SPOILER ALERT: The recap for the "Confessions" episode of "Breaking Bad" contains storyline and character spoilers.
For all those "Breaking Bad" viewers who like to keep meticulous stats on the many plot twists in the series, answer us this: Exactly how many times have Vince Gilligan and his writers seemingly painted themselves into a corner — a corner from which you could not possibly imagine how they would emerge — only to gobsmack us with another twist we couldn't have seen coming if it had been one of Tio Salamanca's gun-toting nephews standing right in front of us?
Add another pair to the tally, because they did it again in "Confessions," a deliciously game-changing episode that means there are now just five "Breaking Bad" episodes remaining.
"Never. Gonna. Happen."
Oh, Hank. Why didn't you listen to Marie? Man, we know, a person that obsessed with the color purple might not seem like the voice of reason, but she was spot-on in insisting that you needed to tell your DEA cohorts, immediately, what you'd discovered about Walt.
Now it may be too late. Because Walt is prepared to tell the DEA about you.
After Marie tries to get Walt Jr. to come to her house under the guise of needing his computer assistance, Walt and Skyler invite Hank and Marie to a restaurant to ask them to leave the children out of the family feud and stop trying to "lure" Junior to their house.
"There is no drug empire!" Walt insists. "What do I have to do to make you believe me?"
Marie has a thought: "Why don't you kill yourself, Walt? Kill yourself. This whole thing dies with you, right? That's what you're saying here, is that Hank should just let it go and wait for you to die? Well, maybe you should just go ahead and die, then."
Skyler, who, lest we forget, not so long ago told Walt she was waiting for that very thing herself, tells her sister, "That is not a solution."
Hank agrees, telling Skyler, "No, that is not a solution. He's not getting off that easy. And the same goes for you, if you stick with him. Both of you think you're just gonna walk away from this thing? Never. Gonna. Happen. You're not gonna negotiate your way out of this thing. There's only one solution. Step up, be a man, and admit what you've done. That's it. There is no other option."
Well, except for that CD Walt slides across the table to Hank before he and his missus exit the restaurant.
"That's the Last Nail in the Coffin"
Aware that Hank's discovery of his Heisenberg activities comes without concrete proof on Hank's part, Walt sees his last big play as this: Yes, he was involved in the drug trade, using his chemistry expertise to cook meth, and yes, he made the bomb that killed Tio. But he was forced into this life… by Hank! Like Nino Brown on the witness stand at the end of "New Jack City," Walt confesses, sorta, but shifts the blame to Hank, saying it was his DEA agent brother-in-law who was in charge of the meth trade!
He records his tale, a brilliantly convincing laundry list of half-truths and coincidences that, neatly, perfectly, can be flipped to make Hank appear to be the one who has broken bad, or at least, the baddest.
"My name is Walter Hartwell White… this is my confession. If you're watching this tape, I'm probably dead, murdered by my brother-in-law, Hank Schrader. Hank has been building a meth empire for over a year now, and using me as his chemist," Walt begins.
Hank used connections he'd made as a DEA agent to sling the drugs, Walt says on the video confession. Hank knew Walt had cancer and wanted to make some fast cash so that his illness would not wipe his family out financially. Hank had taken him on a DEA ride-along, Walt mentions. Hank had a powerful partner in his drug trade — Gus Fring — and Gus threatened his family when he tried to quit. But then Gus and Hank fell out, and Fring arranged a hit on Hank, which failed, but which did injure Hank, Walt informs. Walt even paid Hank's medical bills.
But Hank was bent on revenge, Walt says, so he worked with Hector Salamanca to kill Gus with a bomb Walt admits he built. And Walt couldn’t go to the cops, because by this time, Hank had become the head of the Albuquerque DEA… to keep him in line, Hank even took Walt's kids to his house for three months. His poor, unsuspecting wife Skyler was shocked to learn of his activities, Walt insists. And oh yeah, that big meanie Hank? He gave Walt the shiners he's currently sporting in the confessional recording, when poor, meek, dying Walter White tried to quit the biz again.
Brilliant. It all adds up to a plausible defense, in the absence of any proof on Hank's part against Walter.
"All I could think to do was to make this video, and hope that the world will finally see this man for what he really is," Walt says to end the tape.
Hank and Marie are stunned, initially because Walt has made this play. Then Hank asks what Walt is talking about regarding the medical bills. Marie tells him, for the first time, that she accepted $177,000 of Walt's "gambling money" to pay Hank's bills and ensure he'd get the medical treatment that would allow him to recover fully and be able to walk again.
"You killed me here," Hank whispers. "That's the last nail… that's the last nail in the coffin."
"You'll Kill Me the Same Way You Killed Mike"
New low points for Walter, and both come in his role as a father, or father figure. First, telling Walt Jr. that his cancer is back, only because it was the only way he could keep Junior away from Hank and Marie's house. It was a bummer that Junior was missing from the first two episodes of Season 5.2, but it's more crushing that he came back just to have his heart broken by Walt's conveniently disclosed health news.
