Breaking Bad, 5-3: “Hazard Pay”
The lawyer for Dennis Markowski, who managed the laundry, and Mike, posing as a paralegal, come to the jail to visit Dennis. Mike makes sure no one’s lurking in the hallway, and the lawyer settles in with his MP3 player.
“You hear about Chao?” Mike asks. “It wasn’t me, it wasn’t a message – it was a mistake made by a third party, and it’s been dealt with. The deal you made with Fring is still in place.”
“I’m keeping my mouth shut, but the laundry was right above the lab! There’s no way I could say I wasn’t in on it…I’m lookin’ at eight years, minimum. I’ll do my time like I’m s’posed to – I’m no rat – you know it. But they took away our hazard pay – sooner or later, someone’s gonna flip.”
“No one’s flippin’. Everyone gets their hazard pay, including you. I’ve got something new – it’s just starting up. It’s gonna make you whole. You got my word – you need more?”
“No, Mike. I’m good.”
On the way out, the lawyer tells Mike where the other guys on the list are being held. “You don’t mean to get to ’em all today, do you?” he asks.
“Yeah, I do.”
Scene 1: Casa Blanca, Saul’s office, possible cook sites
Walt’s unpacking two suitcases and a box in the White master bedroom. He picks up Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, smiles, and puts in the lower drawer of his nightstand. Skyler comes in, and he greets her: “Hi – how was your day?”
“Are you moving back in?”
“Yeah – for now anyway. It’s time.”
“Do you really think that’s a good idea?” Skyler’s wearing a non-sexy black dress. Her hair’s bedraggled and her face strained.
Mike, guarded by Huell, is doing a crossword in Saul’s waiting room. Inside, Saul says to Walt and Jesse, “We don’t need a fourth amigo! He said he was gonna break my legs!” Wearing a bright red shirt, Saul also mentions Mike’s “dead fish eye.”
Walt soothes Saul, saying, “Mike threatened me, he threatened Jesse – he probably threatened someone before breakfast this morning. It’s what he does. Come on – grow a pair!”
“Let it be noted that I do this under duress.”
Let in, Mike ignores Saul’s greeting, and standing in the middle of the room, repeats the “division of labor – I handle the business. Making the stuff, that’s your end. I don’t tell you how to mix your chemicals and whatnot, and you do not tell me how to take care of business. Is that absolutely clear?”
Jesse and Saul look at Walt, who says, “Sure,” but looks unhappy.
“All right,” Mike says, “let’s take the tour.”
Mike and Jesse go out, and Saul asks Walt, “Are you okay with that?”
“Yes. He handles the business. And I handle him.”
Walt rejects a box factory, because he worked in one as a teenager and knows that the corrugator, which exudes steam and salt, would, as Jesse says, “ruin the product.”
“What?” Saul asks. “You can’t just pop down to Costco and get a couple of dehumidifiers?”
Walt rejects the tortilla factory, because “anything related to food is gonna have unannounced government inspections.” Jesse grabs a hot tortilla off the conveyor belt as they leave. At the Lazer Base, Saul’s favorite place, Jesse just says, “No – hell, no!”
At Vamonos Pest Control, Jesse and Mike each have a complaint: Jesse its small size and Mike its proximity to a “cop shop.” Walt says it’s perfect, as they can cook in tented homes. Saul takes them by a tented house and points out Ira, the older pony-tailed owner; Todd, a young guy with reddish-blond hair; and two other guys. He says they’re “also top-drawer second-story men – burglars,” who copy house keys and locate valuables, either selling the information to others or going back “after a decent interval.”
Mike suggests that they take a vote, and Walt asks, “Why?”
Saul beeps his horn and gives Ira a thumbs-up.
Scene 2: a music store, the Vamonos Pest garage, Jesse’s house
We see Skinny Pete in a music store, playing a classical piece on an electric piano, while Badger joins in unharmoniously on an electric guitar. They buy four roadie cases to carry the cooking equipment around in, which the store owner stencils “Vamonos Pest” for free.
Skinny Pete and Badger deliver the cases to the Vamonos Pest garage, where Jesse’s slapping a decoy label on a barrel of precursor. “Damn, brother!” Pete says. “I’m not asking no questions, but it sure looks like you’re back in business!” Mike’s watching, so Jesse says “maybe someday” when Badger offers to work for them.
