- "I don't think we're alike at all - Mr. White."
- ―Gustavo Fring
Gustavo "Gus" Fring was supposedly a Chilean-born Albuquerque restaurateur, mob boss, business magnate, and philanthropist. He was the respected proprietor of Los Pollos Hermanos, a highly successful restaurant chain. However, despite outward appearances, Gus was a major drug kingpin initially affiliated with the Mexican Juárez Cartel, secretly using his restaurant as a legitimate cover for methamphetamine distribution throughout the American southwest. Like Walter White, Gus was a criminal who "hid in plain sight", using his anti-drug philanthropy to conceal his true nature and build his illicit drug empire step by step.
When Walt seeks a buyer for his chemically pure meth, he is put in contact with Gus. Walt manages to persuade Gus into purchasing thirty-eight pounds of his meth for $1.2 million; after the product yields good returns, Gus offers Walt $3 million for three months of his time. Gus' hiring and protection of Walt puts him at odds with the cartel's leadership. Despite Gus' initial protection of Walt during the second and third seasons, the collaboration between the two men becomes continuously strained, and Gus becomes a formidable adversary of Walt's and the main antagonist during the fourth season.
Despite being one step ahead of Walter at every turn and predicting every one of Walt's attempts to kill him, Gus did have one weakness - his unbridled hatred for Hector "Tio" Salamanca, a weakness that Walt discovered and ultimately exploited. To this end, Gus was killed in the Casa Tranquila explosion in which Walter convinced Hector to essentially suicide bomb Gus.
Little is known about Gus' past, except that he was supposed to have originally come from Chile, something which is highly doubtful, considering that Chile does not include Afro/Latin American among its people and also considering that there are parts in the show when he tries to support this story concerning his origins, but clearly does not back his story solidly enough. He was supposed to have emigrated to Mexico in 1986 during the Pinochet regime, and a few years later, in 1989, he was granted an entry visa into the United States ("Hermanos"). While Gus is a Chilean national, Hank Schrader mentions that there are no records of him ever living there - that is, no records exist of his life prior to 1986. Gus explains this by saying that General Augusto Pinochet's government was "guilty of a great many sins: first and foremost were his human rights abuses, but it was also notoriously unreliable about keeping records" ("Hermanos"). Mike reassures Gus that if he can't find out anything about him before he emigrated from Mexico to the U.S. (1989), it is unlikely that the DEA will either. The only thing that is currently known about the secret of Gus's backstory in Chile is that it has something to do with the Pinochet government. Gus also claims to have children, though they have never been seen nor anybody else in his family life has been revealed. It is also implied that Fring is using an alias as speculated by Hank himself.
In the late 80s, Gus and his partner, a gifted chemist named Maximino Arciniega, started a chain of Los Pollos Hermanos restaurants in Mexico. They developed a high-class strain of meth under cover of the pair's burgeoning chicken restaurant business. Hoping to strike up a partnership with the Mexican cartel, they hooked up the foot soldiers of its head figure, Don Eladio Vuente, with samples of their product. Gus and Max's pitch is for Eladio to diversify his Colombian cocaine distribution operation with a homegrown product, one whose production he controls and whose profits he need not pass along to a supplier. But Eladio finds their approach less clever and more disrespectful; they produced drugs in his territory and maneuvered him into a meeting.
As his henchman Hector "Tio" Salamanca shoots Maximino in the head as punishment for this impertinence, Eladio tells Gustavo that the only reason he’s still alive is “because I know who you are. But understand. You are not in Chile any more” - an allusion that suggests Don Eladio knows about Gustavo's still mysterious Chilean past.
Gus later immigrated to the United States and set up his network there with more Los Pollos Hermanos locations. He also established a chemistry scholarship at the University of New Mexico in Max's name. At some point in his career, Gus fostered a connection with a German conglomerate called Madrigal Electromotive GmbH.
He eventually formed an uneasy alliance with the cartel once they decided to enter the meth business after all. Despite having been in business in New Mexico for nearly twenty years, it was only shortly before his death that anyone suspected his involvement in criminal activities. He conducted his business with extreme caution, never dealing with drug addicts or those he saw as irrational or having poor judgment. This was due in large part to his established role as a legitimate businessman in Albuquerque.
Gus lived in a typical suburban neighborhood, playing the role of a socially conscious philanthropist. His loved ones did not know about his real business activities; it would be easy to assume he simply spent his days managing his restaurants and attending functions and banquets. He offered a cash reward for the info on Hank Schrader's attempted assassination. He also sat on the board of at least one Albuquerque hospital.
Better Call Saul
Upon learning of Mike Ehrmantraut's vendetta against Hector, Gus covertly warns Nacho of Mike's intent to assassinate his employer. He also assigns one of his men to place a tracking device in Mike's car to keep tabs on the latter's wherabouts at all times. As a warning to Mike, Gus's agent purposefully blow's Mike's cover when he makes his attempt, bugging the beater car Mike purchases, following Mike to Hector, and wedging a branch against Mike's car's horn before leaving a note on the windshield, which simply reads: "DON'T." ("Klick"), ("Mabel")
Discovering the hidden tracking devices, Mike uses a device of his own to tail the agent back to Los Pollos Hermanos. The next morning, he has Jimmy McGill go into the restaurant to observe the courier. Jimmy does so, but sees nothing suspicious. When the courier dispenses with his trash and leaves, Jimmy gets stuck trying to dig through the trash bin. Gus greets Jimmy and digs through the bin to retrieve his lost watch. When Jimmy drives away, Gus is outside collecting litter and looks up knowingly, suggesting he saw through the ruse. ("Witness")
Escorted by his henchmen Victor and Tyrus Kitt, Gus arranges a remote meeting with Mike. Gus, having earlier prevented Mike's assassination attempt against Hector, explains that he does not want him to die at this point in time. However, Gus encourages Mike to hit one of Hector's trucks. Mike, realizing Hector is one of Gus's competitors, makes a suggestion. Gus refers Mike to Barry Goodman, a doctor on his payroll in Mexico, who supplies cocaine that Mike plants on a truck traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border. When the cocaine is detected by a police dog, the drivers are arrested.
