Better Call Saul: Wexler v. Goodman
March 24, 2020 8:42 AM - Season 5, Episode 6 - Subscribe

Saul puts together a little production, and throws the Mesa Verde team a curve ball. Mike increases the pressure on Lalo, while Nacho struggles to gain support.

Jimmy plays Superman by throwing Lois under the bus on a double-crossing Better Call Saul (Donna Bowman for TV/AV Club; rating: A)
There’s the suite of commercial solicitations that Jimmy directs, with big auteur energy, to put pressure on Mesa Verde. We, the audience, knew that all of that activity wasn’t going to vanish without us seeing the results. And from a character perspective, Jimmy can’t possibly let it get memory-holed; he invests way too much of his identity in the performance, the spectacle, the excess of his attack-on-all-fronts approach. He just can’t stop giving in to the voice in his head: “They think they’re so much better than me. This’ll show ‘em!” So he talks himself into believing that his beautiful commercials can serve a dual purpose: convincing Rich that he and Kim aren’t in cahoots.

Contrast the way Kim commits to investing herself — by sacrificing, rather than indulging. Her idea is that she’ll write a check to make up the difference between Mesa Verde’s highest offer and what will make Acker take the deal. She eats crow to mend the relationship with Rich, too; that couldn’t have been easy after she made a point of publicly challenging him. Kim’s position is that she can fix it if she’s willing to do what she shouldn’t have to do, what a more prideful person would think is beneath her. Kim will face the situation head-on and carry through, just like we see in the lovely cold open where she sets off to walk home three miles with a cello on her back, rather than get in the car with her neglectful (and buzzed) mom.
‘Better Call Saul’ Recap: Girl, Interrupted -- As Jimmy teeters on the edge of going full Saul, Kim plays out a painful past (Alan Sepinwall for Rolling Stone)
A review of this week’s Better Call Saul, “Wexler v. Goodman,” coming up just as soon as I enjoy cold pizza fondled by community theater actors…

“I don’t believe you. You don’t believe yourself. It is a lie. You lie. I lie. This has to end! I cannot keep living like this!” —Kim

What happens to Kim?

This is the biggest question left for Better Call Saul. Arguably, it’s the most important question of the entire series. There have been smaller mysteries solved (why Jimmy changed his name, Mike’s reasons for teaming with Gus), and there are a few other dangling plot and character threads in need of tying off before the series concludes, particularly involving Nacho and Lalo. But we know how this story ends for Jimmy, Mike, Gus, and several other characters — and that it won’t be a good ending for any of them. Kim, though? Her future is a riddle wrapped inside an enigma, and one that’s as much about defining Saul Goodman’s story on Breaking Bad as about concluding her own arc on this series. Does she die? Is her career ruined by her association with Jimmy? Do the two of them just drift apart? Is there a chance, as Odenkirk, Seehorn, and others have suggested, that Saul Goodman went home every night to Kim Wexler?
Music in the episode, from Tunefind.
posted by filthy light thief (34 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oh, man, that cold open was heart-breaking. Kudos to the young actress. She really channeled Rhea Seehorn's Kim into her own performance, and built a solid, direct line between the two.

I was so hoping Kim would at least punch Jimmy's lights out when she got home. It certainly felt like the scene was building toward some big pressure-relief explosion. Alas...

Man, Mike sure sounds like he's dealing with some serious COPD, listening to him breathe heavy through all his scenes.

Though it's a long-standing trope in tv and movies, is it actually true that spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other in court? I'm assuming this is why Kim suggests marriage to Jimmy. In a way, it would defuse all of Jimmy's efforts to "protect" her with, as he says, "plausible deniability." Just get married and enjoy the legal protection (assuming, as I asked, that the trope is actually legit.)
posted by Thorzdad at 10:53 AM on March 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

I knew we *had* to get more of Kim's backstory at some point. Hope it continues. Red Cloud is where Willa Cather grew up, for what that's worth - hopefully a lot, as she's one of the great American writers about landscape and how it affects character, and the show certainly loves its landscapes.

"Jimmy should have known better" is silly to say at this point, but damn: he should have known better. And there was no good reason to betray his partner like that, except to boost his own ego and piss off the wealthy dick. Neither good reasons (yeah, ok, saving Kim 30 grand, but that was her call to make, not his).

