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Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad is a drama about Walter White, a chemistry professor who is diagnosed with lung cancer. He enlists the help of his former student Jesse Pinkman to manufacture and sell methamphetamine. AMC 2008-???


Episode 9 - 4 Days Out

13 February 2013

Credit AMC

Synopsis: Walt has a scan to see how his cancer has responded to the chemotherapy. Between a large mark on the scan and his coughing fits, he assumes he doesn’t have much longer to live. He tells Skyler he is flying out to visit his mother but instead he drags Jesse out to the desert to cook a huge batch of meth. Jesse leaves the key in the ignition and after two days of cooking the battery is flat. Their attempts to restart it fail and they are so far away that Skinny Pete can’t find them. Jesse inspires Walt to create another battery and when they return Walt’s diagnosis is good.

The Good: When I am old and someone brings up that great old TV show Breaking Bad I suspect the image that will come into my mind will look something like “4 Days Out.” It’s hard to quickly think of another episode which so quintessentially represents its brand as this. Walt and Jesse trapped together cooking, arguing and bonding while contemplating death and their choices. It was a terrific hour.

The plot was wonderfully simple. Walt’s scan focuses his mind on his impending death. So he lies to Skyler (using his mum as an excuse) and Jesse (claiming the methylamine is going off) and heads out to the desert to cook one last batch. However his need to put Jesse down inadvertently leads the latter to make a bad decision and leave the keys in the ignition. To compound Jesse’s foolishness their backup power supply catches fire and he uses their drinking water to put it out. It’s rare that we see a life or death situation on TV that is so easy to relate to or imagine. There was genuine tension from then on as their situation became more dire and it was no surprise that the useless directions they gave Skinny Pete didn’t lead him to them.

What sold the adventure was the acting and writing though. This was a fine, fine hour for Walt and Jesse. They were both so present and expressive through each part of the journey. Jesse actually wanted to spend the day with Jane and is almost proud to tell Walt he was going to a museum (looking for his approval). He clearly likes her too, not only from their cuddle session but also his angry “Dickwad” when Walt assumes she is a stripper. Once they cook the meth Jesse is ecstatic to hear they will make over a million dollars once it is sold. He pushes Walt to share the excitement and they high five in a moment of pure joy which exploded off the screen thanks to the struggles we’ve seen them both go through to reach this point. Then the anger rages outward from both when the various disasters hit. Despite Jesse being the main cause of their problems Walt still manages to seem like an ass hole with his demeaning comments. From then on the sense of desperation was palpable and it was pretty heart breaking when Jesse tried the ignition again (saying “Please please please” under his breath) only to be disappointed.

As always with Breaking Bad, tragedy can lead only to comedy. Walt is full of regret over his actions as he contemplates death but Jesse is not ready to go yet. He begins yelling at Walt, pushing him to come up with a scientific solution to their problem. His suggestions are mostly foolish but when he suggests they build a new battery Walt sits up and starts thinking. In the background in a moment I found hilarious Jesse continues on his own path excitedly imagining that the real answer is to break down the RV and build a Dune Buggy! Perhaps an even funnier moment comes moments later as Walt constructs his makeshift battery. Suddenly he is back in the classroom as Jesse absorbs the rudiments of cathodes and anodes. As Walt holds out a copper wire he tries to push Jesse to reveal the metal which will help conduct their current and Jesse grinningly says “Ah! Wire!”

The dynamic between the two of them was superb throughout. It wasn’t just in that teaching moment that Jesse looked for Walt’s approval. The tender moments were all the more rewarding because of the bickering and abuse that is the norm. Within the excellent cooking montage we saw them drinking and eating together happily and later Jesse seduces Walt with talk of a Denny’s meal and a bed for the night. I really appreciated that once they got the engine started at last they made no noise and just sat in silent relief as the stress began to ebb away. As they return to the airport Walt shows genuine faith in Jesse when he says he trusts him to give Skyler his share of the money should he pass away. Walt had already laid some groundwork for a believable lie by claiming that he was visiting his mother to ensure that she would leave her money to Skyler.

