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Recap / Breaking Bad S 4 E 8 Hermanos

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"Look at him..."

"This is what comes of blood for blood, Hector. Sangre por sangre."
Gus Fring

In a flashback, Gus pays Hector Salamanca a visit at his nursing home after having Mike finish off Hector's nephew (injured after his and his brother's attack on Hank) and hearing Juan Bolsa get shot and killed by federales over a phone call. Gus gloats to Hector about the death of his nephews and associate, mentioning the cryptic phone call that Hank received before the Cousins attacked him that lead to their demise. He leaves Hector to seethe impotently with a few parting words: "Sangre por sangre", blood for blood.

While undergoing treatment for his cancer, Walter chats with another patient who talks about giving up control of his life after his diagnosis. Walt, however, believes his acquaintance's philosophy to be "such bullshit": Walt states his belief that, regardless of his illness, he would live his life as though he was in control of his own destiny. Such words, however, ring hollow to him, for his life is no longer in his own hands, but those of Gustavo Fring...


Hank, the DEA, and APD summon Gus to discuss the fact that his fingerprints had been found in Gale Boetticher's apartment, where he had been killed. Gus explains that he had previously met Gale when he gave him a Maximo Arciniega Chemistry Scholarship, named in honor of an old friend who passed away long ago. Gale had invited him over for dinner recently to discuss a "business proposition". Hank is not entirely convinced: he asks if Gus' name really is "Gustavo Fring", mentioning that a Chilean national named Gustavo Fring immigrated to Mexico in the 1980s, but there was no record of his existence before then. Gus explains this away by claiming his records had been lost during Augusto Pinochet's regime. Gus manages to evade suspicion from the DEA and APD, but Hank is still unconvinced. As he leaves the DEA's office, Gus stands silently, seething in anger...


As Jesse has Saul deliver cash to Andrea so she can support herself and her son, Skyler works to conceal her husband's cash, keeping it in vacuum-sealed bags in the crawl space. That night, Hank asks Walt for a favor: to drive him to a gem and mineral expo show.

The following day, Hank reveals the real reason he asked for a ride from Walt: he continued to have suspicions about Gus, and wants Walt to stealthily place a tracking device on Gus' car. Walt is hesitant, but agrees to do it. At first, he doesn't place the tracker on the car as he goes inside to order a drink to maintain a cover of innocence. Gus is waiting inside, and in response to Walt's protestations of innocence, he tells him to "do it" while taking his order. Walt complies and puts the tracker on Gus' car, then desperately pleads into the cameras in the superlab that he placed the tracker unwillingly, and that Hank would not be a problem.

Walt visits Jesse afterwards, now more urgent about their plan to kill Gus. Jesse is dragging his feet in arranging a meeting with Gus to try to poison him. Jesse states that there were no meetings arranged, but while he isn't looking, Walt looks at the texts on his phone and sees that a meeting actually had been set up, but was cancelled, leaving him incensed.

Mike calls Gus to report that the DEA is not actively investigating him: as far as he knows, Hank is acting alone. More concerning is if Hank or the DEA catch wind of the cartel moving against him.

Gus removes the tracking bug before travelling to Casa Tranquila to talk with Hector. He informs him that the DEA is looking into his past, and the cartel had issued their ultimatum, before asking him, "Is today the day, Hector?"...

In 1989, Gus and his friend, Maximo Arciniega, met with Don Eladio Vuente, the leader of the Juarez Cartel, who is joined by Bolsa and a younger, physically-well Hector. Their discussion of the fast food restaurant they started, Los Pollos Hermanos, soon changes to discussions of methamphetamine, a secondary product that Max cooked and Gus helped to sell. They had snuck some samples to cartel members as a means of getting an audience with Don Eladio in order to discuss a partnership: the highly addictive nature of meth, combined with the simplicity of its creation and the ability to manufacture it without having to act as middlemen for the Colombian cartels, means Don Eladio could make even more money than they currently do working with Colombia to sell cocaine. Don Eladio approves of the idea, but is cross with Gus and Max for using underhanded methods to get his attention, and asks Gus why he should be needed when Max is the chemist. Gus apologizes, and Max desperately pleads with Don Eladio to forgive him.

Max's pleas are cut short by Hector, who shoots him in the head. Max slumps over, his blood and grey matter dripping into Don Eladio's pool. Gus lashes out at Hector, but Hector and Bolsa subdue him, with Hector forcing him to look into the eyes of his dead friend as Don Eladio warns a weeping Gus that he's only alive because "I know who you are. But understand: you're not in Chile, anymore."

Back in the present day, Gus asks Hector to look at him. Hector defiantly averts his gaze, to which Gus simply pats him on the shoulder and says "Maybe next time."

