Better Call Saul “The Guy For This” (S5E03)

“It’s not about what you want.  When you’re in, you’re in.” – Nacho

If last episode was about Saul setting events in motion for himself, “The Guy for This” is about him realizing his point of no return. Too many high factors are at play that are beyond his control and will prove more urgent than taking any last chance reservations over his life choices. The prospect of navel-gazing has long passed, being something that might have saved him last season if circumstances with Chuck’s death and their final conversation didn’t drive Jimmy’s decision to avoid therapy. The fun of Jimmy’s reinstatement as the fresh and colorful Saul Goodman stops the moment Nacho scoops him off the street.  The beautifully shot, Blue Velvet-esque cold open plays on these themes of underlying menace with the ants engulfing his discarded ice cream. If there was any shred of innocence remaining in Jimmy, it’s now too late to recover as he’s attracted alien-like adversaries to his happy corner of the world. Jimmy McGill has officially become contaminated and Saul Goodman will soon have no choice but to join the complex inner workings of Better Call Saul’s deep criminal underworld.  A member of the colony, if you will.

This infestation of Jimmy’s soul has been a long time coming.  If it wasn’t for his mix-up with Tuco in the desert, pleading every argument accordingly to prevent Tuco from skinning the skater twins alive, Lalo wouldn’t hold Saul Goodman in such high regard as a “criminial lawyer”.  Jimmy tries to turn away Lalo’s proposition by offering him a drop phone, but is advised that this is business that’s better conducted with a lawyer in person.  Jimmy then tries to increase his rate to a made-up figure of $7,925, suspending disbelief that Lalo and Nacho are no more high profile than his usual clients.  He hopes this expense will repel them but Lalo rounds the offer up to $8,000 with ease and for all we know, was willing to pay Saul more.  If there’s anything Jimmy McGill and Saul Goodman have shared in common since the start, it’s that money is everything.  This is what seals the fate of both counterparts and turns Saul into a greasy cog within the drug game’s machine.  As Saul Goodman in Breaking Bad will later state, “I guess people see those zeroes dance before their eyes… it’s kind of like highway hypnosis.” Jimmy never foretells how he ends up down the path his choices lead, as long as money fills his pockets in the present moment.

Before even getting into what Saul is hired to do here, it’s important to note that Lalo chalking up Jimmy’s talents as the guy with the mouth going “blah blah blah” is a telling sign of disrespect.  He thinks of Saul as a bullshit artist and for the time being, he’s entertained by this superpower, but there’s only so far Saul can spin BS as an attorney and dazzle as a criminal associate before it amounts to some dire consequence.  Jimmy might not consider the repercussions of the shortcuts he takes or the crimes he commits, but he’s pretty aware that this business arrangement is bad news.  Lalo is expecting perfection from Saul like two skater twins walking out of the desert scot-free despite Tuco wanting them dead, but in reality, they got wheeled out of that situation each with a broken leg.  There’s a reality to Saul Goodman’ where there’s always a sorry fallout to his actions and Lalo is unable or refuses to see that.

It gets worse for Saul when he learns he’s assigned to represent Domingo Molina (Krazy 8) and use his client’s ongoing detainment as a way to feed the D.E.A. incriminating information on a third party.  For Saul, this party remains a mystery, but for us, we know the intel of dead drops is in direct conflict with Gus Fring’s operation.  Hector’s ominous idea from last episode to hit Gus where the money flows is now put into play and Saul is caught up as the middleman.  If the intel fails in leading to arrests, then Krazy 8 is going to be locked up and Lalo won’t be a happy customer. If the plan goes off without a hitch, then Saul gets more on Gus’ radar, regardless if we know the two, to Saul’s knowledge, have never met.  There’s really no winning outcome here and as of right now, Nacho informing Gus on Lalo’s plan makes all this double-dealing more transparent and hopefully more manageable.

That’s not to say this isn’t an extremely messy situation.  I would imagine Gus gets the better handle of it and Lalo will become Saul’s true foe, but as of right now the money remains in the places reported to the D.E.A. so as not to raise Lalo’s suspicions of any betrayal.  As a line of communication, Nacho is more valuable to Gus than how much of a hit his operation takes.  That could be seen as a blessing but also a burden since Nacho might continue to be even more of a punching bag depending on how much damage Lalo causes.  Essentially, Krazy 8 is the hotline between the D.E.A. and Lalo while Nacho is the hotline between Lalo and Gus.  Everyone’s connected to a line nobody wants to be a part of.  Even the unwilling Saul Goodman.

Considering it’s Lalo who Saul is most afraid of in Breaking Bad and Fring is more or less a ghost to him, you have to wonder what Lalo is willing to do to ensure he keeps Saul Goodman in line.  Saul tries to excuse himself again from providing any further services by stressing the tightness of his schedule but Lalo doesn’t take no for an answer.  We have seen how far Lalo will go just to get what he wants by tailing Mike, surveilling Gus, and even killing an innocent civilian (TravelWire clerk) outside the game.  He’s intrusive and competent in getting results at any cost.  At what point does Saul throw his hands in the air when what’s asked of him gets too hot? What if Lalo responds by tracking Saul’s residence followed by threatening harm upon Kim? A man like Gus would be wise to avoid tangling with any officer of the court, because he has to maintain the cover life he’s invested so much time building for himself.  Lalo on the other hand, as a Salamanca, is a loose cannon and always has the option to run back home until the heat dies down.

Nacho’s original plan to flee to Canada with his father seems to becoming less and less of an option as Manuel notifies him about his upholstery shop getting a generous buyout offer.  He suspects Nacho put the buyer up to this so Manuel can be in a better position to lam it.  This becomes apparently true as Nacho can barely keep himself from lying to his father’s face when confronted on it.  What stings most is how hurt Manuel seems that the very business he planned to pass on to his son is nothing more than an expendable hurdle Nacho needs to do away with so he can go forth with running from the problems he’s brought upon himself.

As much as Nacho predicament pains me, I have to agree with Manuel’s frustration because it’s the same frustration that can be applied to most of the show’s characters.  The cost of empathy or consideration for others being the means for these characters to get what they want and the lack of responsibility for one’s actions.  You live the life you’ve made for yourself but you can’t expect others to stray from the lives they’ve intended to lead.  Manuel won’t run and he makes this clear.  At this point, Nacho can either flee on his own or accept his fate in the game he told Saul there’s no escape from.  Whether he goes to the police or takes his chance continuing to be a helpless puppet, this is the life he chose and eventually you reap what you sow.

Mike descends further in light of Werner’s murder similar to how Jesse spiraled after Gale’s.  Both numb themselves with their vices (in Mike’s case, binge-drinking) and explore unorthodox ways to deal with their grief like Mike seemingly inviting an altercation with a group of thugs. This adds an extra layer to Mike taking Jesse under his wing in Breaking Bad, even if begrudgingly.  This is without a doubt the most off-kilt Mike has been mentally and emotionally throughout both shows and I honestly couldn’t tell you a solution for it other than time taking its course.  In Breaking Bad, Gus fueled Jesse’s self-worth by employing him as Mike’s partner for collecting dead drops and granted him self-confidence by orchestrating a mock ambush he could overcome. This helped Jesse deal better with his grief and post-traumatic stress, but swaying Mike out of his whirlwind of self-loathing might take a higher degree of finesse to the point where it’s barely a manipulation.  If Gus didn’t have so much on his plate right now, I’d say a sincere sit-down is in order, but who knows if he even owes him that.

