Leonel and Marco Salamanca (commonly known as "The Cousins") were twin brothers and hitmen for the Juárez Cartel, a Mexican drug cartel. Despite an austere, mechanical physicality and virtually non-verbal interaction, they were a fearsome presence who killed without hesitation or emotion.
They were nephews of Hector Salamanca, who taught them early on that family is everything - proving so by nearly drowning one until the other fought back against him. They were typically dressed in well-cut sharkskin suits and distinctive cowboy boots tipped with silver skulls, and appeared to worship the Mexican deity of death Santa Muerte, making offerings to a shrine when undertaking an assassination. They were the main antagonists for the first half of Season 3.
The Cousins are briefly mentioned in Season 2, when Tuco Salamanca kidnaps Walter White and Jesse Pinkman following a police crackdown on his operations. His plan was to take Walt across the border to cook for him full-time, mentioning that his cousins would be arriving to help them across ("Grilled").
The Cousins are first seen in the opening scene of Season 3 as they arrive in an expensive Mercedes at a small village in the Mexican desert where they find men and women crawling on their bellies up a dusty, adobe-lined desert road. The Cousins join them, leading up to a path toward a candlelit shrine to Santa Muerte. The two men rise to their feet. One makes an offering; the other pins something to the shrine: a sketch of "Heisenberg" ("No Más").
After crossing the border into the States (and killing every single person in the truck they were crossing over with), they track down their uncle in a nursing home. Retrieving a Ouija board from a pile of board games, they help the uncle use his bell to spell out one name: WALTER WHITE. The pair soon after show up at Walt's house with an axe where, coincidentally, after living away for two weeks, Walt had returned and broken into his own home. The Cousins let themselves in while Walt is, unsuspectingly, taking a shower. They enter his room and sit on his bed, but before they can take any action, one of them receives a text message that reads: "POLLOS." The two exchange a look, and once Walt exits the shower, his room is empty ("Caballo Sin Nombre").
The Cousins set up a meeting with Gustavo Fring through Juan Bolsa, who speaks on their behalf and that of Tio, who turns was at one time "Don" Salamanca. Bolsa explains that their cousin, Tuco, was betrayed by Walter and they have a family right to execute him, a claim backed by the entire cartel. Gus, who controls all of the drug trafficking north of the border into New Mexico, tells them that they cannot kill Walt as he is still valuable to his business. Gus, however, says that they may kill him whenever he is finished with Walt ("I.F.T.").
A few days later - after killing an old woman for her house and a tribal police officer who investigated her disappearance - the Cousins become impatient and visit Gus at Los Pollos, sitting silently in a booth for the duration of the restaurant's hours. After they return again the next day, Gus grows tired of their intimidation tactics and sets up a meeting with them in the desert.
There, he questions why they want to kill Walter so badly, noting that although he may have "betrayed" their cousin, he wasn't the one who murdered him. Marco says that the man who killed Tuco is a DEA agent and Juan Bolsa strictly forbids them from targeting any law enforcement. Gus tells them that it is he who controls the territory north of the border, not Bolsa, so it should be his decision to make. He gives them the name of the DEA agent in question, Hank Schrader, and tells them that he hopes his death may satisfy them ("Sunset").
After placing Hank's picture on a makeshift Santa Muerte shrine, the Cousins purchase Kevlar vests from an arms dealer and track Hank down to a store parking lot. Hank, who earlier in the day was suspended, is unarmed when he receives a mysterious phone call. The voice on the other end, distorted by a modifier, warns Hank that he has one minute before the Cousins arrive to kill him. Seeing Leonel shooting at him in the rear, he backs his car up rapidly, pinning Leonel against another car forcefully and crushing his legs. Marco opens fire on Hank and forces him to run, then frees his brother Leonel who whispers, "Finish him."
Marco pursues Hank, killing a passerby in the parking lot, and after absorbing several rounds in his Kevlar vest, shoots Hank twice in the chest. As he prepared to execute the seemingly helpless Hank, he decides that it is "too easy" and goes back to the car to retrieve their signature axe. Returning with it, he prepares to swing, but Hank manages to grab a hollow-point round that Marco dropped from his pocket and loads it into Leonel's gun. The hollow-point blows out the back of Marco's head, killing him instantly ("One Minute").
After the shooting, both Hank and Leonel are taken to the hospital. While Hank is in surgery and in critical condition, Leonel is conscious fairly early, although both of his legs are amputated as a result of Hank's attack. After seeing Walt amongst a group of Albuquerque police officers, he rips off his IV lines and monitors and attempts to crawl to the door, trailing blood from his stumps until he is restrained. He later dies after going into cardiac arrest. As Mike Ehrmantraut is seen exiting soon after this (disposing of a hypodermic needle on his way out), it is implied that he gives Leonel a fatal injection under orders from Gus to prevent him from revealing to Bolsa that it was Gus who sanctioned the hit on Hank ("I See You").
Murders commited by The Cousins
- Tortuga: Decapitated on Juan Bolsa's orders.
- DEA Field Agent: Blown to pieces by a bomb strapped to a tortoise.
- Olive Oil: Shot to death after recognizing the Cousins.
- 10 Mexican Stowaways: All shot in the back of the truck.
- Unnamed Coyote Driver: Shot in the back by Leonel while trying to escape.
- Mrs. Peyketewa: Killed in an unknown way.
- Bobby Kee: Struck in the back with an axe by Marco.
- Unnamed Man: Shot to death by Marco.
- Juan: "Don Salamanca had a nephew named Tuco."
- Gus: "Yes, I knew of him."
- Juan: "Then perhaps you know Don Salamanca mentored him in the business. Thought of Tuco as a son. When Don Salamanca was no longer able, Tuco took over for his uncle. He was a key man in our organization north of the border. He was loyal. This "Heisenberg" he was one of Tuco's local suppliers. Until he betrayed Tuco. So now you see...blood must be repaid by blood. Tuco's cousins here...they have the right to exact vengeance. The Salamanca family, the cartel...everyone stands shoulder to shoulder on this."
- —Juan Bolsa explaining the situation to Gustavo Fring.[src]
- Gus: "I told you before. You will not kill Walter White. Not until my business with him is concluded."
- Marco: "We've waited long enough. We won't wait any longer."
- Gus: "You'll have to. The decision is not yours to make. Explain to me...why this man White? He betrayed your cousin Tuco, yes. But he's not the one who murdered him. Was there not another man who pulled the trigger?"
- Marco: "A DEA agent. Bolsa says the DEA is off-limits."
- Gus: "North of the border is my territory. My say. As a show of respect...I say yes. The agent's name is Hank Schrader. May his death satisfy you."
- —Gustavo confronts the Cousins and turn their hunt to Hank.[src]
- Director of Photography Michael Slovis chose to film all the Season 3 exterior scenes of The Cousins with a strong yellow-brown coloration.
- They are the second and third people of Hector "Tio" Salamanca's family to be killed, following Tuco Salamanca's death. Many more Salamancas die following these two.
- In the scene where they blow up the truck, they filmed it using a camera that makes one object look more close than what it actually is to another object, and they literally blew up the truck, with only one take available.
- The cousins are shown driving several cars including: