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"Hazard Pay" is the third episode of the fifth season of Breaking Bad and the forty-ninth episode altogether.

Summary

Teaser

Posing as a paralegal, Mike visits the jail to see Dennis Markowski, the manager of Gus' industrial laundry, accompanied by Dennis's lawyer, Dan Wachsberger. Mike reassures Dennis that the deal he had with Gus is still in place. Dennis swears he's loyal but is fearful that someone else will talk after the feds seized their money. Mike guarantees everyone will be compensated as he's setting up a new operation. Dennis agrees to stay quiet. In the hallway, Mike and Dan go through the list of Mike's guys and where they're being held, planning to visit all of them.

Act I

At the White residence, Walt is in high spirits as he unpacks boxes in the bedroom; he has decided to move back in. As he's unpacking, Walt comes across the copy of Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass given to him by Gale Boetticher. Skyler arrives home and, seeing Walt unpacking, apprehensively questions whether this is a good idea. Walt insists that it's the way it should be. Skyler's look of worry intensifies.

Mike waits outside Saul's office while Huell guards the door. Inside, Walt and Jesse assuage Saul's doubts about working with Mike, who once threatened to break Saul's legs. Upon being allowed into the office, Mike lays down ground rules for their new meth operation: he runs the business while Walt and Jesse cover production. Saul privately asks Walt if he's okay with the arrangement, but Walt is unfazed: "He handles the business, and I handle him."

Saul takes the team on a tour of potential lab venues around the city, including a box factory, a tortilla facility, and Lazer Base. Walt, Jesse, and Mike nix them all, spotting logistical problems with each. Jesse and Mike are ready to dismiss the final venue, Vamonos Pest, but Walt, noticing a folded-up fumigation tent on the floor, immediately lights up and declares, "It's perfect."

Act II

The new plan to cook meth

The next day, the four watch the Vamonos workers as they tent an infested house. Walt explains his plan: if they cook inside residences undergoing fumigation using a mobile lab apparatus, no one will bother them or investigate strange smells. Saul explains that the Vamonos crew, run by a man named Ira, runs a burglary operation on the side - they copy the homeowners' keys and pass information about the houses' security codes and valuables to other criminals, taking a percentage of the cut, and then come back to burglarize the places themselves. Mike proposes a vote.

Skinny Pete (who is revealed to have a talent with classical piano) and Badger purchase four large equipment cases from a guitar store. While delivering the cases to Vamonos, they ask Jesse to get in on the new business; Jesse — noticing a stern look from Mike — declines. Mike debriefs the Vamonos crew and forbids them from burglarizing houses in which Walt and Jesse conduct their cooking. He also orders them never to engage with the duo without an invitation and to treat them as if they're "ghosts".

At Jesse's house, he and Walt finalize plans for the mobile lab. They are paid an unannounced visit by Andrea and her son Brock. Andrea invites Walt to stay for dinner. Walt sits uncomfortably with Brock on the couch; it's impossible to say if the boy recognizes Walt as the man who poisoned him, but Walt is visibly uncomfortable in the child's presence. Brock glares at Walt but says nothing, turning his attention to a video game.

Act III

Walter and Jesse preparing the lab

After the homeowners leave, Walt and Jesse pull up to an infested house in a Vamonos truck. A Vamonos employee, Todd Alquist, approaches Walt and informs him that he has disabled a nanny-cam in the living room. Walt is impressed with Todd's initiative. He and Jesse assemble the lab from the equipment cases and cook in a sealed tent inside the house. During a break, they watch TV and drink beer on the living room couch. Walt manipulates Jesse into ending his relationship with Andrea, implying that he can't continue seeing her if he cannot tell her the truth about his work.

At the car wash, Marie tells Skyler that Hank has returned to work at the DEA. She insists that Skyler plan a party for Walt's upcoming 51st birthday. When Skyler takes out a cigarette, Marie begins to chastise her as she hasn't smoked in years. Skyler, already on edge, is pushed into an emotional breakdown and repeatedly shouts at Marie to shut up. Marie, initially hurt, is soon concerned by the outburst.

Act IV

As they leave the house, Jesse sets off the fumigation system to finish the pest control work — the thick fog masks any trace of their own production fumes. Upon arriving home, Walt finds a worried Marie waiting for him. Marie recounts Skyler's breakdown and presses Walt to disclose its cause. Walt, cornered and wanting to deflect suspicion, tells her about Skyler's affair with Ted, who is now in the hospital. He begs Marie to keep it a secret and not mention anything to Hank or Skyler. Marie leaves dumbfounded.

Walter, Walter Jr. and Holly watching Scarface

That night, at Jesse's house, Andrea notices Jesse zoning out while she and Brock are playing a video game. Meanwhile, back at the White residence, Skyler finds Walt, Walt Jr. and Holly watching Scarface in the living room. She stares silently but disapprovingly as father and son revel in the movie's violent climax. Hearing her son discuss the violence so nonchalantly, Skyler is unsettled.

