How did you interpret the closing exchange, where Walt brings up Victor? Is it a veiled warning to Jesse, about the dangers of crossing Walt again? Or is it a reference to what might happen to Mike, if Mike displeases Walt too much? Or both? I see Jesse more as Walt's "Victor," than Mike who can barely stand him, but I'm a little surprised Walt would feel any impulse to threaten Jesse at this point. Jesse's so in the bag at the moment, for Walt, that it just seems needless.
Have to say, I'm as mystified as you about it. The comment came out of left field and Jesse reacted to it that way, but was his reaction because the comment was directed at him or just surprised him? It --seemed-- directed to Jesse, but as you say, that would've been needless. Possibly a transference? Mike has just exercised his independence, his control of the business, taken a big chunk of Walt's money, legitimately, but Walt doesn't see it that way. Walt can't do anything to Mike, so he kicks the puppy! That's all I got! It really stood out in a strange way though, so I have to think it has some significance.
This season is shaping up to be an amazing study in psychological warfare. The current brewing battle between Skyler and Walt over the kids is pretty fantastic. His unhinged megalomania and the ways in which it clouds his view of reality is well-handled and believable, as is Skyler's emotional shut-down. You just cringe and feel for her every second she's onscreen this season. In terms of narrative craftsmanship, I think it was wise to sort of scrap mulling the remnants of Skyler's relationship with Walt too much, and instead shifting maternal instinct to the forefront, for her, motivationally speaking. And that could've been done badly, but is handled sublimely here.
It's like a great chess match. We have Hank shifting professional positions, upwards; but Marie manipulated into manipulating Hank, leaving him at a disadvantage while covering for Walt; Lydia, meanwhile, attempting a retreat right out of the game; Mike seeing through her ploy and tasked with herding her back into the fold; Jesse brokering peace for her out of conscience and sympathy, and Walt backing him up for his own reason, greed; and of course Walt and Skyler attempting to manipulate each other in a variety of intriguing and suspenseful ways, mostly in the confines of their own bedroom. That's an awful lot of pieces in play, and that's just in this episode -- but so far, to my eyes, it's all being juggled pretty flawlessly. Add to this the clever, subversive use of mixed styles: i.e. the slightly zany opening sequence revisiting the obtainment of manly-man cars for Walt and his boy. The celebratory, zig-zagging, havin'-a-good-time atmosphere, with Walt channeling his Malcolm in the Middle dad, is almost nauseating to the audience; more a merry-go-round we want to get off before we throw up, than a roller coaster we want to ride. It also makes me think back to the "KEN WINS" car Walt destroyed in the first season. In his own way, Walt has become a kind of Ken himself.
At first I thought the closing shot of the watch was supposed to imply some kind of explosive device, which made no sense and seemed cheesy. Since it's not alluded to in the Inside Episode 4 video and would make no sense anyway, I assume it's just meant to sort of cap off the atmosphere of doublecrossing, as well as emphasize what Skyler is now counting on -- the simple passage of time. It's actually, again, pretty clever -- Walt had just taunted her and attempted a fresh manipulation with this object that is representative of an abstract element she is counting on to save her, or at least her kids. Walt is focused on the material object and the gratitude with which it was given; Skyler is focused on what the object actually means, and measures. If cancer gets Walt before the DEA, the kids would still never have to know, and even Skyler could have a possibility of getting off without legal repercussion.
Loc: us of fuckin' a
The funniest scene this season is Walt pointing to his watch, explaining to Skyler how the guy who gave him that had a gun to his head only a few weeks ago, so she'll change her mind, too. Goddamn, that was great.
_________________________ The Gospel, wherein much Truth is written.
I went through the same thought process as you regarding the closing shot of the watch, including thinking it was an explosive device initially. I might be mistaken (I don't tape these episodes) but wasn't the clock ticking the last three seconds to midnight? This would mark where Walt stands at the end of the day, the chess pieces are all in position now, a new game begins and, of course, the end of his birthday. Happy Birthday, Walt, you Machiavellian bastard!
