- "Nobody moves crystal in the South Valley but me, bitch!"
- ―Tuco Salamanca after beating up Jesse
Ruthless, unpredictable, and prone to violent outbursts, Tuco nevertheless respected Walter because of his superior product, intelligence, business style, and guts. He was the main antagonist at the end of Season 1 and the beginning of Season 2.
After the disappearance of Domingo "Krazy 8" Molina, Tuco evidently became one of the most powerful and influential dealers of Albuquerque. Tuco is known for his erratic personality and propensity for extreme violence. His family is also tied to the Juárez Cartel, as his uncle Hector "Tio" Salamanca was one of the highest ranking members of the cartel. Tuco's cousins were hit-men for the cartel also.
Walter White and Jesse Pinkman are in search of a distribution network for their meth. Skinny Pete leads Jesse to the hideout of Tuco, Albuquerque's new meth distribution, who snorts Jesse's product and says he'll buy it on consignment. When it is clear Tuco does not wish to pay the $35,000 for the product, Jesse tries to run away with the meth but is unsuccessful. Tuco stuffs stacks of cash in a bag, but then uses this bag to beat Jesse brutally, leaving him hospitalized.
After Walt learns of the events that occurred in the hideout, he decides to take matters into his own hands. Arriving at the hideout, he presents himself as "Heisenberg" to Tuco. Walt gives Tuco another bag of crystals and asks for $50,000 ($35,000 for the meth that Tuco stole, and another $15,000 for Jesse's pain and suffering). Tuco ridicules Walt for bringing him more meth after he stole Walt's first batch. "This is not meth," Walt corrects as he hurls a piece of fulminated mercury at the floor, causing an explosion and leaving the hideout in ruin. With the rest of the bag of fulminated mercury in his possession, Walt threatens to throw the entire bag and kill everyone in the room. Tuco agrees to pay all of his debts, telling Walt that the meth he'd taken from Jesse sold better on the streets than any other product he's dealt. Walt then tells Tuco that he'll pay Walt and Jesse "up front" for future purposes and demands that Tuco now buy two pounds of his meth instead of one ("Crazy Handful of Nothin'").
Tuco and his henchmen meet with Walt and Jesse in an auto junkyard, where Walt extends his offer to four pounds after a "production problem". Instead of producing with pseudoephedrine, Walt uses methylamine to deliver the amount of meth he promised in time.
After Walt delivers the batch in the junkyard, Tuco pays Walt for the first batch of blue meth. Tuco's associate No-Doze unconsciously warns Walt and Jesse to remember who they are working for. High on meth, Tuco violently beats his associate for speaking out of turn and for a lack of respect to their new partners. Gonzo then drags No-Doze's limp body to the car, and the drug dealers drive away ("A No-Rough-Stuff-Type Deal").
After beating No-Doze to death, Tuco sends Gonzo to conceal his body. Walt and Jesse were horrified after witnessing the scene and begin to fear that Tuco will mark them both for death. Furthermore, after Gonzo conceals No-Doze's body, he causes a vehicle to fall on his arm, causing him to bleed to death("Seven Thirty-Seven").
Tuco flees from his hideout just in time as the DEA raids the place. Tuco then kidnaps Walt and Jesse and take them to a cabin where his uncle Hector Salamanca lives. Unaware that Gonzo is dead, Tuco believed that Gonzo was the one who turned him in to the DEA and felt betrayed stating that he treated Gonzo like a brother ("Grilled"). Tuco mentions plans of taking Walt to a superlab in Mexico so they could "cook 24/7". He also states that he had connections with the people there so the DEA could not interfere with his business. Walt and Jesse attempt to poison Tuco with ricin with a small bag of meth but it ultimately fails in the process of when Jesse explains that the meth contained chili powder. As Tuco prepares burritos for Walt, Jesse, and his uncle, Walt attempts to sneak in the ricin into Tuco's burrito but Tuco's uncle interferes. Tuco's uncle then attempts to message Tuco that Walt and Jesse were attempting something against Tuco, which then Tuco pulls a gun on them.
As Tuco demands to know what Walt and Jesse were up to, Walt explains that they tried to poison him. As Tuco was distracted by Walt's comments, Jesse strikes Tuco's head with a rock and shoots him in the stomach. Both run to Jesse's car but they forget the keys. They then see another vehicle in the distance and assume that it were Tuco's cousins and flee. Tuco manages to stand up despite his wounds and approaches Jesse's car. He is confronted by Hank Schrader who sought to locate Jesse by tracking the location of his car. After a brief moment of silence, Hank realizes that he had found Tuco and withdraws his gun. Tuco grabs an assault rifle and shoots at Hank in which Hank uses his car for cover. Hank ultimately shoots Tuco in the head as Tuco was reloading ("Grilled").
It is revealed that Tuco was not only powerful in Albuquerque, but had ties to a Ciudad Juárez Cartel, and his uncle was, in fact, a highly influential member before his health deteriorated. Tuco's cousins, hitmen for the cartel, are summoned to Albuquerque to kill Walt as retribution for Tuco's death.
Murders committed by Tuco
- Dog Paulsen: Murdered in an unknown way in 1998.
- Unnamed Mexican national: Killed with a knife in 2003.
- No-Doze: Beaten to death for "disrespecting" their new partners, Walter and Jesse.
- "This kicks like a mule with its balls wrapped in duct tape!"
- ―Tuco after experiencing Walt's methamphetamine.
- "Tight! Tight tight, yeah!"
- ―Tuco after using blue sky for the first time.
- Tuco: "TELL ME WHAT YOU DID!"
- Walter: "We tried to poison you. We tried to poison you because you are an insane, degenerate piece of filth and you deserve to die."
- —Walt's words to Tuco just before Jesse bashes Tuco in the face with a rock.[src]
- Jesse: "We got to be Tuco. Alright, cut out the middle man, run our own game."
- Walter: "So you're going to what? Snort meth off a bowie knife? You're gonna beat your homies to death when they "dis" you?"
- —Walt referencing Tuco's psychotic nature.[src]
- Tuco was the very first person to use Blue Sky.
- As the explosion racks Tuco's office, the famous "Dean Scream" by 2004 presidential candidate Howard Dean can be heard among the sound effects.
- Tuco was originally supposed to be the main antagonist of Season 2, but due to Raymond Cruz having difficulties portraying the character, he was killed off earlier than intended.