Breaking Bad: "Bit By A Dead Bee"
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Breaking Bad: "Bit By A Dead Bee"

This episode's title comes from To Have And Have Not, but I think I'll retitle it "Internal Affairs."  As in the secret plan that Walter concocts to help himself and Jesse get away clean in the Tuco shooting.  As in the doctors who probe to find out what caused Walter's faked fugue state.  As in the panel that grills Hank to make sure his shooting of Tuco was justified.  And as in Walter's change of heart about the family he's all but abandoned while trying to make enough money to leave behind for them.  And while last week's episode had all the fireworks, I was on the edge of my seat just as much with this one -- and feeling those complicated emotions that I so admire this show for eliciting much more often.

After Walter and Jesse bury the gun with which Jesse gut-shot Tuco in the desert, Walter hitches a ride into town with a pickup-load of Mexicans, leaving Jesse behind.  "It's a bold plan, Mr. White.  You sure that's the way you wanna go?" Jesse asks, and for the next hour we watch that plan unfold.  On Walter's end, it involves shedding his clothes in a supermarket in an apparent attack of madness, and claiming at the hospital that he remembers nothing since walking out on Skylar a couple of nights back (in fact, not even that).  On Jesse's end, the plan calls for cleaning the Pinkman manor of all traces of meth production, holing up in a motel with a hooker, and claiming when the DEA break down his door that he's been there for three days and had no idea his car had been stolen and driven out to Tuco's place.

Both elements of the plan appear to be in jeopardy at several points.  For Jesse, the interrogation by Hank has its sickening moments, especially when he's forced to deny that the $68K found in his car is his.  But he gets two lucky breaks.  First, Wendy the hooker turns out to be the same skanky-ass crack ho that Hank tried to recruit to make a man out of Walt Jr. back in season one, forcing Hank to break off his efforts to get her to bust open Jesse's three-day party story.  And second, Tuco's Tio hates the federales so much that he won't ding his little bell even to confirm that Jesse was at his place.

And Walter's hope of a short stay in the hospital after "coming back to his senses" are dashed when his medical team refuse to swallow his hint that his medications caused the episode.  Their efforts to get to the bottom of the attack include a visit by a psychiatrist, whose promises of absolute doctor-patient confidentiality cause this episode's first real heart-stopping moment.  Will Walter tell him everything?  But no -- it's just a variation on the plan.  Walter confesses that he faked the amnesia, but says that his overwhelming depression caused him to flee the house and hitchhike for a day or two, before he decided to come back and cover it all up.

Both halves of the bold plan having improbably succeeded, Walter wastes no time in suggesting to Jesse that they retrieve the Winnebago from Badger's cousin and start cooking again.  "What's changed, Jesse?" he asks wearily when Jesse expresses surprise.  And lying in his hospital bed, he once again begins calculating how many pounds of meth they need to sell to set up his family for life, "minus cash on hand --" and then remembers the diaper box full of cash.  He sneaks out of the hospital and into the house to safeguard that money (and the gun) by putting it back in the vent.  But before he sneaks out again, he watches Skylar and Walter, unable to sleep, comforting each other in the kitchen.  The painting he's been staring at in his hospital room -- a mother and children on the shore waving as a sailor rows out to his ship and out to sea -- hits home.  It's not just he needs to take care of them monetarily.  They're watching him go.  He's been deaf to their goodbyes.  They need him as much as they need his cash legacy.

When he comes home he tries to really be home for the first time since the whole meth stuff began.  He says how good it is to be back.  He tries a joke with Skylar about being found naked in a supermarket (donning his porkpie and dropping his robe, he asks if she needs anything at the 7-11: "Big Gulp?").  But it's all for naught, because she isn't fooled by his plan.  She asks about the second cell phone, he has to lie, and it's not good enough.  He can't recover his family just by realizing that he needs to.  And in many ways, we're back at square one -- the desperate circumstances of failure that Walter describes to the psychiatrist to jusify his fake episode.  Overqualified high school chemistry teacher making $45,700 a year.  Colleagues all have gone on to fame and fortune.  Wife seven months into unplanned pregnancy.  Son with cerebral palsy.  Dead in 18 months.

What's next?

Grade: A

 

Stray observations:

- Check the A.V. Club contests page this coming week for a contest to win some nifty Breaking Bad swag.  The good folks at AMC are sending some choice items our way, including a hoodie worn by Aaron Paul on the show.  Let's make sure one of the faithful readers here wins big, shall we?

- We have a handle on the timeline for Walter's lost weekend now.  He walked out on Skyler Friday night and shows up at the supermarket Monday night.  Jesse gets picked up on Tuesday and has to account for his whereabouts from Saturday (Hank's shootout in the desert) on.

- Hank has some wonderful moments as usual: spouting cop-talk to the shooting investigators ("I identified myself to the suspect and instructed him to face me"), laughing it up at the surprise party his colleagues throw to celebrate him being cleared, showing Walter and Walt Jr. the gift they gave him -- Tuco's grill encased in a block of Lucite.

- And speaking of great moments, how about Jesse trying to hold it together in the interrogation room, then getting rebuffed by his dad when he calls for a ride after being let go and claims (unconvincingly) to be "totally amped" about the prospect of getting a data entry job like Dad always wanted? 

- Jesse claims to have eaten food out of the vending machine during his three-day party with Wendy in the hotel.  Specifically, Funyuns and a Hot Pocket.  Then he and Wendy settle on Waffle House after the police kick him loose.  Suddenly I'm hungry.

- Twice in this episode Walter claims to be sure of his identity.  "I feel like myself, really," he tells Skylar in the hospital.  "I'm still here, I'm me," he tries to reassure her in bed after his return home.  The question for the rest of the season: Who is that?

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