REWATCH: Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 4 Recap: Fifty-One
Aug 05 2013 12:13 pm ET
It's Walt's birthday on this episode of Breaking Bad. What better way to celebrate than figuring out what level of liability Lydia may be to the operation while Skyler finally takes a stand against her megalomaniacal husband?
Previously on Breaking Bad: Walt moved back into the house, despite Skyler's reservations. Lydia, a go-between in the Fring organization, has a hitlist for Mike. He'd rather handle the Gus fallout on his own terms – which may include eliminating Lydia. Hank is on his feet and back on the Fring investigation. Marie witnessed Skyler's complete unraveling ("SHUT UP") and warned Walt.
Walt and Walt Jr are at a mechanic's shop picking up my favorite tertiary character: The Aztek. We haven't seen the car since Walt disposed all the evidence of the bomb and Lily of the Valley synthesis in the season premiere. The mechanic offers an update on the car's stats (which sounds a little too much like ad copy) as Walt inspects the vehicle. He spots his Heisenberg Hat in the backseat. After clearing the brim of some dust, Walt offers to sell the car to the mechanic for $100. The mechanic is all "huh?" causing Walt to lower his price to $50. Walt Jr is just as dumbfounded. "50 bucks, are you crazy?" Walt looks at his be-hatted reflection in the rearview mirror.
Outside the house, Walt Jr's PT Cruiser pulls up into the driveway. A black sports car pulls into the driveway spot next to the PTC. Walt revs the engine and looks at his son. Then, the driveway is clear again when the black car and a red corvette park in the spaces. The two Walts rev their engines as the music and camera turns into a ZZ Top video. Credits. Walt murdered the Aztek. I'm devastated.
Lydia sits in her office at Madrigal Stateside listening in on a conference call. The conversation is completely in German without subtitles and soon becomes background noise, so it probably isn't important. Another phone rings in Lydia's desk. "Heads up," Mike says at the other end, "you've got visitors." Hank and Gomez enter Lydia's office and today's business is not about chit chat. Lydia leads the DEA agents and some officers to the warehouse. Lydia points out an employee, who is promptly arrested. Lydia returns to her office, the conference call still playing out over the speaker phone. She grabs a nearby throw pillow and screams into it. Once calmed down, Lydia calls Mike and tells him the Feds got Ron. Mike says it's okay, but Lydia thinks otherwise. "The that he gave me was the antithesis of 'okay.'" Lydia is a walking panic attack. "I'll send a new guy," Mike says.
Skyler returns to the house in the station wagon and can't find a parking space. Inside, the boys are geeking out about their cars at the dinner table while Skyler sublimates her everything in the tuna casserole or whatever it is she's eating. The only thing that pulls Skyler out of her reverie is Walt Jr saying to his dad "bullshit you ever did donuts." Later, Skyler is deliberate in all her motions as she flosses her teeth. Walter explains he wanted to give himself a birthday present, hence the cars. He assures his wife that the cars are leased, so there's less risk – both financially and to their cover story. Walt lays a stack of money next to Skyler, whose reflection we see reveals no extreme reaction to the wad of cash. "You're back at it?" she asks. Walt says yes, "to make up the $600,000 we lost." As the two get ready for bed, Skyler floats the idea of sending Jr to boarding school. Walt asks what brought that up and she replies "a new environment might be good for him." Walt is all "what's wrong with the environment?" but Skyler doesn't have an answer. Walt tells Skyler there's nothing to be afraid of anymore and they should look forward to things again. To that end, he would like a celebration for his upcoming birthday. Skyler: no response.
The next day is Walter's birthday. Skyler has made breakfast for the family and sits down to eat. Jr reminds his mom she forgot something with Walt's bacon and eggs. Skyler begrudgingly walks to Walt's plate and crumbles the bacon to form the digital number 51, similar to the 52 from the season premiere (so much for my not-as-evil twin theory). The 1 is made with half a strip, which Jr criticizes. Skyler swaps the small piece with one of Jr's full strips. Walt seems to interpret this as playfulness, whereas I think Skyler just wants to eat her damn eggs.
