The Nightshade Non-sequiter: a completely off-topic question about Breaking Bad.

BreakingBadOkay, I know I’m supposed to be working on the edits for Echopraxia.  I know I don’t have time for gratuitous blog posts, and the ‘crawl has largely been handed over to the tumbleweeds for the rest of the month. But this is driving me crazy.

This is a question about Breaking Bad. The TWOP recaps have been no help and I don’t have time to comb through petabytes of forum talk, so I’m hoping one of you can help (I’m looking at you, Ensley). If you do not watch Breaking Bad, well, your life is much emptier than it could be, but you might as well move along because there’s nothing to see here. If you do watch but are not caught up, shield your eyes, because here there be spoilers.

Here’s the thing. Jesse has figured out that Walt poisoned Brock. Hilarity has ensued. All the clues Jesse followed to reach that conclusion revolved around Walt’s home-made ricin cigarette, and Huell’s dexterity as a pickpocket. But Brock wasn’t poisoned with ricin: Brock was poisoned using a nightshade derivative. Jesse knows this. He told Walt at the end of last season that Brock’s doctors told him explicitly. So why would any late-breaking insights about ricin lead back to the Brock incident? The whole final act of the series hinges on this, and I’m not connecting the dots.

What am I  missing? Anyone?

This entry was written by Peter Watts , posted on Wednesday September 11 2013at 07:09 am , filed under art on ink . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

23 Responses to “The Nightshade Non-sequiter: a completely off-topic question about Breaking Bad.”

  1. My guess is that Jesse made an intuitive leap once he realized Huell lifted the ricin cigarette.

    Jesse previously believed that Walt was poisoning Brock – in the second to last episode of Season 4, he accused Walt of using Huell to lift the ricin cigarette from his pocket, then using it on Brock. Walt convinced him that Gus, in fact, had stolen the cigarette from Jesse’s locker, leading Jesse to turn on Gus.

    Once Jesse realized that Huell really was a fantastic pickpocket, I guess he also saw through Walt’s earlier bluff – if he assumes Huell _did_ take the ricin cigarette, he knows it can only be for one reason: so that Walt could convince him Gus was poisoning Brock.

    That’s the best I’ve got.

    Maybe you can answer a question for me – why didn’t Jesse lead Hank to the buried methylamine tanks in the desert? No way to tie them to Walt? Doesn’t he also know where the body of the kid they shot during the train heist is buried? (Same problem?)

  2. Ricin…nightshade…whatever. I think someone in continuity got caught up in the ricin in the news a few months back and figured no one would notice. I am using recent experience with students as a backdrop.

  3. Well…there are sort of dots there, they’re just not that…good. There’s logic, but it, uh, only makes a limited amount of sense.

    What I think they were going for was the fact that Jesse has realized Walt set it up – making Jesse think that Gus, or someone, had the risin and had poisoned Brock for _just long enough_ to get Jesse to help with getting rid of Gus. That was all that was needed – he now knows that Walt set up both taking and the finding, afterward, of the risin. To make the leap that Walt had done that, as well as poison Brock without questioning the method is a bit sloppy. Lily of the Valley gets no screen time. It should have been mentioned at the very least to stop the audience needing to question it in just this manner…
    Just yet another example of Walt playing Jesse, Jesse getting out of control, but the logic behind it, and the leaps, are a bit…flawed.

  4. Jesse, (mostly), doesn’t think in logical or linear ways. He’s very intelligent, but also naive and unfocused, which is why up until recently he’s been both useful to and easily manipulated by WW.
    This is more of an epiphany than a specific thought process, but the historical information, and emotions he would have been putting together goes something like this:

    • Jesse is waiting for the vacuum repair man and tries to smoke but his pot is gone
    • Jesse realizes this is because Huell bumped into him and took his pot on this occasion
    • Huell bumped into him previously when the ricin cigarette disappeared and he had initially believed that it was to steal the ricin
    • Jesse had believed that WW poisoned Brock with ricin that he had stolen from Jesse
    • When it turned out that Brock was poisoned with lilly of the valley Jesse had freaked out believing he must have lost the ricin cigarette
    • WW then planted the ricin cigarette in his Roomba vacuum which WW was conveniently the only one looking at in that moment and then took it from him for safe keeping
    • Jesse has realized what an incredibly manipulative individual WW is so he’s able to better process how this would have worked in WW’s favor and that he could have readily accomplished it.
    • Jesse knows that WW has killed people that he lies about having killed and no longer believes that poisoning a child would be out of his capability.

