Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)

"Those consequences…. They’re coming."

Breaking Bad never lets anyone off the hook. In last week's episode, "Crawl Space", right before we saw Walt’s (Bryan Cranston) world crash down into a pile of crawl space filth, we saw Jesse (Aaron Paul) in the happiest, most content state we’ve seen him in all season. With Gus’ (Giancarlo Esposito) trust and dependence on his side, Jesse joyously played quasi-family-man, playing video games with Andrea’s (Emily Rios) six-year-old son, Brock (Ian Posada), all smiles. In a state of sheer panic, Walt bumrushed Jesse’s happy time, but when Jesse shunned him away, Walt was tazed by Gus’ surly goon Tyrus (Ray Campbell), driven out to the desert with a black sack over his head, and beaten up by Gus as the boss-man threatened to kill Walt’s entire family if he intervened in Gus’ plan to kill Hank (Dean Norris).

He intervened, of course, and, as last week’s episode ended, Walt’s realization that Skyler (Anna Gunn) had used $600,000 of his drug earnings, the money needed to protect his family, he broke down in a fit of maniacal laughter, much to Skyler’s horror. In “End Times”, Skyler, Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte), and the baby head over to Hank’s crib via DEA escort; Walt, however, hangs back at the house, not wanting to further endanger his family by simply being in the presence. Waiting impatiently by his pool, Walt spins the gun alongside him, which, for the first two spins, stops pointed directly at him; the third time, it’s pointed in the opposite direction. So maybe there’s hope for him after all?

Unlike Jesse, who, up until “End Times”, was headed on a decent track toward good standing with Gus. But he’s still refusing to give Mr. Fring his go-ahead-and-kill-Walt consent, which surely angers Gus, but, as everyone in Breaking Bad’s world knows, Gus needs Jesse badly—there’s no one else who can cook his precious blue crystal meth.

"A fart in the wind."

That doesn’t mean that Gus won’t hurt Jesse to cause Walt’s death, though. And now, Jesse knows that Gus is one step closer to offing Walt. Visiting Saul’s (Bob Odenkirk) office, after Saul leaves him six annoying voicemails, Jesse learns about the desert incident between Gus and Walt—needless to say, he’s speechless. Saul, meanwhile, is about to be ghost; fearing for his own sleazy life, Saul is ready to skip town until things calm down (or either Gus or Walt is a cadaver).

Once again, Jesse’s back on the defensive. In one of his all-time brilliantly sick power moves, Gus—at least it’s safe to assume—finagled a way to have Brock ingest the poisonous Ricin that Walt put in that tainted cigarette earlier this season, the one that Jesse was supposed to give to Gus numerous times, but never could. Jesse rushes to the hospital and tries to comfort a grieving Andrea. Just think, if Jesse would have used the cigarette on Gus at any point during his many chances, Brock wouldn’t be near death from a poison that, as far as we know, isn’t all that treatable.

Did Gus definitely do this to Brock? It’s never proven, but all signs point to the affirmative. As Walt points out, in the midst of yet another phenomenal Walt-versus-Jesse sequence, Gus must have ordered Tyrus to swipe the cigarette out of Jesse’s coat pocket while Jesse was cooking in the lab, and then somehow gave the Ricin components to little Brock; by doing so, Gus knew that Jesse would blame Walt for Brock’s hospitalization, thinking it’s a desperate payback tactic for Mr. White. And how did Gus know about the poisoned cigarette in the first place? Because Gus knows everything—he’s by far the most thoughtful, painstakingly prepared villain on television, the same guy who, at the beginning of “Crawl Space”, knew Jesse’s blood type despite the fact that Jesse himself didn’t even know it.

And what Gus knows most at this point is that he can’t do without Pinkman. “You’re the last piece of the puzzle,” Walt tells Jesse. "Everything he’s wanted. His cook now.” And with that, unfortunately, comes a price: the health and, possibly, mortality of a little kid who just wants to play video games with Jesse.

"An appropriate response.”

Reminded of Gus’ cold-hearted, child-hurting ways, Jesse seems to be back on Team Walt. But not before nearly blowing his elder colleague’s brains out, for “ripping [Jesse’s] heart out,” via poisoning Brock. Without much convincing, though, Walt prods Jesse into accepting his innocence—if anyone’s done it, it has to be tactical old Gus. After pressing a gun into Walt’s forehead (so hard that there’s a bullet-sized imprint on Walt’s forehead once the gun is moved away), Jesse vows to finally slay their mutual nemesis, to which Walt calmly replies, “Let me help.” Looks like the band’s back together again.

Back at the hospital, where his repeated attempts to see Brock are thwarted by both the staff and Andrea herself, who realizes that Brock’s condition was somehow caused by Jesse, young Pinkman refuses Tyrus’ orders to head to the lab. The day’s batch is ruined by Jesse’s absence, but he doesn’t give a shit. Tyrus walks away and grabs his cell phone, prompting Jesse to send Walt a text: “Think I got his attention.” At Walt’s house, Mr. White is using his chemist skills to create explosives, which he sneaks into Gus’ car when Gus pays Jesse a personal check-in at the hospital. Gus reasons with Jesse, saying he can return to the lab “next week” and spend his time at the hospital for Brock. A rare sign of compassion from Gustavo Fring? Not likely—again, he needs Jesse, and he’s willing to bend his own rules a little in order to keep Pinkman happy.

Too bad it doesn’t take long for Gus to wake up and smell the Jesse-is-out-to-get-you-too aroma in the hospital’s parking garage. Somehow, Gus senses that there’s something afoul with his ride—turns out, he’s right. Hiding across the street atop an adjacent building, Walt spies on Gus, Tyrus, and their new young, white, not-Mike (Jonathan Banks) goon, his hand on the remote control needed to detonate the explosives. Apparently possessing superhuman abilities, Gus knows that Walt is in the vicinity and that he’s done something to the car, so he walks back into the hospital—he could very well know that Jesse set him up, too.

So what’s in store for next week’s season finale? In the immortal words of Biggie Smalls, “Somebody’s gotta die.” Now that Hank’s investigation into Gus’ laundry warehouse (the basement of which is the super-lab) has proven to be a dead-end, Hank’s involvement in the whole situation seems to be sidelined, so perhaps he’ll live to see Season Five after all? Gus needn’t concern himself with Hank anymore.

The finale’s title, “Face Off”, says it all, as does Gus’ ominous line of dialogue in the next episode’s quick preview: “I’ll do it myself.” It feels like we’re about to see a classic old western standoff: Walt versus Gus. Or maybe Jesse versus Gus, with Walt caught in the crossfire. That’s what so amazing about Breaking Bad: None of our guesses will prove to be correct. Well, except this one: This season, already a masterwork on the parts of creator Vince Gilligan and his team, will end brilliantly. No need to place any bets.

Written by Matt Barone (@MBarone)