Breaking Bad, 2-9: “Four Days Out”
Before I start summarizing this episode, I just want to say that it’s my favorite of the series, with its tense-funny, odd-couple, survival dynamic. After all, the heart of BB is the Walt-Jesse relationship, and the heart of that is being isolated from (or not having) other significant relationships, and cooking meth together. Here we have the usual bitching at each other, interspersed with some sweet moments of caring and cooperation. Jesse’s concern for Walt, who believes (and acts like) he’s at death’s door re-ignites our own, as we watch the man tirelessly hand-cranking a battery in the deadly desert heat, and, even with survival at stake, enjoying a teaching moment with Jesse on battery science.
Water drips from a fountain, and we see the three Whites and two Schraders waiting for Walt to be called in for a scan. Marie claims that technicians can read scans as well as doctors, as Walt and Skyler hold hands. Then Walt’s in the bathroom coughing and vomiting. After he has the scan, he asks the technician if he “sees anything.”
“I’m just the technician, Mr. White,” the guy says. “Dr. Delcavoli will go over the results with you next week.”
Walt seems to be seeing the scan himself – or is he just imagining it, as a picture on the wall turns into (or reflects?) the scan? There seems to be a large white area on one of his lungs.
Scene 1: Saul’s office
Walt and Saul discuss money laundering, and Saul says he doesn’t like the “not telling the wife aspect.” Walt insists that she’ll learn about the money “after he’s gone…in a few weeks, maybe.”
“How much money are we laundering?”
“There’ve been extenuating circumstances.”
Saul does his calculations out loud, including a 17% cut for himself, then says, “Congratulations. You’ve just left your family a secondhand Subaru.”
Scene 2: Walt and Skyler’s bedroom
Walt and Skyler are in bed together, and Walt says he thinks he should go see his mom “this week-end…I never did call her.”
Skyler: “You’re expecting the news from the scan to be bad…God, Walt! I need you to stay positive.”
Walt struggles to sit up. “Positive doesn’t change the need to be prepared. I need to know Mom’s going to leave you something, if I’m no longer around.” He jokes about all the complaints he’ll have to hear from “Mom,” and they turn off their bedside lamps.
Skyler (turned away from Walt): “I actually think the news from the scan’s going to be good. Perhaps you should prepare for that.”
Scene 3: Jesse’s apartment
Jesse and Jane wake up in yellow sheets on the new bed. Jane, says, “We should do something.”
Jesse, a gleam in his eye: “Yeah!”
“No! Something else.” She suggests going to Santa Fe to see Georgia O’Keefe’s paintings. Jesse’s never heard of Georgia O’Keefe. “Boy, you need some educating.”
“Yes, yes, I do.” But he’s more for “movies or putt-putt” until Jane tells him O’Keefe’s paintings “look like vaginas.”
The phone rings as Jane’s getting out milk and cereal, and Walt starts to leave a message: “Where the hell are you? Hello?”
Jesse leaps out of bed and sprints to the phone in his green print boxer shorts. He takes the phone into the empty bedroom, saying “I’ve been busy.”
“Well, clear your social calendar. We have to cook.”
“No. You’ll need today to gather supplies. Get a pencil and paper.”
“I got plans.”
“Smoking marijuana, eating Cheetos, and masturbating do not constitute plans in my book.”
“Screw you and your book, man! I’m going to a museum in Santa Fe – not like you need to know…Georgia O’Keefe…Vagina pics…paintings…I don’t know…”
“What are you even talking about?”
“Why am I explaining myself to you? It’s none of your damn business what I’m doing. All’s you need to know is I ain’t cooking or shopping.”
“Look. Let me explain something. You and I need to cook through to next Tuesday.”
“Four days straight.”
“We have no choice.”
“And why exactly is that?”
“Our methylamine is going bad.”
“It’s losing its chemical potency.”
Jesse grabs paper and pencil, and we see Jane, still at the pass-through counter in the living room, looking thoughtful.