There's really not much to add to what you've ably explicated about the episode, Madget, so I'm going to ask you something fairly unrelated. Have you been watching Small Town Security that follows Breaking Bad? I started watching just to get the additional Breaking Bad preview during the commercial breaks. Now, I usually have very little interest in Reality TV. Most of it, you could not pay me to watch. For some reason, I make exceptions for this, Cajun Justice and the History Channel's Mountain Men. So, is Small Town Security the perfect chaser to Breaking Bad, or is the shift from the sublime BB to the ridiculous just ... ridiculous?
I don't know about funniest scene of the season, but it is a great moment of WaltThink.
As to the watch, it even looks a little like a chess clock. I wonder if that was intentional. Of all the kinds of watch they could've used there, it seemed a fairly unusual choice.
It was about ten minutes to midnight on the watch in the final shot, but the last few seconds of whatever minute the watch was at.
I don't have cable, so no, MQ, haven't seen any of those, I'm afraid. I also try to avoid BB video previews. When I enjoy something as much as BB I don't want the good bits fed to me ahead of time as a teaser, I like to go into each episode fresh.
I hate reality TV but it does have some inherently addictive quality. Often when I go home to visit my parents across the state, I end up getting sucked into some late night reality TV marathon. First it was America's Next Top Model; last time it was Hardcore Pawn. I watch that shit for hours when I'm there. Makes me glad I don't have cable at home.
Oh, one other thing I liked in this last episode -- just a tiny, tiny detail. This picture of Mike from Hank's corkboard.
Michael Ehrmantrout, disgraced former cop, PI, murderer, thug. Normally we're in Mike's world, and often amused by him, but this shitty-ass picture -- which we just get a passing glimpse of, it's not really lingered on -- is uniquely effective in putting us on the outside looking in, for a moment. It's not anything brilliant or anything, but it just stuck out to me as another one of those tiny details BB gets just right.
Also, on the other end of the spectrum: although obviously not meant to be the most likable character in the world, I find Lydia quite hot, and am vaguely wondering if that's just me, or if it's pretty much a given.
Oh, she's hot. But, that might almost be a kind of litmus test for the other characters. Mike is immune to it and perfectly willing to put the nervous little thing down. Almost too obviously, Jesse could be used by her as a pawn. And Walt? I wouldn't have thought so, but 'New Walt' certainly enjoys finer things like driving an expensive new car.
Bad as things are with Skyler, I don't see Walt taking interest in another woman, let alone Lydia -- that's just not anything that's ever much been on his radar, except briefly as a possible way to punish Skyler for her own cheating. I mean, Jesus, he didn't even really want Carmen, and you don't get much hotter than that. Walt is, in his corrupted way, all about the family. Getting friendly with another woman would not serve his current purposes with his wife (i.e. "he changed his mind about me, you will too.") Besides, Walt's way too clinical about his work to mix business and pleasure.
As for Jesse, well ... Lydia and Jesse couldn't be less alike, and I'm not sure she's savvy enough to use him the way other characters have. But the dynamic between them was pretty funny, and it seemed to me that scene could've been planting the seed for some kind of development between them. He did now already rescue her from death, essentially, and Jesse has an impulse to protect, so who knows where that could lead with her. Maybe nowhere, maybe into her pants, maybe someplace I can't foresee at all. I note they did shed the Andrea character -- at least as far as we know -- one episode before Jesse and Lydia have their first interaction.
Oh, another miscellaneous thought re: funny Walt moments. My favorite is that tiny little moment when he's moving back into his house, unboxing things, and he comes across Whitman's Leaves of Grass. His obliviously nostalgic reaction is priceless. "Heh, I remember Gail introducing me to this. Ah, Gail. I wonder whatever happened to the old boy. Didn't I kill him or something? Man, that was a good poem. So many memories."