We’re into Season 4, Episode 9, entitled “Bug”. We all know the Breaking Bad title rules (THERE ARE NO RULES!!!! Actually there are some, I just can’t mention ‘rules’ without yelling that or people will think I’m not extreme and don’t mainline Mountain Dew Code Red). So what will be the second meaning of the word “Bug”?
Obviously one “bug” is the bug that Walt placed on Gus’ car, but what will be the secret special crazysexycool “Ohhh, BUG” moment? A Bug’s Life? The Dinosaur Jr. album “Bug”? Hitler Bug? OH MAN I hope it’s Hitler Bug. Actually, if it did turn out to be Hitler bug, Breaking Bad would justify the situation so immediately and legitimately, you wouldn’t have a split-second to doubt this show’s superlative greatness.
“Bug” episode opens with a classic Breaking Bad foreshadowing moment: A blurry sequence of dripping blood, broken glasses, and a close-up of shoes (soon revealed to be Walt’s shoes). Although, as a friend pointed out, does it really count as “foreshadowing” when Breaking Bad literally shows a thing that happens in the future? We need a new term for that. “Teasin’ the Bear Eye?” DONE. Patent that. Moving on:
The bear eye having been teased, Walt shows up for work and prods Jesse once again about their (now clearly non-mutual) plan to kill Gus. Walt asks Jesse for a cigarette so as not to arouse suspicion, then arouses suspicion with his flawless smoking of that cigarette:
My BB-arguing companion Mike (not The Cleaner – he’s very messy) offered this theory: Ever since Jesse’s confidence was restored, Jesse has been on an improving moral arc while Walt’s morals have drastically declined, and the cigarette-sharing scene was the unofficial “crossing over” point of their moral graphs. If we want to throw in some bonus symbolism, we’ve got a lung cancer patient smoking a cigarette out of the blue — Walt is now both literally and figuratively acting against his own well-being.
Back on his surface life, Walt helps Hank recollect the bug from Gus’ car, only to find that Gus has only driven between his home and one Pollos location in the entire week, which actually seems way more suspicious than if he’d just gone to a few basic locations (just a quick stopoff at the LEGAL SHOP). Hank’s suspicions intensify, and he calls Walt with a bigger breakthrough than he even realizes, telling Walt that they should go check out Gus’ distributing facility.
The ultra-frazzled Walt comes up with his best excuse:
Hank’s like, “No problem, I’ll just have another character drive me there. Maybe that school principal or one of Jesse’s parents.” Walt realizes it’s actually way worse if Hank goes to the facility with someone else and quickly backpedals on his Poop Theory, but immediately calls Mike afterward to tip him off about the visit. Walt’s like, “Looks like you’re gonna have to… CLEAN… the facility, eh, The Cleaner? Remember that movie Code Name: The Cleaner? That’s you! Mike? Ah, he hung up three minutes ago.”
Mike gets Jesse and some more faceless Star Trek ensigns to help him empty the superlab, and one of the random dudes is suddenly shot in the head, sparking another standoff between Team Gus and Team The Cartel (anyone wanna print up the Twilight t-shirts?)
The shootout quickly dissipates when Gus walks out into the line of fire and aggressively poses for the sniper:
I initially sort of rolled my eyes at this part, thinking “this is badass but come on, BB”, then of course the decision immediately made sense when Gus later explained that he knows the cartel can’t kill him and that the sniper was intentionally shooting around him. Still, Gus decides to cave to the cartel’s demands, and he calls Macy’s to ask if they can gift-wrap Jesse-sized humans.
For good measure, Walt then has to dispose of the dead body “Walt Style,” which furthers his suspicions and paranoia both about Jesse’s growing role and about his own proximity to death:
Lemme just ask all of you since my family probably won’t go for it — when I die, can you please dispose of my body Breaking Bad style? Like, throw my body in a plastic tub and melt me with acid? Cause it’s WAY more entertaining than getting buried in some dumb expensive box. Or better yet, can you dissolve me in an actual bath tub and have my remains break through the floor and spill everywhere? That’d be awesome. Eh, I guess my family will have to still live in the house, but it’d be such a fitting homage to their deceased father. Anyone want to step up and make sure this happens? In exchange for all this comedy silver I offer to you weekly for free?? I’d appreciate it.
Meanwhile, Skyler is ringing up her imaginary customers — “Deluxe car wash package AND you’re a modeling scout and think I’d be perfect for your show in Paris? Oh you are too MUCH!” — when in strolls Ted, The Walking Problem. Ted is currently being audited for all that shady accounting from a season ago (the IRS was still catching up on episodes after the CIA would not shut up about how badly they need to watch this show), and Skyler realizes her name is all over the files and knows she can’t afford to have the government investigating her right now, even peripherally. Heading up the investigation on Sklyer? MARIE. Crazy twist.
Ted attempts to reassure Skyler with a great analogy: “This isn’t about you. They want the captain, not some car wash cashier. Of the Navy car wash. I’m like, the ship captain and you’re the person who washes Navy cars that are on that ship for some reason. So they wouldn’t, like, court martial that person. You’ll be fine.” Instead of taking the risk, Skyler decides to go all out (boob-wise):
Skyler successfully plays dumb and convinces the investigating agent that the cooked books were simple ignorance on her part, and throws in the subtext that Ted only hired her to have sex with her (not entirely untrue!) Ted still tells Skyler there’s no way he can pay the back taxes and penalties, and drives away and out of the episode, though at this point I wrongly predicted that the blood at the end of the episode would be Ted killing himself, which I’m glad I was wrong about. That would’ve been very Empty-Twist 101, and beneath BB (now please don’t let it happen next episode).
