The pressure continues to mount on Gus. The APD/DEA investigation into his connection with Gale and blue meth continues, if in an unorthodox way. His prize employees continue to plot his murder, with mixed results. And the Cartel, who we learn have had their ultimatum to Gus spurned, are certainly coming at him in force. In this whirlwind, we get some backstory to explain Gus's position and motivation.
This was The Gus Show. Giancarlo Esposito did a masterful job of carrying the episode.
Gus gets called into police HQ to answer questions regarding Gale Boetticher, and does so deftly. But it's Hank's most basic of questions -- "Is Gustavo Fring your real name?" -- that knocks him for a loop. He is clearly rattled by someone asking about his identity.
Gus's backstory comes by an extended flashback to the 1980's: a young Gus and his partner are invited to a poolside chat with the Cartel. It's great to see a young Gus, back before his eyes died; while Gus is known as cool, cruel and calculating, we get to see him with empathy and affection for his protege. Also at the meeting are a young Hector "Tio" Salamanca and Juan Bolsa (each of whom we've seen commit or direct horrific acts, and each of who have stated a distaste for "dirty" South Americans) and the heretofore unseen boss, Don Eladio. The meeting ends with the chemistry genius murdered, a scene which displays more raw emotion in Gus than we've seen in the entire series combined.
What we learn is that Gus has a soft spot for down-on-their-luck geniuses, like he had for Gale and still probably harbors for Walt. He prizes loyalty and partnership, which may be what keeps Jesse from being summarily offed. And we learn that revenge occupies each chamber in Gus's heart.
Where are they now? Juan Bolsa is dead, at Gus's tip-off. Tio Salamanca sits mute in his own waste, alive solely for Gus to torture. And Don Eladio? The confrontation between him and Gus has undoubtedly been playing out for the past few episodes, and will continue to an Act V showdown, which will destroy perhaps both men, but will certainly end Gus.
Thanks to this episode, we will miss him when he goes. (Of course, saying that he goes is presumptuous; Gale was in 3 episodes before dying, but he has appeared in, or been central to, each episode since. David Costabile may have the richest posthumous career since Six Feet Under.) "This is whatcomes of blood for blood," Gus gloats to Salamanca; that will be the epitaph of both men.
Walter and Jesse continue their plot, but Walter is starting to clue in that Jesse's heart is not in it, thanks to (let's be blunt) a contrivance that lets Walt read a vital text. (Contrivances and product placement ("Rage") irritate me, and the scene in Jesse's house had both.) Walter is also snookered into Hank's tailing of Gus, and the scene at Pollos had a shocking face-to-face meeting between the antagonists. Circumstances being what they were, this was Walter, the hapless nerd, facing Mr. Fring, the crisp professional with the American accent; the confrontation between Heisenberg and Gustavo will have to wait.
In other news, Skyler is having trouble laundering Walt's money, and chucks it into the crawlspace. (Alert readers might note that we will get an episode titled, "Crawl Space" in three weeks.) And Andrea and her son Brock have escaped to a nice neighborhood, thanks to Jesse's benevolence; this is the only scene that felt out of place ... it seems that Andrea and Brock still have a part to play in this story.
The show continues to be technically and dramatically flawless: every shot is beautful, ever performance engaging. We will continue Walter's story shortly -- we do get a scene of Heisenberg as a motivational speaker to a random cancer patient -- but it's a good thing to have that story take a back seat to flesh out a central figure.