This is a review/recap of Better Call Saul season 5 episode 1. There will be spoilers. If you want to know what I thought about the first 4 episodes of season 5 without spoilers, check out my spoiler-free preview.
As we were hoping, we pick up right where we left off. When we last saw Gene, he was panicking because the cab driver had an Albuquerque air freshener hanging from his rear-view mirror, and he was looking intently at Gene. Gene got out of the cab and presumably walked the rest of the way to where his car was parked, at the mall.
The episode opens with Gene in the parking lot of the mall. His car is the only one there, covered with snow, and he’s clearly worried he’s being watched. But he drives off uneventfully. At his apartment, we see how he has a kind of emergency kit. The old Band-aid tin that he’s had since childhood now contains a whole lot of diamonds, and he’s got a second license plate, and the business card for the Disappearer. He drives off for at least a day but decides the coast is clear and he goes back home.
The next morning he goes to work. An uneventful morning passes and then he’s eating lunch on the bench when he’s approached by the cab driver, who says he’s a big fan. He says he saw the billboards and even had a matchbook. “What do you want?” Gene asks. “I just want you to admit it. Just say it.”
“Better Call Saul.” It’s just a whisper, the first time, but he makes him repeat it, then again, while pointing. “The name’s Jeff. Anytime you need me, call up Omaha United Cabs.” He walks off, saying, “It was an honor to meet you, Gene.”
Now Gene knows the jig is up, and he goes to a pay phone and calls the Disappearer. This role was played by Robert Forster who passed away the same day that El Camino, A Breaking Bad movie was released. Gene tells him the magic words, that he needs an adapter for his Hoover MaxPro vacuum, and gives the model number. The Disappearer says the part will be very difficult to obtain and it will be double the price. Gene agrees and the Disappearer agrees to pick him up Thursday at 7 am. Gene is silent for a moment. “I’ve changed my mind. I’m gonna fix it myself,” he says, and he hangs up firmly and walks away. Now we’re left wondering if we’ll have to wait for Season 6 to find out more about what happens to Gene.
Saul Goodman is Back
After the opening sequence, we’re in the court building, picking up where we left Jimmy and Kim last season. Jimmy is still dressed like Jimmy McGill, but he’s sounding more and more like Saul Goodman. He tells Kim, “I thought I was wasting a year of my life. But I wasn’t. Now [potential clients] already know me as Saul Goodman.”
She wants to know when he decided this and he says it just came to him back in the hallway. “If this is how you’re really feeling, I say sure,” she says. But she doesn’t sound fully convinced. Jimmy signs the paper “James ‘Saul Goodman’ McGill” and he calls the clerk “honey.”
Lalo Causes Trouble
Then we see Lalo repeating all of the things Werner said on the phone, looking for the magic word, the clue to what was going on. He’s clearly done some research. He says there are 27 Werner Zeiglers in Germany. He’s clearly talked to Mrs. Zeigler, who told him there are now 26. He asks Nacho and Crazy 8 if they know anyone named Michael.
Nacho makes up a story about some of the drugs “being stepped on,” which we learn is code for being doctored in some way, not as good quality as normal. “Show me” says Lalo and they go for a ride.
They visit a “distribution center” (an empty apartment that’s heavily in disrepair). Lalo separates the bags into 2 piles, and points to one pile, saying is the bad pile, “it’s not ours.”
In the next scene with Jimmy and Kim, Jimmy is opening congratulations presents from Kim. Jimmy is talking about promotions, maybe giving away the rest of the cell phones with a 50% off coupon. Kim doesn’t think lawyers give out coupons. “Aren’t you encouraging these people to commit crimes?” Jimmy thinks they will commit crimes regardless. Kim is worried about how this reflect on Jimmy. She is still not on board with the Saul Goodman idea. Jimmy says he can’t go back to being Jimmy McGill, Chuck’s younger brother. Kim: “I just can’t see it.” Jimmy: “it’s okay, you will.”
Gus Tells Lalo a Story
Then we see the predicted meeting between Lalo and Gus at the chicken farm. Juan Bolsa is there to mediate. Gus has cooked up a story to try to throw Lalo off the trail of what was really going on with Werner. His story is that Werner was working for him, supervising a construction project for the legitimate part of his business, but thru an oversight he became aware of the other part of the business and stole some of the meth. That’s why they were chasing him. Gus apologizes; he says he replaced the product with meth he purchased locally, an inferior product, and he apologizes sincerely.
Lalo wants to know, “What construction project?” And Gus was anticipating this, and has it all set up. The Germans indeed seem to be constructing a building. “When finished, this will be the most advanced inline chilling system in the southwest,” says Gus.
“A chicken freezer?” asks Lalo.
“Chiller. Our product is never frozen.” Gus is ever the professional.
Lalo recognizes Michael and wants to say hello. Gus introduces him. Lalo holds out his hand. “I’ve heard so much about you.”
“Is that right?” Mike deadpans in reply.
Juan Bolsa tells both of them they have to play nice and keep Don Eladio happy. Lalo is ready to leave, but first he has parting words for Gus: “It’s going to be a very nice chiller. The south wall’s gonna look beautiful,” he says with a wink. He’s seen thru the elaborate ruse. The “south wall” was the magic clue, because this building doesn’t have concrete walls.
Outside, Bolsa wants to know why Lalo is in the north. He’s not happy he had to take care of the dead TravelWire clerk Lalo left behind. He says, “That’s not how we conduct ourselves north of the border. Lalo blames it on Hector “so suspicious, so unreasonable.” Lalo asks if Bolsa trusts Fring. “He’s not one of us, but he earns. As long as he brings in the dollars, Eladio is happy. That’s what’s important.” The money is the magic ingredient that makes Gus valuable to them. So Bolsa wants Lalo to behave, but it looks like Lalo has other ideas.
Saul Goodman, the Magic Man
Next, we get to see Saul Goodman in rare form. He and Huell have set up a mini circus tent and strings of lights in the vacant lot under the freeway overpass. Free cell phones while they last. Each phone has Jimmy’s number programmed into #1 on the speed dial. He’s got custom yellow plastic bags and business cards and pens with his new business name and logo on them. “I’m the lawyer who’s going to fight for you.” Saul is playing the marketing genius, saying the magic words. He keeps telling the story of how he got Huell out of his legal trouble, and the details keep getting more and more outrageous each time he tells it.
Finally he runs out of phones. There’s still quite a crowd waiting. So in desperation, he offers the coupon deal: “For the next two weeks, non violent felonies 50% off.” Many people are interested and take the cards and go off. Huell calls him Magic Man. Jimmy says “we’re just getting started.”
Then we get to see how Mike manages to get the Germans back home without it raising any eyebrows. As he’s leaving, Kai tells Mike, “it had to be done. He was a good man but in truth, he was soft.” Mike is not pleased by this remark, and hauls off and punches Kai in the nose and knocks him down. One of the other guys, Caspar, has a different take on it. “He was worth 50 of you,” he tells Mike. Mike returns his typical deadpan stare, but we know he still feels guilty about Werner’s fate.
Next we learn the plans for the super lab. Mike tells Gus the entrance was sealed and no one will stumble on it. Gus says they can’t proceed with finishing it while Lalo is on this side of the border. He promises to deal with Lalo and then construction will resume. He says Mike will continue to be paid until then. “Call it a retainer.”
But Mike walks off, saying “You can keep your blankedy-blank retainer.”
More Marketing Magic, but Kim Still isn’t Buying
We get to see more of Saul Goodman’s marketing magic. The intern squad is playing news crew, interviewing DDA Oakley, accusing the DA’s office of misconduct in the Gravenhorst case, prosecuting an innocent man. Saul shows up, wearing Jimmy’s suit but Saul’s shirt and necktie, and picks up the story of “an outrageous miscarriage of justice, malicious persecution, unlawful detention and abuse of process.” He threatens to take it all the way to the Supreme Court, and get a cash settlement. “I make it my business to defend the citizens of Albuquerque against injustices of every kind. Every man, woman, and child deserves speedy justice at a price they can afford.” Everyone starts asking for his business cards, even the fake news crew.
The final scene is Kim trying to convince a client to take a plea deal. Jimmy suggests she pretends he’s from the DA’s office, and he’s threatening to take the deal off the table due to new evidence. Kim isn’t happy about playing games and misleading her client, so she tells Jimmy no, but then she tells the client Jimmy’s story and gets him to plead. The idea of new evidence was the magic word that changed his mind. Then Kim goes off and has a minor meltdown in the stairwell. She’s obviously conflicted about Saul’s brand of lawyering. This season, the time has finally come when Kim will have to decide where here priorities lie.
Episode 502 of Better Call Saul will be on tomorrow night (Monday, February 24). If you missed tonight’s episode or want to watch it again, I believe it will air right beforehand.
What was your favorite part of this episode? What are you looking forward to this season? Tell me in the comments.