Hank plays Encyclopedia Brown while Jesse and Walt struggle for control
Who’s the guy? Mike and Jesse can argue about that question all they want. But this week, everyone wants to be The Guy who controls The Other Guys.
Jesse thinks Mike’s training him to be The Guy, though we believe Mike’s preparing to turn him against Walt. (Mike’s “You’re not the guy! You’re not capable of being the guy!” speech reminds us of A Few Good Men‘s “You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth!”, as does Walt’s arrogant, Jack Nicholson-esque suggestion that Gale couldn’t possibly have masterminded the whole system on his own, but more on that later.) Walt’s hinting that Gale wasn’t The Guy. Even Skyler’s trying to be The Guy, forcing Walt to move back in before he can say no. The fact that Walt Jr. broke this news to his dad while holding a Beneke coffee mug—Ted Beneke was the boss that Skyler cheated on Walt with—probably made that Maxwell House all the more bitter.
Funny that this episode’s called “Shotgun.” Everyone wants to be the one steering things. No one wants to be stuck in the bitch seat.
Still, when it comes to running the game, no one’s a match for Gus. While Walt scrambles for control, Gus is calmer than ever, watching him from somewhere unseen, like God, judging his actions. Surveillance has been a major theme this season, from the references to The French Connection, to the cameras in the meth lab, to the constant focus on eyes (Gale was shot through his eye, and that plastic eyeball’s still rolling around Walt’s drawer). So Walt’s not just paranoid when he believes he’s being watched, by his boss, and by the clerks and customers of Los Pollos Hermanos. He’s calling attention to himself in a place where he could be spotted by just anyone. And considering that Victor was killed just for the possibility of being seen, we think Walt had better start watching himself. This is not the way The Guy should be acting.
As for Mike, he’s both the eyes and ears of the organization—or should we say ear. For a guy who’s only got one fully-formed one left, he sure does way more listening than talking. He doesn’t ask questions when Gus sends him on a mission, though he knows Gus wants him to make Jesse to feel like “a hero.” Does that mean Gus and Mike set up a fake heist to kickstart Jesse’s will to live? (The other guy sure gives up easily.) Or was it just a lucky coincidence? Either way, it certainly gives them a chance to see if Walt can still be The Guy by himself, when The Other Guy’s gone. Bonus points for driving Walt away from his little buddy: for every day they’re apart from each other, it will be easier for Gus and Mike to convince Jesse not to help protect Walt.
NEXT: How is Hank like Encyclopedia Brown?
Whatever Gus’s strategy, it looks like Jesse’s finally woken up. When he tells Mike “You’d better shoot straight, old man, or I’ll slice off your other ear before this is over,” it’s the first sign in ages that he doesn’t want to die. And now that he’s got two jobs, he won’t have the time to kill himself slowly with never-ending house parties either. Avoiding those parties is becoming more crucial than he thinks. “I know what you’re doing,” Jesse tells Mike during their little road trip. “Maintain separation between dealer and supplier. Reduce risk. Etc.” But Jesse’s never maintained that separation: he’s been partying with two dealers, Badger and Skinny Pete, every night. And now Hank’s just tipped off his whole precinct that Badger can lead them to Jesse.
Does Hank really know who The Guy is? We don’t think he’d tell that other cop that he was giving up on this case so easily if he didn’t suspect that Walt might be involved. When he calls Walt “Nick the Greek,” he’s testing him. Nick the Greek was a high-stakes gambler who won a fortune, then ended up broke, undone by the hubris of his bets. As we discussed last week, Walt’s a big fan of the Kelly criterion, which determines the optimal size for a gambler’s bets, but this week he’s taking way too many risks, just like Nick the Greek. Get a few glasses of red wine in him, and he’s almost ready to confess. And once he shows his hand, Hank’s gonna take him for all he’s worth.
Over dinner, Skyler calls the Hank’s investigation of Heisenberg “The Case of the Crazy Singing Guy,” and points out that it “sounds like an Encyclopedia Brown story.” She’s more right than she knows: in those Encyclopedia Brown books, the detective often solves his cases over the dinner table, while talking with his family—in his case, his father, who happens to be a policeman like Hank. And Encyclopedia Brown almost always finds The Guy by revealing some inconsistency in his story. Just like Hank, who studies all Gale’s composting notes and vegan recipes and comes to one conclusion: “Since when do vegans eat fried chicken?” (Thanks to the reader who pointed out that you can check out Gale’s case file here.)
Is Walt dropping hints to Hank for a reason? Does he actually want to get caught? He’s getting so reckless that it’s clear this is no longer about money or even power for him—it’s about the thrill. If he can’t kill Gus, he’ll push the whole operation closer to self-destruction. But with Gus capturing every step of the cook on camera, he also needs Walt less and less. Operating the lab by himself, Walt might be The Guy right now. But if Gus wants to get Walt alone, there will be no one there to protect him.