Breaking Bad Recap: The Study of Change

Breaking Bad Recap JesseIn the Breaking Bad pilot several years back, Walt lectured to his high school students that chemistry was “the study of change.” This week’s episode offers up a master’s degree in that subject, so completely does it highlight the ways in which Walter and Jesse have transcended themselves – in ways good and bad – since the series began. And then there’s that OMG scene… and that other OMG scene… It’s a rough one. Let’s review the major developments that take place in “Confessions.”

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MEET THE NEW BOSS | The episode opens with Todd on the phone outside a diner, leaving a message for Walt. Due to a difference of opinions with Lydia’s formerly alive meth-lab runner Declan, he says, there’s been a “change in management,” and he thinks Mr. White should know. At a booth inside, he regales his uncle and his uncle’s pal with a retelling of the great train caper from earlier this season. The older men eat it up like a breakfast burrito, then the talk eventually turns to Todd running Lyd’s lab. “I got this,” he promises them, and they head back into New Mexico.

THE MASTER AT WORK | In the interrogation room where we left them last week, Hank has important intel for Jesse regarding Heisenberg. “See, I know he’s my brother-in-law Walt,” Hank says, which sends Jesse’s eyebrow into the stratosphere. Still, Jesse is Jesse, so he replies, “Eat me.” Undeterred, Hank notes that Walt lied to him and used him for a year. “Maybe you understand that feeling,” he says. But just then, Saul busts in and sends the DEA boss out of the room so he and Jesse can have a little lawyer-client time. Jesse tells him to chill out. “I don’t chill out right now because things have gone nuclear,” Saul replies.

And he doesn’t even know the half of it. Walt is interrupted trying to cover his bruises with Skyler’s foundation (a goofy moment I loved for the way it called to mind the bumbling, clueless Walt of Season 1) when Flynn says he’s going to Marie’s for some computer troubleshooting and dinner. Walt flies out of the bathroom just in time to catch his son and tell him that the cancer’s returned. (RJ Mitte’s face crumbles so believably upon hearing the news. Nice.) Walt vows to fight and asks the kid to stay positive, then sends him on his way – but an upset Jr. isn’t going anywhere, just like Walt knew would happen. (Side note: Of all of the emotional manipulation that goes on in this episode – and there’s plenty to choose from – this one made me the maddest. Even if I could forgive you for the way you handle Jesse later, Flynn/Walter Jr. is your own kid, Walt.)

Later, Skyler presses the record button on a video camera in their bedroom (not like that, pervs). Walt sits in front of it, gives his name and address and says, “This is my confession.” (Nice, tweaked nod to the pilot there, Breaking Bad.) Soon, he and Skyler are meeting Hank and Marie at the taqueria. Makes sense; fresh guac makes everything a little better.

Still playing the put-upon everyguy, Walt asks, “What do I have to do to make you believe me?,” and Marie honestly shocks me – and the rest of the table — when she suggests, “Why don’t you just kill yourself, Walt?” Woah, Marie, don’t hold anything back! Hank – who, by the way, has looked like a :/ emoticon throughout the conversation – growls, “Step up, be a man and admit what you did. There is no other option.” At that, Walt gathers his things and his wife and leaves, sliding a DVD toward his brother-in-law as he goes.

CONFESSIONS, PT. II | When the Schraders pop the disc into their home player, Walt’s evil genius shows itself yet again. Yes, the recording we see him make earlier is a confession – but it’s a fake one that claims Hank is a meth kingpin (!) who has forced Walt to be his chemist for the past year (!!). Knowing that the most believable lies have kernels of truth, Walt weaves actual events into his narrative, but changes the context to suit his needs. The cancer diagnosis, the DEA ride-along, Gus Fring – Walt mentions them all, but claims Hank masterminded everything from the meth empire to Fring’s murder. (Bonus points, Cranston, for the way you delivered “I guess you call it a hit” as though Walt had never, ever considered uttering such a phrase.)

