Breaking Bad Recap: "Fifty-One"
The good old Aztec is up and running after Walt crashed it to divert Hank's attention away from the laundromat, and the mechanic just can't stop singing its praises to Walt and Jr. They reference the beautifully ugly little vehicle's ever-cracked windshield and that time Walt hit a "deer" a few months back as evidence of its durability, but even that won't be a match for Walt's all-obliterating dismissal. He sells it to the mechanic for fifty bucks, but not before retrieving one of the things he really values: His black hat. He puts it on now, in front of his son and the entire world to see. If it wasn't clear enough by now, he's all Heisenberg, all the time.
But what about his wheels, you ask? In a wonderfully over-the-top dubstep montage (set to "Bonfire" by Knife Party) Walt buys a gleaming black sports car for himself, and a red one for his son—the very same model Skyler forbid Jr. from keeping last season. It's almost like Walt doesn't respect her wishes.
At her Madrigal office, Lydia gets a call from Mike warning her the DEA is on her doorstep. She keeps it together—barely—but they arrest one of the warehouse workers. Mike guarantees he won't talk, but now who's going to transport the methylamine? Mike will send a new guy.
Skyler gets home to find a couple of surprises in the driveway, and there's not a thing she can do to object as the men of the house debate who has the sweeter ride over dinner. What she can do is suggest to Walt that it might be good to send Jr. to a boarding school. He doesn't see the point considering the kid's only got a year before graduation, but he doesn't harp too much on it. Right now he's more concerned with his imminent fifty-first birthday, and says that while he's sure she hasn't had much time to plan anything, a party and chocolate cake would be much appreciated.
And just like that, Walt's 51. Skyler has neglected to write out the number in bacon, which apparently wasn't just some cute thing she did for his fiftieth in the pilot, but a longstanding semi-tradition. She does it grudgingly now, and snatches some of Walt Jr.'s bacon for the "1" when he points out the shoddiness of her initial effort. Big mistake, Skyler. No one touches Jr.'s breakfast.
At the DEA, Hank goes over what they know about Fring's operation in front of one of those criminal conspiracy boards of interconnected photos and string that makes way more visual sense here than those things usually do. Some Administration higher-up offers Merkert's old job to Hank, which he gratefully accepts. Good on you, Hank. Now you'll have that extra bit more to lose when the truth comes out.
After they finish cooking a batch, Walt tells Jesse he needs to head home early considering he's probably got a birthday party waiting for him. I don't know which of them is more delusional: Walt for his utter lack of self-awareness, or Jesse for his massive blind spot when it comes to his mentor.
Anyway, Walt arrives home to find no hint of a surprise party. The poor dear. Skyler says Hank and Marie are coming over, and she bought the chocolate cake. She's met the bare minimum of his wishes.
Hank and Marie are driving over to celebrate, when Hank starts pressing about whatever it is Marie has clearly been hiding from him. She finally admits that Walt told her about some infidelity, which doesn't surprise Hank that much…until she clarifies that Skyler was the one who cheated. And in a great smash cut, the Schraders arrive at the White residence with their requisite false cheer dialed up to eleven.
Jr. is dismissed from the backyard dinner to take his car out for a spin (what are the odds he crashes that thing?) while Marie can hardly believe it's only been a year since Walt got his diagnosis. He agrees, and starts reminiscing on all the times when, just as he thought it was over, someone or something would save him at the last moment. Of course he's talking about his criminal career, but it's hard to pay attention when Skyler is framed so perfectly in the background, staring out at the pool, brushing one foot against the surface.
Inevitably, she steps in, and Hank is the first to notice, but no one can really react before she's completely submerged in water that's never looked quite as blue. Now where have we seen that shade before?
Skyler drifts, the most peaceful she's looked in seasons, before Walt dives in to force her back out.
In the Madrigal warehouse, Lydia welcomes Mike's new guy: Jesse! Yes, he's officially attained the rank of "guy." After she nearly hyperventilates confirming he's no impostor, Lydia shows Jesse to the very specific barrel of methylamine she disappeared for him. He starts lowering it down with a forklift when Lydia stops him—she's spotted some kind of tracking device on the barrel.
Back in the ABQ, Marie comforts her sister while Hank and Walt have a bit of a man-to-man wherein Hank lets slip he knows the basics about the affair. Marie comes back out and tries to cover up that she blabbed, but Hank puts the kibosh on that and the three of them start to talk a modicum more openly. Marie offers to take the kids for a few days to see if that helps things, but Walt realizes that she must be acting on Skyler's advice.
Walt goes back to the bedroom and lets Skyler know that she succeeded—Jr. and Holly will be spending a bit of time away. Why is she so adamant about getting the kids out of the house? She doesn't think they're in a safe environment, to which Walt again tries to reassure her that they'll be fine. Gus is gone, and he was the danger. "I thought you were the danger," Skyler answers in a callback sure to delight anyone who's spent the better part of the last year reciting the "one who knocks" monologue. And it's not just Walt—Skyler has blood on her hands too. Walt tries to brush off her guilt about Ted, but she isn't nearly as willing to rationalize away her actions as he is. She doesn't want the kids in the house anymore, and that's the end of it.
When he sees she's not going to budge, Walt stops trying to be kind and switches on the full Heisenberg. Condescending and terrifying, he demands to know what, specifically, she plans to do to keep the kids away. If she hurts herself again he'll have her committed. She could make it look like he's beating her, but he calls her on her bluff. And Junior would never go to boarding school willingly. She's got no options, and she finally breaks down and admits it. She's not as good at this as he is. Her only choice is to wait. He asks what for and she matter-of-factly answers that her only hope now is for the cancer to come back. He doesn't really have anything to say after that. Happy birthday, Walt. Your wife wants you dead.
The next morning he shaves his head, and the cinematography shines as a bead of blood runs down his scalp in a way that calls to mind the opening of Dexter.
Jesse tells Walt and Mike about the methylamine situation. Mike clarifies some details: Jesse didn't check the other barrels, the tracker was visibly placed on the outside, and Lydia was the one who spotted it. That's enough to prove to him that she's the one who planted the device—not the DEA—so that they would leave her alone and get their precursor elsewhere. In light of this bit of deception, Mike decides Lydia really does need to die, and chides himself for taking a half measure out of sympathy. Very sexist of him, he admits. Yet Jesse, as might be expected, is totally opposed to taking her out. He wants to vote on it. Which leaves the decision with Walt, who sits holding his hat in front of a poster of a fly in a callback to Rian Johnson's last Breaking Bad episode.
The methylamine keeps flowing, he says. No matter what. So it seems Lydia lives to fret another day. At least for the moment. Walt leaves for his car when Jesse stops him and gives thanks. He thinks Walt made the right call. Then he warms everyone's hearts by giving Walt a super nice watch for his birthday. Aww, he shouldn't have. Really.
Walt gets home to find Skyler chain smoking. Trying to bring back his cancer with secondhand smoke is probably the most passive aggressive thing imaginable, but it's really all she has left. Walt just checked on the kids at Hank and Marie's. They were watching Ratatouille (my favorite Pixar movie—likely no coincidence that it's all about how "Anyone can cook." Even those you might never expect, like rats or chemistry teachers) and of course Walt Jr. has no idea why he has to stay at his aunt and uncle's place, but Walt managed to assuage his concerns. Before he goes to bed he shows Skyler the watch and tells her he got it from someone who just recently wanted him dead. He came around, and so can she. He neglected to mention the details that prove how terrible a human being he is, but it doesn't look like he got through to her anyway.
And with that Walter goes to bed, the watch on his nightstand. It ticks away like a timebomb. The last second sounds like someone cocking a gun.