Better Call Saul: Quite a Ride
September 4, 2018 7:05 AM - Season 4, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Jimmy identifies a new market for his talents; Mike vets a potential partnership; Kim drives a hard bargain.

‘Better Call Saul’ Season 4, Episode 5 Recap: Tell ’em Jimmy Sent You (David Segal for New York Times)
Well, look who’s here. At long last, Saul Goodman, in the flesh. Four years and five episodes into the show that is named for him, television’s sketchiest plaintiff’s attorney has finally turned up. Sadly, he lingers only for a matter of minutes, in the midst of a frenzied effort to shred documents, collect cash and skedaddle out of town.

We knew that “Better Call Saul” was sneaking up on the time frame of “Breaking Bad,” but the mischievous writers have decided to jump ahead, giving us this show’s first look at the titular esquire on the very day he is calling the professional disappearance service that will transform him yet again — this time into a Cinnabon manager in Omaha.

It’s both a foretaste and a tease. And there’s something poignant about Saul’s instructions to his dutiful, benighted assistant, Francesca Liddy (Tina Parker), who is told to lawyer up with this hint: “Tell ’em Jimmy sent you.” By the time this spectacle unfolds, Jimmy McGill is long gone, replaced by a hustler in a Technicolor shirt. No wonder Francesca — who also worked for Jimmy in a nobler phase of his career, when he was helping senior citizens win a class action settlement — won’t hug him.

‘Better Call Saul’ Review: ‘Quite a Ride’ Is a Captivating Tease of a Very Scary Future
-- Season 4, Episode 5, propels more than one character forward toward the precipice. (Liz Shannon Miller for Indie Wire)

Song list for this episode via Tunefind
posted by filthy light thief (41 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Seeing Saul was shocking and upsetting. I like Jimmy. I don't want him to go down this road. But I know that he will. This episode was horrifying.

Interesting that Kim is now doing what Jimmy started out the series doing. Of course, it's reversed: Jimmy was doing public defense work out of desperation. Kim is doing it out of affirmative choice. This episode made me think that she might get out of this show okay.
posted by Automocar at 7:29 AM on September 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

I really like the choice to pair the images of Saul pulling rolls of bills from his hidden wall safe and Jimmy getting rolled and resolving to never let it happen again. This episode appears to be slow -- very little really actively happens -- but accelerates so much of the story.

Kim letting Mesa Verde take the back seat while she helps young defendants (did a steadfast PD keep her out of jail? is that her secret?); Gus recognizing bluster when he sees it, opting for thoroughness; Jimmy seeing that Howard's therapy isn't an immediate cure-all and rejecting it outright; Jimmy realizing that mixing with criminals without being a criminal is a sure way to get burned.

This episode, maybe more than any previous one, lays a clear path for Jimmy to become Saul, and might be laying in the groundwork for Jimmy to split from Kim. They both want to help criminals, but they have very different ideas of what that looks like: Jimmy wants to help them commit better crimes, Kim wants them to have a chance to stop and turn their lives around.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:56 AM on September 4, 2018 [10 favorites]

I think Kim is going to be ok. I think she's just going to drift apart from Jimmy as she becomes more "good" and be becomes more "bad." I just hope the writers don't make Kim breaking Jimmy's heart the final push for him to become Saul. I don't think they'll go that root, they're smarter than that, but you never know.

I predict there will be a jump of a year or two between seasons, if not mid-season. We've got a lot of catching up to do before Breaking Bad and we probably don't actually need to see every step of the super lab being built.

I enjoyed the flash forward to Saul bailing out. Whatever this show is, it's primarily a prequel to Breaking Bad, I'd like to see more things from the BB timeline from Saul's point of view.

I half expected to see Badger or Skinny Pete during that DogHouse montage. Speaking of Dog Houses, that final shot of the DogHouse sign reflected in the puddle seems like it was foreshadowing where Jimmy is going to end up once Kim catches wind of what he's doing.
posted by bondcliff at 7:58 AM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

I think Kim will make something work for her, but I'm not sure if she'll be OK, in part because I recall that I think it was Kelley Dixon (former editor) who said that BCS is leading to everyone coming to their own "breaking bad" point. Of course, that's a broad summary that is true, but it doesn't mean everyone breaks (though damn, Hamlin is a haunted man).

I also LOVE that she's doing what Jimmy was doing, but more than being an affirmation for her, she's using her skills and intelligence to control the situations (at least the situation we saw). Compare to Jimmy, who always came in with a place of powerlessness, asking for something less but always hitting a wall, and at one or two points, he's begging for something less than what DDA Oakley offers. His smooth words mean nothing, because he has nothing with which to bargain. Kim? She smoothly, calmly lays out her position, then gets a better deal because Oakley was annoying her and she's holding all the cards.

Personally, I think she's doing it to be in control of something, and possibly to help people, too. In the two examples we see, they're not career criminals, but a kid who thinks he's tough (but then realizes that Adult Jail will be serious shit) and a young lady who got caught with a small quantity of drugs (and may have a kid -- there was a pink plastic kid ... thing in the front yard), and really does not want to go to jail. I was worried she ran out the rear of the building, and I was happy to see she did not.

Compare those cases to Mesa Verde, which is looking to be Kim's job forever, and one where she has to drop everything any time they ring. She could make her own little firm to support the national Mesa Verde bank and do very well for herself and her employees, or she could celebrate little wins every few days or weeks, and feel good about her life. I don't know if she can make a living off of being a PD, and I don't know if she can manage both at once, given the very on-call nature of Mesa Verde.

I was going to brag about my sleuthing skills, but I've come to the conclusion that mile marker 238 may be in another state. When I looked at all the MM 238s in New Mexico, I found this beautiful, low-resolution winter scene , northwest of Taos, NM, on US-64, and this scenic area (in that high desert sort of way) on US-70, north of Alamogordo and near Bent, but none of the locations look like the windy, forested road where the two "consultants" park to get picked up to visit Gus Fring's (future) laundry location (I can't recall where it's supposed to be in the BBverse).