Then we see Mike telling the V.P. guys their work will be the same as always, “except for one important detail.”
Todd pipes up: “No stealing.”
Mike: “Not a toothpick, spare change from the couch cushions, nor the panties outta the hamper. And no more hot tips – tell ’em you’re outta the game…These two [Mike points at Walt and Jesse] are ghosts – you don’t speak unless you’re spoken to, but if they ask you to jump, you jump.”
Later, Jesse has good suggestions for Walt about fitting a piece of equipment into the box and using a plastic tent to isolate the smell. It seems like he comes up with all the logistical ideas now.
Still later, the two are at Jesse’s house when Andrea and Brock come in. Jesse introduces them to Walt, who says to Brock, “I understand you were in the hospital. Jesse told me that you were very brave.” Brock, who has obviously never seen Walt before, is shy and goes to sit on the couch and play his handheld game.
Andrea invites Walt to stay for dinner, and Walt agrees to a beer. Sitting on the other end of the couch from Brock while Andrea and Jesse are in the kitchen, Walt stares at the boy, who looks up at him for a brief moment.
Scene 3: first tented house cook
The Vamonos truck pulls up at a subdivision home, and the tent goes on. Ira tells the homeowner he can’t reenter till after the post-fumigation inspection, and he leaves. Another Vamonos truck pulls up, and Walt and Jesse, in navy blue Vamonos uniforms, get out. As he’s leaving with the real Vamonos crew, Todd tells them that there’s a nanny-cam in the living room.
Their yellow protective suits and masks are laid out in the kitchen, and their plastic tent is set up. “On a Clear Day” plays during the cook montage. Walt and Jesse work together well, the meth fumes go out a hose into the kids’ play area, and by the time it’s starting to get dark, the clear blue gel is dripping from its long rod into the pan. They sit on the people’s couch, watch Laurel and Hardy, and drink beer.
“I’ve gotta say,” Walt says, “seeing you with Andrea and that boy is nice.”
“Yeah, it’s good.”
“And the way she looks at you – ”
“So, is it moving in any particular direction?”
“I don’t know. Sometimes I think maybe if it feels right – ”
“If it feels right, it feels right. Sometimes you just gotta listen to your gut.”
“I mean, instant family…I’m working, right?”
“Absolutely. Have you thought about what your plan is viz à viz honesty?”
“You mean, how much she knows about this?” Jesse turns the TV off. “She doesn’t know anything. I mean, she’s not stupid – she knows I’m into something, and she could probably take a pretty good guess. But I never told her anything. I’m not gonna.”
“I mean it.”
“I know you do. Jesse, I can’t pretend that this doesn’t affect me – it does…With everything that we’ve been through, the two of us, this has to be your decision. I mean, you’ve earned that.”
“Yeah. Secrets create barriers between people. I’m speaking from experience, believe me. All that you’ve done – it’s a part of you. I mean, if you choose to spend the rest of your life with this person, then you’ll have to decide how much you’ll share with her.”
“Meaning what? Like, everything? Like Gale?”
“I’m just trying to say that I trust you, and I know you’ll make the right call. If she loves you, she’ll understand.” Walt’s smart enough to know that Jesse won’t want to share “all of this” with Andrea, and that he’ll feel wrong being with her and not sharing. It’s a subtle, but strong manipulation.
Scene 4: the car wash, Casa Blanca
Marie complains to Skyler, at her desk eating a salad, that one of the car wash workers is leaving streaks on her car windows. She goes on and on about it, then changes the subject to Hank, another stream of verbiage. Finally, she mentions “the big event coming up” – Walt’s birthday.
“I don’t think we’re going to do anything this year,” Skyler says.
“What are you talking about? Of course, we’re gonna do something! Skyler, he was diagnosed around the time of his birthday, right?” Skyler’s gotten up and is looking out the window, her back to Marie, who expands on her theme, then says, “Skyler, what are you doing?” Skyler looks guilty, but tries to light her cigarette all the same. “With the baby and Walt? You’re not smoking around the baby, are you? You can’t smoke in here – there must be a rule against it. It’s illegal to – ”
“Marie,” Skyler says, “shut up!”
“What?” Marie, wearing her white lab coat and name tag, stands up, too. “Please don’t speak to me that way! I’m simply saying that – ”
“Will you shut up?! Shut the hell up!” Skyler keeps repeating this hysterically as Marie tries to talk. Finally, she sits down and starts to cry.
