Breaking Bad 5.04 – Fifty-One

“I can promise you Gus Fring is dead, and he was the danger.”
“I thought you were the danger.”

Ah, here’s a recurring character who’s been around since the very beginning – it’s Walt’s Pontiac Aztec. Just like Walt, it’s lived through all the action of the last year, battered but not defeated by any means. The mechanic has fixed it up, perhaps not better than ever, but close enough. And lo, what’s in the back seat but Walt’s Heisenberg porkpie hat. He’s certainly grown into that hat, from where it was a prop to make people believe he was a certain man, to a symbol of the man he now is. When the mechanic admires the tough old girl and assures Walt she can probably go another 200,000 miles, Walt looks at his hat. Is this a car befitting the man who killed Gus Fring? I think not. He sells the car to the mechanic for fifty bucks (which is how old he is, though not for long), thus adding it to a long line of loyal friends and family he’s used and abused when he no longer needs them.

Which is how he and Walt Jr. end up driving home a couple of manly cars befitting their station; that’s right, the Charger is back to stay, and I have a feeling Skyler isn’t going to have a say in it this time. Needless to say, Jr. is plenty happy about his new, improved dad whose life soundtrack is now a much cooler dubstep, yo.

Walt is acting like he’s living in some sort of charmed bubble o’ invulnerability, but the wheels of justice are still slowly turning even though Gus is dead. Nobody knows that better than Lydia, who lives every day on Terror Alert Level Orange. She’s perpetually waiting for the other shoe to drop, and so it does (somewhat literally at first as she notices that she’s so jittery she’s worn two different shoes to work that day), when Hank and Gomez pay her a visit at the New Mexico office, where the “Madrigal” sign hangs conspicuously right outside her office window. They want to know who’s in charge of their methylamine, and she’s only too happy to give up poor Ron the warehouse guy, who is indeed one of Mike’s Eleven Nine Henchmen of Doom. Mike has seen this coming from a mile away, and assures the pillow-screaming Lydia not to panic because now that the men have their hazard pay, he’s certain they’ll keep silent. She is obviously not so sure, but even more pressing: now that Ron is headed for the big house, who’s going to handle the methylamine? Who’s going to drive the truck and open the big doors and shit? Not her, right? She can’t do, like, the heavy lifting OMG. After a long pause Mike tells her he’ll send her a new guy. Who might that be? I’ll bet we can guess!

Skyler watches in silent dread as Walt begins to repair his relationship with Jr., now that he has a lot more free time that used to be taken up avoiding being murdered by Gus. He revels in enjoying the “family” he fought so hard to “protect” (damn right both of those concepts are in quotes). Walt Jr. is definitely starting to see his dad as some kind of heroic badass with his shiny new personality changes/cars, and there’s nothing Skyler can do to stop Walt’s influence on their son. Is there?

That night as they’re both practicing excellent oral hygiene before bed, Walt justifies the cars (They’re leased! It’s fine!) to Skyler like her opinion actually counts or something. To smooth it over further, he gives her the admittedly paltry amount left over after Mike cleaned him out last week. She’s stunned that he’s cooking again; her last bit of hope was that with Gus dead, so was the drug trade, but nooooo. This pushes her enough to wonder out loud if Walter Jr. might go to boarding school, because a different environment might be good for him. Walt takes this rather personally, as he well should. He’s still under the impression he can talk her out of her fear and loathing like he’s talked his way out of everything else, assuring her that everything is back to normal and they can even look forward to stuff, like…his birthday! Yay! With chocolate cake! Woo hoo! “Life is good, Skyler,” he says as he turns out the light. Well. HIS life is good, and that’s all that really counts.

The next day is Walt’s 51st birthday, and Walt gets his traditional Birthday Breakfast. Skyler is coerced into shaping his bacon into his birthday age as she’s done in years past. No turkey bacon for Walt this time around; Skyler is definitely in a different frame of mind about Walt’s well-being this year as opposed to last. You might even think the little wee piece of bacon she chooses for the 1 is Freudian or something.

