Breaking Bad Season 5 Episode 1 Recap

Breaking Bad’s fifth season begins like many of the ones before it, with an unexplained opening scene.  In this instance we find Walter White playing with his food at a Denny’s, head and face both unfamiliarly hairy, and half-pretending to be interested in a conversation with a waitress while keeping his thoughts and eyes glued to what comes through the front door.  A shady business transaction and a generous tip later and it’s clear that things in Walt’s life have turned for the worse.  He’s using a fake identity, he is presumably taking medication for cancer again, and he needs a massive machine gun to confront whatever new problem lies ahead.

I’ve joked many times to friends that for Walt to complete his transformation into Scarface’s Tony Montana, as Vince Gilligan claims is the goal of his show, he was going to need a gun similar to that used in the movie’s most iconic scene.  You can imagine my excitement then when it become increasingly clear last night that Walt is going to get his “say hello to my little friend” moment, and very soon.

For all the jokes and lines about turning Mr. Chips into Scarface, Breaking Bad has really been about one of the greatest character studies in the history of television.  We watch the show because we want to see just how far Walter White is willing to go to preserve the illusion he has constructed in his mind.  Walt justifies his deeds by saying he would do anything for his family.  In his case it includes cooking drugs, making money off the drug trade, being indirectly responsible for an airline crash, letting the girlfriend of his best friend/partner die, poisoning an innocent child, and multiple instances of brutal murder.  And it seems we have more to go.

Despite many opportunities to “get out” and preserve the safety of his family, Walt’s ego just won’t let him walk away.  It’s now clear that there is simply no going back.  The repercussions of Walt’s actions have spread too far and not even his brilliance can get him out of this great mess.  It fits in perfectly with the show’s motif of science.  Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Everything must be explained.

Shortly after the opening scene we find Walt in the moments after his successful bomb plot on Gus.  He frantically cleans up the mess at home (including the lily of the valley he used in the poisoning).  He attempts to savor the moment with a glass of liquor but is quickly interrupted by the return of his family and eventually the realization that Gus had a camera on him the entire time he cooked meth. 

The epiphany causes Walt, Jesse, and the recently healed Mike to embark on one of the more enjoyable plots of the entire series.  It turns out Walt’s DEA agent brother-in-law Hank beat them to the laptop that stored all of the video from the cooks and the computer has since been locked up in storage at a local Albuquerque police evidence bank.  They hatch a crazy plan to use a powerful magnet to destroy the computer’s memory rather than heed Mike’s advice to skip town, like yesterday.  Amazingly the plan seemingly works but not before inviting a whole host of new problems including a ditched truck possibly filled with forensic evidence and causing  the police to find access to Gus’ offshore bank accounts.  Action. Reaction.

Meanwhile Skyler is left doing her best Walt impression during a hospital visit to former boss, lover Ted Beneke.  Despite obviously being emotionally affected by indirectly causing Ted to break his neck, Skyler puts up a front and acts tough when he pleas with her to leave his family alone.  It’s a haunting reminder of just how far the impact of Walt’s decision-making has gone.

My lasting memory of this episode though will be three specific scenes that show just how far Walt’s ego has come since the days of the meek chemistry teacher/carwash attendant in season one.  First was his scene with sleazy lawyer Saul Goodman in which Walt simply refuses to let Saul end their relationship.  Saul is so terrified he can’t even muster a response.  Second is the way in which Mike, who once kicked Walt’s ass by the way, is softened throughout the course of the episode into buying what Walt is selling.  We see him go from nearly murdering Walt in the desert to accepting his “because I said so” retort that he left no evidence at the scene of the magnet truck.  Roles officially reversed.  And finally is the haunting image of Walt in the final scene “forgiving” Skyler.  The size of the balls that it took to say that in that moment, after everything that’s happened, is something only Tony Montana could relate to.  It’s also a reminder of how things must end.

One could easily argue that Walt has already broken bad numerous times over.  While this is true, let this serve as a simple reminder that we still have 17 episodes to go before this series concludes.  It’s hard to imagine that Walt could conceivably do anything worse but there is no doubt that’s where we are headed.  Who else is he willing to leave in his path of destruction? Will he sacrifice his own family to get what he wants?  Anything is possible at this point. 

