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Recap / Breaking Bad S5 E6 "Buyout"

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Season 5, Episode 06:

"These are very green beans, Mrs. White."
Written by Gennifer Hutchison
Directed by Colin Bucksey
Air date: August 19, 2012

"This business is all I have left now. It's all I have... and you want to take it away from me."
Walter White

After the train heist, Walt, Mike, and Todd work in dreary silence as they disassemble the motorbike of the 14-year-old witness Todd shot, stacking its pieces into a barrel to melt with hydrofluoric acid. Another barrel is prepared for the boy. Outside, Todd joins Jesse as he smokes and tries to make small talk. When Jesse doesn't respond, Todd shrugs the boy's murder off as a case of "shit happens." Jesse punches him in the face.

Afterwards, Todd, sporting a black eye, tries arguing his case to Walt, Mike, and Jesse, who are all looking thoroughly demoralized. He claims that he did what he had to to ensure their operation would not be compromised, and that he would do it again if given the chance. But Jesse is just further angered by Todd's justifications and nonchalance. Afterwards, Todd is sent out of the office as a discussion is held to determine Todd's fate. As he leaves, Todd reiterates that he's extremely dedicated to the business and mentions that his uncle has connections in prison.

Jesse is immediately all for getting rid of Todd as quickly as possible, referring to him as an utter "wack job" and a loose cannon. Somewhat reluctantly, Walt outlines the pragmatic argument: the kid had seen them, and even if he didn't understand what he was seeing, he could still have told somebody. Jesse is not buying it, and claims that they would have "figured it out" if Todd hadn't made a decision for them. Walt proposes three options: fire Todd and pay him off to keep silent, dispose of him, or let him keep working for them under their control. Jesse votes to fire him, but Mike and Walt both vote to keep him on their payroll. Mike informs Todd that he's still in, but furiously warns him to never again bring a gun to another job without Mike's permission.

Afterwards, at a park, Mike is watching over his granddaughter while Gomez and his partner surveil him. He writes something on a piece of paper and leaves it under a trash can before leaving with his granddaughter, prompting Gomez to examine the "dead drop". It is a simple two-word message: "Fuck you". After talking with Gomez afterwards, Hank realizes tailing someone as experienced as Mike is essentially useless, at least not until they actually have evidence of his involvement with Gus' drug empire.

Skyler visits Holly at the Schraders' and breaks down crying in front of Marie. Marie coaxes her into telling her what's wrong, and she tells Marie that the kids aren't safe from her and Walt. Marie reveals that Walt told her about Skyler's affair, and sympathetically tells her that she has to forgive herself.

Walt and Jesse continue to cook in houses tented off by Vamanos Pest. While they're taking a break and watching TV, a news bulletin is aired about the ongoing search for Drew Sharp, a 14-year-old boy who went missing after being last seen riding his dirt bike into the desert. Jesse is clearly struggling with guilt, so Walt tells him that he's upset too and can't sleep at night. He tells Jesse that nothing like this will happen ever again now that they're in control, and lets Jesse leave early. As Jesse is packing up, he hears Walt whistling contentedly to himself as he finishes up the cook, leaving him unsettled.

After preparing the batch, Walt returns to the Vamanos Pest office, where Jesse and Mike are waiting. Mike informs Walt that the DEA is investigating him, leaving Walt incensed at Mike's supposed carelessness. Mike reassures Walt that the DEA has nothing on him, but nonetheless, he would have to retire from maintaining their distribution network for his own sake. Walt is surprised, but accepts Mike's resignation until Jesse tells Walt that he's out, too. Both Jesse and Mike are going to take their share of the methylamine from the train heist and sell it to Mike's contact in Phoenix, AZ, for $5 million each. Mike will pay his guys' legacy costs out of his share so Walt would not have to worry about them ever again. Jesse asks Walt to join them in selling his share of the methylamine, but Walt is furious and absolutely refuses: he explains that, once made into crystal meth, the methylamine would be worth over $300 million. Jesse is selling out for "pennies on the dollar." Jesse tells Walt that $5 million isn't pennies, and asks him if he's in the meth business or the money business.

The next day, Mike and Jesse meet with Mike's contact, Declan. Declan refuses to do business with them, however, unless they give him all of the methylamine so he knows that the blue meth is stamped out of circulation in the American Southwest, leaving him without any competition.

