Better Call Saul: Dedicado a Max
March 17, 2020 5:10 AM - Season 5, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Mike makes an unexpected trip out of town; Kim makes a surprising decision as she grows closer to Jimmy over their determination to help a client.

‘Better Call Saul’ Recap: Go Your Own Way -- Kim and Mike make critical — and dangerous — decisions (Alan Sepinwall for Rolling Stone)
A review of this week’s Better Call Saul, “Dedicado a Max,” coming up just as soon as I make my own cell phone charger…

“It seems to me that you are at a crossroads.” —Gus

Throughout the run of Better Call Saul, Kim Wexler and Mike Ehrmantraut have represented two very different paths for our main character. Kim is the path we want Jimmy to stay on; Mike is the path we unfortunately know he will take. Because those paths diverge so wildly, the two characters that represent them have yet to meet through four-and-a-half seasons of the show.

Midway through “Dedicado a Max,” we come as close as we ever have to Jimmy’s once and future partners sharing a scene, as Kim listens in on Jimmy’s side of a phone call to Mike. The call is played for laughs, as Mike has no time for Jimmy’s nonsense while he’s recuperating down in Mexico. (Jonathan Banks’ weary delivery of “I’m in a tunnel” is a thing of deadpan comic beauty.)

The moment for Mike to take on work with Jimmy/Saul isn’t here yet, and who knows if he and Kim will ever speak to one another. But the near-intersection between the two of them comes in an episode where both are faced with the same question: Should they retreat into a safe and honest life, or to push into more reckless and potentially exciting territory? In both cases, they opt for recklessness.
All the action is between Kim Wexler's ears on a dual-location Better Call Saul (Donna Bowman for TV/AV Club, rating: B+)
Something momentous happens in this episode. It’s a turning point in the series. And it happens entirely in Rhea Seehorn’s instrument — her face, voice, posture, and movement. What a joy it is to watch her work. And to see Kim Wexler unleashed, as it were, popping the seams on the straitjacket of her commitment to hard work and faith in legal process.

But how devastating it is to see her embrace, fully aware of the consequences, the conclusion that the only way to get things done is outside of the boundaries. The law is now a means, not an end. Any garbage you can feed into that factory to get it to grind out the desired result is fair game.
posted by filthy light thief (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Oh Kim. No, no, no.
posted by Automocar at 6:37 AM on March 17, 2020 [5 favorites]

Oh, Kim .........

So I woke up at two am to watch and am still processing. I laughed out loud when she handed Mike the charger after that cobbling together electronics montage. And I remember how hard it was to find your charger back in those days! Now it's like four main types right, and you usually just buy a USB cord to replace the one you lost/broke, not the wall wart, too. Big flashbacks for me on the house and window repair. I live in a place with studs that aren't old railroad ties and the walls are sheetrock, not adobe, and it's weird how nostalgic seeing that can be. Though we had concrete and wood floors, making those short doorways even shorter.

Kim was pretty bad, but even I didn't expect her to challenge her boss so publicly. But she's ride or die on the "eff it" train, I think.

So Hamlin. Dang. He's really trying to make up for Charles both for himself and Charles to Jimmy. All those symbols of his new enlightenment in his office with the leather furniture, but him with his feet off, somewhat relaxed (though considering the time of day ... late ... not really relaxed).
posted by tilde at 9:35 AM on March 17, 2020 [2 favorites]

Gus: "becuase I belive you understand."
Mike: "understand what?"
Gus: "Revenge."

Jesus Christ, this one hit so hard.
posted by rp at 11:41 AM on March 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

"And is that supposed to balance the scales for everything else that you do?"
"It makes up for nothing. I am who I am."

So, why water? This episode calls a lot of our attention to it. The show's always had the aquarium imagery, both at the nail salon/law office and, later, at Jimmy and Kim's shared abode. But this episode also gives us Gus's incongruous fountain which is, as the title of the episode and the plaque on it tell us, "Dedicado a Max," both the reason Gus anonymously supports this peaceful little pseudo-village and the reason he kills and maims and destroys everywhere but this little other-place.