Jesse, mildly unsettled by watching his companion get routinely shot in the head, is invited to Gus’ house for Tuesday Night Tensedinner and urged to ask him any lingering questions. Jesse realizes that this could be a prime time to slip Gus the Deathmickey, but when he looks at the stove, there’s only one pot boiling. Was this luck on Gus’ part because he happens to be an economical chef, or did Gus actually foresee that Jesse might try to slip something in his food and deliberately used one pot? That’d be crazy awareness even for Gus, right?
Jesse doesn’t know what to do:
Over dinner, Gus tells Jesse he’ll answer any questions as long as Jesse answers one of his own: “Can you reproduce Walt’s formula?” Jesse, recalling that little Gale incident that flashes through his head when he plays video games, flies off on a rant about how he can’t cook without Walt and refuses to be used as a pawn to make Walt expendable. Gus responds that he’s struck a deal with the cartel and needs to send Jesse there to teach them how to cook, and Jesse’s mind is temporarily put back at ease. Or is Gus just constructing an elaborate situation to get him to answer honestly about reproducing Walt’s formula? All Jesse knows is, this food is one-pot-tastic!
Which brings us to the episode’s final scene, and in a word, holy f***ing sh*t. Walt comes to Jesse’s house to get brought up to speed on the Mexico trip, and the conversation initially begins with an anxious Jesse telling Walt that he’s not sure he can properly answer the questions of the Mexican chemists (“What if everything’s written in Mexican?” Ahh Jesse, you’re the Yogi Berra of meth.)
The tone of the conversation drastically changes, though, when Walt — who slipped the car-bug onto Jesse’s car and now knows for sure he’s been to Gus’ house — very passive-bitchingly clarifies, “So you saw Gus?” Jesse realizes that Walt basically now knows that he’s decided against killing Gus and sticks to his “I haven’t seen him” story, but Walt pulls out the bug (BUG!) and informs Jesse that he’s been caught in a definitive lie. Jesse responds (kind of truthfully, actually) that even at Gus’ house he didn’t have an opportunity to slip him the death chemical, but both he and Walt know that Jesse has scrapped Plan D (for Death!) and even against his earlier skepticism at Gus’ house, Jesse has decided to let his new role in Gus’ employ play out.
Fortunately, as we all know, Walt always listens to reason, especially when it’s coming from Jesse (aka, Captain Extra Walt Reason Listener-To):
Walt rages at Jesse, “Don’t you realize you’ve signed both our death warrants???” and they get into an escalating “After all I’ve done for you…” “What YOU’VE done for ME?? What about what I’VE done for YOU??” “What about what I’VE done for YOU you say??? After what I’VE done for YOU you say this to I???” (etc.)
Walt crosses the line with one more “Fine, go to Mexico and screw everything up!” comment, and it is ON:
Did the flying bug remind anyone else of the glorious Walking Dead “Squirrel throw”? AMC: We Know Throwsma.
Walt and Jesse fly into a full-scale fight, with a rage-fueled Walt initially getting the upper hand, but Jesse turns the tables (literally!) with a sweet “pull Walt’s leg and make his face smash into the coffee table” move, then gets him on the ground and goes to town:
With Jesse clearly the victor, he finally breaks the silence and says “Can you walk?” Walt chokes out a reply, “Yes.” Jesse ads, “Then get the f[SILENCE]k out of here and never come back.” (What did he say in that silent part??? Was it “Get the Fuddruckers out of here” but they couldn’t use the name of that restaurant? Weird thing to yell at him but ok.)
So, once again, wow. Gus’ plan has worked perfectly — it even seems like he realized that Jesse saw through his initial “build up Jesse’s confidence and turn him against Walt” plan and seamlessly worked this self-awareness into the plan itself, managing to solidify Jesse’s position in his empire and organically allow Jesse and Walt to paranoiacally blow up their partnership. (Is ‘paranoiacally’ a word? I’ll text Ozzy.)
Furthermore, I’m just consistently amazed week after week by the extremeness of Walt’s antiheroism. In The Sopranos, for example, Tony was obviously no one’s idea of an ideal person, but within the moral realm of the show — a mob world where revenge, murder and even infidelity came with the territory — Tony acted morally enough within those bounds to be considered a normative character, and his charisma and evident inner-turmoil allowed for the viewer to sympathize with him throughout the majority of his objectively gruesome existence. Walt, on the other hand, has reached a point in Season 4 where he’s acting deliberately confrontationally, and while his shattered mental state is defensible (he has nothing to lose now that he knows Gus will eventually kill him, plus we never saw the true results of that last cancer screening), he continues to make moral decisions that alienate the viewer (the “rote copying” speech, setting the car on fire, constantly belittling Sklyer and Jesse) and almost dares us to continue taking his side despite his technical role as the show’s protagonist. It’s a really debasing position to be in as a viewer — realizing that Skyler, Hank, Jesse, and even Gus are very often acting more rationally than this once hopelessly sympathetic chemisty-teacher dad — and it’s made for unprecedentedly amazing television this season.
And if you skipped that last paragraph because it’s a huge block of text and this is the internet (I would’ve too), I’ll just summarize: Breaking Bad f[SILENCE]ng rules.