Cancer Man (Breaking Bad)

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"Cancer Man"
Breaking Bad episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 4
Directed by Jim McKay
Written by Vince Gilligan
Original air date February 17, 2008 (2008-02-17)
Running time 48 minutes
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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Breaking Bad (season 1)
List of Breaking Bad episodes

"Cancer Man" is the fourth episode of the first season of the American television drama series Breaking Bad. Written by Vince Gilligan and directed by Jim McKay, it aired on AMC in the United States and Canada on February 17, 2008.


Hank Schrader (Dean Norris) and his team have a meeting to discuss what they found in the desert. They reveal that Domingo "Krazy-8" Molina was their snitch (turning in Emilio, his own cousin), but both he and Emilio Koyama have gone missing. The meth they found was 99.1% pure, and although they have no leads, they believe the product is good enough to make someone Albuquerque's new meth kingpin.

Walter White (Bryan Cranston) tells Hank, Marie Schrader (Betsy Brandt) and Walter Jr. (RJ Mitte) that he has cancer when Skyler White (Anna Gunn) begins to cry during a barbecue. Marie suggests that Walter get a second opinion from a top oncologist. Meanwhile, Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) smokes Walter's meth with two friends. A paranoid Jesse flees his house the next morning when he hallucinates that two religious evangelists at his door are armed bikers.

Skyler makes an appointment with one of the top oncologists in the country, however he is not in the family's HMO and the appointment costs $5,000. Walter says he will take the money out from his pension, but he actually will use some of the money Krazy-8 offered him in the desert, which he took and now keeps hidden in an air-conditioning duct at his home. Walter Jr. nearly catches his father when the air conditioning turns on and sucks some of the money away. He berates him for acting so weird and nonchalant about his cancer. When Walter goes to the credit union to put the cash in a cashier's check, his parking spot is stolen by a rich, obnoxious man named Ken (Kyle Bornheimer). Ken annoys Walter and the rest of the customers with his loud cell phone conversation.

Jesse ends up fleeing to his affluent parents' (Tess Harper and Michael Bofshever) house, where he sleeps for an entire day. He attempts to bond with his overachieving little brother, Jake (Ben Petry). That night, Jesse gets a call from one of the friends who smoked Walter's meth. He says that he knows a lot of upper-class people looking to score drugs and are willing to pay top dollar for the high quality meth he cooked. The next day, Jesse visits Walter to "touch base" since they have no one to talk to about the Emilio and Krazy-8 debacle. He says that people want more of Walter's meth but he kicks Jesse out. Jesse then states why he was really there – to give Walter his half of the meth profit, $4,000.

The oncologist tells Walter that the cancer has spread to his lymph nodes, but there is a chance it is still treatable with chemotherapy. When he lists the numerous negative side effects it will have, Walter seems overwhelmed and zones out. At home, Walter expresses his doubts about the chemo since it will cost $90,000 and if he still dies, he will leave his family with all the debt. A frustrated Walter Jr. admonishes his dad that if he's going to give up so easily (particularly considering Walter Jr's struggles with cerebral palsy) then he should just die.

A housekeeper finds a joint in Jesse's room and his parents kick him out. It turns out the joint belonged to Jake and he thanks Jesse for taking the fall for him then asks for the joint back. However, Jesse crumbles it up and throws it onto the pavement, dismissing it as "skunk-weed anyway." Walter suffers a coughing attack while driving and coughs up blood. As he pulls into a gas station, he notices Ken pull up. When Ken leaves his car unattended, an angry Walter takes a squeegee, pops open Ken's hood, and shorts the car battery with it. The engine subsequently overheats and the car explodes as Walter walks back to his car. He then calmly drives away, leaving an exasperated Ken.


The episode was written by Vince Gilligan, and directed by Jim McKay; it aired on AMC in the United States and Canada on February 17, 2008.

Critical reception[edit]

The episode received mostly positive reviews. Seth Amitin of IGN gave the episode a rating of 8.6 out of 10 commenting: "This seemed like an ordinary episode, but a lot of subversive plot and character development happened and if you've been watching the previous episodes, you probably know why this episode was so good. There's a lot to extrapolate."[1] Donna Bowman of The A.V. Club gave the episode a "B-", saying: "This episode doesn't have the wow factor that the series has had so far -- it's about moving the pieces into place for long-term strategy."[2]

Title meaning[edit]

The title "Cancer Man" is a reference to The X-Files character Cigarette Smoking Man, whom Mulder first called Cancer Man. Vince Gilligan was previously a writer and producer for that series.[citation needed]


  1. ^ Amitin, Seth (February 19, 2008). "Breaking Bad: "Cancer Man" Review". IGN. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 
  2. ^ Bowman, Donna (February 17, 2008). "Breaking Bad: "Cancer Man"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved December 21, 2014. 

External links[edit]