Hank is spending the day trying to figure out why the blue meth is starting to show up on the streets again since Gus and his lab workers are all dead. What piece of the puzzle is he missing? LOL at the two shadow cards on Hank’s corkboard web of deceit, just waiting for Walt and Jesse’s mugshots. Even though Gomez scoffs at the thought, Hank wonders about Lydia’s involvement; of course he noticed her mismatched shoes (because Hank misses absolutely nothing…except his brother-in-law’s takeover of a drug empire), and he wonders what made her so distracted. His pondering is interrupted by the big old promotion that comes walking through the door, to head of the department. He accepts the job gladly, even though it means he’s going to be the guy who stays behind in the office instead of the guy knocking on doors. It’s too soon to tell if this will be good or bad for the investigation, or Walt, or Hank.

It’s the end of another meth camping cookout (done in a tent, lots of bugs) and Walt wants to leave work early to get home to his fabulous birthday party that’s waiting for him; he still honestly thinks that Skyler will come around if he just gives her the right pep talk. Jesse doesn’t mind, so Walt checks his evil goatee in his rockin’ car window and toddles on inside to be celebrated for being born. Um…not so much. Jr. is flipping channels, and Skyler is plopping a rotisserie chicken from Safeway on a plate to feed Hank and Marie, who she invited over for Walt’s birthday dinner. Woot? It seems that even though Skyler is afraid of Walt, her old fighting self is starting to punch through. You didn’t really suppose Skyler White was just going to lie down and roll over, did you? Her mutinies may be small, but they count. Walt is less than impressed.

Hank and Marie’s marriage has never looks so good as when it’s compared to the uber dysfunction of the White clan. They’re driving over for supper, and Hank wheedles it out of her that infidelity has raised its ugly head at her sister’s house. Hank thinks he’s so smart, saying that he figured out long ago Walt was likely having an affair, and Marie is thrilled to correct him on just who screwed around on whom. Hank is frankly shocked; score one for Marie.

Finding out a your sister-in-law cheated on her dying husband five minutes before arriving for his birthday party makes for one awkward meal. Jr. saves them, but when he scoots for the evening, they’re left with themselves and their tawdry secrets that aren’t so secret. Typically, that’s when the conversation turns to potato ricers. When Skyler abruptly stands to start cleaning up, Walt goes into one of his famous soliloquies on the year they’ve all had. “Has it only been a year? It seems like much longer.” It seems that way to us, too, Marie. Years and years and years. Skyler moves to the edge of the pool as he reminisces about how he didn’t want to get treatment, how many dark days they went through. He talks about how many times he thought he was done for (little do they know), but someone or something saw him through it. He’s obviously talking about more than the cancer, and he obviously thinks that good luck is with him still. It’s when he points out how good Skyler was to him during chemotherapy that Skyler has had enough. She walks into the pool of beautiful blue meth water and goes under, effectively shutting Walt up. Once again, she takes control away from him in the only way she knows how.

Lydia is trying her best to muddle through procuring Mike his stupid methylamine from the Madrigal warehouse, and she really isn’t very good at it. She finally gets the security cameras diabled and the bay door open, to find our hero Jesse standing on the other side. She doesn’t know how fabulous he is, so she peppers him with questions in case he’s really a cop from 21 Jump Street. Ha! She’s erased one of the barrels of methylamine from the inventory, so she orders Jesse to bring the barrel down. He uses a forklift to do so, and all is great until Lydia notices a tracker on the bottom of the barrel. So much for THAT idea.