The marriage thing? I'm assuming it's just for the spousal privilege, because otherwise it's the show's writers who are severely betraying Kim. Even so, I think the more interesting move for the show (and the smartest move for Kim's career) would be for her to walk out the door. She doesn't need Jimmy, and her continuing to hold onto him after this will just feel like they're turning her into an abused partner, incapable of leaving someone who's been horrible to her.
posted by mediareport at 11:54 AM on March 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

Thoughts while watching: Have Kim and Jimmy ever said “I love you” to each other? Did Saul ever mention an ex-wife in Breaking Bad?
posted by sageleaf at 12:33 PM on March 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

More and more I'm convinced that nothing happens to Kim, except for Jimmy disappearing without a word to Omaha. Maybe she'll find her way to Gene.
posted by yellowbinder at 12:44 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

My take was that Kim so badly doesn’t want to feel what she’s feeling and have to do the three mile walk ‘home’ that she decides to go for broke, lie to herself. It’s The same choice she made when she kissed Jimmy in the stairwell, or suggested they do the scam again outside the shop.

I don’t really get it but that’s to me seems like what’s going on. Kinda wish we’d get a bit more clarity, it’s both fascinating and infuriating to watch.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:18 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the fact that Kim's go-to response to intense feeling is to shut down communication and just sit and let the gears turn internally, and which is integral to her character, makes for some frustrating watching sometimes. Like, what is she feeling at a given moment? We often aren't allowed to know. It's a weird balance they walk with her character, and Rhea Seehorn does a great job, but sometimes I wish the writers were a bit more generous with her internality, or whatever the term is.
posted by mediareport at 2:24 PM on March 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

I ... I don't know. I've never been in an abusive relationship, nor have I seen any up close, but that felt like someone who was coping with an abusive relationship, but the podcast crew mentioned that in the writers' room, it's more about coming from being raised by unreliable parents, or trying to not take a hard line as an adult that she did as a kid.

And now we know that Kim wasn't bullshitting Acker.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:56 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

But they did fake reality with that flashback scene: they turned a hot Albuquerque night in 2019 into a winter Nebraska night in early 1980s (meaning vintage cars). That school looked very much like Albuquerque architecture, but that's something I get from living here.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:05 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

My take on Kim’s proposal was two fold:

1. Spousal immunity
2. He can’t go head to head against his wife in court for reasons like:
a. Legal community wouldn’t stand for it
b. Judges might object / forbid it
3. If he does it again he loses her for good

I think she’s going all in on saving him and them.

Jimmy mentions an ex wife (or two?) in BB, but it might be character. Maybe she does go into hiding but he still supports her through his ”loan out” ice station zebra. But he’s going pretty far always hitting on Francesca and having ‘massages’ in office in BB.

Crossed universe note: The actor who plays Tuco is pretty gritty in an episode of DS9 where the team is stuck behind enemy lines with a group (including Tuco) that has been there fighting a long time.
posted by tilde at 5:21 PM on March 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

flithy light thief said: But they did fake reality with that flashback scene: they turned a hot Albuquerque night in 2019 into a winter Nebraska night in early 1980s (meaning vintage cars). That school looked very much like Albuquerque architecture, but that's something I get from living here.

So they created a false resemblance with real images. Look, this show often uses attention-getting shots, and, in Jimmy's forays into commercial filmmaking, it's often even called attention to the process of creating a false image using real things, just decontextualized. (Remember Jimmy doing "watermelon, rhubarb" at Chuck's grave in between meeting real mourners while Kim was in the car as craft services?)

"Wexler v. Goodman" hammers that metatextual level (metacinematic? metafilmic?), to the point of being on the nose. Hilariously, we get a montage of Jimmy as the world's most irritating director, which not only pretty visible self-deprecation -- "Just throw it away. But do it with feeling." -- but also a rather literal vision o constructing false images, composites and overlaps.

That this works as double foreshadowing: Jimmy's staged commercial testimonies set up his use of the sex workers to humiliate Howard, and the green-screen "image against backdrop" images of the libelous ads set up the overlap of the photograph and the Mesa Verde logo projected on a screen. And, of course, this echoes the way Mike plants images and memories, forging connections to put Lalo on the hook.

But it's also a metaphor, for the way Jimmy gaslights everyone, right down to his name: "It's Saul Goodman during business hours. 'Saul' the time." And for the way he consistently plays against Kim's usually controlled addictive personality and sense of self to try to weld her to himself, to want to be on the inside of the lie with him and not on the outside being lied to.

That addictive personality, and the reasons Kim wants so badly to be on the inside, are set up in the flashback that works as the episode's teaser. In seasons 1 and 2, we got a few hints that Kim can fall into episodic hard drinking. Yes, there was that bottle of tequila that leads to her renewing her romantic relationship with Jimmy, but we also got a bit of conversation with old law school friends in her "rainmaker" phase alluding to some wild, boozy nights.