  5. Having never watched the show (so my life is much emptier than it could be, which leads me to wonder if it’s on Netflix), I suspect someone doesn’t know the difference between ricin and a nightshade derivative. I certainly don’t; have heard of both, but all those mysterious poisons blend together… well, not in a cigarette, but you know what I mean.

    ETA: Yes, it’s on Netflix. My life will be so much fuller!

  6. I’d say the poison itself was irrelevant, Jesse was being actively manipulated by Walt at the very moment they lifted his pot, which in turn just made things click for him and he realized just how hard he’d been manipulated the entire time. He’d thought they’d lifted his ricing cig, yet they convinced him they did not, and things somehow worked out fortuitously for Walt. Now when things were supposed to work out fortuitously for Walt again, his cigs were lifted again… click.

    Walt is also supposed to be a master chemist, so a poison substitute would be a simple matter for him, particularly considering the fact that ricin is highly poisonous, leads to long term organ damage and currently there are no available antidotes (some are only now being tested), while (presumably) poisoning by whichever of the toxins of lilly of the valley Walt extracted would have been easier and safer to treat.

  7. I would go with Tabby’s line of reasoning. Jesse has basically finally put 2 and 3 together.

    Lily of the Valley isn’t a nightshade–it is its own special beast. It contains all sorts of cardiac glycosides and other amusing ingredients. All of it from berries to roots is poisonous.

  8. sjdickinson has the right of it. The crux is that we’ve recently seen how Jesse is wise to Walt’s 20-dimensional vampire schemes, as he realizes how much Walt has been manipulating him. I don’t know if you’ve ever been the victim of a friend or lover’s long term deceit and manipulation, but if you have, this kind of late-blooming realization seems familiar. After the independent fact of deceit has been established, your brain starts dredging up instances.

  9. It turns out that there’s this terriffic companion guide to Breaking Bad coming out next year about the same time as the final DVDs will be released, and it’s availabe for pre-order on Amazon right now! *coughcoughshamelessselfpromotioncoughcough*

    Anyway, here goes. Okay, back towards the end of season4 in “End Times,” Saul is frantically trying to get in touch with Jesse, ostensibly to give him his money before Saul goes underground to avoid any fall-out from Gus Fring. When Jesse finally shows up at Saul’s office Huell searches him. This is the first and only time that happened. The next day, Brock got sick and Jesse discovered the missing ricin cigarette. So, in “Confessions,” when Jesse discovers Huell has picked the pot out of his pocket, and he pulls out his cigarettes, he makes the connection, realizing that Huell nipped the pot when he forced Jesse to squeeze by him on his way out of Saul’s office. The fact that Brock wasn’t poisoned by ricin isn’t as important as the realization that Huell stole it, which he would only have done at Saul’s order, and which Saul would only have done for Walt. And Walt denied knowing anything at all about the missing ricin, even when Jesse had a gun to his head. Jesse’s caught Walt in a HUGE lie, and Saul confirms it when Jesse beats the hell out of him later in the episode.

    sjdickinson:

    Maybe you can answer a question for me – why didn’t Jesse lead Hank to the buried methylamine tanks in the desert? No way to tie them to Walt? Doesn’t he also know where the body of the kid they shot during the train heist is buried? (Same problem?)

    Because the methylamine wasn’t buried. First Declan had it in Arizona, and then we saw Todd, Uncle Jack, and Kenny driving the tank back into New Mexico in “Confessions.” As to Drew Sharp’s body, that’s been dissolved and disposed of in the cold open to “Buyout.” So that evidence has been destroyed.

  10. I had the same fleeting concern with the continuity, but I quickly satisfied myself by noting (a) that Jesse was taking a *lot* of drugs at the time Brock was poisoned, making the Lily of the Valley pixel of information arguably less stable and/or (b) that Jesse is highly motivated to believe the worst about Walt … and that may include a little selective memory. Not privy to the canon, but that’s what I thought when I watched it.

  11. Breaking Bad Episode 511: What Just Happened?:
    http://www.forbes.com/sites/allenstjohn/2013/08/26/breaking-bad-511-recap-the-case-of-the-missing-backstory-or-wtf-did-jesse-realize-about-the-ricin-cigarette/

  12. The problem is that we associating with Walter and following his moral decay. Jesse on the other hand reacts like a normal person: Walter is evil because he poisoned a child, the kind of poison and the reason are irrelevant.

  13. Ensley F. Guffey:

    Because the methylamine wasn’t buried. First Declan had it in Arizona, and then we saw Todd, Uncle Jack, and Kenny driving the tank back into New Mexico in “Confessions.” As to Drew Sharp’s body, that’s been dissolved and disposed of in the cold open to “Buyout.” So that evidence has been destroyed.

    And since Hank and Gomie are trying to do this investigation without involving the rest of the DEA, they can’t raid the neo-Nazis’ compound looking for evidence related to the methylamine heist. There are only two of them, so taking on Uncle Jack’s whole gang would mean certain death. Well, almost certain. It certainly doesn’t seem to be going well.

  14. sjdickinson,

    I agree.

    Mr white had the poison taken from Jesse in order to frame the chicken king, Gus. Walt manipulated Jesse into thinking that the boy was poisoned with risin, after Jesse thought Gus had stolen the risen from him (even though he didnt). This was done before the doctors found out that the boy was in fact poisoned with something else, at the time Jesse had assumed it was risen.

    Jesse figured out that this was done to manipulate him.

  15. I think SJ Dickinson is correct. Here goes:

    Jesse realizes that his first instinct about Walt poisoning Brock was correct when the presence of the cigarettes in his pocket reminds him of how Huell might have lifted them. He was only wrong about one thing: why Walt wanted Huell to lift them. It wasn’t to poison Brock, it was to make Jesse think that Gus had done it. The only thing he was wrong about was that one detail. But looking back, everything else remains plausible — it’s far more likely that a man who does advanced chemical production on a regular basis will know how to manufacture a poison than it is that a seemingly bright, well-behaved child randomly ate berries off a tree that doesn’t even grow in his own yard.*

    But mostly, I think this was a somewhat shoddy shortcut to bringing Jesse’s emotional arc full circle. Walt manipulated him into helping kill Gus. Now he’s manipulating Jesse into leaving town. Jesse decides not to let himself be manipulated again, and turns on Walt. It’s not so much a dramatic realization, I don’t think, as the inevitable consequence of their “Please can you just drop the bullshit and ask me for help,” conversation, which was all about how manipulative Walt can be and how aware Jesse is of his behaviour. Without any inner monologue it’s tough to tell, but that was certainly the theme of the episode and it’s not unreasonable to imagine that Jesse was lining up each instance in his head.

    *If anything, it’s more likely that Walt & Skyler’s baby would eat the berries. They’re right at stroller level, and to our knowledge the plants are still right there by the pool. Which means that either Walt doesn’t care about the baby, or he’s keeping the plants around just in case he needs to manufacture more poison. Jesus, Walt.

  16. Madeline Ashby,

    I seem to recall that Walt did actually remove the plant (at least he put it in his trunk?) when he was disposing of the other detritus associated with manufacturing the lily of the valley-derived poison, his bomb-making materials, etc.

    I also in general agree with the sense that Jesse’s leap was less logic and more gut. He figured out that based on all of the circumstances, there was absolutely no reason to believe that Walt didn’t poison Brock, have Huell lift the ricin, etc., in an effort to get him (Jesse) out of the way temporarily while Walt worked his scheme to get rid of Gus (and Hector, and Tyrus).

    And yeah, in hindsight, I’m initially surprised that either Walt (who ostensibly loves his children and has obviously copious chemical knowledge) and Skyler (who is very smart, thorough, and an able researcher) would have a poisonous plant in their backyard. But, then I remember that there was lily of the valley in my yard when I was growing up, and I never tried to eat any of it, to my knowledge.