My own heart tells me that the great tragedy of this show will be if Walt causes Jesse to die.  It’s so clear that despite all of the bad that Jesse has done, he desperately wants a shot at redemption.  Whether through rehab or his new girlfriend, there is a voice inside Jesse Pinkman that wants to get out of the drug game and be a good person.  Walt always pulls him back in though.  Something tells me that Jesse will come ever so close to coming up for air before it all goes horrifically wrong though, with Walter White being the one that weighs him back down.

It’s good to have Breaking Bad back in our lives. 

Really anxious to find out just how bad Walter White really is.

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Repercussions Of An NBA Champion

This is a new experiment where I try to imagine a world in which each of the remaining NBA playoff teams goes on to win the NBA title this year.  Apologies to all Sixers and Pacers fans, you have no chance and are therefore excluded from my four fantasy worlds.  Without further or do, take a trip into my beautiful dark twisted fantasy.

[time traveling one month ahead]

San Antonio Spurs

And thus begins a summer where one of the biggest decisions in NBA history will be made.  Will Tim Duncan choose to come back and play for the Spurs after winning his fifth NBA title on an expiring contract?  The Spurs have the potential to go on another dynasty run.  The championship squad loses only Danny Green and Boris Diaw to free agency, both of whom would likely re-sign at discounted prices.  The rest of the team is signed for a title defense and the scary part is they could add even more pieces if Duncan took any kind of a reduction from the $21 million he earned this past season.  Is it worth it though?  Duncan would have the rare opportunity to walk off while on top of his sport all while winning his fourth Finals MVP.  This puts him easily in the conversation for the best seven players ever to play the game.  It’s no secret his body is breaking down and he struggles to recover from the long NBA schedule.  The question will ultimately come down to how badly Tim Duncan wants to continue playing basketball and if he wants to edge into the conversation for top three players ever.  No seriously, he could likely get to six, maybe seven titles before his body completely goes.  [checks notes]  Mark it down people, Tim Duncan just signed on for another three years and disrupted the championship aspirations of every young buck in the NBA.  LeBron James cries himself to sleep somewhere.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant finally fulfilled his destiny and became everything America wanted LeBron James to be.  The media and the bandwagon NBA fans can’t create enough cliches to describe how “clutch” Kevin Durant is and how he “gets it.”  At times it’s hard to argue with the logic though as Durant hit a game-winner in game two and iced the game from the free throw line in games four and six.  The final freebies in game six eventually sealed the deal on the Thunder’s first title and broke the hearts of Sonics fans everywhere.  The Thunder are poised to become the next alpha dogs of the NBA after unseating the Mavericks, Lakers, Spurs, and Celtics in consecutive series, all of whom represented the last stand of the old guard in the NBA.  There seems to be no reason the Thunder can’t vie for the next two NBA titles and contend for the first three-peat since the Shaq/Kobe Lakers.  Their success directly led to Ray Allen’s decision to leave Boston in free agency as well as force Kevin Garnett’s retirement.  Beyond this it gets questionable for the Thunder as a franchise though.  Can they afford to keep both Ibaka and Harden?  Harden surely could convince a team to pay him max money.  Will they convince him to go the Manu Ginobli route instead of the Maurice Lucas on guys who should play second fiddle on a contender but could earn alpha dog money on a pretender?  Will the infamous “Disease Of More” grab hold of this team and eventually cause Russell Westbrook to demand a trade?  Lots of interesting questions surrounding these young Thunder and head coach Scott Brooks.  For now, we pause to celebrate their remarkable accomplishment.  No seriously, Kevin Durant is only 23 years old and already has a Finals MVP!

Boston Celtics

They did it again.  They fooled us all into believing this was really their last shot and now they have us all wondering if Kobe wasn’t the only aging NBA star to go receive secret knee treatments in Germany.  Can you believe the nerve of this team?  We now have to consider them as an actual force that changed the history of the NBA rather than a squad that put together one random championship.  Selfish!  As the famous Bob Ryan quipped, “they were in a year five of a three-year plan,” and now they go off and win the freaking NBA title, defeating no less than LeBron James and Kevin Durant in the process.  There’s just something about this damn team where everybody knows when it’s their turn to carry the load and responds accordingly.  Who can forget the Ray Allen explosion to steal game one for 33 points, on the road no less?  After dropping game two, Kevin Garnett gave a vintage KG 25-15 performance to help the Celtics win game three.  Rajon Rondo did the Rondo thing to win game four with a staggering 20-15-13 line that made us all question who the best point guard in the NBA really is.  Who else could it be if the young Celtic has two rings and Rose/Paul/Williams/Westbrook have zero combined?  And then, of course, Paul Pierce shut it down in game six to give the Celtics the most improbable of NBA Championships.  In related news, Bill Simmons broke the record for longest sustained erection and we all have to spend the summer reading his tribute columns to his latest favorite Celtics squad ever.  No seriously, consider all that happened to make this possible: Derrick Rose got hurt, Dwight Howard got hurt, Chris Bosh got hurt, Dwyane Wade played on one knee, Manu Ginobli went down with an ankle injury, and Kendrick Perkins fell victim AGAIN with a knee injury in the finals.  How badly did the basketball gods want this to happen?  And why can’t things go like this for the Nuggets for once?  With a salary reduction in order for KG after an expiring contract, are they now an outside contender to land Dwight Howard?  I hate everything.

Miami Heat

Oh my.  Did we just witness the beginning of something special?  Did LeBron James really just average a triple double in the NBA finals against a Duncan/Popovich Spurs squad?  Are we sure that’s legal?  It may have been the single most dominant NBA Finals by a single player ever, with LeBron finally proving to all his critics that he really did only need one more marquee player to win that elusive title.  As Chris Bosh sat on the sidelines, LeBron and Dwyane Wade embarked on the greatest conquest by a talented duo since Jordan and Pippen simply refused to lose NBA titles to the far more talented Utah Jazz teams.  And I have to admit, I find it quite poetic.  For some reason it just feels right that they did it without Bosh to finally break through for the first title in the era of the super teams.  There are long term ramifications for this championship.  The first consequence is that every franchise in the NBA is now going to try to replicate the formula and it will likely lead to even more restrictions on player movement when the owners opt out of the CBA early, and bet the family mortgage that this happens.  Another long-term implication is that the other players in the NBA are scared.  Really scared.  Everything these players, coaches, GMs, and owners have been taught and witnessed their whole lives led them to believe that you needed a true team in order to win a title.  If two gentlemen can pair up, independent of the wishes of GMs and owners, and win the NBA title by themselves, what chance do the others have?  It would be like Barack Obama getting elected back in the 1960s.  Heads are spinning everywhere and no one is sure how to react.  If there is anything to be thankful for it’s this.  We no longer have to listen to all the LeBron banter about his unclutchness or how he has no rings.  The only debate now is how many will he win in a row.  Damn.  How are they going to stop him if he continues to play like that????

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Evaluating the 2012 US Olympic Men’s Team Finalists

On Monday, USA Basketball announced the 20 finalists for the squad that will represent the United States in the Olympics this year.  While the Dream Team should presumably cruise to another victory, I have to admit that I found some of the invitations insulting and embarrassing.  The roster eventually has to be cut to 12 players before the squad plays in London, but it still means a lot to these players to be included among the finalists.  With that in mind I’d like to give you my brief thoughts on all 20 of the finalists in regards to their potential contribution to an actual Olympic team.  Keep in mind this is completely independent of how I actually feel about them as basketball players in the NBA.  I’ll go in order from the selections I most agree with to the least.  Finally, I’ll add in a section for notable exclusions.

No Brainers Selections

1. LeBron James – Best player in the world.  Also the most athletic.  He could literally play the 1 through 5 in international basketball.

2. Kevin Durant – Second best player in the world.  Fits with the team’s image of taking advantage of the United State’s superior athleticism and could theoretically play anywhere from the 2 to 5.  It also didn’t hurt that he was the clear alpha dog on the team that won the World Championship two years ago.

3. Dwight Howard – Best center in the world.  He presents the most mismatches for foreign teams as there is quite simply no one like him in all of basketball.

4. Derrick Rose – The reigning MVP of the NBA and he has a claim to the most athletic point guard title along with Russell Westbrook.  Unlike Westbrook though, he’s amazingly consistent and brings no baggage.  Perfect fit for the envisioned identity of this team.