Jesse visits Walt's house that evening, and once again implores him to sell off his methylamine. Walt refuses still. He tells Jesse about Gray Matter, the research company he helped found and which he, himself, named. Before the company got off the ground, he sold his share of the company after a conflict with his partners, an even fifty percent, for $5000. The company is now worth over $2 billion, and Walt remains incensed over having sold his "children's birthright" for pennies on the dollar. He brings up Jesse's earlier question and answers that he is in neither the meth business nor the money business; he is in the empire business. Jesse, while sympathizing with Walter's frustration over his past mistake, implores with him: "Is a meth empire really something to be that proud of?"

Skyler returns home and Jesse jumps up to leave. Walt, however, is pleased with this turn of events and insists Jesse stay for dinner, much to Jesse and Skyler's discomfort. Walt and Skyler eat their dinner in silence while Jesse desperately tries to make polite small talk, until Skyler brings up the fact that Walt told Marie about her affair and then disappears into her room with the wine bottle. Walt tells Jesse that his children aren't allowed in the house and Skyler is waiting for him to die: his meth empire is all he has left in the world, and Jesse is trying to take that away from him.

Walt rushes to the the exterminator office to take his methylamine, but Mike is waiting for him. Mike detains Walt overnight to keep him from taking his share before Mike's deal with Declan goes down, then ties him to a radiator when Mike needs to leave to attend to other business. Walt uses a stripped wire to melt apart his ziptie, burning his wrist in the process, and escapes.

Mike pays a visit to the DEA office with Saul, who informs Hank and Gomez that there is a restraining order against them due to their "harassment" of Mike: they can't approach him. This would buy Mike about twenty-four hours while Hank and Gomez get the order overturned, enough time for Mike to sell off the methylamine. He soon discovers, however, that the methylamine is gone. He returns to the office and finds a smug Walt with Jesse. He pulls out his gun and prepares to kill Walt, but Jesse stops him and urges him to listen to Walt's plan. As Walt describes it, "Everybody wins..."

This episode provides examples of:

