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Recap: 'Breaking Bad,' Season Five, Episode 13 'To'hajiilee'

Photo of Drew Taylor By Drew Taylor | The Playlist September 9, 2013 at 9:30AM

Last week's episode, the sublimely conflicted "Rabid Dogs," ended with a pair of calls: Jesse (Aaron Paul), consumed with paranoia, dialed Walt (Bryan Cranston) with a promise: he'd be coming for him where it really mattered. Moments later, Walt, made a call of his own, to Todd (Jesse Plemons), informing him that the services of his skuzzy Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen), co-architect of last season's massive prison murder, would be needed once more. This week's "To'hajiilee," written by longtime "Breaking Bad" principle George Mastras (who penned last season's crackerjack "Dead Freight" episode), picked up on the other side of one of those calls.
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Breaking Bad
AMC "Breaking Bad"

Last week's episode, the sublimely conflicted "Rabid Dogs," ended with a pair of calls: Jesse (Aaron Paul), consumed with paranoia, dialed Walt (Bryan Cranston) with a promise: he'd be coming for him where it really mattered. Moments later, Walt, made a call of his own, to Todd (Jesse Plemons), informing him that the services of his skuzzy Uncle Jack (Michael Bowen), co-architect of last season's massive prison murder, would be needed once more. This week's "To'hajiilee," written by longtime "Breaking Bad" principle George Mastras (who penned last season's crackerjack "Dead Freight" episode), picked up on the other side of one of those calls.

But before we got to that phone call, answered by Todd, there was a lengthy sequence involving Uncle Jack and twitchy Neo Nazi Kenny (Kevin Rankin), as they prepared a batch of meth. Lydia Rodarte-Quayle (Laura Fraser) was there to inspect her product, her face-mask pulled tightly over her equally tight face. While there is a slight improvement on the quality of the meth, it's missing a key ingredient: the blue color. "It's got a bluish hue," one of the knuckleheads suggests. But Lydia is adamant: it's what her customers in Europe want. It's the key to the product's success. And while Todd offers a halfhearted apology, guessing that he might have overheated the blue color out of the meth, Lydia is skeptical. Before their awkward, pseudo-sexual moment together, stretched beautifully by director Michelle MacLaren, can go any further, Lydia departs and Todd answers the fateful phone call from Walt.

When the episode returns to Jesse and his beleaguered FDA cohorts Hank (Dean Norris) and Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada), Jesse outlines his plan, in his words to obtain "evidence that greedy asshole would never destroy." That's right: the seven giant barrels of money that Walt buried out in the desert. In order to figure out where the money is, though, Hank has to put the squeeze on Huell (Lavell Crawford) with the help of a faked photo of Jesse, gooey clumps of his brains sprayed all over Hank's linoleum kitchen tiles. Hank suggests that Saul (Bob Odenkirk) has sold him out and that Walt is going after him next. In one of the few moments of levity in an episode largely defined by moments of white-knuckle suspense, Huell breaks down, crying, and tells Hank about loading the money into plastic barrels and loading them into a rental truck.

This sequence is effective but telling; reiterating two key points: One, that Hank is a hell of a cop. It would be easy to classify Hank as the bumbling detective, a man whose brother-in-law ran a vast drug ring right under his nose. But fundamentally, he's an excellent DEA agent and capable of putting together clues in a way that no one else ever has. He might have missed Walt for these past few years, but he's the one who got the closest. The second thing that is reinforced by this sequence is that the moral corrosiveness of Walt has infected everyone around him.

Walt's cancer has been an engine from the show from the first episode: it's the reason he gets into "cooking," it's the Sword of Damocles that's hung over his head ever since, and it's the cancer's return that has spurred on his seeming "retirement." But Walt himself is a cancer, too. He creeps into the bloodstream of people, like Hank, who are outwardly good. And his duplicity, ruthlessness and manipulation eats them from the inside out, burrows down into their bones. Hank, while interrogating Huell, did it for lawful reasons, but the way that he worked Saul's bodyguard, he didn't sound like Hank. He sounded like Heisenberg.

When we watch Walt dealing with Uncle Jack and Kenny, what's so striking is how much Walt still wants to protect him, as much as he can. "What is this? Rat patrol?" Uncle Jack asks. Walt is taken aback. "Rat patrol? No, he's not a rat… He just doesn't like to listen to reason." Heisenberg might have been the one to call Todd and request Jesse's elimination, but it's Walt who is specifying the details: quick, painless, sooner rather than later. But Uncle Jack and his crew have a proposition: help them cook up a new batch of meth, so they can get the quality levels up to Lydia's exacting standards and give it back its blue. "One cook after the job is done," Walt growls. But when Uncle Jack asks where Jesse is and Walt doesn’t have an answer, he still knows what to do: "I know how to flush him out."

Cue Walt's return to Andrea Cantillo (Emily Rios), the woman whose young son Brock Walt almost murdered by poisoning him. It was a scene pregnant with meaning: there are a couple of glances shared between Brock and Walt that suggest that Brock either remembers or somehow knows that Walt was responsible for his scary hospital stay. But nothing is explicitly exchanged. Instead, Walt cons Andrea into calling Jesse's cell phone and leaving a message, a manipulation that ultimately proves fruitless since Hank intercepts the message. He's got one more con to pull.

During a great, multipronged sequence at the car wash, featuring Skyler (Anna Gunn) teaching Walt, Jr. (RJ Mitte) how to work the register and a bulletproof vest-wearing Saul coming in to have his car cleaned (apparently Jesse left a whole lot of cocaine behind when he stole it), Walt receives a photo on his phone: it appears to be one of the barrels of money, with the top opened up. Immediately after he gets a phone call from Jesse, a call where he uses the word "bitch" even more than normal and says that he has all of the money. Jesse explains that his rental car had a GPS (explained earlier as being untrue but, as Hank says, "Walt doesn't know that") and that they're all there now. Hank races away from the car wash towards the desert (the episode's title come from the chunk of Indian reservation where the money is stashed) and in one of the episode's most beautiful moments, we watch as Walt's car veers down crowded city streets, from behind, in one fluid unbroken shot.  

This article is related to: Breaking Bad, Television, Reviews, Review, Bryan Cranston, Aaron Paul, Anna Gunn, Dean Norris, Bob Odenkirk


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