5. Chris Paul – One of the rare great players who lives to make his teammates better.  CP3 will bring a calming influence to a team with a variety of strange personalities and he’ll have no problem making his peers look better en route to the gold.  Injuries are the only question, as always.

6. Kobe Bryant – With Dwyane Wade’s injury-filled start to the season, Kobe is easily the best shooting guard in the world right now.  He’ll bring a work ethic and desire for winning that will permeate throughout the rest of the team.  Another fact that can’t be discounted is that these teams usually tend to have an alpha dog problem with players unsure whether to demand the ball around their peers.  Let’s just say Kobe will never have trouble demanding the ball.

7. LaMarcus Aldridge – Best American-born power forward.  He also will have no trouble playing second fiddle to some of the bigger egos on this team because he’s been in Brandon Roy’s shadow his whole career.  He’ll be superb as a hybrid 4-5 within any offense.

8. Dwyane Wade – If he’s healthy, you can make a great argument to include him over Kobe.  I tend to lean towards Kobe over him though because of the generational gap.  I feel like all the members of that legendary draft class are afraid to stand up to each other and thus they need a guy like Kobe to come in and balance them out.  If healthy though, there’s no way Wade doesn’t make the team.

Good Role Players Who Could Make The Team, And Deserve It

9. Andre Iguodala – You’re telling me there’s an ultra-athletic wing player who has no interest whatsoever in being a number one scorer and takes personal pride in shutting down the opposing team’s best player?  And he’s American?  Get this man on the team, like yesterday!

10. Chris Bosh – He’s one of the top three American power forwards and is perfect for this team because he plays third wheel on his NBA squad.  Bosh learned a long time ago that he can’t be successful playing with an ego which makes him an ideal candidate to fill in a few minutes every game on this team.

11. Chauncey Billups – Every Olympic team needs a token old guy.  The last squad had Jason Kidd, now it’s Chauncey’s turn.  He’s also ideal because despite my insistence that he handles the ball too much in crunch time, there is no doubt that he has a great sense of how to control the pace at the end of close games that need to be closed.  So long as he’s willing to defer the shooting responsibility, he’d make a great contribution to the team, despite being by far the least talented guard among the bunch.  Remember that we’re trying to build a real team, not an All-Star squad.

Guys Who Should Probably Make The Team But Will Probably Be Cut Instead

12. Kevin Love – If there was ever a more ideal candidate for international basketball than Kevin Love, I’ve never met him.  Love is perfect because he plays power forward in the mold of the international stars.  He rebounds the hell out of the ball, he can shoot the three, and basically he’s everything you’d want from a guy who is by no means going to be the star of the squad.  If Love doesn’t make the team, I will be incredibly upset and will be sure to vent strongly on the site.

13. Rudy Gay – He’s a player built in the Iguodala mold and would be a perfect fit to back up LeBron and Durant at the three or as a defender for some of the opposition’s better shooting guards.  His athleticism makes him an ideal candidate, but there are a lot of talented threes who stand in his way of getting on the team.  Too bad.

Guys Who Have No Business On The Team, But Will Likely Be Included Anyway

14. Deron Williams – His reputation is too great at this point to exclude him from the team.  I’d much rather roll with a versatile trio of Rose, Paul, and Billups who each bring unique aspects to the game (athleticism, unselfishness, maturity, respectively).  Deron doesn’t really do anything better than those three in that regard, and his uninspired play in New Jersey put me over the top when it came to the team.

15. Carmelo Anthony – It’s not a good sign about a player when his former head coach comes out and practically brags about how much better his team is now that he finally got rid of his best guy.  It’s also not a good sign when your new team is dramatically worse since acquiring you and that your team leads the league in isolation offense.  I don’t see what he brings to the table over LeBron, Durant, and Iguodala, given his general feeling about his talents and role.

16. Tyson Chandler – No idea why anyone would want to give him the amount of money that the Knicks coughed over this offseason.  Yeah, Tyson brings a great defensive presence to the game, but that is literally it.  He can’t finish around the rim to save his life.  If there’s a defender within eight feet of him when he tries to go up for a dunk, it’s not going in.  This is another guy who gets way too much credit for something.  He is also a horrible fit for the international game which tends to take advantage of slower big men.  Can’t we all agree the Mavs won because they out-executed the Heat in the Finals, not because Tyson was some sort of demi-god defender sent down from heaven to prevent a LeBron James title?

