By Ken Tucker
May 17, 2010 at 12:00 PM EDT
  • TV Show

Breaking Bad divided its time this week between Walt’s surprise-filled hospital vigil with the recuperating Hank, and Jesse’s not-at-all surprising, but very satisfying, slip from recovering addict to a return to his old meth-slinging ways.

Walter and Jesse had a tense showdown in their gleaming new crystal meth lab, where Walt has been working feverishly to meet his drug deadline for Gus.

Jesse started yelping about the two of them being exploited by the sellers of their product, saying the two men deserved a bigger cut of the profits. Walt reverts to common sense: “You’re a millionaire, Jesse, what more do you want?” Jesse, who rarely sees beyond his immediate urge, barks back, “What’s more important than money?”

Cut to the wounded Hank, lying in his hospital bed, for the immediate answer to Jesse’s question. Hank’s health is more important than money, is what’s made clear here. Wife Marie tussled with an insurance-company rep over medical and physical-therapy coverage for Hank — big surprise, the insurers don’t want to help with the best care possible.

And here Breaking Bad worked one of its narrative miracles. Skyler seized upon Marie’s predicament to both help her sister and get back a bit at Walt’s deceit. In a flash of inspiration, she made up a story about how Walt had accumulated a lot of money by working out a blackjack card-counting method. The dough from this would go to Hank’s care, she said, as Walt looked on in a mixture of fear, annoyance, and pure admiration. Marie bought the story. Walt asked Skyler how she’d invented that tale. I learned from the best, she replied.

The episode’s title took its name from a remark made by Jesse’s group-therapy leader, played by Jere Burns. After Jesse shares a bogus story about his mind-numbing job in a laundry, the therapist observes, “It’s kinda Kafkaesque.” “Yeah… majorly,” grunts Jesse. Later, he’ll bring in his two dumb-shady friends to pose as recovering addicts, but who are really there to plant the idea in these addicts’ heads that there’s this great new supply of meth now on the street. Devilish Jesse. (Note: Between his violent-weasel role in Justified and his work here, Jere Burns is having a good time in cable-TV drama right now.)

There was also a very funny — and instructive — scene in which Bob Odenkirk’s Saul explains how money-laundering works to a dead-eyed Jesse, all while Saul receives a mani-pedi in the nail salon he wants Jesse to buy as a front business.

In the end, though, it all came down to issues of trust and Walt’s ongoing, ever-tightening dilemma over just how much more criminal activity he can endure. Skyler told him in the closing seconds, “Hank is here because of you, and I’m not forgetting that.”

Which means more fresh hell for Walt, and more pure pleasure for us.

Did you watch Breaking Bad? What did you think?

Follow: @kentucker

Walter White descends into the criminal underworld.
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  • 01/20/08-09/29/13
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