We see Marie later in the White living room, looking haggard and upset. Walt enters, greets Marie, and asks where Skyler is. “In the bedroom. She’s resting.”
“Is everything okay?”
Marie says Skyler had a “breakdown,” and asks Walt about her smoking. “I’m not leaving here until I know what got her so upset. Are you gambling again? Please tell me the cancer isn’t back…Something happened. This didn’t just come out of nowhere. Tell me the truth, Walt. All of it – I mean it.”
Walt tells Marie about Ted Beneke, and says Skyler was having an affair with him. He asks her to keep this to herself. After Marie leaves, Walt goes into the kitchen, picks a apple out of a bowl of fruit, and takes a big bite out of it – Breaking-Bad-speak for “I could give a shit.”
Later, Skyler’s awakened by the sound of gunfire on the TV. Walt, holding the baby, and Junior, with a bowl of popcorn on his lap, are watching the end of “Scarface,” a scene of sheer carnage. Skyler, invited to join them, is horrified – this is exactly what she’s been worrying about.
Scene 5: the Vamonos office
Mike’s dividing big stacks of money three ways on the Vamonos office table: $367,000 each. Walt objects, saying it should be $379,560 each “after the dealers get their cut.” Mike tells him he’s forgetting about the mules, who get 20% for taking the product to the dealers. “What did Gus pay his mules?” Walt asks.
“Gus Fring didn’t use mules. He didn’t need ’em. He spent twenty years building his own distribution system. He had sixteen refrigerator trucks runnin’ his product, and you know where they are now? Government impound. You don’t like payin’ 20%, maybe you shouldn’t have killed the guy.” Mike adds that the methylamine “was free this time, but the next barrel is gonna cost big.” He gives Jesse $120,000 “for getting us going,” and sets aside money for the Vamonos guys – $110,000 for Ira and $25,000 per cook, and $10,000 each per cook for the three other guys. “Goodman’s cut is $18,000 from each of us, and the legacy cost is $351,000. The feds RICOed nine guys’ hazard pay, so we’re gonna make ’em whole.”
“What’s this ‘we’?” Walt demands. “They were Gus’s employees, not ours.”
“They might be Gus’s employees, but they’re my guys.”
“So what are they doing to further our interests?”
“The cops are looking at them very closely.”
“So why are we paying them?”
“Because it’s what you do. My guys are keeping their mouths shut. We make ’em whole. One hand washes the other – it’s as simple as that.”
“Sounds like a simple shakedown. It’s blackmail.”
“Business is my end. This is business. End of story.”
“This is your problem – it should come out of your end.”
“Hey!” Jesse shouts. “Take it out of mine, all right? I don’t care.”
Walt says, “No, Jesse. Thank you, but no – I’ll pay my share.”
Mike says, “This is how it’s gonna be from here on out. My guys are an ongoing expenditure. So, you’d best get yourself comfortable with it.”
“$137,000,” Walt says. “Less than with Fring.”
“Listen, Walter. Just because you shot Jesse James don’t make you Jesse James.” Walt says nothing, but there’s an undefeated glint in his eyes.
After Mike leaves, Walt and Jesse stand silhouetted in the garage doorway. “How are you feeling?” Walt asks.
“Okay, I guess. Broke it off with Andrea. I had to. She’s gonna tell Brock. Yeah – I’m still gonna take care of the rent and stuff. It’s the right thing to do and stuff.”
“I meant this.” Walt lifts his bag of money. “Are you okay with this?”
“You’re lookin’ at it wrong. When we worked for Gus, we were cooking 400 pounds a week. This last batch was great, but we didn’t even crack 50 pounds. We maybe cleared less money, but we got a bigger piece of the pie. It’s like you said – we’re owners.”
“Been thinkin’ about Victor,” Walt says, starting his next attempt at Jesse-manipulation. “All this time I’ve been sure that Gus did what he did to send me a message. But maybe there’s another reason.”
“Victor trying to cook that batch on his own? Taking liberties that weren’t his to take. Maybe he flew too close to the sun and got his throat cut.”
Silence. Walt walks away. Jesse looks after him, thoughtful and concerned. Was this a warning for him or his buddy Mike? It should be a warning for Walt himself, but we know our “hero” is deaf to such.