Whoa boy, we’re back with another Better Call Saul recap. Really, these are watch-alongs because I’m typing as I watch for the first time. Basically, I’m one of those cheesy YouTube videos where I overreact to everything I see, except I do so in written form.
That said, I’m really excited for this week’s episode of Saul because, well, at this point I expect the story to converge with Breaking Bad … or, at least, set the table for connecting to that marvelous show in not-too-distant episodes. As others have pointed out, with Lalo Salamanca out of the picture, and with the Howard Hamlin storyline completed, where else can Saul go?
As stated last week, I’ve gone back and rewatched Breaking Bad for the first time since Saul aired all those years ago and I’m genuinely excited to see how this all plays out. There’s a scene in Breaking Bad Season 2 where Saul stumbles into Walter White’s classroom and is shocked to discover he is indeed a Chemistry teacher. I imagine an alternate perspective will show Saul conversing with Kim or Mike behind the scenes and learning about Walt’s educational background … there are a number of other scenes where I could see Saul step into another room to convene with Kim after speaking with Jessie and/or Walt. Yeah, I think she’s a silent partner throughout Breaking Bad, having learned that operating on the front lines is far too dangerous.
In a sense, Saul and Kim are like Bane and Talia al Ghul — theatricality and deception. Of course, that’s just my theory and seeing how all of my other theories have thus far been incorrect, it’s more likely that Kim leaves Saul and flees into the Amazon to live with monkeys. Who knows how this is going to play out?
What Happens in Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 9
(As a side: Saul kicked off right after Forrest Gump, which was funny to me. I don’t know why.)
The episode opens with one of those amazing musical montages set to Harry Nilsson’s “Perfect Day.” We see Jimmy installing a new sign on his headquarters, Kim meeting with clients; and Mike and Co. cleaning up the mess in Jimmy’s apartment left behind by Lalo. Basically, they’re living their lives as though nothing had ever happened. (We even see Mike take down the brilliant board of post-its chronicling Jimmy and Kim’s diabolical plot to take down Howard.)
Surprisingly, neither Jimmy nor Kim looks flustered. Probably because they don’t have to do the dirty work. By the time they get home, the Howard incident will be nothing more than a bad memory. Indeed, when the pair enter Jimmy’s apartment, it looks like nothing ever happened. Even the remote control is set neatly on the coffee table. Kim looks somber, dejected even.
Mike burns the remaining evidence. Honestly, he looks sadder here than he did when he cleaned up after Jane’s death. Maybe, by that point, he’s just used to the madness.
“One day we’ll brush our teeth and go to work and at some point realize we haven’t thought about at all,” Jimmy says to Kim, who lays silently in bed. “And that’s when we know we can forget.” That’s not exactly something you just forget. In fact, if I were in the situation, my first order of business would be to sell my apartment and relocate to a completely different city. But that’s just me.
Great opening to the episode by the way. That’s one of the reasons I love this show — every action has a repercussion. Far too many TV shows shock us with violence, but there’s never any consequence to said violence. Not Saul. When someone dies on Better Call Saul, the world shifts.
Anyway, after the break, we follow Gus Fring as he enters the cartel compound. (Why are shots from within the car so fascinating to watch?) Composer Dave Porter works overtime to make this sequence creepy as hell. Gus eventually parks and carefully puts on his suit jacket; and then allows himself to be frisked. He then heads to the backyard to meet up with Hector Salamanca and the twins, along with Don Eladio and Don Juan. This should be interesting. (I assume this is the same pool from Breaking Bad … you know, where all the shit went down…)
The group gets right to business. Don Juan reads a letter from Hector condemning Gus for the attack on Lalo. “He is our enemy,” Juan recites as Don Eladio and the other four listen.
Gus has no response. “I don’t believe this merits a response,” he says.
“Did you witness this phone call from Lalo,” Eladio asks the twins who shake their heads. They did see Lalo’s burned body, however; and they did hear Nacho’s pre-execution testimony that he alone was responsible for the attack.
Gus remains silent. Eventually, Eladio suggests Hector go to bed. (Hector hilariously protests by ringing his bell.) The twins carry him away. “I’d invite you to stay,” Eladio says to Gus, “but I don’t want my breakfast ruined by all the ding, ding, ding, ding …” He then says the South Valley will remain Salamanca territory, while the North will be for Gus to manage, albeit working under Don Juan (at least, until Gus murders him in Breaking Bad). I’m not sure if this is the outcome our favorite chicken man was hoping for, but considering he came out of this ordeal with his head intact, I assume he’s relatively happy.
