Problem Dog

“Problem Dog” refers to the emotional scene when Jesse tells his Narcotics Anonymous group about shooting Gale, using the dog as a front. The scene is a great performance by Aaron Paul. The episode starts with Jesse playing a first person shooter game and seeing flashes of Gale’s face on the screen. Walt then asks him to kill Gus and gives him the poison to do it; Jesse rolls the poison into a cigarette. Jesse has the opportunity to carry out the crime, but is unsure if he wants to do it again. One of my favorite shots in the episode is Gus, the ultimate crime boss, sipping the coffee that could have been poisoned. Although in this episode, he’s not really the ultimate crime boss anymore. The cartels want to take over his business.

Hank also leaves mineral collecting behind and makes a trip to Los Pollos Hermanos with Walt, Jr. He successfully gets Gus’s fingerprints and presents his case at the DEA. I enjoyed the moment when Gus asks Walt, Jr. if he’d like to work for him afterschool at the restaurant. A wholesome family business.


Pioneer Woman on the Food Network

Western cuisine is finally getting its day on television, with the premiere this weekend of The Pioneer Woman, with Ree Drummond, on the Food Network. The show developed from Drummond’s popular The Pioneer Woman blog. The first episode of the series was titled, you will not be surprised to know, “Home on the Range.” Among the recipes Drummond unveiled was one for Cowboy Breakfast Sandwiches (it involves Texas Toast).

The multifaceted Pioneer Woman blog (, which has copious photos of her husband (aka, the Marlboro Man), as well as lots of other photos taken in her daily life on a ranch, is always interesting to check out (she once kissed James Garner in an elevator, she reveals).

Of course, not everyone is a Ree Drummond fan, as various video parodies suggest, including this particularly amusing one which posits a theme song for the cooking show based on the Beverly Hillbillies theme song.


This episode further complicates the dynamics between Walt and Skyler. After Walt’s decision to tell Hank that the real Heisenburg may still be at large, Skyler begins to figure out his involvement in Gale’s murder. Only she believes he is at risk. Walt tells her in one of the more explosive moments that it’s him that knocks at people’s doors. He should be feared. When Walt goes to get the keys to the car wash, he refuses to allow Bogdon to take the framed dollar bill, that represents the business’s first earnings. Bogdon taunted Walt, asking him rather he could take care of business or if his wife would do the job. Walt busts the frame, takes the dollar bill, and sticks it into a soda machine.

Breaking Bad continues to use western scenery in interesting ways. Skyler goes to the Four Corners Monument and flips a coin. The scene seems to have a spiritual dimension to it. Viewers get a glimpse of an American Indian trading stall as she walks up to the monument. The episode ends with her protecting the family from Walt who is put them at risk by buying an expensive sports car for Walt Jr.

Winter in the Blood Video Blog

The adaptation of of James Welch’s Winter in the Blood has started filming in Montana.  They are also doing a video blog, which includes interviews with various production team members, for anyone who wants to follow along with the filming process.

Television and the American West (CFP)

For a special issue, Western American Literature invites submissions examining the depiction of the West on television.

Although the golden age of the television western has long since passed, we have seen in the 21st century a remarkable rebirth of the portrayal of the West on television: in reality shows (such as MTV’s The Real World, set most recently in Hollywood), in series that reinvent and revise the classic western (such as Deadwood), and in series that make extensive use of western settings and locations (such as the original C. S. I.). For this issue, we are interested in original work investigating the depiction of the West in contemporary television. Essays might be focused on readings of individual episodes, comprehensive discussions of an entire series, or comprehensive discussions of a particular element of the television West that touches on several series.

Some possible topics might include (but are not limited to):

Televisions series taking place in contemporary (such as Big Love, Breaking Bad, The Killing, or Friday Night Lights) or historical (Deadwood, Carnivale) western settings

Television series that take western genre conventions and adapt them to a contemporary setting (such as Sons of Anarchy); or that relocate western conventions in other places (such as Justified) or to other frontier settings (such as the science fiction series Firefly)

Television series that center on “tough women” in the American West (such as In Plain Sight and Saving Grace); essays might also look at individual female characters who are part of a larger ensemble (such as in Sons of Anarchy and Breaking Bad)


Television series that depict the Canadian West (such as Little Mosque on the Praire, Heartland, or Vancouver-based series such as Da Vinci’s Inquest and Intelligence)

The West of Reality TV (such as Sarah Palin’s Alaska and Ice Road Truckers)

Television coverage of (and/or video responses to) the January 8, 2011, shootings in Tucson as visual narratives about the West

Your essay should not exceed 35 pages double-spaced, including endnotes and Works Cited. Please use endnotes, not footnotes, for substantive notes. Your manuscript should follow MLA style. All submissions are electronic to our guest editor, Michael K. Johnson. Questions and submissions should go to directly.

The deadline for submissions is January 1, 2012



The main narrative of this episode features Mike taking Jesse on a road trip. Jesse assumes he will likely be buried in a desert hole. He grips his car keys, his only weapon. Suspense builds as Mike pulls into a classic western scene: a ramshackle corral, a creaking windmill, and endless desert with nobody in sight. The camera pans across the scenery. Mike grabs a shovel from the back of his car, but instead of killing Jesse, he digs up money. He does this at six different locations. Near the end of their trip, Jesse starts to perceive himself as a guard who saved the money from shotgun armed robbers. The audience finds out that Jesse has been set up by Gus. We still don’t know the full plan.

There’s also a great dinner scene between Hank and Walt. Hank talks about how Gale was a true genius and Walt can’t stand to have Gale be thought of as Heisenburg. Walt tells Hank that the real Heisenburg could still be out there. Gale was just a student.

Bullet Points

This episode opens with a great action sequence. Mike escapes a hail of gun fire as two men shoot up a Los Pollos Hermanos truck. He dispatches the men with ease as soon as the doors of the truck start to swing open. The sequence ends with him fingering the bleeding top half of his ear. Mike is the greatest gunman in the show.

One of the episode’s best moments occurs between Walt and Skyler as they rehearse for their dinner at Hank and Marie’s. Skyler wakes up in the middle of the night and makes a couple of notes on her yellow notepad for the script she is writing. The scene is great because you see Walt and Skyler discussing the real issues in their relationship even as they concoct an elaborate story of Walt’s gambling prowess and addiction. They discuss the shame Skyler thinks Walt should feel, Skyler sleeping with her boss last season, and the risks Walt is taking. Later in the episode, Walt vents to Saul about how Skyler wants to see Walt just going off to work in a nice, safe lab and she wants to believe he will just be able to walk away. Saul talks about a man who can make people disappear.

In this episode, we also get to see Hank and Walt connecting. The most interesting moment occurs when they are looking at the Lab Notes together and Hank mentions a dedication to W.W. Walt explains it as being just a Walt Whitman quotation. However, I think that Gale was also thinking of Walter White, a chemist he admired greatly. The music video of Gale is Breaking Bad again showing its great humorous side.

The camera work is also consistently strong. There’s a moment when Walter, Skyler, Walt Jr., and baby Holly are all about to go into Hank and Marie’s house and the camera just shows their shadows, a dark moment before they enter the house.