For that matter, while we only get a brief glimpse of the airport pick-up, and it's from an odd angle to make it hard to pinpoint, I can't recall if that looks like it's in New Mexico in any way, or perhaps he's supposed to be flying into El Paso, or maybe somewhere in Arizona, depending on where Fring's laundry facility is located. That, or they shot the scene on one of the windy, mountain roads in New Mexico and plunked down their own mile marker as a stage setting.

I enjoyed the parallels between Gus and Mike. Mike was clearly watching the "job applicants" as they approached their rental car but is far enough away to not be seen and calls in, just as Fring is on the facility floor, watching the applicants at work, and calls Mike to end the discussion with the first overly confident man (with his fancy technology and boastful ways). But for the second man, Gus walks over and asks if it is impossible, implying clearly that he was there, listening the whole time. Gus has found a similar mind in Mike.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:09 AM on September 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

For that matter, while we only get a brief glimpse of the airport pick-up, and it's from an odd angle to make it hard to pinpoint, I can't recall if that looks like it's in New Mexico in any way, or perhaps he's supposed to be flying into El Paso, or maybe somewhere in Arizona, depending on where Fring's laundry facility is located.

The airport shuttle that the first person gets off of says "Denver". Gus takes no chances.
posted by Automocar at 8:12 AM on September 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

Gus recognizing bluster when he sees it, opting for thoroughness...

I think it was more than that. The first guy bragged about another job he did in detail, showing he can't be trusted to stay quiet about the project. Automatic disqualification.

I really loved to see the initial planning for the BB underground lab. I really hope we see some of the construction (with Mike overseeing, of course)

Jimmy diving into the underground to sell phones like that, I almost expected to get a brief glance of Jesse Pinkman somewhere.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:16 AM on September 4, 2018 [10 favorites]

Jesse Pinkman would still be in middle school tho, maybe?
posted by agregoli at 1:25 PM on September 4, 2018

Jesse would be about 19-20 during BCS.
posted by lovecrafty at 2:49 PM on September 4, 2018

Curious how we we know Jesse's age in BB?
posted by agregoli at 3:11 PM on September 4, 2018

i watched this immediately after it aired and the thumbnail on AMC's website was Jimmy as Saul talking to Francesca from the first scene. come on guys! i know it's the first scene but totally robbed me of the gut punch i would have felt.

even with that this was my favorite episode so far this season.
posted by JimBennett at 4:17 PM on September 4, 2018

For that matter, while we only get a brief glimpse of the airport pick-up, and it's from an odd angle to make it hard to pinpoint, I can't recall if that looks like it's in New Mexico in any way, or perhaps he's supposed to be flying into El Paso, or maybe somewhere in Arizona, depending on where Fring's laundry facility is located.

There's a brief but intentional glimpse of a Colorado license plate in that scene. Between that and the aggressively blue color grading, I don't think the landed in New Mexico.
posted by Uncle Ira at 4:20 PM on September 4, 2018

One of the kids that rolled Jimmy was the kid that Kim had defended earlier in the day, no?
posted by queensissy at 4:27 PM on September 4, 2018

Queensissy, I looked and while they're both Hispanic-looking guys in their late teens/early 20s, not the same guy. Kim's client is played by actor Johnathan Nieves, while Scooter (one of the crime trio that rolls Jimmy) is played by Carlin James.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:57 PM on September 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

Well, phew. Thanks, unicorn on the cob. That kid was lurking in the shadows in the Dog House scene, and I was all "THAT LITTLE CREEP I CAN'T BELIEVE IT AFTER ALL KIM DID FOR HIM" thinking that it was the same kid.
posted by queensissy at 5:05 PM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

You never let people see
Just who you wanna be
And every night you shine
Just like a superstar
The type of life that's played
A temptin' masquerade
You dress you walk you talk
You're who you think you are - Randy Crawford, "Street Life"

After the previous two episodes made a hard turn into Breaking Bad's more kinetic action-thriller style, there are only two "action" scenes in this episode, both centered on our title character, and both reflective of his having to accept, begrudgingly, that a major phase of his life has passed and will not come back. What links these violent breaks is not just violence -- the tearing down of walls, a beating -- but also a loss of what turns out to be a false sense of belonging, of camaraderie. Turns out Francesca never thought warmly of Jimmy/Saul; turns out, too, that for all Jimmy's beliefs that he's part of the criminal fraternity at heart, not all of them see it that way.

The episode tempts up to see this, and other characters' experiences in the legal plot, as elements of mid-life crisis. Even the lyrics to the Randy Crawford song played over the Dog House montage remind us that "you better not get old." But our two action scenes also reflect another reality, that of the mutability of false images, the inescapability of certain realities. That puddle that perfectly reflects the sign, ripples in Jimmy;'s wake, and then smooth s back out is all about the way images, unlike people, can snap back from traumas, troubles, and turmoil, regaining a smooth and unbroken surface. Certainly Gus knows this: his construction plans require an unbroken surface image over much violence, echoing Saul Goodman's deconstruction of his office.

Ah, but as Gus's hire reminds us, without real work to maintain what's underneath, even images can crumble: not just Howard's guilt-wracked, fallen face reflecting his personal and professional decline, not just Jimmy's beaten, middle-aged face, and not just Kim's more metaphorical loss of face, but also the whole general business of facades, barriers and boundaries that can't be kept up, whether it's Jimmy stripping away the painted sign on the phone store or even Kim's client Daniel, charged with breaking through a window to rob a jewelry store. The personal is the professional, and they can't be compartmentalized, nor can personal relationships and satisfactions be indulged neatly and safely beneath a professional facade. Even Mike seems to be feeling the wearying loss of these boundaries in his tedious escort job for Gus.

As always, the imagery and metaphors of the crime-plot invert those of the legal-plot: there, we see underneath the surfaces, but we never see the surfaces: Mike in a van, Mike underground, the crime-world little more than a POV glimpse from within a hood. There, the crumbling scaffolding, the soon-to-be hollowed out interiors of buildings and people are our focus. And Mike never pretends to feel anything other than annoyance and cynicism about his work for Gus, given how shabbily Gus treated him to avoid just asking him to do it.