When introduced to the show, Gus's operation is in full swing. He has also established a full working relationship with Mike, who has become his chief of security and head enforcer.
Gus is introduced to Walter White and Jesse Pinkman after the two's failed efforts to sell their meth leads to their street dealers either being killed (Christian "Combo" Ortega), arrested (Brandon "Badger" Mayhew), or quitting (Skinny Pete). Saul Goodman makes the blunt observation "You two suck at peddling meth, period", but as the two still have 38 pounds remaining, Saul offers to connect them with a distributor through "a guy who knows a guy who knows another guy." Saul manages to arrange a meeting between Walt, Jesse and the distributor at a Los Pollos Hermanos restaurant, but when Jesse turns up for the meeting late, high and agitated, the distributor does not make contact.
Saul says later they likely blew their chance, but Walt, after some consideration, returns to the restaurant on his own. Asking to see the manager - Gus, who had stopped by their table during the earlier visit to the restaurant to see if they were enjoying their meal - Walt deduces that Gus is their contact after all. He praises Gus for his discipline and caution, saying that he sees the two as alike in that regard.
Gus then drops his facade, saying that Walter is not cautious at all and exhibits poor judgment by bringing the obviously high Jesse to a meeting. Walt counters that the quality of his product should outweigh any of these concerns and that Gus will never have to see or deal with Jesse. Gus demurs on whether or not the two will deal, but then on a later visit by Walt he is approached by Gus' henchman, Victor, with a final deal: $1.2 million for the remaining 38 pounds, delivered in one hour or not at all ("Mandala").
After the deal goes down, we see Gus with two other local businessmen meeting Hank Schrader at the DEA Albuquerque office. Gus is sponsoring a Fun Run, a DEA charity event. Because of his sponsorship, Merkert offers Gus a tour of the DEA offices, where he sees a surgery donation jar for Walt. Gus asks if Walt is an agent, and Hank explains that Walt is his brother-in-law and that he is fighting lung cancer. While it is implied that Gus already looked into Walt's background before making the deal, this confirms Gus is aware of Walt's health issues and family connection to the DEA ("ABQ").
Following the success of the previous deal, Gus invites Walt back to Los Pollos Hermanos for a meeting. Despite his great respect for Gus, Walt has decided to stop cooking meth. "I am not a criminal," he explains. Gus offers Walt $3 million for three months of work. "I have money," Walt says, declining. "What I don't have is my family." Walt, seriously jarred by the plane collision over Albuquerque and his separation from Skyler, refuses the offer by claiming he is not a criminal and wants to be done with the business ("No Más"). It is later learned that Gale Boetticher - the chemist who assembled Gus's superlab - assured Gus that Walt's meth is extremely pure, and thus Gus reconsidered and decided he wished to hire Walt.
Later, a car pulls up in front of the White Residence. Mike, surveilling the house, watches The Cousins step out of the car and, axe in hand, enter the house. Walt showers, unaware of the two men moving toward him. In his car, Mike makes a phone call. "There's something he should know about," he tells Victor, Gus' subordinate, who relays the message. The Cousins sit on Walt's bed, waiting for him to get out of the shower, but they receive a text message: "POLLOS." They thus leave the house, sparing Walt's life. Thus, Gus used his influence with the cartel to call off the hit on Walt ("Caballo Sin Nombre").
Gus meets with Juan Bolsa, a cartel boss, Don Hector "Tio" Salamanca, and the Cousins. Bolsa says that Walt betrayed Tuco Salamanca and the cartel holds him responsible for his death, and that Tuco's cousins want revenge: "Blood must be repaid by blood." Gus says that while he has no issues with their right to vengeance, he is presently in business with Walt and requests that they postpone vengeance until his business with Walt is concluded. Tio rings his bell furiously in response. Privately, Bolsa warns Gus to finish the business with Walt quickly, "Or you risk losing the good graces of the cartel." As for the Cousins, Bolsa can't guarantee they'll delay exacting revenge. ("I.F.T.").
Later, Mike meets Gus in a parking lot and reports that Walt is physically fine but mentally "a disaster," and unlikely to return voluntarily to meth cooking. Describing the scythe drawing, Mike asks, "Why not just tell him you're the only thing that stands between him and an axe in the head?" "I don't believe fear to be an effective motivator," Gus responds. Mike relays Saul's request for a meeting with Jesse. Gus reiterates his policy against dealing with junkies, but reconsiders upon learning that Walt and Jesse aren't getting along. "Do the deal," he says ("Green Light").
At Los Pollos, Walt chides Gus for pretending to collaborate with Jesse to get Walt cooking again, and dismisses Jesse's meth as mediocre. "The chemistry must be respected," Walt declares. Gus apologizes for being "so transparent," and invites Walt to take a drive with him. He has something he wants to show Walt. Gus drives Walt to an industrial laundry facility, where a huge washing machine conceals the entrance to a state-of-the-art superlab. "Your new lab," says Gus. Explaining that the facility receives large chemical shipments and boasts an excellent filtration system, Gus tells Walt no suspicions will be raised. Although very impressed by the high-tech apparatus of the lab, Walt declines Gus's offer, saying that he's already made too many bad decisions. If his decisions were made for his family's welfare, Gus counters, they were not bad. "A man provides," Gus says. "And he does it even when he's not appreciated, or respected, or even loved." ("Más").
