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Recap / Breaking Bad S1E4 "Cancer Man"

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Walt, Hank, Skyler, Marie, and Walt Junior enjoy a family barbecue. The fun times are interrupted when Skyler bursts into tears, and Walt reluctantly reveals to everyone the secret he had been hiding: he has cancer.
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Meanwhile, Jesse brags to his friends Combo and Skinny Pete about the meth he had cooked up. He shares some samples with them and enjoys some, himself, but suffers a hallucination that causes him to see a pair of Mormon missionaries as bikers come to kill him, compelling him to drive away in a hurry.

Skyler arranges to have Walt visit an oncologist to have his cancer treated. The price of the visit gives Walt pause, but he agrees to borrow money from a friend to pay for the visit. As he gathers some of the money he hid away in the AC vent of the baby's room, Junior sees him. Walt deflects suspicion by claiming he was looking for mice, Junior asks him "What the hell is wrong with you?!", disturbed by his nonchalance in the face of cancer.

Walt goes to the bank the next day. After having his parking space taken by a blowhard named Ken and waiting in line as Ken bragged loudly into his Bluetooth headset, he gives the bank teller a wad of cash and asks to have a cashier's check made out to the oncology office.

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Elsewhere, Jesse is caught trying to sneak back into his parents' home. Jesse's mother and father debate whether to let him stay, worried about whether he was still using and what influence he would have on his younger brother, an honor student named Jake. Jesse tries awkwardly to reconnect with Jake before going back to his old room and looking back on drawings he made when he was in high school, including a doodle he made mocking Walt on the back of a test he had failed.

The next day, Jesse meets an angry Walt at the latter's house. Jesse tries to convince Walt to make more meth, but Walt is adamantly against a repeat performance of their last debacle. In a huff, Jesse gives Walt his share of the batch they had sold: $4,000.

As Walt meets with the oncologist to discuss possible treatment for his cancer, Jesse returns back to his parents' house, only to learn that they had found a joint of weed in his room and are kicking him out. In truth, the weed was Jake's. Jake thanks Jesse for covering for him, and asks for the joint back, but Jesse disposes of it, claiming that it was "skunk-weed".

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When Walt returns home, he and Skyler debate the treatment the oncologist offered. At $90,000 dollars, Walt is reluctant to commit to treatment that, with his cancer being so advanced, is a long-shot. Junior, overhearing the conversation, interjects, saying "Why don't you just fucking die, already?"

Some time after, Walt is driving to a gas station when he encounters Ken again. Holding a grudge against the blowhard for earlier, he pops the hood of Ken's convertible, lays a wet squeegee on the battery's terminals, and walks away with a smug satisfaction as the car catches fire and explodes.


This episode provides examples of:

  • Disproportionate Retribution: Walt setting the yuppie's car on fire just for stealing his parking spot (and being a jerk) does seem a bit extreme (and dangerous as well, as he does it while the car is parked at a gas pump).
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Walt's shorting out the battery on Ken's car doesn't just cause it to catch fire, it causes it to explode spectacularly.
  • Hidden Depths: Jesse made some really good drawings when he was younger.
  • Hidden Wire: Walt accuses Jesse of wearing one when he shows up at the White household. Jesse looks appropriately confused and outraged and angrily denies it.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Hank tries to name the new DEA investigation "Icebreaker." Gomez points out that it's a breath mint.
  • Inspirational Insult: Jesse finds an old test paper marked by Walt, on which he's written, "Ridiculous - apply yourself." Jesse takes the advice and applies himself to making meth.
  • Irony: In the opening scene, it's revealed that Krazy-8 was the one who ratted his cousin Emilio out to the DEA. In the first episode, Emilio blamed Jesse for ratting him out and Krazy-8 went along with it (likely to place the blame on an easy target). This eventually led to the death of both of them.
  • Jerkass: Ken, the smarmy stock broker Walt keeps encountering who steals parking spaces and has loud inappropriate conversations on his headset.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Jesse takes the blame for Jake's weed. Then he crushes it with his foot.
  • Parking Payback: Walt circles a parking lot in order to cash a check at the credit union for his cancer treatment. When one finally becomes available, he is about to pull in to it when a red BMW with the license plate "KEN WINS" races into the spot before him. Walt rages indignantly, but the suit wearing driver ignores him completely while obnoxiously talking into his headset. When Walt finally finds a spot, he walks into the bank only to find "Ken" there, still loudly yakking on his phone, to the intense annoyance of everyone there. Later in the same episode, Walt sees the same car parked outside a gas station. He shoves a wet squeegee in between the battery terminals of the BMW and nonchalantly walks away while the car bursts into flames.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Walt blows up Ken's car with a squeegee.
  • Side-Effects Include...: The oncologist only explains the side effects of the treatment after asked and, at first, is very vague. He then starts with the more moderate side-effects (loss of hair, loss of appetite), and as he progresses through the more drastic ones, Walter is on the verge of a Heroic BSoD.
  • The Unfavorite: Jesse feels this way compared to his overachieving younger brother Jake. Jake feels the same way: according to him, Jesse is all their parents ever talk about.
  • Unflinching Walk: Walt pulls one of these when he loses his patience with Ken and puts a squeegee on his car battery, shorting it out. At first the viewer is amazed at how much White's morals have slipped as he walks away, AND THEN THE CAR EXPLODES. Mr. White, of course, does not flinch.
  • Vanity License Plate: "KEN WINS"
  • Wham Line: After a joint is found in Jesse's room and he gets kicked out of the house, his little brother Jake comes and says:
    "Thanks for not telling on me."

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