And as ever, Jimmy's theme is that he puts a twist into everyone else's motif, doing the opposite of what we expect at each turn. He manages to be emotionally honest with Kim, but, per their longstanding, mostly tacit agreement, is not otherwise forthcoming to anyone else. He won't, after all, see that shrink, and his sheepish and half-hearted efforts to suggest that Howard try this as a a superficial remedy is less guilt than an effort to offload some more vestigial regret for dumping Chuck's death entirely on Hamlin. And yet, he doesn't bother to conceal his affect from the the officer running his PPD check-up, to the point that the officer has to create a boundary and try to restore a professional, impersonal tone to the meeting.

And this ties into the other theme: that outward examination is no substitute, really, for honest self-appraisal. We see this in And where the rest of the episode has artifices and faces that are stripped away by interpersonal events or simply ignored by a probing camera, Jimmy's disingenuous encounter with Howard is preceded by a shot of his being carefully scanned by the wand at the courthouse; compare to the French engineer and his high-tech gadgets, which win less acclaim than the by-hand draftsmanship and by-eye calculation of the man Gus eventually does choose to hire. (And how fitting that our French fellow is is filmed in blue -- Hamlindigo? -- in his two key scenes, stripped down by yellowed light.) Only Jimmy, again, breaks the motif: our full-color glimpse of Saul Goodman losing the last of his constructed self is followed by the most visually degraded title sequence yet, the tape breaking down into the black-and-0white of Gene's dreary existence as Saul Goodman's afterlife.

The last we see of the BCS-era Jimmy in this episode is int he wan blue filtering of the French engineer's first scene, the shadow of...what? His feelings about indigo-gone-blue Hamlin? His decision to become a vicious parody of the perpetually blue-lit Chuck McGill, the man called Saul Goodman? Whatever the case, the colorful yellow of that note with the psychiatrist's number, the light that bares flaws and reveals interiority, the sunlight on Kim when she picks up her client and the harsh glare of the Dog House neon....Jimmy's perfectly happy to flush that away into a swirl of water, to watch it swirl away into an indistinct, concealing blue.

Street life
It's the only life I know
Street life
There's a thousand cards to play
Street life
Until you play your life away
posted by kewb at 5:27 PM on September 4, 2018 [13 favorites]

Yeah I thought it might've been the same kid too :\ would have pissed me RIGHT off taking advantage of Kim's excellent advice and free legal services!
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 5:35 PM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

I was going to brag about my sleuthing skills, but I've come to the conclusion that mile marker 238 may be in another state.

It’s probably in my state then. (Hi, neighbor!) I’m not so well traveled that I recognize the location, however.

I noticed that the Colorado license plates are period correct but the shot of the Honda Fit in the parking lot is not.
posted by Monochrome at 6:08 PM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

P.S. I thought it was cool that Gus never showed for the French engineer but met the German in person, recalling (fore-calling?) Gus’ first meeting with Walter White.
posted by Monochrome at 6:10 PM on September 4, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jimmy was right, and his victory walk after selling his last phones to the motorcycle gang was an overreach that, back in the day, he would have known not to take. If he's dealing with small-time criminals living in a penny ante world, he needs to be small-time, too. The thing about Jimmy is that he's got so much potential, it's legitimately hard for him to stay small-time enough for the teeny tiny boxes he likes to put himself in. Even as Saul, he ended up getting too big. I still don't really know what Jimmy's tragic flaw is, but I feel like it's (perversely) a lack of proper ambition. He can't find an ambition big enough or even conceive of a world big enough for him (a big personality with big potential himself) to fit properly into it.

Although I guess as Gene, he finally manages to crunch himself up small enough to fit into a tiny box. When Jimmy went into that reverie about how, once he's got his license back, he's going to be an even better and more successful lawyer, I felt so bad for him. Not because of where he is at that point, in the PO's office, but for where he ends up as Gene. It must have been so crushing for him to leave being a lawyer behind. Being a lawyer was just so meaningful to him. I know we sort of saw the scene where Saul had to do that. But Saul seemed not to really take it in yet. You know that it really hits Gene later, when he's alone and watching his old videotapes.

Meanwhile, Kim's world and her job have become too big for her. She wants to narrow things down to focus in on individual clients and individual cases. I think that's pretty in-character, although I wasn't really expecting it. Her gifts are her focus and her attention to detail, and she's lost/overwhelmed in the hugeness of Mesa Verde. I hope that she comes to her senses soon, though. She is going to vacillate chaotically between things that are too small for her (the one-off public defender cases) and things that are too big (the expanded Mesa Verde), unless she finds a better balance.

She and Jimmy are both Goldilocks in this episode (season?), I guess!

Anyway, I enjoyed that the theme of this episode seemed to be "the underground." Jimmy and Kim are delving into the criminal underground and building lives there, and Mike and Gus are in the literal underground and building a lab there. And we even got to see "underneath" Hamlin's facade for a scene, too.

I also thought it was interesting how Jimmy is struggling emotionally and knows he's struggling, but just absolutely refuses to deal with that directly. He's always onto easy money and the next quick fix, and as soon as he realized the shrink wouldn't be a quick fix after all, he literally flushed that idea down the toilet. I don't really know what Jimmy should do, though, aside from what Kim advised her client: go to work on time and smiling every day, keep your nose clean, and stay out of jail. But that's easier said than done (especially when you're struggling inside), I guess.

My only quibble with this otherwise stupendous episode is that, while I understand why Gus wouldn't hire the Frenchman (who blabs about their client's private business?!), I didn't find the German that compelling, either. Who knows if his numbers were even correct? He could just be some putz. I mean, I guess they know they can trust his competence since they apparently sought him out, but he seemed really sloppy and I didn't really find him that impressive. Eh.

Oh, speaking of competence, though -- something that I love about this show is that they SHOW you how good people are at what they do. We KNOW that Jimmy is a good salesman, because we literally see it and we KNOW that Kim is a good lawyer because we literally see it. It was so fun watching each of them in their element, firing on all cylinders and just blowing everyone else out of the water.
posted by rue72 at 7:38 PM on September 4, 2018 [12 favorites]

I didn't find the German that compelling, either. Who knows if his numbers were even correct? He could just be some putz.