“I wanted to go to the police, but I was frightened,” Walt says, selling himself as a victim. The only real emotion in the entire performance comes when Walt talks about the three months Flynn and Holly lived with the Schraders, but the rest is crocodile tears and flat-out fibs. It’s actually quite beautiful, how incredibly franched up this entire thing is. “I can’t take this anymore,” he blubbers, adding that he hopes “the world will finally see this man for what he is.”

Marie panics, but Hank knows the recording is just a threat. At the moment, he’s more concerned with the mention Walt makes of the $177,000 the Whites paid for Hank’s medical bills. It’s the first time Schrader has heard anything of the sort – and when he realizes that Marie accepted the cash so he’d be able to have the treatment that helped him walk again, he is despondent. “You killed me here,” he tells her. “That’s the last nail in the coffin.”

CRYING SHAME | Warning: If you are at all affected by Pinkman-in-emotional-peril scenes, the next few minutes will end you. Saul brings Jesse to the desert for a meeting with Walt. Well, it’s been nice knowing you, Jesse! After he learns that Jesse didn’t tell Hank anything, Walt takes his protege aside and suggests a change. “Will you let me help you? I don’t like to see you hurting like this,” he says, bringing up an associate of Saul’s who helps people assume new lives. Walt’s soft-voiced and avuncular, tossing in a (completely fake) good-natured chuckle and shake of the head. “If I could, I’d trade places. A whole lifetime ahead of you with a chance to hit the reset button.” (Side note: Though the likelihood of Jesse having a happy ending under an assumed name is about as likely as my parents’ story that our poodle Muffin went to live on a big farm when I was a kid, I can’t help but hope that maybe the former punk will eek his way out of this and get better.)

But Jesse’s done. “Would you just, for once, stop working me?” he asks tiredly. “Drop the whole concerned dad thing.” The younger man grows more and more upset – and Aaron Paul is on fire — as he commands Walter to just say the truth: He needs Jesse to go away to make sure that things work out for himself. “Just tell me you don’t give a s—t about me and it’s either this,” he says, his voice breaking as he sniffs back a total breakdown, “it’s either this or you’ll kill me the same way you killed Mike.”

So now that’s out there. And as Walter slowly walks toward Jesse, it seems like maybe this is the end for the pitiable Mr. Pinkman. But Walt – in yet another skillful manipulation – embraces Jesse instead. Jesse resists at first but then sags against his former mentor and fully gives himself over to a crying jag, which Walt weathers as he cradles the younger man’s head in his hand.

CIGARETTE BURNED | So Jesse agrees to a fresh start somewhere else, and Saul makes the call. But just as a car is about to whisk him off to his new life, Jesse realizes that Saul had Huell pickpocket some weed out of his pockets. And that revelation leads to – “The ricin cigarettes!” he screams as he beats Saul bloody in his office, having chosen not to get in the van. “He poisoned Brock and you… you helped him!” (Side note: I thought I’d feel good when that bit of deception finally came to light; instead, I just feel more scared for Jesse than ever before. Anyone else with me?)

Saul confesses at gunpoint, then immediately dials Walt as soon as the weapon-toting Jesse leaves the office. Heisenberg’s car screeches into the carwash driveway, then he takes a moment to pull himself together before spinning some stupid cover for Skyler about why he has to open the soda machine — real reason: to retrieve a gun he hides in there — and then quickly take off — real reason: whether he’s looking only to defend himself or to take someone out is a little unclear, but it’s definitely going to involve Jesse and it probably won’t end well. Walt, you probably don’t have to say anything to your wife, anyway; she looks about one glass of chardonnay away from another stroll in the deep end of the pool.

