Are we as bad as our worst moment? That’s one of Barry’s central questions, except that question is constantly undermined because whatever these characters’ worst moments might be, they still keep having more bad ones.
Barry’s still dreaming of a peaceful future in witness protection with Sally, in between ranting and raving to himself in the prison yard. But he scared Sally off when she came to visit in the previous episode, and when the Vanity Fair reporter visits him this week, hoping to balance his side of the story with Gene Cousineau’s self-aggrandizing version of events, Barry flips out on him. That, in turn, swings Barry back around from trying to win Cousineau’s forgiveness and affection, to wanting him taken care of.
Barry calls NoHo Hank, who’s not having it. He knows Barry’s working with the Feds, and Barry denies everything and flips out again. But at this point, there’s nothing he can threaten Hank with, and he has no idea that Fuches and Hank are conspiring to have him killed. Hank’s sand business is going well, and he’s hired someone named Toro to send his two best guys into the prison to rub out Barry. (They also have a podcast.)
Barry’s not the only one who can’t keep his temper in check. Sally, on Gene’s advice, has taken on the last refuge of a scoundrel: teaching his acting class. Her Gen Z students know her from the clip of her yelling at her assistant, but they’re all internet-savvy enough to understand that she’s more than what the world saw in a viral video, and they’re sympathetic. That gives her the confidence to start teaching, but it’s not long before she’s tearing into a student who came unprepared, then trying to turn that outburst into an acting lesson. Her students aren’t buying it. She can’t get away with being as abusive to her students as Gene was to her.
Except the student who bears the brunt of Sally’s ire ends up staying. Being yelled at and criticized by Sally brought out some real anger in her, and that’s something actors can use, right? It’s the justification that’s been used to give toxic creative people a pass since time immemorial. For Sally, getting validation from one student just means she’s not going to learn anything from the rest of her students walking out. She’s taken a step down the road towards being as toxic and self-absorbed as her mentor.
Speaking of whom, Cousineau only starts to realize the mess he’s in after talking to the Vanity Fair reporter, despite telling Jim Moss (Janice’s father) he wouldn’t. Never mind Moss’ anger, the FBI are now working with Barry, and they make it clear they aren’t terribly interested in protecting Gene if Barry goes free. The only advice they give him is “keep your mouth shut.” Which, naturally, is too late.
Gene and his agent, in a panic, break into the reporter’s house. They make a ridiculous amount of noise and damage, hoping they can dissuade him from running the story, or destroy his notes, or, well, it’s not a plan they put a whole lot of thought into. They immediately get caught by his wife, but not before throwing a computer into the swimming pool.
But they miss the reporter himself, whose next stop is Jim Moss. He tells him he’s already talked to Cousineau and Barry, which is not what Moss wants to hear. He invites him into the garage — the same one where he intimidated the bejeezus out of Gene last season. When we next see the reporter, he’s dirty, traumatized, and only speaking German (which he didn’t speak before).
And Gene’s next. He goes to Moss to apologize, far too late, and clearly doesn’t grasp the implications of Moss rinsing out the trunk of his car while indifferently listening to Gene sputter. He simply says he needs to “isolate” Gene for a while. Whatever that means, it can’t be good.
A lot of the classic anti-hero shows keep you rooting for the main character by surrounding them with people who are even worse. Just when we’ve seen exactly how sociopathic and depraved Walter White is, the show pits him against neo-Nazis. Nobody’s worse than that, right?
Except on Barry, everyone’s worse than everyone else. Everyone’s betrayed everyone else; everyone’s threatened everyone else; everyone’s hurt everyone else. And yet everyone’s grasping for some kind of absolution. Will any of them get it? And do they deserve to?
• Sorry we’re still a week behind. The site went offline for several days! It’s been a week.
• “It’s a prop gun. A gift from Rip Torn.” “If Rip Torn gave it to you, it probably fires real bullets.”
• A fellow Chechen shows up to threaten Hank to abandon his sand project and rejoin them, or else. It’s a quick moment, so we’ll probably get more followup in the next episode.
• Hader’s old SNL costar Fred Armisen shows up briefly as the hit man sent to kill Barry, and his mugging for the camera really misses the tone of the show. Seeing him go broad makes you appreciate just how subtle the acting is on this show across the board.