Season 3, episode 12: “Half Measures”

07 Aug

Breaking Bad, 3-12: “Half Measures”


“Windy” by the Association plays as Wendy, the meth prostitute, goes about her business of giving blow jobs (“Who’s bendin’ down to give me a rainbow?”). We see her giving a fast-food bag to the thugs from Tomás’s corner for meth as Jesse watches.

Scene 1: Casa Blanca, a nice bar

Walt and Skyler, both dressed in black, hammer out a deal. First, Walt says, “You should just take the money I give you and not look too closely at it, so if, God forbid, I get caught, you maintain plausible deniability.”

Skyler objects that it would be implausible for her to see a lot more money coming in than Walt’s former $43,000-a-year salary and not ask questions. “I’d rather have them think I’m Bonnie What’s-her-name than a complete idiot.” Walt and Skyler are alike in their pride and need to control things.

Finally, the two agree that Walt can have dinner at home with the family four nights a week.

Jesse talks Walt into getting a beer with him after work. At the bar – a nice place –Jesse pushes the little bag of meth he bought from Tomás across the table toward Walt. “Look at this, and tell me if it’s ours.”

“Yes, it’s ours,” Walt says. “Where did you get it?”

“I bought it from the two guys that killed Combo. They work for our guy. They had an 11-year-old shoot Combo on his orders. They use kids, ’cause if they get arrested, all they get is juvi. Hearts and minds, right? Get ’em young, and they’re yours forever. These guys killed Combo, using this little kid like some puppet to kill my friend.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“I need ricin.”

“Oh, my God!”

“They gotta go. I got it all figured out. I know a woman who brings ’em food when she buys her meth, ’cause it knocks a few bucks off her price. There’s your delivery system right there. I could be a mile away.”

“You trust her?”

“She stood up to questioning by your brother-in-law for five hours.”

“No. I’d end up in prison, right alongside you. You can’t be serious!”

“Oh, it’s not gonna work? How about when it was your plan – back when we were gonna use it on Tuco?”

“Apples and oranges.”

“Two or three days later, they get the flu or have a heart attack, and keel over. That other scumbag we work for is never gonna figure it out. It’s a good plan.”

“Tuco wanted to murder us. These guys don’t. Apples and oranges.”

“Combo was us, man! He was one of us! Does that mean nothing?”

“Why didn’t you go after these guys at the time?”

“‘Cause I just found out about it.”

“You could have tracked them down, but back then you were too busy getting high, feeling sorry. Murder is not part of your 12-step program. This is not some amends that you have to make. What you’re talking about here achieves nothing.”

“If you don’t see what it accomplishes, there’s no way I can explain it to you.” Jesse starts to get up.

“Jesse, listen to me! You are not a murderer! I am not, and you are not. It’s as simple as that.” Really?

Jesse pushes some money across the table toward Walt, and gets up.


“I’m doin’ it, with or without you.”

Scene 2: Saul’s office, Wendy’s motel room, Casa Blanca

Walt asks Saul if he could get Jesse arrested for something minor to get him off the streets for thirty days. Saul says “That’s my premium services package. I’ll call my P.I.”

Jesse asks Wendy if she understands what she has to do. Mentioning her young son, he asks her how she’d feel if he was treated like Tomás. Jesse’s paying Wendy with two teenths of meth. It’s unexplained how he obtained the ricin.

Mike visits Walt at home and tells him he’s not going to get Jesse arrested because “it’s moronic…The boss wouldn’t like it.” This is when Walt finds out here that Gus, not Saul, is Mike’s real boss. Mike adds, “You got a good thing goin’ here – we all do. Want to risk it all on one junkie? I realize you two have a history, but this kid’s been on the bubble a while now. It’s a long time comin’.”

Then Mike tells his half measures/full measures story about when he was a beat cop and had to go on the same domestic violence call over and over. Finally, he threatened the husband with a gun and told him he’d kill him if he beat his wife again. “Two weeks later, he killed her. The moral of the story is, I chose a half measure when I shoulda gone all the way. I’ll never make that mistake again. No more half measures, Walter.”

Scene 3: Tomás’s corner, Gus’s chicken farm office

Jesse and Wendy are in Jesse’s car with the bag of ricin-laced hamburgers. Jesse says, “All I see is the kid. Where are they?”

