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Recap / Breaking Bad S1E5 "Gray Matter"

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Walter White and Elliot Schwartz, of Grey Matter Technologies

Jesse starts applying for jobs, with his latest attempt at finding employment leading him to a realty office. Jesse soon learns that the job he was interviewing for was as a costumed sign dancer. As he storms off, he finds that his old friend Brandon "Badger" Mayhew was working at the realty office as a sign dancer. The two catch up during Badger's break over a joint of marijuana, and Badger asks about Jesse's meth. Jesse claims he's retiring from the meth business, but Badger offers to help him with his cooks if he ever gets back in the game.

Meanwhile, Walt and Skyler go to a birthday party for their old friend: Elliot Schwarz, Walt's old lab partner and a co-founder of the research firm Gray Matter Technologies. Walt and Skyler greet Elliot and his wife Gretchen, who also worked with Walt and with whom Walt was once romantically involved. Walt feels out of place at the party, since Elliot and his peers are very well-off and have brought expensive gifts for him, while all Walt had to offer was a package of ramen noodles. Elliot appreciates the gift, though, waxing nostalgic on how he and Walt basically lived off of ramen as graduate students.


Later on, Elliot offers Walt a new job at Gray Matters. Walt politely declines, but Elliot presses on, mentioning that he could give Walt good health insurance at his company. Walt becomes cross with Skyler for having even brought up his cancer with Elliot, having refused Elliot's offer.

Jesse decides to try his hand at cooking Walt's meth once more. He enlists Badger's aid and drives his mobile meth lab RV out into the desert. All throughout, in a reversal of his first attempts at cooking with Walt, Jesse takes the chemistry seriously while Badger goofs off...

One evening, Junior's friends try to convince him into asking a gentleman at a convenience store to purchase alcohol for them. His efforts fail when the gentleman reveals himself to be an off-duty police officer, who calls Junior's "Dad", Hank. Hank is less than pleased with Junior calling him instead of his father, and theorizes to Skyler and Marie that Junior may be acting out, asking for beer and smoking pot, as a result of his father's cancer. Skyler realizes Marie mistakenly thought Junior was smoking weed and clarifies it was Walt, whom she thinks hasn't been right since his diagnosis.


Meanwhile, out in the desert, Jesse is displeased with his meth cooks, claiming them to be too cloudy and discarding them. Badger becomes angry with Jesse wasting what he thinks is perfectly good meth. A fight breaks out between the two before Jesse kicks Badger out of his RV and drives off without him.

When Walt returns home, Hank, Marie, Skyler, and Junior stage an intervention. The intervention goes awry: while Skyler and Hank believe Walt should take Elliot's offer and undergo chemotherapy, Marie argues that Walt should do what he thinks is best. Tempers flare between the two sisters before Walt intervenes and gives his final thoughts: that it wouldn't be worth it for him to live if he was too sick from chemo to enjoy his life. Thus, he will not take chemo.