Here, we see that Kim has had experience being bound to an addict, going back to childhood, and we see the damage done, the old patterns of enabling followed by difficult she works so hard to break from. And, tragically, we see that, at a low ebb, bewildered by Jimmy's betrayal, pushed to limits no one should be pushed to, she falls not codependence as a coping strategy. How many times can you walk three miles in the cold with a cello before you have to accept that ride from an addicted, emotionally abusive loved one?

As is often the case, it's all int he shot: Notice how young Kim walks out of shot tot he right, headed into the foreground, then we get the title sequence, and then we get a shot of a car (in daylight) heading at an opposed angle across the screen? It's telling us that, with the passage of time and the exhaustion of inner resources, people eventually get in and allow themselves to be driven.

Just ask Nacho, whose situation with Mike takes one a few hints of Kim's relationship to Jimmy: betrayed, squeezed between a powerful employer who can destroy him if he betrays and someone with enough leverage to force him to betray, he looms to Mike, who he knew as an honorable person. And he gets led along on a faint promise and an "I told you so."

How different is this, really, from Jimmy's non-apology to Kim, an apology he knows he needn't offer because his endangerment is her endangerment already? Kim can tell Jimmy he's lying when he promises never to make her a mark again, if only because their relationship is personal, not professional. (That actually makes it worse for her, in the end.) Nacho can't tell Mike. But both of them have to hope that maybe there's a real, true promise there somewhere.

And Mike and Jimmy? They're turning out to be rather more alike, now, than before. Willing to sell their souls for revenge -- justified or not -- and increasingly willing to deceive, they seem to get trough it by compartmentalizing. See how Jimmy switches between the vicious ambulance chaser and the remorseful boyfriend? Or how Mike moves from sincerely buying books for his granddaughter -- and I do believe it's sincere -- to manipulating the librarian, or how he drops his professional distance just long enough to give unhelpful, blame-casting to Nacho, playing on their old working relationship to prop up their new, utterly uneven one?

What Gus taught Mike last episode, then turns out not to be revenge, but rather compartmentalization, as someone here noted last time. Understanding revenge -- and Kim, Jimmy, and Mike have gotten here in part through a desire for (sometimes misplaced) revenge -- means understanding how to make that part of yourself someone else, to savor spite over here and play the empathetic person over there. But. of course, a devotion to revenge ultimately turns everything else in your life into an instrument, or burns it up as fuel...everything and everyone.

Giving oneself that ind of entitlement is both thrilling and addictive, and when someone else wants to pull back or walk away, it make sit all the easier to justify going ahead anyway, making them a prop, a real person made into the instrument of a deception or another person's vision, and then pretending otherwise so you can lie to yourself. Kim knows that, but that's not the same as being able to beat it or break from it...or being a position to choose that.
posted by kewb at 5:26 PM on March 24, 2020 [8 favorites]

Crossed universe note: The actor who plays Tuco is pretty gritty in an episode of DS9 where the team is stuck behind enemy lines with a group (including Tuco) that has been there fighting a long time.

Not Tuco, Mike.
posted by Automocar at 6:00 PM on March 24, 2020

Not Tuco, Mike.

Not Mike, Tuco.
posted by juiceCake at 6:19 PM on March 24, 2020 [3 favorites]

Oh yeah!
posted by Automocar at 6:26 PM on March 24, 2020

It seemed to me that Jimmy did this for Kim, because he didn't want to see her lose. He wanted to deliver her a big win, at no cost to herself (plausible deniability). That's just how Jimmy's mind works. The idea that plausible deniability isn't good enough for this kind of job isn't an idea that's available to him, that's why he flunked out of this world. I think on some level Kim knows this and likes it, and that's why she proposes.
posted by bleep at 6:57 PM on March 24, 2020 [4 favorites]

It's always a treat to work through kewb's analyses of these episodes, but I especially wanted to single out the noting of Kim being a product of an alcoholic family who may have some addictive tendencies herself. As a "double winner" myself (alcoholic and the child of same), I know about the abuse and neglect, and learning that I had to soldier on through it myself, not only not depending on the alcoholic but pushing them away--and how that made it difficult for me to recognize the symptoms in myself. Kim isn't that serious of a boozer, but she's definitely a workaholic--the term isn't just a cute portmanteau, it's something that's real for a lot of people, and Kim has literally driven herself to exhaustion, and with her frantically juggling her pro bono work and Mesa Verde even before this latest crisis, she seems not to have learned much from that experience. I think that she thinks that she can make the marriage work by trying real hard. That's another mistake that I also made.