Cut to the White house, where Jesse careens into the front yard in his car, then jumps out with a canister of gasoline in his hand. (Uh-oh.) He kicks in the door (not good), thoroughly out of control (not good can’t watch), and begins spilling fuel all over the house (not good not good can’t watch please someone take us to the credits?) Phew.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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193 Comments
  1. if not for walter, jesse would’ve been dead 10 times already. The whole “Mr.White is evil, he deserves to die” is ridiculous, he must be the most soft-hearted villain i’ve seen on TV. In his place, any normal druglord would’ve shot Jesse by end of season 1 for sure. And his damn junkie girlfriend as well by the way. It was Jesse’s fault that he was growing fond of a homicidal sociapath Gus so much he was only convinced by a poisoned kid in the first place, duh. Anyhow, how is it cold-blooded hitman Mike is cool and it’s kinda “sad to see him gone”, it’s OK for Jesse to be fond of Gus, but Walter White – no, totally evil?

  2. Fryzenburger says:

    Future Walt’s house didn’t look burned down to me…and this week’s episode cut to black before a match or anything was lit.

  3. walterEatsJesse says:

    just wait till jesse finds 2 year old dried up puke on walt’s shoes and realizes walt watched jesse’s girlfriend choke to death on her own vomit!
    seriously though, the whole child poisoning scheme was weak from the getgo, we’re just seeing an unavoidable snowball effect from this lapse in otherwise great writing.
    BTW Bryon Cranston is a genius :)

  4. Jerry Ninno says:

    Gustavo was on the board of directors at the hospital where Brock was treated. I believe Brock could have been poisoned with the Ricin, but Gus got Brock the antidote and had the lab tests altered to show that Brock was not poisoned with Ricin; but instead poisoned with the Lilly of the valley plant. If Ricin would have been found on Brocks toxicology report, Jesse would have gone to jail, and the entire meth empire would have come to an end. Gus had to intervene in the situation in order to protect himself. Remember, Gus has doctors on his payroll, and any doctor in that hospital could have alerted Gus to the Ricin situation.. Also, that is when Gus decided not to get into his car after he left the hospital. Gus knew Walter was out there plotting and planning to kill him. That could be an explanation for what happened. Walter is pure evil! Walter is truly capable of killing a child to save his own skin! That’s my take on the matter.

    • Rich says:

      I don’t think so! Jerry. Watch End Of Times again. Specifically, the scene where Walt is spinning his gun on the table. Notice where the barrel points on the 3rd and final spin.

  5. Jerry Ninno says:

    Also, one last thing to add to my previous post. Gus doesn’t show up to the hospital to make social calls. Every time Gust shows up somewhere, it’s usually for a sinister reason, and someone always dies. Well in this case Gus showed up to talk to Jesse, and to get the lab tests switched.

    • BillyD says:

      Wow Jerry, that’s one heckuva theory you’ve proposed! Gus orchestrated the events at the hospital… One problem is that there’s no antidote for ricin, and another problem is that it would just have been a coincidence that Walt has a Lily of the Valley plant in his backyard?! In any case, I admire your creative thinking…

  6. Reblogged this on thehiltonburnellfiles and commented:
    Classic episode.

  7. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Walt sunk to some new levels of low this week. I agree with you, Kimberly, the scene with Walt Jr. was HORRIBLE. Manipulating your own kid is pretty bad. And the tape where he pins it all on Hank, and the way he manipulated sweetheart of a guy Jesse. I cannot believe there are still people out there that defend Walt and root for him. You gotta figure, people who root for Walt at this point are psychopaths, right? Walt must be their hero.
    .
    Those last 10 minutes were pretty killer. I love the signature POV shots this show has always used. The gas can POV was great. I assume Jesse will be the one who paints Heisenberg on the wall. I am worried for Jesse, but I’ve always assumed he will die. It seems like a natural progression for Walt who keeps getting more and more evil by the day. I try to imagine what’s the worst thing he can do, and to me, that’s killing Jesse. I do think he sees Jesse as a son, but as we’ve seen, he has no problem manipulating his son, whether it be a real son or a figurative son. And I can’t imagine Walt would go as far as killing Skylar or his kids, so yeah…the worse thing he can believably do on this show would be to kill Jesse. That’s gonna hurt bad for me to see.