Meanwhile, the Cousins enter Los Pollos. Gus watches as they sit down without ordering anything. Gus arrives at Los Pollos again and sees the Cousins. An employee, Cynthia, wonders if she should call the police, but Gus replies "they're doing nothing wrong." In the lab, Walt meets his new assistant, Gale Boetticher, a specialist in X-ray crystallography with a libertarian attitude regarding the use of drugs by consenting adults. Back at Los Pollos, Gus, frustrated with the lurking Cousins, approaches them and arranges an offsite meeting: "Sunset." At sunset, Gus and the Cousins meet in the desert. Walt may have betrayed Tuco, Gus reminds them, but someone else pulled the trigger. "The DEA is off-limits," says one Cousin. "As a show of respect," Gus replies, he will make an exception. "The agent's name is Hank Schrader. May his death satisfy you." ("Sunset").
Walt calls Gus to let him know that Gale isn't working out, and he wants to replace him with Jesse. "I was told the lab is mine," Walt reminds Gus, who begrudgingly approves Jesse's return. Later, Hank is in his SUV in a shopping center parking lot. His cell phone rings. "Two men are coming to kill you," says an electronically altered voice. "You have one minute." It is this warning that allows Hank to be prepared for the impending ambush and to attack the Cousins before they can attack him, eventually ending in Leonel's serious injury and Marco's death ("One Minute").
Over at Los Pollos, Gus takes a call from Juan Bolsa, who contends that the Cousins would never have shot Hank without approval. "Are you accusing me?" Gus asks, adding that he assumes the next meth shipment will be delayed. Bolsa concedes that it will be delayed indefinitely, then vows to learn the truth about the assassination plot from the surviving Cousin. In the hospital waiting room, a call from Gus interrupts Walt's conversation. Walt excuses himself. He lies about being "hard at work" and blames his inability to meet the week's meth quota on Gale's mistakes. He promises to deliver 400 pounds by next week ("I See You").
Shortly afterwards, Gus (as part of his image as a big DEA booster) goes to the hospital with a large buffet of Los Pollos Hermanos fried chicken for the police officers keeping vigil over Hank. In the waiting room, Walt watches Gus console Marie. "Men like your husband are the thin blue line between us and these animals," he says. ASAC George Merkert and the family thank Gus for offering a $10,000 reward for information about the shooting. Gus mentions how he met Agent Schrader earlier. Referring to the donation jar for Walt's surgery he saw at the DEA office, Gus tells Walt, "It was clear to me how deeply he cares for you." Walt walks Gus out. "You knew my brother-in-law was with the DEA," Walt whispers. Gus replies that he investigates everyone with whom he does business. Walt asks if Gus's presence is a message to him. Gus says that he is supporting his community, hiding in plain sight the same way Walt does ("I See You").
Walt tells Gus that he fears for his family. The businessman replies that the Cousin is unlikely to survive. "Now, thank me and shake my hand," Gus softly commands. As Gus departs, police race upstairs where medical staffers are attempting CPR on the flat-lining Cousin. Their resuscitation attempts fail and the Cousin dies. Amid the commotion, Mike slips away unnoticed, discarding a syringe as he leaves. Back at Los Pollos, Gus receives a call from Bolsa, who complains that pressure from the U.S. government has brought the Mexican Federales to his doorstep. "I think you're behind all this," says Bolsa, threatening to pay Gus a visit when things calm down. A sudden crash interrupts Bolsa. His bodyguards investigate and are brought down by gunfire. As Bolsa attempts to escape, he is met by a machine-gun-wielding assassin. Gus listens impassively as Bolsa is gunned down, then breaks his cell phone in two ("I See You").
As the methamphetamine production accelerates, Gus' method of distribution is revealed in the lab, Walt and Jesse hand off a batch of blue crystal meth, which ends up at Gus' chicken farm. Victor supervises workers as they submerge plastic bags of blue meth into tubs of fry batter with a star only visible under ultraviolet light for shipment across the Southwest with Los Pollos Hermanos truck ("Kafkaesque").
Walt, after calculating how much Gus stands to make off the deal - $96 million at wholesale price - drives to Gus's chicken farm to discuss "issues that could cause a misunderstanding between us." Walt speculates that he was the Cousins' primary target. They were steered to Hank to protect Walt. But "this person" protecting him, Walt continues, "was playing a much deeper game." He wanted to put heat on the cartel so that he could corner the entire Southwest meth market, Walt suggests. "I can't pretend I don't know that person is you," Walt concludes. "I owe you my life. And more than that, I respect the strategy." After expressing other concerns, Walt leaves with a $15 million-a-year deal and Gus's guarantee of the White family's safety ("Kafkaesque").
Gus surprises Walt with an invitation to his home for dinner. "We're working together," says Gus. "Why not break bread together?" Gus offers to help Walt avoid mistakes that he himself made starting out. His first piece of advice: "Never make the same mistake twice" ("Abiquiú").
Jesse is outraged that the dealers behind Combo's murder are selling blue meth, meaning they are dealers who work for Gus. He plots to have Wendy poison the dealers with burgers, but as Wendy and Jesse are in Jesse's car they notice that the dealers aren't in their regular spot. Mike and Victor take Jesse and Wendy by surprise and whisk Jesse away to Gus's factory farm. At the farm, Walt and Gus sit side by side. The rival dealers are also present at this ad hoc summit. Gus concedes that his employees may have "acted rashly" in murdering Combo, but that "the man was selling on their territory. There is blame on both sides." Jesse accuses Walt of ratting him out. "You have one friend in this room," dismisses Gus, adding that without Walt, "I would be dealing with this in a very different way" ("Half Measures").