Over in the DEA office, Hank and Gomez look at the giant Gus Fring web constructed on a giant bulletin board. Though there are lines connecting all sorts of photos, many of those connections still make little sense at this point. The captain stops by for a status check and when he can expect a report on his desk. Hank doesn't have an ETA for the report, but surveillance for Mike is in the planning stages, especially now that Blue Sky has found its way back on the street. They don't know if this is old inventory or new product yet. The Captain asks Gomez to leave so he can talk to Hank. Don't worry: it's good news. The Captain is heading back to El Paso, so his job will be up for grabs and the department wants to promote from within. Hank is offered the job and accepts.
At a canvas-covered house, Walt and Jesse are doing post-cook/pre-fumigation cleanup. Walt asks Jesse if he can cut out early so he can get ready for his birthday party. Jesse doesn't have a problem and wishes his boss a happy birthday. Walt returns home and finds Jr watching TV while Skyler preps in the kitchen. Walt asks her what the plan is. She goes over the menu, including the chocolate cake he requested the night before. The room temperature: arctic.
Marie is awkwardly silent as she and Hank drive to the party. Hank has already told her about the promotion and says he thought she would be more excited. Her preoccupation is with what Walt told her last week about Skyler and Ted, but she tells her husband "it involved infidelity, that's all I'm going to say." Hank chuckles, saying he already knew about Walt's second phone escapades from a few months back. Marie says "Well, it wasn't Walt." Hank is shocked that his sister-in-law would do such a thing. The couple arrives at the house and it's all smiles and facades.
After dinner, Hank and Jr riff a bit about the new cars before Jr heads inside to do homework. Skyler is back to her catatonic state, which does not go unnoticed by Marie. Marie tries to engage her sister by asking how she got the potatoes so creamy. Walt reflects on the last year, which doubles as the Cliff's Notes version of all the non-meth events from the series: the cancer diagnosis, Hank's shooting with the twins, Walt's intervention with Marie's "talking pillow." Skyler walks over to the pool and contemplates the water as Walt thanks Marie, Hank and Skyler, for all of their help and support during all the craziness. Walt shares an anecdote about a time he was laying on the bathroom floor, overwhelmed by the toxicity of chemotherapy, and Skyler comforted him. As he speaks, Skyler takes a step into the pool. Marie hears the ripple of water and comments that it must be freezing. Skyler, in her flowing dress, continues to walk into the pool. This entire series is Shakespearean in structure; this would be the Ophelia moment. The on-lookers are slow to react, watching what Skyler is doing. When it becomes obvious she isn't trying to surface, Walt dives in and pulls Skyler from the depths of the pool.
Lydia has a panic attack when she encounters a fusebox in the Madrigal warehouse. She has another panic attack when she notices the fuses aren't labeled. She tries different switches until she finds the one that shuts off the security cameras. Lydia opens one of the loading bays and panics when she sees Jesse. He says he's there for the pickup, but she wants some credentials. Jesse, who had to fly 600 miles to do this pickup and isn't looking forward to the 9-hour drive back, isn't amused. The password that satisfies Lydia is Ehrmantraut, so she leads Pinkman to the shelf with the Methylamine. As Jesse uses a forklift to lower the barrel, Lydia panics. She points her flashlight at the barrel. Jesse looks and spots a GPS tracker plastered to the bottom.
Back in the White house, Hank asks Walt if Skyler has had previous incidents such as the one in the pool. Walt says no, but acknowledges the two of them have been having issues recently. Hank suggests that they seek some professional help to try to resolve the issues. Marie enters and reports Skyler is trying to get some sleep. Marie agrees that Walt and Skyler should talk to someone and she has a phone number of a guy they can work with. "These things happen in a marriage," she says, "and it isn't unfixable." Marie goes on to suggest creating a more spacious environment for working on these issues by taking the kids for a few days (or however long they need). Walt says he doesn't see this as a solution, but Marie says it would be fun. Walt asks if this idea was Marie's. "Actually," she says, "it was Skyler's."
