Better Call Saul 408
Several things we weren’t expecting happened in this over-sized episode of Better Call Saul. Even the title was somewhat unexpected. I looked it up and it is the name of a Native American tribe who live in Louisiana, and there is also a casino resort with that name. I was expecting that Mike would take the German crew to the casino and they’d get into trouble there.
We also expected to see this Huell situation blow up and be the final nail in the coffin of Jimmy and Kim’s relationship. And we expected to see Nacho taking over Hector’s role in the Salamanca organization.
But instead, we saw several unexpected things happen.
Nacho Makes an Unexpected New Acquaintance
At first, Nacho is in a dark place but it’s pretty much as we expected. He’s got new digs — a fancy new house complete with a couple of young women who obviously want to impress him and smoke with him. He’s happy to supply the substance they will smoke but he’s not into spending time with them. When he puts the money collected that day in the safe, he takes a moment to wistfully look at a something. I’m not totally sure what they are, but I think they are fake IDs with photos of Nacho and his father on them. Could it be Nacho has an escape plan?
We see him sitting in Hector’s chair, with Krazy-8 sitting in front accepting the money as the guys come in to drop it off. One of them (IMDB lists this character’s name as “Blingy”) doesn’t have his full amount and Nacho is forced to use some gruesome intimidation techniques on him to make sure it doesn’t happen again. After he leaves, Krazy-8, who has been on the receiving end of the painful intimidation, encourages Nacho that he had to show them who’s in charge.
But at the end of the episode, Nacho gets a surprise, one that Breaking Bad fans may have picked up on, one that hard-core fans have been hoping would show up in Better Call Saul. Nacho arrives at the Salamanca’s restaurant and music is playing loudly. Someone is singing along, while cooking in the kitchen — this is not the regular chef of this fine establishment. The newcomer tries to tempt Nacho to try his culinary creation, and introduces himself as Eduardo, though he says Nacho can call him Lalo.
Lalo is mentioned but not shown in Breaking Bad. In the first episode where we meet Saul Goodman, Walt and Jesse kidnap him and take him out to the desert to encourage him to find a better plan than having Badger make a deal by flipping on Heisenberg. Saul doesn’t know who these two goons in ski masks are. He says “No, it wasn’t me, it was Ignacio. He’s the one.” (Most fans agree Ignacio is Nacho’s real name). Saul tries speaking Spanish to them, clearly thinking they’re with the Salamancas. When they tell him to speak English, he starts to make some assumptions about who these goons are, or aren’t. “Lalo didn’t send you?” he says, very relieved to hear it. “I thought. . .” he doesn’t finish his sentence, but it’s clear he is deathly afraid of Lalo, who it seems would be the kind of person to take him out to the desert in the middle of the night, kill him and throw his body in a shallow grave.
Nacho seems to sense that Lalo’s friendly persona is not his true personality. Seems like Lalo’s going to hang around and “lend a helping hand, make sure the business is running in order.” But he reassures Nacho, “It’s gonna be like I’m not even here.” I’m pretty sure that’s not true; his presence is going to bring changes to Nacho’s life and I can’t wait to see what happens next.
Werner Puts the Project in Jeopardy
Even though this was an extra-long episode, they didn’t have time to include scenes showing us how they came to the decision to allow the German crew to leave the confines of their warehouse dormitory, nor did we get to see the security they used to ensure no secrets leaked out. Here are some things I observed:
- The bar is presumably in or close to Albuquerque. I’d have thought it would be safer to take them out of town somewhere.
- The security guys came along but they were out-numbered and Kai managed to slip out without being noticed.
- The bouncer at the bar was aware they came as a group.
- Mike let his guard down a bit with Werner, thinking the younger boys were more of a security threat.
As it turns out, Mike and his roll of bills is enough to keep the bouncer from calling the cops, and one of Mike’s security guys takes Kai back to the dorm, despite his protests. But meanwhile, Werner has made friends with the young man he was giving German lessons to earlier. He gets into an engineering discussion and spills more details about the secret project than Mike is comfortable with. We’re not sure what the outcome will be; after all, we know the lab ends up being built and used, so the secret seems to have been contained.
Jimmy Gets Relationship Advice from Mrs. Nguyen
We’ve always seen Mrs. Nguyen, owner of the Nail Salon where Jimmy rents a back “office,” to be someone who is not sympathetic to Jimmy and his shenanigans. She tells him the cucumber water is for nail salon customers only, and berates him for bringing in stacks of cell phone boxes. We did see a hint that she’s concerned about Jimmy, when she says something about how get-rich-quick schemes don’t work.
The little room behind the nail salon has been the office for Jimmy’s fledgling law firm and even, occasionally, a place where Jimmy would crash when he’s been between apartments. Now that he’s living with Kim, the room is his base of operations for the drop phone sales operation. He’s stored phones there and this is where he keeps his colorful sweatsuits, the attire of Saul Goodman the cell phone salesman.
In this episode, we see an unexpected side of both Mrs. Nguyen and Jimmy. She concludes Jimmy is at the office because his “wife” is mad at him. Jimmy, in a rare moment of vulnerability, tells her, “She’s not my wife.” Mrs. Nguyen gives him advice on how to fix things. He should take her to a restaurant, a fancy one that uses “cloth napkins.” Then he should “say sorry” as many times as it takes. Jimmy admits that he thinks things are beyond being fixed by that kind of gesture. But he, and we, are surprised by what ends up fixing things.