I say other-place, by the way, because of a review I once read of an old film noir, the Robert- Mitchum-Jane Greer-Kirk Douglas classic Out of the Past. In that review, by whom I cannot recall, the term was used to describe the beautiful natural scenery and small-town world to which Mitchum's character had retreated, contrasted as an island of decency with the urban and -- tellingly, given the attitudes of late 1940s U.S. culture -- Mexican scenes of the secret past that, in true noir fashion, eventually comes to claim Mitchum again.

Here, of course, it's Gus's drug money that creates that other world, a place he seems at pains to keep separate from his nasty business as much as possible. It's a place of calm, of quiet, where the black, rectangular fountain is a placid, serene memorial to his long-dead partner Max Arciniega, water gently rippling and streaming.

Less gentle, of course, is the water that streams into the Señora's home, which Mike helps her blot up and then, later, helps her keep out with some repair work. As he locks the new windowsill into place, he hears Gus Fring's voice, and then we come back to the fountain.

The imagery here seems clear: these are the structures these two damaged people create to give themselves the illusion that the tide can be held back. But in Gus's word "revenge," the lie, the artifice is punctured in a way that Mike's pointed remarks fail to puncture. it. After all, we've just seen Mike accept, in his way, the false domesticity Gus has constructed for him. It's that fountain for Max that keeps reminding him of where he really is, much as Mike's choice to repair the windowsill -- to contain or keep out the water -- is what enables him to be reminded of who Gus is and why he's really there. And so, in the end, they come together because, to paraphrase Gus, they are who they are, really, and they want what they want. even seemingly contained, the water flows, stirs, gently bubbles.

And, of course, water distorts. Separated by commercials, we might miss the cut from Mike amid the golds and browns of "Villa Arciniega" to the garish yellow-going-red we see in that shot up through the water of Jimmy's curry-filled sink. And this kind of distorted image is, of course, Jimmy and Kim scamming Mesa Verde, putting up every false front, every fake lead they can to simply run the bank out of time and make relocating the cheaper option.

Water also plays into their seduction/addiction name-playing, with Kim's Kevin Wachtel roleplay leading to some (stated, but thankfully not shown) shower sex. Yes, it's a callback tot hem horsing around in the shower at an open house a few episodes back, but, later, when Kim roleplays again -- "Giselle" at the nail salon -- it's tied to the water image again, with that prominent aquarium.

As the ever-delightful "Mr. X" tells here, "those things are full of parasites." But he also notes that a nail salon is hardly a law office, and Kim, in this instance, is hardly a lawyer who just, as she shouts at Rich Schweikert later in the episode, not just someone who "need[s ]to represent [her] client." The question at this point is who she really is, or wants to be. Like Jimmy at Davis and Main, albeit for arguably nobler reasons, Kim wants the bonuses but not the kind of job, tries to run a scam under her generally beneficent (to her, at least) employer's nose, and is soon seen through.

And for what? Well, her midnight confession to Acker two episodes back, when this plotline started, would suggest a kind of righteousness by proxy, an effort to protect others from what happened to her and her mother in her childhood. And here, with his bellowings that he won't be "bullied" from claiming rights to "his property," Kevin Wachtel must be every landlord that Kim and her mother ever had to dodge or outrun. That "Mr. X" insists that Wachtel is squeaky clean, and dull, to boot, must ring utterly false to her in a moral sense, if not a legal one.

Kim knows the difference, one might say, between law and justice, and she will bend every professional code and even, albeit to her seeming displeasure, sanction crimes like Mr. X's b-and-e if it it gives her the inside hook. But there's a pleasure in it for her as well. Is she disgusted with how low X, and by extension, she has gone? Or is she at some level indulging in it, demanding the details to see just how far she has gone and will go? It's Jimmy, after all, not Kim, who suggests earlier that Kim has given Acker "more than he deserves" and then ushers X out quickly when he suggests a kidnapping and interrogation as the next step. Kim's big move is to look through all of X's photographs, notice the horse imagery, and get a broad grin on her face, new plans brewing away.

Was that how she felt when she and Jimmy scammed a city clerk to illicitly gain approval for a bigger building for Mesa Verde somewhere else a couple of seasons ago? Or when she helped Jimmy keep Huell out of jail? For Kim, the scam and the deception -- and doubling down on it, as she does later with Schweikert -- is becoming a hit of righteousness, a proof that she is who she wants to be, not who she is, and that this will, indeed, balance the scales.

Why water? Because containing it is, in the long run, impossible: it will rot at the wood, wear down the stone, rust through the pipes, and find every way through and out around. Like revenge, like righteousness, like desire, it works its way and finds its own level, and distorts the vision of those who see the world through it.
posted by kewb at 6:34 PM on March 17, 2020 [16 favorites]

"Mr. X" is Sobchak from S1's "Pimento", or at least he's played by the same actor, Steven Ogg. It's kind of funny that, given his earlier incompetence as a badass (at least compared to Mike, although most people would be), he actually has some competence as a B&E guy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:00 PM on March 17, 2020 [6 favorites]

I’m pretty sure Kim knows that Jimmy and Mr. X were playing her to get her to back down, but I still want to know what she saw in that statue photograph!
posted by iamkimiam at 11:17 PM on March 17, 2020

I also think that for whatever she does with that photo, the way she obtained it is going to become pretty relevant. Good thing she asked, but it felt a little forced, for plot reasons.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:50 AM on March 18, 2020 [1 favorite]

Mister X was presumably in both cases hired through the veterinarian.
posted by tilde at 1:02 PM on March 18, 2020 [2 favorites]

I suspect it is true that one of the biggest challenges against committing fraud in the legal business is not so much fooling a client - but rather a colleague or boss. Kevin, for all his bluster, may be an easy mark but Rich pretty much sees through her. It is only Kim's raising of the stakes in publicly stating her outrage - that lets her get what she wants.

Jimmy and Kim are both formidable poker players in this regard - but at this stage it is Kim who is the better of the two because she is the one who can fool not just her clients but her colleagues also.
posted by rongorongo at 2:05 AM on March 19, 2020 [4 favorites]

I think I know what Kim knows. At 41:50 into the episode, she's looking at two photos: One showing the photos on a table at Kevin's house, and the other showing a shelf with a little statue of a man on a horse like the bank's logo. One of the photos in the first picture is a man on a horse, and the silhouette is the same.

In the next scene she's looking at various pictures of their logo on her screen when Rich walks in.

I think Kevin based Mesa Verde's logo on the photo on his table, and I think he does not own the copyright on that photo.

Boring, I know, but it's the sort of thing a lawyer would notice while Mr. "Not Superficial" private investigator wouldn't have a clue.

Also, if she tracks down the original photo she won't need the PI's photo at all, just a comparison between the two could get Kevin in trouble.
posted by mmoncur at 2:16 AM on March 19, 2020 [12 favorites]

I think he does not own the copyright on that photo

Ah, good catch, I had been wondering about that. Presumably she'll leak it to Jimmy as another legal weapon against Mesa Verde, as it's not really something she can raise herself.
posted by whir at 5:58 AM on March 19, 2020

Wouldn't it be a real twist if the person in the photo riding the horse turns out to be the old dude they're trying to evict? The bank could very easily buy the copyright, even retroactively. Evicting the guy in their logo is way bad optics.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:02 AM on March 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

But his dad founded it so his dad stole the logo ...
posted by tilde at 7:52 AM on March 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

When pondering Kim's fate up until now, I had assumed that she would get lethally pulled into the orbit of the very bad people in Saul's life. (Or nope out decisively and permanently if we're feeling optimistic.) Now it's looking like she's going to be fully in command of her own recklessness. Will either Jimmy or Saul be able to save her from herself?
posted by whuppy at 4:19 PM on March 19, 2020 [1 favorite]

It was brilliant to make Kim a third lead in this show. Notice that every post above is talking about Kim primarily and bringing up Saul as if he’s a supporting character in her show. After all, as a prequel, we know exactly where Saul and Mike are going to end up. It’s Kim whose story we’re following with bated breath, hoping she comes out of it alive and well.
posted by ejs at 4:36 PM on March 19, 2020 [16 favorites]

So, no one else thought that dialogue at the end between Gus and Mike was almost hilariously bad? I mean, this show used to have some subtlety, but now it seems like they've run out of interesting stories to tell about these characters and so are rehashing old character beats again and again, with less interesting results.

