In the aftermath of the airplane collision, 167 people are dead, Jane's dad is swiftly sussed out as the responsible party, and while no one but you and me and Walter White know it, the line from Jane to her dad to 167 dead air travelers begins with Walt.
But he can't understand why Skyler left him! She's living at Hank and Marie's, with Flynn and bouncing baby Holly. Flynn's pissed as hell, and frustrated because he doesn't know why, because Skyler can barely voice her suspicions to herself, much less Flynn. (Or Marie, who is just dying to know.) Ultimately, Skyler serves Walt with divorce papers, and when he demands to sit down and talk about it, she lays it out: "You're a drug dealer." Sure, she first guesses he's dealing weed...then coke, before Walt sets her straight about how he's cooking and maybe-kinda-dealing meth. Skyler offers him a deal: grant me this divorce and stay out of our lives, and I won't tell anyone.
Meanwhile, Jesse's still living in the giant terra cotta onion, getting clean. His demeanor has changed entirely; he's almost catatonic under the weight of his extreme guilt. After he's released, he tells Walter he's learned to accept who he is: "I'm the bad guy." Oh, dear.
So with all this carnage being his fault -- and after an aborted attempt to burn his half-mil as atonement -- Walt meets with Gus (who may have grown a Mexican accent in the offseason) and tells him he's out of the meth business. Gus makes him another offer: $3 million to cook for three more months. Walt, though initially gobsmacked, again refuses.
So that's that, then! Walt's got a family to win back and a damaged apprentice to do right by, but at least "Heisenberg" isn't hanging over his head anymore, right?
Yeah. So there are these two Mexican badasses making their way to the States -- crawling towards pagan statues, hitching rides on haywagons, walking away from explosions like cool guys. They've got skulls on their boots and death at their fingertips and they are headed directly for Walt. So, you know. Gulp.
Previously on Breaking Bad: Walt got cancer. Walt started cooking meth. Jesse started dealing meth for Walt. Walt yelled at Jesse, a lot. Walt was very good at cooking meth. Walt's product got him a reputation, an alias ("Heisenberg"), and the attention of a decapitatingly dangerous Mexican cartel. Walt and Jesse got in on a million dollar payday from Gus, who owns the local El Pollo Knockoff-o. Jesse met Jane. Jesse and Jane got co-dependant and heroin-y. Walt got mad. So did Jane's dad. Jane choked to death on her own vomit while Jesse slept. Walt was there but didn't do anything to save her. Jesse didn't know that and blamed himself. Jane's dad probably blamed Jesse too, but what he also did was show up for work as an air traffic controller in a mentally compromised state. Two planes crashed into one another, raining debris on Walt's house and most of his corner of Albuquerque. Walt's drug money financed his chemo. Walt got better. Walt's wife, Skyler, found his second cell phone. Skyler tried to silence her suspicions. Skyler found out that the money to pay for chemo didn't come from where Walt said it did. After Walt's surgery, Skyler left Walt.
So! Season 3 begins obliquely, much like Season 2 began with the aftermath of what we would ultimately discover was the plane crash. Only this time, we're in Mexico, and a dusty older man is crawling across the desert ground. Away from something? Someone? We can't tell what. He's whimpering, and though cars, villagers, and the occasional chicken walk past him, they pay him no mind. Weird. Weirder: we soon see that he's not alone. Dozens of Mexicans now are crawling across the village, not even on their hands and knees, but on their bellies, inching forward with their elbows.
A shiny sedan drives up and gets everyone's attention. Out step two bald men, almost identical to one another, in expensive suits and silver skulls on the tips of their boots. The peasants crawl past them, around them, but not necessarily away from them. I'm just gonna cheat right now and call these guys The Cousins, since that's apparently what they're being called in the scripts, and I can't think of a better or more clever moniker. So the cousins survey the crawling villagers for a moment, then get down on the ground and start crawling with them.
As they get outside the village, we finally see what they're crawling towards. It's an adobe hut, adorned with flowers. A shrine. Inside, there are dozens of candles burning down to waxy nubs, and small statues of skull-faced death. Cousin/Cousine light a candle and place it atop what looks like a deck of tarot cards. It all feels very Catholi-Pagan, an impression that's made even more clear when we see the statue of Santa Muerte. The statue is adorned with totems, symbols of the prayer requests of the supplicants who crawl to her door. The Cousins tack up a sheet of notebook paper next to the statue. This is who they want Santa Muerte to bring them luck in finding. We finally see it, but it's no surprise. It's a pencil sketch of the man the cartel knows as "Heisenberg." Psst! Santa Muerte! He's got a full goatee now. Just FYI.
Back in the good ol' U.S. of A., the news reports are coming in fast and furious about the mid-air collision of two passenger airplanes. Local and national news outlets (hey there, Ashleigh Banfield) take us through the days following the crash, including an eyewitness account from a woman who looks like Luann DeLesseps's southwestern identical cousin, and settle upon a body count: 167 dead. They also settle upon a pair of shoulders upon which to place the blame: air-traffic controller Donald Margolis, better known to us as Jane's dad. The news reports are all over the Jane connection, as we pull back to Walter White's newspaper-strewn living room. As I said in the recaplet, it's not hard to trace the line from Walt letting Jane die, to Jane's father's grief, to those 167 dead bodies. Walt's not a stupid guy. He knows this. The question is whether he knows it out loud.