  • Artistic License – Physics: While the acid would dissolve Drew Sharp's body, realistically, it wouldn't dissolve the parts for his bike. They'd either have to crush the parts at a wrecking yard or melt them completely at a steel mill.
  • Berserk Button: Anybody who's been watching the show can't help but notice that if anything will provoke Jesse into violence, it's intentionally hurting children. Todd blowing off Drew's murder as "shit happens" gave Jesse's button a good hard press, and it's to no one's surprise when Jesse gives him a black eye.
  • Both Sides Have a Point: The team begins to debate about what to do with Todd after the death of Drew Sharp. Walt and Mike concede to Todd's purely pragmatic decision to leave no witnesses behind, as brutal and shocking as his actions were. Jesse counters that they should have left him alive on the chance Drew wouldn't have known about what they were doing out there. Walt and Mike note they have no idea how much Drew could've known and there would be no way of knowing what would happen next, as they would still risk Drew having some form of knowledge of what happened. Jesse responds that they could have figured something out, and now they can't because Todd made the decision for them. However, as Todd pointed out, Drew was on a dirtbike and would probably have escaped immediately if they made any threatening moves towards him. While Jesse is intended to be the moral voice in the conversation, his case is a lot weaker than Walt's, leading Mike to side with him over Jesse.
  • Brutal Honesty: Rare example of applying to oneself. Walt bluntly tells Jesse after the awkward dinner that Skyler wants him dead, she refuses to let the children be near him, and that the only thing he has left is his meth ring. And Jesse wants to take it away from him.
    • From a Certain Point of View: He conviniently leaves out that the only reason for Skyler's behavior is his involvement in the meth ring. If she'd learned that he quits for good, there's no doubt she would've mellowed out in no time.
  • Call-Back:
  • Censored Child Death: The episode uses the dismantlement of Drew's bike as a proxy for Disposing of a Body, but the destruction of Drew's corpse with acid is kept offscreen. All the audience is shown is a hand being uncovered from a pile of dirt and Walt grabbing another barrel with a solemn look on his face.
  • Cringe Comedy: The magnificent moment of Mood Whiplash as Walt compels Jesse to have dinner with him and Skyler. Jesse awkwardly and painfully tries to make some small-talk, and it does not go well.
  • Dissonant Serenity:
    • Todd's response to Jesse confronting him over murdering a child (notably only once he's away from Walt and Mike) is "shit happens".
    • After making a big deal about how unhappy he is that a child was killed as a result of their operation, Walt starts whistling to himself as he's working, making it obvious to the audience and Jesse that he truthfully doesn't care at all.
  • Dramatic Irony: Marie can tell there's something deeply wrong going on in Skyler's life, but Skyler, for obvious reasons, can't come out with the truth. Marie ends up assuming it's about her affair with Ted, which she learned from Walt, and Skyler has no choice but to roll with that explanation.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Todd's uncle with connections in prison will most certainly become an important character a few episodes later.
    • Todd's connections with a neo-Nazi gang is subtly hinted when Jesse angrily calls him "Ricky Hitler".
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Todd's reasoning to shoot Drew Sharp. He claims he didn't enjoy doing it, but didn't want to risk the chance of Drew driving off and exposing their operation.
  • Implied Death Threat: After telling him he's still on the team, Mike warns Todd that if he ever brings a gun to another job without informing him, he will "stick it up your ass sideways". Todd realizes the implication, submits, and hastily leaves.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Mike wants to cash out and retire because of all the three partners, he's the one with constant DEA heat on him. He's shaken all the tails so far. But he's worried that it's only a matter of time, and he no longer wants to deal with the stress. The $5M buyout for his share of the methylamine would allow him to retire and accomplish his goal of leaving a nest egg for his daughter-in-law and Kaylee.
  • Locking MacGyver in the Store Cupboard: Mike handcuffs Walter, whom he just called out for being a loose cannon and who is a genius at escaping, to a radiator without clearing the area of items he can use to escape or bringing a spare set of cuffs. Guess what happens?
  • Motive Decay: Discussed. Jesse tries to convince Walt to sell off his share of the methylamine by reminding him that he had calculated, a while back, that he would need about $737,000 dollars to leave for his family. A buyout for five million dollars would more than cover that, and let Walt retire from cooking meth; no more worries about his dark secrets being discovered, and no more fear that his family would come to harm. Walt, however, reveals that he's no longer interested in simply making money for his family: he's determined to continue cooking because it's what he wants and is all that he has left in the world.
    Walt: You asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business... neither. I'm in the empire business.
  • Motive Rant: Walt's conversation with Jesse functions as one for him, effectively completing his Motive Decay across the series.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Defied. Walt figures there's three non-ideal options for dealing with Todd: firing him and paying him off, killing him, or keeping him on the team to keep an eye on him. No one is in favor of outright murdering Todd, not even Jesse.
  • Number of the Beast: Mike and Jesse offer to sell Declan 666 gallons of methylamine. Declan mentions how it seems like an arbitrary amount until he realizes that's roughly two thirds of a thousand gallons. That leads to Mike telling him there's a third partner (Walt) who refuses to sell his share.
  • Oh, Crap!: Mike's stone-faced version of this trope comes back when he sees the body of the child from the previous episode. Heck, the score even sours as Walt sadly brings out an acid barrel.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Connections!: Downplayed. Todd brings up his uncle having connections as a reason to keep him around, but more as an offer for what he can provide to their business. Jesse believes Todd is playing a straighter example with this, first as an intimidation tactic and then as a way of boasting. Mike admits he knew about those connections, but doesn't think it matters anyway, calculating that nobody would come looking if Todd "disappeared".
  • Screw the Money, I Have Rules!:
    • Walt refuses to sell his methylamine for 5 million dollars because his "freedom" (re: his meth empire) is all he has left.
    • For Jesse and Mike, the desire to keep making money with Walt is outweighed by their disgust at Todd's actions.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The murder of Drew and the constant DEA surveillance prompt Jesse and Mike, respectively, to quit the meth business and sell their share of the methylamine. Mike even offers to pay his guys entirely of his own share in an attempt to convince Walt to do the same.
  • Villain Has a Point: Todd's murder of Drew was horrific, but he lays out a rational thought process and defends himself pretty effectively when grilled about it; Walt and Mike, while clearly not happy about it, concede that, from a purely pragmatic perspective, he does have a point, and both vote to keep him on.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Todd explains why he did, and has everyone know he had no regrets since it meant protecting their operations. While Walt disapproves and wouldn't pull the trigger himself, it's later shown that he also doesn't really care about what happened to Drew.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: The wildly diverging reactions to the killing of Drew Sharp by Todd between Jesse and Walt emphasize how far the latter has fallen: Jesse is completely traumatized while Walt puts a shallow mask of guilt over an obvious reality of indifference.
  • You Have GOT to Be Kidding Me!: Walter's reaction when Mike handcuffs him to the radiator.

"Everybody wins."