Episode Title: "Buyout"
Writer: Gennifer Hutchison
Director: Colin Bucksey
Previously on "Breaking Bad":
Inside the Vamonos Pest building, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), Mike Ehrmantraut (Jonathan Banks) and Todd (Jesse Plemons) say nothing as they meticulously dismantle the bike that belonged to the kid whom Todd killed in the previous episode. And when they are done with the bike, they get to the grim task of dissolving the kid's body in hydrofluoric acid. Outside, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) waits alone before Todd comes out and tries to make small talk with him. After Todd casually dismisses what happened to the kid as "s*** happens," Jesse punches him. Shortly thereafter, Todd pleads his case in front of the three partners and says that he would do it again for the team.
When Todd is dismissed from the room, Walt lays out their options: fire Todd, kill Todd or keep him on the Vamonos Pest payroll so they can keep an eye on him. Walt and Mike overrule Jesse by going for the third option. But Mike makes sure to angrily warn Todd never to bring a gun to a job again without telling him. Todd returns to his car and seems relieved before he takes out the tarantula in a jar from the dead boy's jacket and admires it. The next day, Mike is out in a park with his granddaughter when he notices Gomez (Steven Michael Quezada) and another DEA agent trailing them.
Mike tricks the agents into thinking that he made a dead drop beneath a trash can, but it turns out to be a note that says "F*** you." That night, Mike listens to the recordings from the bug planted in the office of Hank Schrader (Dean Norris). On the recording, Gomez reports that Mike has continuously eluded the DEA agents sent to tail him, but Hank insists that Mike will eventually slip up. Meanwhile, Hank's wife, Marie (Betsy Brandt) comforts her sister, Skyler (Anna Gunn) about her crumbling marriage to Walt. While Skyler appears to be on the verge of telling her sister why she doesn't want her kids around them, Marie blurts out that Walt told her about the affair with Ted Beneke (Christopher Cousins).
Surprised, Skyler seems to play into Marie's assurances about the affair while silently seething. Somewhere else, Walt and Jesse are set up in another house taking a break from their latest meth cook. Jesse is distressed when the TV airs a news report about the missing boy whom Todd killed. Walter has a heart-to-heart with Jesse and says that the kid's death has also haunted him, but they can settle their soul-searching after they've gone through their supply on methylamine. Walt even offers to finish the cook solo so that Jesse can go home early. But before Jesse leaves, he hears Walt whistling a happy tune and realizes that Walt doesn't care about the dead kid at all.
When Walt returns to Vamonos Pest to drop off the latest batch of meth, he discovers that Mike and Jesse are already there. To Walt's shock, Mike and Jesse both tell him that they want out of their new alliance and that they will be selling their share of the methlamine to a Phoenix based drug lord named Declan (Louis Ferreira) in return for $5 million each. Jesse offers to cut Walt in on the deal as well, but he accuses Jesse of selling out. Taken aback, Jesse asks Walt if they are in the meth business or the money business. The next day, Mike and Jesse meet Declan in the desert and give him a gallon of methylamine as a sample.
Declan quickly agrees to give them $10 million for their methylamine supply because he is eager to see their Blue Meth off the streets. From their reactions, Declan deduces that they have a third partner who still intends to cook and use his share of the methylamine towards that purpose. So, Declan says that there will be no deal unless they are selling the entire supply of methylamine. When Jesse calls Walt to share the news, he is stunned when Walt invites him to come over to his house and discuss it. Jesse makes his case for why they should go through with the deal, but Walt tells him how left Grey Matter, a billion dollar company that Walt co-founded.
With extreme bitterness, Walt says that he sold out his share for $5,000 and that he checks the value of the company every week to see what he lost. He tells Jesse that he isn't in the meth or money business. Walt is in "the empire building business." Skyler shows up unexpectedly, which Jesse takes as his cue to leave. But instead, Walt invites Jesse to stay for dinner. In the incredibly awkward meal that follows, Jesse desperately tries to cut the tension with small talk and compliments to Skyler. As Skyler downs a large amount of wine, she asks Jesse if Walt mentioned that she cheated on him before she excuses herself from the table.
Once Skyler is in the other room, Walt tells Jesse that she has taken his kids away from him and openly wished he would die of cancer. The business is all he has left. So, later that night, Walt pays a visit to Vamonos Pest to steal the methylamine before the deal can be made. However, Mike is there waiting for him and he keeps Walt in the office at gunpoint for the entire night after promising that Walt will get his money when the deal has gone through. In the morning, Mike binds Walt in the office before going to the DEA's office with Saul Goodman (Bob Odenkirk) in tow. Saul manages to get temporary restraining order against the DEA, earning Mike the full attention of Hank in t he process.
Saul warns Mike that he has about 24 hours before his surveillance intensifies, but he says that is all that he needs. Back at Vamonos, Walt manages to free himself in a very dangerous way that leaves him with a bad burn on his wrist. But it works, and by the time Mike gets back, the methylamine is gone. Mike immediately pulls out his gun and seems ready to shoot Walt until Jesse intercedes and says that Walt has come up with a plan to give everyone what they want. Still angered, Mike asks Walt if what Jesse says is true, to which Walt replies "everybody wins."
When I was watching the first season of "Breaking Bad," I remember wondering why Walt couldn't simply swallow some pride and take the job at Grey Matter that his former partner generously offered him Of course, there would have been no series if Walt had gone that route. But now we know why, thanks to "Buyout."
In the past, we've learned that Walt left Grey Matter in part because he was angry about his partner forming a relationship with his former lover. However, this may be the first time that Walt has openly acknowledged just how deeply he feels about missing out on the chance of a lifetime to cash in on a company worth billions. By his own admission, Walt reminds himself of this every week.
Can you imagine the kind of resentment and anger it takes to be able to torture yourself like that? "Breaking Bad" creator Vince Gilligan has often said that this show is about Mr. Chips turning into Scarface. But I would argue that Walt was never Mr. Chips. Walt may have acted like a model husband, father and teacher, but that's not who he was inside. Walt's issues with his former Grey Matter partner predated his meth cooking activities by decades. All of those pent up negative emotions had to go somewhere. If Walt hadn't become Heisenberg, his inner monster probably would have manifested itself in some other way.
And the thing is that Walt LOVES being Heisenberg. It makes him feel powerful and alive. Prior to "Buyout," Walt hid his lack of heart and empathy from Jesse while faking emotional responses when it suited his purposes. But Walt's happy whistling was like a wake up call for Jesse. No one losing sleep over a dead kid could be that joyful… which means that Walt didn't care about Todd's victim in even the slightest way.
It was also disturbing how little Todd cared as well. Maybe Todd really is the perfect partner for Walt. He's completely amoral and he's willing to do anything to protect the business. The opening sequence for this episode was another masterpiece, as Mike, Walt and Todd quietly got rid of the evidence. Even more than the shooting itself, that scene was difficult to watch. The kid's death was over in an instant, but here the audience had several minutes to reflect on the kid's short life as all trace of his murder was slowly disposed of… and his family will never know what became of him.
Despite one of the bleakest openings since the second season, this episode also had its share of darkly humorous scenes; especially Jesse's ill-advised dinner with Walt and Skyler. This was the flip side of Walt sharing dinner with Jesse, Brock and Andrea earlier in the season. While we never saw how that went, we got a long taste of the tense silence as Jesse desperately tried to make conversation. Aaron Paul may want to try some more comedic projects after this show is over. Jesse's uncomfortable awkwardness was very funny.
Walt's escape in the Vamonos office was also a well crafted scene that reminded us just how resourceful he can still be. Although it's not clear how Walt hid the methylamine so quickly, my guess is that he called in Todd to help him out.
Mike's patience with Walt has been pretty remarkable. Mike may hate Walt's guts, but he passes up a perfect chance to dispose of him and promises to give Walt his share of the methylamine deal, although Mike's patience is probably exhausted at this point. Walt's just a little too arrogant to realize how good he had it with Mike and Jesse. Walt was even happy when it seemed like only Mike was quitting. If Walt seeks out new partners or lets Todd take a bigger role, he may soon find that he misses the people who would have had his back.
Earlier this season, Mike was right to dismiss Walt as a ticking time bomb. And now an explosion seems closer than ever.