Breaking Bat (S01E01)

A man, wearing nothing but an unadorned white baseball jersey and a gray mesh baseball cap, careens his Winnebago down a desolate highway in the Arizona desert. In the passenger seat, another man—either passed out or passed beyond—also wears an unmarked baseball jersey, his head on the dashboard. Two bodies, even more likely dead, slide across the RV floor among loose free-weights and other exercise equipment until the vehicle veers into a ditch. The hyperventilating driver, Turk Bass, climbs out, swaps his blank jersey for a vintage Rickey Henderson Oakland A’s jersey that is still on a hanger dangling off the side view mirror (his pants are long since gone), then re-enters the van to retrieve a video camera. He records a cryptic, handheld farewell to his son. “I just want you to know that no matter how it may look, I only had you in my heart.” He turns to face the oncoming sirens.


Flashback to the eve of Turk’s birthday, three weeks earlier. At dusk, Turk exercises on a mini-stairmaster in front of a plaque commemorating his contributions to some Nobel Prize worthy research. At breakfast the next morning, his henpecking wife Selma hands him a plate of eggs topped by veggie bacon spelling “50.” Afterwards, Turk drops off Junior—whose arm is in a sling—at a physical rehab clinic before heading to the local high school where he works as an ineffectual chemistry teacher and an assistant coach for the varsity baseball team.

Later that day, one of Turk’s more disrespectful students—also the hotshot shortstop on the varisty team—witnesses him moonlighting at a car wash for additional income. The encounter becomes even more belittling when the student laughingly photographs his teacher wiping down the tires.

A now humiliated Turk returns home where Selma has organized a surprise birthday party for him. Among the guests is Turk’s gregarious brother-in-law, Rog, an investigative lawyer and spokesperson for the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball. Several guests at the party have gathered around the television to watch Rog’s segment on an ESPN broadcast, wherein he defends the validity of the recent suspension of several star players. Rog explains that, should the suspensions be appealed by the MLB Players’ Association, he’ll have two pieces of “knock out” evidence: detailed financial records of the company that supposedly provided steroids to the players in question, and testimony from a recently retired player, who has confided to Rog that he facilitated connections and helped funnel steroids to dozens of players—and also has a major gambling problem.

Turk asks Rog how much money the company had managed to make by supplying steroids to players, to which Rog replies, “Nearly ten million, in less than two years.” Rog also reveals that he has a meeting with the retired player later that week in Scottsdale.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, a woman fusses over Selma’s pregnancy and notes that she’s “hardly even showing.”


The next day, Turk picks up Junior at the rehab clinic. A doctor admits privately to Turk that Junior’s arm isn’t recovering as quickly as anticipated, and that his “dead arm” problem is likely to recur for the rest of his life. Turk looks detached but understands: “Best case scenario, with careful management of the problem, he might be able to build up the stamina to pitch a few years out of a bullpen.” Back home, Turk keeps the news from Junior and Selma.

At the carwash, he explodes when his boss asks him to wipe down cars again. Turk assaults the display racks. “Wipe down this!” he shouts grabbing his crotch. And so the transformation of Turk Bass begins.


Turk drives out to Rog’s office at the time his brother-in-law is supposed to meet with the retired player; he parks across the street at a strip mall and watches the office doors using binoculars. Turk is quite surprised to find that the player is the very scrappy Daniel Steinig, a player no one would have associated with steroids or scandal.

When Daniel leaves the office, Turk follows him to another mall and approaches him. Turk explains to Daniel that he can make a potent steroid that would be both inexpensively manifactured and completely undetectable by contemporary testing methods, and that he wants Daniel to help distribute and sell the steroid to athletes. When Daniel waivers at first, Turk reveals that he knows about Daniel’s gambling debt.

“You know the business, I know chemistry,” says Turk.

Turk goes to the high school and steals beakers, flasks, protective aprons, and other supplies from science storage. Daniel arranges to buy a used Winnebago so that their lab can be mobile and more difficult to detect. The two drive out to Sasabe, where they are able to arrange for a large shipment of Sarsaparilla root.

Upon the arrival of the Sarsaparilla shipment, Turk begins a fermentation process that in a few days will be ready to chemically alter into Turk’s experimental steroid. Turk drives the Winnebago out into the desert strips down to his skivvies, hangs his jeans and Rickey Henderson jersey on the side view mirror, then gets to the chemicals.

When the first batch is ready, Daniel takes a sample to Krazy-8, a body builder. Krazy-8 also happens to be the cousin of an active professional baseball player who [correctly] believes that Daniel is about to rat him—and other players—out. Cousin Emilio and Krazy-8 force Daniel to take them out to the desert where Turk is working in the Winnebago. Krazy-8 asks Turk if he wants to bypass Daniel and get to work with him and Emilio. Before Turk can answer, Daniel who, unbeknownst to any of the others, has injected himself with a double dose of Turk’s steroids, makes a run at Emilio, but is cold-clocked by Krazy-8. Turk barters for his life by promising to reveal his process for manufacturing the steroids. Emilio ties up Daniel and then goes to watch Turk work his magic.

In the Winnebago, as Turk prepares ingredients, Emilio throws a cigarette out the window, thereby starting a brush fire. Inside, Turk mixes chemicals that produce a deadly smoke before he dashes out. They bang on the door, but Turk holds it shut to seal the fates of Krazy-8 and Emilio.

Turk unties Daniel and drops him in the passenger seat, and we’re back at the opening scene: Turk careening the RV into a ditch, records a video as the sirens approach.

Turk climbs out of the ditch to the shoulder of the highway, in his skivvies and Rickey Henderson jersey. Fire trucks, not police cars, appear. Daniel, sporting a black eye, comes out to join Turk on roadside.

“I don’t think having or making steroids is illegal,” Daniel says. “Don’t freak out so bad.”

Understanding that he’s just turned a foolish situation into potentially catastrophic one, Turk responds, “Well, killing people is.”

Turk’s first day as a black market steroid manufacturer leaves him spent, shaken, but also invigorated. Back at home, he meets his wife’s troubled queries with atypical sexual aggression which leaves her asking, somewhat stunned, “Turk, is that you?”

Hire Robert J. Baumann to live-blog your next birthday party, family reunion, or corporate event. You will not want to forget it soon.

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As someone who just recently saw the first episode of Breaking Bad for the first time, I approve this message.

I can die in peace
I can die in peace

Just wait until you see the last Breaking Bad episode.