The rest of the episode was also great. I think that it's been a little while since we saw Jimmy's guerrilla filmmaking trio, and maybe that's why the whole let's-put-on-a-show routine hasn't gotten old. Also good to see Mike back at work, although I wonder about the likelihood of collateral damage once Lalo starts figuring out who might be setting him up. If there's a scene of him going into that library, I may have to cover my eyes, no lie. I'm also worried about Nacho and his dad; I doubt that Mike would hesitate to give up Nacho if he thought it was necessary. The thing about vengeance is that it doesn't worry about pesky details such as collateral damage. (Nacho was spot on when he pointed that out to Mike.) Finally, although Kevin is still not really a sympathetic character, I feel for that chubby little kid roped into doing a commercial with his dad, stiff line delivery and all. Kim may not have been the only person in that room with a bad childhood.

P.S. Not sure how we got onto the subject of Raymond Cruz, but he was also in Alien: Resurrection as a soldier who turns out to be a secret android fanboy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:49 PM on March 24, 2020 [6 favorites]

Rich Schweikart is going to have some very interesting thoughts if Kim and Jimmy get married right after that presentation.
posted by mediareport at 8:08 PM on March 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

Also I thought the lady who played Kim's mom also did a wonderful job, you could see Rhea's performance in both of them and it was so great.

Also I wanted to add why I think Jimmy did this for her is because he sees the system as the marks, and *we* never give them our money. He understands why Kim sees no other way out, which is why he does it. He can't let Gisele stoop to that. I really think this is the same Jimmy who would have done anything to help his brother if his brother would have let him.
posted by bleep at 8:29 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

Also I thought the lady who played Kim's mom also did a wonderful job, you could see Rhea's performance in both of them and it was so great.

Yeah. But wasn't it Rhea in voiceover playing her mom?

I continue to be stunned by Seehorn and Odenkirk.
posted by torticat at 9:23 PM on March 24, 2020 [1 favorite]

It took me a while to realize that Mike was going to a huge amount of trouble to frame Lalo for the murder he actually committed (the guy at the payday loan place.)

As for Jimmy and Kim -- I'm kind of lost there.

- I feel like Jimmy's commercials would never have seen the light of day. It's just libel (slander?) pure and simple, with a copyright violation (footage from the old commercial) on top. I feel like any competent lawyer should be able to get an injunction preventing them from ever airing, and any competent TV station would see a hundred red flags and refuse to air it. And when the copyright thing is totally legitimate, why do all of that?

- I'm ready to diagnose Kim with multiple personality disorder after the "Let's get married" thing. But maybe it's really to avoid testifying against each other.

- Of all of Kim's clients, is this really the one to lose everything for? A guy that won't take $40K plus the value of his house when he's already contractually obligated to sell it?
posted by mmoncur at 12:15 AM on March 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

- Of all of Kim's clients, is this really the one to lose everything for? A guy that won't take $40K plus the value of his house when he's already contractually obligated to sell it?

He's not Kim's client. He's Jimmy's client. Kim's doing work for Mesa Verde.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:07 AM on March 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Something that just occurred to me: Lalo is going to call Saul to get him out of jail and the charges, isn't he?
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:38 AM on March 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Kim is probably my favorite character on the show and five minutes before the episode ended I said, “If the last scene of this episode turns out to be a series wrap for Kim Wexler I will be a little sad but mostly just relieved.”

Turns out I get to be sad and anxious instead.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 7:16 AM on March 25, 2020

I dunno, we haven't had any deaths in a few episodes so I think Lalo might be next.

There must be another shoe yet to fall in Mike's plan to get Lalo out of the way. Getting him picked-up by the cops (no matter how serious the charges may be) surely can't be the entire plan. I'm wondering if there isn't something coming that might poison Lalo to the cartel, maybe even to the extent of him having an "accident" while in custody?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:41 AM on March 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Though it's a long-standing trope in tv and movies, is it actually true that spouses cannot be compelled to testify against each other in court?

It’s more along the lines of “why bother?” since the testimony will seen as worthless because (you’d hope, anyway) a spouse would lie/embellish/etc. on the stand to protect the other spouse.
posted by sideshow at 9:12 AM on March 25, 2020

How Rhea Seehorn Became the MVP of ‘Better Call Saul’: Alan Sepinwall interviews and profiles Seehorn in Rolling Stone. Overview of her career, some pictures (she used to look very different), and an overall appreciation of how she does more with subtle moments.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:04 PM on March 25, 2020 [7 favorites]

That's a great article. In a lot of ways Kim and Rhea's stories parallel each other. Hyper-competent work horse overlooked again and again and again because women aren't seen as full human beings yet and the work we do isn't really seen as valuable work no matter what it is, just nailing the hell out of whatever little scraps she gets until another woman notices and lets her run free. Oh boy do I identify with that. I'm still waiting on my Paige to find me.

