‘Breaking Bad’ Recap: Walt Gives Rabid Dog Jesse the ‘Old Yeller’ Treatment (Season 5, Episode 12)

Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston Aaron PaulFrank Ockenfels/AMC

This is it. The die has been cast on Breaking Bad. There’s no turning back now. Walt ordered a hit on Jesse. On his partner. His surrogate son. And at the urging of Skyler, no less. He finally agreed that Jesse was a “Rabid Dog,” the title of the episode, and had to be put down. Surely sending Hank on a trip to Belize can’t be far behind.

“Rabid Dog” opened with Walt driving into his neighborhood, but parking his car at a safe distance from his house. He climbed the backyard fence Simon Pegg-style then entered through the backdoor. He smelled the gasoline and shouted, “Jesse, come out right now!” He must have been feeling what Gus Fring felt when Walt approached his home with his snub .38 way back at the start of Season 4. But Jesse was gone, even though his Cadillac was still parked askew on the lawn. And he never bothered to strike a match.

Walt immediately called Saul, had Huell get rid of Jesse’s car, and hired a carpet cleaner and locksmith. He really thought he could get rid of the gasoline smell by the time Skyler and the kids came home and act like nothing had happened. He called Jesse and told him that he’d fix whatever needed fixing and would explain why he poisoned Brock. In the meantime, Jesse should just sleep it off.

When Skyler got back, Walt went into an elaborate lie about having had a pump malfunction at the gas station which caused his clothes to be soaked in gasoline. You could tell right away that Skyler didn’t believe it, but for the sake of Walt Jr., and perhaps because of her own amazement at her husband’s infinite capacity for deception, she let him weave his web. Walt Jr. didn’t believe it either because he said he thought his dad had fainted from his illness. Walt Sr. indulged that…then suggested they all flee to a hotel where they wouldn’t have to deal with the gasoline.

Saul had been looking for Jesse ever since the incident, but not even Skinny Pete nor Badger had been talking to him. His wiretap showed they’d just been talking for three hours “about something called Babylon 5.” Saul suggested to Walt in the parking lot of the hotel this could be an Old Yeller situation: they had a rabid dog on their hands who needed to be put down. “You are just brimming with colorful euphemisms, aren’t you, Saul,” Walt said. First Belize, now Old Yeller. Saul did have a point, though: “Just say for the sake of argument the boy’s not in the mood for a lecture on the virtues of child poisoning.”

Upstairs in their hotel room, Skyler revealed she knew the gasoline story was a lie and that Walt had been talking to Saul. Walt said that it was Jesse who’d dumped the gasoline all over their house, and, needless to say, Skyler did not have any of the sentiment for Jesse that Walt has. She said he needed to deal with this. Yes, another euphemism. Walt couldn’t possibly begin to convey how much Jesse has meant to him throughout all this, and he rebuffed her suggestion, even as she kept insisting “What’s one more?”

The second half of “Rabid Dog” revisited the same period of time but from the point-of-view of Jesse, who had remained totally elusive during the first 30 minutes. Why did Jesse stop torching Walt’s house? Because Hank barged in, gun drawn, and suggested a better option to bring down Heisenberg: “If you’re gonna burn him down, let’s do it together.” This time, Jesse actually seemed receptive to talking. But Hank couldn’t book him, because he’d be killed in prison in a heartbeat, and he couldn’t put him in witness protection without there being formal charges against Walt. So what to do? Hank brought Jesse to his house, to sleep off his misery and be served coffee and lasagna by Marie. This would be a good thing for her too, the feeling that she could really have a stake in helping to bring down her monstrous brother-in-law. Otherwise, all she could do was look up untraceable poisons for six hours online. A good thing her shrink didn’t take that revelation seriously or he might have had to report her murderous feelings to the authorities.

When Jesse woke up, he gave his video confession to Hank, which I assume was merely a recap of the entire series of Breaking Bad. But all of this would boil down to just a case of “he said, he said,” right? Lucky for Hank, Walt left another message on Jesse’s phone asking to meet him at an open-air plaza in person, to discuss what had happened. This was a total win-win. He’d outfit Jesse with a wire and get Walt to talk on tape, and he’d get him formally charged. Or Walt would murder Jesse and still be formally charged. Gomez, who Hank had brought in on the case, was shocked by Hank’s callousness. But they set up the meeting. Jesse, outfitted with a wire, approached Walt in the square. But from a distance, he saw a tough-looking bald guy and assumed that must be the dude who Walt had hired to put him away. He ran, first to a payphone to tell Walt that he’d target him where it hurts, then back to Hank’s van, where he told them he’d come up with a better way to nab Walt.

After that phone call threat, Walt had no choice. He called Todd and asked him for his uncle’s help in dealing with a situation. Meaning that he put a hit out on Jesse. It’s Old Yeller time.

Overall, “Rabid Dog” seemed to lack the urgency and suspense of the previous episodes of the season to date. It seems weird to call it a breather episode considering Walt’s decision regarding Jesse, but I think we all kind of knew this was coming anyway.

What did you think?

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