But how devastating it is to see her embrace, fully aware of the consequences, the conclusion that the only way to get things done is outside of the boundaries.

This is not a "momentous" new development. The woman who faked a broken foot and a crying child to switch maps at a government office so her boss could have a bigger building has now, in this episode, suddenly embraced the conclusion that it's time to draw outside the lines? Yeah, I don't think so.

I mentioned in an earlier thread (sadly, an episode too early so it got appropriately deleted) how goofy and dumb I thought the 2 idiots' "50% OFF!" spree was, and how it reminded me that the show is capable of some truly awful decisions (the crushingly dull focus on the building of the lab last season, e.g.), and this episode just confirms for me that the show is mostly running on empty. Bought the season out of hope, so I'm in til the end, but the hope is draining away quickly. The time spent with Mike in the desert was another waste, mostly, and yeah, that final dialogue between him and Gus was like something out of Con Air or a Bond movie.
posted by mediareport at 5:08 PM on March 19, 2020 [2 favorites]

I tend to disagree with mediareport. I will say that the show lost a really compelling character in Chuck, in his own, completely legal way maybe even more ruthless than Gus; his departure is comparable to Stringer Bell leaving The Wire. But the show still has a way to go toward its primary purpose, which is simply: How did Jimmy and Mike get to be the people that they are, and why? The building of the laundry lab, and Werner's fate, was a big part of that for Mike, and Jimmy's decision to go Saul was part of his. But neither one of them is quite there yet. (And, of course, the show's secondary objectives--to show us what happened and why to Kim and Nacho--are still very much in play.)

Also, I'll say that Kim pulling off a minor-league con at the map office isn't in the league of whatever she's planning to pull on Kevin; the former was a low-risk operation, and the latter is risking practically everything she's built up for herself up until now.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:18 PM on March 19, 2020 [3 favorites]

I actually liked the "building the lab" subplot of last season. It was good character building for Mike and ultimately ended with something that made a major impact on him.

I hope Jimmy ends up using that photo in the most Jimmy way possible: Find out who owns the copyright, offer them $10K to buy the rights, sign them over to Barry Corbin...

If I have one complaint this season it's that I don't understand Kim going all in on protecting one homeowner. He's not suffering that much, he's not that likable, and he'd probably do fine in a new home. She could drop the whole thing as Rich suggests, and go help 20 pro-bono clients that are all worse off.

Considering that Rich basically knows exactly what she's doing and can't prove it, it just seems like career suicide to me. She's being illogical in the same exact way Kevin is when he's unwilling to just switch to a different property... they'd both be better off cutting their losses and moving on.
posted by mmoncur at 4:55 AM on March 20, 2020 [5 favorites]

and the latter is risking practically everything she's built up for herself up until now.

Kim stood in front of a judge in his chambers and lied through her teeth to him when he asked if she had anything to do with getting the ball rolling on the Huell church letters. Her weasel answer - something like "Are you asking if I instructed the people of Couchatta Louisiana to write these letters? I did not" - does not make the ex parte communication amy less of a clear ethical violation or massive risk to her career. Add in hundreds of counts of interstate mail fraud, contempt of court, etc, and I find it difficult to believe that whatever she's planning (I suspect at times she feels getting disbarred might be a desirable outcome) is now risking more than what she'd been perfectly willing to risk then. I get the appeal of Breaking Bad: Kim Edition, honest, but this feels like a retread, and I just don't see how this week counts as a "monumental" turning point.

If you really want one of those, go back to the last few scenes in S4 episode 7, after Jimmy asks for her help and describes his ridiculous plan to spill liquor on the cop, trip him in court so he falls as if drunk, and then get him so angry he explodes in front of the jury (the look on Kim's face as she hears this is priceless). The moment when Kim comes up with the mail fraud idea in her car, complete with screeching 180 as she turns around to head to the office supply store - now *that* was a monumental turning point. I mean, literally. I'm always surprised when reviewers seem to overlook it.

Another monumental moment was her telling Jimmy "let's do it again" after he swears they were done with that sort of thing once Huell got his probation. She'd already been thinking about how to get Mesa Verde what it wanted, and Jimmy is shocked at how badly he'd misread her brooding silence as disappointment with him. I mentioned this in the first episode discussion this season, but I keep coming back to that scene (and "Couchatta" itself, which is a fab Rhea Seehorn showcase); it's one of my fave moments of the series.

That said, as much pure fun as that episode was, Huell's prosecutor really had to hold on to the idiot ball to make the scheme work (jeez just check the domain registration, lady) and it wouldn't surprise me if that case comes back to bite Kim before it's all over.
posted by mediareport at 9:40 AM on March 20, 2020 [6 favorites]

There's that little tag when Kim is wanting to go further on Kevin (I can't find it right now) where Jimmy says something like that this is where it gets interesting "...and dangerous." I don't think this has to apply only to Mr. X's presence, which seems to be over wrt Kim.

Kim's impression of Kevin cracked me up audibly!

And I don't know if I'm being dumb, but is the Jimmy/Mesa Verde thing only about getting Jimmy paid as part of a settlement? Revenge on Kevin for pushing around a senior citizen? I'm a little fuzzy here.

I also can't forget Mike's expression when he got stabbed, like "shit just got unexpectedly real," and that he might re-evaluate his life choices in light of that.
posted by rhizome at 10:33 AM on March 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

Musing on water: when I started reading kewb's comment, my first thought was water as a purifying element, used in baptisms for spiritual washing, as well as physically washing people and things.

On the other hand, fish tanks are restrictive, artificial habitats for people to appreciate the imprisoned aquatic life. Fish think they're somewhere nice and safe, where they're fed and free from risks, but their options are limited.

Fountains can be something between, eternally flowing water to purify and clense, but man-made and unnatural.

Fun facts from this episode's podcast: the rural Mexican village was actually El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a "living museum" south of Santa Fe (Google maps). But it's drone-shot footage that was modified with digital magic, something only available with modern technology, where "film" can be shot in 6-8k, to stabilize video and not look shady.

Also on this BCS Insider podcast: Gus SHOUTS devil-sheep sounds. It's startling. Another fun fact: one of the sheep was replying to Giancarlos Esposito saying his lines.

From a prior podcast, the crew all loved the 50% off guys, who were cast separately, but hit it off instantly as new best friends. They were the life of the party, and someone said that as a parent, they didn't condone the guys' actions, but on another level, they wanted that level of freedom to be "little-a anarchists" (my summary, not an accurate repeating of specific phrases or ideas), with what they thought to be a "get out of jail free" card.

[I'll go back through the podcasts for episodes this season and provide recaps in the specific episodes, but I wanted to share these tidbits while they were on my mind.]

To me, they read as the most reckless version of just about everyone on this show (and the viewers, potentially), who, if they had no concern for consequences, would make a mess, steal things, and be fun-loving jerks. Definitely responsible adults, as Jimmy, Kim, Mike, and Nacho are trying to be, to name a few key characters at crossroads this season, characters who make bad decisions because that's what they want to do, instead of doing what they know they should do.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:55 PM on March 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

Plus that, for all the (literal and figurative) lengths that Kim went to for Huell, that was also a one-and-done client, and Kevin, for all of his ethical and other faults, has been Kim's client for years, and was her rainmaker client for Schweikart and Cokely.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:13 PM on March 20, 2020 [3 favorites]

'Fun facts from this episode's podcast: the rural Mexican village was actually El Rancho de las Golondrinas, a "living museum" south of Santa Fe...'

Thanks for that info. My mom wanted to know where that was, but I'd not yet seen this episode. Then when I saw it, I wanted to know, too. I've never been to Golondrinas. I was thinking Chimayo or somewhere with a lot of set dressing, so I wasn't totally wrong. Knew it was in New Mexico.

And, boy, did that make me homesick. My dream would be to live in a genuine adobe rancho house like that in a location just like that.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:18 AM on March 31, 2020

I'm late to this watching so I've only got the most vapid comment to offer.. wasn't that fountain to Max tacky as all get out? Belongs in a concrete plaza in the middle of a city. I get that the cut marble has some echoes of funerary memorials, so OK I'll accept a graveyard too. But the middle of a dirt yard? And you bet those kids play in it all the time.

I'm sure it's deliberate but it's sort of strange. Gus is usually very astute and discrete.
posted by Nelson at 3:55 PM on April 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

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