Scene 4: the Albuquerque airport
Skyler, dropping Walt off: “I wish you didn’t have to do this.”
“Me, too. But I’ll be back before you know it.” They kiss.
Walt: “Love you.”
Skyler: “Fly safe, okay?”
Walt comes back out the door with his carry-on as soon a few minutes later, as Jesse pulls up in the RV.
Walt: “You brought a meth lab to the airport?”
“You said we were in a hurry. I saved us a trip.”
“Did you get everything?”
“Wow. Good morning to you, too, man!”
Music plays, Blue Mink’s lively “Good Morning, Freedom” (“Good morning, world – it’s a brand new day. I’m packin’ my bags and I’m getting away…), as we watch a driving-into-the-desert montage.
Scene 5: the RV, in the desert
Walt, inside the RV: “Three entire bags of Funyons?”
Jesse: “Funyons are awesome!” He’s wearing his black beanie with the thin red stripe on the rim.
Walt: “How about something with some protein, maybe? Something green. How are you even alive?”
Jesse wants to know if Walt has “any bars” on his phone. Told he does, he asks to borrow it. “It’s not business – it’s personal.”
Walt: “Oh, personal – female?”
“Oh, absolutely – that’s all I need. Skyler’ll hit redial and some stripper answers.”
“She’s not a stripper – okay? Dickwad.”
“Sorry. My wife checks. Drinking water?”
“That’s all we’ve got?”
“Ten gallons. What’re you – plannin’ on takin’ a bath in it?”
They put on their protective suits, and Jesse throws his keys on the counter.
“No – not there,” Walt says. “That’s our work station. Why don’t you try and find a place where they won’t get lost, hmm? Considering it’s our only set, and we’re a million miles from nowhere…”
It’s hard to see exactly where Jesse’s putting the keys (we later find out it was in the ignition). “Why don’t I try stickin’ ’em up your ass sideways?” he says. It’s funny how Jesse uses all sorts of foul language to insult Walt (always after Walt has insulted him), but, except for one instance, already noted, always calls him “Mr. White.”
We see the outside generator, then a cooking montage to the ska song “One By One” by The Black Seeds: “Summon everything you’ve got/All your forces under the sun/Put the corn up into the sky/I’ll take you one by one by one/Come on and take me on (x4). Your words are life drawn with stones/Skipping across my skin/Take a warm look at what has gone before/There’s no way you will ever win/Come on and take me on (x4). ‘Cause when the war is over, the fight is done, well, I’ll be lying in the sun…The sun’s the only one who sleeps/I can hear everything you say/There’s a small piece of earth between you and me/We can play fight or we can play. Come on and take me on (x4). ‘Cause when the war is over, the fight is done, well, I’ll be lying in the sun…Yeah, when the war is over, the fight is done; we’ll be lying in the sun…” Prophetic – or almost…We see blue liquid gel being poured into a pan, and bags of crystal being weighed. “2.35 pounds,” Jesse says. “That’s the last of it.” They have a pallet of these bags.
Walt calculates that they have 42 pounds, which, at $40,000 a pound should net them $672,00 each. This calls for a celebration in Jesse’s mind, and he incites Walt into a great high five: “Yes! Hell, yeah! Come on, baby, come on – Yeah!!” Walt may never have had such an intense, real moment of camaraderie with such an intense, real being in his life.
The generator dies, but Jesse says, “Perfect timing, yo.”
“How do you figure that?”
“We’re done cooking.”
“I’m not done ‘til this barrel is empty. We’ve still got 10 to 12 gallons of methylamine. Come on, where’s your ambition?”
“Jesus. Seriously? We’re way ahead of schedule, man! The genny needs gas, and we’re almost out of propane. Can’t we at least take the night off? We come back tomorrow, slap on the sizzle, and glass up the rest. Come on! There’s gotta be a Denny’s out there someplace. Grand Slam? Hot shower? A bed?” Jesse, the glib talkin’ street salesman, has Walt convinced this time.
