‘Breaking Bad’ Season 5, Episode 11 Recap: “Confessions”

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Michelle Dean fills in for Jason Bailey this week as he’s just had a baby!

At this point the tables turn on Breaking Bad so fast the cast ought to be suing the network for worker’s comp; it’s a miracle they don’t all have black eyes and whiplash. Ratcheting up the action from one week to the next is starting to feel a bit dizzying but not quite contrived yet. Administering this kind of mainline of adrenaline to your audience is a tricky thing, not least because at this point without serious property damage I’m going to find it hard to find catharsis in whatever apocalypse we’re barreling towards, here.

Lucky for me it already looks like I’ll get that wish.

Anyway: Under a minute after Hank gets into that interrogation room with Jesse, he’s laid his cards on the table. He knows that his brother-in-law is Heisenberg and he wants to know if Jesse is ready to sell Walter out. But before Jesse can really squeak out an answer, our Man in a Cheap Polyester Suit bursts in to save the day. Saul clues the couple of DEA flunkies who had Jesse to themselves in on the fact that Hank’s got a little backstory with this perp. Jesse walks, but his eyes are red-rimmed and starting to look wild.

Back at the White house, Junior is being lured off to Paradise by Marie, who apparently thinks she can trick a seventeen-year-old into living with her without telling him what’s really going on with his parents. Marie’s so bad at scheming. After having the sort of “oh, screw it” experience with Skyler’s concealer that any woman on earth will recognize, Walt swiftly puts a stop to that by playing his cancer trump card on Walt Jr, who swiftly agrees to stay home with his dad in case of some kind of cancer or chemo emergency, I guess. Marie’s sad and upset that “Flynn” didn’t fall for it, but she’s within seconds even more concerned that Hank hasn’t actually told the DEA what’s happening yet.

That was a great move because meanwhile Walter’s got a little video-blogging to do. He has Skyler set up a camera in the bedroom and then tells it, “I am Walter Hartwell White and this is my confession.” Meeting up with a pretty tense Hank and Marie at some kind of chain Mexican restaurant, Walt again asks that Hank not tear the family apart, or, barring that to leave the kids alone. When Hank and Marie don’t take him up on that — Marie literally tells Walt to kill himself — Walt and Skyler leave, silently sliding a DVD across the table. Ooh, DVD, so 2008! I guess a Dropbox link would not have had the same dramatic effect.

When Hank and Marie watch the DVD they’re in for a shock. Walt spools off an Oscar-worthy confession which pins Hank as the person who got Walt into the drug trade in the first place. The nail in the coffin (Hank’s term!) is the money Walt gave Marie: $177,000 that now looks like blood money Hank extracted from the hapless Walt. Hank confronts Marie, and she admits to taking the cash. “They told me it was gambling money,” she said, and the truth is, if Marie were a better written character you’d feel sorry for her. But one can’t help but notice that at this point Marie is the pratfaller of this troupe, the one who’s always making the tactical errors, to the point where it starts to feel like she’s a pawn rather than a person. Poor Betsy Brandt; for all the chatter about Skyler’s editorial this weekend, Marie really gets the shortest end of the writing stick on Breaking Bad.

Re-enter Jesse, who is waiting out in the desert with Saul. When Walt arrives, he lays on Concerned Dad so thick, like way-too-frozen-Blizzard thick, that for once even Jesse sees right through it. The gist of the message is: get the hell out of Dodge with the help of Saul’s vacuum cleaner friend, or I’ll kill you, and Jesse just flat-out calls him on it, with nothing left to lose. He screams at Walt, demanding that Walt just for once, for once, treat him as an equal and just tell the truth. Instead Walt envelops Jesse in a bear hug. It’s not really clear if Jesse finds this comforting, or just something he can’t truly struggle against. Aaron Paul slumps agains Bryan Cranston in this rigid-but-defeated way that gets just the right hint of rebellion into the unwanted cuddle.

Once back in Saul’s office, Jesse tries to light up to chill out as he faces recreating his life. Saul screams at him that the vacuum cleaner guy won’t help him if he’s high, but Jesse holds onto his weed like a man clinging to a religious idol. But on the way out the door to rendez-vous with the identity-eraser, he bumps into Saul’s security guy in what is a fairly obvious — to the audience anyway, dope-lift.

It takes Jesse a good while of thinking, standing on the side of an Albuquerque street, though, to realize that the dope is gone. And staring at his pack of smokes, he realizes that a similar thing may once have happened to a certain poisonous cigarette. So when the life-changer van pulls up to the curb, Jesse bails. He finds Saul, and his eyes are full-on out of control. Grabbing Saul’s gun from the drawer, Jesse draws a confession out of the lawyer and runs out of the office, taking Saul’s car. Saul gets on the horn to Walter, who promptly rushes over to the car wash and tries to stand watch without alerting Skyler that anything’s amiss.

Because Jesse’s already driven all the way to Walt’s house, where he crashes onto the driveway and then kicks in the door. He’s carrying a giant tank of gasoline. But, as always, Breaking Bad cuts out before anybody actually lights a match.