Walt, however, thinks the matter over. By the following morning, he announces to her that he will undergo chemo after all and, at the treatment center, suggests to Skyler that he will discuss the matter with Elliot. In truth, however, he tells Gretchen that he has insurance to cover his medical costs. He approaches Jesse afterwards, and offers to cook with him again.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Ambiguous Situation: It's not made clear if Elliot's speech about the noodles Walt gives him is genuine or if he's trying to clear the awkward tension because he understands Walt's financial situation.
  • Anger Born of Worry: Skyler and Walt Jr. continue to lash out at Walt as they process his terminal illness.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Jesse interviews for a sales job, not knowing that the “advertising” position was demeaningly waving a sign.
    • Elliot is set up to be a Jerkass but is actually quite nice.
  • Brick Joke: "Helicopter spin!" The trick Badger does at his sign-toting job, which he later uses to try and attack Jesse.
  • Bruiser with a Soft Center: Despite his rough-and-tumble demeanor, Hank isn’t afraid to say that he does care about Walt, even if he doesn’t say it often.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Junior takes the opportunity at the meeting to air his grievances with Walt. Unlike most examples, the old man gets to respond and make valid points.
  • Convenience Store Gift Shopping: Subverted, as Walt's friend actually likes the pack of noodles, since it reminds him of their college days. Possibly played straight, as maybe he is just being nice to him since he knows he has cancer and as a school-teacher can't afford an expensive gift like the rest of the guests (and probably also knew that Walter was ill, and potentially already up to his eyeballs in medical bills).
  • Chekhov's Gun: Badger brings along a hunting crossbow for his venture with Jesse, and later shoots the RV with it while Jesse is fleeing.
  • Dare to Be Badass: Junior's rant to Walt during the "meeting", while also doubling as a Calling the Old Man Out, gives off these vibes.
    Junior: (holding up his crutches) After everything with this, all I've been through, and you're scared of a little chemotherapy?!
  • Dude, Not Funny!: Badger says this about Jesse stranding him in the middle of the desert while in mid-sprint with crossbow in hand. Jesse disagrees.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: “Helicopter spin, bitch!”
  • Exact Words: Well, the job description was “advertising”. Also in the same scene Jesse references his extensive sales experience.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Walt tells his family that he's not getting the chemo treatments because he feels that this is the first choice he's gotten in his life and he wants to die on his own terms. Hank is clearly able to respect his decision to "die like a man", but Skylar and Junior do not.
  • False Friend: Fastidious as Jesse was being, Badger is quick to turn to violence as Disproportionate Retribution, only caring about Jesse for his meth-making profitability.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Marie explains that, for some people, dying of cancer is better than living with treatment because all of the side effects involved in the treatments leave people simply wishing they had died instead. Hank adds on that he's able to respect Walt's decision to die on his own terms like a man.
  • Fish out of Water: The middle-class Whites are fairly uncomfortable mingling among the ultra-rich guests at Elliot’s party.
  • Hypocrite: Skyler wants everyone to feel completely free to speak their minds. That is, only if they agree with her.
  • Innocently Insensitive:
    • Unlike Skyler and Junior, Elliot and Hank make a much more genial effort in trying to convince Walt to accept treatment. Elliot however angers Walt by obliviously insulting his Pride and Hank’s attempt at profundity is earnest but very lacking.
    • In a more minor case, Elliot oddly opens his presents up in front of his guests, putting them and their choice of gift into the spotlight.
    • Moments before, when Walt says he went into education, one of the WASP guests asks “Which university?”
  • Insistent Terminology: When Hank asks if Skyler is suggesting they hold an intervention for Walter, she clarifies that it's just a "family meeting." When said "meeting" actually happens, it's an intervention in all but name.
  • Irony: Walt’s in-laws are actually much more supportive of him at the intervention than his actual family. Justified in that because Skyler and Junior are closer with Walt and this more greatly affected emotionally by Walt’s diagnosis.
  • It's All About Me: Though Skyler says that anyone at the intervention is free to say what they want to Walter, she blows up at Marie and Hank the instant they dare to suggest anything other than that he should get his cancer treated.
  • Jerkass Has a Point:
    • Undiplomatic as she may go about expressing it, Skyler does have a point that Walt is shutting himself off from the people who care about him as his suffering affects them too. And that he’s letting his Pride trump pragmatism.
    • Jesse’s high standards of cooking are commendable and show his Character Development, but Badger was right that even the lesser batches could’ve been used or sold cheaper.
  • The Load: Aside from supplying the pseudoephedrine, Badger proves almost totally useless when Jesse is cooking meth, being more interested in screwing around with the lab equipment than actually helping him.
  • Manchild: Skyler lampshades the eccentricity of Elliot arrogantly opening his gifts up in front of his guests, asking “What is he, seven?”
  • Meaningful Echo: Jesse echoes Walt's statements about having quality standards with the product while working with Badger, showing his development as a chef.
  • Old Friend: Elliot to Walt and Badger to Jesse. One’s a Sheep in Sheep's Clothing and the other a False Friend.
  • Only Sane Woman: Marie went into the intervention concerned but open-minded and then decides to defend Walt and say that even if it is tough on his loved ones, he’s still the one with cancer. Hank is quickly swayed to his wife’s position too. And of course Walt is an Only Sane Man, if engaging a bit in Honor Before Reason.
  • Plot Parallel: Both Walt and Jesse are approached by an old friend and offered a job by him. By the end of the episode however, they realize each needs the other.
  • Pride: The Establishing Character Moment for Walter comes when he refuses an offer of all expenses paid cancer treatment, lies about it to his wife, and returns to cooking meth.
  • Sheep in Sheep's Clothing: Elliot’s status as a former colleague of Walt’s turned wealthy entrepreneur. This has all the markings of an Evil Former Friend fraudulently profiting off stolen research. He’s actually a Nice Guy that still connects well with Walt and it really was Walt’s decision to not join and take credit for the Grey Matter company.
  • The Stoner: Badger, who for the most part proves pretty mellow, but shows the more violent side of this trope when he gets pissed off at Jesse wasting a huge amount of Pseudo due to his perfectionism.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Played with. A lengthy family meeting occurs in which Skyler, Hank and Walt Jr. tell Walt that he should accept the treatment. Then Marie says he can do what he wants, and Hank switches his opinion to match hers.


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