BREAKING BAD 5.04 ‘Fifty-One’

On Walt's birthday, Skyler makes a desperate move. Meanwhile, Mike and Jesse argue about Lydia's fate as Hank gets a promotion.

Blair Marnellby Blair Marnell

Episode Title: "Fifty-One"

Writer: Sam Catlin

Director: Rian Johnson

Previously on "Breaking Bad":

Episode 5.03 'Hazard Pay'


At the auto repair shop, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and his son, Walt Jr. (RJ Mitte) are there to pick up Walt's newly repaired Aztec. But Walt looks extremely unsatisfied as the mechanic extols the virtues of the Aztec and predicts a longer life ahead for the vehicle. Taking inspiration from his Heisenberg hat in the Aztec, Walt shocks his son by selling the Aztec to the mechanic for $50 and then follows it up by leasing a new Chrysler 300. Walt then goes even further by leasing a new Dodge Challenger for his son. But in Houston, Walt's new associate (who has yet to meet him), Lydia (Laura Fraser) is decidedly less happy as her colleague prattles on in German over a conference call.

Barely moments after noticing that her shoes are mixed up, Lydia receives a call from Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) warning her that the DEA is about to arrive in force. Sure enough, Hank (Dean Norris) and Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) lead several officers into the Madrigal building before stopping into Lydia's office. Reluctantly, Lydia takes them to the warehouse and points out her foreman, Ron (Russ Dillen); who gives her a sharp look as he is arrested. After the DEA is gone, Lydia tells Mike that Ron was her inside man at the warehouse, but he assures her that he will send another man and that Ron will keep his mouth shut.

In the White household, Skyler (Anna Gunn) doesn't have much to say about the new cars parked in her driveway. But she is quietly horrified that Walt is once again cooking meth. Walt nonchalantly says that they need to make up the money that she lost to Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins). Walt also states his belief that Skyler is planning a big birthday party for him, so he tells her what he wants and even mentions the kind of cake that he would like. At the DEA, Hank and Gomez try to figure out why none of Gus' former operatives are cooperating with the investigation for a reduced sentence.

Hank correctly assumes that Mike is now holding things together and he even highly suspects Lydia's involvement. But before Hank can proceed with the next phase of the investigation, SAC Ramey (Todd Terry) congratulates Hank on his work and promotes him to the ASAC position. During a meth cook with Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul), Walt mentions that it is his birthday and he asks Jesse to finish without him. Much to Walt's disappointment, he finds that his birthday party is just a small family dinner with Hank and his wife, Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt). On the drive to the White residence, Marie lets it slip that Skyler had an affair with Ted, although she had promised Walt to say nothing about it.

In Houston, Lydia is incredulous when Jesse arrives on Mike's behest. Eventually, Lydia leads Jesse to a barrel of methylamine that she kept off of the inventory, but they both become alarmed when she spots a GPS device on the bottom of the barrel. Back at Walt's home, Walt Jr. goes to bed as Walt speaks with his wife and his in-laws. As Walt talks about what their support has meant for him in the past year, Skyler walks away from the table and slowly submerges herself in the pool while fully dressed. Hank and Marie are frightened for Skyler's safety before Walt jumps into the pool to get her out of the water.

Sometime later, Marie puts Skyler to bed while Hank suggest to Walt that Skyler should talk to Marie's therapist. Hank also lets on that Marie hinted that Skyler had an extra-marital affair with Ted. Walt agrees to get Skyler some help, but he barely contains his annoyance when he learns that Skyler asked Marie to take Walt Jr. and Holly to their house so that Walt and Skyler can work through their issues. As soon as  they are gone, Walt confronts his wife. Skyler tries to argue that their children should be kept out of their dangerous drug connections, but Walt is increasingly livid. The argument escalates until Skyler says she will just wait until Walt's cancer returns. 

The following day, Walt and Mike listen as Jesse relates what happened at Madrigal. Mike instantly thinks that Lydia planted the GPS device to escape her obligations to him and he openly states his intention to kill her. Jesse gets in Mike's way and tries to talk him out of it. When that fails, Jesse looks to Walt for support. Barely paying attention, Walt spares Lydia's life by insisting that the methylamine must continue to flow. Afterwards, Jesse approaches Walt and gives him a TAG Heuer Monaco wristwatch as a birthday present. But Walt barely seems to acknowledge the gesture.

That night, Walt returns home and he tells Skyler that they will have more money coming soon. Walt also shows her the watch that Jesse bought him to prove a point. Jesse wanted Walt dead a few weeks ago, and now he cares enough about him again to give him a gift like this. Walt argues that Skyler will eventually change her mind about him as well. But as Walt goes to sleep with the watch by his bed side, the ticking time piece grows ominously loud.

It's a testament to the writing and acting on "Breaking Bad" that an extended argument between Walt and Skyler can be so engrossing and riveting to watch. Walter White's story has always been about a man in deep moral decline. And it's becoming more and more clear that the only person that Walter White truly loves is himself. Walt is such a huge narcissist that he honestly believed that he was going to get a massive birthday celebration from his deeply troubled wife.

And who would go to Walt's birthday except for his family and in-laws? It's not like he can invite Jesse or Saul. And Mike hates Walt. There's really nobody else in Walt's life and he's long since alienated his friends. The scary part is that Walt doesn't seem to care. Even in the face of his wife wishing death upon him, Walt shrugs it off as a temporary thing. Walt didn't even bother to acknowledge Jesse's birthday gesture with a "thank you." People just don't matter to him. Even buying a car for Walt Jr. was less about Walt treating his son than basking in the adoration he received in return. Walt may be the meth king for now, but he's getting pretty sloppy.

As for Hank, his instincts regarding Mike and Lydia are so dead on that it's amazing. Hank even noticed Lydia's mismatched shoes. Now that's a talent for observation. Although, it occurs to me that Hank's sudden promotion could also be a way of shutting down his personal investigation before he gets too far. Gus may very well have had DEA employees on his payroll who are much higher in rank than Hank. Thus it's in their best interests to get him away from anything that could lead back to them. However, that's just a theory.

Another intriguing touch is that Mike may soon get a DEA surveillance team watching him over him; which could get problematic for everyone. Jesse's refusal to let Mike kill Lydia may also come back to haunt them. Perhaps if Mike explained that Lydia had already put a hit out on him, Jesse may have been more amenable to his permanent solution. Or maybe not. It's strange that only Jesse and Mike seem to have any morals in that partnership. Walt didn't seem to care whether Lydia lived or died as long as the methylamine keeps flowing. At least Mike is trying to take care of his former crew, even if he just doesn't want them to implicate him.

The ticking watch at the end of the episode was a nice haunting touch. Mike may have been right all along. Walt has become a ticking time bomb… and at some point his explosion may pull in everyone around him.