The best at everything get to the top because they have a gear others don't. Natural talent is great and fun for parlor tricks, but drive, sacrifice, and an insatiable desire to be the best are what really separate the good from the great. Walter White no longer has any interest in second place or getting by, he's CEO of Blue Rocks Inc. and he wants to be the Michael Jordan, the Steve Jobs, and the Oprah Winfrey of getting people whacked out of their gourds through chemistry.
And if a little kid named Drew Sharp gets in his way, so be it.
Lines were drawn during tonight's Breaking Bad, the relatively tame yet critical "Buyout," and all alone on one side—the side that doesn't want to quit until he's wiping his ass with hundred-dollar bills—was Walter. Part of his drive for more, more, more comes from his previous bonehead decision to sell out for five grand and relinquish his stake in Gray Matter, the billion-dollar corporation he co-founded, and it's a great story for Walter to tell anyone who will listen to sway them to his side. But I don't think Walter is willing to turn down an easy five million just because he made an oopsie decades ago.
It's a perfectly good cover story and there's certainly some truth in it, but the real reason Walter wants his meth trade to continue is that he's worked so hard for it and, more importantly, that he has nothing to lose. He's living life the same way he likes his magnets, dial turned all the way up to the max. The same way he likes his cars, fast and loud. The same way he likes his breakfast. Extra bacon! Drive and natural talent separate the great from the good, but drive, natural talent, and a willingness to lose everything separates the greatest from the great. In case it wasn't clear before, Walter wants an empire now, and he's willing to do anything and deal with anything to get it.
Mike and Jesse aren't ready to follow Walter to the edge, and when the opportunity to put everything in the rearview mirror (the dead kids, the DEA interrupting time with the grandchildren) came up with a nice $5 million tip, Jesse and Mike jumped on it and said they were out. Jesse loves kids, but I think Walter's attitude on the matter (Walter was whistling a jolly tune while Jesse rotted on the inside after the news report about Drew) was just as much cause for Jesse to agree to sell out. As for Mike, well, I wouldn't have been surprised if he channeled Roger Murtaugh and said, "I'm too old for this shit."
But Walt knows three-way business partnerships are all about being on the side with two, and since Mike is a hardheaded mule whose stubborn wisdom was forged over the course of a long life of doing things his way, Walter again turned to Jesse, his malleable plaything. Because Jesse runs on emotion, Walter set him up by inviting him over and telling him sob story (re: Gray Matter), then giving him a sad peek into his broken domestic life.
That—Jesse Pinkman eating dinner at the White household—was a scene I felt like I'd been waiting for for five years, and it was so hilarious and awkward that it was totally worth it. Watching Jesse struggle to drag the dinner into some sort of normalcy by talking about scabby frozen lasagna while Skyler guzzled wine and murdered Walter with her eyes and Walter sat there quiet as his plan was perfectly executed was right up there with The Talking Pillow as one of the series' exquisitely difficult scenes to watch. It's also one of the funniest scenes Breaking Bad has ever done, and I think only the second time Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn have shared the screen (the first being in Season 1 when Skyler went to Jesse's house to ask about Walter's pot).
"My wife is waiting for me to die," Walter said. "This business is all I have left now. It's all I have. And you want to take it away from me." It's a bit of a repeat from last season when Walter was fighting for Jesse's loyalty with Gus, but once a pushover, always a pushover. And it worked. A softened Jesse gave Walter one more chance, and when you give Walter a chance, he runs with it. Walter, the man with infinite plans, has a new one. One that will allow Walter to keep all the methylamine and Jesse and Mike to get their $5 million paydays. "Everybody wins," Walter said. Except for all the people that will lose.
– Ominous opening scene in this one, but beautifully put together. Drew's bike was meticulously deconstructed and dissolved in vats of acid. Its 50cc heart removed, skeletal structure cut down, and tires peeled off to make it all fit in the buckets. But that was all set-up for what the scene was really trying to convey: getting us to imagine the similar things the guys had to do to Drew.
– "Jesse, you asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I'm in the empire business."
– Do we have a new villain in Declan, the dealer from Arizona? And does Walter's everybody-wins plan involve ripping Declan off?
– It was pretty awesome to hear Walter, Jesse, Todd, and Mike talk about Todd's decision to shoot Drew after I focused last week's review on that very thing.
– Walter's escape from Mike's binds was this week's edition of Mr. Science Gets Out Of a Pickle, and it was incredibly badass. I loved the close-up shot of Walter gnawing through the wire like a rat. At one point I wasn't sure of whether he was going to pull a Merle from The Walking Dead and lose the hand or a Riggs from Lethal Weapon (second reference!) and pop his shoulder out and stretch to grab a tool. But the fact that those ideas were in the back of my head shows how far I think Walter is willing to go now.
– Hank is 100-percent correct: Miracle Whip is disgusting. Team Mayonnaise!
– Mike's dead-drop of the note that read "F*ck You" was okay. But nothing will top Tio Salamanca's bell-ringing rendition of "Suck my..." R.I.P., Tio!
– I'm still trying to piece together why Todd kept Drew's tarantula, but I'm leaning toward the theory that Todd is just as immature and inexperienced as Drew... as opposed to Todd feeling some sort of compassion for Drew and wanting to hold on to what was his.
– I don't want to sadden anyone, but there are only two episodes left this season. And don't believe anything about split seasons, these are Seasons 5 and 6, not 5 and 5.5.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom