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Cancer Man

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Breaking Bad
Season 1, Episode 4
Cancer Man 02
Air date February 17, 2008
Written by Vince Gilligan
Directed by Jim McKay
Episode Guide
"...and the Bag's in the River"
"Gray Matter"
Images from "Cancer Man"

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


Hank puts his DEA team on notice that "new players in town" are making super-pure meth. Operation "Icebreaker" turns into operation TBD when 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, standing at his bathroom mirror in his underwear, messily brushing his teeth.


Walt, Skyler, Hank, Marie, and Walter, 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 points to Walt. "I have cancer," Walt says. "It's bad."


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, 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."

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.

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."

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 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.

"Are you going to 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.

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's 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.

The oncologist tells Skyler and Walt that his cancer 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 her broke. "I just don't want emotions ruling us," he says. Walter Jr., who has been watching an old sci-fi show in the living room, blurts out, "Then why don't you just fucking die, already?! Just give up and die."

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 jams the squeegee between the battery terminals. As he walks back to his own car, the BMW bursts into flames.


Main Cast

Guest Stars


  • This episode is the first to introduce Jesse's closest friends, Badger, Combo and Skinny Pete.
  • Walt Jr. is watching Plan 9 from Outer Space 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."

Featured Music

  • "Etienne de Silhouette" by Black Feather
  • "Fly" by The Pack
  • "Baby Girl, I'm A Blur" by Say Anything
  • "String Quartet in D Major, Op. 64, No. 5" by Fanz Joseph Haydn
  • "Didn't I" by Darondo

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