Then Mike knocks on Jesse’s window and says, “I need you to come with me,” and Victor tells Wendy to “take a walk.”

When they get to the chicken ranch, Jesse sees Walt’s car there. He’s made to sit at the table across from Gus and Walt, with the two corner thugs on one end. “I understand that you have a problem with two of my employees,” Gus says. “It is true that they killed one of your associates and that they may have acted rashly. But there was provocation – the man was selling on their territory. This will go no further. It will be settled right here, right now.”

Jesse to Walt: “You told him.”

Gus stands up and tells the thugs to wait outside. He goes around to Jesse, and says, “Listen to me. You have one friend in this room – this man.” He points to Walt. “Those men outside are my trusted employees, and when I learned what you intended to do…If it wasn’t for this man and the respect I have for him, I would be dealing with this in a very different way…Don’t look at him – look at me…This is what happens now. My men will come back inside. And you will shake their hands, and you will make peace. And that will be the end of this.”

There’s a pause. Then, to everyone’s surprise, Jesse says, “No.” He stands and faces Gus, saying, “They use kids. These assholes of yours – they got an 11-year-old boy doing their killing for them. You’re supposed to be some kind of reasonable businessman? This is how you do business?” Then Jesse challenges Walt. “You okay with this? You got anything to say here?”

Jesse turns back to Gus, who says, “Bring them back.” Jesse continues to stand, as Mike, Victor, and the thugs fill in the space behind him. Gus says, “No more children. Understand?” He turns to Jesse. “And you – you keep the peace.” Jesse nods, very slightly. “Say it.”

“Yeah – I’ll keep the peace.”

“Shake hands.” They do. Jesse turns and looks at Walt, who seems uncomfortable.

All the way back into town in Walt’s car, Jesse refuses to speak or look at him. Walt says, “Jesse, your actions affect other people. Sometimes compromises have to be made for the best of reasons.”

Still not looking at Walt, Jesse smiles slightly, knowingly. He gets out when Walt stops across the street from his car. “Jesse! Jesse!” Walt shouts as his partner gets out, gets in his car, and drives away. Tomás rides up.

Scene 4: Hank’s hospital room, Andrea’s, Tomás’s corner, the lab, the Whites’

Marie makes a bet with Hank that if she can “get the groundhog to see his shadow [give him an erection],” he’ll go home. “You’re just being foolish,” Hank says. “What’s the point?”
“The point is: you’re not completely helpless. Do we have a bet?”

“You know what? If it’ll get you outta here quicker, you have one minute.” Another one minute…Marie wins the bet, and Hank’s shown being wheeled out of the hospital, his lap full of pictures and flowers.

The next morning, Jesse’s in bed with Andrea when her grandmother calls to tell her that Tomás has been shot. Hearing his mother’s cries, Brock stands in the doorway, while Jesse looks shocked and guilt-ridden. He goes with Andrea to the scene, where Tomás lies dead, amid police flashers.

Walt calls Jesse from the lab to tell him he’s “42 minutes late.” Later, at home, as Junior finishes watching “Jeopardy” and Skyler makes dinner, he calls Jesse again, still getting just his voicemail. He says, “I hope you’re still not looking for an apology, because I did not rat you out. I was looking out for your best interests as well as my own. Call me back.”

A few minutes later, the TV news reports a murder in the South Valley: “11-year-old Tomás Cantillo may have been the victim of a gang-related execution.” Skyler asks Walt to turn “that off. I’m sorry – it’s just that they’ve been talking about it all day…”

Walt leaves the house, as Jesse, in his car at Tomás’s corner, snorts meth, his first use of drugs since Jane’s death. Wearing a black knit cap and dark clothes, he sees the car he’s been waiting for and a figure going over to it. Getting a gun (not the revolver of the Tuco days, but a semi-automatic pistol) from under his seat, Jesse gets out of the car, puts the gun in his pants pocket, and, without flinching or pausing walks slowly toward the car. The two thugs get out of it and walk toward him, showdown-style, guns at the ready.

Suddenly, from out of nowhere, Walt’s Aztek jumps the curb and runs the thugs down, as Jesse gasps in shock. Walt gets out of his car and, grabbing a fallen gun, quickly and efficiently shoots a still-conscious thug in the head. Looking up at Jesse, he says, “Run!”


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