Right now, Walt's in the backyard, lighting matches and tossing them into the pool. And while letting the match burn down almost to his fingertips before tossing it to it's chlorinated grave might seem like the kind of repetitive self-punishment Walt might be putting himself through, he's actually trying to work up his nerve. Because Walt's taken his half of the million-dollar payout from Gus and placed it in his grill. Ohhhh, man. I don't like to watch anything where bad stuff happens to money. With one match left in the book (said book being adorned with the mug of lawyer-for-hire Saul Goodman), Walter musters up the wherewithal to douse the cash in lighter fluid, flick a match, and set it afire. He looks at it for a moment, then ... remember that Simpsons where the dog is being all rambunctious and is digging all over the yard, ultimately digging up the TV cable and running down the block with it? And Homer goes "He's got the precious cable TV cable!" and starts chasing him all over town in a panic? That's kinda what Walt does once he realizes what he's done. He tried to tamp down the flames, but that's not gonna do anything but set the sleeves of his terrycloth robe on fire, which it does. Walt panics and throws the grill full of money into the pool, then follows suit when he can't extinguish his arm. Some of the money is charred, but most of it's just wet. Ben Franklin's eyes will be bloodshot tonight, man.
Skyler, meanwhile, is meeting with a divorce attorney and giving us a convenient little catch-up on where we're at: Skyler's living at Hank and Marie's place, along with Flynn and baby Holly. The initial weekend Skyler gave Walt to pack his things and move out got stretched out to a week, given the airplane crash. Lawyer Lady tells Sky about how important it is to maintain residency in these matters, so she should move back ASAP. She asks about the kids, and Skyler is adamant: "They need to stay with me." The edge in her voice there should be our first clue. LL moves on to the financials, asking if Sky feels she has a good understanding of her family's money situation. Skyler is reticent to go into it and tries to beg off, but LL insists she's not looking for loopholes. She wants her client to have an honest accounting of all her family's assets and thinks they should "leave no stone unturned," to that end. "You'd be amazed what I've seen partners hide from what another." At which point another airplane falls from the sky, brought down by the weight of the banner trailing behind it, which read "OH I GET IT BECAUSE WALT'S HIDING SOMETHING."
Back home, Hank stops by just as Walt is fishing the last bits of charred money from the pool. He even finds a glass eyeball in the pool filter. One last souvenir from the plane crash. He pockets the eye before Hank comes ambling into the backyard. He gets very male-afraid-of-contact as he fumbles around giving Walt advice about Skyler ("Beat a little tactical retreat..."). Looks like Hank's here to help Walt move the last of his stuff to whatever bachelor pad he's found. I'm just glad he's not moving into Jesse/Jane's duplex. That might've been a bridge too far. Out by the cars, Hank moves to pick up the duffel bag full of (likely still wet) cash and powers through when Walt tries to stop him. "What do you got in there, cinderblocks?" Hank asks. Walter barely moves his face when he replies, "Half a million in cash." Hank starts laughing. "That's the spirit." Man, sometimes Walt's just begging -- BEGGING -- for it, but Hank couldn't be less suspicious.
And now for a trip to Rancho Relaxo, or wherever it is that Jesse has gone to repair. We saw this place at the end of last season, with its big terra cotta onion bulb dwelling place. Jesse plants some flowers, with nary a speck of facial hair, knit hat, or baggy jeans to identify him as the yo-spouting ne'er do well we'd come to know. Now he just sits in group and doesn't say a word. The discussion leader (played by Jere Burns of Dear John fame, among other things...probably) asks for a show of hands for who came here looking to improve themselves. Everyone raises their hand, including a reluctant-to-participate Jesse. But Jere tells them they're all misguided. What they've come to Rancho Relaxo to accomplish, he says, is "self-acceptance." Jesse looks momentarily intrigued.
Back at Casa White, Skyler and the kids have moved back in, and we get our first look at Flynn, who is looking both cuter and angrier than we saw him last. He's icing out his mom and only sparks when Walt calls and starts leaving a message with his current living situation on the machine. Flynn picks up and pleads with his dad to explain what's going on. "Nobody tells me jack shit around here," he says, to Skyler's dismay. "I don't even care anymore," he says, giving up for now. "Can you just give me a ride to school?" Skyler, of course, is perfectly willing and able to take Flynn to school, but when she says that, Flynn ignores her and tells his dad he'll see him in a bit. Silence and secrets remain this family's stock in trade.
At Walter's pad, he makes himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He hears his drug phone ringing and sees the call's coming from El Pollo Knockoff-o (i.e. Gus). Walt ignores the call and goes back to obsessively cutting the crusts off his sandwich.
At school that day, they're having an assembly to work through the emotions associated with the tragedy. We get no indication that anyone at the school knew anyone who perished on those two flights, so this all seems to be Assistant Principal Carmen's way of having everyone "process their feelings" over being adjacent to a tragedy. Not that those kind of feelings wouldn't be legitimate, but what we get here are students fumbling around for emotions they feel they should have, more than what they do. One kid tries to back his way into making the "if your college roommate kills himself, you should get straight A's for the semester" urban legend come true. One Sarah Haskins-looking girl glumly asks the requisite questions about how a just and living God could yada yada (Carmen: "Keep it secular, honey."). Others talk about Simone's brother's girlfriend's cousin knows this guy who met this kid who saw a piece of debris fall down over by 31 Flavors last night. (