A man wearing nothing but his undergarments and a gas mask careens his RV down a desolate highway in the New Mexico desert. In the passenger seat, another man is passed out, also wearing a gas mask, his head on the dashboard. Two bodies slide across the RV floor until the vehicle veers into a ditch. The hyperventilating driver, Walter White, climbs out, dons the shirt still hanging off the side view mirror (his pants are long since gone), then re-enters the van to retrieve a video camera, his wallet, and a gun. He records a cryptic, handheld farewell to his wife and son as sirens can be heard in the distance. He then places the camera alongside his wallet, walks onto the road, and awaits the approach of the emergency services, gun in hand.
We flashback to three weeks earlier. Just before dawn, Walt exercises on a mini-stairmaster in front of a plaque commemorating his contributions to research that won the Nobel Prize. At breakfast, his happily henpecking wife, Skyler, wishes him a happy birthday and hands him a plate of eggs topped by veggie bacon spelling out "50," symbolizing Walt's age from that day onward. They banter with their handicapped son, Walt Jr., who enters and complains that the veggie bacon smells like Band-Aids. Afterwards, Walt drops off Junior at the same local high school, J. P. Wynne High School, where he works as an ineffectual chemistry teacher.
Later that day, one of Walt's more disrespectful students witnesses him working a second job at a car wash for additional income. The encounter is especially belittling since the student laughingly takes a picture with his cellphone of his teacher wiping down the tires. A now publicly humiliated Walt returns home where Skyler has organized a surprise birthday party for him and quietly scolds Walt for being late as he walks in the door. Among the guests is Walt's gregarious brother-in-law, Hank, a DEA agent on the local news for busting a methamphetamine lab. Walt asks Hank how much money was recovered at the crime scene to which Hank replies "$700,000. Not a bad haul." Hank then invites Walt to accompany him on a bust. Meanwhile, in the living room, a woman fusses over Skyler's pregnancy and notes that she's "hardly even showing."
Another day at the car wash and the financially strapped Walt collapses and is taken away by ambulance. At the hospital, a doctor verifies the worst. The non-smoking Walter has inoperable lung cancer. Walt looks detached but he understands and replies the statement "best case scenario with chemo, I'll live maybe another couple years," with unusual detachment. Back home, Walt keeps the news from Skyler. At the car wash, he explodes when his boss, Bogdan, asks him to wipe down cars again. Walter assaults the display racks and screams obscenities at Bogdan as he storms out of the establishment.
Walter takes up Hank's offer to join him at a drug bust. While the apprehension of the alleged perpetrator is being made inside, Walt waits inside the car from which he unexpectedly spots ex-student Jesse Pinkman escaping through the window of a neighboring condo and a nude woman tossing down his clothes. As Jesse flees the scene, Walt quickly discovers Jesse is the wanted drug dealer who goes by the street name of "Captain Cook." Later that night, Walt stops by Jesse's house where he tells the baffled dealer that they can either partner or Walt will turn him in, with Walt offering his knowledge in chemistry in exchange for Jesse's penchant for drug dealing.
The scene switches to the high school where Walter is seen stealing and packing boxes full of chemistry equipment. Jesse arranges to buy a used Winnebago so that their base can be mobile and evasive. The two drive out to the desert where Walt strips down to his skivvies, hangs his pants and shirt on the side view mirror (so as not to contaminate them with chemical odors), then gets to cooking the purest crystal variety of meth Jesse's ever seen.
Jesse takes a sample to Krazy-8, a drug dealer who happens to be his former partner's cousin. Cousin Emilio Koyama, out on bail, believes Jesse ratted him out so the three drive out to the desert where Krazy 8 asks Walt if he wants to switch allegiances. Before he can answer, Emilio recognizes Walt from the police bust and death threats ensue. Jesse tries to run, but trips and knocks himself out on a rock. Walt barters for his life by promising to reveal his cooking artistry.
Emilio ties up Jesse and then goes to watch Walt work his magic. In the Winnebago, as Walt prepares the ingredients, Emilio throws a cigarette out the window, thereby starting a brush fire. Inside, Walt mixes chemicals that produce a deadly smoke before he dashes out. The two begin firing bullets at the door but Walt holds the door shut to seal the drug dealers' fates.
