about it, they can do it inside. Inside, it's clear that Walt's conversation with Saul last week about all that Skyler stands to lose by turning Walt in has made an impact. He's decided to call her bluff. Skyler, desperately clinging to the notion that Walt has no say in the matter, picks up the phone to call the police. He lets her. She dials the number and lets it ring. He encourages her. The dispatcher answers, and with Walt giving no ground, Skyler -- shaking -- says she would like to report a domestic ... issue. It's like counting to three in front of an insolent child. "Two and a half! Two and three-fifths!" No matter how small the fractions get, Walt is confident that he's got her. Which, honestly, must make the guy feel pretty satisfied, right? His massively illegal and destructive meth business has gotten him wedged into a position where his wife can't even divorce him for being a liar and a criminal because it will so thoroughly rip every corner of her family apart. High-five, Walt. He tries to paint it nobly, saying this family is everything to him, and that's why he's willing to let her go this far. Turn him in, even. Ten to one says Walt even believes this is the reason.
Skyler actually does tells the cops to come over to remove Walter. Not that anyone believes she's going to tell them the part about the meth. Walt passive-aggressively clicks his pen and starts grading papers, while Skyler sits down and tries to not freak out. Then Flynn comes home. He sees his dad, jumps to the conclusions he wants to jump to, and Walter is only too happy to fire them up a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches as they laugh and bond and ignore Skyler entirely. The man is squatting and using his own son as leverage, which is as gross morally as it is euphemistically.
The cops show, which gets Flynn pissed off at Skyler anew. You can see the look of anticipation on Skyler's face as she waits for her son to start giving her hell. Sorry, call me a Skyler apologist, but I find this all pretty heartbreaking. There is absolutely nothing she can do that won't tear that kid up. Once they confirm that there's no divorce and Walt has joint title on the house, the cops know they're walking a tightrope. They clearly want to be able to help Skyler, looking for all the world like a battered woman. But they need her to say that he's been abusive, or else they can't remove him by force. To her credit, Skyler says he hasn't. Baby Holly cries, and Walt springs to pick her up, playing the doting father to the hilt. He sheepishly feeds the second cop a story about how "Gee, I haven't been the most attentive guy, and I guess that's why Wifey over there is flying off the handle like this."
Skyler's cop levels with her: "If you want your husband out of the house, you're gonna have to help me out. Is it possible maybe he's broken any laws that you know of?" He says even merely the suspicion of wrongdoing, and he can have Walt taken out of the house. She's got her opening, a mile wide. But Skyler looks over at Flynn, eagerly throwing her under the bus to the other cop. "My dad," he says, beaming with the pride of the hopelessly uninformed, "he is a great guy!" Skyler turns back to the cop, who says there's just no legal basis to remove Walt. He hands her his card and the honest hope that she can come up with a reason that lets him help her. After the cop leaves, Flynn yells at his mother, again, "Why you gotta DO this to Dad?" I'd normally have such little patience for a kid who yells at his mom this much, but he's as much of a victim here as anyone. Skyler takes the baby from Walt, fixes him with the glare to end all glares, and "welcomes" him home.
Jesse's sitting on the floor of his depressingly unfurnished, ill-gotten home, listening to something on the phone. Whatever it is, it elicits the lone smile we've gotten from him all season. You guys, I miss Jesse so much. It feels like we've lost him, doesn't it? He's interrupted by a knock at the door, and the smile goes away. Back to the shell that walks. It's Saul at the door, who has adopted a tone of upbeat wheedling for any and all interactions with Jesse. He hands him a tiny potted cactus as a housewarming present, lightly chides him for not answering his phone (what if he was calling to warn of a DEA raid, for example?), and confirms that Jesse's staying clean. Because he's concerned! You guys, stop snickering. Anyway,