Gus orders Jesse to make peace with the dealers. Jesse refuses. "They use kids," says Jesse. "You're supposed to be some kind of 'reasonable' businessman. This how you do business?" Incensed by Jesse's insolence, but committed to finding a resolution, Gus tells the dealers "No more children," and orders Jesse to shake their hands ("Half Measures"). Later, the child used by the dealers, named Tomás Cantillo, is found dead. Enraged, Jesse goes to the drug corner, picks up his gun and walks toward it. The dealers, also armed, notice Jesse and menacingly walk toward him. Just as Jesse draws his gun, Walt plows into the dealers with his car. One is killed instantly. The other, badly injured, reaches for his gun. Walt rushes over, grabs the gun, and shoots the dealer in the head. Walt then tells Jesse to "Run" ("Half Measures").
Following that night's events, Walt finds himself in his car in the desert. An SUV arrives. Mike phones and instructs Walt to walk toward it. Gus emerges from the SUV. "Some worthless junkie," he says. "For him, you intervene and put us all at risk." Jesse was angry, Walt explains, because Gus's dealers killed Tomás. "Are you asking me if I ordered the murder of a child?" asks Gus nearly shaking with fury. "I would never ask you that," Walt responds. Walt tells Gus that Jesse is on the run and suggests that Gus has two options: Kill Walt and search for Jesse or "consider this a lone hiccup in an otherwise long and fruitful business arrangement." Gus accedes, but insists on choosing Walt's new lab assistant. When he reports to the superlab, Walt is surprised to see that the locks have been changed (Victor has to let him in) and that Gale has been reinstated as his assistant ("Full Measure").
Later that night at a chemical supply warehouse, Mike effortlessly outmaneuvers four Mexican gunmen, slaying them all. At Gus's office, Mike and Gus examine the gunmen's passports. "It's cartel, all right," says Mike. "Probing for weakness," replies Gus. "What about Pinkman?" Gus asks. "I'm making inquiries," says Mike. Later, Gus surprises Gale at home and tells him Walt is dying of cancer. "I intend to keep Walter on as long as he wants," Gus assures Gale. Nevertheless, he continues, "I must prepare for the worst-case scenario." Gale estimates that mastering Walt's system would require "a few more cooks," but under Gus's stern gaze concedes that one more cook should be sufficient ("Full Measure").
Walter deduces Gus' true intentions: he knows that he is only safe until Gale feels confident enough to take over the lab. Gus can't afford to stop production, Walt reasons, which gives Walt the leverage he needs to save their lives. Without Gale, Gus would be forced to retain Walter as the only cook capable of producing the high-quality meth needed to sustain his operations. Thus, he plots with Jesse to kill Gale. That night, as Walt is leaving his house after dinner with his family, Victor pulls up and takes him to the industrial laundry on the premise that there is some kind of "chemical leaking" in his lab. Once there, Walt sees Mike and knows he's about to be killed. Walt is able to place a call to Jesse, explain his dire situation, and order to Jesse to follow through on the plan. Mike calls Gale to prevent the situation, but music and a noisy teakettle prevent Gale from hearing his phone vibrate. He answers a knock on his front door. It's Jesse. Jesse pulls out his gun. Gale begs for his life, but, his eyes tearing, Jesse fires the gun ("Full Measure").
At the lab where Walt and Mike are waiting, Victor returns with Jesse and it's clear that Gale is dead. Mike asks if Victor performed a sweep of Gale's apartment. Victor replies that he couldn't because people were there. When Mike asks if he was seen, he admits he was. Mike calls Gus on his cell phone shortly after he hears from Victor about Gale's death at the hands of Jesse ("Box Cutter").
In the lab, Walt explains the new reality to Mike and Victor: like it or not, he's the only one who can maintain the meth production schedule. In response, Victor switches on the equipment and begins the cook himself. Gus arrives and Walt immediately tries to defend his and Jesse's actions. Gus wordlessly changes into one of the lab's orange clean-up suits. As he becomes more nervous and agitated, Walt blames Gus for Gale's death: did Gus really think that Walt wouldn't take "extreme measures" to defend himself? Gus says nothing and Walt, panic mounting, taunts Victor with rapid-fire questions pertaining to the chemistry of the meth-making process. Without him and Jesse, says Walt, the lab is just "an eight million dollar hole in the ground" ("Box Cutter").
Gus picks up a box cutter and walks menacingly toward Walt and Jesse. "You kill me," says Walt, "you have nothing. You kill Jesse, you don't have me." Gus crosses to Victor and slices his throat from behind. The blood sprays on Jesse and Walt. Walt can't meet Gus' icy stare. Jesse locks eyes with Gus until, his face covered in blood, Gus pushes Victor's dead body to the floor. He walks past Walt and Jesse, dropping the box cutter. After washing up, Gus silently changes back into his street clothes. "Well?" he tells Walt and Jesse, calmly. "Get back to work." Jesse, Mike, and Walt are left to clean up the mess and dispose of the corpse ("Box Cutter").
Walt becomes quite worried that Gus will kill him, and purchases a gun. At the lab, Walt tucks his gun in his belt, waiting for Gus to arrive. When someone appears at the top of the stairs, he prepares to draw... only it's not Gus, but Victor's replacement Tyrus, here to pick up the latest batch. When Mike demands a second weighing ("new policy") Walt asks to see Gus to "clear the air." "You're never gonna see him again," Mike replies. Late that night, Walt approaches Gus's house, gun in hand, but loses his nerve when Gus calls telling him to "Go home, Walter." His every move is being watched ("Thirty-Eight Snub").
Later, Walt arrives at the superlab and hears the whirring sound of a surveillance camera tracking his every move: Gus is watching him. Furious, he flips the camera the bird ("Open House"). Mike huddles inside a Los Pollos Hermanos refrigerated truck as it travels down the highway. The truck stops, and Mike hunkers down as two gunmen blast the truck with machine guns. When they open the rear doors, Mike shoots them dead and jumps out. Meanwhile, Mike meets with Gus and explains that Jesse is becoming a liability. Walt may not like it, Mike continues, but something has to be done ("Bullet Points").
