Generation Y, where we’d like to apologize for unintenionally predicting Bartolo Colon’s PED suspension yesterday.
Generation Y, where we really hope to learn that Roger Clemens got the Bartolo Colon surgery this offseason.
Generation Y, where we’re shocked, SHOCKED that Michael Vick got hurt again.
In what has been an awesome season thus far, even by Breaking Bad standards, it’s hard not to feel disappointment with “Buyout,” the sixth and latest episode. It had nothing to do with the acting and more to do with the fact that it felt like the show was trying to push too much into a single episode. Because the first eight part mini-season culminates in just two weeks, it seemed like Vince Gilligan and company wanted to rush through some issues so that we can get to a climax soon. I’m not complaining. I personally can’t wait for a showdown or an ultra lavish purchase to take place, but for a show like Breaking Bad that is usually so methodical with the details, it didn’t feel right.
The episode opens with the crew cleaning up the mess brought about by Landry in last week’s “Dead Freight.” Without a single word being uttered, the crew disposes of the dirt bike and dead boy. The cleaning solution of choice is hydrofluoric acid which the guys are more than familiar with. It’s a sad look at just how far into hell these souls have gone. The whole process is mechanical. They know exactly what to do and exactly how to go about it in the fastest way possible. There is no wasted effort in the whole sequence. Walt and Jesse have come a long way since that first acid bath incident. While well executed, this is the kind of event that used to have an impact for several episodes, whereas now it only takes an opening sequence.
The DEA is then watching Mike watching his daughter play at a local park. The two agents are taking the whole event way too seriously and easily fall for Mike’s prank of leaving a note under the trash can. The agents go into a frenzy believing he’s just made a drop of the product. In reality Mike delivers a simple note. A simple four letter word is involved. It’s all pretty hilarious. It reveals two key things though. The DEA is getting zealous in their pursuit of Mike but also that Mike is extremely aware of this fact.
At their latest cook, Walt and Jesse kick back after completing another batch. Because Jesse still has a soul, he flips over to the local news where they are discussing the missing boy. Walt launches into yet another monologue where he convinces Jesse that they’re not really monsters and yet again Jesse seems to buy it. I have to admit even I am impressed with Walt’s acting abilities these days. Unfortunately for him, he blows the whole charade by immediately delivering a whistling concerto just moments after consoling Jesse. It’s very clear that Walt doesn’t much care for anything but dominating the drug business anymore. Jesse may finally be opening up to that possibility after catching him doing his best seven dwarfs impression.
And then things got really, really rushed. Mike and Jesse arrive early to the weekly meeting of the partners and when Walt gets there they tell him they’re retiring. They have a buyer in Arizona who will pay $15 million for their methylamine. This is the kind of decision that usually would take episodes and episodes to build up but here it happens matter-of-factly in a couple of seconds. Walt isn’t pleased but tells them they can do what they want but he will push on with his third of the stolen chemicals.
Mike later has Saul pull off what might be his last funny stunt of the series. While there is no doubt that we all love the crooked lawyer, there might not be a place for his relief and humor in Walt’s personal vision of hell. Saul provides Mike with a 24-hour window to avoid tails by actually filing a restraining order against the DEA on behalf of his client. It’s then when we meet the meth king of Phoenix, named Declan. He proves to be wise in making it very clear that he isn’t just buying the methylamine, he’s buying to have Heisenberg’s blue off the streets. One condition is made though: it’s all the methylamine or no deal.
The best extended scene of this particular episode takes place when Jesse goes over to Walt’s house to try to convince him to take the buyout. As is mentioned many times in the last weeks, the lighting (or: lack of) at the house is beyond ridiculous at this point and is becoming so blatant that it’s worth exploring. Breaking Bad might have made it very clear that they intend to create a suburban New Mexico version of Scarface, but the lighting at the house is a very clear tribute to a very different organized crime drama. I’m of course talking about The Godfather trilogy. Take a moment and watch this brief interview clip where the cinematographer Gordon Willis explains his use of lighting in the movies:
Further research reveals that the lighting is clear nod to the darkness of the characters. Michael and Vito in particular are almost always shot in dark settings when discussing matters of the family business. And thus the inspiration for the White household’s lack of interior lighting. You may remember in the movies that Michael was once a dapper war hero full of optimism about life and marriage with Kay. He originally made a point of saying he would never join his father’s business. He eventually turned to the dark side though just like Walt. And hell, why not even throw in a Scarface reference while they’re at it by having Walt sinking deep into his chair and a glass of Whiskey while explaining himself. It’s very reminiscent of a coked out Tony Montana sitting behind his desk as everything crumbles around him.
Jesse is shocked when Skyler then returns home and Walt refuses to allow him to leave without eating dinner. There are so many ulterior meanings going on at the dinner scene, it’s hard to keep track. First you have Jesse standing in as a surrogate son. Next you have Walt and Skyler seated on opposite ends of the table, clearly at odds with one another. And on and on it goes. Jesse, helpless in the uncomfortable silence of the married couple, attempts to mumble his way through the experience before Skyler ends the dinner by putting Walt in his place and retiring with her wine. Only after her departure does Walt reveal to Jesse that he really has nothing left besides the meth empire. His wife hates him and willingly admits she is waiting for cancer to come back and kill him.
Armed with the knowledge that his potential future business is about to be cut by two-thirds, Walt attempts a heist of the methylamine from partnership HQ. Mike of course is way too smart for such a misguided attempt and catches him in the act. He then forces him to sit there all night and uses an industrial tie to chain Walt to the radiator while he steps out to take care of something. Walt then shows his most animalistic side in a daring escape. He uses an electrical cord to melt the tie, severely burning and scarring (!) the flesh on his wrist in the process. He seems unfazed by it all though and proceeds to steal the goods.
The episode culminates with Mike having to be convinced not to kill Walt upon discovery of the theft. Walt makes a daring promise to him and Jesse that: “everybody wins.” It’s hard not to believe that “everybody loses” when dealing with something as cancerous as Walt though. The next episode should be outstanding now that the rest of these plot points were dealt with, but it definitely came at a cost to this episode.
1. “Is a meth empire really something to be that proud of?” -Jesse to Walt (in trying to convince Walt to take the buyout)
2. “Jesse, you asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business. Neither. I’m in the empire business.” – Walt to Jesse (in explaining his rational for refusing the buyout)
3. “My wife is waiting for me to die. This business is all I have left now … And you want to take it away from me.” -Walt to Jesse (telling the truth)
1. The dinner
2. Walt’s escape from the industrial tie
3. The evidence disposal in the beginning sequence
Generation Y, where we’ve perfected our draft theory in fantasy this year and it involves mathematical modeling. Yikes.
Generation Y, where we’re embarrassed at the number of mock drafts we’ve completed.
Generation Y, where we can’t wait for the inevitable horrible sports columnist who claims the value of the perfect game has dropped.
Generation Y, where you guys are never going to believe this, but the Pittsburgh Pirates are probably going to miss the playoffs.
Generation Y, where replacement refs in the NFL sounds like something out of a Dan Jenkins book.
One of the more fascinating developments in recent years with regard to television shows is the rise of genre fiction. By this I mean shows that are dedicated to a very specific type of story that appeals to a very specific type of consumer. The Walking Dead (zombies), Hell On Wheels (western), and Game Of Thrones (fantasy) are all perfect examples of this. Whereas in the past a channel never would have given these types of stories the time of day, much less a fully funded television program, shows like these are among the most popular on cable now. Who knew that appealing to the tastes of the audience and creating original stories would be so successful? Apparently not everyone. I’m pretty sure five cop dramas were just green-lighted for pilots in the time it took to right this sentence. This is me face palming myself.
