Friday, August 27, 2010

Mad Women

Well, Holly it is good to hear from you. I am shaking the cobwebs out of my blogger brain and getting back on track.

Like you, I have been watching the Men of Madison with shall we say, remote interest. Things did kick up a notch this past Sunday when Don got his little Drapers out of storage and acted like he had a pair again. Moping does not become him.

I concur that we did not need to see anymore Dick in California since that is exactly what he acted like with his friend’s niece. I know he is a cad, but that was too much for me. She was young enough to be Sally’s older sister. Giving his secretary some after-hours dictation was pretty low, too. Especially since he would not even acknowledge it once sober. On the other hand, seeing him set up his rival that he had “never heard of” was a classic.

Speaking of growing a pair, when is Roger going to give Lee Garner, Jr. the Jap treatment. If anyone deserves being ripped a new one, it is he. I can’t stand seeing our King of Quip reduced to playing a cut-rate Santa for that sadistic bastard. I can hardly wait until Roger finds out his little secret and gives him a time-period appropriate, politically incorrect public humiliation in return.

Hells Bells, Holly. I have said it before and I will say it again. I went from wanting Don to throw Pete out of a window to rooting for the little weasel. If demonstrating testicular fortitude was the theme of this episode, he certainly rose to the occasion with his father-in-law.

But enough about the guys. I will take your invite to look closer at the dolls.


First of all, it is nice to see “Red’ back where she belongs: running the office and keeping the girls in line. Her greatest move so far this season…giving Don a secretary he will not be tempted to drunkenly bang on his sofa. There is not enough alcohol in the office for that one. Joan seems to have an even greater sense of authority than before. That is, until she goes home to Dr. Dipshit. I still cannot wrap my head around what she sees in that little goober, no less why she puts up with his crap.


I have to admit, Peggy annoys me on most occasions. I know she represents the “women’s movement” as she advances into uncharted territory in the workplace, but she still has an inherent blandness that is bothersome. Yet, she has been cracking me up this season. Seeing her head rise up in the little window to spy on Don was one of the greatest site gags I have seen for a while.


In the past, I have felt somewhat sympathetic to the former Mrs. Draper. Her unfaithful, secretive husband was enough to send any woman to a fainting couch. I will always love her for her shotgun wielding vindication of her children. But she has been reduced to a “silly” woman as Henry’s mother so aptly described her. Slapping Sally’s face for cutting her hair seemed downright cruel. Perhaps if she played with herself a little more she would not be so uptight. That is, if she could pry Henry away long enough to do anything.


And last but not least, I have to include young Sally. What a complicated and troubled young lady. She is going to make one gloriously messed up teenaged hippie. She is screaming for attention from her parents, but one day she will be chanting “Hell No, We Won’t Go” down at the NYU protest of the Vietnam War. The only question remains…will she hookup with the neighbor boy before he becomes a serial killer?

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Boys Are Back In Town!


Finally!  A Mad Men worth talking about!  I’ll be honest, the first four episodes have felt, at times, like one big hangover.  Count me as one of the viewers who was hoping the party wasn’t over yet.  Boo!  Hiss!

Despite its slow pace this season, one thing I’ve enjoyed is seeing the characters turn out to be something other than the people we thought we knew so well.  Okay, maybe I could have done without more Dick Whitman in California.  But other than that, well done, Matt Weiner, et al.  In that vein, let’s made a quick run through the SCDP partners:

Roger Sterling
Roger was in Pearl Harbor?  Who knew?  And Roger is more loyal than forgiving? Has anyone told Mona? I was blindsided by Roger’s loyalty to his dead GI friends, given that only four episodes ago he was denigrading the Ad Age reporter who lost his leg in Korea and accusing the magazine of being so cheap “they can’t afford a whole reporter.”  You know I’m a huge John Slattery fan, Chip, and I was blown away by his cringe-inducing appearance in the SCDP conference room just after the Japanese visitors accepted their gifts of Johnnie Walker and cantaloupe.  Cantaloupe?  Perhaps to remind them of Joan’s gravity defying feats later?  

