It’s hard to decide who the winner is in Better Call Saul 506. Wexler v. Goodman. Fring v. Salamanca. McGill v. Hamlin. Maybe the answer is, nobody won.
But first, we need to talk about the opening scene with young Kim. It seems the story she told Mr. Acker a few episodes ago about her mother being a drunk was pretty much the truth. Kim is waiting outside the Jr. High School well after everyone else has left, standing next to a cello almost as tall as she is herself. Her mom shows up with the car stereo blasting and smelling like a brewery. Kim decides to walk home. Her mom tries to sweet talk her into getting in the car, splitting an order of McNuggets and watching TV at home, but Kim opts to walk 3 miles in the car, carrying her cello and her backpack. Young Kim is excellently cast and acted by Katie Beth Hall, who has nailed Kim Wexler’s mannerisms. It’s hard to believe she isn’t Rhea Seehorn’s genetic clone.
Acker v. Mesa Verde started out with Kim on the same side as Saul, fighting for the “little guy,” Everett Acker, who was slated to be evicted from his home to make way for a call center that would help Mesa Verde grow their mortgage department, possibly preying on more little people by helping them get in debt up to their eyeballs.
At the end of last week’s episode, we saw Kim notice a similarity between a photograph on Kevin Wachtell’s wall and the Mesa Verde branding motif of the cowboy on his horse. That plays out in this episode, but Saul goes much further. He’s hired the UNM student intern film crew to help him make several commercial spots. The montage of Saul directing these spots is a great scene. It’s unclear if they ever planned to air these on TV or just use them as a threat in the meeting. At the end of the day of shooting, Kim shows up and says they have to pull the plug. She’s worried that Rich Schweikart has figured out what they’re up to and her job could be in jeopardy, and she’s willing to use some of her own money to augment whatever Mesa Verde offers as a settlement to get the price up to one Acker can be satisfied with. She just wants it to end.
What we don’t see are the intervening hours between then and the meeting on Wednesday at 3 pm where it’s clear Saul hasn’t dropped this plan. Certainly Kim and Jimmy must have seen each other at home during this time; we wonder if they never spoke of it. It’s certainly clear that what happens at the meeting is not what Kim expected. We don’t see any meetings between Saul and Acker, so we don’t know if he was even consulted about the specifics. Clearly, Saul wants to play this through to the end, no matter the consequences.
Another war is brewing between Gus Fring and the Salamancas, and Mike and Nacho are likely going to be the losers in this one. Gus bring Mike to his meeting with Nacho, apparently not realizing the two have already met. Nacho plays along, asking if this is the Mike that Lalo was so interested in. He reports that Lalo’s plan is to chip away at Gus’ business until the bosses down south give up on Gus, starting with Domingo informing the DEA on more details so more of Gus’ “guys” will be swept up. Gus orders a staff reorganization to keep the ones he values out of the hands of law enforcement. Then he tells Nacho he should report to Mike from now on and do what he says.
Then Gus leaves and Mike and Nacho have a bit of a heart-to-heart. Nacho tells Mike what a bad guy Gus is, but Mike reminds Nacho that he told him there would be trouble if he went after Hector Salamanca. Nacho explains how Gus has threatened Nacho’s father. Mike says they need to take care of Lalo first, and “then we’ll talk.”
In an episode that had so many good scenes, the scenes with Mike were some of the best, even if we didn’t have to wait long to understand what he was up to. He visits the library but he’s not really there to do research or even get books for Kaylee. His real purpose is to meet the witness who was at the Travel Wire office when Lalo killed the clerk. It’s not clear if she really remembers seeing a grey 1970 Monte Carlo in the parking lot of if his suggestions convince her that she did. Regardless, he gets her to agree to call the police, and even provides her with the name and phone number of a detective and a plausible reason not to mention that he talked to her.
Then, we see him plant an inter-office memo at the police station. He waits by the coffee bar for the mailroom guy to come by and makes it look like he accidentally dropped it earlier. His ruse ensures the memo will be delivered in a manner that will keep the detective from questioning the validity of its contents, despite the fact that the name of the sender is illegible. They realize they have two incidents on the same day, 20 blocks apart, involving the same car.
Later Nacho gives Mike a location for Lalo and he engineers a police round-up. You can see Lalo is considering shooting is way out of it, when it’s just one police car. But several more show up and the jig is up for Lalo. He surrenders and they take him into custody.
Saul helps a couple of street hookers avoid jail time. They offer their services and he politely turns them down, but then as they’re leaving the courthouse, he runs after them and asks them how much for an hour of their time. Later we see them enter the restaurant which is Howard Hamlin’s regular lunchtime haunt, where he’s having lunch with Cliff Main. The hookers stop at his table and accuse him of not paying for their services. He insists to Cliff that he doesn’t know them, that it’s all a mistake. Jimmy is watching from across the street. He seems very happy with his little scheme.
The big meeting with Saul and Kim arrives, and Saul says Acker wants $4 million. Kim tries to end the meeting immediately, but Saul wants to show them a DVD. Saul says Kevin should stick around, “your Dad’s in this.” He plays the commercials and they wrangle about the legality of it. Then he brings out the photo of the cowboy on the horse and accuses Mesa Verde of copyright infringement.
Saul says they have to cover up or take down all of their “horsey logos” until the courts have sorted it out. Then he tells them to have a nice day and walks out whistling. After he leaves, they start working on strategies, but Kevin walks out, claiming he’s going to the men’s room. But instead he meets Saul in the parking garage. Saul wants Acker to keep his house plus get $45,000, the Native American photographer who took the photo gets $200,000 plus credit for the use of her photo going forward, and both get a public apology.
Later, Jimmy is at home, sitting on the couch, trying to play Smoke on the Water on his electric guitar. Kim comes in, clearly still fuming. Jimmy thinks it’s all good, or at least he pretends to think that. He quickly realizes he need to apologize, but he tries to explain that he thinks everybody wins because Kim has plausible deniability, and Acker and the photographer get compensated. But Kim says he wins but she didn’t, because she can’t trust him. “Either we end this now and go our separate ways or . . .” She’s not sure how to say what the alternative is. Jimmy says, “Or what?” and then Kim says something we never expected: “Maybe we get married?”
So now we’re on the edge of our seats, wondering what will happen next.