For reasons unknown to Mike, Gus has sent Jesse on a mission with Mike to pick up money drop offs. Mike makes the final pickup of the evening at another abandoned warehouse. While he's inside, a second vehicle arrives, and Jesse notices one of its occupants approaching Mike's car with a shotgun. Jesse, convinced Mike is about to be robbed, shifts into reverse, floors it, knocks the guy to the ground, and slams into the other car. Then he peels out in an attempt to lose the gunman and his cohort. Mike and Gus rendezvous outside Los Pollos Hermanos. Everything with Jesse went the way Gus planned, Mike reports. "The kid's a hero," he says. The gunman clearly was a plant, and Gus set it all up for Jesse's benefit. Meanwhile, Hank Schrader is curious when he finds a Los Pollos napkin in Gale's apartment with a serial number written on it in pen. Hank found this suspicious since Gale's apartment indicated he was a strict vegan ("Shotgun").
Reminiscent of earlier, Cartel thugs ambush another Los Pollos Hermanos refrigerated truck. This time they pump it full of exhaust. After the two guards traveling inside the shipment suffocate to death, the thugs enter the trailer -- but take only a single marked container of fry batter. At the diner that evening, Mike asks Jesse to step outside when Gus arrives. The cartel thugs weren't after the meth, Mike explains to Gus, but wanted to send a message. "Ready to talk?" Mike translates. Mike suggests hiring additional operatives and hitting back hard, but Gus responds, "This war stays cold for now," and instructs him to set up a meeting with the cartel. Outside the diner, Jesse stops Gus. He asks, "Why me?" He likes to think he sees things in people, Gus replies somewhat cryptically ("Cornered").
Walt and Jesse plot to murder Gus. In the superlab out of the security camera's view, Walt cooks a batch of ricin. Walt tells Jesse that he just needs to slip some into Gus's food or drink and Gus will die within 36 hours. Jesse conceals the slim ricin vial inside a cigarette that he returns to the pack upside-down. As part of his investigation, Walter, Jr. drives Hank to Los Pollos Hermanos, where Hank chats briefly with Gus, who recognizes him from his charity work at the DEA. Gus replenishes Hank's soda and offers to pay for any future meals at Los Pollos Hermanos. Hank later slips the cup into an evidence bag and stashes it under his seat in the car ("Problem Dog").
The next day, Mike and Jesse drive to Gus's factory farm. Inside the office trailer, Mike discusses security arrangements with Gus while Jesse makes coffee, his hands shaking as he holds his cigarette pack, trying to decide what to do. Mike startles Jesse by offering him a loaded gun. "Emergency only," Mike says. Three Cartel members arrive at the farm, fewer than Mike expected. Only one, Gaff (the lead assassin who hijacked the Los Pollos Hermanos truck earlier), meets with Gus. Speaking in Spanish, Gus offers the Cartel $50 million. "In return, our business is over," he says. Gaff replies that Gus knows what the Cartel wants. Is his answer yes or no? Gus seems to have made an error in judgment: "This is not a negotiation," Gaff says, bluntly. Outside moments later, Gaff and Gus stare each other down as the Cartel members depart. On the drive back to town, Jesse asks Mike what it is Gus sees in him. "Loyalty," Mike replies. "Only, maybe you got it for the wrong guy" ("Problem Dog").
Hank meets with Steven Gomez and ASAC Merkert, theorizing that a vegan like Gale wouldn't eat at a chicken restaurant, and further that he'd only go to Los Pollos Hermanos for a meeting, perhaps with Gus. Hank, questioning Gus's supposed affinity for law enforcement, says "Maybe he's our guy." Merkert suggests that Hank is "really reaching." Hank concedes that he thought so too at first. But one thing troubles him, says Hank, pausing for effect as he reveals photographs of a fingerprint on a Los Pollos soda cup and prints from the crime scene. "What are Gustavo Fring's fingerprints doing in Gale Boetticher's apartment?" Hank asks ("Problem Dog").
In flashback, Tio seethes silently in a nursing home as Gus almost victoriously describes the Cousins' deaths, and the cryptic warning Hank received before the attack. Cartel boss Juan Bolsa is also dead, Gus reports. "This is what comes," says Gus, repeating Bolsa's own phrase, "of 'blood for blood.'" In the present, The APD and DEA summon Gus to APD headquarters, where he notices a Person-of-Interest sketch of Victor on a bulletin board. Hank, APD Detective Tim Roberts, Steve Gomez, and ASAC Merkert then greet Gus. Tim reveals that Gus's fingerprints were found at a murder scene. "Gale Boetticher's apartment?" Gus offers. Gale, he explains, won a chemistry scholarship that Gus established to honor Maximino Arciniega, a dear friend of his who died too young. Gale reestablished contact recently, and over dinner at Gale's apartment (thus explaining Gus's fingerprints) he proposed a "vague investment opportunity" that Gus declined ("Hermanos").
Hank then wonders why no record of Gus exists in Chile. The Pinochet dictatorship kept "notoriously unreliable" records, Gus replies, assuring Hank that he'll locate documentation eventually. After Gus departs, Hank and his colleagues discuss their impressions. Hank's colleagues are convinced by the scholarship story, believing his alibi to be unquestionable and that nothing legal can incriminate. It's good, Hank admits, though he wonders why a supposed law-enforcement booster didn't come forward sooner with information about a murder case. Clearly, he's not satisfied. Outside, Gus can be seen twitching his index finger and his thumb, rather tensely (For Gus, this is a huge display of tension and nervousness.) ("Hermanos")
Since Hank is now suspicious of Gus, he convinces a reluctant Walt to put a GPS tracker in the wheel-well of Gus's 1998 Volvo V70 in the Los Pollos Hermanos parking lot. While Hank gives Walt installation instructions, Mike pulls up beside Walt's car and stares him down. Walt, panicking, tries to dissuade Hank. "This is a mistake," says Walt. "Jesus, don't make me beg," Hank replies. Walt approaches the Volvo and drops to his knee, but doesn't plant the device. He then proceeds into Los Pollos Hermanos, where Gus greets him. "I didn't do it," says Walt, flashing the GPS device. "Do it," says Gus, evenly. Walt returns to the parking lot and this time plants the GPS tracker. Back at the superlab, Walt rushes to the security camera and addresses Gus, pleading his innocence. Hank has no hard evidence and his colleagues don't buy his theory, Walt says, begging Gus not to harm Hank ("Hermanos").
