Breaking Bad Recap: "Hazard Pay"
Case in point, Mike is wearing a suit. Just add "fake paralegal" to his ever-expanding list of criminal services. The suit is a disguise he needs to accompany a lawyer into prison to update one of his in-the-know guys on the current state of affairs. While the lawyer puts in headphones and acts invisible (Saul, this guy isn't), Mike tells the former manager of Gus's superlab-concealing laundromat that Chow is dead, but not to worry. It was a mistake, and all's been corrected. Even though the DEA froze all of the titular hazard pay that was supposed to take care of everyone in a situation like this, the money will be coming shortly. The intended message being "Sit tight and don't even think about talking." They leave to deliver the same urgent news to all relevant parties, Mike clearly anxious to get going as fast as possible. He's either in a big rush, or really hates prison.
And with that loose end tied up, this new business venture can finally get going. It's a new day alright, and Walt's moving back home to celebrate-- to Skyler's gut wrenching horror. Considering the way Walt unpacks a book of Whitman poetry, looks at it for a moment as if he's thinking about everything that happened with Gale, then gives a nonchalant chuckle, her fear is pretty justified.
Less so is Saul's fear of Mike, whom he still remembers threatening to break his legs. The way Saul refers to himself, Walt, and Jesse as the three amigos is almost adorable, but Walt overrules Goodman's objections and declares Mike an official part of the team. Don't worry, Saul. Out of Walt and Mike, it's pretty obvious who poses less of a threat to people on their side.
First order of business: Mike lays out the division of labor. He handles the business side of things, while Walt and Jesse cook. Walt gives the okay, but when Saul double checks with him, Walt makes it clear that he has no intention of letting Mike call the shots. Big surprise.
The three murderers and the lawyer (insert joke here) visit potential sites for the new lab. The first one seems great, until Walt realizes that when the machines are up and running they'll pollute the atmosphere and ruin the product. The next is a tortilla factory, which would mean chemically flavored-tortillas and unannounced government inspections. In a great little beat, Jesse grabs a snack hot off the conveyor belt before they leave for an exterminators' base of operations. The place itself is terrible, but Walt realizes that the business provides the perfect cover.
His plan is brilliant. They'll buy out "Vamanos Pest," a group of burgling bug killers who use their legitimate pest control operation as a front to copy keys and security codes from the houses they fumigate, then sell the information to others or ransack the places themselves after enough time has passed. Now instead of stealing from the homes, Walt and Jesse will use them as one time meth labs, assembling their equipment in the tented houses, cooking a batch, and moving on. It'll be tough, but by staying mobile and cooking in locations that people expect to be full of hazardous chemicals, they'll be nearly impossible to detect. No one has any serious objections, so they move forward.
Badger and Skinny Pete (the latter apparently a classically trained pianist) buy huge roadie cases from a music store to transport the machinery from house to house. Jesse pays them and bids a slightly sad farewell to two friends who, though loyal, don't quite have the competence to be trusted as part of the new operation.
Walt and Jesse draw up blueprints for their lab, and it's pretty clear that after all this time, Pinkman has really learned his stuff, and Walt is suitably impressed. Andrea and Brock arrive, and Walt agrees to stick around for a beer. His interactions with Brock are chillingly casual. The man knows no remorse.
Mike lays down the law to the Vamanos Pest guys per code of conduct around the cooks. They are ghosts. Speak only when spoken to. Do whatever they say without question. If you have to talk, address them only as "yes sir" and "no sir." Clearly, Walt and Jesse are loving this.
With everything in place, it's time to cook. A man signs all the pertinent papers concering his tented house and drives off, cuing Walt and Jesse to arrive in their own exterminator uniforms. One of the Vamanos Pest guys (Jesse Plemons, from Friday Night Lights) tells them that there was a nanny cam, which he disabled. Walt asks his name. "Todd." And then Walt just turns away without another word. Perfect.
Inside, Walt and Jesse don that gorgeous yellow and cook the first batch of their new operation in the most beautiful meth synthesis montage the show has ever had, set to "On A Clear Day (You Can See Forever)" by The Peddlers.
They spend the night in the house, watching "Three Stooges" episodes on the family's TV and talking like real friends. Yet underlying it all is very purposeful manipulation, as Walt, while telling Jesse how great he is with Andrea and Brock, reminds him that if he's really serious about her, he has to decide how much of the truth he wants to share. The idea of telling her everything up to and including Gale obviously makes Jesse more than a little uncomfortable. But personal issues aside, the first batch is complete. With the blue stuff packed up to go, they set off the bug bomb and take their leave.
On the domestic side, things aren't going nearly as smoothly. Marie criticizes a car wash employee's drying technique while an anxious Skyler ignores her. That is, until she starts talking about how Walt's fifty-first birthday is coming up, and they have to do something to celebrate. Skyler doesn't want to, but Marie thinks that's crazy, considering the cancer diagnosis came so soon after his last birthday. They have to be thankful for all the time they have. Skyler freaks out and starts smoking, causing Marie to absolutely goe off on her until Skyler snaps, yelling at Marie to shut up. And again. And again. Marie tries to understand what's going on, but Skyler just keeps shouting at her to shut up, which quickly goes from funny to upsetting to downright terrifying.
When Walt arrives home he finds Marie waiting for him. She explains Skyler had some sort of breakdown, and that she's obviously very concerned considering she's literally never seen her sister act that way before. Walt continues his fine tradition of tearing others down to protect himself, and makes it seem like Skyler is upset over what happened to Ted. Marie doesn't understand why that would be cause for the panic attack until Walt tells her about the affair. For once, Marie has nothing to say. She gives him a hug and leaves. It looks like Walt is going to go and check on Skyler, but instead he just eats an apple, totally unconcerned.
Skyler wakes up to the sound of gunfire, and leaves her bedroom to find the rest of her family watching Scarface, of all things. Not helping, Walt. Especially when he comments that everyone in this movie dies. Heh, oh Breaking Bad writers, you scamps.
Walt, Jesse, and Mike meet to figure out the week's profits. At first, it looks like more than they've ever had before—and indeed, this is probably the most money we've seen in one place. But 20% has to go to the mules for transporting the product, another huge chunk of change goes to the Vamanos Pest guys, and then of course Saul gets his cut. Walt is able to stomach all of that, barely. But then Mike reveals that over $350,000 has to go to Gus's imprisoned workers to compensate for the missing hazard pay. To this, Walt strongly objects. He feels Mike's "guys" aren't his responsibility, and doesn't for a second understand why he should be paying them. Mike insists this is how it's done, but Walt, more proud and stubborn than ever, isn't having it. Only Jesse offering to cover the expenses makes Walt relent, at least for the moment. Mike gives Walt the best advice he's had in a long while: "Just because you shot Jesse James, doesn't make you Jesse James." Of course, there's no way Walt is going to take that to heart.
Mike leaves, and Walt asks Jesse for his input. Jesse reveals that he broke things off with Andrea, but in a move of staggering insensitivity Walt cuts him off and says he was talking about the money. On that front, Jesse has no problems. It might be less than they were making with Gus, but it's still plenty, and a much bigger cut than they were getting before. Walt thinks back on the way Gus killed Victor, and whether he might have done it not to send a message like he always assumed, but because Victor was acting above his station. Walt walks off, leaving Jesse to stare at him and, we can only hope, start to get a sense of what kind of a man his partner really is.