Bertram Cooper
Are we seeing more of but hearing less from Bert?  I can’t tell if he’s more involved in the new firm than he was at Sterling Cooper or if he’s just more visible these days because there’s no second floor at SCDP, reducing him to hanging out in the lobby and reading magazines.  Overall though, Bert seems to be the SCDP partner who has surprised me the least so far.  I like Bert, and I wish we’d have a moment this season to rival his all-time classic, “Don, would you say I know something about you?” moment.

Don Draper
So glad he’s back!  I was getting worried after all that moping around the bachelor pad, or should I say cave, and hanging out with Anna Draper in California.  But this week, and even last, he showed it to us in spades.  Well, maybe not when he took Bethany to Benihana, but other than that, pure testosterone…..I was dying when he told the Times reporter, “Never heard of him,” when asked about Ted Chaough at the rival agency.  This is the Don we know and love, and sometimes love to hate, the one who will tell Roger Sterling he’s out of line and for whom Peggy will ride a motorcycle in circles.  And B-T dubs, what about that prank?  The architect of that nefarious plot to put Ted in his place was none other than Don, the same Don who gave Peggy a healthy dressing-down for staging the Ham Brawl of ’64.  And that is different because?  Oh yeah, it's not. 

Lane Price
Oh my.  So Don isn’t the only miserable bachelor around the office…..that New Year’s Eve had to be a low point for both of them.  I loved the flower mixup that led to Lane’s lonely holiday exile in New York. Lane obviously relies on and respects Joan’s authority as office manager, but he can’t quite treat her as a colleague, can he?  Denying her request for vacation time then sending her flowers to apologize.  What confusing times these people live in! I do like Lane’s role at SCDP as a decisionmaker, though.  When he came over to run Sterling Cooper, he was just St. John’s lackey.  We’re seeing something of the man he really is this season.  I just hope he doesn’t shove any more steaks in his crotch.  Ugh.  Which brings up another point…Chip, who do you think got the top bunk in the kids’ room when Don and Lane had their sleepover with the girls who “didn’t go to Barnard”?

Pete Campbell
The kid in the perpetual blue suit is a big boy now!  I think Vincent Kartheiser is a brilliant actor.  I’m impressed every time he makes us want to swat Pete away like a mosquito flying about, yet 30 minutes later we’re cheering the guy on when he shows some moxie.  His handling of the Clearasil matter was nothing short of ruthless.  How’d you like that guy for a son-in-law, Chip?  I was even a little impressed that he kept the petulance to a minimum (on the Pete scale anyway) during that lunch with Ken Cosgrove.  I mean, it’s not every day you get accused of having spread the rumor that Ken was the one who made the John Deere go rogue on Guy’s foot. And quite a bold accusation from young Petey when he called Roger out for objecting to taking Honda as a client, claiming Roger was merely wrapping himself in the flag to disguise Roger’s real beef that if Pete landed a big account, the firm would be less beholden to Roger’s (and the firm’s) cash cow, Lucky Strike.  I thought it was so interesting that this week Pete was the young upstart who didn’t understand Roger’s loyalty to his dead war buddies and was actually eager to do business with Roger’s enemy.  At the end of last week’s show, we had a very different Pete gathering with the other Establishment types, while locking eyes with Peggy through a window, she off for lunch with her new Bohemian and Sapphic friend.  Who is Pete?  He’s the character who has the most complex path ahead of him, I think.  He’s been groomed his whole life to be the next generation East Coast Elite.  Yet, he’s looking at Peggy (wistfully?), the clear implication being that the two of them are contemplating the path not taken.  Is Pete going to hold on to the past, or will he really embrace the counterculture, and not just because it sells product?

What are your thoughts about the SCDP partners, Chip?  And care to get into the women of Mad Men?  Now THAT’S a conversation worth having.

Looking forward to hearing from you.  Till then, I’ll just be applying Pond’s Cold Cream, brushing my hair 100 times, and thinking of new ways to use jewelry as a stop sign.

Peace, Holly

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Everyone Knows It's Wendy!

Chip, we haven't talked about the comedic horror of the Wendy sequence at the beginning of "Half Measures." They're really showing us the evils of meth, no? I love how Breaking Bad alternately glamorizes and demonizes the drug world. Tell me what Wendy was dislodging from the remnants of her teeth wasn't an, ahem, oh just never mind....

