Walt and Walt Jr. are at a body shop picking up the white SUV (I think from when Walt ran into a car on purpose to avoid going to the superlab with Hank).

The mechanic describes the car as sturdy, reliable and with lots of life left in it; that description triggers something in Walt. That practical car was Walt, not Heisenberg. Walt sells the SUV on the spot, for $50, and drives home in black sport car, wearing his Heisenberg hat. Even Walt can’t avoid the standard cliché of the midlife crisis. (And he’d be wise to remember Gus drove a Volvo.)

He gets a big, loud car for Walt Jr as well and they have a rev-off in the driveway. It’s so gauche and unintelligent, reeking of wayward machismo. Walt was so much smarter than this. Skyler pulls up, and there’s no room for her trusty old truck, no room for Skyler at her own home anymore.

Lydia’s at the office and obviously extremely nervous (because she’s always extremely nervous). Hank and Gomez come in to arrest her warehouse contact,  one of the nine left from the list of 11. Lydia’s frantic phone calls and mismatched shoes are such a bore. I really, really dislike this character.

At home, Walt and Walt Jr are talking about fast cars while Skyler looks like she’s on the edge of breaking down. Later Walt puts a stack of money on counter, and explains they need to make up the $600K they lost to Ted.

Skyler suggests boarding school for Walt Jr, a different environment. Walt thinks that by “different environment” she means away from danger. He tries to reassure her again that they aren’t in danger. Walt is not recognizing the depth of Skyler’s anguish. With his birthday 51st coming up, he tells her he wants a party, a chocolate cake, and that as a family they need to start looking forward to things again. Skyler is desolate. Walt’s survival has cost her more than anyone. What will she do with Holly - raise her in a house with a sociopathic meth cooker? At least Jr is going to college soon.

In the morning, at Walt Jr’s insistence, Skyler makes Walt a bacon 51 on his plate. So is the 52 from episode one really one year from this scene? Why would he fake his name but keep the same birthday?

Back at the DEA, Hank is putting together a chart of Gus Fring’s team: Hank is convinced the crew and job went very deep, and he knows that someone is keeping them quiet.  He points to Lydia’s mismatched shoes as a sign of distress. Ugh, this woman.

How is Hank so attuned to every single detail, but Walt skips along his merry way right under his nose? Hank’s offered a huge promotion, which he accepts. He’ll be doing the job of his boss who was forced to resign because he didn’t see the signs that his friend Gus Fring was a drug dealer. Will Hank share the same fate because of Walt?

Back under the big top, Walt and Jesse are finishing up a cook. Walt tells Jesse it’s his birthday and that there’s probably a big party waiting for him. Why would Walt want a party? Does he even have friends?

Skyler sets up a birthday just special enough that Walt won’t complain —she’s invited Hank and Marie, cooked dinner and baked Walt’s requested chocolate cake. He can’t be angry with her, but he can’t be happy either. Skyler keeps him in the middle, where he always hated to be.

On the way to the birthday, Marie (quite easily) spills the beans on Skyler’s infidelity.

Hank is none to pleased with Walt Jr’s speeding stories, and jokingly calls him a spoiled brat. I don’t think Hank is joking – he loves his nephew and doesn’t want to see him turn into the typical pain-in-the-ass, reckless teenager. Hank points out the lavishness of the cars, and Walt passes it off as good lease rates. Now that’s a Walter White answer.

Skyler is in self-exile as the adults listen to Walt talk about his cancer diagnosis (which came a day after his 50th birthday last year) and the journey of treatment. Skyler has her back to them, she’s looking out over the pool. Bathed in a blue light, she’s staring out at the water and it’s so dark and so lonely and hopeless. As Walt’s cancer story goes on and on, she steps into the pool and walks to the deep end. It’s incredibly sad.

Jesse goes to help Lydia steal the chemical they need. Lydia is trying to be all “who sent you” but then of course she nervously talks Jesse’s ear off. If they fall in love I will be so pissed. As Jesse grabs the chemical, she realizes that there’s something attached. (Side note: I know Jesse will get a good storyline soon, but waiting for it is killing me.)

Hank is talking to Walt about the marriage trouble. Marie puts Skyler to bed, and Hank doesn’t think she was trying to kill herself. The family agrees she should talk to someone. Uh, ya people. Marie wants to give them space, so she suggests the kids stay with her for a few days. Why isn’t anyone looking beyond the cheating or asking why she cheated? Marie then mentions that the idea of taking the kids came from Skyler. Walt understands that this is what it’s been about, and he sends them off, telling Skyler the kids are out of the environment, she got her way.

Skyler isn’t naïve enough to think that Walt being boss is good for them. He calls the pool business a stunt, and she talks about her guilt over Ted. Walt tries his, “you did it for your family” rationale.  She completely rejects this; she’s not blaming him or saying she’s a victim, but she is steadfast in her refusal to let the kids be around this life. I’m compromised, she says. And is she ever. She’s done some questionable things, and she won’t be flip about them and dismiss them as “sh-t happens.”

Skyler is adamant that if they are in, their kids will not be. Skyler is straight up about the reality of what they do: they deal drugs, they hurt people, they kill people. Her marriage may be dead, but she is adamant about protecting her kids.

They continue to argue over the kids coming home, and both make threats: he says he will have her committed, she will say he beats her. As Skyler spins through plans of how she will save the kids from Walt, he breaks her down and she admits she doesn’t have a plan. (This is a tactic he’s used on Jesse as well – berate them over the details until they give up.)

She calls herself a coward, but I think she’s the most formidable enemy Walt will face. Skyler is not looking to take off into the night or go to the DEA; she is counting every minute the kids are away as a victory.  And this is what Walt can’t understand:  she is not looking for one grand moment of triumph; she will work every single minute of every day to keep her kids away from him and away from the house; she won’t be manipulated by Walt’s circular logic or threats – she is going to protect her kids in a way Walt could never understand. She says she will wait, hold on, bide her time, because it’s all she can do. It’s clear what she’s waiting for: for Walt to die of cancer.

The next morning, Walt shaves his head. He gets a small cut and bleeds. Walt is definitely wounded. 

At a meeting, Jesse shows Mike a photo of a barrel with a GPS on it. Mike realizes that Lydia planted it. Mike is annoyed, and says he is going to kill her. Kicking himself for not finishing her off when he had the chance, he grumbles, “That’s what I get for being sexist.”

Walt is lost in thought, noticing a loose thread on his hat. Heisenberg is unraveling.

Of course Jesse argues her case. OF COURSE he does. He doesn’t want to see her get killed. Jesse forces a vote and Walt absent-mindedly votes with Jesse, not wanting the methylamine supply compromised. He says the train can’t be stopped but there’s a hint of doubt in his words—like he’s trying to convince himself that things are going to according to plan.

Jesse buys Walt a belated birthday present, a watch. Walt goes home and Skyler is smoking on the couch, but he doesn’t say a word about it. She really does want him to die of lung cancer. Walt tells her that he saw the kids and more money will be coming in. He’s still trying to push her into humdrum domesticity, hoping that normalcy will ease her worry.

He shows her the watch and says the person who gave it to him once wanted him dead, and not so long ago either. He says Jesse changed his mind, and she will too. She sits in the dark, smoky living room as Walt heads to bed.

Walt’s new watch is on the nightstand, ticking-tick-ticking loudly. His time seems to be running out.