It’s hard to envision how Gus and Mike get back on even ground but in the meantime Mike is belligerently demanding a bartender take down a postcard of the Sydney Opera House, being the architectural feat which Werner mentioned his father helped achieve.  The image of this famous structure obviously provokes Mike directly because of this but even deeper, it’s a symbol for the pedestal his own son put him on. Someone to be marveled at in his greatness.  Mike does not feel he deserves such praise as he was forced to confess to Matty long ago that he was down in the gutter with the rest of the crooked Philadelphia precinct which would later spawn the two cops who murdered him.

Kim gets in a stand-off with crabby homeowner Mr. Acker regarding the house he’s built and resided in since 1974 being on land that he doesn’t actually own.  The stipulation of his 100 year lease says the property owner can buy him out any time at fair market value plus $5,000.  Due to good will and inflation she ups the offer to $18,000.  He scoffs at the idea, sizing her up as a rich snob in a suit who probably donates to charity or serves at a soup kitchen to make herself feel better for tearing families from their homes. This hits a nerve with Kim and she unloads, declaring that the price is now $10,000 if he comes to his senses and a sheriff will get involved if he doesn’t obey.

Kim basically becomes the very thing thing she fights against when pursuing her pro bono work for low income clients.  She’s forced to defend the law through its technicalities in favor of a big bank’s expansion, all at the cost of one man’s suffering which is a nuanced human issue she holds more value towards.  By ripping into Mr. Acker on his decision to fight against what higher powers demand of him, she’s playing devil’s advocate to her own struggle to stay on the straight and narrow while Jimmy continues to do the opposite and slip further and further from her life as the strange Saul Goodman.

The pro bono case that’s now set to go to trial is something she feels reassurance of through the fact that jurors will be summoned, being real down-to-earth people who might treat her client’s case with the appropriate level of human perspective she feels it deserves.  This is the work that the Mesa Verde’s expansion fails to offer and what’s worse is when Kim takes it upon herself to talk to Mr. Acker more openly,  one lowly, humble person to another.  She’s gracious in taking time out of her schedule and paying out of her own pocket to help him find new property he can own. She eventually discloses a personal story out of sympathy for him about how her family never owned a house.  Kim, who never divulges into her past, shares how she sometimes would get shaken awake in the middle of the night and dragged outside in her pajamas and bare feet so that her family could skip rent and hop over to the next apartment. Sometimes it was so cold out in the streets, her toes turned blue.  This is not information Kim feels comfortable admitting, no less to a stranger, but it’s her best approach.

Mr. Acker unfortunately still shuts the door in her face, signifying that others or (better yet) the world will remain unsympathetic no matter what hardship she’s struggled with.  This could become a dangerous epiphany for Kim if she decides to embrace Saul Goodman and his mission to take initiative against a world that always kept him down.  Plus, that available house for purchase that Saul dangled before her in the previous episode? It’s something we now know to be more specifically alluring, after learning the rough upbringing she was forced to grow up with.  Kim and Saul end the episode not being able to confide in one another but both being on the same unspoken page as they begin recklessly throwing beer bottles from their balcony.  This could be interpreted as their shared disdain for the world, almost like Kim adjusting her world view to meet Saul’s.  It could be a cry for help or a way to mask the disintegration of their relationship, but could also be the adaptation of them growing closer.  The transformation of these two characters and the road they’re heading down is happening right before our eyes and like ant-covered ice cream, we can only sit back and watch.

Other things to note:

  • Did I not mention the D.E.A. agents who Krazy 8 will become a confidential informant for are Hank Schrader and Steve Gomez? Very exciting to see these two!  How much of a role they play in this season is to be determined, but I have a feeling they aren’t going anywhere just yet.  The layers of deception to Krazy 8’s arrangement as a C.I. and the stipulations Saul sets to prevent him from having a target on his back helps cleverly set the stage for why Krazy 8 continues to be a player in the drug game the way he continues to be in Breaking Bad.  
  • I wrote this review while waiting in a criminal court building after being summoned for jury duty.  The waiting process took all day so it was the perfect opportunity and setting to really give my review some thought.  I was dismissed from consideration to serve on the jury panel by the end of the day.


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