  8. Michael says:

    HOW BOUT THE MAJOR ISSUE – LOTTERY TICKETS ARE FLAMABLE!!!!!!!

  9. Hienz Heisenville says:

    The first scene in “Confessions” seems to take place in the future and not in the same time-line as the rest of the episode. Lydia meets Declan in the last scene of “Buried” and has Todd’s uncles crew wipe-out Declan’s crew in Arizona. When did Lydia meet Todd’s uncles crew? That association must be explained, along with why Todd called Walter and left the message when Walter is currently out of the business. Walt at some point must get back into the business???

    • Michael says:

      Honestly don’t think Walt is completely out of the business. There was that shot in the restaurant when Skyla mentioned it being in the past, his reaction implies thats not the case.

      • Hienz Heisenville says:

        That might explain why Todd called Walt, but somehow Lydia comes to know the crew which killed Mike’s crew and she had kill DeClan’s crew.

  10. Cate Amos says:

    During the desert scene, I thought for sure that Walt would tell Jesse that his cancer was back. If I knew my partner in crime only had around six months to live and was willing and able to fund a new identity and relocation for me, I’d get the Hell outta Dodge. With Walt being as manipulative as he is, I’d think that would be the perfect ploy to make sure that Jesse leaves.

    • Ronald says:

      Perhaps Walt’s confession that his cancer is back is another low ploy for him. And his chemo rounds may be necessary for credibility. After all, in the pilot Walt celebrates his 50th birthday, and in the beginning of the fifth season he celebrates his 52nd. And reveals a serious assault rifle (if I recall correctly) in the back of his trunk… Will he go after Todd’s newfound operation? Or will he discover that Todd’s new employer is someone he knows (that’d be a crushing revelation!)?

  11. Observer says:

    One thing in Walt’s “confession” may be illogical: If Hank were the meth kingpin that has forced Walt to cook for him, why does Hank need Walt’s money to pay his medical bills? Wouldn’t Hank have enough money on his own? (Or would Hank not be able to explain why he has this extra money, so he needs his “gambler” brother to pay his bills with his alleged gambling proceeds?)

    • Vince says:

      You’re absolutely correct. Walt’s “confession” is not the work of an “evil genius.” It’s actually kind of dumb because the “Hank’s a Kingpin” accusation doesn’t hold water. Worse, Hank’s evidence so far has been circumstansial, and now Walt’s confessing to cooking meth. To make matters worse, Walt provides Hank with a disc, which will add credence to the truth: Hank is being blackmailed. Hank must go to the police/DEA posthaste.

      I hope the show doesn’t make him stupidly spin plates.

  12. Admiral Crunch says:

    I’m not sure why the whole thing with the kid is such a big deal for Jesse at this point, since the kid survived. Legally it wasn’t even attempted murder if Walt assumed the kid would have prompt medical care.

    If course if you’re crazy enough to toss wads of cash out the window, then I guess your reasoning skills are pretty much gone.

  13. Jesse fring says:

    so let me get this striate walt put some Rican in one of Jesse cigarettes and when Brock got very sick Jesse thought it was walt evan though it wasn’t but he made Jesse think it was Gus but no ever smoked that Rican cigarette and Saul’s security guard stole it I can say I’m a bit confused

  14. Ronald says:

    Perhaps Jesse will also find out that Walt let Jane suffocate in her own vomit. That information may be crucial in the final showdown between King Cook and Heisenberg.

  15. Julievcbc says:

    What episode is the ricin in? What episode does Brock get poisoned if? I want to re-watch those so I can pull it all together.

  16. Admiral Crunch says:

    Well supposedly Hank and Gus were fighting it out, so perhaps Walt’s “truth” is that Gus stole Hanks cash (from a storage locker :-) so while Hank was still the “mastermind” he didn’t have any cash left so forced Walt to loan/give him some.