Super Lab Progress Report
Better Call Saul creators must think fans need to see a scene with Gus in the space that becomes the super lab. This scene reiterates lots of things we already know from last week:
- They’re about halfway through the project, barring any unforeseen catastrophes;
- There’s a rock blocking the location of the elevator shaft, which will require blasting and add at least a week to the timetable;
- The concrete form that was destroyed when the support beam was knocked over will need to be rebuilt and that will take almost a week as well.
Gus is more concerned about the delay’s effect on the crew than on the time and expense it’s adding. He wants to know Mike’s assessment of Werner’s ability to finish this job. Mike doesn’t mention the one fact we learned about Werner that probably has a bearing on this situation: Werner has a wife, and he’s never been away from her, or his home, for this long. So now we see how the delay is wearing on Werner, maybe even more than it’s wearing on the younger crew members.
Mike assures Gus that he’s “got eyes on” Werner. “He’s good.” Mike’s credibility with Gus is on the line here.
Kim Has a Change of Heart
We’ve always assumed some things about Kim Wexler:
- She holds the law in as much esteem as Chuck did.
- Her fondest dream is to become a successful, respected attorney.
- Jimmy’s shenanigans are the total opposite of anything she’d want to be involved in.
And Jimmy makes it clear he assumes these things, too. But we see an unexpected and previously well-hidden side of Kim in this episode.
First, she comes up with a plan. We saw her pondering this in the car last week, and then rushing off to the office supply store and buying art supplies. We wondered what the plan was. Some thought it was some kind of a protest, envisioning that she would make signs and posters for people to hold, presumably while standing outside the courthouse, lobbying for Huell to be released. But her plan is more subtle. Jimmy goes to Huell’s hometown, Coushatta, Louisiana, the parish seat of rural Red River Parish, a town of some 2,300 souls. The plan is to make it look as if every one of those souls loves Huell more than they love their own mothers. On the way, on the bus, Jimmy writes many letters and cards and addresses them to the office of Judge Munsinger. He pays people on the bus to help write cards also, $1 per card and 50 cents for each postcard. The result is a huge pile of mail that appears to have been written by many different individuals, which Jimmy sends from the Coushatta Post Office, which seems to double as a bus station.
I think Kim’s initial plan may have ended there, but Jimmy adds his own touch. He includes phone numbers in some of these, and even makes up letterhead for the Free Will Baptist Church. He also creates a web page for the church, where it looks as if donations are being collected to help Huell’s legal battle and fund charter buses to bring congregants to Albuquerque for the trial. Jimmy and his little group of college students who acted as his film crew last season have all of the cell phones labeled and are ready to answer at least some of them when Suzanne, the assistant DA, calls to check on the story. Jimmy does a convincing job of impersonating a Southern Baptist preacher, though he almost messes up by mis-pronouncing Lake Pontchartrain; Ms. Ericsen seems none the wiser.
The end result is that Huell is not going to jail and Kim’s legal career is still intact.
And then we have the unexpected result, shown in the photo at the right. More than anything else, I wasn’t expecting that.
It seems this was not just some random or isolated reaction on Kim’s part. We see her looking at the decorative top left over from the bottle of Zafiro Añejo tequila that Jimmy bought in season 3 and she and Jimmy finished off after Chuck’s death. This is the same very expensive brand of tequila she and Jimmy scammed Ken the stock broker into buying for them in the first episode of season 2. That Kim has kept this in her desk drawer is telling all by itself.
Later, Kim shows up at a storefront that Jimmy is checking out as a possible office location. He wonders what she’s doing there, and he’s worried she showed up to break things off with him. He starts to explain how, now that the Huell thing is over, he’s going to be on the straight-and-narrow from now on – He wants to be the person he thinks she wants him to be.
Then Kim says something unexpected. “Let’s do it again.” Apparently the scamming is a thrill for Kim. She’s excited by the results. Much as she was impressed by the way Chuck used obscure case law to win a case that seemed unwinnable, she’s intoxicated by the deal they were able to obtain for Huell after Suzanne refused to budge even in the face of the high-powered attorney ammunition she tried earlier. She also likely got a buzz from winning over the sanctimonious Suzanne who didn’t have such nice things to say about Jimmy.
We realize that a big part of the attraction Kim has for Jimmy is because of his bad-boy persona, and the charge she gets when they pull a scam together. She’s clearly bored by the banking stuff, even while she’s able to focus on it long enough to keep Kevin happy. She’s not interested in the challenge of manipulating a zoning board to approve an over-the-top architectural design for a new bank branch. She’d rather do something riskier. I’m excited to see what that will be, and how it will affect Jimmy’s relationship with her.
Notable Details in Better Call Saul season 4 episode 8
- Mike takes the “boys” to Louie’s Pub & Grill, a place where we see him hanging out in Breaking Bad. Werner even buys a drink for the young man who can’t pronounce the name of a rather obscure German beer, reminding us of how Mike bought a round for the house after he illegally comes into some money.
- I was surprised to learn that Werner, at least, knows the lab is located in Albuquerque. I thought the whole crew were being kept in the dark about their location for security reasons, but Mike trusts Werner with the approximate location, at least.
- The Better Call Saul writers got the language right: the timely reference to Shock and Awe. It’s easy, with a show that takes place in the past, to forget how casual parlance changes over time. Easy to use a phrase that wouldn’t have been spoken during that time period. But they got this one right; kudos to them.
We’ve only got two episodes left of this season of Better Call Saul. What do you think will happen? Let us know in the comments below.
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