Season 5, episode 1: “Live Free or Die”

07 Aug

Breaking Bad, 5-1: “Live Free or Die”


A plate of breakfast is put in front of Walt, and he breaks the bacon into pieces and spells out “52” with it on top of the eggs and potatoes. So, it’s a year after the end of season 4. He’s not wearing his wedding ring, is wearing dark-rimmed glasses, and has a full head of hair and a longish beard and mustache. He explains that it’s his birthday when the waitress asks about the bacon, and she tells him he can get breakfast for free on his birthday at Denny’s. “Free is always good,” she says. Walt shows her his license. “New Hampshire? You’re a long way from home. So, what’s here in Albuquerque?”


Walt, wearing an army jacket, a floppy knit shirt, and blue jeans, gets up and joins the gun seller from “38 Snub” in the men’s room. As they stand together at the double sink, Walt trades him a thick envelope of money for a set of car keys. The guy asks for assurance that “it” won’t “cross the border,” and Walt says, “It’s never leaving town.” After the man leaves, Walt coughs a little and takes some prescription medication.

Walt leaves a hundred dollar tip under his still-full plate, as the waitress calls, “Happy Birthday, Mr. Lambert!”

Outside, he opens the trunk of a white Volvo 240 DL with a New Hampshire license plate and takes out a black sports bag. He goes to a red sedan, a few cars down, and opens its trunk, revealing an M-60 machine gun, with a manual and three boxes of tracer ammunition. He puts the sports bag in, and shuts the trunk.

So, we’ve gotten a vision of a future in which Walt, possibly having “disappeared” to New Hampshire under his wife’s maiden name, returns to Albuquerque to deal with a threat to someone he loves – possibly his former wife and/or children, possibly Jesse. The threat could also be to his share in a still-running meth empire. His cancer has probably returned, and he’s feeling reckless. Meanwhile, back to the present…

Scene 1: the Schraders’, the Whites’, the lab, the Mexican “hospital,” Gus’s office

First, we see a bit of a repeat of the end of season 4, where Walt tells Skyler over the phone, “I won.” Then he’s at home, drums beating, scooping up all the bomb-making materials in the kitchen and putting them in a trash bag in the trunk of his car. The drums die down as he pours himself a drink of whiskey, then pick up again as he remembers to hide the lily of the valley plant in the same place.

Just in time, since Junior, Skyler, and Holly are returning from the Schraders’, Junior excited about Hank’s heroism in escaping Gus Fring’s “hit,” and Skyler retreating to the bedroom. Walt follows her there, and asks, “Don’t you think I rate a hello, at least?”


“Hello to you, too. Are you going to talk to me here – show some kind of relief that I’m alive?”

“I am relieved, Walt…and scared.”

“Scared of what?”


Skyler leaves the room, and Walt toasts himself in the mirrored closet door, then says, “Oh, shit!”

Meanwhile, Hank, Gomez, and at least two other DEA agents are exploring the ruined super lab, wearing respirators and white protective suits. Hank, using a cane, spots the wall-mounted camera.

Mike’s feeding the chickens at the Mexican “hospital,” urging them to “be nice,” and “let Wendell in there.” We see the doctor talking on the phone, then telling Mike, “He’s dead.” Suddenly, Mike’s speeding down a dirt desert road, then stopping short of crashing into another car: Walt and Jesse.

“Son of a bitch…son of a bitch,” Mike says, pointing his gun at Walt.

Jesse gets in between the two men, pleading, “Let him talk!”

“I’m done listening to this asshole talk! Get out of my way!”

“He’s got something you need to hear, all right?”

“Do you even know what he’s done?”

“Yeah,” Walt says, “he saved his own life.”

“Mike,” puts in Jesse, “if you kill him, you’re gonna have to kill me! Come on!”

“Oh, Jesse! Jesus. What is it with you guys? Honest to God!”

“Look,” Walt says, “whatever differences you and I have, they’ll keep. Right now we have bigger fish to fry…Gus kept cameras on us at the lab, the laundry…God only knows where else. ‘Course when I say ‘us,’ I’m including you.”

Jesse: “Mike, if he took all that stuff – us cooking, you cleaning up – ”

Walt: “If Gus had a record of that, and the police get to it before we do – ”

Mike: “You son of a bitch!”

Walt: “Mike – it’s all on tape somewhere or on a drive. Where? Where did he keep it?”

“He had a laptop in his office in the back of the restaurant. It all fed straight to there.” Mike seems to be in pain as he stands by one of the open car doors. He holds his hand out.

“What?” Walt asks.

“Keys, scumbag. It’s the universal symbol for keys.” They take off, leaving Mike’s car behind.

We see the police tagging Gus’s laptop as evidence while Hank watches.

Scene 2: Jesse’s

Mike’s on the phone impersonating “Postal Inspector Dave Clark.” He hangs up, and says, “Oh, yeah – he says we’re boned.” He breaks his cell phone and tosses it on the table. “Well, you know how they say, ‘It’s been a pleasure?’ It hasn’t.”

Walt: “Are you gonna tell us about the laptop?”

Jesse, from the papa-san chair: “Where you goin’?”

“I’m gettin’ the hell outta Dodge, kid. And so should you – it’s just a matter of time.”

“Where is the laptop?” Walt asks again.

“What the hell difference does it make? They got it – end of story. APD Northwest Area Command on 2nd. They tagged it, they filed it. It’s in the system, and they locked it in their evidence room.”

“All right, all right – so describe the building.”

Mike laughs. “Describe the building…How about I describe Fort Knox? And what are you gonna do? Are you gonna put on a black leotard and go dangling on a clothesline? It’s a building fulla cops – what else do you need to know? And why in hell am I talking to you?”

“Mike,” Jesse says, “we gotta do something.”