I bring this up because Breaking Bad delved into a bit of genre fiction of its own last night in “Dead Freight,” choosing to go with the heist story, a sort of sub-genre of action films. It was wildly entertaining and tense throughout, even before Landry Clarke went back to his old murderous habits.
The episode opens with a previously unknown child riding his dirt bike through the New Mexico desert. He pulls over when he discovers a tarantula and immediately picks it up and marvels at it. As the audience braces for the inevitable poisonous bite, the boy reveals a glass jar in his coat pocket which he uses to trap the spider as a new pet. Crisis seemingly averted with said deadly creature now locked away in hiding.
Walt then shows up at Hank’s office to go over the extended sleepover plans for his children. Using acting skills that Bryan Cranston would be proud of, Walt reveals to Hank that Skyler no longer loves him and thinks he’s a bad influence on the children. He breaks down in tears and Hank, caught up in the awkwardness of the subject matter, demands to go get coffee for them both. While Hank steps out, a suddenly emotionless Walt places a bug on his computer as well as planting a listening device inside a picture frame.
My guess is that this is a clever bit of foreshadowing. It likely hints back to the season opener when the magnet scheme, while destroying the computer, actually caused them more problems by breaking Gus’ picture frame that revealed the foreign bank accounts. Could a picture frame spell disaster yet again?
The partnership of White, Pinkman, and Ehrmantraut then gets together for their weekly meeting, this time bringing a hostage in Lydia. Mike announces to her that she will complete a phone call to the DEA to find the source of the bugs she “discovered” last week. Hank isn’t sure but promises to look into it at which point Mike announces that it’s time for Lydia to die. She is saved only by the recently planted listening device which reveals that a sloppy DEA agent planted them in a rush. Lydia survives yet again and in a bargain for her continued safety promises to reveal an ocean of methylamine.
The episode returns to the White house which is still in desperate need of a visit from an electrician. The lighting has all but disappeared. Skyler and Walt engage in their latest back-and-forth regarding the state of their marriage and family and a sort of truce is reached. The kids will stay at Hank and Marie’s and Skyler will continue as Walt’s accomplice in laundering the money. And oh by the way Skyler, did Walt mention he was planning a train heist? He did? Good.
Because god damn if we don’t talk about the great train robbery of 2012.
Lydia tells the three guys that while getting barrels of their favorite ingredient is now out of the question, she can reveal a whole train car carrying the stuff. Wouldn’t you know it but the train just so happens to go through a dead area near Albuquerque which leaves them pretty much impervious to police involvement and external communication. Huge action movie plot assumptions aside, the heist scene was one of the more enjoyable scenes on television all year.
Mike advises the guys that their best course of action is to kill the two railroad employees that will be driving the train and in the biggest shocker of the season, Walt doesn’t challenge him on it. Jesse, ever the pacifist, urges them to pull off the robbery sans murder, coming up with his second brilliant “plan” of the season. The guys will create a diversion that forces the train to stop, at which time they’ll pump out the methylmine and pump in water, so as not to screw with the weight of the car. It seems they’ve thought of everything!
Like any good action fan knows though, it’s impossible to account for every variable involved with a good old-fashioned robbery. In this case, who knew another driver might want to use the public roadways that the crew used to clog the railroad crossing? And furthermore, who knew he’d be driving a Texas-sized pickup truck (super high lift and bumper guard included!) that could push the work truck out of the way? Well, everything can’t go smoothly. There is no such thing as the perfect robbery.
While the audience sweats out the good Samaritan and the eventual re-starting of the train, Walt refuses to quit pumping until he meets his quota. The gauge of their pump is cut in between shots of the massive locomotive coming to life. He pushes it to its absolute limit, forcing Landry (real name in this episode is Todd, apologies for the continued Friday Night Lights references) to jump off a moving vehicle and Jesse to wait it out laying flat on the tracks.
Celebration time! They pulled it off and no one even noticed their thievery! Right? Right? Right…
Poor spider-wielding dirt bike kid rides up to say hi. Landry pulls out a pistol. Jesse screams. Landry kills dirt bike kid, the latest victim of the poisonous cancer of Walter White.