They laugh, and get in their seats, Walt saying, “Separate rooms.”
“Yeah,” laughs Jesse. “That’s a given.” He turns the key – nothing; the battery’s dead. A bitter argument ensues, Jesse claiming it’s “not his fault,” because “the buzzer didn’t buzz to let you know that the battery’s on. I know that! It’s a faulty mechanism…The buzzer did not buzz. And you’re the one that made me move the keys in the first place, remember? I wanted to leave them on the counter, bitch!”
“All right. We need to jump the battery somehow.”
Outside the RV, Walt siphons gas from the vehicle’s tank into the generator. He swallows some and moves off, bent over and coughing. Jesse, meanwhile, lets gas spill onto the top of the generator, before he gets it going into the tank. “You gonna be okay?” he asks. “Bad, huh?”
They carry the generator closer to the front of the RV and get out the jumper cables. Jesse pulls on the generator starter, and Walt says, “You have to really pull – not like a girl!”
Jesse: “Pull this!” A spark starts a fire in the spilled gas on top of the generator, and Walt dashes into the RV to get the fire extinguisher. But, before he can use it, Jesse dumps all their remaining water on the fire.
“Well-done, Jesse, as always. Just – well-done. God!”
The sun beats down, and Jesse’s on top of the RV, trying to get a signal with a cone of aluminum foil. “Somebody’s going to have to pick us up. Your wife is not going to notice one little call.” Why didn’t Walt bring his second cell phone? He throws Jesse his regular cell, and Jesse calls Skinny Pete. He gives Pete directions, as Walt hurries him, fearful of wearing down the phone’s battery. Jesse: “Bring water. Leave now.”
Walt and Jesse huddle in their sleeping bags in the RV, in the dark but for a battery light. Walt’s wearing Jesse’s jacket and one of his beanies: white with big red dots. Jesse says, “We should call, and ask Skinny Pete where he is.”
Jesse to Skinny Pete: “Where are you? White sign…He’s almost here. Dirt road…River?”
Jesse: “Yeah – what river? There’s no river…Pete – ” The phone’s dead. “Now what? Mr. White – what now?” The light dims and goes out. “Oh, come on – seriously?”
The next day, Jesse’s sleeping. Walt’s outside, coughing and turning a hand crank on the generator. Jesse comes outside, takes off his jacket, and takes a turn, as Walt leans on the RV, coughs, and sits down in the RV doorway. Time passes. They use their cots, on end, for shade.
Jesse: “Now? Hey, Mr. White!” Walt’s asleep in a chair, and Jesse wakes him up.
“Give it a little longer, just to make sure.” Walt coughs.
“Methylamine doesn’t spoil, does it?” asks Jesse. “No, that’s not why we’re here.” He gets that it’s because Walt’s health is failing.
Walt and Jesse each take another turn at the crank, and, finally, Walt says, “Okay. Now.”
Both panting, and Walt coughing, they get in the RV. Jesse starts the engine. “Yes! Yes!” Then it stops. Walt’s coughing. Jesse pumps the accelerator and turns the key again. “Please! Please!” He hits the dash, about to cry. After a few minutes, he notices that Walt’s not there. He goes outside. “Mr. White! Mr. White! What are you doing?” There’s blood in Walt’s hand and dripping from his mouth. Jesse: “Oh, God!”
That night, inside the RV on cots, Walt says, bleakly, “I had this coming.”
“I have it coming. I deserve this.”
“You snap out of it! First off, everything you did, you did for your family, right?”
“All I ever managed to do was worry and disappoint them. And lie. Oh, God! All the lies! I can’t even keep things straight in my head anymore…” This is Walt’s greatest moment of clarity in the series so far, and it comes only when he thinks he’s on the point of dying.
Jesse gets up, about to do something, and Walt says, “Jesse, your body is running dangerously low on electrolytes…You go marching out there, and within an hour you’ll be dead.”