Mike calls Gus the next day and reports that neither the police nor the DEA considers him a suspect. Hank is operating solo. "What about Chile?" asks Gus. Mike can't find anything about Gus there, so Hank probably won't either. A more serious concern, says Mike, is what would happen if Hank witnesses the Cartel moving against Gus. Gus removes the GPS tracker from his car and stows it on a nearby newspaper dispenser before he drives to the nursing home, where he informs Tio that he has defied the Cartel's ultimatum and that Hank is looking into Gus's past. "Is today the day, Hector?" Gus asks Tio cryptically. After a flashback to when Tio murdered Gus's friend Max when they pitched their meth to the cartel boss Don Eladio, Gus leans in close to Tio. "Look at me, Hector," he commands, but Tio stubbornly refuses. "Maybe next time," taunts Gus, leaving Tio to silently rage in his chair ("Hermanos").
Later, Hank and Walter return to a Pollos Hermanos to retrieve their tracking device. Hank plugs the tracker into his PC, but is disappointed with the results. Apparently, Gus only drove between work and home the entire week. He does discover, however, that all of Gus' restaurant establishments have a common base of operations.
Aware of Hank's recent findings, Walt alerts Gus. That same day, Jesse helps Mike clean up any potentially incriminating evidence at the facility. As they are loading a truck outside, one of the workers is shot through the head by a hidden sniper. The crosshairs of the sniper's gun move over to Jesse next, but he is saved at the last second by Mike. Gus hears the shots and emerges from his office, stepping directly into the line of fire. Mike yells at Gus to get down, which Gus ignores.
The gunman continues to fire at Gus' feet, and it becomes clear that he is intentionally missing him. The sniper, a man named Gaff who Gus had met with previously, stops firing since it is evident that Gus understands the message. Gus later phones the Cartel from his office, announcing he will capitulate to the Cartel's demands.
Jesse makes noise to Mike about the shooting death of his co-worker and walking into bullets superman routine, demanding answers from Gus. He prompts Mike to set up a meeting, but Mike replies, "you got questions? Ask him yourself." Gus invites Jesse to a dinner meeting, and Jesse shows up with the ricin, wondering if he should poison Gus or not. Anxious from the cartel attack, Jesse wants to know what is to become of him and Walt. Gus asks Jesse whether he can cook Walt's formula without help. Angered at the idea of Gus killing off Walt, Jesse insists that he will no longer cook if anything happens to his one-time partner. Gus explains that conditions with the Mexican Cartel have become intolerable and he only wishes to avert an all out war. He asks again, " Can you cook solo?"
Gus eventually takes Jesse to Mexico, to the place where his former partner was killed. Jesse is his answer to the cartel's demand. He will offer Pinkman as his olive branch, to teach them how to cook blue meth themselves.
He watches proudly as Jesse cooks a 96% pure meth in the cartel lab, proving he is indeed the cook for the job. In celebration, the cartel bosses take Jesse, Gus and Mike to a familiar location: Don Eladio's estate. Gus stares at the pool and swallows a hidden gel capsule as Eladio emerges with his captains.
Gus offers Eladio his favorite brand of tequila as a peace offering, and the ever-cautious Don makes sure Gus takes a shot before drinking any himself, along with his captains. As the party begins to rage, Gus excuses himself to go to the bathroom. Once inside, he lays a towel down and discreetly vomits into the toilet.
As Gus emerges from the bathroom several cartel members have already begun to fall to the ground. The tequila had been poisoned with a fast acting, lethal toxin. The capsule consumed by Gus delays the effect of the poison allowing him time to purge, narrowly avoiding death. As a weakened Gus walks into his view, Eladio's face contorts with rage and he falls into the pool, dead. Gustavo Fring's twenty-year plan for revenge finally comes to fruition ("Salud").
Making their escape after killing Don Eladio and the Cartel's leadership, Jesse drives a weakened Gus and a wounded Mike to a makeshift emergency room Gus had prepared. Gus recovers quickly but Mike has to stay another week before he can move, so he is left behind. Jesse is told that he will take over cooking meth for Walter, but Jesse says Walter must not be harmed. Gus later visits Hector to tell him that all of the Cartel's leaders are dead, and that the henchman Jesse shot during the escape was Joaquin Salamanca, Hector's grandson, and the last of Hector's relatives ("Crawl Space").
Later, Walter is suddenly tased by Tyrus Kitt and brought to the desert where Gus confronts him. Gus tells Walter to stay away from Jesse, and that although he cannot kill Walter due to Jesse's continuing loyalty to him, he asserts that Jesse will inevitably relinquish that loyalty and side with Gus, effectively eliminating what little protection Walter still enjoys. Gus also says that Walter has failed to stop Hank's investigation so Hank will need to be killed, and if Walter interferes, Gus will kill Walter's entire family ("Crawl Space").
