‘Breaking Bad’ Recap: Problem Dog

S04E07: To everyone who follows the misguided philosophy that television is not art: watch ‘Problem Dog.’ You will be eating your words by the five minute mark.

This is one of those phenomenal episodes that, somehow, furthers all storylines along as well as hones in on all the things that have been going on so far. The episode opens with Jesse, after an episode last week that took him off the course of his grief, playing a first-person shooter with a tragic and morbid connotation. Jesse’s storyline is the strongest in the episode: we get to see, in quintessence all aspects of the character: Jesse and Walt, Jesse and Mike, Jesse in his own head, and, surprisingly, Jesse back in rehab. Although each of them borrow from history, they each also provide something new to the character and to the episode.

“I’m sure he’ll see me.” – Walt

After Jesse’s intro, we see Skyler and Walt returning Walter Jr.’s car to the dealership. This is entirely Skyler’s decision: she commands Walt (whose purchase she is undermining) to handle the transaction. In a fit that can be described as an amalgamation of spite for Skyler and his everpresent need to be the badass, Walt instead takes the car out for a vigilant joyride and subsequent explosion. Through an educational conversation with Saul (in which Walt proposes hiring a hitman to kill Gus) Walt finds out that Jesse has been in contact with Gus. Walt jumps at the opportunity to manipulate Jesse into being the one to kill Gus, through the same means with with they attempted to kill Tuco: poision. Walt proves that he still has his power over Jesse, as he agrees to take on the deed and hides a pill of poison in one of his cigarettes.

Later on, Jesse is taken by Mike to the desert HQ to act as protection during a cartel meeting. Gus intends to pay off the cartel with five million dollars, but they are unwilling to make this deal. Jesse squanders an opportunity to poison Gus’ coffee when Mike approaches and offers him a gun–which Jesse takes less as a necessity and more as a sign of respect and “welcoming.” Mike goes as far as to tell Jesse that Gus sees loyalty in him, albeit loyalty for the wrong person.

Jesse’s final scene in the episode, and this season’s most powerful scene yet, takes Jesse back to Narcotics Anonymous, reuniting him with his old friend/arch nemisis/spirit guide: the counselor and former drug abuser responsible for his young daughter’s death. Jesse is probed, due to his long absence in group attendances, to share his feelings. He relates the Gale incident in disguise as the killing of an innocent dog (which still riles up one of the other group members). The counselor is clearly operating under the same mantra as when we last saw him. He tells Jesse that he needs to forgive himself and accept that he deserves to feel better. Jesse replies with a darkly sincere speech about how people should not forgive themselves no matter what. In fact, he does genuinely deserve to suffer for his actions, as does the counselor (who seems to take issue with this). Jesse is so fed up with himself and opposed to the idea of self-forgiveness, that he comes out and admits that he used Narcotics Anonymous as a means of selling crystal meth (last season). It is at this point that he clearly loses favor from the group entirely, the counselor included.

The rift between Jesse and Walt is been crafted gradually. Jesse has, at this point, driven away another potential support system (the counseling group), has alienated Andrea… and has anyone seen Badger and Skinny Pete lately? Thus, the only person Jesse will be able to turn to is Mike (and, by extension, Gus). If Jesse’s loyalties do shift, it will place Walt all alone, as he and Skyler are nearing an antagonistic relationship once again. Furthermore, with Hank hot on the case of Heisenberg, he might be very literally on the run and without a family whatsoever soon.

Hank is getting closer and closer: on the hunch that ended last week’s episode, Hank heads to Los Pollos Hermanos to investigate the connection to Gale Boetticher. His suspicions surround Gus, who has always been very hands-on and friendly with the DEA, as we saw last season. Hank manages to get Gus’ fingerprints off a cup, which he matches up with some prints from Gale’s apartment. Another clue in the Heisenberg case. A friend of mine said it best: this is the kind of episode you’ll watch at three a.m. on the Season 4 DVD down the line and will be completely unable to not watch another episode. Storytelling at its finest.