Eladio then says something interesting: “Gustavo, when I looked into your eyes … hate. A little bit’s okay. As long as you never forget who’s boss.”
Am I wrong for thinking Eladio knows Gus tried to murder Lalo? Maybe he even respects the man for trying. That’s the nature of the game, after all. He doesn’t seem too enamored with Hector, and maybe there was friction between him and Lalo. So long as Gus respects the big guy, Eladio doesn’t care what the “minions” do to each other. Eladio’s enormous ego is ultimately what gets him killed … in fact, ego is what gets everyone on this show killed. The people at the top consistently underestimate those on the lower end of the spectrum, and that lack of respect always comes back to bite them in the ass. Interesting.
I love how Gus remains silent. The man knows how to keep his emotions in check, even while staring into the very pool where his best mate met an unfortunate end.
Anyways, later, Gus arrives back at his house and goes about opening the shutters to let in the light. He heads into the bat cave to speak with Mike. “Tell me about the lawyers,” he orders.
Mike reassures him that Jimmy and Kim did as instructed — maybe even better. He then says Howard’s case will remain open so long as a body isn’t found.
“When can construction resume,” Gus says, referring to his meth lab.
Mike seems slightly taken back by this comment. After a beat, he notes they need to find a new engineer and crew to finish the job. “That could take some time,” he says.
“Start today,” Gus orders.
Mike heads through the underground hallway. The pair of men share a look. Is Mike looking for a thank you? Is he shocked by Gus’ lack of emotion towards Howard and/or Lalo? Is this a look of respect? Gus just went through a very tumultuous event and lived to see another day. Rather than sit on his laurels, he moves on without hesitation. All business, this guy.
Gus heads to a fancy bar where he sips some fine wine alone. A waiter named David (Reed Diamond) approaches and impresses Gus with his wine knowledge. Gus samples some really fine wine, which is something I can’t relate to — it all tastes like nail polish to me — but permits the conversation to continue. It’s clear these two have a little history. David is the first person to exact any sort of emotion from the chicken man. He even smiles at one point. “Am I talking too much,” David asks. “Not at all,” Gus replies, sipping the drink.
He even permits David to call him Gustavo and explains how he bought a bottle of fancy wine he’s saving for a special occasion. David gets excited and runs off to get another bottle to show Gus. Our man looks as relaxed as ever. Hell, he’s probably considering spending a romantic night with David, but then we see reality hit — Gus can’t have any personal ties. He learned that all too well when his former partner (and possible lover) “Max” Arciniega was killed by Don Eladio in ruthless fashion. The drug business isn’t exactly designed to cater to relationships.
We go to another break and I’m surprised at how little we’ve seen of Saul and Kim in these first two episodes. There are still five and a half hours to go, but so far we’ve spent quite a bit of time with Gus and Mike. I’m not complaining, just pointing out the obvious.
After the break, we find Mike entering his house. He patiently removes some floor boards and deposits his gun inside a case. He then removes an ID card — Nacho’s dad. Of all the surprises dished out by Better Call Saul, Mike is the most unique. In Breaking Bad, he drove me nuts (at times) for his supposed lack of compassion and/or emotion. Here, we see the cranky old guy actually does care about the people his work affects. Perhaps that was the meaning behind his silent stare down with Gus — Mike was waiting for him to acknowledge Nacho and his father. After all, the young man gave his life in order to protect Gus’ secret. Surely, he deserves something.
At any rate, Mike places the card into his box of things and buries it under the floor boards. He then sits in his chair and watches a baseball game, taking notice of the toys sitting untouched in the corner of his home. He goes back and unearths the case once more and pulls out the ID card, this time giving it a long stare.
We cut to Manuel Varga (Juan Carlos Cantu) working in his shop, a dead expression plastered over his face. The phone rings, Manuel answers it. Mike explains he’s outside and would like to talk about Nacho. Apprehensively, Manuel approaches Mike, who stands behind a chain link fence.
“What about my son,” Manuel says.
“I’m sorry, he won’t be found,” Mike says solemnly. “It was over fast, there was no pain … your son made some mistakes with bad people, but he was never like them. He had a good heart.”
Mike then says Manuel doesn’t have to worry about the Salamancas. “There will be justice,” he states.
“You’re not talking about justice,” Manuel says. “You’re talking about revenge. It never ends. My boy is gone. You gangsters and your ‘justice.’ You’re all the same.”
We get a wide shot of the lonely father wandering back to his workshop as Mike watches from his place beyond the fence.
