‘The Big Cigar’ Episode 5 Recap & Ending Explained: What Happens To Bert Schneider?


AppleTV+’s biographical drama series The Big Cigar continues on the journey of taking its central character, Huey P. Newton, towards his emergency exile in Cuba, as the FBI are almost about to catch him. In the previous episode, we saw Huey finally being helped by Steve Blauner to escape the United States. They successfully drove into Mexico, avoiding the FBI agent, Sydney Clark, who was close in pursuit of them. In this week’s The Big Cigar episode 5, Huey struggles to remain hidden in Mexico and is also rocked by the news of a sad demise back in the United States.

Spoiler Alert

Why does Huey struggle in Mexico?

At the end of episode 4, Steve Blauner and Huey P. Newton drove over to the Mexican border from Los Angeles and managed to cross over, leaving the United States behind. Their intention was to take a private flight from the Tijuana airport and head to Puerto Vallarta, and at the beginning of episode 5, they are seen to have reached the port city. Huey is not exactly pleased with the situation, though, as he does not want to stay in Puerto Vallarta for long, unlike his partner, Gwen, who has also accompanied him in the exile. While Gwen and Steve are satisfied that they have escaped the United States and reached Mexico, Huey wants to move along and not rest until he is able to get to his final destination in Cuba. The couple is given a house on an island near Puerto Vallarta, with a single bell tower that is used in case any legal authorities come to the place. 

Huey is still not convinced by the safety that Puerto Vallarta has to provide, and neither is he wooed over by the facilities at the house where he is given to stay. The old building is home to a number of rodents, bats, and snakes as well, and though it is cleaned up for their stay, there are numerous appearances made by the unwanted creatures. Moreover, there is no telephone at the place, and neither is there any electricity, meaning that Huey and Gwen have to sacrifice the basic privilege of a well-lit room after dark. Steve mentions that all this would also help the couple stay under the radar and avoid unnecessary attention in the village. According to him, Huey and Gwen will only have to spend a couple of weeks at the place until the coast is clear and a boat can be arranged for them to be transported to Cuba safely.

Hearing about the long period that he would have to spend in Mexico unsettles Huey, although two weeks’ time is not extremely long. He is fearful that the authorities from the United States will manage to track them down in the foreign country through its brash and often unlawful external affairs, and this would surely result in his arrest or death. He thinks of numerous other situations like this, such as when the FBI managed to track down its enemies in foreign countries previously. Huey knows very well that his home country does not treat political rivals with any respect and realizes the extreme threat that he faces, especially after becoming a fugitive. But along with being concerned about his safety, the protagonist also mentally struggles to settle down at the Mexican village, even for a couple of days, let alone a few weeks.

In the very opening scene of the episode, Huey thinks back about the time in 1971 when he had become close friends with Bert Schneider and the producer wanted to make a film on him. After much discussion, it was decided that the film’s subject would be the formation of the Black Panther Party at the hands of Huey and his best friend, Bobby Seale. However, things have massively changed in the past few years, not only with regards to Huey’s geographical location but also his relationship with the Party members. After falling out with Bobby, Huey had been running the Party by himself in the past few months, and at present he feels guilty about abandoning his beloved organization as well. Although Gwen reminds him that Teressa, who had taken over the Black Panthers at the time, Huey feels that he has unfairly left his friends and associates behind in the USA to face the heat, while he has escaped to save his own life. In fact, the protagonist also remembers his interactions with his father, Walter, who wanted him to fix his relationship with both Bobby Seale and Eldridge Cleaver so that the Black Panther Party could return to its best state. Walter was not at all pleased with the fact that Huey was currently running the organization with the help of mostly henchmen and armed activists, with very little political prowess left in it. Unfortunately, at the end of The Big Cigar episode 5, Huey P. Newton learns that this conversation with his father was the very last one, as news of Walter passing away reaches him in the remote corner of Mexico. 

Why is Huey actually on the run?

From the beginning of The Big Cigar, the reason for Huey P. Newton’s escape from the United States was shown to be his supposed involvement in the death of a sex worker. It was being claimed by the authorities that he had murdered the woman, and this was seemingly the reason for his escape. However, the exact manner in which the FBI had cornered him and the immense pressure that they had created on him were also important factors in his escape, and all of that is revealed in this episode. A few months earlier, when Huey was back in Oakland, he had gone to a tailor for some clothes, accompanied by his Black Panther Party henchmen as always. But the situation turned grave when the tailor wanted to straighten out his trousers and kept touching his shoes for some reason, and Huey found this odd. When he asked the reason behind this act, the tailor’s words did not convince him much. The Party soldiers also suggested that the man was actually planting a bug on Huey, and this caused a massive commotion at the shop.