Later, Walt returns to the bedroom after dropping off the kids at Marie and Hank's. "The kids are out of this environment, voila, what a coincidence," Walt fumes. Skyler says she doesn't want the kids in the house because it isn't safe. Just a couple weeks ago, Walt was screaming for his life in the crawl space and the entire family's lives had been threatened. Now Walt is cooking again and she doesn't see how things are safer just because Gus is dead. "I keep the work at work," Walt says, "nothing will impact you or the kids." Walt says Gus was the danger, to which Skyler responds "I thought you were the danger." Oh snap, this is about to get real. Walt tries to parry, but Skyler says she has blood on her hands, too. Walt thinks this is Skyler blaming herself for what happened to Beneke, but he assures her what happened wasn't her fault. Want sits on the bed and is about to put his hand on Skyler's knee when she jumps out.
"I don't need to hear any of your bullshit rationales," she says. "I'm in it now. I'm compromised. But I won't, I will not, have my children living in a house where dealing drugs and hurting people and killing people is shrugged off as 'shit happens.' We're back at it? Fine. The kids stay away and that's that." Walt asks what happens to the kids after a few days. Skyler stands firm that she won't let the kids back into the house. Walt digs deeper, asking Skyler what the specifics are of her plan. Skyler says she'll hurt herself, but Walt says he'll just have her committed. Skyler says she'll try to fake some domestic violence, but Walt says the kids will be able to prove that Walt didn't do it. Skyler tries a few more ideas but Walt shoots each one down. "You want to take me on?" Walt taunts, "You want to take away my children?" Skyler admits she has no more ideas for how to keep the kids away, "but I'll count every second as a victory. All I can do is wait. Bide my time and wait." This causes Walt to pause. Wait for what? "For the cancer to come back."
Okay, so everything I said last week about Skyler not having anything to do? I take that back completely. This recap isn't doing the above scene justice – it was one of the best 10 minutes of television I've encountered in a very long time.
Walt shaves his head the next morning. The scene plays out as a soundscape: a bell tolls with each pass of the razor played. Walt nicks himself and blood drips down the back of his head. We see a band-aid on the wound as Walt sits at the breakfast table. Walt's phone rings. "Just relax. I'm coming."
Mike and Walt sit in the garage office as Jesse explains what happened with the botched pickup. Mike is unimpressed with the sloppiness of what he sees in the photograph. If someone was going to plant a tracker, why wouldn't they put it inside the barrel, or at least use a minimum of putty. Mike asks Jesse who spotted the tracker. Jesse says it was Lydia. "Ok, she's dead," Mike says, as if he was culling his Twitter feed. Jesse suggests telling Lydia to stop interfering, but Mike says he already gave her a pass by not killing her. "That's what I get for being sexist," Mike says, bumping him up to Favorite Secondary Character. Now it's Jesse's turn to panic, saying that if she goes, so goes the supply of methylamine. Mike says a temporary ramping down of operations is only a temporary setback to what could be a permanent problem, adding "this woman deserves to die." Jesse calls for a vote. Walt, sitting on a couch and considering his Heisenberg Hat, says "nothing stops this train. Nothing." After the meeting, Jesse runs to Walt as he gets into his new car. Jesse thanks Walt for supporting him in the meeting and gives him a birthday present. Walt opens the box, which contains a handsome wristwatch.
Walt returns home where Skyler sits in the living room smoking cigarettes. Walt reports he stopped by Marie's to check on the kids and Jr is still asking what's going on. Skyler takes a long drag. Walt alerts his wife more money will be coming in soon. "Fine," she says, more focused on the mug she's using as an ashtray than on her husband. Walt asks if Skyler is coming to bed, but she replies by taking another long drag on her cigarette. Walt starts to make his way to the bedroom, but pauses in the hall. He goes back to Skyler. "The person who gave me this wanted me dead," he says, pointing to his new watch, "he changed his mind about me, Skyler, and so will you."
In the bedroom, Walt places his watch on the nightstand as he crawls into bed. It is the last thing he looks at before he turns off the light. We see a closeup of the second hand as it ticks. 56. 57. 58. 59. 00. Credits.
Next time on Breaking Bad: Lydia has a new source for Methylamine. And if you thought the sepia-toned scenes of dread were gone now that Gus is gone I have good(?) news for you.
Mike McComb – TVLatest.com
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