Also this: Even before she got the “Hero” script, she had decided that it was more interesting if Kim was attracted to Jimmy in part because of his occasional criminal impulses rather than in spite of them.
Deep down Kim wants to burn it all down and she's right to and Jimmy is probably the first person she's ever met who gave her an opportunity to do so in a way she can live with morally.
posted by bleep at 12:54 PM on March 25, 2020 [8 favorites]

Basically Kim is lawful good but fucking loves to vacation with Jimmy in chaotic good land. She will not find it so easy to let that go.
posted by bleep at 4:50 PM on March 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

early 1980s (meaning vintage cars).

An AMC Eagle Wagon. We also see Nacho’s AMC Javelin in this episode.
posted by Monochrome at 7:27 PM on March 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

I dunno, we haven't had any deaths in a few episodes so I think Lalo might be next.

I guess this is a spoiler if you haven't seen Breaking Bad, so you've been warned:

In Season 2 of BB, Walter and Jesse kidnap Saul and confront him in the desert. He says "It wasn't me, it was Ignacio" and "Wait, Lalo didn't send you?".
posted by mmoncur at 4:35 AM on March 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

An AMC Eagle Wagon. We also see Nacho’s AMC Javelin in this episode.

Do they do that as a little in-joke because of the name of the network?
posted by litlnemo at 8:36 AM on March 26, 2020 [3 favorites]

He says "It wasn't me, it was Ignacio" and "Wait, Lalo didn't send you?".

Strictly speaking, that doesn't mean that Lalo is still alive; that means that Saul thinks that he is, or might be. The problem with Lalo still being alive in BB is the question of why he doesn't show up in the show. I mean, we know that it's because he's original to BCS, but there has to be an in-show explanation that makes sense. So: he's dead, and Saul doesn't know that, or he has to stay way away from the ABQ and everything that happens there with the Salamancas, but can still send goons to do whatever.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:42 AM on March 26, 2020 [2 favorites]

Lalo might be in jail in BB no? You can send goons from jail. Maybe Saul gets him put away that's why he's scared. Maybe it's his experience at the end of this series that makes him so motivated to skedaddle at the end of BB.

Kim might actually be neutral good. It doesn't really matter to her if the steps are lawful or chaotic as long as the outcome is acceptably good. She just wishes Jimmy could be as flexible as she is; sometimes you have to follow the rules to get things done in a way that's sustainable.
posted by bleep at 8:46 AM on March 26, 2020 [4 favorites]

- I'm ready to diagnose Kim with multiple personality disorder after the "Let's get married" thing. But maybe it's really to avoid testifying against each other.

I just listened to the end of the episode again (husband was watching it; I watched it a couple days ago), and I think it's clear that the suggestion that they get married is definitely so that neither of them will be able to testify against the other; but more personally, it is so that he will not have to lie to her again. He said he would never do that to her again, but he couldn't look her in the eyes and swear to it.

Kim's conclusion was that either the lying would tear them apart--or that they could marry to protect themselves. But that might have been not so much "I can't fully trust you, so we could do this as insurance" but rather "You're going to keep doing this, and I want in."

I think that Jimmy's shenanigans are not the part that Kim can't stand; she can't bear (as she said straight-up) to be out of the loop and made to look the chump. She's (maybe) okay with bending the law a bit with Jimmy, just so long as they can be honest with each other about what's going on and she can be part of the play.

If Kim's willing to be fully on board with Jimmy, that could certainly start a chain of events ending in her disbarment, imprisonment, or death--any of which could explain Jimmy's going full-on Saul Goodman. I definitely think that loss of Kim will be the impetus for that (however it happens); and Kim's jumping on the Saul train, if that's what just happened, does not bode well for her continuing to act as his conscience or as a restraint on his crazy impulses.

Maybe what we've been watching this season has been less about Jimmy's slide than about Kim's.
posted by torticat at 7:45 PM on March 27, 2020 [9 favorites]

The casting, writing, directing and acting in the opening scene with young Kim and her mother are so excellent. It's a pleasure to watch such extraordinary talent. The wonderfulness of it owes so much to Rhea Seehorn's work, and she's not even on camera (is she voicing some of the mother's lInes? I can't tell...) Exquisite.
posted by Corvid at 7:09 PM on March 30, 2020 [1 favorite]

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