The ending was shocking and completely unexpected. It was hard not to feel some sort of joy for our villains after they pulled off the heist successfully. That’s the point of every heist flick after all. Despite knowing that what the characters are doing is wrong, there’s some sort of awesome thrill in watching a complex plan get executed flawlessly. Vince Gilligan then immediately flipped this emotion on its head with the shocking death of the child. Cut to credits. Wow.
The powerful ending unleashes yet another series of problems for the guys to deal with. What to do with the body? What to do with Landry? Can Jesse hold together his emotions or is he about to go on a binge Chris Farley would be proud of? They all can’t continue to run from the consequences of their actions. Science and nature demand equal and opposite reactions.
1. “No one, other than us, can ever know this robbery went down.” – Jesse to Landry, I mean Todd (not knowing just how zealously Todd would follow the order)
2. “Robbing a train” -Walt to Skyler (replying to her sarcastic inquiry into what he’s been doing lately)
3. YEAH BITCH! -Jesse (his latest celebratory chant, this time after they pull off the robbery)
4. “There are two kinds of heist. Those where the guys get away with it and those who leave witnesses.” -Mike to Jesse and Walt (while they plan the train robbery)
1. The train heist
Generation Y, where we’re working the back channels to ensure a Tiger-Rory final pairing at Augusta next year.
Hey! By now you probably know that some man who formerly played center for the Orlando Magic is going to play center for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. Obviously this topic has been dissected on various horrible radio and television programs across the country, but that doesn’t mean you should skip this article! Where else will you find blatant homerism for the Denver Nuggets in a Dwight Howard trade column? That’s what I thought.
So, Dwight Howard, LA Laker…but what does it mean?
Los Angeles Lakers:
It’s no secret, so let’s just get this over with first. The Lakers immediately go from a has-been team to the favorites to win the title this season. Their starting lineup ranks among the greatest ever assembled and provides perfect balance to each of their stars’ talents. So many options for them, here are just a few of the possibilities: Nash/Dwight pick-and-rolls, Nash/Gasol pick-and-rolls, Nash being able to dump to Gasol or Dwight after penetrating the lane, Nash throwing alley-oops to Gasol or Dwight, and did I mention they have Kobe Bryant? Yikes.
In addition to this, Dwight provides the perfect balance to Nash and Kobe’s deficiencies on the defensive side of the ball. By being able to protect the rim after they get beat, the back court will be able to conserve all their energy towards offense. It’s also perfect because Dwight never was comfortable being the go-to guy on offense. He’s more than capable on the offensive end, but he just doesn’t possess the offensive skills of a guy like Shaq or Hakeem. So long as he doesn’t pull an Andrew Bynum and demand to take 20-30 shots a game, they could conceivably win three or four more titles before Kobe retires.
The Lakers deserve considerable credit for pulling this off while retaining Gasol. Simply amazing. It’s worth mentioning the unlikely chain of events that led to this happening:
-Lakers trade Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom in three-team deal for Chris Paul
-David Stern pulls a Vince McMahon and vetoes the trade
-Lamar Odom feels the Lakers disrespected him, demands trade
-Lakers trade Lamar Odom to Mavericks for a trade exception
-Lakers refuse to budge on Magic’s demand for both Gasol and Bynum during the season
-Dwight panics at the deadline and refuses to execute his early termination option, sabotaging his free agency chance this summer where he would have signed with Brooklyn
-Ramon Sessions agent convinces him not to execute his player option to stay with the Lakers, ends up getting less money to play for the last-place Bobcats
-Lakers convince division rival Suns to give them Steve Nash using trade exception from Lamar Odom trade and cap space from Sessions’ departure
-Brooklyn panics about opening arena without a superstar, overpays Brook Lopez, sabotages their chances at trading for Dwight
-Magic panic and take what on paper seems like the worst offer that the public is aware of, trading their second consecutive franchise center to the Lakers
This is your sad reminder that this could only happen to the Los Angeles Lakers. I will now slam my head against the monitor for the next two hours.