As Gus said in Breaking Bad, "I like to think I see things in people."
posted by bondcliff at 8:03 PM on September 4, 2018 [4 favorites]

I was going to brag about my sleuthing skills, but I've come to the conclusion that mile marker 238 may be in another state.

Mike told the guy to take 70 West from the airport, and the airport appeared to be Denver, so I assumed it was Mile 238 on I-70 West.

I found Mile #238 on I-70 West in Google Street View, and it's not too far outside Denver, so that makes sense, and the trees look right, but:

- The real Mile #238 is right against a mountain face, so it has a different view than we see the frenchman standing next to.

- The mile markers on I-70 don't say "MILE" on the top, they say "70 W" on the top.

The scenery of the area looks right, though, so they might have filmed him somewhere near there and CGI'd a different number onto the milepost.

The other thing I learned is that it's about a 6-hour drive to ABQ from there, so that would be quite the van ride.

Also, I've driven on that exact road a few times, and it usually has tons of traffic. Lots of chances for someone to notice a weirdo standing on the side of the road wearing a hood...
posted by mmoncur at 9:48 PM on September 4, 2018 [6 favorites]

Re: Jesse's age, iirc it was on 'his' dope myspace page. Wikipedia has his birthday as Sept 21, 1984, which puts him at 23 when Breaking Bad starts. Walt tracks him down via student records after he sees him escaping during the DEA raid Hank brings Walt to.
posted by lovecrafty at 11:50 PM on September 4, 2018 [3 favorites]

-- the tearing down of walls...

Not just any wall. That's the Constitution Saul rips into and extracts thousands from.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:44 AM on September 5, 2018 [9 favorites]

Yeah, the bragging killed the Frenchman.

And I think it’s not just dirt, but caliche. That shit is tough.
posted by tilde at 6:08 AM on September 5, 2018

Yeah, the bragging killed the Frenchman.

Also, if he dug a tunnel from Mexico to El Paso and yapped about it, he's not just a smug blabbermouth, but a smug blabbermouth who works for the very cartels that Gus is betraying by secretly becoming the "local supplier."
posted by kewb at 6:39 AM on September 5, 2018 [10 favorites]

Mile 238 isn't on an interstate - the yellow line indicates it's a 2-lane highway, probably a State Highway like US-40. That being said, mile 238 on US-40 doesn't match all the filming details, so more Scoobie Googling is needed to close the case.
posted by cardboard at 7:29 AM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

According to this blog, the actual filming location is just outside Albuquerque, so they've done some dressing up of a local road to look like a US Highway (not State like I said before) in Colorado .
posted by cardboard at 7:52 AM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

So Kim and Nacho are the only real mysteries since every one else's fate is mostly known. Much as I enjoy Mike Miking around and Jimmy digging himself into and out of holes - and I would gladly watch a full hour of 'Gus Fring, Restaurant Manager,' I find myself less and less interested in anything other than what's going to happen to Kim and Nacho. Those two are giving me an ulcer. Also Nacho' s dad.

I guess Kim wasn't scared of the Mesa Verde expansion revealing her big secret or anything along those lines. She just realized she was stuck doing nothing but bank filings for the rest of her career and felt trapped. She's looking for excitement and meaning by helping people through tricky situations, while Jimmy does the same by running schemes. So now that she's seen that she can't handle Mesa Verde and throw in fun do-goodery for the soul on the side, she's going to have to choose one. I don't think Mesa Verde is going to win. The judge was right about her reasons for sitting in court. She doesn't want to file banking paperwork, she wants to save the world. She wants a challenge.

Saul gave Franceska a card when they talked about her lawyering up. My guess is it was a card for Kim Wexler, Honorable Defense Attorney. And maybe her Noble Office Manager/Investigator, Nacho?
posted by Dojie at 3:27 PM on September 5, 2018 [7 favorites]

When Kim got reamed-out by the bank lady, and said in that really matter-of-factly Kim way “It won’t happen again”, I really expected her to follow that up with “I quit.” She sure had that look on her face of someone who just mentally made a major life decision. Then again, that’s also sort-of the character, I suppose.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:27 PM on September 5, 2018 [3 favorites]

A few notes:

- It would be neat for Francesca's lawyer to be Kim, but that would put more of a spotlight on her, and I don't think that Jimmy/Saul would do that (He does say "tell 'em Jimmy sent ya", so at least they're (probably) from that time/world. Probably. What intrigues me is that, right after that, he says, "And where are you gonna be November 12th at 3 PM?" Francesca replies, "I'll be there, but if it doesn't ring at 3:00 on the dot, I'm gone." What would that be all about, and has it already happened by the time of the Gene scenes?

- At one point, right before Jimmy goes out to sell the phones, he tells Kim, "It's all good."

- I don't think that Jimmy will take care of those street punks himself, but he did just make a deal with some pretty tough outlaw bikers...

- I completely get why weird, fussy German engineer got the job and bragging French engineer did not. French engineer could have described his previous work without giving a location.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:11 PM on September 5, 2018 [2 favorites]

Jimmy diving into the underground to sell phones like that, I almost expected to get a brief glance of Jesse Pinkman somewhere.

The bouncing car outside the Dog House was kind of a feint towards that; and a visual reference to the cold open of BB S2E2 Grilled.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:02 AM on September 6, 2018 [1 favorite]

I like the detail where the French (?) dude in the beginning has a fancy Sony Vaio notebook.

I could never afford them when they were 'cool' but I had a succession of second hand flagship Sony CLIÉ PDAs around that time period. Touchscreens then were pressure, not capacitance - led me to grow out my right pinky nail to use as a stylus.
posted by porpoise at 7:59 PM on September 6, 2018 [2 favorites]

I like the detail where the French (?) dude in the beginning has a fancy Sony Vaio notebook.

I had one of those, it was an awesome computer but definitely a poor financial decision!

Also, this reminds me of another thing I realized about the Frenchman vs the German. The French guy had an expensive laptop and a laser distance-measuring thingy. The German used a tape measure, a notepad, and his eyes.

