It’s Season 4, Episode 5 of Breaking Bad, entitled “Shotgun”, and if we know one thing about Breaking Bad episode titles — Box Cutter, Bullet Points, Fluoride In Walt’s Toothpaste And Also ACID (one of the weaker episode titles) — it’s that we’re headed for a cryptic double-meaning of the word “Shotgun” where one of the meanings is very violent.
SHOTGUN MEANING NUMBER ONE: Jesse is riding shotgun in the car with Mike. Adorable!
We know that Mike isn’t gonna kill Jesse (though Jesse is nervous anyway, because he doesn’t know that he’s the main character on a tv show and won’t get killed. Though actually, based on his recent behavior, maybe he exactly knows that?) We also know that the best show on television isn’t gonna stoop to some lame escape cliche where Jesse’s tied up but he remembers Walt’s chemistry and burns himself free with like, sulfur in the ground then kills Mike with his keys.
So why is Mike wordlessly driving Jesse out into the middle of the desert and grabbing a shovel? For some incompressible reason, Jesse is nervous:
Uhoh. At this point, Jesse’s praying against long odds that the second “Shotgun” reference is just Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” playing in a Pollos restaurant…
Jesse desperately tries to get Mike to explain why they’re there, but Mike remains Mikely silent:
Fearing for his life and unable to yank an explanation out of Mike, Jesse then keeps preparing himself for a potential (instantly lost) showdown:
Turns out, Mike’s just going to pick up some bundles of bills buried in remote places around the outskirts of town, and he never acts hostile towards Jesse. At this point, I falsely predicted that Mike might’ve been starting to grab himself some fallback cash before enacting his plan to turn on Gus, but as we’ll soon find out, he’s actually the total opposite of doing that. Good prediction, NostraMEmus.
While Mike picks up the drops, Jesse stands guard in the rap-videoest way possible:
During the final pickup, however, while Mike’s inside picking up the cash, Jesse’s bored drumming is interrupted when he notices a super-conspicuous stock burglar character from an alarm commercial approaching the car:
SHOTGUN MEANING NUMBER TWO: Someone (Apparently) Tries To Rob Mike & Jesse With A Literal Shotgun
Jesse thinks quickly and floors the car in reverse, blowing past the dude and smashing into his car before peeling out into the road and driving away with incredible skill — NOW who’s the idiot for constantly getting high and grabbing random chicks to play racing games? (Getting high like a FOX). We cut to Mike walking up the road alone making a phone call to arrange a pickup when Jesse suddenly swings by and hands the wheel to Mike. Proud of his bodyguard protege, Mike agrees to let him smoke in the car. DROP PALZ!
Walt arrives at the lab the following day — after a contentious day of working alone and providing some stock-footage for forklift safety videos — and finds Jesse there early, working with renewed pride and vigor. Jesse explains the story to Walt:
QUICK SIDENOTE: Can any meth-cookers out there (like 40% of our target demo) explain to me, is there really not an easier way to break up the crystals than by banging them with the handle of a scraper? With $8 billion of state-of-the-art equipment, this part of the job is still left up to Jesse just banging sh*t? Or is it like guacamole, where you intentionally want to leave a chunky, varied consistency? I’m gonna email Gus.
Just when we (like Jesse) start to believe that he’s committed a heroic act, we find out that everything was Gus’ plan all along, and the shotgun-wielding “thief” was one of Gus’ goons staging a pretend robbery with the intent of having Jesse thwart it. The result is twofold:
1) Gus has re-instilled Jesse’s confidence and pride, getting his life temporarily back on track and rescuing him from a potential life-ending spiral; clearly, threatening him or tossing him back in rehab would not have accomplished this.
2) More sinisterly, Gus has also begun to plant some seeds in the rift between Jesse and Walt (can you plant seeds in a rift? Wouldn’t they just fall down the rift and nothing would grow? The answer is no, the analogy is perfect). Looks like Gus may have tabbed Jesse as his replacement Gale, and taken away a companion from Walt in the process? If Jesse starts writing lists of the Top Recumbent Bicycles next week, Walt knows he’s screwed.
The other half of the episode centers around Walt, beginning with a mad dash (and a borrowed Speed soundtrack cd) to the Los Pollos Hermanos franchise to confront Gus about Jesse’s sudden disappearance from the lab, after the lab security camera failed to answer him in a HAL computer voice. While flying down the road, the uber-paranoid Walt feels compelled to call Skyler and leave a just-in-case “I love you” message on the answering machine, knowing that any trip to Pollos might be his LASTOS (no time to Babelfish that).
At the chicken place, Walt finds — Dun dun DUNNNNNNN!!!!!!!! — this dude:
The Pollos manager informs Walt that Gus has left, even though his car is parked in the lot, and after stewing in a booth for a few minutes fingering his .38 and trying not to profile a group of Hispanic kids that walk in, Walt finally runs into the back of the store to find that Gus’ office is, in fact, empty. “NO CHICKEN FOR YOU!” – This Recap 10 Years Ago
Walt returns home and officially signs the car wash deed with Skyler, and as they briefly discuss celebrating the occasion and their new “tell each other everything” Criminal-Couple policy, Skyler casually checks the one message on their home phone:
Uhoh…is she gonna hear the desperation in his voice, or the zooming car noises, or the panicky soundtrack and know that this was an “I might never see you again, I love you” message? Is this gonna bring all her worries about working with murderous drug cartels back to the surface?
Nope! It leads to some steamy Walt & Skyler BLURSEX:
Really avant-garde, that shot of them having sex from The Predator’s point of view.
The carnally reunited Whites then discuss the prospect of moving back in together — as Skyler sheepishly says, “to make the story more believable” — but Walt seems slightly noncommital. Before they can get into specifics, Walter Jr. comes home and busts them when Walt yells “Be out in one second, son, I’m just… ummm… errr… I just gotta wipe off my d*ck! I mean finish this chemistry!”
Awww, a whole episode of togetherness! Mike & Jesse, and now The Whites, back in action.
Meanwhile, Hank has given up on trying to help his police pal find Gale’s murderer, saying that the death of ‘Heisenberg’ has finally brought closure to the DEA chapter of his wrecked life. The cop explains that their only real lead is this composite sketch of a man witnessed on the scene, who’s either supposed to be Victor or just the police’s stock Mexican drawing:
Looks like Walt is back in the clear for the time being, because as we all know, Victor currently sleeps with the dissolved fishes. Unfortunately, we all also know Walt’s arrogance and constant desire to have his genius recognized and to get credit for his (superdooper illegal) accomplishments, and in the middle of a dinner with Hank and Marie, Walt gets very wine-drunk and says that Gale’s chemistry smacks of “rote copying.” Skyler, unlike all of us watching at home, manages to resist slapping Walt and yelling “YOU BLEW IT!” in her best Sandler.
Sure enough, the next day, Hank has reopened the Gale file in an attempt to regain the closure that Walt just pissed all over. In the process, he finds this shocking revelation:
Ahhh, Walt was SO CLOSE to being totally in the clear forever and free of all his problems except the ten billion other just-as-bad problems. But at least that voicemail didn’t ruin anything! Until we find out next episode that the vibrations of Walt’s voice caused the answering machine to fall off the counter and concuss their baby. Dag nabbit.
Breaking Bad Episode 5 Thoughts? Leave ‘em in the comments.