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"Kafkaesque" is the ninth episode of the third season of Breaking Bad and the twenty-ninth episode altogether.

Teaser

A Los Pollos Hermanos commercial extols the chain's (apocryphal) history and the secret to its signature chicken. The commercial transitions (via a never-ending trail of sparkling blue crystals) to Walt and Jesse Pinkman at the superlab, handing off a shipment of blue sky, which ends up at Gustavo Fring's chicken farm. Victor supervises workers as they submerge plastic bags of the blue meth into specially UV-marked tubs of fry batter for shipment across the Southwest. As the trucks[1][2] are loaded up and begin heading exiting the facility, Gus' silhouette can be seen as he oversees the entire operation.

Summary

Jesse and Walt cook a batch that yields slightly more than required. Jesse wants to save the extra product for the next batch, but Walt insists they send it to Gus. Jesse grumbles that he's crunched the numbers and Gus will gross $96 million to their measly $3 million. "That is messed up, yo," he contends. Walter can't believe his grumbling, and replies that he should be happy to be a millionaire.

Steven Gomez visits Hank Schrader at the hospital and shows his partner a map detailing the blue meth's reappearance. "You're the only one who saw this coming," says Gomez, but Hank doesn't take much comfort from the news; he's in too much pain. Skyler White watches Walt absorb this - and Hank's revelation that he received a call warning him of the Cousins' impending attack, which is the only reason he survived.

Later in the parking lot, Walt tries to tell Skyler he had nothing to do with Hank's shooting. "Are we safe?" Skyler interrupts. Walt assures her they are.

Kafkaesque-3

Jesse at a group therapy session

At a group therapy meeting, Jesse describes his new workplace as a boring corporate laundromat. "My boss is a dick," Jesse complains, adding that he's "not worthy" to meet the owner, "a super dick" whom everyone fears. "Sounds kind of Kafkaesque," responds the group leader. "Totally Kafkaesque," agrees a clueless Jesse.

Back at the hospital, a doctor tests for feeling in Hank's legs, noting that nerve function appears to be returning. "So when do we get him walking again?" asks Marie Schrader.

Pulling Marie and Skyler aside, the doctor warns that the odds are against a full recovery for Hank. A hospital staffer refers to insurance delays and alludes to policy limitations, but advises Marie not to go out of plan or she could land up bankrupted.

"If Hank had more physical therapy with better therapists, wouldn't it be more likely he would walk?" objects Marie. The plan's coverage is medically justifiable, if not optimal, replies the doctor. "Screw it," says Marie. She'll arrange care herself.

Kafkaesque-1

Saul explains money laundering to a skeptical Jesse

Saul Goodman shows off the Zen Nail Spa to Jesse, who is not impressed. "Don't you get it?" Saul asks. "It's the best money laundry a growing boy could ask for." The IRS, not the police, got Capone, so they can get you, Saul points out. Jesse, already reluctant to play by the rules and pay taxes, ends the conversation after Saul declines to extend him Walt's 5% fee structure, (insisting on 17% for him.)

Kafkaesque-2

Walt and Gus discuss business in the chicken farm office

Walt 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 instead to protect Walt. But "this person" protecting him, Walt continues, "was playing a much deeper game." He wanted to put heat on the cartel, affect their supply, 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'm aware I owe you my life. But more than that, I respect the strategy." After expressing other concerns, Walt leaves with a $15 million-a-year open-end deal and Gus's guarantee of the White family's safety.

On the ride home, feeling empowered and reckless, Walt floors the Aztek's gas pedal and falling somewhat into a trance, closes his eyes. He opens them, startled by honking, only just in time to avoid colliding with a semi-trailer.

At another group meeting, Jesse recounts being inspired by a high school woodworking teacher. At first, Jesse slacked off on the class assignment, but when chastised with not being able to do any better, he eventually painstakingly created an intricate box, after repeated tries. When asked what he did with it, Jesse says he gave it to his mom. When the group leader suggests "it's never too late", that Jesse should take art classes, Jesse interrupts... "I didn't give the box to my mom," he admits. "I traded it for an ounce of weed."

At the White home, Marie and Skyler discuss Hank's medical bills until Ted Beneke surprises Skyler with a visit. "I care about you," he tells Skyler, who asks him to leave. "Is there some reason for secrecy I'm not getting?" he asks, "We're both divorced, so... ." "Are you really gonna make me do this right now?" Skyler responds. Ted departs, telling her to take as much time as she needs.

Kafkaesque-4

Jesse, Badger, and Skinny Pete at the diner

Jesse, at a deli with Badger and Skinny Pete, reminisces about being able to cook "anytime, anywhere" when in the RV - and not having people boss him around. "What's the point of being an outlaw when you got responsibilities?" he complains. Jesse proposes they sling again, hinting about a new market to tap - "All we need is the product," he adds with a plan in mind. Back at the lab, Jesse underreports a batch's weight when it's a couple of pounds over.

Badger and Skinny Pete accompany Jesse to his next group meeting. Heads bowed, they confess to relapsing because of the potent "blue stuff" that's about - "I hear it's back in town," Skinny Pete adds. Jesse hides a smile, as the rest of the group attempt to fight back eager temptation. 