After yet another break, Jimmy and Kim enter … oh, dear … a wake for Howard. Pictures of the poor guy are set up everywhere. At the start of Better Call Saul, who would’ve thought the snobby, sharp-tongued Howard Hamlin would become the show’s most tragic loss? Jimmy and Kim bumps into Rich Schweikart (Dennis Boutsikaris), who is still processing the death of his friend (colleague?).
“I expect to see him charging down those stairs with a big grin on his face,” Jimmy says with a hint of compassion.
“You know,” Rich begins, “this is probably the last time we’re going to be in this building.” Jimmy and Kim look confused. Rich explains Hamlin, Hamlin & McGill is downsizing, changing its name, and moving to a different location.
“Changing their name to what,” Kim asks.
“Brookner Partners,” Rich replies uncertainly. “End of an era.”
Their attention then turns to Howard’s wife, Cheryl. The couple was having problems, but I’m sure she’s just as shocked as anyone at his sudden downfall.
Kim and Jimmy pay their respects to the new widow and say the customary “If there’s anything we can do” line.
Surprisingly, Cheryl snaps. “Actually, there is.” She notes that Jimmy and Kim were the last people to see Howard alive; and he had mentioned how they were harassing him, or playing some “elaborate prank.”
“I think he honestly believed it,” Jimmy retorts.
“So, you’re denying it,” Cheryl says.
Jimmy then goes into a monologue where he explains that he was jealous of Howard because he had the respect of his brother, Chuck. Even Kim looks surprised at Jimmy’s speech.
Cheryl isn’t buying it. “Tell me what you told the police,” she orders.
Jimmy goes into another series of lies, recalling how Howard was banging on his door and yelling about the Sand Piper case.
“I’m not oblivious,” Cheryl says. “I know people are saying he was on drugs. Is that what you’re trying to tell me?”
“He just didn’t seem like himself,” Jimmy says.
Cheryl turns to Cliff (Ed Begley Jr.), who has quietly watched the scene play out. “Are you hearing all of this,” she asks. “Because none of this makes sense to me.”
The camera cuts to Kim and we can see the wheels turning in her head. When Cheryl implores her to share what she knows, Kim delivers a perfect lie, explaining how she caught Howard snorting cocaine in his office a year ago. “I never told anyone,” Kim says. “And now I wished I had.” (Jimmy looks astonished at Kim’s ability to lie better than he ever could. It’s a thing of beauty.) Now, for the kicker. Cheryl turns to Cliff and asks if he ever saw Howard engage in drug-like activities.
“Now is not the time or place,” Cliff says quietly. Of course, what he saw was part of Jimmy and Kim’s ruse to dethrone Howard … but, at this point, the former HHM employee’s “curious” actions throughout the previous month are in line with Kim’s testimony. This does it. Cheryl breaks down.
Kim presses harder and even makes Cheryl feel like it was her fault for not seeing the truth. Jimmy remains nonchalant, but you can see the surprise on his face.
Later, Jimmy and Kim walk through the parking garage. “I know that was tough,” he says. “But now it’s over. Let the healing begin.”
Kim turns to face her husband. They lock eyes. Then, she kisses him, hops in her car and drives away.
What a scene. There was so much happening … I’m not sure what anyone is really thinking. Clearly, both Jimmy and Kim are bothered by Howard’s death, but Jimmy seems eager to move on … his emotions feel manufactured. Kim genuinely appears hurt by her own actions, but still manages to perform her role convincingly enough to sell the lie. Maybe she’s ashamed at her unique abilities … maybe she does feel remorse … or maybe she doesn’t feel anything and that’s making her feel guilty. There’s a lot to process following Howard’s death, but even Kim knows its better to double down on the lie than get caught.
After the break, we see Kim sitting in court nervously tapping her pen. She asks to be removed from the current case — news that shocks the judge. He asks the reason behind her motion, but she refuses to explain. The judge denies her request. Then she hits him with a bomb: “I’m no longer an attorney,” she says. “I gave notice to the bar two hours ago.”
Welp. Kim does carry a certain amount of dignity, or is this something else?
We cut to her smoking on the balcony. She watches Jimmy pull up. He storms in. “You did what?!” He pleads with her. “You can’t throw everything away. This is your life! You’re a lawyer!”
“It’s already done,” she says calmly.
He wants to think about this. “We’ll find a new place and never come back here again,” he says, sounding like Walt. “We can put this behind us … we’re in this together.”
Then, another bomb. He goes into their room and finds all of her bags packed. “You asked if you were bad for me,” she says. “We are bad for each other … I’ve had the time of my life with you, but other people suffer because of us … together, we’re poison.”
“Tell me what I need to do to change,” Jimmy pleads. “You make me happy, we make each other happy … how can that be bad? I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she says. “But, so what?”