  17. Yippymanful says:

    I predict next episode that Walts kids does in he fire and his wife devasted, commits suicide. Walt who began all this for his family ends up alone losing everyone he loves. How ironic!

    • Yippymanful says:

      I predict next episode that Walts kids dies in the fire and his wife devasted, commits suicide. Walt who began all this for his family ends up alone losing everyone he loves. How ironic!

  18. tony says:

    as far as the poisoning i think i get it. Walt poisoned Brock using a bit of that rising but altered it as to not kill the child in order to knock sense into Jesse, so that Walt can get to Gus.

    • Aaron says:

      No, Walt poisoned him with a berry or two from the lily of the valley plant in his backyard. Remember when Jesse told the hospital to check for ricin poisoning and they did? The doctors specifically checked for it and came back to say there was no ricin in Brock.

  19. Carson says:

    Everything makes sense and I buy that there are no inconsistencies if you accept that Jessie has an epiphany even if he can’t fully articulate what happened.

    But since it wasnt ricin, and it was “actually pretty common” (Jesse quoting the doctor on Lily of the Valley), then you might think that he would actually accept the poisoning was an accident. Moreover, since Walt used lily instead of ricin (far less poisonous), he made sure – or at least much more probable – that Brock wouldn’t die. So I disagree that Walt is the devil and I find it hard to believe that Jessie fully thinks that (although that’s an entire separate conversation).

    Walt was manipulative, evil, etc, but in so doing saved his own life, eliminated a threat, and did so without killing Brock, which he easily could have done. They all do have redeeming qualities, and as dark as he’s become, Walt still does as well (not killing Brock, dismissing the possibility of killing Jessie and Hank when both would be extremely useful for him). And I do thinks he cares for Jessie in a paternalistic way, despite “working” him all the time. He manipulates Skyler and now his son, both of whom he cares about deeply. It’s only a matter of time until he tells Holly the toothfairy isn’t real to achieve some sinister goal, but he still loves her and has redeeming qualities, however diminishing.

  20. hangover says:

    But an approximate statistic says that consumption of 4-5 pegs usually causes hangover.
    These days, such delays are becoming a relic of the past.

    It has a sure place in a list of homemade cures for a hangover.

  21. Karen White says:

    When will it ever come out that Walt let Jesse’s girlfriend die? To Jesse I mean. I know he incoherently tried to tell him back in ” Fly” I think…correct me if I’m wrong…but I think THAT shoulda came out and sent Jesse over the edge rather than this poisoning fiasco which has us all scratching our heads.

  22. Luis says:

    As far as all of the comments stating things felt forced, they are absolutely correct. The producers decided how many episodes to film, so I don’t buy that they just had to shoehorn three, four or five seasons worth of explanations into however many episodes are left. Just because the show is ending doesn’t mean you can hurry it along to its conclusion and ignore the brilliant pacing this show has long been known for. Almost always the ending becomes the toughest part to deal with, because if it isn’t tied together neatly then yes you get forced, rushed, contrived, implausible, or just plain unbelievable results.

  23. Luis says:

    Another thought that crossed my mind…. As viewers we know otherwise but for Jesse who’s to say that this didn’t happen: Walt hears that Brock was poisoned, and even though he didn’t do it himself realizes this is the perfect opportunity to get Jesse back on his side and on-board with eliminating Gus? Still, it’s very manipulative and consistent with Walt’s lack of violence against children, while we know Gus had a history of violence against children. How is it that this possible explanation isn’t even entertained when it seems equally or more likely? But no, like the other commenter said, we are to simply accept Jesse’s clairvoyance to the exclusion of everything else no matter how well it fits. Indeed a weak stretch of writing in an otherwise bar-raising show. But boy did I want it to be perfect!

  24. Bill Marks says:

    Why didn’t Walt just poison Brock with ricin?

  25. Aron S says:

    Just kill Jesse off already! If I have to see one more crying and whining jag from him I’m going to puke!

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