Jesse believes him, but leans over Walt, and says, “You need to cut out all your loser, crybaby crap, right now, and think of something scientific. Come on, man! You’re smart! You made poison out of beans, yo! We got an entire lab right here, right? How ’bout you take some of these chemicals and mix up some rocket fuel to send up a signal flare? Or, you make some kind of robot to get us out, or a homing device…or a battery…” At this, Walt lifts his head, starts thinking, and begins to get up. Jesse continues: “Take some stuff off the RV, and make it into something completely different – like a dune buggy…What?”
“Do you have any money? Change? Coins?”
“Yeah, I have lots of it.”
“Gather them – and nuts and bolts and screws – any little pieces of metal we can think of. It has to be galvanized, or solid zinc. And bring me – brake pads. The front wheels should have discs. Take them off, and bring them to me.” Walt slides the big green metal toolbox toward Jesse.
“What are we building?”
“You said it yourself.”
“A battery! Move!”
We see the sky, with two jets crossing paths, leaving white trails in the sky. Robin Pierson of the TVCritic.com has said in his podcast review of this episode that he thinks this could be a foreshadowing of the two planes crashing in the last episode of this season. As a hiker and backpacker who’s occasionally been in minor difficulty in the boondocks, I thought it emphasized the “how near and yet so far” aspect of civilization/non-civilization. Another thought: if he were really trying, shouldn’t Skinny Pete, by retracing his steps and trying other turns, have found them by now?
Inside the RV, Jesse says, “This doesn’t look like any battery I ever saw.”
“Well, trust me,” Walt says. “It’s a battery. Or, rather, one cell of a battery.” Then he goes into his teaching moment, talking about galvanic cells, anodes, cathodes, and electrolytes. Jesse doesn’t really get it, but he pretends to. The high point comes when Walt says, “And what shall we use to conduct this beautiful current with? What particular element comes to mind?” He holds up a copper wire to give Jesse a hint, and Jesse says, “Oh, wire!”
Walt’s using the six disposable plastic refrigerator dishes they have for cells. Outside, they’re placed in a larger plastic container and connected to the RV battery with the jumper cables. Jesse, in the passenger seat, hands Walt the keys. We hear a little crank. Jesse doesn’t want to believe in it yet, but Walt clearly does. He coughs, as the engine starts. We – and they – are too tired by now for another celebration. We’re just glad they made it.
Back at the airport, Jesse, driving his red Toyota wagon, drops Walt off.
Walt: “I know I can trust you to, ah – ”
“Yeah…Whatever happens, your family will get your share.”
“So…um…I’ll be hearing from you – ”
Jesse starts off, clearly loving the dude, as Walt stares into space. Or is he watching Jesse? Either way, this, in my opinion, is the high point of their relationship.
Scene 6: Dr. Delcavoli’s office
Doc: “How’s everyone doing?” Walt and Skyler are in the first rank of chairs, Junior, Hank, and Marie behind them. Dr. D. tells them Walt’s “showing signs of remission,” since the tumor not only hasn’t grown, it’s shrunk by 80%.
Everyone starts crying and hugging, especially Walt and Skyler. Walt’s coughing has been caused by “radiation pneumonitis,” “tissue inflammation” for which he can take prednisone. The blood is probably caused by a tear in his esophagus, which could potentially cause him to bleed to death. “We’ll deal with that before you leave here today…No more secrets, Walt. Something like this, you have to call me immediately…Now we have options…the most important of which is time. You all definitely have reason to celebrate.”
And they start to…But Walt, having bathed his face at the restroom sink, hands shaking and coughing, sees his reflection in the stainless steel paper towel dispenser, and suddenly punches it several times. He had things all neatly wrapped up, and was about to make a heroic exit. Now, he thinks, he has to live with his lies, and allow them and all his other sins to get bigger. To underline this, the cook song “One by One” replays as the credits roll.