Since Mike is one of the people evaluating, I think Mike recognizes a true professional here, somebody who is relying on many years of experience rather than all of the latest technology. Mike is a true professional too, remember when Bryce was hiring bodyguards and Mike was the one who showed up without a gun? He knew his expertise was far more important than what he was carrying, and the gun could be a liability rather than a help.

Similarly, the guy who uses his fancy laptop to take notes could be compromised that way, even if he wasn't already bragging about his previous jobs to anyone who would listen.
posted by mmoncur at 11:45 PM on September 6, 2018 [6 favorites]

I am terribly curious about what is in that box that Jimmy punched out of the wall. My bet is on old family items, possibly including stuff from his time with Kim.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 5:09 PM on September 7, 2018

I am terribly curious about what is in that box that Jimmy punched out of the wall.

Was imagining a tape of his local tv commercials, but i guess there’s no reason to hide that pre-disappearance.
posted by snofoam at 7:41 PM on September 7, 2018

This was addressed in the earlier thread for Episode 4 ('Talk'), but: given the violence viscerally enacted by Gus himself against one of the Salamanca runners in that episode + his anger at Nacho for the assassination attempt on Hector Salamanca; his repeated determination that Hector die and/or suffer in a manner of his choosing ('I decide')(to the point where he has a specialist flown in from Johns Hopkins to try to keep Hector alive!), & now since Ep 5's closing scene involves Gus taking issue with Mike's not informing him of Nacho's plan to off Hector... I can't see how the writers can proceed without addressing the very personal reasons why Gus has it out for the Salamancas in particular. Without background, it could read to a non-BrBa viewer as some kind of weird, inexplicably vicious obsession of Gus's, or just cartel rivalry escalated by Hector, Tuco & co generally being dicks.

(You can stop reading here if you're dead on avoiding light BrBa spoilers, but it & various BrBa points have been discussed at length in other BCS threads on FanFare, so... (please let me know if I'm ever unintentionally being inappropriate! I think I only ever posted on FanFare for Mr Robot or something, so, yeah, hi))

In BrBa Season 4 episode 8 (Hermanos) & 10 (Salud), we see flashbacks to a very young Gus Fring, straight outta Chile, & his partner Max Arciniega.* It's very heavily hinted through dialogue & acting that Max is not only Gus's business partner, but his boyfriend/lover. (Also within out of show interviews as well, if you choose to factor that in.) Hector Salamanca uses multiple instances of homophobic language & innuendo when referring to Gus (I believe this has carried over at least once to BCS) and Max, and something happens to Max in a way that's personally absolutely horrific to Gus. (Don Eladio participated & gave the order, but Hector was the one who was ultimately doing most of the taunting & the actual act. I believe at least a couple other BCS-established characters were hanging around in those scenes as well.) So this whole feud that Gus has going with the Salamancas, the cartel -- it's more than just a territory dispute. It's intensely personal.
I feel like there's got to be some kind of reference to this backstory in BCS, or the whole cartel subplot may strike some BCS viewers as a matter of pure business, or an excuse for giving Mike capers to do, and perhaps especially jarring considering Gus's good guy chicken franchise day job. Whether this is accomplished through dialogue, showing-not-telling, a flashback... I don't care. For a flashback, they'd probably have to go back into origin days & briefly recast Gus/Max as young adults: de-aging Giancarlo Esposito was a tall order in 2011, not to mention Mark Margolis, Steven Bauer etc; even the flashback to Don Eladio's house in BCS S3 was stretching it, and the chronology there goes Hermanos (BB) - Sabrosito (BCS) - BCS now - Salud & other BB appearances.

(*Okay, so: the actor who plays Domingo/Krazy-8 in the BCS/BB universe is called Max Arciniega IRL. Apparently they liked the actor & the name so much that they named Gus's partner Max after him, who is played by James Martinez. Gale's schooling etc is funded by the Max Arciniega scholarship, in honor of a promising young chemist Gus Fring once knew. Sorry, I know most of you guys probably realize this already, but the name game confused the hell out of me even as an avid BB fan when the show was on.)

I really liked skewed's comment in the earlier thread (re: the contrast between 'hiding in plain sight' Gus Fring, concerned manager v how he deals with the cartel in the BCSworld; esp that this is a younger, rougher-around-the-edges Gus than the polished philanthropist & diplomat (& yes, ruthless badass) we come across in BrBa) 'Maybe Pollos Hermanos-Gus is the Gus he would have been if Don Eladio hadn't killed his best friend/business partner/lover?' You know, I think so. His relationship with Max, from what we saw, was one where each obviously very much cared about the other, no matter how you choose to read it (best friend, lover, or both, either way). Yeah, okay, slight issue in that the two also started offering up meth in addition to the chicken restaurant they'd already established together, but both Max and Gus seemed very keen on ensuring -- even in those early days -- that their product was pure & unadulterated. They might've even chosen to call it quits after a while & settle in and make chicken, who the hell knows? But super-young Gus saw a business opportunity, & hadn't learnt to rein in his ambition yet, nor how to play the game. He wasn't as meticulous and cautious as the Gus we see progressing through BCS and BrBa. He's now also an extraordinarily patient man.

(I found his story arc with the Salamanca clan in BB all kinds of amazing (in execution, characterization, cinematography, how it intertwined with our other BB characters), & I'd love to see the creators delve more into how much this loss - & the manner in which it occurred - had an impact on Gus and even in a sense dictated his entire life path ever since. We've seen that his purpose in making meth isn't solely to earn bling (have they shown his ride in BCS yet? Sharp dresser off-duty, but he lives a relatively modest lifestyle), but to eradicate the cartel & the Salamancas in particular. They've already played up his animosity toward the latter in BCS.)
posted by rallumer at 3:28 AM on September 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

-probably should have added that yeah, BCS has shown that Gus & Mike are on the 'let's not get civilians involved' train while the cartel/Salamancas...don't care. (e.g., the Good Samaritan shot in cold blood whom Mike felt such guilt over). So I guess that could be a reason for Gus to harbor such vitriol against the cartel without going into backstory: Gus has a code of sorts; the Salamancas don't. But it's still not enough IMHO to explain Gus's increasingly Hector-specific vendetta to the casual BCS viewer. I mean, Tuco was horrid too (blowing off osme local dude's head such that a piece of the bullet got lodged in Nacho's collarbone? dude. but Gus was never out for Tuco, & although he's screwing with Juan Bolsa & the cartel & building a superlab, it's Hector who's been made out to be his white whale, & that's gotta be explained in some way or another. I want some juicy twists & montages & character beats that aren't just BB fan nods)(although I literally shrieked when I saw Gale I LOVE HIM)
-PS also Kim Kim Kim Kim Kim omg this is how you write a non-prototypical, flawed 'strong female character' whose primary drive isn't motherhood (I swear any other drama would have her at least mentioning, if not debating this by now) or as the girlfriend or sex symbol (Rhea Seehorn is lovely, of course! But she's not purposely sexed up for no reason. Her outfits are realistic!) Kim has her own life & her own agenda. I'd watch Better Call Kim. I fell in love at the 'I save me' line in season, I think, 2. okay, I'll shut up now.
posted by rallumer at 4:09 AM on September 8, 2018 [6 favorites]

