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



1x04 - Hank showing the mask

Hank Schrader puts his DEA team on notice that "new players in town" are making super-pure meth. Operation "Icebreaker" turns into operation TBD (To Be Determined) when Steven Gomez jokes that "Icebreaker" is the name of a breath mint. Hank describes the "new players" as being of a high skill set. We then cut to Walter White, standing at his bathroom mirror in his underwear, messily brushing his teeth.

Act I

Walt, Skyler White, Hank, Marie Schrader, and Walter White Jr. have a poolside barbecue at the White residence. Hank dispenses dating tips to Walter, Jr. and Walt reminisces about the first time he met Skyler. The story causes Skyler to burst into tears and Marie asks what's wrong. Skyler goes inside and then Marie asks Walter what is wrong. Walt confesses, "I have cancer. Lung cancer. It's bad."

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Walt and his family discusses his situation.

Later, the adults discuss Walt's situation. Skyler thinks that chemicals from long-ago lab work might have caused the cancer, but Marie steers the conversation towards the next steps for Walt and talks about lining up "an oncology dream team." Hank assures Walt that whatever happens, he'll take care of Walt's family.

Jesse Pinkman, hanging at his house with two friends, Combo and Skinny Pete, 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. They get up to leave, but he says he's just joking, and pulls a bag out of his pocket. "Best scante ever."

1x04 - Jesse's hallucination

The next morning, Jesse peers through parted curtains at the street outside. He takes a hit off his pipe. Strange sounds echo in his head and, eyes widened, he sees two scruffy bikers march toward the house, each tossing and catching a grenade in one hand and brandishing a huge knife in the other. Jesse scurries away, grabbing a meth baggie before escaping out the back door. Back at the front door, the two "bikers" are revealed to be two harmless Mormon missionaries on bicycles, a hallucination of Jesse's.

Act II

Skyler makes an appointment for Walt with a top-rated oncologist. Walt balks at paying a $5,000 deposit on the treatment but then relents, saying he'll borrow the money from his pension. Instead, he unscrews the grate covering a heating duct in his home to retrieve drug cash he's hidden inside. Walt pretends he's checking for mice when Walter Jr. interrupts him. "What the hell's wrong with you?" asks his son. "You're acting like nothing is going on."

Ken Wins

A guy in a BMW convertible — his license plate reads "KEN WINS" — swipes Walt's parking space in a bank parking lot, all the while boasting into his Bluetooth headset and ignoring Walt. When Walt finally gets inside the bank, he presents a teller a wad of cash and asks for a cashier's check made out to the oncology partnership.

A mother, father, and a well-dressed preteen boy are eating dinner in their home and discussing the boy's music lessons and soccer practice when they hear a noise outside. They investigate and discover Jesse with one foot stuck in the patio furniture. "Hey, Dad," he says, waving. "Hey, Mom." Shortly thereafter, Jesse puts head to pillow. He wakes up the next evening.

"Do we let him stay?" asks Jesse's dad as he and his wife prepare dinner. Perhaps, she says, if Jesse agrees to attend "those meetings." But she frets about Jesse's effect on Jake, his little brother. The father says they must lay down the law and be consistent about it this time.

Walter Jr. sits peering into a microscope in his father's chemistry classroom. No students are present. After a long pause, Walt, who's grading papers, says, "I just think that things have a way of working themselves out." Walter Jr. doesn't reply.

1x04 - Jesse in Jake's room

Jesse looks at the "Mathlete" and other awards in Jake's bedroom, while the boy types a report on the computer. Jesse congratulates "little bro" but advises that "not all learning comes out of books." Their mom checks in on them, walking away without reclosing the door. "Can't let the scumbag warp the mind of our favorite son," says Jesse, to which Jake replies, "I'm the favorite? You're practically all they ever talk about."


Alone in his room, Jesse comes across an old drawing he'd made mocking Walt and says, "Awesome." The drawing is on the back of a chemistry test marked with a big red "F." Scrawled across the bottom: "Ridiculous! Apply yourself." As he reads this, Combo calls and says he's got customers for "the product."

Jesse heads over to Walt's house and they talk outside. Walt accuses Jesse of wearing a wire, which Jesse denies. He just wants to "touch base" and says he's "got dudes that would give their left nut for a little more" of Walt's meth. Walt orders him to leave. Before Jesse does, he holds up $4,000. "Your share," he tells Walt, tossing it in the air.

Act IV

1x04 - Second opinions

The oncologist tells Skyler and Walt that his cancer is Stage 3A, meaning it has spread from the lung to the lymph nodes. Skyler asks if it's curable; the oncologist prefers the word "treatable." Walt asks about side effects. Skyler takes notes as the doctor describes them. Walt zones out.

Pinkman House

Jesse being kicked out of his parents' house again.

A maid dusting Jesse's room finds a joint. He denies knowing anything about it, but his parents ask him to leave the house. Jesse picks up the joint and walks away. As he stands outside, Jake comes to say goodbye. "Thanks for not telling on me," he says. "Do you think I could have it back?" Jesse holds the joint up, crushes it, and kicks it away. "It's skunk-weed anyway," he says, getting into a cab.

"So can I call them and tell them you'll start next week?" Skyler asks Walt, who's reluctant to commit to $90,000 worth of treatment that might not work and could leave them broke. "I just don't want emotions ruling us," he says. Walter Jr., who's watching Earth vs. the Flying Saucers in the living room, blurts out, "Then why don't you just fucking die, already?! Just give up and die."

Danny's Auto Service

Walt once again crosses paths with the "KEN WINS" BMW at a service station. As one would expect, the man is bragging loudly into his Bluetooth headset. While the driver is inside the office, Walt walks near the car and picks up a squeegee. Lifting the hood of the BMW, he lays the squeegee between the battery terminals. As he walks back to his own car, the BMW bursts into flames.

Official Photos


  • Uncensored on home video. Walter, Jr. says, "Then why don't you just fucking die, already?"
  • 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." See references to The X-Files.
  • 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 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.





  • 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, Badger & 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, 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.