Walt unties Jesse, puts a gas mask on him, and drops him in the passenger seat, returning to the frantic opening scene. With the sound of sirens closing in, Walt stands in the middle of the road then tries to shoot himself. To his dismay, the safety is on. His efforts to unlock it simply result in a pointless misfire. Suddenly, fire trucks, not police cars, appear. Walter stashes the gun in the back of his underwear. Jesse, sporting a black eye, comes out to join him. Walt's first day as a meth cook leaves him spent, shaken, but also invigorated. Back at home, he meets his wife's troubled queries with atypical sexual aggression which leaves her asking somewhat stunned: "Walt, is that you?"
- Extended and uncensored on home video. After airing for the first time, AMC edited the episode so it could fit into an hour time slot (including commercials), meaning the episode was cut down to roughly 45 minutes, whereas the version on the DVD and Blu-ray release runs about 58 minutes. Occasionally, AMC will still run the 58-minute long episode. Uncensored on home video, Walt says, "Fuck you, Bogdan." Then he says, "I said, 'Fuck you.' And your eyebrows." Hank asks, "Do you work at the fucking Pottery Barn?" And, finally, Emilio says, "You rata snitch motherfucker." A detailed analysis of the additions in the extended version can found here.
- When introduced to the audience for the first time, both Walt and Jesse, in separate scenarios due to different circumstances, are nude down to their underwear and are struggling to get dressed in a hurry (Walt after he crashes the RV, Jesse as he exits a neighbor's window).
- The show was supposed to be set in Riverside, California. However, Albuquerque was giving incentives to the production crew to film there.
- Studio executives wanted the Walter White character to be played by John Cusack or Matthew Broderick. Both actors turned down the role.
- Originally, Walter White was to be 40 years old. AMC requested his age be changed to 50. They thought 40 was too young for the crisis that Walt was facing.
- The 1985 winners of the Nobel Chemistry prize were Herbert Hauptman and Jerome Karle, for their development of methods to determine crystal structures.
- Walt was washing a Chevrolet Corvette C6.
- While Hank and Gomez take Walt on a bust, civilians are actually not allowed into DEA vehicles by law.
- An actual DEA agent was on set to provide instructions on how to synthesize methamphetamine.
- The cigarette brand, Morley, is a common prop shared by various TV shows. It is a parody of Marlboro, a.k.a. “Marley”. On "The X-Files", where Vince Gilligan was an associate producer, they were the brand associated with the mysterious character The Cigarette Smoking Man. See references to The X-Files.
- The handicap license for Walt's car was registered on 27 December 2008.
- The frame around Jesse's "THECAPN" license plate reads “Save a Tree, Eat a Beaver”.
- Among some of the chemicals Walt was working with are: denatured alcohol, methanol, red phosphorus, iodine, ephedrine HCl, toluene, acetone and isopropyl alcohol.
- With this episode, Vince Gilligan was nominated for an Emmy award best direction in a series and won a WGA award for best dramatic episode. John Toll, was nominated for an Emmy Award for Best Cinematography in a series of one-hour.
- "Pilot" can also refer to the pilot light used to light a stove and start the reactions needed to cook.
- This episode ends with sirens coming at Walt. Ironically, in the end (Felina) sirens came by Walt again.
- Walt has full grown hair on both the first and last episode.
- For an unknown reason, Walt was exercising on some sort of a stairmaster. This does not contribute to his cancer in any way (He finds out that he has cancer later on). This stairmaster is only seen one other time, in a deleted scene from 313 Full Measure. Along with the pilot, another episode written and directed by Vince Gilligan.
- One of the first times we see Skyler in the series she lies to a bill collector about sending in their payment. Skyler is the first one to lie in the whole series. She is also established as a creative writer--it explains her zeal for the gambling story in Bullet Points of season 4.
- Due to a lack of budget, it was not possible to hire additional extras to fill the school bus seen during the scene where Walter accompanies Hank on a drug bust. Co-executive producer Melissa Bernstein volunteered to play the last student in the bus.
- The A1A car wash makes its first appearance, located at 9516 Snow Heights Circle, Albuquerque in real life. It has been named the "Octopus" and the "Mister" by multiple owners.
- The first cook location is at the same site Walter buries the money barrels. Its located just off trail 7089 on the Tohajiilee indian reservation. The real GPS coordinates are (35.101972, -107.137222).