“I am doing something.”

“He’s good with this stuff, okay? Just give him a chance.”

“Hey, look – that laptop might as well be on the moon. They build these evidence rooms like bank vaults, because, guess what? Lunatics like you wanna break into ’em. But unlike a bank vault, this is a place that’s guarded 24 hours a day by the police. There’s no way you’re gettin’ it outta there.”

Walt: “Who says we have to get it out of there? We just need to destroy what’s on it.”

“Oh! So, now you want to blow up a police station!”

“No – a device, a small device.”

“What about a magnet?” Jesse asks, but Mike and Walt are too busy arguing to hear him. “Yo!” he shouts. “What about, like, a magnet?” Mike and Walt continue to argue about an idea of Walt’s. “Or,” Jesse persists, “what about a magnet?”

Both of the older men turn, and Walt asks, “What magnet? What about it?”

Jesse pantomimes something hitting a magnet, and says, “Poof!”

Scene 3: the scrap yard, the car wash, the hospital

A crane equipped with a huge magnet moves a car from one place to another, as the yard owner, Old Joe, talks with Walt about the feasibility of their plan. Jesse agrees to spot Walt his share of the cost because of the latter’s “IRS issue.” Mike tells Jesse, “If you have any brains, you’ll take that money you saved, and you’ll skip town right now.”

“You don’t think this’ll work?”

“Is that a serious question?”

“Mike,” Jesse says, “this is a three-man job. The only way I know it won’t work for sure is if we don’t have you.”

Meanwhile, Saul visits the car wash and tells Skyler about what happened to Ted. “Ted’s dead,” she says.

“No, he just woke up.”

Back at the scrap yard, they’re about to test the ability of the magnet to wipe data off a laptop hard drive. When Old Joe talks about getting to “Miller time,” Mike says, “You know, I can foresee a lot of possible outcomes to this, and not a single one of ’em involves Miller time.”

But the test laptop’s fried, and not only that – when Jesse loosens his grip on it, it flies through the air, hits the old truck containing the magnet, and breaks apart. Jesse leaps in triumph, shouting “Yeah, bitch! Magnets!!”

Mike says, “If everything in that evidence room goes flying, it’ll make a helluva noise.”

“It won’t matter,” Walt assures him. “In 60 seconds, we’ll be gone.”

Skyler visits Ted in the hospital, and is horrified by the sight of the poor man – pale, bald, and in head and neck braces. “Hey, Ted,” she says quietly, almost crying.

In a weak voice, Ted assures her that he hasn’t “said anything to anyone. I told them it was an accident…I’ve got children…family…I swear to you! Please – I would never breathe a word of this.”

Suddenly, Skyler, wearing a black dress, recovers herself as a breaking-bad villainess, and says, “Good.”

Scene 4: the police evidence room

Mike sprays foam on the security cameras at the police station, and opens the locked vehicle entrance. He signals Jesse with a flashlight, and the truck pulls up close to the wall of the evidence room. Walt and Jesse are wearing black balaclavas, with only their eyes visible – a little more professional than the pom-pom topped ski masks they wore in season 1. Walt turns on the batteries to create the giant magnet, and the computer of the cop guarding the evidence room dies. A paper clip, a red tricycle, and other metal objects start moving toward the wall nearest the truck; then boxes fly off the shelves.

An alarm sounds, a light goes on, and Jesse says, “Let’s go!” but Walt just has to be sure. He turns the magnet power up the last notch, and the truck tips over toward the wall. The next thing we know, a police team is outside, but Walt and Jesse have escaped.

The three plotters argue in the car, Mike worried that the police will “trace the truck back to the wrecking yard,” Walt assuring him that there are “no prints, no paper work – it’s untraceable salvage, all of it.”

“You got all the answers, answer man, so you tell me – did all that even work just now?”

“Yes, it worked.”

“How do we know?”

“Because I say so.” These words are spoken in a normal voice, but they’re Heisenberg through and through.

The next day the cops are going over the items that were in the evidence room. One gives the name and number of a “roofing hammer, undamaged,” then picks up Gus’s laptop. It’s broken, but still in its sealed bag. Then he picks up another piece of evidence from Gus’s office – a picture of Gus and his murdered partner. There’s a piece of paper stuck in one corner of the frame on which is written, “Banc Suisse Cayman” followed by routing numbers. “Hey,” the cop says. “Check it out! That’s not on the manifest.” Once again, the “solution” has created more problems.

Scene 5: Saul’s office, the Whites’

Walt’s mad at Saul for letting Skyler use his money to pay Ted’s debt to the IRS. “She’s my client, same as you,” Saul says. “It’s tricky, but I try to act ethically.”

“I’m sorry – did you just use the word ‘ethically’ in a sentence? You’re a two-bit bus-bench lawyer, and you work for me.”

“I put my life on the line for you,” Saul says, producing a baggie containing Jesse’s ricin cigarette. Huell, too – he’s got fingers like hot dogs – he could have easily busted this in two and killed everyone in the office! But do I complain? No – beg, borrow, or steal – I’m your huckleberry.” I love this line, and, as if to emphasize it, Saul’s wearing a purple shirt and tie. “I go the extra mile. Only you never told me the kid would end up in the hospital! You take that thing and get the hell outta here! You and me, we’re done.”

Walt shrugs, then gets up and moves toward Saul. When they’re head to head, he says in a chilling voice, “We’re done when I say we’re done.” Saul squirms.

When Walt enters Casa Blanca, it seems dark inside, even though it’s daytime. Skyler’s in the master bedroom with the baby. Walt says, “Hi. I heard what happened to Ted.”

“He’s not gonna talk,” Skyler assures him. When Walt smiles, walks toward her, and puts his hand on her shoulder, she looks at it as if it’s a snake about to bite her.


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