Instead of “Planes, Trains and Automobiles”, this episode could be called “Train, Truck and Motorized Dirt Bike.”
Walter White, Jesse Pinkman, & Mike Ehrmantrout Meth Inc. have Madrigal’s Lydia squarely in their sites. With the trio having abducted and handcuffed her in an empty warehouse, the tea-loving single mother pleads for them to spare her life. With the discovery (via listening device Walt secretly plants in framed photo in Hank’s DEA office) that the DEA has implanted GPS devices on Madrigal’s methylamine barrels in the Houston facility, Lydia’s methylamine source is useless to Walt and company.
But the enterprising, and desperate, Lydia works out a deal: they spare her life and she gives them another source to obtain the methylamine, an “ocean” according to her.
Lydia shows them on a map the route a train carrying a tanker full of methylamine takes through the desert. She pinpoints a three-mile “dark zone” where there’s no lines of communication and suggests they do their heist in this area.
Their initial plan necessitates killing the train’s crew, which Jesse strongly objects to. He and Walt then devise a plan to that allows them to steal what they want without killing the crew (they replace the stolen methylamine with water while the crew is focused on the stalled truck standing on the train tracks). As in any drama with its salt, there’s a complication: a Good Samaritan sees the stalled truck and offers to push it off the tracks with his truck.
Mike, hiding in the bushes, sees what’s happening, alerts Walt to abort mission but the ever greedy drug kingpin pushes Jesse and Todd to finish draining every last drop of methylamine from the tanker.
They finish just in time. The train starts to roll a split second after Todd leaps off it. Jesse has to remain lying down on the tracks as the train rolls above him.
The heist is a success, everyone’s high with relief and the successful result. Then a middle-school-aged boy on his motorized dirt bike happens to drive up. He waves, Todd waves back, then pulls his gun and over Jesse’s screamed objections, shoots the kid dead.
You can say they meant well. No, okay, you can’t say “well”. The best you can say is they meant to commit one felony in order to commit another felony without harming anyone (directly) in the process. The meth gang meant to rob a train of a key material used to make meth without having to kill the train crew, which they accomplished. But the young kid cruised by the wrong place at the wrong time and paid for it with his life.
This collateral damage is a key element in the series. It’s not only the meth customers who’re hurt by selling meth but a slew of other people. Up to this point in the series, here’s a list of non-users who’ve been harmed (some killed, others made miserable by Walt’s criminal lifestyle): rival drug dealers, passengers on airplanes that crashed due to Donald Margolis’ grief over dead daughter, Andrea’s younger brother, junkie couple’s son and dead convenience store in “Peekaboo” episode, Skyler, Walter Junior, Holly White, Hank Schrader and Marie Schrader.
Yes, led by Jesse’s efforts, the meth boys did meticulously plan out their heist with every intention of not harming anyone. And they appeared to achieve towards the end of the show. But then the boy on the dirt bike we saw at the episode’s beginning reappears with the tarantula in a jar. Todd fears the boy might report them to the police so he shoot him. In the next episode, Todd, Jesse, Walt and Mike discuss whether this was necessary.
A concept closely related to collateral damage is unintended consequences. The train-robbing gang didn’t start out intending to hurt anyone during their caper. They intentionally did not kill the train crew. But the sudden appearance of a potential witness combined with Todd’s itchy trigger finger leaves a young boy dead.
It reminds me of my last DUI. While I didn’t meticulously plan out my drunkenness, it was kind of like the “Dead Freight” episode. Here’s the deal: I drank so much the day/night before my arrest for DUI that the booze hadn’t completely worked its way out of my system. When I left my apartment just before 11:00 a.m., I didn’t consider the possibility that I was still legally drunk. But I was. After my car got stuck in a muddy ditch on private property, the Cottage Grove police officers arrived in time to keep the AAA tow truck driver (summoned by me) from towing me and my vehicle away. One officer did a Breath-a-Analyzer test on me and the rest, as they say, is history.
I left my apartment with the best of intentions – drive up to the Twin Cities to help someone move their stuff out of a psycho ex-boyfriend’s dad’s house. I ended up in jail for a DUI.
It’s like having a designated driver who has a couple of drinks that turns into six or seven, or more, and then drives the rest of his/her drunken friends home. The old “the best laid plans of mice and men” deal. When one commits unwise, dangerous acts, they shouldn’t be surprise when unexpectedly bad things happen, frequently to innocent bystanders.
Likewise when my wife Amy was drinking copious amounts of vodka every day, I don’t believe she intended to kill herself a month shy of her 42nd birthday. Do you think all the multiple-DUI offenders intended to end up like they do? Again, Jesus’ words come to mind: “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”
The surest way to minimize and possibly even eliminate collateral damage and unintended negative consequences from your life is to act with an honest heart and open mind. If you live honestly and with compassion and empathy for others, you’ve got a helluva chance of not inflicting collateral damage or unintended negative consequences. And you’ll feel better about yourself, which is what it all comes down to.
Note about the author of this blog:
Lee A. Eide is a freelance writer from Red Wing, MN. This blog shows how to free one’s self from any obsession by living beyond the narrow confines of the ego. His book, “Overcome Any Personal Obstacle, Including Alcoholism, By Understanding Your Ego”, is available at http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/leewriter and on Amazon.com.
Also available on Amazon.com and www.xlibris.com:
“Dead Man’s Plan” – spiritual thriller that’s been described as “a unique and fascinating read” by Midwest Book Reviews and “a great, exciting story with well-developed character’s” by Mary E. Dana of SharpWriter magazine.
Author’s website is http://www.leeeide-thewriter.com. Eide lives in Red Wing with his cat, Shaggy II.