He continues to argue his case. “It’s that fucking Lalo Salamanca,” he screams. “That bastard came back from the dead and he walked through that door! He did this. Not us. Him.”
“I knew,” Kim cuts in. “I knew he was alive.” She then recalls how Mike told her about Lalo. Jimmy is shocked by this reveal. “I thought it was a one in a million chance he would come for us,” she says. “The real reason I didn’t tell you was because I knew what you would do … you would blame yourself … pull the plug on the scam and then we’d break up. And I didn’t want that, because I was having too much fun.” Emphasis on fun.
We get a great over the shoulder shot of Jimmy and hear Kim packing her bags.
We then cut to Jimmy lying in a rotating bed, adorned in tiger sheets. Journey’s “Any Way You Want It” kicks on over the radio. The bed continues to rotate and we see someone who is very much not Kim Wexler sleeping on the other side. A very naked Jimmy rises.
Time has jumped several months or even years and we now find Jimmy in that nasty mansion working on his comb-over. He deals with clients via his Bluetooth speaker. “Another public masturbator,” he says. “Everyone must be doing it.” (Is he referring to Badger, who was arrested in Season 2 of Breaking Bad? Saul got his files mixed up and assumed he was caught performing the lewd act, but was mistaken.) He throws on a mustard-colored shirt. Jimmy has officially become Saul Goodman. (That’s quite the transformation, on par with the four-year time jump in Cast Away.)
Apparently, losing Kim (along with her betrayal) knocked Jimmy out of orbit. Everything is as it was in Breaking Bad. Even Francesca has lost her humanity — hanging out with the dregs of society will do that to a person.
Saul heads into his office, sits in front of the familiar Constitution wallpaper, and calls Francesca. “What,” she says over the speaker.
“All right. Let justice be done though the heavens fall,” he says with a quick snap of his knuckles.
Suddenly, reality hits. Kim is gone. She broke bad, but couldn’t handle the ramifications. She is not Saul’s silent partner. Nor is she involved in his business during Breaking Bad. All our theories are shot to hell and somehow this is more satisfying. Rather than a dramatic sendoff via a bullet, Vince Gilligan and Co. simply have Kim exit stage right as another casualty of Saul’s despicable behavior.
The question is: was this who Jimmy always wanted to be? Was Jimmy really Saul all along, albeit held back by his love for Kim? Or was Jimmy shattered by the unfortunate circumstances of his life?
In the film A History of Violence, the same questions are posited: was Viggo Mortensen’s character a good man for escaping his violent life, or a bad man pretending to be good? It’s an interesting question, one that may not have an answer. (In a similar vein, The Godfather presents Michael Corleone as a loner who wants nothing to do with his family, but who eventually gets sucked into the criminal lifestyle only to discover he’s really good at it. I always felt bad for Michael and often wonder what choice he had. Was he always destined to turn to evil? Ditto for Jimmy, who genuinely tried to go straight, but never quite fit in within the constructs of society. Was he always destined to break bad? I know I’m rambling, but Jimmy suffered the same fate as Walt — a man who also tried to live a normal life only to discover he was much better and happier as a criminal. Interesting stuff.)
Our final shot of this episode shows Saul living his best life. He’s happy, carefree. Free to do what he’s always wanted to do, no longer burdened by responsibilities or personal relationships. Saul is no longer an act, but the actual man we see wearing those cheesy suits and sporting that silly comb-over. In many ways, Jimmy was the mask. Saul is the true persona that needed to break free of his prison. This is all fascinating.
Better Call Saul Season 6 Episode 9 Final Thoughts
So, now we’re caught up with Breaking Bad. I assume Kim reappears at some point, right? If not, Rhea Seehorn can take a bow for a job well done. I mean, wow — what a performance. She captured the intricacies and nuances of her character to perfection. It’s interesting that as characters like Walt and Jimmy seem to relish the opportunity to do bad things, Kim went the other way — sure, she enjoyed the thrill of the criminal lifestyle but she also hated herself for loving it. She may have ultimately lost a piece of her soul during her sojourn with Jimmy, but she still maintained her conscience. Essentially, she was an addict who walked away from the thing she loved most; and that warrants respect, even if Kim fell pretty far down the rabbit hole.
Will the series now shift entirely to Saul? Does Kim reappear and turn back to her old ways? Does he try to find her later on and end up getting her killed? Is she used to lure him out of hiding? Or, does she leave and fall back into her criminal ways and build her own empire — that would be quite the twist!
This episode was amazing. Great character material and wonderful acting. Man, I can’t wait until next week! My only regret is that we’re only five hours away from a world without Better Call Saul.