So here's a thought about our gal-about-town Wendy. As Jesse pointed out, she's spent some time being worked over in an interrogation room by Hank, but she didn't break. There was an earlier scene back in Season One when Hank took Walt Jr. to the seedy side of town to warn him about drugs. Hank's interaction/harassment of Wendy indicated they knew each other then. So what if Wendy decided to go to Hank to tell what she knows, maybe because Tomas' death hit too close to home? She told Jesse she had a son of her own for whom she would, and does, do anything. She was obviously troubled and affected by Jesse's "do it for the kids" speech. And although she ultimately went along with Jesse's homicide by hamburger plot, she had a problem with killing someone. Any chance she was out on the street, possibly looking for the gangbangers to score some meth, when the carnage went down? And would she put herself in harm's way by talking to Hank in order to make the streets safe for little Anthony to ride his bike as a kid, not a criminal in training? Ultimately, would she sell Jesse out? They have an interesting relationship, somewhat mother/son, don't you think?

And even if Wendy's conscience wouldn't bring her in to tell what she's seen on her own, if Hank was bored and decided to spend his downtime investigating the death of Tomas, he might go to Wendy and recruit her as an informant, which might push her over the edge this time. Hank's got a lot of time on his, er, hands. And Hank truly loves being a cop. I can see him deciding to work the case on his own, just to have something to do. It would certainly be an interesting development for Hank to learn outside any official law enforcement duties that Walt was dirty. What would happen then?

I think we'll be seeing Wendy of the Evening again soon.


Indeed, Wendy deserves some discussion of her own. In just a few minutes montage, Breaking Bad has given us a searing image of the true life of a prostitute. The monotony of the ups and downs, ins and outs if you will. I believe most real life hookers do not look like Julia Roberts or Rebecca DeMornay. (I just dated myself, didn't I?)

Wendy simultaneously seems like a woman in charge of her own destiny and yet also desperately out of control. She seems to be a creature of habit and not having her regular street corner supply will definitely disrupt her routine. How will she respond to that? I do believe there is a better than average chance she witnessed what "went down" that night. Who knows how she will respond. She may not have the classic heart of gold, but she does have a heart. You are right, Holly. She does have a soft spot for children. How will she construe what happened to Tomas, though? Who will she blame. Is Jesse the hero or the heel in her eyes? That will determine what she does.

Excellent points, my friend, excellent points. You're right on the money about how she perceives Jesse's motive as the determinative factor. And I think based on their past conversation about the gangbangers having to go because they recruited and used kids, as well as Jesse's willingness to face them down in a two against one showdown, she'll see Jesse as the hero. So....why not just leave him out of it? Some bald guy driving a van/SUV with an identity crisis came out of nowhere and plowed them over, then shot one of them with his own gun for good measure. Who cares why the dealers were out of the car or that they were armed? They're drug dealers. It's what they do. And she has no incentive to keep quiet for fear of losing her supply, it's already gone.

But Can He Sing?

Chip, you and I have discussed offline our recent literary find, “Sh*t My Dad Says” by Justin Halpern.  I think we should bring this to our readers’ attention, assuming we have one or two. 

Due to unfortunate circumstances involving a woman, Justin has to move back in with his parents. His dad is a modern-day Archie Bunker, only with a medical degree.  You can imagine the things that come out of his mouth.  They’re profane, blunt, intelligent, and hilarious! 

For example:
“Oh please, you practically invented lazy.  People should have to call you and ask for the rights to lazy before they use it.”

“A parent’s only as good as his dumbest kid. If one wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you failed.”

Justin started tweeting his dad’s one-liners, developed a 1M+ following, and wrote this book.  The book made the NYT Bestsellers List, and now Justin’s concept has been developed into a sitcom and picked up by CBS.  And what great American comedic genius with a commanding voice do you suppose has been chosen to play Justin’s dad?  Well, William Shatner, natch. 

Read the book, catch the show when it premieres, and watch in horror as CBS ruins yet another great idea.   I just hope Capt. Kirk will sing before it gets cancelled.

Warp speed ahead!


Monday, June 7, 2010

Murder Isn't Part of Your Twelve-Step Program

This week’s Breaking Bad, “Half Measures,” separated the men from the boys.  Roll call!