The Wild Card

17.  Russell Westbrook – Name me one player in international competition who could stay in front of this guy on a basketball court?  Unfortunately the US is stacked at the guard position and with Westbrook’s alleged reputation for refusing to defer, I say he gets left at home.  It would never surprise me if he made it though.

The Egregious Invites

18. Lamar Odom – Theoretically Lamar makes a ton of sense, given his length, athleticism, and ability to play any of the five positions.  Unfortunately, I think he needs to spend some time away from the game this Summer to get his mind right and his recent play is in no way worthy of this honor.  We wish him all the best as he is definitely one of the all-time good guys in the NBA.

19. Eric Gordon – Definitely the third best American shooting guard.  No way the Americans should include more than two shooting guards (Kobe and Wade) on the roster though, given the plethora of depth at point guard.  There might be a spot for him in the future, but at this time USA basketball could have found a more athletic person to take his spot on this list of finalists.

20.  Blake Griffin – I wrote about this earlier today.  He is only good on the fast break and is in no way reliable enough in an international game which requires big men to stretch the floor with their jump shooting.  Throw in his poor defense and this is my biggest mistake for the team USA roster.

The Egregious Non-Invites

Rajon Rondo – He’ll never get an invite again after an alleged rift happened at the World Championships.  The story goes like this: both Rondo and Rose were battling for the team’s number one point guard spot, with both refusing to relent to the other, both feeling they deserved the starting spot.  It got so heated and competitive that Coach K had to make an executive decision to keep one and send the other home in order to keep the team’s chemistry alive.  I still love his ability to drive and his belief in always making teammates look better.

James Harden – Having his best ever season.  Seems to be the American reincarnation of Manu Ginobli.  Also presents an interesting dynamic, given that he is a lefty.  He’s one of the five best shooting guards in the world right now.

Monta Ellis – Ultra athletic guard having his best ever season.  He might be the most unstoppable one-on-one scorer in the world today as well.

Andrew Bynum – Would have much preferred including him on this list of finalists over Tyson Chandler.  Unforgivable.

Kyrie Irving – It’s always good to get the young blood some experience against the world’s best.  I didn’t expect him to make the final team but he could have used to confidence boost and could very well be on this team come 2016.

John Wall – Ditto.

Kyle Lowry – Ditto.  Quietly having the second best point guard season in the NBA right now.  Seems to nearly complete a triple-double every night.

Predictions On The Final 12-Man Roster

Starters: Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Dwight Howard

Reserves: Derrick Rose, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, Deron Williams, and Tyson Chandler.

Alternates: Andre Iguodala, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Love

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Tom Brady Allegedly Told Tim Tebow They’d Meet Again

We’re going to be Broncos heavy today, this being my site and all.  Here’s a great nugget from a column in bean town today.  From the Boston Herald:

When the two quarterbacks met at midfield on Dec. 18, the embrace came quickly. Patriots quarterback Tom Brady pulled Tim Tebow close, with cameras and microphones poking at them, and offered encouraging words to help his counterpart deal with the disappointment.

“We’ll see you again,” Brady whispered.

How about Saturday at 8 p.m. at Gillette Stadium? Unbelievable but true.

Yesterday, Tebow played coy, acting like he didn’t remember. Perhaps the electric atmosphere got to him, one he created by finding receiver Demaryius Thomas for an 80-yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime to secure a stunning 29-23 win over the Steelers in an AFC wild card playoff game.

But Tebow knew. That was clear when he was reminded of Brady’s words — and broke into an embarrassed smile.

“I guess he’s a prophet,” Tebow quipped. “What an honor it is to play them again.”

Brady recognizes the talent!  When will the rest of America?

[Boston Herald]

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Good Morning Generation

On a night in which I should have been sitting on my couch watching an incredible slate of opening NBA matchups, I was instead yesterday left whining to my fiancee about the NBA lockout.  ESPN has been counting the number of days on SportsCenter during the last week, and if memory serves right it reached 125 days or so.  However, 124 of those days didn’t matter.  In my mind the NBA lockout just started at day one and only now should we start counting.  I, the consumer that eats up every second of NBA action, is now being negatively effected.  I am not pleased.

