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"Cancer Man" is the fourth episode of the first season of Breaking Bad and the fourth episode overall.

Summary

Teaser

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Hank puts his DEA team on notice that "new players" in Albuquerque are producing a super-pure type of methamphetamine. He describes the criminals as possessing a high skill set. The scene then cuts to Walt, standing at his bathroom mirror in his underwear, messily brushing his teeth.

Act I

Walt, Hank, Skyler, Marie, and Junior have a barbecue at the White residence. Walt reminisces about the first time he met Skyler, which causes her to burst into tears and run inside the house. When Marie asks Walt what is wrong, he tells the rest of the family about his cancer diagnosis. Junior, Hank and Marie are shocked at the news. Skyler blames chemicals from Walt's past lab work for the cancer, Marie proposes an oncology treatment plan, and Hank assures Walt that he will take care of his family whatever happens.

Walt and his family discusses his situation.

Meanwhile, Jesse is hanging at his house with two friends, Combo and Skinny Pete. Jesse brags about cooking a great batch of meth, but only offers them pot, saying he's trying to lay off the meth because it's making him paranoid. When they get up to leave, Jesse says he is just joking and pulls a bag out of his pocket.

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The next morning, Jesse peers through parted curtains at the street outside. Under the effects of the meth, he sees two scruffy bikers march toward the house brandishing weapons. Jesse escapes out the back door. Back at the front door, the two "bikers" are revealed to be two Mormon missionaries on bicycles.

Act II

Skyler makes an appointment for Walt to visit a top-rated oncologist. Walt initially balks at paying a $5,000 deposit on the treatment but eventually relents, saying he'll borrow the money from his pension. Instead, he retrieves some drug money he has hidden in a heating duct inside his house. Walt pretends he's checking for mice when Junior interrupts him, confused by Walt acting as if nothing is going on.

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While Walt is visiting his credit union, a man in a BMW convertible — his license plate reading "KEN WINS" — swipes his parking space while loudly talking into his Bluetooth earpiece. Inside the credit union, Walt presents a teller a wad of cash and asks for a cashier's check made out to the oncology partnership. While he waits in line, Ken loudly continues his conversation.

That night, a mother, father, and a well-dressed preteen boy are eating dinner in their home when they hear a noise outside. They investigate and discover Jesse with one foot stuck in their patio furniture. They reluctantly allow Jesse to sleep at their house. When he awakes the next evening, the mother and father — revealed to be Jesse's parents — reluctantly decide to let Jesse stay with them on condition that he attend support group meetings concerning his drug use. However, Jesse's mother frets about his effect on the younger boy, Jesse's little brother Jake. Jesse's father says they must lay down the law and be consistent about it this time.

At the high school, Junior sits peering into a microscope in his father's empty chemistry classroom. After a long pause, Walt, who is grading papers, tells his son that things have a way of working themselves out. Junior doesn't reply.

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Back at the Pinkman residence, Jesse visits Jake's bedroom and looks at his educational award. He congratulates Jake but advises that "not all learning comes out of books." Jesse asserts that Jake is their favorite son, but Jake tells him that it is Jesse who their parents always talk about.

Act III

Alone in his former bedroom, Jesse comes across a chemistry paper from high school that Walt had graded with an "F", along with a caricature drawn on the back mocking the teacher. As he sees this, Combo calls and says Jesse has got customers for his new meth product. Jesse heads over to Walt's house to tell him the news, but Walt is instead angry that Jesse has come to the house to talk business and accuses Jesse of wearing a wire. Walt orders him to leave. Before Jesse does, he leaves $4,000 that their customers have paid for the meth.

Act IV

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Walt's new oncologist, Dr. Delcavoli, tells him and Skyler that his cancer is at Stage 3A, meaning it has spread from his lung to his lymph nodes. Skyler asks if it's curable; Dr. Delcavoli prefers the word treatable. Walt asks about side effects, but zones out as the oncologist describes them.

Jesse being kicked out of his parents' house again.

Meanwhile, a maid dusting Jesse's room finds a marijuana joint, resulting in his parents asking him to leave the house. Jesse picks up the joint and walks away. As he waits for a taxicab outside, Jake comes to say goodbye and asks Jesse to give him back the joint. Jesse instead throws it away, telling Jake it's skunk-weed before driving away.

Skyler asks Walt if he can start his treatment the following week, but Walt expresses reluctance to commit to $90,000 worth of treatment that might not work and could leave them broke. Annoyed at his father giving up so easily, Junior tells him to just give up and die.

