Sep. 1, 2013 at 10:01 PM ET
Cue "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" theme song, because Walter White and Jesse Pinkman are heading to their final showdown on "Breaking Bad." And their guns are locked and loaded.
You can't go home again
The episode, titled "Rabid Dog," opened with what looked to be the immediate aftermath of Jesse's arson scheme. Paralleling the series finale flash-forward, Walt snuck into the White house — which, aside from being soaked in gasoline, is undamaged.
Wielding a handgun, Walt crept through every room, expecting to find Jesse — holding a lighter — at every turn. But the house is empty, not quite condemned but still uninhabitable thanks to the gasoline fumes. While Walt examined Jesse's discarded drug coaster/CD in Saul's car, which was abandoned halfway on the lawn with its door open, viewers heard a familiar sound: skateboarders cruising past Walt — the same group who months later will be YouTubing their daredevil antics in their neighbor's empty pool. Aaaand scene.
Where in the world is Jesse Pinkman?
Jesse has disappeared — and so, seemingly, has Walt's Heisenberg persona. Down to his tighty-whities, Walt's clumsy, ineffectual efforts to hide Jesse's sabotage from his family (not even Walt Jr. is buying his "gasoline pump malfunction" story) recall his powerlessness in the pilot — and his instinct to protect Jesse.
"Obviously you've changed your mind here and thank you for that," he said on Jesse's voicemail. "Sleep it off and then call me." And then the man Jesse feared most signed off by saying, "Be safe."
In fact, Walt was the only one interested in saving his former chemistry student. Unlike, for example Skyler, who has become a steely, stone-cold killer by proxy, willing to protect her family at all costs. Echoing Saul's comparison of Jesse to Old Yeller, who had to be put down despite his loyalty, Walt argued that Jesse "isn't some rabid dog."
"We've come this far," Skyler said chillingly, her eyes as dead as Gus Fring's before he slit his employee's throat with a box cutter. "What's one more?"
Flashback, the prequel
The episode featured another pre-flashback timeline twist: the short, game-changing moment between Jesse's dousing and Walt's arrival. And what really happened to Jesse was even more shocking than if he had actually burned down Walt's house. Because someone else got there first: Hank, who persuaded him to choose another way to "burn" Walt.
Home videos, the sequel
So when Marie returned from therapy (where, within her counselor's violet-painted walls, she mused aloud about poisoning Walt with paralytic shellfish poison), she found her packed purple suitcases in the hallway — and a "guest" in her spare bedroom. But unlike her sister, Marie refused to retreat to a hotel. Instead, she handed a DEA mug of coffee to Jesse as Hank turned on his camcorder.
Now the Schraders have their own incriminating video: Jesse's detailed account of his and Walt's crimes. It began heartbreakingly, "I first met Mr. White — Walter White — in junior year chemistry. He was my teacher."
But even with the videotaped confession, Hank and Agent Gomez — another invited guest — doubted they had enough evidence to convict Walt ... until Heisenberg himself left another voicemail on the Hello Kitty burner phone pleading with Jesse to meet him, "alone and unarmed," at the Civic Center Plaza.
It was the perfect setup for a wire. And even if it cost Jesse his life, it was a price that Hank — like Skyler and Saul — was willing to pay. In reality, the only one looking out for Jesse was Walt himself.
Your number's up
That is, until his former protégé — mistakenly believing Walt had set him up — threatened his family. From a pay phone, he warned Walt, "Next time I'm gonna get you where you really live."
With that, Walt placed a phone call of his own: to Todd, commissioning "another job" for his hitman uncle.
Meanwhile, Jesse reassured Hank that "there's another way to get him ... a better way "
What is Jesse's plan? Could the DEA boss actually team up with the "junkie murderer"?
"I never should've let my dojo membership run out." — Saul, nursing his wounds from Jesse's smackdown.
"For three hours straight all he talked about was something called 'Babylon 5.'" — Saul's henchman Kuby after his surveillance of "Beaver"/Badger.
"We're wondering if maybe this is some type of 'Old Yeller' situation." — Saul on "putting down" Jesse.
"Good, I'm staying. I'll heat up lasagna." — Marie, when Hank assured her that sheltering Jesse is "bad for Walt."
"Mr. White's gay for me. Everybody knows it." — Jesse, sarcastically refuting the evidence that Walt truly cares about him.