  17. Off-topic and I cannot find the damn paper itself and then there’s the question of “is this useful?” for scifi (likely for zombie stories)…

    Jason C. Anthony supposedly wrote a paper in 2011 stating that there is no such thing as true healing. Vitamin C helps to produce collagen. Extreme scurvy can cause old wounds, from any time in one’s life, to reopen! The old wound is still there, but is invisible, the body is constantly keeping it “healed”. Might even cause old bone fractures to reappear, snippet I saw didn’t say.

    That’s frickin’ wild.

  18. Whoever: Off-topic and I cannot find the damn paper itself and then there’s the question of “is this useful?” for scifi (likely for zombie stories)…Jason C. Anthony supposedly wrote a paper in 2011 stating that there is no such thing as true healing. Vitamin C helps to produce collagen. Extreme scurvy can cause old wounds, from any time in one’s life, to reopen! The old wound is still there, but is invisible, the body is constantly keeping it “healed”. Might even cause old bone fractures to reappear, snippet I saw didn’t say.That’s frickin’ wild.

    As Pepys might have attested!

  19. The scurvy thing plus some of the Echopraxia discussions got me thinking about stigmata. Then that reminded me of a presentation I saw in the 90s based on this AMA Journal article:
    http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/deathjesus.pdf

    LATimes article on same:
    http://articles.latimes.com/1986-03-28/news/vw-883_1_medical-examiner

    No idea if/how much Edwards, et al, fudged any of it but it was interesting to hear how, for example, it is possible for someone beaten to not bleed (shock draws blood inwards) and to be stabbed and have “water” pour out.

  20. Adding to the backlog:

    Scientists claim proof of life coming to Earth from Space (via Kurzweil)

    http://www.kurzweilai.net/scientists-claim-discovery-of-life-coming-to-earth-from-space

    Two words: quantum mechanics (re: how it floated up).

  21. Booh, give us your opinion on Elysium instead.

  22. A lot of people seem to have offered their interpretations, but I’ll toss in mine anyway:

    At the end of Season 4, when Brock is poisoned, Jesse searches his pockets and discovers that his ricin cigarette is missing. He concludes that Walt had it stolen when Huell bumped into him, and goes to kill Walt. Walt then convinces Jesse that Gus stole the ricin cigarette to frame Walt. Here, the idea is that because Jesse won’t find the ricin cigarette, he’ll believe Brock was poisoned with it. That is why Walt needed to have Huell steal it.

    Early in Season 5, Walt needs to make Jesse not believe that Walt did in fact steal it, since Jesse knows Brock was poisoned with FOTW. He therefore needs to explain why the ricin cigarette is missing. He does this by planting it in the Roomba. Hence, Jesse believes that he’d just lost his cigarette into the Rooma, and mistakenly believed that Walt had taken it. (And then mistakenly believed that Gus had taken it to frame Walt.)

    When Jesse searches his pockets for his weed later in Season 5, he finds his pack of cigarettes, but not the weed. He realizes that Huell stole his weed /and also his ricin cigarette/, because Huell otherwise eschews physical contact. He therefore realizes that Walt must have planted the cigarette in the Roomba, and he unravels the thread all the way back to the Season 4 finale; if Walt did have Huell steal the cigarette, that means that Walt must have had a motive to do so. Jesse concludes that Walt stole the ricin cigarette to frame himself, and therefore Gus, by poisoning Brock with FOTW.

    Walt’s plan would not have worked if Jesse had the ricin cigarette during the S4 finale – even though Brock wasn’t poisoned with ricin, Walt needed to make Jesse think he’d been, and when Jesse realizes that Walt was the one who made it /seem/ like Brock had been poisoned with ricin, it becomes all too obvious who poisoned Brock with FOTW.

    And now, Walt has touched Jesse’s proxy-family, and family is /sacred/. Oh, how I love the black humour and irony of Breaking Bad…

  23. Piece on the Star Trek event and other talks at the science festival:

    http://thevarsity.ca/2013/09/23/u-of-t-plays-host-to-first-ever-toronto-science-festival/