Philly hit a home run. They dumped their two biggest salaries from last season by amnestying Brand and then trading Iguodala. Iguodala is a great player who fits a very specific need (more on him later), but he doesn’t justify his superstar salary and never wanted to be “the guy” on his team. In addition to that they gain the second best center in the league and a player who is desperate for a shot at being “the guy.” Jason Richardson is also a great fit with franchise centers, as the last couple years in Orlando have proven. While Bynum has a lot of maturity issues, there are several reasons to believe this is going to work out really well for them.
First, Bynum is from New Jersey and thus an east coast guy. The move back east should please him, given that he will be closer to family. Second, Doug Collins is a great, great coach with a ton of experience at getting immature players to buy into his system, most especially on defense. Finally, Philly has one of the best young rosters in the game right now which is perfectly constructed to take advantage of his skill set. They’ll be a salty team for the second consecutive year.
Philly isn’t going to win a title, but there’s no reason to think they can’t assume Atlanta’s old role as the team that you can count on to lose in the second round of the playoffs.
Most writers are (rightfully) bashing the way Orlando handled this Dwight trade. By every account, they accepted the worst possible deal. Houston was willing to give up every asset they had and take on every bad Magic contract simply for the chance to rent Dwight for a season. Sadly, even the Nets paltry offer would have made more sense. The Magic arguably got the three worst players in this deal with Afflalo, Harrington, and Vucevic and their haul of draft picks is in no way impressive.
The recipe on trading away franchise players has always been to dump salary, get young players, and receive a nice collection of draft picks in return. Somehow, in a trade in which they gave up the best player, they made out the worst of the four teams involved. This could only happen in the NBA.
However, I’ll offer one brief defense for their new GM, Rob Hennigan. The only proven way to win a championship in the NBA is to have a top ten talent. There are only two ways to acquire a top ten talent. Either you have to draft one and hold onto him as long as possible or you have to be one of the fortunate teams in a big market city who are able to sway free agents into signing there. Orlando is not a big market city.
As much success as the Nuggets have had since the Carmelo trade, perfecting the blueprint for how to successfully trade away your franchise superstar, they will never win a title. Sure they’ll compete and maybe even make a conference championship, but a title is out of the question. It makes sense that a team would rather risk futility for the chance at being great again rather than remain in the trap of mediocrity for the next ten years.
The only way Orlando can win a title is to go into absolute Charlotte Bobcats tank mode and hope that they’re fortunate enough to draft the next Dwight Howard. It’s a frustrating business model that makes absolutely no sense, but that’s the modern day NBA. A small market team needs to literally and figuratively win the lottery so that they can get the next Kevin Durant or Dwight Howard.
I still have no idea how Nuggets GM Masai Ujiri pulled this off, but it’s worth mentioning that I memorized how to spell his name because of how impressed I am. Every move he’s made since taking over the team has worked out in the Nuggets favor, and it’s no exaggeration to say that he should now be considered one of the five best GMs in the sport. Consider: the Nuggets dumped two large and undesirable contracts and somehow got a superior player in return. That just doesn’t happen in professional basketball, well not since Isiah Thomas retired from the front office.
The best part is that Iguodala perfectly fits into the Nuggets system. As Kelly Dwyer remarked on Ball Don’t Lie this morning, “Andre Iguodala is just about the most Denver Nuggets player in the NBA.” PERFECT. There is no better way of explaining it. Iguodala is an elite transition player, among the five best finishers in basketball according to the advanced stats. It just so happens that the Nuggets love to push the ball in the open court. Get used to seeing Lawson to Iguodala fast break highlights this year. George Karl has to be smirking somewhere right now imagining the possibilities.
In addition to his elite transition game, Iguodala also brings in a much desired defensive presence that the Nuggets lacked last year. He’s one of the five best isolation defenders in the NBA and is the perf