In his plot to kill Gus, Walt goes to the retirement home Casa Tranquila to see Hector Salamanca, and points out that as much as Salamanca hates Walt (for having caused Tuco's death), Salamanca hates Gus more. Walt convinces Salamanca to participate in a scheme that would kill both Gus and Salamanca (who has no family left and is presumably close to death anyway, so it is a sacrifice worth making). Hector Salamanca visits the DEA (this is part of Walter and Salamanca's trap for Gus). Tyrus sees this and notifies Gus. Hector must be killed, and Gus is adamant that he will kill Salamanca himself. After Hector is returned to the nursing home, Tyrus enters and sweeps the place for bugs and cameras in case Hector is now an informant for the DEA. Walt waits outside the window for Tyrus to complete the sweep. When Tyrus leaves to tell Gus it is clear, Walt presumably uses this time to plant a bomb under Hector's wheelchair.
When Gus arrives at Casa Tranquila, he insults Hector for talking to the DEA. Tyrus prepares a syringe and hands it to Gus. As Gus brings the needle closer to Hector's arm, Hector shows a moment of fear and finally looks at Gus, something Gus has been asking for at his previous visits. Gus is surprised by the eye contact but will still inject Hector. Hector then musters up an expression of pure wrath.
Hector begins furiously ringing his bell and gradually Gus realizes that it is rigged to the bomb. Gus jumps up to escape, but is a moment too late as the bomb goes off. Gus then walks out of the room, pauses, and straightens his tie with dignity. The entire right side of his face has been blown off, exposing his skull and part of his brain. He then collapses to the flooring, dead.
Although Gus is now dead, he is mentioned several times in Season 5. Walt, Jesse, and Mike spend much of their time trying to clean up the loose ends that would lead the police - now investigating Gus's drug empire - back to them. In particular, they insist on tackling the problem posed by Gus's surveillance footage; Mike discloses that the feed went to Gus's laptop computer in his office at Los Pollos Hermanos. Meanwhile, Hank, having found the surveillance camera in the burned-out superlab, has seized the laptop as evidence.
Mike, Walt and Jesse brainstorm several ways to break into the evidence room to steal the laptop, none of them viable. Jesse suggests a high-powered magnet, to wipe clean the hard drive on Gus' laptop.
Despite Mike's reservations, the trio manage to acquire a truck fitted with an industrial electromagnet from junkyard owner Old Joe and drive it to the APD facility where the evidence is kept. Once activated, the magnet destroys the evidence room, and presumably the information on Gus's laptop. It is so strong, as Walter cranks it "to eleven", that it tips their truck over and they must flee on foot. Later, during an inventory of the evidence room, the police discover a slip of paper with details of a Cayman Islands bank account hidden in a framed picture from Gus's office ("Live Free or Die").
Later, Madrigal executive Lydia Rodarte-Quayle meets with Mike and asks him to kill eleven men from Gus' operation in order to tie any loose ends. Mike refuses because Gus paid them enough "Hazard Pay" to keep quiet; however, when he is called in to meet with Hank and Gomez, Mike learns that the authorities have discovered and frozen Gus's Cayman Islands accounts, using the RICO act to halt and seize payments to Gus' subordinates, including Mike, who had $2 million that he was planning on leaving behind for his granddaughter, Kaylee ("Madrigal").
Personality and traits
- "Gus is an empire-builder and a great inspiration and motivation to Walter White - whether Walt would admit it or not."
- ―Vince Gilligan
A defining characteristic of Gus is the friendly and low-key exterior he maintains; he takes an active role in managing his front businesses and personally supervises employees and serves customers at his Los Pollos Hermanos restaurants. Quiet and humble, he is incredibly cautious about with whom he does business and keeps a very healthy distance from the product he sells in order to appear almost invisible. Despite being a sociopath and a multi-state meth distribution mastermind, Gus carefully maintains a public profile of propriety: noticeably, he is a major booster for the DEA and has made large donations to the agency's Albuquerque office. Gus is so successful, in large part, because of his cautious nature - he plans ahead and has the patience to let his business grow slowly. As part of his scheme to "hide in plain sight", he drives a modest dark blue 1998 Volvo V70 (Hank even laughs to Walt when he begins to think Gus is a drug kingpin, "The guy drives a ten-year old Volvo! It's brilliant!").
However, Gus is ruthless and machiavellian in managing his vast drug empire, keeping the entire operation under his icy control. Gus admires professionalism and caution in his colleagues, and is generally calm and calculated. He employs a number of enforcers and has personally killed rivals and associates. In interviews, Giancarlo Esposito said he made the choice to make Gus "graceful." He described him as "someone who is poised to take over the cartel, someone who is poised to manipulate other people into doing what he needs them to do." Gustavo doesn't trust anyone who isn't as cautious as he is, as they are too unpredictable, and he prides himself on being several steps ahead at all times. Gus is thus controlled, cold, powerful, and menacing.
However, Gus has been shown to genuinely care about people, noticeably Max Arciniega (the other "hermano" of the Los Pollos Hermanos brand name), who Gus took off the streets of Santiago, put through school, cared for and was interested in developing his potential. The humanity of Gus' personality played an integral role in his development, especially the very deep relationship with Max, which has been interpreted by some viewers – and even Giancarlo Esposito himself – as possibly homosexual. The loss of Max is partially what turned Gus into a ruthless villain, who is not above anything when it comes to avenging Max's death, including the murder of children (like Tomas Cantillo) and the gradual killing of Hector Salamanca's entire family. However, the loss of Max is also what cultivated Gus' desire to create a new "family" by empowering his illicit meth empire, as well as the chicken restaurants. Vince Gilligan has stated that he decided against the show officially confirming or denying whether or not Max and Gus were, in fact, lovers; however, he also said that they "probably were lovers."