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While driving around the city, Walt pulls into a gas station and has a powerful coughing fit, one where he hacks up blood. Walt sees Ken pull up in his BMW, again talking loudly into his earpiece. While Ken is inside the gas station, Walt picks up a squeegee, lifts the hood of the BMW, and lays the squeegee between the battery terminals, prompting an electrical short. As he walks back to his own car, the BMW bursts into flames.

Official Photos

Cultural references

  • Hank compared Krazy-8 to The Jeffersons, “always moving up”
  • Hank sarcastically calls Walt "Emeril" after Walt burns the chicken while having a PTSD flashback to cleaning up Emilio’s body

Trivia

  • Uncensored on home video. Walter, Jr. says, "Then why don't you just fucking die already?"
  • Walt and Jr’s final conversation in “Granite State” is reminiscent of this conversation as well
  • This episode is the first to introduce two of Jesse's closest friends, Combo and Skinny Pete. Badger is introduced in the next episode.
  • Walt Jr. is watching Earth vs. the Flying Saucers on TV.
  • Ken's infamous car is a 1996 BMW 318i Cabrio.
  • Creator Vince Gilligan got his start in television with the series The X-Files, which featured a character who was occasionally referred to as "Cancer Man."
  • Gilligan says this episode is a major turning point in the series, probably because Walter reveals to Skyler that he has cancer. Or possibly it is Walter blowing up Ken's car, his first wilful and spiteful act of violence (the deaths of Emilio and Krazy-8 were largely forced on him). 
  • There may be a foreshadowing reference to Saul Goodman in this episode. When Ken exits his car he mentions having the "best freaking attorney" who has "this little team of ninjas". Both could be referring to Saul since he has proven himself to be a very competent lawyer, often getting Walt, Jesse and others out of legal trouble. He is also willing to use violence, as seen by his hiring of Mike Ehrmantraut.
    • The events of Better Call Saul however reveals that It wouldn’t make sense that Ken would enlist the services of Saul after he and Kim Wexler scammed him into buying numerous $50 shots of Zafiro Añejo
    • Additionally, in the beginning of the episode Skyler suggests that they "get a lawyer" while discussing Walt's cancer diagnosis with Hank and Marie and alleging that he may have contracted cancer while working at Application Labs. In Better Call Saul, the firm of Davis and Main is said to have run an TV ad for a mesothelioma class action lawsuit.

Production

Credits

Co-Starring

  • Ben Petry as Jake Pinkman
  • David House as Dr. Delcavoli
  • Jon Kristian Moore as DEA Agent
  • Tish Miller as Bank Teller
  • Charles Baker as Skinny Pete
  • Rodney Rush as Chubby Stoner

  • Uncredited

  • Michael-David Aragon as DEA Agent #2
  • Robert Anthony Brass as Bank Customer
  • Tavia Schwartz as Home Buyer

  • Filming Locations

    Featured Music

    • "Étienne de Silhouette" by Black Feather (playing in Walt Jr's headphones)
    • "Fly" by The Pack (while Jesse, Combo, & Skinny Pete hang out)
    • "Walt Bandages His Leg" by Dave Porter (while Walt bandages his leg)
    • "Baby Girl, I'm A Blur" by Say Anything (playing in Ken's car as he steals Walt's parking space)
    • "Quartet No. 53 in D major, The Lark, Op. 64, No. 5, Second movement, Adagio cantabile by Joseph Haydn" by Amadeus Quartet (while the Pinkman family eat dinner)
    • "You're All They Talk About" by Dave Porter (while Jesse struggles to sleep at night)
    • "Didn't I" by Darondo (as Walt sabotages Ken's car)

    Memorable Quotes

    "So be on notice: We got new players in town. Now we don’t know who they are or where they came from, but they possess an extremely high skill set. Me personally, I think Albuquerque might just have a new kingpin."
    ―Hank talking to his DEA team about Heisenberg's arrival.

    "I have cancer. Lung cancer. It's bad."
    ―Walt confesses his illness to his family.

    Skyler: "What is there to discuss? You're going to get the best treatment and he's the best."
    Walter: "Well, there's the money discussion. $90,000 out of pocket. Maybe more."
    Skyler: "There's a way, Walt. There's financing, there's installment plans. I could always go back to work. Walt, there's always a way."
    Walter: "Alright. Skyler, say that there is a way, and we spend all that money, and...am I supposed to leave you with all that debt? I just don't want emotions ruling us. Maybe treatment isn't the way to go."
    Walter Jr.: "Then why don't you just fucking die already? Just give up and die."
    ―The White family is arguing about Walt's cancer treatment.
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