Kafkaesque-5

Skyler offers financial help to Marie and Hank as a stunned Walt listens in

Marie, at the hospital with Walt and Skyler, threatens to take Hank's story to the TV networks if he doesn't receive top-grade therapy. "He is a hero, and he's not going to be stuck in a wheelchair at forty-three," she says.

"Walt, we can always pay their bills," proposes Skyler, as Walt attempts to signal it's not a good idea. She continues and spins a tale about her husband, when faced with death and the prospect of leaving nothing behind, developing a blackjack card counting system and winning big in illegal back room games. Marie, flabbergasted, attempts to wrap her head around this new admission. "Marie, let us help," Walt confirms - utterly amazed at his wife's story-spinning abilities.

"How did you come up with that?" Walt later asks Skyler of her surprising and impressive lies. "I learned from the best," she replies. "Something tells me that Hank is here because of you," Skyler continues. "And I'm not forgetting that." She walks out, leaving a, for a brief moment optimistic, Walt once again crestfallen.

Credits

Main Cast

Guest Starring

Co-Starring

Uncredited

  • Phil Arnold as Restaurant Patron
  • Laina Loucks as Rehab Group Girl

Trivia

  • Kaf·ka·esque adj. 1. Of or relating to Franz Kafka or his writings. 2. Having a nightmarishly complex, bizarre or illogical quality 3. Marked by surreal distortion and often a sense of impending danger.
  • During the opening montage sequence featuring Walt and Jesse's meth being smuggled through Pollos Hermanos, the song used is a variation of the "Bolivia Theme" from the Scarface soundtrack. It is featured in the scene when Tony Montana travels to South America to meet the drug kingpin, Sosa.
  • Mark Harelik, who plays a Doctor in this episode, is another Seinfeld alum (like Bryan Cranston, Anna Gunn, and Bob Odenkirk). In the episode "The Comeback," Harelik plays Milosh, a tennis pro-shop worker.
  • While preparing the Chilean dish together for Gus and Walt's dinner, a sliced orange pepper is seen on the cutting board, just like the orange pepper that is sliced in the opening of the Los Pollos Hermanos commercial that is the teaser at the beginning of this same episode.
  • This is not the first Bryan Cranston series to feature the word "Kafkaesque": in Malcolm in the Middle's "Krelboyne Picnic" episode, Reese picks on a young nerd named Eraserhead only to find himself menaced by his target's identically-dressed and much older brother, to which Eraserhead says "Kafkaesque, isn't it?"
  • In reality Gus will gross 104 million in three months. Jesse forgot to account that there are 13 weeks in three months and did his calculation for only 12 weeks.
  • The prospect of Jesse woodworking is brought back in the series finale.

Memorable Quotes

"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

Jesse: "I took this Vo-Tech class in high school–woodworking. I took a lot of Vo-Tech classes, because it was just a big jerk-off. But this one time, I had this teacher by the name of Mr. Pike. I guess he was like a Marine or something before he got old. He was hard of hearing. My project for his class was to make this wooden box. You know, like a small… just like a…like a box, you know, to put stuff in. So I wanted to get the thing done as fast as possible. I figured I could cut classes for the rest of the semester and he couldn’t flunk me as long as I–you know–made the thing. So I finished it in a couple days. And it looked pretty lame, but it worked you know, for putting stuff in or whatnot. So when I showed it to Mr. Pike for my grade, he looked at it and said: “Is that the best you can do?” At first I thought to myself, “Hell yeah, bitch. Now give me a D and shut up so I can go blaze one with my boys.” I don’t know. Maybe it was the way he said it, but it was like he wasn’t exactly saying it sucked. He was just asking me honestly, “Is that all you got?” And for some reason, I thought to myself: “Yeah, man, I can do better,” so I started from scratch. I made another, then another. And by the end of the semester, by like box number five I had built this thing. You should have seen it. It was insane. I built it out of Peruvian walnut with inlaid zebrawood. It was fitted with pegs, no screws. I sanded it for days until it was smooth as glass. Then I rubbed all the wood with tung oil so it was rich and dark. It even smelled good. You know, you put nose in it and breathed in, it was–it was perfect."
Counselor: "What happened to the box?"
Jesse: "I gave it to my mom."
Counselor: "Nice. You know what I’m going to say, don’t you? It’s never too late. They have art co-ops that offer classes adult extension program at the university."
Jesse: "You know–I didn’t give the box to my mom. I traded it for an ounce of weed."
—Jesse at his NA group meeting.

Jesse: "What's the point of being an outlaw when you got responsibilities?"
Badger: "Darth Vader had responsibilities. He was responsible for the Death Star."
Skinny Pete: "True that. Two of them bitches."
— Jesse, Badger and Skinny Pete having a conversation.

Featured Music

  • "Veneno" by Chuy Flores (during the opening montage)
  • "Bossa for Laura" by Jimmy Dunn Band (in the background at the nail salon)
  • "New Song" by Howard Jones (when Jesse meets Badger & Skinny Pete in a diner)
  • "Mr. Money Man" by Rod Taylor (playing in Jesse's earphones in the lab)

Notes

  1. Freightliner Business Class M2 106
  2. International DuraStar

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