Little details like that were all taken care of throughout the episode. I was pleased to see Jesse suggest walking which seemed like a good option until Walt explained otherwise. Marie couldn’t help but stick her oar in about how x-ray technicians (like her) can often read a scan as well as a doctor. It led Walt to assume that a large white patch on his scan was the cancer, ever present, spread across his lungs. Instead it turns out to be tissue inflammation as a reaction to the chemo. Walt’s bloody coughing is also explained as a torn oesophagus. With his family relieved and crying tears of joy Walt heads to the bathroom and pounds the towel dispenser in rage. In a development which makes a lot of sense in retrospect Walt was actually ready to die. He had made enough money to look after his family and be remembered as a provider. Instead he is going to be forced to stay alive and deal with the consequences of his lies and drug dealing. In its own prosaic way this is yet another farcical Breaking Bad twist. Nothing ever goes quite the way Walt and Jesse planned and they seem to end up getting what they wanted but not in the way they wanted it.

The cinematography and direction were as excellent as we’ve come to expect. I liked the shot of Walt looking at his scan through the glass with one eye shrouded in darkness. Later the sense of desolation as the desert heat bore down on the lonely RV was superbly shot.

The Bad: Nothing.

The Unknown: I guess we now have to wonder whether the cancer will go away or start to grow again.

Best Moment: The last time I saw this it would have been “Ah! Wire!” a moment exquisitely executed. This time I knew it was coming and will settle for the sense of desolation and desperation which combined so well to create drama in a scenario where we all know they aren’t about to die in the desert.

The Bottom Line: This episode would have been an emotional, fun adventure on its own. Adding Walt’s scan results to the mix gave the episode an impetus and sense of destiny which can only come from patient long term storytelling. Although I await feedback from others I’m tempted to say that this was flawless. It was certainly packed densely with brilliance and leaves the mind full of thoughts long after its ending.



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  • I've enjoyed this episode very much as well. The part where Walt heads to the bathroom and pounds the towel dispenser in rage goes much deeper than what you have noted.

    Of course, in retrospect and hearing Vince Gilligan talk about this part in 209, Walt has regain Hope in his life. When he had no Hope, prior to his remission, there is a real sense of freedom . . .nothing to lose attitude . . . a life freeing sense of living . . .because the death of his short life is coming soon.

    Walt has never felt more alive (awake) until he got cancer. He was going to die in a limited amount of time. This new cancer remission diagnosis diminishes or eliminates all this invigorating freedom of living . . and it pisses him off. ( . . sorry for the language, I couldn't think of a better word. :) . . )

    Jim A.

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by Jim A, 23/02/2013 1:21pm (7 years ago)

  • Oh, this one I'm gonna hafta watch agian for myself!

    Here I began pulling for Jesse over Walt.

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by Yogabon, 18/02/2013 12:33am (7 years ago)

  • Also I like that you noted how ready to die Walt truely was at this point. I remember in "The Fly" how Walt had said that he thought it would have been just perfect if he had died earlyer in that day that Jane died. I am figuring that must have been but only a couple or few days after Walt gets t prognosis that his cancer is in remision rather than relieving him soon of all of lifes pains.

    Pay no attention to my scores. Last week I heard everybody say they liked it or were getting used to it and such. But I have not really. And as I havenot yet seen it I dont feel qualified to rate it. But when I tried putting in a ? my input was rejected.

    Posted by babrock, 11/02/2013 8:32pm (7 years ago)

  • Howdy
    I am looking forward to watching (re watching) this sode and your cast. But presently I am swamped w overtime as it is Mardi Grass time here in N.O..

    I have been able to read your write up tho and I remember quite liking this episode. I think this is t episode where Jessie recognises Walts syptoms as cancer. I have to say his display of empathy for Walts plight is my favorite bit.

    Posted by babrock, 11/02/2013 8:19pm (7 years ago)

  • I'm a madly in love with both of Breaking Bad's bottle episodes. I would rank 'Fly' higher because I found the dialogue and character drama meatier in that episode. But I agree that '4 Days Out' is Breaking Bad at its most visually striking and that Walt. Jesse and the RV stranded in the New Mexican desert is still the most memorable evocative image of the show. My favourite moment was Walt and Jesse's joyous high-five, even though I really shouldn't feel so happy for two drug dealers planning to make a fortune off the misery of meth-heads. I also loved brief Jesse's moment of awe when he thinks Mr White is going to build a robot to save them. A very funny, very touching, very gorgeous looking episode all round. I never get bored of rewatching this one.

    Viewer score: 90 / 100

    Posted by Kelly, 10/02/2013 12:40pm (7 years ago)

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