Better Call Saul Insider Podcast 405: Quite a Ride - written by Ann Cherkis, directed by Michael Morris, edited by Skip Macdonald; podcast hosted by Chris McCaleb and Kelley Dixon, with Peter and Vince, Joey Reinisch on the boards and sometimes on the mic, and 3 special guests: writer Ann (who also wrote "Rebekah," included Kim's post-it note montage and introduced our next guest ...) Cara Pifko (Paige Novick), and co-executive producer, Diane Mercer, who is per Kelley, "the best post-producer I've ever worked with"
  • Right out of the gate, Chris asks "is that title inspired by the Robbery Homicide Division (CBS promo) episode Wild Ride? That's a joke just for me and Vince, and all those RHD-heads out there, we know you're out there."
  • Kelley finds herself saying "I'm one of the editors," when she's the only editor on most other programs
  • Kelley: few post-producers delve into the story like Diane
  • Segue - that teaser! Notes from Kelley upon her watching: "I'm going to be a fangirl for a moment - here are notes: Paper shredder - how does that work? Francesca!!! Saul!!! Jesse's money bag? What's in the wall? Jimmy calling for the vacuum cleaner guy!" Chris: "To fangirl/ fanboy/ gender neutral fanning, I freaked out reading the script."
  • Tech detail: BCS is shot on Red cameras. BB was shot on film. This teaser was shot on film, processed by FotoKem just like it used to be, except now it's in the 4k world. Used to be transferred to digital tape, now processed and scanned raw to HD digital files (DPX). Diane: BB and 50 years of filming -- applied dailies color, and a final color on top of that, but now it's scanned into raw digital format, and the film goes, literally, into the salt mines and is never touched again.
  • Peter: I thought the biggest thing would be to recreate Saul's office, but it's been folded, stored since the end of BB, shout out to line producer, Stu Lyons, who knew to hold onto that set. But when looking at the set, we saw there's stuff we could get away with in 2k that we can't with 4k - newspaper articles without real text. "I was excited, and a little nervous, because it was a little different, a little heightened. I thought Saul was a different kind of character for us, so I thought in S02 of BB, but it turns out I didn't know the Breaking Bad world as well as I thought." Vince: "None of us did. We were making it up as we went, day-by-day."
  • Vince: how did you cut through the iconic Constitution wall? Diane: scanned the original walls and reproduced the panels for multiple takes. The original is probably stored somewhere else. Peter: it's weird, but we also did that with Chuck's house -- the art department makes copies of a room or wall that they can fly in and replace for reshoots.
  • Peter: I also loved to see Bob come back to this character he really hasn't played since 2013 and become him again. No digital effects, no special makeup, but he looks different. Cara: It's the hair. From an actor's point of view, his moves are different, his spine is different. If you take it down to his animal nature, one is a snake, he's all slimy and gooey, you never know which way he's going to go. He might slide under a door, like a hamster superhero. Kelley: It's the clothes, too. Diane: One of the hardest things to match was the band-aid on his nose, in part because we don't have any good pictures of that very specific bandage he had on, from Jesse beating him up. Vince: And that answers the question about the money bag, because Jesse is already gone. Kelley: I should binge watch BB. Peter: I've heard it's very good ;)
  • Chris: how was the decision to meet up with the BB world mid-season 04? Peter: I remember thinking we better do this soon, because the longer the show goes on, the closer we'll get to BB and flashing forward won't have the same impact if Jimmy McGill has gone far down the road to being Saul Goodman. A lot of it was thinking about what he says at the very end of the episode. Anne: That's right, we were throwing around teaser ideas and we liked the idea of flashing forward, and we thought it worked well here, being paired with what Jimmy says at the very end of the episode. It's very bittersweet, because it's not going to happen like he says to in his PPD interview. We know he's not going to have a firm with Kim, we know he's not going to be the best lawyer he can be - Cara: despite what the cups say. Anne: - exactly. Peter: the whole episode is seething with irony. [But maybe he is the best lawyer he can be? -- ed.] Chris: one of the thing that got me was when he hands Francesca the card and says "Tell 'em Jimmy sent you," and that indelibly brings the two worlds together. And then you know that Jimmy's still there. We don't know how much of a character that Saul is, how much of a character Jimmy is. Diane: And Francesca knew Jimmy! Chris: How much her spirit has been crushed in the ensuing 4 or 5 years of working with Saul Goodman.
  • Kelley: how come Francesca can't be Kim's paralegal? Peter: Because she's not a trained paralegal, that requires like half of law school. Rah rah paralegals!
  • Kelley: how did they do the paper shredder? Diane: I don't know exactly, but it was shot on the Red for a higher frame rate that was needed for slow motion, and it was done by the SFX team, lead by Werner and Bobhaus. Peter: Made a rig to use under the shredder, lots of different angles and frame rates. I advocated for something they do in commercials, where they strobe every frame to make them really in focus, but with a narrow shudder angle, they didn't look as good. Marshall _ wisely did a lot of different takes. We added colored paper to the mix to make it look not black and white. Ann: and some colored text. Vince: how did they keep the paper off the lens? Peter: none of us were there, except Cara. Cara: this is were we go back to the hamsters. A little army of hamsters that kicked and kicked.
  • Vince: director Michael Morris' first episode? Diane: Yeah, he did an incredible job. He shot so much film in so little time. He had a vision, and he did so much prep that really paid off. He has such taste, from casting background characters. He did his homework, and then some. Peter: for production-heads, he shot everything we saw at the Dog House in two split nights -- he'd start shooting somewhere else in the day, and then go there at night. It was all shot in the equivalent of one working day. There were three cameras working, with Matt Credle, our b-camera operator, in the Dog House, shooting scenes of hotdogs turning. We could do a whole montage of just hotdogs and milkshakes - Ann: and oozing, goopy cheese. Chris: hours of footage of the hotdogs.
  • Peter: Cara is an amazing actress. I got to direct you in one scene, but I've enjoyed all your performances. Cara: Thank you! I loved when you directed. I remember looking at you in the courthouse and thinking here's a man who is enjoying the process. First, we had a rehearsal, which we don't get everywhere, so thank you. And you were like a kid in a candy store, you just looked so happy, it was such a great way to start the day. Peter: "So I covered up all my fear and anxiety." That was the bank hearing episode, 209, and "I still believe is one of the most exciting bank hearings ever on any television show." What gets me excited is seeing actors so in the scene ... you intuitively assume that the person who is talking is the important person, but in reality, so much is about the people reacting, and so much of that scene was you reacting to Chuck. Cara: "Muddying .. the Waters!" Peter: going back through favorites - the scene where Kim is with her clients and Howard comes up, and it's so sub-textual - Cara: literally under the table Peter: - people aren't saying what they mean, but I'm worried that people won't get that Howard is putting Kim down, and Paige is on Kim's side, but it was all crystal clear. I always think back on that, because it's given me more courage, specifically this season, where there's so much going on under the surface and not in the dialog.
  • Genny Hutchison, the episode writer, got really excited that Cara was coming on because of her voice-over work in Mass Effect. Cara got into it because she new Jennifer Hale, "a massive force in the voice over world." It got kind of creepy, because she had intimate scenes with a close personal friend. Cara met Jennifer on another VO project with more motion capture. "We flew up to Vancouver and back 5 times for a game that never saw the light of day." The technology outpaced the making of the game, and there was a changing of the guard who wanted to go a different direction. On motion capture: covered in little white balls, start and end in an A shape. "Talk about suspension of disbelief - you're holding a piece of wood and pretending it's a gun, there's a block over there and it's a mountain and an explosion; doing full-body motion capture is the closest thing to kids playing pretend in any type of work that I've done in this industry."
  • Cara also had a prior engagement, because she had an online course just before the podcast. She's teamed up with Jeremiah O'Brian, a professor at USC who built an organization called Emerge Media dot US. This was a six-week acting course. Cara came to LA from Toronto, where she was acting since the age of 7, recorded on an album, went to Montreal for theater school, and came back to Toronto where she picked up voice work and theater. Her message to actors: diversify. Some people have a "regular" job, but she does "anything that has some kind of performance in it, because that's where I live." Seeing the lack of training in L.A. that she had in Canada, she wanted to bring some of that here, because not everyone has "training so you have tools to pull on when you're working with a director ... where you have to translate. You can just see, you look in a director's eyes ... where they're just fried - Vince: "Yeah, in the mirror" Cara: "Hardly! When there's just too much, the train's leaving and you're not on it. There's only so much you can do. ... It's such a treat to work with someone who can feel so confident in their world," because then you can dig into the scene and the motivations of your character. Cara's vision: a rolling theater school to work with the flaky, not always available L.A. student, and also bring good theater to places that don't have access to it.