Initially, Giancarlo Esposito was offered to play a character that was described to him as "very admirable, very polite", and he decided to play that character as if he had "some kind of a secret". Without knowing what that secret was, Esposito understood the potential Gus had as a growing character, therefore rejecting offers for guest appearances and insisting on becoming a series regular. In order to achieve Gus' trademark calmness, Esposito utilized yoga classes he had been taking regardless of the series, which allowed him to convey the character by "being a good listener".
There is a fair amount of information that is unknown about Gus's past. Gus left Chile in 1986, the same year in which the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front attempted to assassinate Pinochet. Although there are no existing Chilean records of Gus, there are two instances which demonstrate his likely involvement in the Pinochet government: Hector Salamanca refers to Gus as "Grand Generalissimo" in a flashback, and Don Eladio tells Gus that he is "not in Chile anymore", but spares his life because he knows who Gus really is. A possible interpretation of Don Eladio's line is that they spare Gus because killing him could put them at risk of being subject to retaliation that their association with the cartel cannot protect them from. Gus appears to be quite proud of his Chilean roots, even preparing Paila Marina, a traditional Chilean seafood dish, for both Walt and Jesse. He tells Walt, "It's just like my mother used to make it."
Gus is also a man of honor as he reimburses any damages done to the property of his employees such as their cars when performing duties he requires them to.
Murders committed by Gus
- Victor: Sliced his throat with a box-cutter. ("Box Cutter")
- Don Eladio Vuente: Poisoned with tainted glass of Zafiro Añejo tequila. ("Salud")
- Benicio Fuentes: Poisoned with tainted glass of Zafiro Añejo tequila. ("Salud")
- Miguel: Poisoned with tainted glass of Zafiro Añejo tequila. ("Salud")
- Don Paco: Poisoned with tainted glass of Zafiro Añejo tequila. ("Salud")
- Don Cesar: Poisoned with tainted glass of Zafiro Añejo tequila. ("Salud")
- Don Renaldo: Poisoned with tainted glass of Zafiro Añejo tequila. ("Salud")
- Don Artuno: Poisoned with tainted glass of Zafiro Añejo tequila. ("Salud")
- Don Cisco: Poisoned with tainted glass of Zafiro Añejo tequila. ("Salud")
- Don Luis: Poisoned with tainted glass of Zafiro Añejo tequila. ("Salud")
- Don Escalada: Poisoned with tainted glass of Zafiro Añejo tequila. ("Salud")
- Two Juarez Cartel Capos: Poisoned with tainted glass of Zafiro Añejo tequila. ("Salud")
Murders connected to Gus
- Marco Salamanca: Shot by Hank Schrader through circumstances orchestrated by Gus. ("One Minute")
- Leonel Salamanca: Poisoned by Mike Ehrmantraut on Gus' orders. ("I See You")
- Juan Bolsa: Shot by Mexican federales through circumstances orchestrated by Gus. ("I See You")
- Juan Bolsa's Two Bodyguards: Shot by Mexican federales through circumstances orchestrated by Gus. ("I See You")
- Tomás Cantillo: Shot by two drug dealers on Gus' orders (very likely). ("Half Measures")
- Four Cartel Assassins: Shot by Mike on Gus' orders. ("Full Measure")
- Two Cartel Assassins: Shot by Mike to protect Gus' cargo. ("Bullet Points")
- Gaff: Garroted by Mike on Gus' orders. ("Salud")
- Joaquin Salamanca: Shot multiple times by Jesse Pinkman to protect Gus. ("Salud")
- "I don't think we're alike at all, Mr. White. You're not a cautious man at all. Your partner was late. And he was high."
- ―Gus Fring to Walter White
- "You are a wealthy man now. One must learn to be rich. To be poor, anyone can manage."
- ―Gustavo Fring to Walter White
- "My brother-in-law, moments before he was attacked, someone called to warn him. I believe that same person was protecting me. Those two men - the assassins - I believe I was their prime target, but that somehow they were steered away from me to my brother-in-law [...] He made that phone call because he wanted a shootout, not a silent assassination. In one stroke, he bloodied both sides, set the American and Mexican governments against the cartel, and cut off the supply of methamphetamine to the Southwest. If this man had his own source of product on this side of the border, he would have the market to himself. The rewards would be enormous. We're both adults. I can't pretend I don't know that person is you. I want there to be no confusion. I know I owe you my life, and more than that, I respect the strategy. In your position, I would have done the same."
- ―Walter White to Gustavo Fring
- "If you try to interfere, this becomes a much simpler matter. I will kill your wife. I will kill your son. I will kill your infant daughter."
- ―Gustavo Fring threatening Walter in the desert
- Gus' blood type is O-.
- It is implied that Gus and Max's relationship may have been a romantic one; Esposito himself interpreted their relationship as such. Vince Gilligan decided against confirming or denying if that was the case, but has stated they "Probably were lovers."
- In Breaking Bad, Gus never meets Saul Goodman and Todd Alquist. Gus is never seen on screen with Lydia Rodarte-Quayle but it is clear that they did know each other.
- In Better Call Saul, Gus never meets Kim Wexler, Howard Hamlin and Chuck McGill. Years prior to Walter White's meth operation, Gus met Saul Goodman as seen in "Witness" and Lydia as seen in "Off Brand".
- Gus is the first main character to die and the only one who isn't in season 5.
- Gus reverts to his Chilean accent when he is angry.
- Giancarlo Esposito, Frings actor, portrays a similar character to Fring, in the video game, Payday 2, known as the Dentist, who, like Fring, puts up a facade of an upstanding citizen and legitmate business person, who is deeply involved in illicit activites, in Fring's case the Methamphetamine trade, in the Dentist's robbery.
- Gus takes the "left hand path" literally when on his way to Casa Tranquilla to kill Hector Salamanca. There is two little rocky ways on the round space in the middle of the way that's a sort of decorative landscape with grass and rocks and 2 paths facing him to "keep off the grass" and he walks on the left one,a fitting metaphor for Gus.