This episode contains examples of:

  • Alas, Poor Villain: Gus was clearly no innocent by the time he met with Don Eladio, but no one deserves having their partner shot in the head right in front of them, much less being forced to look into their eyes as they die.
  • Ambiguously Gay: This is the episode that catapults Gus into this category. Word of God has confirmed this is a valid interpretation of his relationship with Max, but even without that confirmation there are a lot of hints:
    • The scholarship Gus set up in Max's name could easily lead back to the parts of Gus' past that he wants to keep hidden should someone want to look into it, and yet he cares enough about Max that he did it anyway.
    • While he's urinating into the pool, Hector derogatorily says they "like what they see" and makes kissing noises at them.
    • Max says that Gus paid for his college, rescued him from the Santiago slums, and "made me the man I am today".
    • Despite already being known as The Chicken Brothers, they refer to themselves as partners more than brothers or friends.
    • The sheer amount of time and effort Gus has put into avenging Max's death is a lot of dedication for a mere friend, even a best friend.
  • Artistic License: Taking Chilean demographics and racial inequalities into consideration it would be more likely for a man of Max's ethnicity to be the rich one and for Gus to be the poor one. Then again, considering Vince Gilligan deliberately left Gus' backgrounds ambiguous, it could be possible that Gus managed to rise higher than others of his race thanks to his implied position in Pinochet's dictatorial regime. Gus grew up poor according to the story he told Hector shortly after his stroke, so it's confirmed that Gus somehow managed to rise out of that poverty.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Max pleads with Don Eladio not to kill Gus for his transgressions. He gets what he asks for — Eladio has him killed instead. That said, Gus' life being spared isn't so much a case of Cruel Mercy as the implication that something in his past makes it too risky to kill him; Eladio makes it very clear that he would otherwise have had them both killed.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Max's execution; the first sign of it is when we suddenly hear a shot and then see Gus' face being splattered with Max's blood.
  • Cassandra Truth: Hank is right about Gus Fring but nothing is done about it.
  • Crazy-Prepared: When the DEA/APD meet with Gus, he has answers and alibis ready for every question they throw at him. Hank later lampshades this.
  • A Day in the Limelight: The episode focuses on Gus, which fleshes out his character as well as giving a backstory to his relations with the Cartel, especially Hector/Tio.
  • Exact Words: Gus didn't sell Eladio's men the drugs, he gave them samples.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: It is revealed that Gus hates the cartel because they murdered his best friend/boyfriend, Max Arciniega. Since Hector is the one who personally killed Max, Gus hates him the most.
  • Flashback: The last bit of the episode is dedicated to a flashback explaining Gus' hatred for the cartel.
    • Also, the prologue of this eighth episode of the fourth season harkens back to events which played out in the eighth episode of the third season.
  • Forced to Watch: A variation: Max is already dead, but Eladio and his men force Gus to look him in his dead eyes.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Gus reveals early in the episode that Max is dead, so when you meet him in the flashback, you can guess what happens.
  • Former Regime Personnel: It is implied Gus held some position in the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Gus seemed to be under the impression that the head of The Cartel would be concerned only with business, and his promise of large profits and control over manufacturing would be enough to override anything else. Eladio likes the business pitch...but can not abide by Gus's manipulative methods of arranging a meeting with him, feeling disrespected enough to execute Max and tell Gus he's not interested.
  • Meaningful Echo:
    • "Look at him."/"Look at me."
    • "Blood for blood."
  • Moment of Silence: Following the gunshot that kills Max, all the audience can hear for about thirty seconds is the increasing sound of the wind.
  • Mysterious Past: Gus definitely has some dark secrets about his time as a Chilean national. Whatever it was he did during this time was scandalous enough for him to have all of his records of living there erased, and for Don Eladio to spare his life purely because he knows about this past life of his. Notably, even by the end of the series, we're given no answers to anything.
  • Nervous Tics: Gustavo is able to keep his cool throughout the entire meeting between him and the detectives, but the moment he's out of view and going down an elevator, his fingers are twitching and he's staring forward with the most detached look.
  • Noodle Incident: Gus' past before immigrating to Mexico was erased from official records and Eladio hints it was quite something.
  • Oh, Crap!: Walt tries his best to hide his sheer horror at discovering that Hank is on to Gus.
  • Outside-Context Problem: Hank Schrader has become this for Gus' feud with the cartel, now that he's investigating Gus. Mike reasons with him that if the cartel made another move against him and Hank is there to see it...
    Mike: It would be the perfect storm.
  • Pet the Dog: Saul encourages Jesse to mend his relationship with Andrea without any benefit to himself. He is also seen treating Andrea's son Brock very kindly.
  • The Reveal: The true origins of the name "Los Pollos Hermanos" are clarified to us in the darkest of ways.
  • Start of Darkness: Played with; while it's shown that Gus was at the very least already a meth dealer prior to Max's execution, and may have been doing even darker things in his mysterious past, Max's death clearly made Gus exponentially worse.
  • Unperson: Hank can't find anything proving that Gus Fring existed prior to his emigration to Mexico, despite him claiming to be a Chilean national. Later on, Gus confirms with Mike that his past is still completely erased, to which Mike responds that even he can't find anything on him.
  • Wrong Genre Savvy: Gus in the flashback to 1989. He deals drugs in Eladio's territory and gives free samples to Eladio's men in order to get a meeting with the head of The Cartel, clearly believing his sales pitch and the quality of his product will make Eladio forget about the underhanded way he got an audience with him in the first place. He speaks very frankly with Eladio, matter-of-factly pointing out that he's just a middleman for the Colombian gangs in the cocaine business. Even when Eladio makes it clear he doesn't like how Gus manipulated him into a meeting, Gus doesn't seem particularly concerned, giving a business-like non-apology, and tries to talk his way out of it on a technicality by saying he wasn't actually selling anything. He seems to believe he's talking to a reasonable businessman, who will ultimately only care about the money he can make for him. Max realizes what's about to happen, and exhibits proper genre savviness by frantically begging for their lives, but still gets executed. Gus survives the encounter just because of his status in Chile, despite his blindness to the kind of man he was dealing with.