After Walt jumps in and “saves” Skyler in the pool, Marie puts her to bed for a second time in a week while Walt and Hank discuss what the hell just happened. Hank doesn’t think she was trying to actually kill herself, but was just crying out for help, and should maybe talk to a professional. When Walt says, “I had no idea she was taking it this hard,” I think for once he’s telling the truth. Marie offers to take the kids for a while so they can work out their problems, and Walt finds that very interesting. Whose idea was it for Marie to take the kids away from home? Well, Skyler’s. Of course it was. Walt’s facade of weak, cuckold husband slips a bit at that, and we can see he’s totally pissed off at Skyler’s little attempt at subterfuge.

After Hank and Marie leave, Walt confronts Skyler in the bedroom. He agreed to let Marie take the kids for a few days, so voila! The kids are out of this environment, which is what Skyler had planned all along. Walt tries to be patient with her perceived thickness, telling her yet again that they’re safe now, he’s the boss, Gus is gone, yadda yadda. It all goes downhill when she refuses to believe him and blames herself as much as him. He can’t believe she’s still fretting over a little thing like Ted breaking his neck because of her. “You made a mistake and things got out of control, but you did what you had to do to protect your family.” Everyone listening to this except Walter White clearly understands that Walt is talking to himself as well as her, and has possibly told himself this speech many, many times. Skyler finally draws the line in the sand, saying they may be morally bankrupt but their kids are not going to be part of it. Walt promptly crosses that line, raising the stakes as to how far they each are willing to go to get their own way. Fake a suicide attempt? Maybe he’ll have her committed. Pretend he beat her? Let Jr. think Walt’s a wife-beater and she’s a whore. As Walt blocks every avenue Skyler has contemplated, she gets more and more panicked. He gets more and more aggressive, just like he does with Jesse, shouting at her to tell him her brilliant plan to defeat him until she wails, “I don’t know!” She’s not a brilliant genius like Walt, she’s just a mom trying to protect her kids. And that’s when her real plan comes out: she’s not going to do anything. She’s just trying to hold on until Walt dies of cancer.


And what can Walt say to that? He can defeat all the drug lords and DEA agents in the world, but there’s not a thing he can do about the cancer inside him. Check and mate. Of course, he’s not dead yet. Not even close.

But enough family drama – back to the drug dealing drama. Jessie meets with Mike and Walt to discuss the tracker on the barrel. Mike instantly knows that Lydia set it up herself so she could wiggle her way out of their agreement, and he’s so irked he prepares to go and kill her that very night. He tells them the only reason he didn’t already kill her is because he’s sexist. Ha! Jesse is mortified at the thought of killing her if there’s even a chance she’s innocent and tries to talk Mike out of it, saying Lydia is their only link to methylamine. Just like Walt, Mike is so sure he’s right that he won’t listen to anyone else, even if that means cutting back on the meth production for a while. When Jesse objects (“I vote it’s a voting thing!”) and appeals to Walt, Walt makes the final call. He looks at his Heisenberg hat in his lap and says in no uncertain terms that Mike will not kill Lyida, and there won’t be any damn slowdown on production. “Nothing stops this train,” he says coldly. “Nothing.” And there’s no doubt he’s talking to the whole world when he says it.

When Walt goes to leave, Jesse follows him into the parking lot and gives him a belated birthday gift: a fancy-schmancy watch. I guess Jesse wasn’t second-guessing his loyalty to Walt last week after all. After everything he’s lost, Jesse can’t afford to see that Mr. White isn’t the man he thinks he is. ::pets Jesse:: I’d go so far as to say nothing could ever change his mind…if Saul didn’t know the truth about the ricin cigarette, that is.

Walt comes home to find Skyler smoking in the living room, using his new birthday mug as an ashtray. He shows her his new watch, using it as proof that he got Jesse to change his mind about Walt, and he’ll get her to change her mind, too. Seeing what he had to do to get Jesse on his side again, that’s rather awful to contemplate. Skyler remains unconvinced, unsurprisingly, and Walt goes to bed alone, putting his watch on the bedside table, where it sounds a lot like a bomb that’s going tick-tick-tick…boom.