Despite the tailor being a Black man, Huey could not put any faith in him, and he was almost certain that the FBI was making use of him to plant a surveillance bug on him. A disagreement began, and the tailor referred to the protagonist as Baby, which was supposedly his childhood name in the community. Just like earlier with one of the sex workers, Huey absolutely lost his temper, for he hated the name tremendously, and he launched a furious attack on the helpless man. As a result, he was arrested by the police for causing violence and was harassed and abused in prison throughout the couple of days he was kept there. But this was also the time when the police, and the FBI in particular, finally got their hands on the elusive Black Panther Party leader, whom they had targeted for quite some time.

Thus, a new plan was hatched to keep him in prison for a longer time, even though he was granted bail in the attack against the tailor case. It was then that the FBI pinned the blame for supposedly murdering a young woman on the streets on Huey, and the activist was jailed once again. Although he managed to get out on bail in this matter as well, constant surveillance by the FBI was started at the time. Huey could notice very easily how his apartment building was always watched by some agents, and he guessed, quite correctly, that his conversations were also being heard by agents living in the apartment next to his own. It was to desperately avoid all this trouble that he finally left his apartment and went over to Los Angeles for help from his Hollywood friends, Bert and Steve.

What happens to Bert Schneider?

While Steve Blauner helps Huey Newton escape to Mexico, Bert Schneider still wallows in the grief of not being able to be a part of the expedition. In the previous episode, Bert had arranged for the mission and had also gotten hold of a car to drive over to Mexico, but could not join up with his friends after getting distracted by drugs. By the time he woke up from his drug-fueled slumber, his friends had left Los Angeles and were steadily moving towards the border, and Bert was totally consumed by a feeling of guilt. This was almost like betraying the trust of the men he considered the closest in life, but there was nothing else he could do at the time. Episode 5 has Bert still reeling from the incident, as he still blames himself for abandoning the mission and not being able to help out his best friend and political idol, Huey.

Bert is cheered up by the presence of his elder brother, Harold, though, as the man realizes what has happened and comes to support him. Harold himself suggests the plan of putting in money for Bert’s new film, which finally gets the much-needed funds to be made, and this obviously changes his mood. Although the relationship between the brothers finally takes a turn for the better, it unfortunately does not last very long. By the end of the episode, Harold is found dead in his office from natural causes, and Bert has to deal with this loss almost at the same time that Huey loses his father. In this time, Bert had also been visited by an FBI agent, who threatened him not to try to go to Mexico or send any money to his friend.

During Harold’s funeral service, Bert is also informed by his father, Abraham, that he is no longer the president of Columbia Pictures after the studio has decided to finally oust the family. Therefore, it can be expected that Bert will face financial issues as well, and this might directly affect the fact that he is ultimately unable to help out Huey any further. On the other hand, the FBI also started to monitor his movements very closely, making it all the more impossible to have any influence over Huey’s escape to Cuba.

Did Huey finally escape to Cuba?

Although Bert is unable to participate directly in the escape plan, he continues with whatever contribution he can make, and at the moment, this involves getting in touch with Artie, the man who is supposed to take the men over to Cuba. While Artie is all set to go ahead with the plan and even takes his boat towards Puerto Vallarta, his boat is mysteriously damaged by a submerged statue of Jesus Christ, which is indeed a snorkeling attraction in the region, known as Christ of the Abyss. This development is obviously a symbolic incident that suggests that Huey might not be able to survive the attacks by the FBI after all.

Meanwhile, Sydney Clark, the FBI agent, had been trying to arrest Huey in some way or another, initially trying to convince the Mexican authorities to allow him into the country. This did not work since the FBI had no jurisdiction in a neighboring country, and Mexico was also not in friendly relations with the USA at the time. Clark then gets in touch with an ex-American soldier who currently lives in Mexico and works as some sort of private fighter but is unable to convince him either. However, the Mexican police launch a raid on the property where the protagonist had been hiding, and at the end of the episode, Huey and Gwen have to hide inside a trench, along with Steve. Although the fate of the characters is still left unclear, the very last scene shows Huey hallucinate a fallen Black Panther brother, which suggests that he will stop hiding and get into direct, violent confrontation. As the caretaker of the house, Aldo, is heard being beaten by the Mexican police, Huey will surely fight back against them, and this will possibly lead to even more trouble for him. 

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Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya Sur Roy
Sourya keeps an avid interest in all sorts of films, history, sports, videogames and everything related to New Media. Holding a Master of Arts degree in Film Studies, he is currently working as a teacher of Film Studies at a private school and also remotely as a Research Assistant and Translator on a postdoctoral project at UdK Berlin.

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