- "Unknown Track #1" by Unknown Artist (during the opening sequence)
- "Cruisin" by Eric Chun (at the carwash)
- "Come on Home and Have Your Next Affair With Me" by Stonewall Jackson (during Walt's birthday party)
- "Unknown Track #2" by Unknown Artist (at the carwash)
- "Unknown Track #3" by Unknown Artist (at the carwash the next day)
- "Matches In The Pool" by Dave Porter (playing as Walter throws lit matches into his pool)
- "Ride of the Valkyries" composed by Richard Wagner, performed by Dean Norris (as Hank) (during the DEA raid on Captain Cook's lab)
- "Dirty South Hustla" by Carolina Slim (as the DEA carry out the raid)
- "Tamacun" by Rodrigo y Gabriela (as Jesse escapes from the scene of the raid)
- "Mango Walk" by The In Crowd (as Walt takes equipment from the school's lab)
- "Dead Fingers Talking" by Working for a Nuclear Free City (during the first cook)
- "A Gosar" by FDK (feat. Tori Papa) (Marc Ferrari, Jonaty Garcia, and Josh Kessler) (playing as Jesse goes to meet Krazy-8)
- "Get Low" by Pudge (playing in Krazy-8's car as he, Jesse and Emilio arrive at the cook site)
- "Apocalypshit" by Molotov (as Walt escapes the cook site with Jesse)
- "Out Of Time Man" Mick Harvey (during the final scenes of the episode)
- "My name is Walter Hartwell White. I live at 308 Negra Arroyo Lane, Albuquerque, New Mexico, 87104. To all law enforcement entitles, this is not an admission of guilt. I am speaking to my family now. Skyler, you are the love of my life. I hope you know that. Walter Junior, you’re my big man. There are going to be some things–things that you’ll come to learn about me in the next few days. I just want you to know that no matter how it may look, I only had you in my heart. Good-bye."
- ―Walter recorfing a cryptic, handheld farewell to his wife and son as sirens can be heard in the distance.
- Walter Jr.: "So, how's it feel to be old?"
- Walter: "How does it feel to be a smart ass?"
- ―Junior teasing his father.
- "Well, technically, chemistry is the study of matter. But I prefer to see it as the study of change."
- ―Walter introducing chemistry to his students.
- Walter: "Hank, how much money is that?"
- Hank: "It's about 700 grand. It was a pretty good haul."
- Walter: "Well, that's unusual, isn't it? That kind of cash?"
- Hank: "Mm. Well, it's not the most we ever took. It's easy money, till we catch you. Walt, just say the word and I'll take you on a ride-along. You can watch us knock down a meth lab, huh? Get a little excitement in your life."
- Walter: "Yeah, someday."
- ―Walter and Hank at Walter's birthday party.
- Dr. Belknap: "You understood what I've just said to you?"
- Walter: "Yes. Lung cancer, inoperable – best case scenario with chemo, I’ll live maybe another couple of years."
- ―Dr. Belknap informs Walt of his diagnosis.
- Walter: "Fuck you, Bogdan."
- Bogdan: "What?"
- Walter: "I said, FUCK YOU. AND YOUR EYEBROWS."
- ―Walter to Bogdan.
- Walter: "You lost your partner today. What's his name - Emilio? Emilio is going to prison. The DEA took all your money, your lab. You got nothing. Square one. But you know the business and I know the chemistry. I'm thinking...maybe you and I could partner up."
- Jesse: "You, uh...you want to cook crystal meth? You. You and, uh...and me?"
- Walter: "That's right. Either that...or I turn you in."
- ―Walter blackmailing Jesse into cooking meth with him.
- Walter: "Did you learn nothing from my chemistry class?"
- Jesse: "No. You flunked me, remember?"
- Walter: "No wonder."
- Jesse: "Prick! And let me tell you something else. This ain't chemistry – this is art. Cooking is art. And the shit I cook is the bomb, so don't be telling me."
- Walter: "The shit you cook is shit. I saw your set-up. Ridiculous. You and I will not make garbage. We will produce a chemically pure and stable product that performs as advertised. No adulterants. No baby formula. No chili powder."
- Jesse: "No, no, chili P is my signature!"
- Walter: "Not anymore."
- ―Walter dismayed by Jesse's laboratory and his method of cooking his drug.
- Jesse: "Nah, come on! Man, some straight like you, giant stick up his ass, all of a sudden at age, what, 60, he’s just going to break bad?"
- Walter: "I’m 50."
- Jesse: "It’s weird is all, okay? It doesn’t compute. Listen. If you’ve gone crazy or something I mean, if you’ve if you’ve gone crazy or depressed, I’m just saying that’s something I need to know about. Okay? I mean, that affects me."
- Walter: "I am awake."
- Jesse: "What?"
- ―Jesse, incredulous about Walter's motivations and explanations.