By Wesley Case, The Baltimore Sun
9:29 AM EDT, July 30, 2012
"Just because you shot Jesse James does not make you Jesse James," Mike tells Walt late in "Hazard Pay", shooting him back to earth and, at the same, antagonizing Walt to do something stupid.
The power struggle between the somehow noble Mike and ego-maniac Walt/Heisenberg continued in the third episode of "Breaking Bad's" fifth season. When Mike lays down the parameters and responsibilities of the new team in Saul's office, he assumes the role as the company's alpha male.
"I handle the business," he says sternly. He won't tell Walt how to cook so Walt shouldn't tell him how to handle people or money. Jesse and Saul look on, scared at how Walt might react. But he calmly accepts the roles. When Saul questions the deferment to Mike, Walt clarifies: Mike handles the business, and "I handle him," says Walt.
For awhile in the episode, things seem to be on the right track. After realizing the real estate market for meth labs offers very few viable options, Walt comes up with a brilliant plan (it's one of those "I don't think this could work in real life but on TV, maybe" moments). Hooking up with a dirty pest control company (featuring Landry from "Friday Night Lights"), Walt and Jesse come inside the temporarily vacant homes to cook a ~50-pound batch of blue. (Quick aside: Love the dark humor in naming the faux-company "Vamonos Pests," which immediately made me think of Los Pollos Hermanos.)
It's almost sick that one of the most purely joyful moments on this show is watching Walt and Jesse cook a highly addictive, dangerous and more-potent-than-it-has-to-be drug. But it's one of the only times a viewer can feel at ease, that there's no feeling of impending dread around the corner. "Hazard Pay" fetishizes the cook beyond previous episodes, playing the woozy "Tribute to Wes" by Moses Dillard and the Tex Town Display (shouts to Insanul Ahmed's Shazam game) as the duo does what it does best in a precise, old-hat manner. Afterward, we see Walt and Jesse cheers each other with a beer for a job well done.
Then, in the form of straight-talking Mike, comes the hammer. As the cash from the cook sits on a table, piled high in three equal parts (for Mike, Walt and Jesse), Mike begins taking stacks to pay the other folks involved. Walt, who remains green about running a large drug ring, can't believe the costs. The pest control guys. Saul's cut. Paying Jesse back for fronting money.
The death blow comes when Mike says the incarcerated-but-quiet people from Gus' circle need to be "made whole" since the DEA froze the Cayman accounts. Walt thinks that's Mike's problem, but Mike doesn't budge. To him, it's because of Walt's drastic power-move in killing Gus that he has to worry about keeping so many mouths shut, and the only way to do that is to pay them what they're owed. There's also a sense of "doing the right thing" with Mike's thought-process, which seems admirable now, but doesn't typically pay off on "Breaking Bad."
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