One of the great myths about the NBA right now (that I admit I even fell for myself) was that they could only go up from here.  The logic was something like this: we have the most individual talents the league has ever seen, which means it can be marketed in an unprecedented way, and thus the NBA was on its way towards staking its claim as the clear number two sport in this country.  After a lot of thought, I can’t help but disagree with this notion anymore.  I say the NBA reached its apex in the 2011 NBA Finals and this lockout is only going to help further a tailspin the sport is about to see.

Here’s my reasoning.  In order to be a successful sports league in this country, you have to start appealing to the casual fan.  The die hards will always be there watching every game and sadly the leagues really don’t have to worry nor care about them.  The casual fan though is the object of affection of every commissioner in sports.  He increases your viewing audience which leads to more revenues.  This year the NBA had the casual fan by the balls. 

LeBron James pulled off the single greatest NBA marketing stunt ever and while we were all fooled into taking it negatively, he was secretly roping us into the greatest NBA season since Michael Jordan retired (for the second time).  The NBA had real villains for the first time since the Bad Boy Pistons.  This then of course means that there had to be a hero defending against the players who didn’t win the “right” way and tried to cheat the system.  I’m not saying I agree with this, but it did happen.  There’s nothing more the casual fan enjoys than miscasting someone as a hero and taking a rooting interest in them.  These are your Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd fans of the world.  David Stern couldn’t care how his players are perceived though, he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

But think about how this Dallas Mavericks team came together.  Mark Cuban went deep into the luxury tax in order to create the perfect mix of talent around his superstar, overpaying for numerous guys who otherwise would have gotten less money.  Furthermore Dirk Nowitzki worked religiously since the 2006 NBA Finals to perfect an undefendable offensive game that is among the best skills sets we have ever seen.  When you throw in a bunch of role players who overachieved you have the casual fan’s wet dream.  Phrases like the following come to mind: “they did it the right way!” or “that’s how basketball is supposed to be! Surround your best player with complimentary pieces, throw in some luck and hard work, and that’s all you need!” or “Dirk is a real superstar!  He stayed loyal to his city and his franchise and put in the hard work and that’s why he won!”  You get my point

The new NBA isn’t going to be that way though.  No longer will Cuban be able to overpay for the NBA’s middle class and in reality, it’s likely to disappear all together.  The sport is going to fall into the realm of the NHL where teams rebuild every five years for the chance to make one title run.  There will be no dynasties.  There will be no way to maintain long-term success.  Instead you’ll have this ever-moving group of NBA journeymen who move from town to town, living on one or two-year contracts.

Most importantly though, they’re going to lose the casual fan because the NBA is about to take an even more drastic turn into a superstar-oriented league, which is saying something because it’s already so heavily thrown its chips in that direction.  That’s not a good thing.  Again, I’m not saying I agree with any of this, but there is still a perception in America that the NBA players are a bunch of overpaid brats who don’t play the game the right way, refuse to hustle, shoot the ball way too much, and generally don’t care about the fans.  How then is the NBA going to sustain itself by paying the LeBrons and Carmelos even more in guaranteed contracts when the only thing those two have ever seemed to care about is expanding their brand?

I hate to say it, and it’s going to drive me crazy if it comes true, but the NBA is about to go down a dark and lonely road, following the NHL and MLB behind it.  It risks becoming a provincial sport in much the same way hockey and baseball did in the last decade.  I can’t pinpoint to any one reason, but it’s sad.  Blame the NFL, blame high definition televisions, blame the overpaid players signed to franchise-killing contracts.  I just don’t see any way basketball bounces back from this.

The future of championship basketball flows through the Miami Heat whether we like it or not, the only problem is that teams will be unable to compete against a team that was essentially “grandfathered” into the new system that will exist once the lockout is over.  When the casual fan can no longer cast a hero against the bad guys, they’ll go back to the safety of the NFL and college football and leave the NBA behind.

Sad, but true.

Generation Y, where we’re open to your suggestions for new names for the Big East.  Ours so far: the Big Easy, the Big Joke, the Big Mid Major.

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