  • Chris: "Speaking of good art, that's something that Mesa Verde is trying to do." Cara: "Nice segue!" Vince: "You're getting good at this!" Cara: "The statue at least!" On Rex, and Rhea - we can do nuanced work because we trust each other. "We've caused havoc in hotel rooms, because we've done private, secret rehearsals" and they do "theater school games" - "let's do this scene, but we're in a windy corridor, so you have to shout!" and security has come in, but this has built up trust and connections so you can feel when someone's there. Peter: the three of you have such chemistry, and to not spoil anything, this isn't the last we see of you. Chris: What I'm always struck by Paige is her patience. She has to deal with Kevin, who's kind of an outsized personality, a rich boy who turned into a man. Even with Chuck, she was patient, these men who have been dismissing her her entire life. This is the first time we've seen her patience pushed, and it was by Kim. The scene wouldn't have that resonance if it didn't feel real. Kelley: When you hire your friends, that really tests those relationships, and sometimes boundaries can get messed up. I think it was done really well. Cara: Thank you, but first credit to the writing, with its layers. "My husband has referred to you as tantric story tellers, and I get to play out the results of that." [There's an outtakes reel with Kim sneezing and coughing a lot.]
  • Cara: When Rex and I got on set and saw that cowboy statue, we thought "OK, we're good here for a minute," because there's always the threat of death on this show. Ann: I love how that statue came to be. It started as a line - Peter: that you wrote, Ann's being modest. Ann: - Kevin and Hamlin talk about the passbook that he had as a kid, and he says he loved the logo of the cowboy on the horse. It was a great little detail, and then it became a huge, physical thing that was then part of the history and lore of the company. Vince: So you get character payments whenever Paige or Kevin show up. Cara: Character payments? [These details again] Ann: "You and Kevin have been very good to me." Kelley: Peter got paid for Jimmy AND Saul this time. Chris: And what about Gene? Peter: George Mastras, who doesn't work on this show, gets checks for Gustavo Fring and Tuco Salamanca. Cara: I didn't know about this, but coming in today, I said 'Ann's my character mama." Ann: I remember when I had to come up with names. You want to come up with a real name that's a bit distinctive. I knew a Paige and I've always liked the name. Kevin's last name, Wachtell, because my father used to work at a law firm called Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen and Katz, and I was going to name him Larry Wachtell for my father, because I couldn't name him Cherkis because it would be weird to have a character with my last name. Larry Wachtell didn't clear the first time, so he became Kevin, but Paige Novac cleared on the first time.
  • On writing the same scene twice, a most epic misdirect, where the European got his walking papers and is replaced by Werner. Ann: It started with the procedure, the extreme secrecy that Gus used to cover his tracks. The biggest challenge was making those two characters extremely different, with the European who was really slick and over confident, and then the guy Gus hires. "We wanted to find a German actor, and that was a search." He felt his feelings - 'I feel sick; I took the Dramamine but it didn't work.' Chris: he was the analog guy; he's got his tape measure and his math, and his hard engineering skills. His conclusion was 'I don't know,' but this guy knows how difficult the task is, that's the guy we want. Kelley: Why did they decide to hire this guy? How did that come up in the writer's room? Peter: We thought a lot about what makes someone credible. I think that Mike and Gus want someone who is going to be honest and pay attention to detail. Anyone who's hired someone to do remodeling, there's always going to be someone who says 'sure, no problem!' Some people will say anything to do a job. We also wanted someone to be a contrast to stoic Mike, someone who wore his heart on his sleeve. It's also a bit like that scene in the westerns where John Wayne tells you why this cattle drive from Texas to New Mexico is impossible, because you'll have to cross three rivers and there'll be Apaches, but you don't think 'oh, John Wayne is a wimp.' He's clear-eyed, he knows what's ahead. And this is a highly technical scene. Ann has a deep background in construction. Ann: "It was so fortunate, it was a real coincidence. No, I can barely add." Actually, it was Peter's assistant, Dessa, whose husband is a structural engineer, who helped to get the dialog to a certain point. Then they hired another structural engineer as a consultant in Albuquerque to review the dialog, and to be there on the day of the shooting. Then there was the fine-tuning to make it sound like a professional who knows his trade, but make it understandable. Yet he's also very physical in that scene, swigging water, and he even burps. Ann: I don't think he'd ever been to the US before this. Peter: It's a difficult process to bring an actor into the United States, and all hail Biali Thomas and Russel Scott, our casting folks. We had to cast this position early, and Sony backed us up. There's a lot of back-end work we haven't done before, including getting a work visa. We had those two Germans in Breaking Bad, and we thought about how difficult it was to play those roles, so we wanted to cast a wider net. Rainer Bock is probably best known for The White Ribbon, the Oscar-nominated film. He's also a very generous, nice guy, who everyone grew to love very quickly.
  • Diane: as the scripts started coming my way this season, I started thinking I needed research materials that were in storage at Sony, so we pulled all of our old binders, everything, for the whole series. Hundreds of binders. Boxes and boxes of binders, pulled from the literal salt mines in Kansas. Maybe 75 boxes in the office. It took weeks to get them. The binders are a record of every piece of paperwork we got through post-production; it's the line scripts; notes from the script supervisor, Helen Caldwell, who doesn't miss anything. We're in Los Angeles, the crew is in New Mexico, and Helen is writing down everything, documenting the daily chaos. Chris: they're the bridge between production and post-production. Diane: absolutely. And everything is in those notes, like the credits and all the sound reports. And camera reports, which detail which camera and which lens was documented for each recording.
  • Peter: Diane cares about the story so deeply. The fact that everyone here reads the scripts or watches the episodes and has an opinion about the characters means so much, and keeps us all focused. And it makes the work more fun. Diane is a real creative voice, in the cuts, and the sound, and the whole way the show is presented. It drives me crazy that we have to put credits over the first scene in act one. Some episodes has a lot of guest cast, so the credits go way into the episode. I'll tear my hair out about the placement, but Diane has a solution about how to put these credits up without undermining the drama. Vince: And they are very carefully placed, down to the frame. Peter: She is the only person with an overview of how the show works, and it's all in her head, and thank god, or the show wouldn't get done.
  • Diane: all compliments to Ann, and Peter, for that absolutely stunning scene in Kim's condo after Jimmy gets mugged. He comes home, and it's the emotional center of the whole season. It's so beautifully played, and so beautifully written. Ann: I really appreciate that. We know that Jimmy is very cut off from himself, so to have this moment where he lets his guard down and opens up to Kim, in that moment she has a hope that he'll try to fix himself and deal with Chuck's death. So much of that goes to Rhea and Bob. Peter: It's not a scene you expect from a show called Better Call Saul. And then the whole back half of the scene is one long take of them sitting on the tub, just being so real. It worries the hell out of me what happens to Jimmy and Kim.
  • Kelley: Shout out to the music, particularly Streetlife. "Me and Vince love Jackie Brown." Peter: This wasn't the version from Jackie Brown, this was earlier, for a movie that Burt Reynolds directed, called Sharkey's Machine. [...] I made a movie based on a portion of Pam Greer's life. It never got produced, and this was after Jackie Brown. She is an honest-to-god movie star, and also a wonderful person, very generous and smart. Oh, what an amazing story. Vince: you should get her on the show! Peter: Absolutely, we should! Chris: Speaking of Pam Greer, we have to wrap this up ... Peter: We're all over the place! Vince: Terrible segue. Cara: Pam Greer would knock out the end of this podcast. Chris: See, this is why you're a professional, and I am but a humble podcaster, slash editor.
  • BCS outro from Cara AND Ann, together! A podcast first!
I may have flubbed some credits for who said what.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:42 PM on September 11, 2018 [5 favorites]

Boxes and boxes of binders, pulled from the literal salt mines in Kansas.

I *love* that you found the actual link for this; and also that it shows the "no, bigger than a bankers box" storage boxes that they describe in the podcast.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 1:25 PM on September 12, 2018 [1 favorite]

The German engineer mentions building a "secant wall." I didn't know what that was, so I looked it up:
posted by Corvid at 2:23 AM on September 13, 2018 [2 favorites]

The German engineer mentions building a "secant wall." I didn't know what that was, so I looked it up:
Presumably, in BB, Gus's concealed lab was just presumed to be there. I love how BCS appears to have retrospectively tackled the question of how it would have have had to have been surreptitiously constructed.

I also love that Gus chooses an engineer who is sufficiently focussed on the technical challenges to overlook the possibility that this might be - lets just say - his final project.
posted by rongorongo at 3:30 AM on September 30, 2018 [1 favorite]

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