The Breaking Bad character Ted Beneke, Skyler White's boss and lover, was committing serious tax fraud with his company. When he gets the obligation to repay over 600 grand in tax debts in order to avoid a prison sentence, Skyler anonymously gives him the money from Walt's "income", to avoid her part in it getting discovered by the IRS. But when Ted is reluctant to pay his debts she visits him in episode S04E11 ("Crawl Space"), tells him that it's her money, taken from Walt's "gambling wins", and urges him to pay his debts. But he gives the money back to her, saying that it would feel wrong to pay his debts with illegal gambling money (and the disaster takes its course).

Now like Skyler I don't really get when "wrong" actually became a problem for Ted and why he really refuses that money. While he always pleaded that he just did the tax fraud to save his company and his family (do we know that excuse from someone else?), from the first moment on he seemed to me rather slack with morals and responsibility, which was reinforced when his first action after receiving the money is to get back his big-ass Mercedes instead of paying any debts or using it, well, for the company. So I don't buy a moment that he couldn't take the money out of moral reasons. He also says that it doesn't make a difference and is not enough, which to Skyler seemed like he actually wanted more. (And without her money he'd still stand there with nothing, so he could at least use it to keep the IRS off him.)

So I'd like to shine a bit more light on Ted's character and his motivations, especially concentrating on the questions of why he hesitated to pay his tax debts and, even more so, why he was so obliged in refusing Skyler's money? Does he really have moral obligations? Or is it pride that keeps him from accepting her charity? Or did he really just want to squeeze more money out of her?

3 Answers 3


I always thought it was a pride thing. That, coupled with him wanting to live beyond his means. Throw in a dash of irresponsibility (or immaturity) into his character as well.

When he thought the money came from his rich aunt that he never knew, he did the first thing people new to money do; he spent irrationally and bought a nice car. Just read any story about lottery winners, 80% of them fall into the same trap and are broke within 10 years.

Once Skyler told him where the money really came from, he was too proud (or embarrassed?) to accept it. He started making excuses as to why he couldn't take it.

Let's face it; if he really was coming from a moral high ground, he wouldn't have had an affair with Skyler, nor would he have cheated on his taxes.


He realized that Skylar was in a very precarious situation and could not have the IRS looking into her affairs with the car wash, so he tried to use that as leverage to extract more money from her. She understood that right away, which is why she said that it sounded to her like he wanted more money - because he did. So, she consulted with Saul and they came to the agreement that the most efficient avenue to take with Ted at that point was to send in his "A" guys and muscle Ted into paying his debt. Ted had relatively low moral standards.


Ted absolutely saw a mark in Skyler for blackmail, at least until Walt died. Skyler realized Ted was another slick-talking Walt with a better veneer. It's no 'accident' that the slippery one 'slipped' and 'tripped up' when squeezed. A coward, he didn't respect Skyler/women, but ran at the first chance from Saul's hilarious 'A-Team.'

Appearances meant everything to Ted. Part of the American 'Nightmare' is to keep up with the Joneses. The car, the schools, the façade of a successful business, staying in debt - that's the American Way - again with the pretext of saving families of employees.

Choosing between that and being free of debt, albeit under more humble outward conditions, is not an ethical consideration. He, like many, just keep 'pretending' and spending above their means.

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