Jesse Pinkman – MAN
Jesse showed all the o.g. gangsters how it’s done!  He stood up for himself at every turn.  It began fairly benignly with Walt, when he didn’t let Walt get out of going for a beer after work.  Pretty soon he was staring Gus down, when Jesse had everything to lose and nothing to gain, by refusing to make nice with the drug dealers who ordered the hit on Combo because they use children as pawns in their grown-up drugs-and-gangs enterprise.  For the first time, Gus seemed to recognize Jesse as a man with some cahones, rather than a hopeless meth-head boy. However, when Jesse realizes he’s been played, whether by Gus or the guys who killed Combo, he goes all in and heads off to a death that is all but certain to come his way, but for the surprise intervention of Walt. And now? He’s still facing down a death that’s all but certain to come his way.  Jesse will not let it be written on his tombstone, “Here Lies A Man Who Believed in Half Measures.”

Gus Fring – MAN*
*I think.
All along, we’ve been programmed to believe Gus was ruthless, but in a different and far more chilling way than the loose cannons that were Crazy 8 and Tuco. But then, as it begins to crystallize (Get it? Crystallize!) that his warning to Walt last week about making the same mistake twice was probably about Jesse, we see him take a half measure when he orders Jesse to make nice with Combo’s killers.  Then, even more inexplicably, when Jesse gets in Gus’s face about Combo’s killers using children in their street activity, Gus orders them to keep the kids out of it and then orders Jesse to keep the peace. This looks like a couple of half measures not adding up to a whole.  So what about what happens next?  Andrea’s 11-year-old brother Tomas, the gunman and pawn in the Combo assassination, is killed while riding his bike.  Is this Gus’s doing?  Are we seeing a full measure being played out here?  Perhaps Gus is pulling Jesse’s strings to see what he’s really made of?  Or maybe this a Gus headgame to force Walt to prove his loyalty? Or did the two gangbangers who are on Gus’s payroll go full measure and pull this one off themselves? For now, I’m going to go with Gus showing us a full measure, and for that, I list him a man.  I think.

Walter White – BOY, Heisenberg - MAN
From the beginning of this series, Walt has shown us a new kind of passive aggressive. He has no problem cooking meth, lying to his family, or killing his rivals, so long as he’s forced into the situation.  Even if his own actions put him in that situation in the first place.  Walt’s life has been built on half measures.  Even his ostensibly ballsy appearance at Jesse’s showdown at the OK Corral, while appearing at first blush a full measure, was really just another half measure where Walt was reacting to a situation he’d gotten himself (and this time, Jesse) into by taking the earlier half measure of narcing Jesse out to Gus.  Chip, did you notice that Walt looked a bit green behind the gills at the end of the handshake scene? And I must disagree with you that Walt’s intervention in the massacre was a full measure.  In support of my position, I give you Walt’s apples-and-oranges speech. It reveals that Walt’s running in to save Jesse was just a half measure.  As he said in the apples and oranges speech, Walter White can’t justify killing anyone over a turf war, but he can justify murder when the victim was threatening his (or Jesse’s) life. Walt has never been able to take ownership of his bad-guy status, even going so far as to create his other persona, Heisenberg.  One thing I’ll say for Heisenberg -- that dude is no stranger to full measures.  Interestingly, though, we haven’t seen Heisenberg all season, corresponding with the time that Walt’s been “working for the man” aka Gus.  Heisenberg’s re-emergence in the previews of next week’s season finale signaled that those days are over.

Hank Schrader – MAN
Aside from the obvious, I don’t really know what to say about Hank.  On the obvious I’ll defer to you, Chip. Okay, maybe one thing.  Anyone else remember the episode in Season One, perhaps even the premiere, when Skyler gave Walt a handjob?  Remember how shocking that was?  How did they manage to shock us just as much a second time?  I think I need to listen to Gus.  Okay, back to Hank.  His pity party over, and Hank's man enough to live up to his end of the bargain when Marie won their bet.  We’re about to see the old badass Hank rise from the ashes.  As you’ve pointed out in the past, Chip, Hank’s got more of what it takes to be a man than Walt, any day of the week.

Okay, so enough of separating the men from the boys.  Let’s talk about some other interesting points:

To answer your question, Chip, the true difference between letting someone die vs. running them over with your compact SUV and then blowing their brains out with their own gun is less in the facts and more in the lawyer you hire.  Better call Saul!

