Season 5, Episode 6: “Buyout”
This week’s episode of “Breaking Bad” begins with a funereal tone, and with good reason. After pulling off their methylamine heist successfully last week, the crew’s victory was immediately marred by the murder of a witness who just happened to be a young boy. In a haunting wordless opening Walt, Mike and Todd clean up the mess they made last week, dispensing of the dirtbike and the boy that once rode it. The buzzing score tells us that this is not business as usual for the crew and for a moment even the recently unshakable Walt appears to wince at the gravity of what they’ve done. Outside Todd tries to make small talk with Jesse, writing the incident off as, “Shit happens, huh?” before Jesse decks him. Welcome to “Breaking Bad.”
Todd expresses his sorrow over the incident, saying that they didn’t have much of a choice. It’s good to see Todd isn’t a heartless sociopath, rather a troubled kid who felt like he’d been backed into a corner and had to respond, but that doesn’t win the group’s sympathies at once. The trio takes a vote on Todd and since their options are slim (kill him, pay him off or keep him around), Walt persuades them for the latter. Though there’s no real indication of this in the episode, it still looks like Walt might be setting Todd up as a potential number 2 should something ever happen to Jesse. Keeping him around is good for Walt and what’s good for Walt he’ll convince the others is good for them.
What’s definitely not good for the group is that Mike being tailed by the DEA. Listening to the bug Walt planted in Hank’s office, Mike decides that he needs to get out because they’re too close and they’re not going to stop. Walt and Jesse try get back to work cooking up the next batch but after catching a news report of the missing boy on TV, Walt offers to send Jesse home early. He promises there will be time for soul searching in 18 months after they’ve cooked their batch and reaped the enormous financial benefits. As Jesse walks out he hears Walt whistling as he works and is rightfully disturbed. In the grand scheme of things, the life of that boy is only a small bump in the road towards Walt becoming the kingpin he imagines he can be.
The pivotal scene in the episode — entitled “Buyout” — comes halfway through as Mike and Jesse say that they’re out and plan to take (and sell) their share of the methylamine for a payout of $5 million each. Walt can handle the idea of Mike quitting, he even tries to stomach moving on without Jesse, but what he cannot tolerate is losing 2/3rds of the compound they only just came into possession of. Things become complicated as Mike’s buyer Declan says he won’t buy the methylamine unless the blue meth is off the street, which of course it wouldn’t be with Walt continuing on with his now-solo operation.
Jesse calls hoping to reason with Walt and is invited for the first time to Walt’s house. Walt tells Jesse about Gray Matter, the tech company he sold his shares for just before they skyrocketed. Walt says in no uncertain terms that he will not make that same mistake again just before Skyler walks in. Jesse is coaxed into staying for dinner by Walt who stands to benefit twofold from the invitation: a.) He can flaunt his arrangement with Skyler in front of her face and b.) he can show Jesse just what he’s given up already for this business of theirs.
The entire scene is wonderful, possibly the most awkward dinner scene since this one. As Jesse rambles on to fill the silence and Skyler just pours herself another glass of wine you’re waiting for it to explode into full-on “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf”-style shouting match. But Skyler restrains herself for now, biding her time, waiting it out. Between his former brush with riches with Grey Matter and showing Jesse firsthand just how badly his family situation has deteriorated, Walt actually makes a pretty good case for himself. The difference between $5 million or $100 million each is pretty vast and it’s not like he’s got a “normal life” to return to anyway.
Walt attempts to take matters into his own hands, stealing the methylamine for himself but is caught and restrained by Mike who says that the deal will go down with or without his cooperation. Mike takes Walt by the arm like a schoolboy and chains him to the radiator while he goes to meet with the DEA featuring a great but brief Saul Goodman scene (“He’s just not that into you”) and wins a temporary restraining order to buy himself 24 hours. Unluckily for Mike, Walt quickly Macguyver’s himself out of his situation and Mike goes nuclear pointing a gun at Walt before Jesse can intervene. Walt has a plan to pay them their $5 million for their shares and remain in business for himself, the details of which we’ll have to find out next week. “Everybody wins,” Walt offers. But knowing Walt’s plans, we’ll bet it won’t be too long before Mike will wish he took that shot. [A-]