The best thing you can do when someone questions you is to answer, especially in deeds.
"Someone has to protect this family from the man who protects this family."
Nobody likes having their abilities called into question. Being underestimated just makes you feel awful, but more specifically, angry. You also just want to show up whoever's doing the questioning. So how do you go about doing that?
Walter White is having a hard time doing that. When he wakes up at the beginning of "Cornered," hung over and with no memory of the previous night, he's immediately confronted by Skyler, who is wondering if Walt, and by extension the family, is in danger. She realizes that Walt's "I love you" on the answering machine from last week's episode was actually a goodbye, and she starts asking if he worked with Gail. "Who killed him? Is it somebody who, at some point, might want to do the same to you?" She brings up that Walt's drunken dick-swinging at dinner with Hank and Marie might have been a "cry for help," and in some way, he wants to get caught, as it would get him out from under whatever thumb is pressing down on him. Walt doesn't want to entertain the possiblity that he's not under control, so he verbally lashes out at Skyler. "Do you know who you're talking to? Without me, a business big enough that it could be traded on the NASDAQ goes under. I'm not in danger, I AM the danger!" It's delivered with a lot of gruff bravado, but it's pretty transparent. Walt knows Gus wants to kill him, and he knows that Gus knows that the feeling's mutual. He is in danger, but he's not going to admit that to himself anymore than he will to Skyler. He still has faith that his quick-thinking and fast-talking will get him out of even more sticky situations. Thus, he won't let anyone second guess him.
Walt is questioned again in the very next scene, when he goes to pick up the keys to the car wash from Bogdan. Bogdan, the dickhead owner who gave Skyler such a hard time, not to mention Walt before that, gets into Walt's face a bit before handing over the keys. He starts with telling him that he was never a hard worker, and then saying that as the boss, he needs to be tough. "Can you be tough? If not, maybe you can call your wife." In response, Walt does not allow Bogdan to take his framed first dollar with him (the car wash was sold "as is," as Bogdan repeatedly tells Walt). Walt takes the dollar out of the frame (by smashing the frame, rather than just taking the backing off) and buys a soda with it. In both instances, yelling at Skyler and showing up Bodgan with the dollar, Walt puts on a good show. But ultimately, his gestures are pretty ineffectual. What is yelling at Skyler going to get him? What does letting Bogdan go without a prized possession do for him, other than assuage his bruised ego? Not a whole lot, nor does impulsively buying a muscle car for Walt Jr., which he does later on in "Cornered." Meanwhile Skyler drives off to the spot where New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado all border (what an weird slice of Americana that is) and flips a coin, trying to figure out what to do next, and whether she should even stand by Walt (the coin lands on heads twice, in Colorado). She doesn't seem happy about what the coin leads her to do, but ultimately, she continues to bust Walt's balls, as she has no faith in him being able to continue successfully. She doesn't believe that Walt can keep the family safe.
Jesse doesn't particularly like having his abilities questioned either. Walt still doesn't believe the story that Jesse is a bodyguard for Mike the Cleaner. He figures out that the robbery where Jesse supposedly saved Mike was a set-up to facilitate driving a wedge between the Jesse and him. Walt has the whole thing figured out, but Jesse is having none of that. "I know this started with Mike babysitting me because Gus doesn't want me to get high anymore. But I stopped the robbery!" Jesse wants to believe that he's useful to Gus and Mike, more so than he is to Walt, in fact. Getting in good with Mike makes Jesse feel like a hero. He likes not being Walt's second. He likes that Mike needs him. Mike, for his part, can't seem to help but be impressed when Jesse is able to cajole his way, with minimal violence, into the house of two meth-heads who have come into possession of three pounds of the Heisenberg product (we could have done without the disorienting shovel-cam, though). Mike seems to pass on to Gus that Jesse is actually getting the job done, and Gus passes on his kudos. When Jesse finally asks Gus "Why me," Gus simply says "I like to think I see things in people." He delivers that line with such earnestness, it actually seems like he believes it. Could Gus really be starting to put some faith in Jesse?
Elsewhere in "Cornered," hints of an impending gang war are planted. In these last two weeks, we've seen a refrigerated Pollos Hermanos truck get attacked. Last week, Mike was able to dispatch the intruders (at the expense of a chunk of his ear). This week's guardians of the truck aren't so lucky. Apparently, a three pound bucket of blue meth is transported in a truck full of buckets of fry batter by Gus, and somebody is going after these buckets. Mike says that whoever's doing it is "disciplined," and it's being done to send a message to Gus. Gus leaves Mike after telling him to set up a meeting with whoever this insurgent gang is. This should develop over the rest of the season, and it should continue to be very compelling, especially where it relates to Walt and Jesse. Gus doesn't trust Walt, and really doesn't want to keep him around, but for now, he feels like he has to. If he gets Jesse on his side, what happens to Walt? The storytelling on this show continues to get more and more tense.
Written or Contributed by: Royal Nonesuch
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