As an aside, I truly love the cars in this show.  I’d give my eye teeth for that vintage Wagoneer of Skyler’s.  And I love how all our “hiding in plain sight” crew drives cars that are each more hideous than the last – Gus’s station wagon, Walt’s personality disordered Aztec that can’t decide if it’s an SUV or a minivan, and whatever that pathetic thing is Jesse’s got in his post Cap’n days.  And we haven't even had a proper mourning for our beloved RV meth-lab-to-go.  I miss it.

And yes, Chip, it was not lost on me that this was the second crushing by vehicle this season.  However, I do give AMC style points for coming up with a mashup (or should I say "combo") of crushing by vehicle and the Mad Men lawnmower scene.  Oops, they got us again.  What would Gus say?

Is Walt the new Hank?  Last season, Hank finished the job of killing Tuco that Walt started.  This week Walt finished the job of avenging Combo’s death that Jesse started.  When the next round of would-be ax murdering cousins show up, whose blood will they want to spill first, Jesse’s or Walt’s?

I’ve learned that there’s much imagery in the costuming on AMC.  I repeatedly rewound and freeze-framed the back of Jesse’s shoes in his walk to the OK Corral, but I couldn’t make out the word before “paid” on the back of them.  “Get paid,” perhaps?  These shoes are the Jesse Pinkman version of the silver skull boots that opened the season.  Nice touch, wardrobe department.

Chip, were you ROFL when Saul was playing games on his computer while Walt balanced paper clips on Saul’s scales of justice?  Did you find it as funny as I did that Saul's scales don’t balance?  And what else besides selling your co-conspirator up the river is included in Saul’s “premium service package”?  Dare we ask?

Great, great performance by Aaron Paul this week!  When Jesse looked out the window of Hank’s car after the handshake scene, it was obvious he was about to fall off the wagon.  Aaron Paul’s Jesse conveys so much silent emotion.  This was just the latest example from a talented young actor.

Here’s Holly’s conspiracy theory of the week.....  Do you think Mike the Cleaner will end up joining forces with Heisenberg?  He seems to like and respect Walt.  It’s a little hard to believe after that wrenching story about Mike the Cop’s half measure that Mike the Cleaner is really thriving as Gus’s lackey.  I see more man than boy in Mike.  And while it seems that Gus is clearly and unequivocally at the top of the food chain in which Walt is no more than a mid-level player, that’s probably what we would have said about Crazy 8 and Tuco, had we been blogging back then.

Looking forward to Sunday’s “Full Measure.”

Peace, Holly



I may never have had a moment of television shock me quite as much as the final minutes of Breaking Bad this week. With a single gunshot, a whole new line has been drawn. Despite his objections that they are “not murderers” Walt does in fact kill two people. He had flirted with this line on a couple of occasions. We are reminded he suggested poisoning Tuco before he could kill them. He also passively let Jane die in front of him when he could have saved her.

This is different. You have a lawyer friend, don’t you Holly? What is the difference between letting someone die and running them over with a compact SUV and then blowing their brains out with their own gun? I would think intent would have something to do with it. BTW…this is the second time this season a drug dealer has met his maker via an automobile/own gun combination. Interesting.

What was Walt’s intention? To save Jesse’s life? To prevent Jesse from making this mistake himself? Was he shamed into recalibrating where he draws the line in the drug trade when it comes to children? To steal Mike’s terminology, this was certainly no half-measure.

This entire episode is a prime example of building dramatic tension. The opening montage of the prostitute’s life was intriguing. Then Jesse and Walt whispering plans on how to deal with the street corner thugs. Mike pulling Jesse away from his plan and into the trailer of doom was also excellent. You could see Jesse’s mind racing when he saw that table full of characters. It was kind of nice to see Gus get a little miffed and ruffled. Then I was impressed with Jesse standing up to Gus when no one else would. That seemed to give him a measure of respect he certainly did not have before.

Then just when I think the most interesting thing in this episode is going to be Marie giving Hank an unexpected handjob, little Tomas turns up murdered. My first thought is that someone is going to try to pin this on Jesse. The episode could have ended right there, but Jesse heads out for a good old fashioned street shootout with the (bad?) guys ala' OK Corral. All Jesse needed was a good duster, hat and boots. He was definitely their huckleberry.