The hazard pay erupts an intense discussion between Mike and Walter

Back at the Vamonos office, Mike divides the profit into three piles — $367,000 each. He takes money from each pile to pay for Ira's crew, distribution drivers, as well as "legacy costs" to Mike's men in jail. Walt is outraged that Mike is deducting his money. Jesse, uncomfortable with the confrontation, offers to cover Walt's share. Walt finally relents, insisting he'll pay his own way, but bitterly complaining at his net reduced profit. After Mike leaves, Jesse reports that he has broken up with Andrea. Walt, however, is focused on the money. Bringing up Victor, he surmises that Gus didn't kill him just to send a message.

Official Photos

Trivia

  • Walt and Walt Jr. watch a classic scene from the film Scarface (1983). Vince Gilligan has often described the character arc of Walter White as "Taking Mr. Chips and turning him into Scarface."
    • Interestingly, Scarface featured in supporting roles a number of actors who were also in Breaking Bad as supporting characters, including Mark Margolis (Hector Salamanca), Steven Bauer (Don Eladio) and Míriam Colón (Tuco's grandmother in Better Call Saul).
    • A scene with Walt and Walt Jr. watching Scarface originally appeared in the Pilot (2005 script) version of the spec script for "Pilot" but was removed before filming.
  • Hank Schrader does not appear in this episode. This is possibly because actor Dean Norris had gotten a new role onthe CBS show Under the Dome, and had expressed a desire for the character to be killed off in 5A due to his new commitment.
  • This is Season 5's least-watched episode, only ranking 2.20 million, while others served as the most-watched episode of the series.
  • The title comes from Mike promising Dennis Markowski he'd get his hazard pay, and is also what Walt and Mike fight about in the end of the episode.
  • Vince Gilligan has stated he and his writers are proud of the new setup they have made for Walt and Jesse to transact cooking in. Though he has also stated that he doesn't know if setting up mobile meth labs in houses undergoing fumigation would work in real life, but if it were, it'd be a real challenge. 
  • This episode features the first appearance of Todd Alquist.
  • Vamonos Pest uses cyfluthrin for its fogging work, and also has a shelves full of bromadiolone and glyphosate (Roundup).
  • The paper strip that Walt drips a liquid onto to get a colour change is probably pH indicator paper. This suggests that Walt is using the pH of a mixture as a proxy for determining when a certain reaction has gone to completion.
  • The scene of Walt and Jesse drinking beer on the couch is used in The Simpsons Couch Gag in Season 24 Episode 17 'What Animated Women Want'
  • Walt tells Jesse at the end of the episode that maybe Victor 'flew too close to the sun.' Hank used this same line with Walt Jr. when Walt Jr. asked for the Dodge Challenger instead of a cheaper car. 
  • When Mike tells Walt that paying off the guys in prison is "what you do", Walt dismisses it as Mike wasting money on an unnecessary personal code, and opts to have them all killed instead. But in later episodes, Hank is pretty easily able to flip Huell by convincing him that Walt wants him dead as a "loose end". This actually reflected many real life cases, where crime bosses killed their subordinates too easily and those who still were alive quickly turned to the police in fear that they were going to be next. In other words, Mike's code is the intelligent, reasonable way of dealing with the world of drug-dealing. Mike knew what he was doing, and Walt just didn't have a clue. It's a subtle but key example of how Walt brought about his own downfall by trusting his own judgment above everyone else's, even though he really doesn't get how the criminal world works. This even explains how, in the finale, Walt is able to enlist Badger and Skinny Pete to help him with the Schwartzes: because Walt once made a point of setting Badger free from prison when he got stung by the cops instead of just killing him. Of course Badger stays loyal to Walt, and naturally enough, Skinny Pete, as a friend of Badger's, trusts Walt as well.
  • Mike's admonishment to Walt, "Just because you killed Jesse James...don't make you Jesse James," foreshadows Walt's train robbery two episodes later; in the same way (and at the approximate same time in the episode, in the same room) Walt in the next episode says "Nothing stops this train."

Production

Credits

Featured Music

  • "Gambler's Guts (aka You Got The Guts?)" by Doghouse Lords (playing in Dan's headphones while Mike talks with Dennis)
  • "Los Galvez's y los Contrera's" by Sergio Caro (in the background at the tortilla factory)
  • "Solfeggietto No. 2 in C Minor, H 220, Wq. 117" by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, performed by Charles Baker as Skinny Pete (while he and Badger shop for roadie cases)
  • "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever" by The Peddlers (while Jesse and Walt cook)
  • "Three Blind Mice (The Three Stooges Main Theme)" by Lyle Murphy (while Jesse and Walt watch TV during the cook)
  • "Seaside Hill" by Jun Senoue (video game background music)

Memorable Quotes

Saul: "So you bring him here? Come on! The three of us, we're the three amigos. All for one, one for all. We don't need a fourth amigo."
Walter: "Saul, Mike knows the business. He knows distributors."
Jesse: "Mike's okay."
Saul: "He's okay? He said he was gonna break my legs. And don't tell me he didn't mean it, okay? Because he gave me the dead mackerel eyes. He meant it."
Walter: "Saul, Mike threatened me. He threatened Jesse. He probably threatened someone before breakfast this morning. It's what he does. Come on, grow a pair."
―Walter, Jesse and Saul on partnering with Mike.

"Everyone dies in this movie, don't they?"
―Walt commenting on Scarface.

"Listen, Walter. Just because you shot Jesse James don’t make you Jesse James."
―Mike to Walter about the murder of Gus.


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