And then: The hug. In a desert meeting with Jesse, who only ever wanted a father-son relationship with Mr. White, Walt only wants what he needs from Jesse, be it info on how much he thinks Hank knows about Heisenberg or to convince Jesse that he should leave town and start a new life, for his own good.
Jesse isn't buying it anymore, at first. "Can't you just stop working me for like 10 seconds straight? Just stop the whole concerned-dad thing and tell me the truth," Jesse says. "Just tell me you don't give a sh-t about me, and it's either this… or you'll kill me the same way you killed Mike!" Walter sees an opening to manipulate Jesse once again, and pulls him into a hug that ends with Jesse sobbing and starting to buckle into Walt's arms.
"We Got a Big Problem"
Fans have often asked Aaron Paul which of Walt's secrets would be worse for Jesse to find out: that Walt could have saved Jane when she was overdosing, or that Walt was the one who poisoned Brock, the son of Jesse's girlfriend. Moot question now: He knows about Brock.
Jesse sits in Saul's office, having agreed to hit the road for a new life, thanks to Saul's fixer. Saul arranges the new identity for Jesse, and after giving him a bag of cash and a Hello Kitty cell phone (in case he needs to call Saul!), sends him off with Huell to pick up his new identity.
While waiting for the fixer, Jesse searches his hoodie for his pot — which Saul had scolded him for earlier — and realizes it's gone. He searches frantically in all his pockets and comes up with nothing, except for a pack of cigarettes, similar to the pack where he once stashed the ricin cigarette. And a realization sweeps across his face, as he lets the fixer arrive and depart without him.
Jesse makes his way back to Saul's office, instead, where he storms into Saul's room, pushing Huell out of the way (!), and locks the door. He charges at Saul, beating him, and demanding answers. Jesse's not upset that Saul took his pot… but the missing pot made him realize Saul (or rather, Huell) had done the same thing with the ricin cigarette.
In Season 4's "End Times," Huell frisked Jesse when he entered Saul's office. Now Jesse realizes Saul and Huell had been ordered to do so by Walt — who, in yet another subtle little moment of Jesse heartbreak, Jesse still refers to as Mr. White — who then poisoned Brock using a lily-of-the-valley plant and used the missing ricin to convince Jesse that Gus Fring had done it.
Saul admits the whole thing, as Jesse holds one of Saul's own guns on him, and explains Walt told him he was doing it for Jesse's own good. Jesse snags Saul's car keys and takes off, as Saul calls Walt and tells him, "We got a big problem."
Walt rushes to the car wash, where he makes an excuse to Skyler to get into the soda machine (to retrieve a hidden gun), and then makes another excuse to leave just as quickly.
Jesse, meanwhile, has rushed to the White house, where he kicks the front door open, enters, and begins dousing the house with a can of gasoline.
So, as Walt heads out with a gun and the knowledge that Jesse is aware of what he did to Brock, and Jesse is about to set Walt's world ablaze, next week's episode is titled "Rabid Dog," and this is AMC's cryptic summary: "An unusual strategy starts to bear fruit, while plans are set in motion that could change everything."
Get a sneak peek at next week's "Breaking Bad" right here:
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"Breaking Bad" Bits:
- The episode opens with Todd leaving an incriminating voicemail for Walt, informing him of the "change in management" vis-à-vis Declan, and then having a diner chat session (a none-too-private chat session) with Uncle Jack and Kenny about the train heist in "Dead Freight." This is all a big reminder that Gustavo Fring was a criminal mastermind; Walter White is not. Gustavo Fring would never have entrusted his operation, or any part of it, to a Todd. It would have been obvious to Gustavo Fring that Todd was not qualified to make any major decisions, nor should he be entrusted with any information. But yet again, Walt's ego was boosted, by the eager, deferential Todd this time, and it's almost certainly going to be a part of his ultimate undoing. Much like keeping that poetry book from Gale — the one that was all about reminding himself how Gale worshipped him — led Hank to make the Heisenberg connection.
- The restaurant that was the scene of yet another White/Schrader showdown? It's a real restaurant (a chain of them, actually, in Albuquerque) called Gardunos.
- Oh, and Trent, the Gardunos waiter, having to wade into that foursome to try to take an order… that guy is the most awkward White family dinnertime presence since Jesse rambled on about Skyler's deli counter green beans in "Buyout."
- The vacuum replacement bag that's the code Saul uses to contact the fixer who provides new identities? It's for a real vacuum: the Hoover Max Extract Pressure Pro Model 60.
- Even in the mess o' tension there is in this episode, there is also a moment of Saul Goodman levity, when Jesse expresses his displeasure at the Hello Kitty cell phone Saul gives him. "Seriously? It's free," Saul responds. "We got a beggars/choosers situation here, so stop busting my balls."
"Breaking Bad" airs Sundays at 9 PM on AMC.
- Hank Schrader