Is Jesse blaming himself for getting Tomas killed? Is he just out for blood for what he deems is a violation of the peace? Either way, I was truly surprised at how the climatic gunfight played out. With guns drawn, I expected everyone to get hit. I absolutely did not see Walt coming with his car. I guess Walt, Jr. will have to find another vehicle to get his provisional license on Saturday.

That was shocking enough and justifiable in protecting Jesse, but I was slapping the couch when he picked up the dealer’s own gun and shot him in the head. When Walt tells Jesse to “RUN” it gave me goose bumps. The biggest question I have now is…How in the world will they top this for next week’s season finale? I can’t wait to find out.

Friday, June 4, 2010


You asked me after this most recent episode if I thought Skyler was a narc setting Walt up with her new involvement.

I think she is getting drawn into the same moral trap as Walt. She can justify going over to the dark side in order to help someone she loves (Sis and Bro-in-Law) when she would not have done it for herself. She is breaking bad, too.

In my "benefit of the doubt" heart, I think she is starting to see thing's Walt's way and this also gets her away from Ted. Oh...and what a FANTASTIC idea for a place to launder money...a car wash. Ha!

I thought it was pretty funny when Saul tried to shut her down. Nobody puts Skyler in a corner, though. I just knew she was going to volunteer to be the manager. Saw that one coming for once.

The more burning question I am left with following this episode is what mistake does Gus think Walt is about to make again? Trusting Jesse? Having Jesse around with a girl? Messing with his "corner?"

What about Jesse? He is just determined to get himself killed one way or another, isn't he?

Calling All Angels

That is a very good point about disguising the voice. I am going to stick with the Sheriff, still. I really don't think it is Walt because he said something to Gus about the warning. He seemed pretty sure Gus was the one who had done it. Remember me saying it seemed almost anti-climatic.

I think the Sheriff is an old school law man who has worked his ass off for years with little to show for it. He is a dirty cop, but not "corrupt" per se. He is in Gus' pocket, but he also respects Hank and his efforts. His attempt to send Hank to El Paso had several implications. It would get him out of Gus' hair (or scalp as this show goes). Perhaps Hank's tenacity would work on some of Gus' enemies down there.It remains to be seen that either place would be safer than the other.

To give Hank a one minute warning was a crapshoot that he could not lose. If Hank is killed, he is out of Gus' way and his conscience is alleviated by the fact he gave him a warning. If things went as in fact they did, his respected colleague lives and his "employer's" competition is dealt a blow.
Whaddya think?


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

I Should've Had a V-8!

Chip, I’ve had a V-8 moment! I was just contemplating whether Glee’s upcoming season finale, which will give us the glee club geeks performing Journey’s "Faithfully," could ever best the Sopranos’ final fade-to-black to “Don’t Stop Believin’.”  Could "Faithfully" out of the mouth of babes even surpass Glee’s own series premiere version of “Don’t Stop Believin’”?  The thought of all those voices trying to improve on the perfection that was Steve Perry back in the 80s, well, it boggles the mind. This different voices thing led me, natch, to that mysterious “one minute” phone call in Breaking Bad, and thereby my V-8 moment. (Don’t question how my mind works, just go with it.) We’ve previously speculated wildly on the identity of Hank’s guardian angel. I’ve decided this person must be someone Hank knows.  Otherwise, why would he disguise his voice? This rules out several likely suspects -- Gus, Mike, and probably Saul.  Thus, we are left with the likely suspects being Gomez, the sheriff, or some other law enforcement insider.  Am I missing anyone?  Who other than Mike, Saul, or Walt could be taking Pollo’s pesos and/or have an eye out for Hank’s back?  And is Walt a definite no? What did he know and when did he know it?  Time to cue up "On Demand" and do some research in the archives.....

Forever yours, peacefully......

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

With Friends Like These.....

Chip, I just finished watching the latest installment of Breaking Bad, titled "Abiquiu." I love this title.  Not only is it the name of Georgia O'Keefe's town, it's a nice play on the title of the episode of a few weeks ago, "I See You."

But, I think the title of this episode could easily have been "Second Chances." We begin the hour with a flashback of Jesse and Jane at the Georgia O'Keefe museum, a visit for which Jesse had at least a chance or two before actually making it.  (In Season 2, Jesse's methlord life kept interrupting his opportunity to go to Abiquiu to see O'Keefe's work with Jane.)  Jane patiently (somewhat) explains O'Keefe's paintings to Jesse, who doesn't understand why O'Keefe kept painting the same thing over and over.  We then progress through Walt's second chance as a family man when Skyler allows him to come over for dinner, Jesse's second chance at love with Andrea, Badger and Skinny Pete's second chance by attending AA to sell Blue Sky to the addicts but ending up buying into the twelve-step routine, Hank's aspiration to the normal life he once knew after having cheated death, and Walt and Skyler's second chance at marriage after Skyler reveals she "never got around to" filing the divorce papers.  Oh yeah, and there's that cryptic admonition from Gus that Walt shouldn't make the same mistake twice.

Okay, so let's round up the usual suspects, starting with that little strumpet Skyler.  She's turned into quite an operator, hasn't she?  After channelling Robin Hood by harnessing Walt's ill-gotten gains for good vis-a-vis paying for Hank's medical treatment, she had a celebrity death match with Saul over who knows best about money laundering.  Remember how we used to feel bad for poor, pregnant, clueless Skyler?  Now, not so much.  Chip, do you think there's any chance Skyler isn't really showing us her dark side and is in cahoots with Hank to expose Walt's illicit activity and vindicate Hank's reputation with the DEA?  Or is this the real Skyler we're just now meeting?  Or, perhaps now that she's bitten the apple that is the good life via Walt's initial earnings and that heated floor over at Chez Beneke, she's not willing to play meek and mousy any more?  I can't help but recall how badly she wanted to fit in at Elliott's party and how heartbreakingly aware she was that she didn't. But Sky, honey, is buying a carwash really the ticket to the good life?

Back to Saul for a moment.  I was cheering for the slimy ambulance chaser in his "$300 suit" when he turned into a hardass with Skyler.  Who knew?  And despite his smarminess, I was actually impressed with Saul when he revealed the flaw in the carwash plan -- there wasn't a Danny.  An a-ha moment for his previous advice to Jesse to buy the nail salon.

Okay, so Jesse's new situation with Andrea is a hot mess.  Does he want her, or does he want her to smoke blue sky?  What's his thing with kids?  One look at Brock and he turns into prospective stepfather of the year.  I remember him going soft on that poor kid whose parents were the meth heads in the ATM episode last season.  Interestingly, however, he seemed to despise Andrea's little brother Tomas, the underage bike-riding gangbanger.  I guess that whole shooting Jesse's friend Combo for selling on the wrong corner thing clouded Jesse's judgment about Tomas.  And on that subject, what, oh what, is Jesse going to do now?  Kill the rival drug dealers and/or Tomas?  Get Andrea hooked on their product? Or his?

And what about Hank? Could there be a more fragile male ego more achingly emasculated?  Stripped of his gun, his badge, and his physical well-being, he has his underachiever brother-in-law paying his medical bills now.  Mere weeks ago Hank was busting heads, just for the fun of it, in honky tonks. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Enough of that, though, let's talk about Walt and Gus. Los Hermanos -- the new brothers of the drug world?  That gourmet dinner a deux was beyond bizarre.  Gus mentioned his children, but where were they?  Gus talks about the life they (he and Walt) have chosen.  Has Walt truly chosen this life, or has he ended up where he is through a series of unfortunate circumstances and bad decisions?  Was Gus's path similar to Walt's, or did he choose and calculate his ascent to the top of the southwest drug food chain?  Recall that Gus knows, thanks to Mike's snooping in Walt's medical records, that even with his unexpected medical improvement, Walt only has a few more years to live.  What's he up to here?  More specifically, where's he trying to lure Walt into going now?  If I've learned one thing about Gus, it's that he always has a plan.  As an aside, I thought it was interesting that we saw yet another shiny instrument of death when Walt stared into the shiny blade of a kitchen knife as Gus stood with his back turned.

Chip, I was expecting more from this episode, although from the looks of the previews, we have that coming in spades next week.  And, unlike like last week's installment, at least this one didn't require a Kardashians marathon to salvage my evening.

Peace, Holly